The quote that most often closed his letters (sometimes in full, sometimes indicated with just the words ‘chaff & grain’) was from a forgotten Victorian novelist, Mrs Craik: ‘Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away.’
Category Archives: Brilliant
Handholds (quote from Christopher Stevens’ biography of Kenneth Williams)
Williams, whose mind was a compendium of verses and tag lines, sources and quotations, felt his thoughts were clearest when told in other people’s words. Wilfred Owen, Roy Fuller, A.E. Housman, John Milton and T.S. Eliot all left deep grooves to which he returned for handholds, proving the truth of an argument by showing that the thought had been beautifully phrased by a better mind.
Last tour of the year
I’m on a plane from Boston to Washington DC, where we play the first gig of this tour tomorrow. It’s a relatively short run, just two weeks, and in that time we’ll do eight shows: Washington DC, New York, Minneapolis, Chicago, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
I’m excited — our tour of Europe in October went really well — and also nervous. It’s cool to be going back to cities we played earlier in the year, this time to slightly larger venues. There’s a sense of growth and development that’s satisfying and gratifying. I’m looking forward to visiting Portland for the first time, too.
On the flight to Boston, Adrian and I watched the very funny ’22 Jump Street’ and then I watched some episodes of ‘Girls’, ‘Hello Ladies’, and ‘True Detective’. Cue much accent mimicking on my part in Boston airport…sorry guys!
On this flight, I started reading Amy Poehler’s ‘Yes Please’ (which is already funny and charming and wise) and listened to a wonderful recording of Shostakovich’s 2nd piano concerto, played by Elisabeth Leonskaja with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (it’s on Spotify — check it out).
There are kids in this airport with ‘Class of 2020’ shirts on! On that note…here’s to a brilliant tour!
MOJO — The 100 Greatest Singles Of All Time
I’ve had a collector’s edition of MOJO magazine since 1997 that lists The 100 Greatest Singles Of All Time, voted for by this impressive judging panel:
Now, thanks to the unprecedented availability afforded by Spotify, here they are. (Apart from the songs by The Beatles and John Lennon, which aren’t available in their original versions on Spotify. I found some really faithful covers of The Beatles’ numbers, and a beautiful instrumental version of ‘Imagine’.)
Enjoy — and let me know what you think of the choices of the 17-years-ago music industry…
PS They’re in order, from no. 100 (Frank Sinatra) to no. 1 (The Beach Boys).
▶ James Vincent McMorrow – When I Leave
New song from James — cannot *wait* to play this live!
This is one of my favourite Neil Hannon songs, from the ‘Regeneration’ album. I hadn’t seen the video until this morning, when I got to it in rather a roundabout way. I was watching Portlandia, season 2, the episode where Kirsten Wiig plays the groupie/stalker/kidnapper. Amber Tamblyn does a turn as an intern in the feminist bookstore, too. And there’s another guest, Miranda July, who plays someone who’s had a bunch of jobs but, happily (and to a musical number) “she’s making jewellery now”.
Miranda July is a Portland-based artist, married to artist Mike Mills who directed the ‘Bad Ambassador’ video. There’s a connection, too, via the roller-skating theme, to the video Emma J Doyle and Cory Philpott shot in San Francisco for James Vincent McMorrow’s song, ‘Gold’…
…which we’ll be performing a special version of at Electric Picnic this weekend!
My favourite things, currently; also, a cool thing about Kimbra’s new album
Portlandia (been binge-watching it on Netflix since coming home from Canada)
Running (I hurt my calves trying to run like an elite athlete. Jenny explained, with the aid of a lady from the internet, how to do good stretches. Now I have a book about running.)
Hendrick’s gin (which I completely ran out of last night)
Kimbra’s forthcoming album, ‘The Golden Echo’ (is that Prince on ‘Everlovin’ Ya’?? addendum: nope, it’s Bilal… Is that Little Dragon on ‘Love In High Places’???)*
* Tom Moon, the reviewer on the NPR site, muses on the album’s title; of how “there’s a trace of magic in an echo. It’s like Narcissus’ reflection, only better”. I was racking my brain trying to place the piano and orchestra melody that appears a couple of times in between tracks — was it Tchaikovsky? Then it dawned on me: Rachmaninoff’s ‘Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini’, variation 18.
This is an inspired choice. The melody comes late in Rachmaninoff’s work, a beautiful tune after a lot of virtuosic fireworks based on the famous Paganini Caprice for violin (you know it…). This new tune doesn’t seem to bear any relation to Paganini’s, though. And here’s the thing — it’s a literal “reflection, only better”. In music it’s called an inversion:
Rachmaninoff taking stuff he loved from the music of the past and refashioning it. Tip of the cap to you, Kimbra 😉
All airports have three-letter identifying codes. Dublin is DUB, London Heathrow is LHR, Sydney International is SYD…so far, so decipherable. The Canadian airports’ codes, for some reason that I can’t Wikipedia right now, begin with ‘Y’. Toronto Pearson is YYZ and Edmonton, where I’m currently flying from, is YEG. Whatever the reason, it works brilliantly in this day and age of hashtags. Canadians are famously proud of where they’re from (backpackers sewing flags on their packs is a charming cliché), and using these tags online is another example of that instinct.
Last night we played the main stage of the Edmonton Folk Festival. I had a thoroughly enjoyable day and was really really impressed by the hospitality we were shown as well as the myriad little touches that belie the festival’s strong ethos and thirty year history.
The stages are set at the bottom of steep hills, creating natural amphitheatres. The deal is that you bring a tarpaulin and literally stake your claim. (There’s a prize to be won each year of being the first on site, so you can get the best spot.) Festival goers can get little tealights so, for us on stage, that meant looking out at a twinkling tidal wave, topped last night by a beautiful yellow moon.
It’s probably a bit vulgar to talk too much about how well we get treated sometimes. (Naturally, sometimes it’s exactly the opposite!) Edmonton was lovely, though. The festival is staffed by a veritable army of volunteers — three or four thousand, we reckoned — and it gives a reassuring sense of community and calm to the proceedings. Massage, expert tea brewers (a big plus for we Irish!), tasty food, blankets and extra layers and umbrellas for the uncharacteristic rain and cold we had yesterday, a work station manned by technicians who could do repairs to instruments and amps, and a million other things that succeeded in the fact that they *weren’t* obvious.
A huge bonus for me was that my favourite band of this year, Lucius, were playing straight after us. Despite our very early start this morning, I was able to stay and hear their entire set. It was the first time I’d seen them perform live, and they were brilliant! Definitely a band to go and see if you get the chance 😀
A New Look at Sight-reading (Part 3) | CelloBello Blog
A New Look at Sight-reading (Part 3) | CelloBello Blog.
This is an excellent essay on sight-reading, well worth a read by all musicians.
Chamber music group in Howth
One of the things I miss the most in my music making at the moment is playing with others. I’m just coming to the end of Alan Rusbridger’s inspiring book, ‘Play It Again’, and found his descriptions of informal chamber music sessions very compelling. I also had the great fortune to win a couple of tickets to see the Vienna Piano Trio playing Haydn, Schubert and Beethoven in Castle Coole last week. It was wonderful to watch the communication between them and sense, especially in the Haydn, the fun they were having. I’d like to try and initiate something like that in Howth (where I live). It would be a place for musicians to come together and explore the chamber repertoire. Maybe you have learned an instrument when you were younger and haven’t played for ages… I play piano, but I also play clarinet and would love to *actually* play it, as opposed to just knowing how to!
Please pass this on to anyone you think might be interested.