Posts Tagged music

Bandstand busking

Earlier this year, Clerkenwell Councillor George Allan & I were chatting to residents in Northampton Square, and the subject of the old bandstand came up. One of the families had very musical children who were saying they wished they could use the bandstand to perform.

Roll on a few months, and it’s become a reality. Bandstand Busking, a self-described ‘a sort of cooperative of music likers’ are organising a series of busking events in London bandstands, including Northampton Square. Their website is not wildly easy to use but certainly gives a flavour of previous events, plus some fetching photos of bandstands in all seasons.

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Counterpoint on R4

I had lunch with Paul Gambacini today.

Well, kind of. I was eating lunch. He was on BBC R4, compering the first in the new season of Counterpoint the classical-ish music quiz.

One of the questions was: Who composed the Fantasia on Welsh Nursery Tunes (the answer BTW was Grace Williams. No, me neither).

Now I may not have heard of that work before (my O level Music is a bit dusty) but I thought I’d heard the word ‘Fantasia’. And if you’re still reading this, by now you will have heard the word twice in your head: how do you say it?

I’ve always assumed it was fantayzia; but Paul Gambaccini called it fantasseea.

Anyway, I enjoyed the music – everything from Purcell to Puffing Billy via Wagner. Cue Paul G quoting Woody Allen: “I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.”

I enjoyed the quiz but did feel a pang for the poor bloke who got the question “Who played Sky Masterson in the film of Guys and Dolls?” and could remember everything about Marlon Brando – at length – except his name.

Talking of names, I can’t think of a more perfect title for a music quiz than Counterpoint. It’ll be another fantassee lunch date with Paul G next week.

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Pink, perky and proud

Tonight I was in the front row, cheering a fantastic musical evening in Finsbury Library.

We had Schubert lieder, Benjamin Britten songs and show tunes from William Sauerland with Erik Dippenaar. Then an unforgettable performance from the Pink Singers, who delivered two medleys – Bond songs and Tamla Motown – with unique style.

The event was the gala finish to LGBT History Month here in Islington, which is, as one of the speakers reminded us, the queerest borough in London.

Islington is home to London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and Stonewall Housing (the latter based just down the corridor from Islington Lib Dems at Leroy House), and elected the first out gay MP, Chris Smith.

The first gay rights demo, triggered by the arrest of Young Liberal Louis Eakes, took place on Highbury Fields in 1970 (I attended the 30th anniversary event in 2000). More recently, Lib-Dem-led Islington Council has fought and won the argument that all citizens are entitled to be served equally by the council registrars; and has been recognised by Stonewall as a top employer. Our schools are helping fight homophobic bullying.

Some people are still on the offensive against LGBT History Month. They are wrong. To spend 4 short weeks a year celebrating gay and lesbian lives enriches our culture, celebrates freedom and diversity, and is good for everyone.

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Remembering Lisa Pontecorvo

Lisa Pontecorvo‘s memorial event in Edward Square was, like Lisa herself, slightly anarchic, unexpectedly fun, and firmly community-based.

Two hundred plus people crammed into a marquee provided by Islington Greenspace (Lisa would heartily approve of this annexing of municipal resources for a community event) to hear a mix of spoken and musical tributes. Sadie Lambert unveiled a plaque at the Orchard entrance to the Square; and afterwards – as with so many community events before – there was tea and food, and Fr Jim, at Blessed Sacrament church hall.

It’s hard to pick out the highlights from so many – you had to be there. But mine include an emotional tribute from Lisa’s lifelong friend Ruth Kirk-Wilson. She reminisced about Lisa’s life beyond Islington, from student days in Oxford, to special times in St Luc, and told us how Lisa became ‘secular godmother’ to Ruth’s son, regaling Sunday lunches with details of her latest campaigns lest he become too sheltered…

And local landscape architect Johanna Gibbons used Lisa’s own words to tell us how she had championed the best design for the poorest neighbourhoods.

Then there was the music. Four very different performances: first the children from Blessed Sacrament and Copenhagen schools, with their original song for Lisa. Then X factor-style showstoppers from EGA students Grace and Serena. Alastair Murray closed by leading us singing We Shall Overcome. That’s something Lib Dems normally sing on the last night of our party conference, so it was a little surreal to be singing it with Lisa’s former Labour party comrades, but somehow that too was very Lisa.

The main musical performance was the Orchestra of the Age of Englightenment playing Handel – with compulsory audience participation. Now we know the actions, the Water Music will never be the same.

My abiding memory of the event will be of a great line of people, including conservationists, artists, politicians, council officers and community activists, all hand in hand, skipping in a baroque conga round Edward Square. How Lisa would have loved it!

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Orlando’s cello pilgrimage

I met Orlando Jopling in his role as a promoter of a plastic-bag-free Newington Green. And I knew he was a distinguished musician.

But I’ve only just come across another Orlando project – playing Bach cello suites in churches to raise money for their restoration and upkeep.

Bach’s music was written in and for churches; so this seems a very appropriate way to support them today.

The combination of a young family and a globe-trotting career would be enough for most people; it’s always impressive to meet folk like Orlando who make time to give something back.

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Vienna: cafe culture amid the poster wars

While I was on my way back from Bournemouth, Rich was still busy with a work conference in Vienna. And this weekend we met up there to enjoy the city on a short post-conference break.

Vienna may be the small capital of a small country, but it has more than its fair share of grand palaces from its imperial past. We enjoyed touring the state apartments and the Sissi museum in the Hofburg, and also visited the Leopold museum of modern art to see the Klimt. I hadn’t realised how much 1918 was an end of an era for Vienna – not just the end of empire, but also the deaths of Klimt, Schiele, and the city planner Wager.

On Saturday night we went to a performance of Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem in the Stephandom. The concert was in aid of the cathedral restoration funds, which made ‘How lovely is thy dwelling place’ seem particularly appropriate….

The weather was dreadful, but that gave us an excuse to duck into lots of different cafes. Café Europa on Karntnerstrasse (the main shopping street) is chic and modern; Café Raimund in the Museumquarter is the opposite – a hundred years old, cosy and wood-panelled. We also enjoyed the Café Oper Wien, in the Opera house, where you can see (though not hear) the current production on plasma screens.

It’s a standing joke that wherever we go on holiday, Rich & I never escape elections; and sure enough, Austria was in campaign mode. The Greens had a marquee outside the Opera house, complete with internet café and bar, while the Social Democrats had heavily logoed cars driving around.

There were huge posters everywhere for the different party leaders. The only woman leader appears to be the LIF’s Heide Schmidt, a refreshing contrast to some of the scary nationalists on offer. Although I’m not entirely sure about ‘love me or LIF me’ as a slogan.

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Hear Gladstone sing?

A wonderful song and video here, from the US folk singer, Neal Gladstone. Appropriately for a Gladstone, his song’s called “I’m a Liberal”. On the eve of Lib Dem conference, this should get all of us in the mood…. Thanks to Paul Johnston of Aberdeenshire for the tip.

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