I love how we can now finally *see* how incredible performers play. Video can get right up close and record jaw-dropping things like James Rhodes playing Moszkowski’s luminescent ‘Etincelles’. (I like Mr Rhodes because he sent me a signed copy of his debut CD a few years ago when I correctly identified a piece of music he tweeted a picture of!)
I’ve just finished an arrangement of this piece for string quartet and two of the singers from New Dublin Voices. It’s to be performed at a wedding on Friday. Unfortunately I can’t attend, as it clashes with my piano exam. Speaking of which, I better get back to practicing!
Practice continues for the Grade 8 exam. The three pieces I have to perform are coming along: Bach’s Fugue in Bb from the first book of ‘The 48’, Schubert’s Scherzo in Bb, and Shostakovich’s Prelude in D (from the Op. 34 set). Today I got a good bit of work done on all three.
This morning I listened to Murray Perahia’s 2000 recording of Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’, a piece I fell in love with when I was at university. The beautiful Aria that bookends the variations was featured in the film ‘The English Patient’ and my flatmate George had the soundtrack on CD. It also has a lovely version of ‘Cheek to Cheek’, as I recall… I encountered the piece again while staying on the Scottish island of Arran in my second year at university. A few of us went and stayed in a cottage there — I remember it raining a lot. We were armed with a box set of Bruckner symphonies, but it was a brief snippet in a TV documentary of Glenn Gould playing the fifth Goldberg variation that made the greater impression. It’s really a stunning performance (he recorded them twice, in 1955 and in 1981 — take your pick!) and a real piece of virtuosity. I memorised the first few bars of the right hand part when we got back to Edinburgh as a small act of worship…someday I’ll learn the whole movement!
I have a notion that Shostakovich gives that variation a nod in the Prelude I’m learning. It starts very similarly (although it quickly spirals off into Shostakovich’s sound world): the right hand has a stream of semiquavers which the left hand punctuates sparsely. Both pieces are number five in the set to which they belong…I don’t know…just a thought!
(Jeepers! I just searched for videos of the Shostakovich piece on YouTube and it’s mostly kids playing it at light speed…gulp…
This weekend, New Dublin Voices took part in a production of ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ at the National Concert Hall. It was a full week of rehearsals starting with the conductor, John Wilson, putting us through our paces on Monday evening before we went along to the full orchestral rehearsals during the week. It was a wonderful experience—I really enjoyed sitting beside the bass clarinet player, having done a lot of orchestral clarinet playing in university. Being inside the orchestra was great. John Wilson reconstructed the score, the original having been tragically consigned to landfill many years ago. (In an article I read in Classic FM magazine with John, he also sadly notes that a lot of the music libraries of the big studios were destroyed. There was nothing for it but to literally write it all out again. It must’ve been a mammoth task!) The RTÉ Concert Orchestra were augmented with a rhythm section (piano, guitar, bass, drums) and, behind us on stage, a full saxophone section. They had some really lovely moments in the score, providing that close-harmony sound that only saxes can do. Seriously, it was a real treat sitting in the middle of it all and watching the realisation of this sublime music.
Here’s the sequence from the film for ‘Moses Supposes’, which the amazing dancers did pretty much step-for-step at the NCH:
A couple of my friends posted links to this video, too. Jaw-droppingly good. Danny Macaskill is to a trail bike what Gene Kelly is to tap shoes.
This is quite cool indeed—a speeded-up view of what goes into making a music video. Watch this and then the finished version of this catchy tune, ‘Cameo Lover’, by New Zealander Kimbra. Her album will be out in August and it’s looking like it’ll be a cracker.
I supported the barbershop quartet, 4 in a Bar, at their CD launch at The Workman’s Club on Wednesday. I did my three best Sting covers: ‘Roxanne’, ‘Seven Days’ (with obligatory story…), and ‘Message In A Bottle’. I also did ‘The Wild Rover’, and would’ve dearly liked to have played my own ‘Trust You’ but for the small problem of having a total mental blank. I still can’t think how it starts. Brilliant.
Anyway, 4 in a Bar are actually brilliant. They showcased the songs from the CD and threw in a few others (including the haunting ‘All The Fine Young Men’, originally by White Raven). I thoroughly recommend buying their CD and getting along to see them perform. Barbershop music is vocally virtuosic, camply complex, and entrancingly entertaining. These guys are the best in Ireland and recently got a silver medal in international competition. Get them while they’re hot. I hear they do weddings…
It’s my friend Jonny Boyle’s birthday today. He is a brilliant guitar player—melodic, jazzy, and musical beyond belief. He is doing a couple of workshops in his home town of Carrickfergus on 25 June, one called ‘Jazz Up The Blues’ and the other on ‘The Modes’. If I know Jonny, it’ll be a great, inspiring session (astonishing value—3 hours for £20, only 5 in the class) and you’ll come away with lots of tasty licks to use in your playing.
Here’s Jonny playing a selection of solo guitar tunes suitable for weddings: