Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Summer Sundae 2012 - the Choir!

Well, yes, so having joined BeVox earlier in the year, I thought I should keep my hand in with singing over the summer by volunteering for the 'scratch choir' at Summer Sundae.

Summer Sundae started having a choir - put together from scratch with people attending the festival - a couple of years ago: I'd seen them in rehearsal and/or caught part of their performances and had a urge then but not the nerve.  This year I bit the bullet and joined!

So we first met at with the wonderful Hannah who leads the choir at 7pm on the Friday - spent the best part of 20 mins warming up and stuff and approx 40 mins actually singing.  Eek!  We had a two hour rehearsal on the Saturday morning from 10am-12noon in the indoor stage (De Montfort Hall - on the floor level, with no allowance for seats (very grumpy security refused to let us move chairs), limited lighting (til one of the guys stood on a chair to adjust how the spot lights lit things a little better) and ultimately the crew on the stage setting up for the next act (not due on until 12.35 - one of the choir eventually asked 'politely' if they could wait til we'd finished rehearsing as we couldn't hear ourselves!).

We finally met on the Sunday evening at 5pm for a rehearsal til approx. 6.30pm when we were allowed to head to the backstage area of the MAIN OPEN AIR STAGE!  We trooped on at 6.40pm as planned to an awaiting crowd (far larger than I think any of us anticipated .... and then had to wait another 10 mins for the sound people to finish setting everything up.  Grr!

Whee!  It was a blast.  And you can inflict the sound on yourselves as well if you so want!

Summer Sundae Choir 2012: song 1: A-le
Summer Sundae Choir 2012: song 2: Somewhere only we know
Summer Sundae Choir 2012: song 3: Down to the river to pray
Summer Sundae Choir 2012: song 4: Somebody that I used to know 

  Summer Sundae Choir 2012: song 5: Ain't no mountain high enough
Summer Sundae Choir 2012: song 6: King of the Swingers

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book lists - pre-25 and 'adult'

Norm has done two lists of books - which really intrigued me.  Could I do similar?  A list of influential books that shaped me/that I loved from before 25, and books read 'as an adult'...?  Flaw one would be not yet really being very good at this 'adult' lark.  Flaw two would be this 'shaping' thing.  Important to me may have to be the definition instead.

And... well one of my downsides is that up til my mid-twenties (the cut-off for the first list) I really had pretty awful taste in reading.  I read what my mum read - tons of crappy romantic fiction a la Danielle Steel et al, the occasional 'risky' "Flowers in the Attic" type of things, and tons of pretty forgettable fantasy/science fiction.  Remember that I didn't go to University as a full-time student until I was nearly 26, and I was already 23 when I met Neil (nearly 24 in fact).

So there aren't a lot of books before 25 years old that I remember much about, let alone feel they shaped me.  So why try to do the list?

Well, I love lists, so I'm going to stretch things back a little to take in anything read before 25 years old that feels significant.  So nah, nah, nah, as these are all titles I returned to in my teenage years and after.

List one

  • Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
  • Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
  • The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
  • The Dark is Rising - Susan Cooper
  • The Collected Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle
  • The Women's Room - Marilyn French
  • The Phantom Tollbooth - Norman Juster
  • 1984 - George Orwell
  • The Collected Dorothy Parker
  • Gaudy Night - Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Frost in May - Antonia White

I'm quite pleased to see how many women authors there are here.

List two

  • The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony - Roberto Calasso
  • The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter
  • House of Leaves - Mark Z Danielewski
  • The Sandman - Neil Gaiman
  • South Riding - Winifred Holtby
  • The Cheese Monkeys - Chip Kidd 
  • Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Choderlos de Laclos
  • Company of Liars - Karen Maitland
  • Beloved - Toni Morrison
  • His Dark Materials - Phillip Pullman
  • Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

Hmm. that's an odd pair of lists.  They're all books that I have read and read again or can recall vividly. So am going with these even if my lists probably go against the grain of the original list sentiment.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Sundae 2012 Saturday

So, up early to have breakfast at the hotel with (well, on the next table to) Asian Dub Foundation.

Okay, so we only realised that AFTERWARDS, but hey.

I had to dash off early as I had Choir practice from 10-12 noon: would have been good if the staff on the gates hadn't looked at me like I'd landed from Mars when I went to go in, but hey!

Finally we got set up on the floor of the Indoor stage, weren't allowed to bring chairs in to sit on, the crew doing soundchecks for bands not due on stage til 12.35pm, and us trying to hear ourselves think!

Bit hairy, but we managed.

The choir then went over to the Leicester College pop-up tent studio where we recorded one of the tracks we would sing on stage on the Sunday: after some negotiation with the nearby volleyball/energy drink company stand, we got enough quiet to do the recording.  Hopefully will follow!

I then went over to join Neil in the HOT 'Into the Wild' tent to see the end of Hip-Hop Shakespeare.  Akala is great ambassador and performer of Shakespeare inspired material. And he always has great female vocalists with him too.

We probably should have gone to see Savages or even Tim Edey and Brendon Power, but instead we drank tea in the sun.  Well it hasn't often happened this year!

We listened to a bit of Dog is Dead from the main stage in the background of food, but 'twas nothing special.  Molotov Jukebox however were great - very lively fun!

We then skipped indoors to catch the wonderful Agnes Obel with accompanying strings - mmmm, spotting a pattern yet! - again, some technical difficulties getting the monitors right for everyone on stage, but really lovely stuff.   We did a bit of Friends in the background and then saw Micachu and the Shapes ---- this time without them having to wait for an age for some crazy Isrealis to stop tearing the indoor stage apart!

We then saw a bit of Speech Debelle - laughing like seals as she called out to the seats in the back of the tent "are you all okay in Seaworld?" and generally pleading with the lighting guys to keep the very bright lights off as "we're rotisserie!"

We then went back indoors to see the incomparable Jonathan  Richman.

He may prone to ignoring his extensive back catalogue (and who could blame him not wanting to drag back 30+ years to old material) but he had the audience in the palm of his hand.  Mad lyrics, crazy dancing, a brief flirtation with Egyptian Reggae for the fans, and just general FUN.  A great experience.

We then scampered back to the tent for most of Akala's own set (after he fronted the Hip-Hop Shakespeare session). Always brilliant and LOVE joining in on the 'conducting strings' on "Comedy Tragedy History' which he did with a fuller backing band here.  AWESOME reaction to 'absolute power' as well: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely, but absolute powerlessness does the same."

We then took in a bit of Adama Ant et al - "Prince Charming" is still awesome! - and the headed indoors for something I was really looking forward to seeing: the amazing voice and style of Merrill Garbus, aka tUnE-yArDs

Garbus is an incredible performer - again with pedals and loops and stuff.

Sorry - links etc to follow.

Summer Sundae 2012 - Friday

Well the day started early with me getting my hair done!

Neil then contacted me to say he could come to town to have lunch with me before I got the train to Leicester for Summer Sundae 2012.

We had a lovely meal at French Living in Nottingham, and then it was back to work for Neil and off to festival land for Lisa.

After a wander - and discovering my beloved 'summer burrito' stall wasn't there this year! *boo-hoo* - I strolled off to catch Bowerbirds.  I especially liked their new song which included the line "I still believe in a brighter day".

I then headed from 'Into the Wild' (the tent stage) to the Indoor stage (this year known as the Crocodile Lagoon) to see Loney Dear because I really like a bit of multi-instrument and multi-vocal pedal-created performance.

Emil Svanangen (for it is he) is Swedish - part of a significant Scandi contingent for the festival.  Very lovely and spooky.  I caught a bit of Clock Opera, but wasn't taken enough to loiter so headed to see Francois and the Atlas Mountains --- only, the French Atlas Mountains were on holiday, so we got instead a different set of fine musicians to accompany Francois including the brilliant drummer from Camera Obscura!  Neil joined me in the HOT tent - hurrah!

We then headed to the (even hotter) 'Watering Hole' tent - the main bar - where we were to watch the lovely Tiny Ruins.  Hampered by APPALLING sound engineering (seriously one of the downsides of too many of the acts) they nevertheless were utterly charming and it was only the need to attend the Summer Sundae choir rehearsal that stopped me staying to meet them afterwards.  Delightful stuff.  I'll try and add a pic later!

I'd have liked to have seen Ghostpoet but the clash of the choir rehearsal put pay to that concept.  Grr.  Nevertheless, we did see about half of Asian Dub Foundation (who we then found in the breakfast room of the hotel we were staying in!) and we then headed inside for Patrick Wolf.

Oh. My. Life.

Wolf was just astonishing.  Beautiful, accompanied by three wonderful string-instrument players (violins, cello, harp - plus a saw) he swept away the audience.  Just breathtaking.

Nothing could beat that so it was back to the ranch to freshen up and sleep.  I had another early start the next day.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Striking tone: The Comedy of Errors, RST, Stratford-upon-Avon - Saturday matinee 4 August 2012

I had made a promise to a former student of mine when she finished her English degree last year that I would go with her to Stratford to see a Shakespeare play, along with her daughter.

On Saturday, after a few bumpy organisational moments on my part, we finally managed it - and despite some tremendous showers of rain, nothing dampened our spirits.

The Comedy of Errors is one of the shorter plays (slightly, depending on the production) and has at its core a good bit of farce: two lots of mistaken identity twins.  High-larious, and potentially perfect fare for a first-time full-length Shakespeare experience for a young person.

So the rather brutal opening, even if undercut by involving a fish-tank with plastic fishes, was slightly alarming.   I didn't envy what Nicholas Day underwent as Egeon.  He seems to have got the short-straw presently for being the brutalised actor.  All this after Marat/Sade!

I shouldn't have worried though, despite the occasionally varied tone: the basic gist of the story - the wrong husband, the wrong servant - was charmingly portrayed and ultimately easy to follow.  There were plenty of laugh aloud moments, and the two Dromios were wonderful (Bruce Mackinnon as Dromio of Syracuse and Felix Hayes as Dromio of Ephesus).

And actually, there was an underlying sense to the violence of certain scenes: the text makes clear that Ephesus is state in terror, with the Duke executing anyone from Syracuse who lands on the shores.  And unlike others I had no problem with Sandy Grierson's Scottish accent in playing the Duke/Solinus - well, you probably could expect that.  Making the docks a place to import bodies and goods, at great risk to all concerned, underpins this interpretation and heightens the risk that Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse take in smuggling themselves to Ephesus in pursuit of Antipholus's lost sibling.

Overall then, a joyful production with plenty of staging amusement - I especially liked how Adriana and Luciana's room 'flies' in as a box to the stage.  (Indeed, both sisters were great:  a mix of steel and confusion - and a piercing scream - from Kirsty Bushell as Adriana, and prim little-sister-ness from Emily Taaffe).

And it was hard not to be charmed by Amie Burns Walker as the Courtesan, an ostensibly small role which she absolutely utilised to the maximum, not least in her reactions to confused wife Adriana pulling down the Courtesan's dress to a moderately more decent length. She was suitably flirty and utterly ran rings around the men who encountered her.

Overall, it was an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, especially in good company.  Doctor Pinch - a very scary cameo role from Jonathan Slinger - was excellent, and there was much hilarity to be gained from rapping, singing, and general inability to actually be cool and 'hip'.  Plenty of out-of-their-depth attempts at being cool fell flat in the most comedic ways possible.

I hope that the experience - combined with having seen the Open Stages taster events last month - will have given another youngster a taste for Shakespeare.  It's certainly a good way to spend your days.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

The deserving men: well done to the 2012 Olympians

I'll admit I was pretty cynical about how well the Olympics would go - the focus on not just medals (or to use the new and gross parlance "medalling") but the importance of GOLD medals above everything else was a turn off.  The level of media attention was pretty insane.  Some coped better than others, but a sense of perspective was always needed.  Well done to everyone who has taken part, whatever they managed to achieve.

Here are some of the performances we've enjoyed:
  • Bradley Wiggins in cycling - it cannot get better than winning the Tour de France and then Olympic Gold within 2 weeks

  • Sir Chris Hoy in cycling - adding further triumph to an astonishing career

  • Alan Campbell in rowing - striving against the very best in the world to get an amazing medal

  • The British male gymnast team - Daniel Purvis, Max Whitlock, Louis Smith, Kristian Thomas, Sam Oldham: first medal in 100 years

  • Greg Rutherford in long jump - leaping beyond expectations

  • Peter Wilson in double-trap shooting - modestly acknowledging that not many in Dorset may have been watching

  • Mo Farah in 10,000 metres - dominating the final lap in a somewhat tetchy race, crossing the line ahead of his US training partner, Galen Rupp

  • Ben Ainslie in sailing - managing the seas off the British coast

  • Michael Jamieson in swimming - beaten into Silver only by a world record

  • Tim Baillie and Etienne Stott - plus David Florence and Richard Hounslow (all Nottingham alumni) - in the canoe slalom ---- racing against the rapids

  • Andy Murray getting the tennis gold medal against Federer - a small vengeance on Wimbledon, and the first win in over 100 Olympic years (there have been several of these this year)

And beyond the British team:
  • Michael Phelps in swimming - just brilliant to watch: 22 medals in his Olympic career

  • Chad le Clos in swimming - tears falling in triumph after the shock of beating his hero Phelps in the butterfly 200 metres, and not forgetting Bert le Clos, his dad

Well done to everyone again - and there is still a week to go!

Olympics 2012 - pleasures so far: let's hear it for the women

In no particular order, here have been some of my pleasures so far from the Olympics in 2012.  I know there have been others who have done everything they could --- cyclists, rowers, judo and more, whether on the podiums or not (I loved insomniac Lizzie Simmonds in the swimming) --- but these have been some of my favourite bits from watching the women Olympians.
  • Gemma Gibbons in the judo - looking upwards an saying 'love you mum'

  • Katherine Grainger and Anna Watkins in the rowing - and good luck to them both for their PhD studies!

  • Heather Stanning and Helen Glover: the first British Gold medals of 2012

  • Victoria Pendleton in the cycling - proving to everyone that she could it

  • Rebecca Adlington - the most successful British swimmer in 100 years

  • Sophie Hosking and Katherine Copeland in the rowing - against expectations

  • Jessica Ennis in the heptathlon - who really only needed to get around the 800m track, but stormed home first anyway

Well done everyone, including Katarina Johnson-Thompson, who glowed throughout her own heptathlon success in breaking the British junior record points scored.  

And beyond the British women:

  • Lee Wai Sze in cycling - the biggest smile imaginable

  • Missy Franklin in swimming - a storming physique for the future: the USA's female Michael Phelps

  • Ruta Meilutyte in swimming - Lithuanian, training in Britain, looking so astonished by her own success

  • Katie Ledecky and Ye Shiwen also in swimming - phenomenal achievements by young swimmers

  • Tirunesh Dibaba in the 10,000 metres - running a brilliant race to retain her title

Congratulations to all the women from all the nations taking part in the London 2012 Olympics.  Taking part, competing: it is all part of the journey to full status in society for women.