strange_complex: (Leptis Magna theatre)
And so, welcome to the 'all about my holiday' entry. I'm going to keep it pretty minimal, actually, as I have a lot of work I need to get on with now. But, in simple list form:

This is what we did )

And these are the pictures )

I have, incidentally, submitted both of the purple Sshhh bag pictures shown above to the library's bag travel map, along with the signpost one from Belfast, since that one seems to have been the eventual victor in my poll.

Click here to view this entry with minimal formatting.

strange_complex: (Snape writing)
I seem to have rather good work mojo on at the moment. Not in an achieving incredible things sort of way - but just in a rather satisfying getting on with it and ticking things off the 'to do' list sort of way. I'm in a run of busy teaching weeks which will last for another fortnight - but I'm keeping on top of things in a way which suggests that once things slacken off a little on the teaching front, I should be able to get some Actual Research done. Y'never know.

While this is clearly a Good Thing, it does seem to mean getting behind with my LJ. So, in order not to accumulate an overwhelming backlog of stuff which ends up preventing me from posting, let's have some bullet-points:
  • I went to a lovely concert in Chapel Allerton on Saturday with [ profile] big_daz, featuring northern-based choir Renaissance Voices singing a rich programme of Monteverdi, Palestrina, Gabrieli and the like. It was very beautiful, and Daz and I had a grand old time drinking and chatting in a nearby pub afterwards.
  • I finally chose a bed! And Argos are delivering it tomorrow. I look forward to this immensely, as I deliberately chose a super-comfortable mattress for it, and am pretty sure it will be a great improvement on my current cheap single mattress.
  • All week long, some Tibetan monks have been creating an amazing multi-coloured design out of sand in the University's Parkinson Court. I thought they were painting it at first, but when I looked closer, I realised that they were actually very slowly and carefully releasing a stream of sand-grains onto the paper from thin conical tubes. It's incredibly intricate and amazing - and tomorrow afternoon they are going to destroy it, to show the impermanence of things. Their work, and the associated exhibition of photographs, trinket-stall and information stand, has triumphantly outdone a similar photographic exhibition which the Chinese society put on in the same space a few weeks ago, and which I'd forgotten all about until [ profile] glitzfrau reminded me. In the Parkinson Cultural Propaganda Wars, it is China: 0, Tibet: 1.
  • On Sunday, I shall be going along to the opening rehearsal of a non-auditioning Leeds-based choir, The Sacred Wing. Basically it's for LGBT people who like singing sacred music, and this year they're preparing Vivaldi's Gloria, Handel's Zadok the Priest and a few carols for a Christmas concert. This is very cheering to me after last week's experience - not having an audition is a very promising start, and I'm assuming they'll be more than averagely receptive to the idea of a woman singing tenor. Plus I looked through my score of the Gloria, and the tenor line doesn't go below the E below middle C, so NO-ONE can tell me I don't have the range for it!
That's all of note, really. But at least I can post from fresh next time.

My first Prom

Wednesday, 8 August 2007 17:27
strange_complex: (Nennig musicians)
Yesterday evening, I attended my first ever Promenade concert, in company with Cie. It occurred to me, sitting in the Albert Hall as we waited for the performance to begin, that this was a slightly odd thing to be doing for the first time now that I've moved to Leeds, given that I'd never managed it the whole time I lived in Oxford. But honestly, the trains from Leeds to London are so good, that it's practically just as easy from here.

I met Cie after work, and we caught up over dinner at Wagamama's - another first for me, and a good one, although I made the mistake of assuming that when a Japanese menu described soup as 'spicy', they wouldn't really mean it, only to find that actually they did. We then proceeded to Hyde Park, where we circumambulated the Albert Memorial for a while, gaping in mingled awe and horror at its sheer rococosity, before deciding that it was a bit nippy out and repairing to a basement bar within the Albert Hall. There, we drank coffee and ate cookies, until we were joined by [ profile] qatsi, who had just been enjoying a programme of Britten and Mahler in the evening's early Prom. Sadly, [ profile] qatsi couldn't stay for the late performance, as he needed to get home to Reading at a Reasonable Hour, but we got a good half-hour's chatting in nonetheless, so that was nice.

Concert review )

After the concert, we went back to Cie's flat in leafy Ealing Broadway, where we hooked up with her partner, Mark, for a bit before collapsing into bed. And then today dawned, all bright, breezy sunshine and views across people's gardens from Cie and Mark's lounge windows, coffee in hand. By lunch-time, I was safely back in Leeds - just in time to greet my Dad, who is installing curtain-rails for me downstairs as I type. Speaking of which, it's probably time I went and fixed us both some dinner.

Let me leave you with some pictures from my adventure )

strange_complex: (Apollo Belvedere)
I've just got back from a very enjoyable performance of Bach's B Minor Mass at Leeds University's Great Hall, which I attended in the company of [ profile] big_daz. Damn, but it's powerful stuff. We were sitting no more than 15 metres from a choir some 60 strong, and they certainly packed a punch.

The singers were mainly students of the School of Music, backed up by the Leeds Baroque Choir (whose numbers include my head of department!) and Orchestra. As such, some aspects of the performance were a little ropey, but then again it was a great opportunity to hear rising young stars. I especially liked the alto soloist, Beth Mackay, who did great credit to my favourite movement from the B Minor Mass - the 'Agnus Dei'.

And there were some interesting aspects to the performance, too. Firstly, two of the choruses ('Cum Sancto Spiritu' and the 'Sanctus') were taken at almost double their usual speed - apparently, according to the pre-concert talk, to bring out their use of forms usually associated with dance music; especially triplets. I wasn't convinced, because it made it difficult for the choir to articulate all the individual notes properly, and consequently it sounded as though some of them were falling over one another. But an interesting experiment, nonetheless. Secondly, although most choruses were taken by the full choir, some parts of some of them were stripped down to only one voice per line - this time apparently to bring out the fine details of their more complicated contrapuntal texture. Again, it didn't quite work, this time because the students chosen for these sections weren't quite up to the job, especially when standing on the other side of the orchestra from the audience. But it was an interesting compromise between the 'large' sound of the full choir and the precision of one-voice-to-a-part, which I think could work very effectively with better singers.

Anyway, a bit of Bach of a weekend is always a bonus, especially since I don't think I've seen the B Minor Mass in performance for about 6 or 7 years now. Definitely an afternoon well spent.

And before I go: what tarot card am I? )

That all sounds slightly worrying, actually...! Oh well, it's only a meme - right?

strange_complex: (Lady Penelope)
Woot! I have prepared two classes' worth of stuff for the summer school today. That plus the fact that there isn't a class on Wednesday morning means I now don't need to do any more work on it (other than teach the actual classes, natch) until Wednesday itself, when I shall begin preparing Thursday's class. And there are only three classes this week anyway (four is more normal), so by 9:30am on Thursday morning, I'll be done for the week. Should stand a real chance of getting some of my own stuff done this week, then.

Backtracking a little, Smell tests in Warwick )

Purcell's Fairy Queen )

Framing, furnishings, chocolate and Dr. Who )

So, quite busy, and I'm pretty tired (as ever!), but feeling much better about things now. The summer school nearly got on top of me the week before it started, but I've turned things round now, and I'm definitely back on top of it. Now time for an early night, so I'm ready to teach again tomorrow at 8:30(!)...

Things unblogged

Friday, 19 May 2006 11:33
strange_complex: (Darth blogging)
Gosh. I would appear to have some free time. Nominally, I'm at Warwick doing essay returns. But since I only have 11 people to see today, as opposed to the fearsome 35 I got through yesterday, there are a lot of gaps in the day when I can do other things. And I've actually run out of minor administrative tasks to perform, so that means I can write on LJ - yay!

What I'm going to do here is give quick accounts of some of the things I would have blogged over the last couple of months, if I'd had the time to do so. They probably won't get the same level of detail as they'd have had if I'd written them up at the time. But at least this way they won't be completely forgotten.

18th March - celebratory meal at Gee's )

30th March - Robin Blaze at the Wigmore Hall )

1st April - 'Springtime Baroque' concert at the Sheldonian )

24th April - QI recording )

8th May - Rik Mayall in 'The New Statesman' )

Well, that was a great relief! I feel a lot less weighed down by a back-log now, and more able to get on with posting about things day to day. There are still some Big Posts I need to make about things like my new job, and my book and so on. But this has definitely been a good start.
strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
So, dusk has fallen on Christmas Eve, and here I am, up in Brum with my family. It's somehow taken me a while to 'slot in' to the Christmas spirit this year. Too distracted with book stuff and the unpleasant prospect of term starting again on January 4th, I guess. But it's falling into place now that we're all together here, the tree's been decorated and I've made my usual spray of winter greenery to go over the fireplace. Later on, we'll be going off to sing carols on Bournville Village Green, just as we did last year, so I'm sure that'll do the trick.

Last night, we attended "Christmas by Candlelight", an annual choral concert given by Ex Cathedra in St. Paul's Church, Birmingham. It was OK, but while Ex Cathedra usually tend to gravitate towards early / Baroque music, the repertoire last night was for some reason about 80% modern, and hence not entirely to my tastes. I knew we were in trouble when I scanned down the list of pieces, and noticed how many of the composers had birth-dates after their names, but not death-dates. Bully for them, but I like my composers dead, thanks. I couldn't help but sit there thinking of the concert of bawdy 17th-century Christmas music performed by the Oxford Waits which I was missing in order to be there...

And the night before, I went to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe with [ profile] redkitty23. I enjoyed it, but wasn't as bowled over as I'd expected to be. The special effects were great, obviously, and certainly much better than the poor old BBC could manage back in 1988. I also very much liked the handling of the battle sequences, and both the home of the White Witch and the castle at Cair Paravel, while I felt that all four children were well-characterised, well-cast and well-acted. But, while Disney have made stellar leaps forward in recent years in terms of recognising that sometimes preserving the inherent Britishness in a story can actually be a good thing (compare their shabby treatment of Winnie the Pooh, which sadly is still ongoing), all the same there was a little more 'Disneyfication' going on than I'd really have liked. I just don't need wise-cracking animals. Ever. Thanks. In that respect, the old BBC series scores more highly. What a pity they just never had the budget or the slick production values of the new film.

Well, Fleur WINOLJ has just rung to say she and her mother will be meeting us on the Green at Bournville. I'm pretty excited now! Time to go off and make sure we have a decent lantern to take with us.

Ten-minute update

Wednesday, 9 November 2005 10:18
strange_complex: (Computer baby)
I'm rather behind with documenting things I've done recently, and a combination of tiredness and busy-ness makes this unlikely to change soon. So, in the 10 minutes before I have to go and give a lecture, I present a really rushed outline of what I've been up to in the past few days:

Friday: went to Brum to see Andreas Scholl with La Mia Mama. The concert was entitled 'Senesino, Handel's Muse', and consisted entirely of arias originally written for the castrato Senesino (with a few instrumental interludes to give Scholl's voice a rest). Since Senesino was a contralto rather than a soprano, these can now be sung by Scholl, and he did so brilliantly. My stance on Scholl is that although I recognise his technical brilliance, my personal taste is such that I'm not actually that bowled over by the tones of his voice, especially when it is in the centre of its range (both in terms of pitch and volume). There's a slight rough, rushing sound around the edges which I'd prefer to do without. However, when called upon to swell and fade a long note, hit unusually high notes or perform complicated ornaments, the rushing sound vanishes, and he suddenly becomes some kind of vocal deity, causing jaws to fall in astonishment. Overall, I prefer the very pure sound of Robin Blaze's voice. But I admit that Scholl does beat Blaze when the stakes get really high, and he will always be more suited to operatic work for that reason.

Afterwards, we queued like a pair of fangirls for autographs, and I also bought the CD which Scholl has already produced of the evening's programme. Then went home and bought 'The Last Castrato', a collection of recordings made in the early 20th century by a man named Alessandro Moreschi. This was in response to the pre-concert talk, which had been all about castrati, and had revealed to me that there exists not one tiny snippet of this guy singing, as I'd thought, but in fact a whole plethora of the stuff. It also made me realise that, although not necessarily to modern tastes, he was a better singer than I'd previously believed. It'll take a while to arrive, since it's coming from America, but I can't wait to become more familiar with this voice.

Saturday: woke up in Brum having spent night with parents. Sat over coffee watching Dad replace the batteries in his 30-year-old Grundig 'Yacht Boy' radio, and explain how everyone in the country had been sent little stickers saying '3' and '4' like the ones on it when the change was made from the Third Programme and the Home Service to Radio 3 and Radio 4.

Then proceeded up to Manchester for [ profile] angeoverhere's 30th birthday, where I caught up with some of my Bristol buddies and met some new faces from B'ham, Leeds and Manchester itself. We hung out for the afternoon in a gay bar called Taurus, and then headed for a Syrian restaurant in the evening, while Manchester made a fine attempt at exploding in celebration of Bonfire Night. Slept pretty well, and then had lunch together the next day, before heading back down to Oxford on the Sunday to finish off a lecture in a panic and deliver it on the Monday. It went fine, though. They always do.

Have also started to watch Imperium: Augustus recently, having finally worked out how to switch the Dutch subtitles off. It's very, erm... special, and will be blogged in detail later. And had a quick look on Monday at The Masque of the Red Death, realised the costumes aren't quite as amazing as I'd remembered, but have still had some decent ideas for the ball.

Well, it's lucky I'm such a quick typist (although I'm sure this is full of mistakes). Now for that lecture!

Edit: some small editing after the event to fill in details, clarify points and correct errors.

I Fagiolini

Saturday, 9 July 2005 12:17
strange_complex: (Handel)
Here in Brummagem, the weather is glorious - hooray!

I arrived here yesterday afternoon, whereupon a military operation ensued in the garden to put up the gazebo for the party tomorrow. Those attending will understand why four people and a lot of barked orders along the lines of "I need a 2a here, and then another 2" were required when they see it.

In the evening, Mum and I drove over to Warwick for a concert by The Opera Group in association with I Fagiolini. I Fagiolini themselves are a vocal group who tend to specialise in early music, but aren't afraid to venture into the contemporary arena as well. Mum had seen them before in March, performing a programme entitled "The Full Monteverdi", and had told me how amazing they are: now I know that she was right.

The theme of yesterday evening's performance was birds, largely because of the headline attraction: a brand new operatic piece by a composer named Ed Hughes, which is a reworking of Aristophanes' 5th-century Attic comedy, The Birds. In full, we were treated to:

Clément Janequin - 'Le Chant des oyseaulx' (French, early 16th cent, really about sex)
Trad arr. Ravenscroft - 'The Three Ravens' (English, early 17th cent, mainly about death)
Per Nørgård - 'D'Monstanz vöögeli' (Danish, 20th cent, seemed to be about freedom and captivity, but I'm not sure I'm really in a position to say)


Ed Huges, 'The Birds' (English, 2005, about the search for Utopia)

Throughout, the singing itself was incredible. Most of the music was either entirely a cappella, used only very minimal pre-recorded sound-effects (such as real birds, rushing water or traffic and sirens) or, in the opera, used only a cello and timpani to accompany the singers. This meant that the vocalists really had to carry the day, and I Fagiolini certainly know both how to blend their voices together into a perfect bouquet of sound and to bring out one or another melodic line as required.

But the singing was by no means all. It was supported by choreography, physical theatre, stage sets, costumes and dialogue which were all excellent in their own right - and this not just for the opera, where you might expect it, but for the three pre-interval pieces as well. I found myself afterwards saying that the combined entity of the Opera Group and I Fagiolini seemed to me to be to early (and early-inspired contemporary) music what The Actors of Dionysus are to Greek tragedy: with the added bonus that of course last night the Opera Group and I Fagiolini were being that to Greek comedy as well!

Their Birds in fact managed to be everything the performance of the Lysistrata which I saw in April just wasn't: no mechanical regurgitation of the Penguin translation, this, but a fresh new libretto (by Glyn Maxwell), and a dynamic, inventive production. Of equal standing with the student Birds I saw in Oxford in 1998/9, I think, although very different, and certainly a lot more self-consciously 'arty'.

By the time we got back from the concert, we found Charlotte and Nicolas safely installed in the house, ready to prepare for and attend the party on Sunday. They'd both come up from London on the train, he having started his day in Brighton, where he had to stay on Thursday night because he'd realised there was no way he was going to be able to get back into London after going there for work. But their journey up to Brum had been disrupted more by the tunnel which fell in recently on the Chiltern line than by anything to do with the bombings.

We hugged lots, and then sat and chatted about various things, including exchanging our personal experiences of the bombings. Charlotte had been the most directly affected - she'd got up, rather late (I'm glad to say) to catch the tube at Stepney Green, and been told the station was closed. At first she assumed she could walk to another station, but hearing that Aldgate East was closed too, she went home to change her shoes and put on the news to see if she could get any travel information from it, and that's when she fully realised the nature of what had happened. Nicolas had found out from her via his mobile, while on a train already heading out of London towards Brighton, and me from good old LJ, while sitting drinking coffee in my office. Just for the record, this was the post which first indicated to me that something was going on, and this, immediately afterwards, was the one which told me what. So, indirectly, I actually found out via Radio 4: the same way I first heard about the September 11th attacks, in fact. Good old Radio 4.

Now I am going to stop typing, and go and help with all the cooking and furniture moving which is going on downstairs. Ta-ta!
strange_complex: (Default)
There's a back-log of LJ-posts-I-wanted-to-make-but-didn't-have-the-time brewing in my head, so I've decided to just roll them all into one and get them out of the way! Here goes:

1. Gluck: Friday 22nd Oct. )

2. Kate Rusby: Sunday 24th Oct. )

3. Quantum Leap and Hercules. )

Aaaaah, I feel better now!
strange_complex: (Default)
An evening of counter-tenor [1] duets is what, going collectively under the title I've stolen for this post, and indeed featuring a duet by Blow (no giggling at the back, there!) of that name.

Oxford is lucky enough to be the home of an early music ensemble by the name of Charivari Agréable, and at the moment they are putting on a series of concerts by candlelight in Exeter College Chapel. Last night, [ profile] edling and I attended the 'Ah! Heav'n!' concert, and were very much impressed.

Counter-tenors! Duets! Counter-tenors AND duets?!? )

The singers )

The music )

The setting )


[1] Long footnote )


strange_complex: (Default)

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