Friday, 9 December 2016

At the revels

This week I have mostly been going to cultural stuff. And watching my friends and colleagues marking essays. As I'm on a sabbatical (cough cough) this is the first time since 2000 that I haven't had any. I miss the teaching, but marking? Not so much.

So last week it was a Beethoven and John Adams concert at Symphony Hall: the Leonore Overture was pretty enough (yes, I know this sounds terrible), the Violin Concerto was stunning – particularly good cadenza – and Adams's Harmonium was utterly wonderful - it draws on poems by John Donne and Emily Dickinson to thrilling, gutsy effect. It's just a shame that the audience is reduced by a half whenever a living composer appears on the bill. The version below is from the 1980 CBSO performance under Simon Rattle. It was also lovely to see the James Ehnes, the Beethoven soloist sitting near us for the Adams half of the concert. That doesn't happen often.

I've also been to see a two-hander of Pride and Prejudice which worked wonderfully, went to the cinema for I, Daniel Blake which reduced me and everybody else there to tears (though we all enjoyed one character's devotion to Stoke City's Charlie Adam), and saw Pixies last night. Sometimes I worry about bands over the creative hill flogging the old favourites, but Pixies were utterly ferocious. The famous songs weren't reverently reproduced identically to the recorded versions, and new songs fitted well. The gig finished with their Krautrock b-side (considerably toughened up) 'Into the White' being delivered into a hall filled with blinding white smoke, which looked and sounded amazing, and also annoyed the ghastly folk who view gigs through their mobile phones. Which was a bonus.

Change of tone for the next couple of gigs: Oxford this weekend to hear my sister sing with the City of Oxford choir, including the modern masterpiece that is Lauridsen's 'O Magnum Mysterium', then on Tuesday it's back to Brum for the Tallis Scholars' Renaissance Christmas, which also features a contemporary piece, amazingly.

It's not all fun though - several Annual General Meetings and the like to get through first… Oh, and tonight's the very last All Hands On Decks, where failed or wannabe DJs get to torture the general public with 10 minutes of their musty vinyl. Not sure what I'll play tonight but it's bound to be something far removed from the soulful and groovy stuff everyone else likes. Why is it the last one? Perhaps because – like Mary Bennet – I have delighted them long enough.

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