Friday, 12 June 2015

the fire engine that disappeared; cop killer

On Wednesday 22 April I finished The Fire Engine That Disappeared, and some unknown time after that I finished Cop Killer (which I started the next day, so not long after), the two remaining Sjowall & Wahloo Martin Beck novels, which I'd got from the library. I enjoyed the first of these two more than the other.

the beatles: tune in - notes so far

150 pages in to the 900 pages of The Beatles: Tune In, Mark Lewisohn's first volume of Beatles biography, which takes them up to recording their first single (I'm just up to where John and Paul meet as teenagers at a church fete). I'm really enjoying it, and it's awesomely researched (although I remember hearing him saying, I think on a Word podcast, that he's still inviting people to send him information, that he is continuing to find out new things from people about The Beatles, which seems unbelievable but must be true).

Some first notes:

- there's an unexpected amount of illegitimacy in the family trees, with some in all four

- Aunt Mimi is a much finer and more admirable person than she's often portrayed, mother Julia conversely a much less attractive one

- John's nastiness confirmed; Paul more driven and focussed from an early age than expected

- national service was a significant cloud hanging over all young men in the 50s; it came to an end just in time for the future Beatles

- it's really hard to convey the impact on young Britons of the arrival of on the one hand rock and roll and on the other skiffle; people are always trying to get it across, and always fail; the book does well to get across that the latter was just as important, and in some ways more important, than the former (estimating several hundred skiffle groups springing up in Liverpool alone)

- it does get across the scarcity of information about records (whether owning, hearing, or learning words or chords, or knowing anything about the artist) and in particular the scarcity of instruments (how few guitars there were, and the sudden explosion in the guitar trade brought about by skiffle); possibly I can understand this better than people younger than me, having grown up without the internet and a proliferation of monthly music magazines (re the former) and without as much disposable income/cheap goods (re the latter)

- the importance of The Crickets. This para from p146 struck me:
'Big in America, the Crickets were so much bigger in Britain. Rock and roll was full of solo singers with backing musicians - Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and the rest. The only group of note was the Coasters, and not many knew them yet; besides which, they were just vocalists with session musicians. The Crickets were another kind of group: vocals, electric guitar, bass, drums. When thousands of skifflers heard That'll Be The Day, those eternally uplifting two minutes, they were *converted*. It was like a well-drilled, willing and equipped army being given a new battle plan.'

- Paul's mum's poignant words from the day she died of cancer, when he was 14 and Mike was 12: 'I would have liked to have seen the boys growing up.'

Saturday, 18 April 2015

the terrorists

Yesterday I finished The Terrorists, the last Martin Beck novel by Sjowall and Wahloo. It was okay, but again, following the pattern of the novels as they've gone on in the series, too much of the personal and political for my liking and not enough of the detective. 

I ordered from the library - rather than leaving it to the vagaries of the second-hand world - the two remaining books to read, No 5 and No 9, and started No 5 yesterday. (I'd only reserved them a couple of days earlier, and they'd had to come from other branches, and will only cost 50p each, which I don't begrudge.) Unlike the Reginald Hills, I'm still enjoying them enough to want to read them all; just disappointing given my initial high hopes.

eragon

The younger generation and I watched Eragon on DVD during the day on Friday 10 April, the last day of the school holiday. It was pretty disappointing; neither of us were that impressed, and it's bound for the charity shop now. The ending set it up for a sequel, but I don't know if it was ever made.

an april shroud

On Saturday 4 April I finished An April Shroud by Reginald Hill, the fourth Dalziel and Pascoe detective novel. I got a set of the first six from The Book People. I wasn't that impressed, as I haven't been with the previous ones either, really. I was going to abandon them without reading the next two, but having checked my various crime novel lists I see that HRF Keating lists the next one, A Pinch of Snuff, in his 100 Best, so I may give him one more chance.

Friday, 17 April 2015

doing good on the sabbath

The concluding principle, it is lawful to do good on the sabbath, is, says Bonnard (p175), 'disturbing, for, if generalized, it would make all organized church life impossible: there is always some "good" to undertake in preference to a religious duty'. But if we can avoid such convenient generalization, the principle embodies well the message of Hosea 6:6. It is better to err on the side of 'goodness' than on that of heartless adherence to regulations.
- RT France on Matthew 12:11-12, in his Matthew commentary in the IVP Tyndale series

Thursday, 2 April 2015

why do I sing at folk club?

In an email after our workshop at choir, I wrote:
'I'd have been interested to hear from people who don't sing at folk club, about why they don't want to or feel able to, and maybe explore that. Especially people who - without any false modesty on my part - clearly have better voices than I do, and who seem very confident when singing in the choir.
'Which then raised for me the equivalent question for those of us who *do* sing at folk club: why *do* we? I've been thinking about that! (But this email's already long enough.)'

So, why do I sing at folk club? It's certainly not because I think I have a good voice, or that I - literally, or I hope metaphorically - like the sound of my own voice. I love to sing, I might say to start with. But that would be satisfied by singing in the choir or joining in with others' songs. Especially since I most love to sing in harmony, and obviously you can't do that singing solo. I was recently able to sing in duets and trios at folk club, and I loved that so much. I have wondered whether if I were always able to sing a duet, say, then I'd never need or want to sing solo again.

That helps to focus an answer to my question to myself, because I think I still would. Because I think, here's a song which I love which I would like other people to hear.

Other clues to that are my reluctance to sing the same song twice in the same place (partly through not wanting to be repetitious, and through wanting to keep extending my 'repertoire', but a lot because if people have heard me sing this before they've heard this version, they already know it), and that I don't think I would like to sing at the choir folk club a song we've done recently at choir (because, again, everyone knows it - though some people do this, and do it well, because they do it differently, which would be a reason, especially in my mind to do a one-per-part harmony version so people could hear what that would sound like).

Within that is also a sub-set of non-folk-songs which people might know but which I think can be unearthed from their original settings and revealed as folk songs (with greater or lesser success, and with greater or lesser variation from the style/genre of the original).

And that might also then explain on the one hand my resistance to people at folk clubs who are very obviously 'performing', and on the other hand my own going to the other extreme and not putting the song across at all in any physical way - 'pay no attention to me, but just listen to this song'.

I am also at our Morris folk club often the only person who performs twice. Why do I do that? I think in the first instance it was because I'd come from singing at Sharp's, where it's the usual pattern - unless there are too many performers, everyone performs once in the first half and once in the second half. Even when I realised it wasn't so common at Morris, however, I still stuck with it. Again, I hope people don't think it's because I like the sound of my own voice. Partly it's in the hope of encouraging others who are better than me to do the same, because I'd like to hear them again and because I'd like the folk club to last longer. But it's probably mainly because I've got a lot of songs that I'd like to sing. I have a rule for myself that my two songs can't both be songs I've sung before somewhere else (ie Sharp's, essentially), so I tend to sing one song I've sung before somewhere else and one song which I've never sung before in public; in the former case, it's usually therefore just the second time I've sung it in public, with the first time usually having been at Sharp's.

As with so many things, I have a set of related lists - in this case, folders in iTunes: 'folk done at Morris and Sharp's', 'folk done at Morris not Sharp's', 'folk done at Sharp's not Morris', and 'folk done at Sharps in co of Morris' (ie when we've gone there as a choir). I also started a folder 'folk done at Goose' after my first and so far only visit to The Goose Is Out in Nunhead. I also have 'folk learning', 'folk revising', 'folk reserve', 'folk reserve reserve' and 'folk learning but may never use' (mostly for non-folk repertoire).

The folder called 'folk done at Sharp's not Morris' still contains 27 songs - easily more than two years' worth if I only sing one a night at our folk club - and in my learning/revising folders I currently have 22 songs. That's why I sing two a night.

A footnote to the 'those who don't sing' question. Since I've joined, every current male member of the choir excepting the most recent joiner (that is, eight out of nine) has sung solo at folk club, in most cases pretty regularly; I think in that time only four of the women have. (Singing at this week's folk club: eight solo men, one solo woman. And yet our folk club, being largely made up of choir members, is in the I think fairly unusual position of having more women attending it than men.)

There's not a person alive with ears who would say that we are eight out of the twelve best singers in the choir. It's a very striking male/female ratio in solo performance; and yet I would defy anyone to say that the men in the choir as a whole were in general, as people, more confident or extrovert or whatever than the women in the choir. (Indeed, one of the women who sings is perhaps one of the most reserved; I think we are very alike, though it strikes me that some people who know me only from the choir may think I am rather self-confident, which is an odd thought.) I find it very hard to understand - and a bit frustrating, actually, but I don't want to get too intense and go on about it too much in case it puts people even further off singing solo at folk club.

the abominable man

On Tuesday I finished The Abominable Man, by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. It didn't take long, and felt insubstantial, not just because of its length, though I did enjoy it. Not enough detecting in it, too much state of society.

march folk club

On Tuesday I was at the Morris Folk Club, which we had at a new venue we were trying out, the Dissenting Academy pub off Newington Green. A much nicer venue than Hysteria, but actually it felt like as much background noise from the pub as there, which was its main drawback but fixable (the other main drawback was that the way to the gents was through our space, though we could rearrange things to make that less of an issue).

I sang On Horseback by Mike Oldfield, another folk song in hiding. Of course I sang the verses rather than speaking them, to the tune of the guitar part being played underneath them. It went okay, though I'm clearly not very good at getting people to join in on choruses.

For my second song I was going to sing the Sheena Wellington version of The Death of Queen Jane, but I thought it wouldn't be loud enough to compete with the pub stereo, so I sang Boots of Spanish Leather, which was just on the verge of being pitched too high - but I only changed my song plans during the preceding song, so I wasn't fully ready for it. I sang it in the Nanci Griffith version rather than the original, in which the second half of the tune is higher than the first half rather than lower - ie an octave up from Bob's original.

Friday, 27 March 2015

burns and the church, and burns suppers

... What's fascinating is the link between Burns Suppers and the church. Ever since the first Supper was held in 1802, the clergy have been distinguishing themselves as Addressers of the Haggis, Toasters to the Lassies and Proposers of the Immortal Memory.

All of which is strikingly odd, considering Burns's attitude to the Church. His personal religion, if he had one, consisted of smatterings of Deism picked up in Ayrshire pubs and Edinburgh salons. There was a God, but having set the universe going he had then gone off like an absentee landlord, leaving it to look after itself. By contast, the Presbyterian God was a meddler, and judgemental, and Burns lost no opportunity to ridicule him and his followers. ...

How did it come about, then, that the clergy became such assiduous patrons of Burns Suppers? The short answer is that in the Kirk of Burns's day there were two churches, Evangelical and Moderate, and the Bard's sympathies were decidedly with the latter. There is a striking paradox here. The Moderates were patronised by the landlords; the Evangelicals were the sons and daughters of the soil, and blighted with what moderates and landlords saw as humble circumstances, conviction-religion and the fatal flaw of enthusiasm. In the light of A man's a man for a' that, you'd have expected Burns to favour the religion of his fellow ploughmen, but he didn't. Flattered by Ayrshire's Moderate clergy and Edinburgh's literati, he used his genius to satirise popular religion. An earnest Presbyterian was not 'a man, for a' that'.

And so, while Evangelicals gave Burns Suppers a wide berth, Moderates endorsed them warmly.

- from Donald Macleod's Footnotes column, West Highland Free Press, 30 January 2015.

(He also describes why many people think the Burns Supper structure is a parody of a Presbyterian communion service (as well as possibly having elements reflecting Freemasonry rituals, Burns having been a member).)

morris choir workshop

On Tuesday at choir rehearsal we had a workshop evening to help us in our singing and performance, which was helpful and interesting. I sang Dear Someone - a couple of times - by way of an example to talk about. I'd chosen it as it was one that hadn't gone as well as it might have when I sang it at Sharp's a few years ago (though by no means the worst); unfortunately for our purposes on Tuesday I sang it better this time.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

ruddigore

On Saturday 28 February the three of us - along with Hei Mun (who organised it), Danica and Laura - went to the King's Head Theatre on Upper Street to see Ruddigore (had a good meal at a nearby Vietnamese beforehand too).

It was a production by Charles Court Opera company, who I (and Hei Mun, separately) had seen there last year doing Patience, and who we had seen at the Rosemary Branch doing their Christmas panto, Billy The Kid.

We all enjoyed it a lot - I back to my enjoyment levels of Patience, rather than Billy The Kid. Although a lesser-known G&S work, I knew it from having done it with the Gilbert & Sullivan Society at University in my first year, although I'm fairly sure I haven't seen it since. I was going to say 'or heard', but I do have an EMI CD box set of G&S operas, so I've heard it in there a couple of times.

Again, the singing and acting was very good. The set was simpler than Patience. John Savournin, the director, was performing in it again, and he was excellent as Sir Despard. Matthew Kellett, who had played Billy The Kid in the panto, was Robin Oakapple, and I much preferred him in this. I'd been looking forward to seeing Amy J Payne again, but sadly her role was (the only) one which was being done by two different people, and it wasn't her night (so in fact there was no one from Patience in it); but Sylvia Clarke was perfectly good. They all were, so much so that it seems invidious to single anyone out; although Cassandra McCowan as Mad Margaret was also very good, and she and Sir Despard made an excellent 'normal' couple too after their reunion (he looking surely deliberately like Richard Osman). (Bethan spotted that we had seen her as one of the three little maids in the Mikado in the Charing Cross Theatre, though I didn't recognise her.) Once again, a production and performances as good as any one would hope to see in the West End, out the back of a pub.

It was promoted as a 'Hammer horror' style production (in much the same way as Patience was promoted as a 'Goth' style production), but that didn't really intrude as a style too much. For some reason, the programme contained the full text of the opera (book and lyrics), in contrast with the slimline programmes of Patience and Billy The Kid; which shows how relatively little dialogue there was in it.

Some reviews (a lot more than for Patience; must be the time that's passed). The Arts Desk. Standard. Bachtrack. Fringe Opera. Webcowgirl. London City Nights. Planet Hugill. Everything Theatre. Grumpy Gay Critic. Remote Goat. Broadway World. Jonathan Baz. Camden Review. British Theatre Guide. A couple make the point that they pitch very well how to play characters who could be quite unappealing.

Finally, the Charles Court Opera page on the production.

billy the kid

On Tuesday 30 December the three of us went to a matinee of Billy The Kid, the Charles Court Opera panto, at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, courtesy of comp tickets from Anna Rebmann, who was working on the production.

We enjoyed it, but I didn't enjoy it as much as their G&S Patience. It was our only panto of the year, though; we did our time with pantos in the early family years, and don't go to so many now (in fact it's striking that I have no memory of coming across their pantos before, though we were always on the lookout, yet this was something like their eighth; perhaps we didn't consider it because of its location, but it's a couple of easy bus rides away). Amy J Payne and Joanna Marie Skillett were in it from Patience, and the director John Savournin was in it this time; he played the dame, and had also written the script. Again, the singing was good, the acting and script were as you'd expect from a panto (more innuendo than would have been my preference); John S probably the best performance, Amy J Payne good too; and I liked, as ever, the use of pop songs.

It was my first time at the Rosemary Branch, and it was full. Another pub theatre, but upstairs, and raked. Novel approach to seating in that they allocate your seats by name once they've got all the bookings in, for optimisation for groups and ages, and need for extra seats squeezed in; I was on a chair beside the lighting desk; the other two were in the 'box', which was indeed a box at the back but with only room for a cosy two.

Some reviews. Camden Review (which reminds me that they did adult-only performances, presumably when they ramped up the rudeness). Everything Theatre. Theatre Cat (Libby Purves' 'amateur' reviews). LondonTheatre1 (mainly a ticket agency, I think). Broadway World. The Upcoming. Grumpy Gay Critic. UK Theatre Network. British Theatre Guide. Ham & High. East End Review. Ginger Hibiscus. Time Out. A Younger Theatre. Well, I certainly wouldn't rave about it the way some of those did (especially about the villain, who I didn't appreciate), and not just because I was disappointed by comparison with how much I enjoyed Patience. They throw around the word 'boutique' a lot too, which relates to the small size of the cast, as per their 'boutique operas'.

Finally, here's the relevant Charles Court Opera past production page, complete with video.

patience - king's head theatre

Since I've seen my third Charles Court Opera production in a year, it's time I wrote up the earlier visits before covering the most recent.

On Monday 23 June 2014 I saw Patience at the King's Head Theatre. My first time there, though it's a very well-known pub theatre venue. I'd thought the venue was upstairs, but actually it was at the back. Unlike, say, The White Bear, it had a more traditional theatre layout, but small - a few rows of seats with an aisle down the middle, a slightly-raised platform, not very deep, for the stage. The set was well done - a bar counter running much of the width of the stage. I was in the front row, feet easily prop-upabble on the stage, if you weren't worried someone would trip over them.

It was Hei Mun who reminded me about it; she was going on a night I couldn't do, but I got a ticket for another night by myself. Also unlike White Bear, it is numbered seats. Also, as they said at the start when inviting later donations, the theatre is run quite separately from the pub, so they get no income from any pub sales, just their own programmes and ice-creams.

I don't know the full range of the Charles Court Opera expertise, but they've made a success of small-cast performances of Gilbert and Sullivan, in which essentially all the chorus parts are covered by the company, most of whom are playing named parts. You couldn't have fitted more people on the stage, really. One pianist accompanying.

(One of the things Twitter is good for: before I booked a ticket, anticipating that there would be piano at one side of the stage or the other, I tweeted to several people on Twitter who were either associated with the production or had tweeted about having seen it to ask which side the piano was on, so I could book a seat at the other end, the better to hear the singing. Someone told me, most helpfully, that it was stage right, and I booked accordingly.)

It was really good. Once again, the London fringe giving you productions and performances that are excellent and any match for anything in the West End. I hadn't seen Patience before - though I may have read it, when I had the two-volume Complete G&S text in my schooldays - but knew the general idea.

Before last year, I had only seen one or two G&S productions, a long time ago, since having been in them myself at school and university, and had concluded that they were more fun to be in than to watch. But these - and the Mikado (also small-scale) which I recently saw in the Charing Cross Theatre showed me I was wrong about that.

I'd forgotten what a high proportion of singing there was - they pack the songs in - and the text was really good too. It was very well performed; they certainly made it funny (by which I mean as funny as it was written), and although they didn't update it it didn't feel like a period piece. It was interesting that there were identifiably different kinds of voices; Patience in particular had what I thought of as a very operatic style, which I wasn't so keen on, though I don't have the understanding to explain what I mean by that. My favourite was certainly Amy J Payne, who played the Lady Jane; David Phipps-David as Bunthorne was also very good. But in fact, really, everyone was good, both in singing and delivering their lines (which they also sang very clearly, as well as those they spoke). (Three of the parts were played by different people on different nights; for the record, on my night I had Giles Davies, David Menezes and Richard Immergluck.)

Some reviews (fewer than usual appearing in the first couple of pages of results, either because of passing of time or just fewer reviews done). Webcowgirl. Standard. Britishtheatreguide.info. Ham & High.

Finally, here's the relevant Charles Court Opera past production page, complete with slideshow.

Friday, 20 March 2015

sharp's

On the Morris Folk Choir Facebook page this evening I posted:
'On Tuesday a good number of us went up to Cecil Sharp House for the singers night at Sharp's Folk Club. Singers nights at Sharp's rarely let you down, packed with songs and tunes well done by a great range of performers.
'In the first half we did All For Me Grog and Poison In A Glass Of Wine; in the second half (in decreasing numbers) we did Whiskey In Me Tay and St Giles' Bowl (one of our Tim's songs - title track off his new album, don't you know!). (Tim and Iain from the choir also did a couple of songs each.)
'I think it's fair to say we did okay!'

I shared it on mine, with this note:
'In the first half I sang Making Time - another of Tim's songs, which (with his permission) I'd picking up off a demo version and tinkered with the words a little. Tim's churning out so many good songs that this one isn't even on his album; the tune in particular is lovely. Perhaps in thirty years it will see the light of day on Tim's Bootleg Series Vol 1...
'In the second half I sang Jock o' Hazeldean.
'I did them both a little too high, especially Jock, but nothing new there, and largely got away with it (though a bit disappointed with the latter in particular). Sharp's is always a very supportive and forgiving place.'

Monday, 16 March 2015

la traviata

On Friday 13 March - having an evening to myself - I went to see La Traviata by the English National Opera at the Coliseum, having got a 'Secret Seat' ticket on Thursday.

On Sunday night Hei Mun asked me by email what I thought (I'd asked her expert advice on going to this and/or Purcell's Indian Queen, being across all things opera; she warned me off the production of Indian Queen, which she'd seen, but thought La Traviata would be worth it). Here's what I said:
'you may get a full pleb's-eye view on my blog sometime in the next two years (wrote up a couple of things from 2013 today...), but in short:
- I liked it
- I was surprised I only recognised one song/tune from it (the drinking song) - my first Verdi, but it's a famous one
- I was surprised how unelucidated the 'plot' was
- I was surprised how much of it was solo singing, with comparatively few combinations and very little chorus work (seems a shame when you have all these good singers in one place not to use them together, but then I prefer harmony singing to solo singing)
- I was genuinely impressed at how powerfully people could sing while lying down or otherwise awkwardly positioned
- to my plebby ears it was sung and played well (male lead was unwell, sub sounded good to me; female lead was a bit 'harsh warble' for my tastes, but maybe that's how it's meant to sound)
- I didn't mind the simple staging (lots of curtains), but if there was a symbolism in the layers and the opening and closing then I didn't get it (but I haven't read the programme yet, there may be a clue in there; layers of society/hypocrisy/intimacy?)
- a couple of times characters sang from the stalls, and I didn't get that either (programme ditto; Violetta's isolation?)
- I find it odd that everyone who sang even a couple of solo lines (like the man who delivered a letter) gets an individual bow and round of applause at the end
- I was surprised, it being the last performance, that there were no flowers (camellias?) or similar at the end
- I wondered if composers writing operas featuring people dying of consumption is a satirical dig at the number of people who cough their way through an evening at the theatre; there was certainly no shortage of coughers in the audience
- I'd definitely do the Secret Seat again
- I don't think I'd ever feel the need to see it again, but I'm very glad to have seen it.'

Since writing that I've read the programme. The first thing to say is that it wasn't the man playing Alfredo who was unwell, but the man playing his father, Giorgio. This explains why at the end the conductor shook Giorgio's hand rather than Alfredo's, which had puzzled me.

The Secret Seat is a great scheme, where you pay £20, are guaranteed a seat priced at at least £25 and from which you can see the surtitles (ENO sing in English, incidentally, but surtitles still helpful); there's a limited number (don't know if they increase the number for productions not selling so well), and they tell you a couple of days before the performance what your actual seat is. Mine was in Row C of the dress circle; I'm not entirely sure, but think this may have been a £105 ticket.

The most striking example of the plot vagueness was that although Violetta is famously a courtesan/prostitute, I saw no way of telling that from what I saw or heard on stage: 'a whore despised by society', the programme says, but I hadn't realised she was despised, she appeared quite popular. It's almost amusing to read the synopsis in the programme (or on Wikipedia), packed with detail, nuance and motivation so unevident in the text or performance. Although this production is a shorter one, I understood the cuts to be of repeated song sections and of musical/dance sections; but maybe some things were cut which would have conveyed some of the things described in the synopsis. The other programme articles are similarly full of interpretations and meanings and readings and depths which, again, were in no way apparent to me watching it (as with other operas, I had deliberately not read the synopsis or the programme notes beforehand, to keep the performance more interesting for me, so that I didn't know exactly what was going to happen). It seemed a very straightforward story to me watching it (tragic odd couple love story), with a major implausibility at the heart of it (why did she leave him - and betray him - just because his father asked her to leave him?), but apparently I should have understood it was much more complicated than that.

The on-set curtains coming down represented the beautiful surface of an allegedly civilised society being temporarily shattered. I thought Alfredo was straightforwardly in love with Violetta, but the programme doesn't think so.

I think the execution of the music, the singing and the production were fine, and it's none of those which make me uninterested in seeing it again; it's the material itself, and probably chiefly within that the amount of solo singing, and that the melodies didn't appeal to me particularly.

Interestingly, the programme suggests it was originally going to be called 'Love and Death', a title Woody Allen did use.

The director on the curtains set (translated, to be fair): 'we deliberately avoided realistic sets and instead created a symbolic world of theatre drapes that is both surreal and nightmare-like. When the curtain rises in the theatre, a story begins. When it falls, that story is over. But these are only the most simplistic interpretations. If we multiply them by the imaginary number 'the square root of minus one', the act of passing through several curtains that open successively can also signify the passage towards death.' Now that's funny.

The Wikipedia plot summary, actually, is more straightforward, more like what I actually saw. Also indicates that some of the cuts were chorus songs at the later party, not just instrumental as I'd thought; so I guess I'd have enjoyed it more with those still in it.

Some reviews. Independent (likes the singing, not the staging). Guardian. Express. Bachtrack.com. Mark Ronan blog. Planet Hugill blog (which reminded me of the way the chorus crawled off stage like slugs into darkness at the end of one scene to leave Violetta on stage alone, which started ridiculous but became creepy in a good way). Standard. What's On Stage. Financial Times. A Younger Theatre (a good line: 'As the looming curtains are torn down, leaving Violetta alone on an empty stage, the picture would have been more poignant if the stage had not been empty all along'). MusicOMH.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

yu-en's exhibition

We went to Yu-En's photography exhibition on Saturday 12 October 2013 - part of Within Walking Distance, an exhibition of various Goldsmiths students work. Here's our church blog post about it, Yu-En's page from the exhibition website, a Goldsmiths blog post about it, and Yu-En's own website.  

journey into fear

On Tuesday 1 October 2013 I finished Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler, a wartime spy thriller. I'm not one for adventure thrillers really, but it was a good little read. I wouldn't be averse to reading others of his that were more spy and less adventure, but I'm not sure how far that way he ever went.

earthlight; roseanna

On an August 2013 weekend in Shrewsbury I finished Earthlight by Arthur C Clarke (on Friday 9 August) and read Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo (finished on the Saturday).

I had to look at the Wikipedia entry for Earthlight to remind me what it was about. I expect I enjoyed it reasonably well; as a general rule Arthur C Clarke is more interested than I am in justifying and explaining his predictions and extrapolations, in science in particular. What became the 'hard science' end of SF, I guess, which doesn't really interest me.

Roseanna was the second Martin Beck novel I'd read - the first was The Laughing Policeman, the fourth in the series, which had been in one of my 'best ever crime novels' lists and I'd picked up in a charity shop. Subsequently I'd bought the first three in the series in the British Library bookshop, which has an interestingly-stocked crime section (or perhaps had - there had been a crime-fiction exhibition on then or around then); I got the three as I didn't think I'd seen them in bookshops generally before. I've picked up most or all of the others in charity or secondhand shops since then, and therefore haven't been reading them in order. As I've said before, if I'd read the later ones first I wouldn't have been so keen, as they became more consciously about society (I think ordinarily crime fiction tells you a lot about the society of the day without having to consciously make an effort to do so); but this one was straightforward and satisfying.

good vibrations; troll hunter

Having the whole day to myself yesterday, I decided against going out in the end and did stuff at home. Said stuff included watching two films I'd recorded on the digibox.

In the afternoon I watched Good Vibrations, about the Belfast record shop and punk label, which I enjoyed a lot, but found sadder than I'd expected. In the evening I watched Troll Hunter, a Norwegian 'found footage' film about a troll hunter, which I also enjoyed a lot; it was a nice idea, that trolls actually existed but the Norwegian government kept it quiet and dealt with it in secret; 'found footage' can get a bit wearisome, and doesn't always obey its own premise, but this did okay.