Archive for February, 2007

School Chamber Music

The 2nd Scottish Schools Chamber Music Festival took place yesterday, and I was able to go along and listen.    The format is that a group plays, and then is workshopped by a leading professional player who runs through parts of the piece and gives huge encouragement.

The standard was unbelievably high, particularly a wind quintet and string quartet from the same school in Glasgow who performed stunningly well.    

Seeing groups perform for the sheer joy of it makes for a special occasion.    I was very impressed.

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Enjoyed this film about a random shooting in Morocco, children being taken to a wedding in Mexico, and a deaf-mute Japanese girl trying to make sense of her life after her mother’s death.    It was all compelling, although somewhat contrived.   

There were some teriffic performances though, particularly from the Moroccan ‘terrorists’, and the Japenese girl.    Actually, for me the Japanese story was the most interesting, as it left quite a few questions unanswered.    And what did that note say?

The film was shortlisted for several  BAFTA awards, and secured one for its music, which I felt was mixed too loud in the soundtrack.    Sometimes less is more, and this was not a ‘big’ cinema.   Perhaps the cinema had it turned up to drown the popcorn-fest going on behind me.

Certainly well worth going to see, but I’m not completely raving about it.

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All My Sons

All My Sons at the Lyceum in Edinburgh last week is certainly going to be one of the ‘must-see’ productions of 2007.   

There was a wonderful team of actors giving everything to this sad story of the pressures and economies of wartime.    It is set in the garden of a clapboard house in an unnamed American town in 1947, complete with real grass (and moths).    Stuart Milligan and Kathryn Howden  played oldsters Joe and Kate Keller fantastically well, but it fell to Richard Conlon as the surviving son to take us on the journey from optimistic hopeful lover to a wrecked soul.    The other parts are very important too, and were all so well played.      Not often you go to the theatre and hear a wall of applause and cheeering at the end.

If there was a criticism, I felt that the dialogue was taken slightly too fast at times, a problem I have noticed with other productions at the Lyceum.    When Dundee Rep did this a few years ago (also excellently, and also with Richard Conlon) it was taken at a slower speed, and there was more use of silence.    Different directors, I suppose, but I felt that the pace taken was too fast for the audience to fully absorb what was being said at times.

But what a good play.    It is 60 years old and still fresh.    We were able to take two people in our party who had never seen an Arthur Miller play before.    They, like us,  loved it.

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Perth Caledonian Cinema Hygiene

A visit to Perth Cinema last night.  

It was actually not a pleasant experience.    The whole building stank of stale popcorn, and Cinema 4 which we were in was (let’s say) less than fresh.    It was really pretty stinking.   My feet were actually sticking to the carpet in front of my seat.    The place needs powerwashed and disinfected.

I also just don’t get why the people behind us arrived late and then proceeded to demolish  what sounded like a three course popcorn fest in the noisiest wrapping known to man.    It was 8pm – had these folk not had their tea for goodness sake?     Pretty gross to listen to during a film.   No wonder they had the sound turned up so loud.

Looks like I will have to drive to DCA in Dundee where the two cinemas are clean and don’t do popcorn.    (They also put on much more interesting films).     It shouldn’t be like this.

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Dr Korczak’s Example

“All of this really happened …….”

Dundee Rep once again came up trumps with a stunning short play by David Greig chronicaling the true story of Dr Korczak, who ran an orphanage for Jewish children in war-torn Warsaw.   He was a principled leader who believed that by setting a civilised example in his community, he would be demonstrating a point to the Nazis.

The orphanage was run on groundbreaking democratic grounds, with misdemenours dealt with by a court of other children.    Korczak dealt with the children patiently and wisely, yet in his private moments we learn of his deep turmoil and worry about the unstable and frightening situation.

The play dealt with the promise of safety for the children from the head of the whole Jewish community, and the lack of sympathy from the catholic church in particular.    When the promise of safety could no longer be kept, Dr Korczak lined up all his children under the green flag of their summer camp and led them off to the waiting train …. he was offered a pass to safety, but remained with his children.

After the war, his writings were discovered leading to his list of Rights for Children being recognised by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Superb performances by John Buick as Korczak, Kevin Lennon as the boy and Ionia Ni Chroinin as the girl.    The use of model figures was inspiring.     The packed audience, in a three quarter round and seated on the stage, were spellbound.    We were given a postcard of Children’s Rights on the way out.

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Internet Radio

I was ‘listening again’ to some Saturday morning BBC Radio 3 – Stravinsky Pulcinella on the internet.   I have a fairly decent broadband connection, but the sound was not really very great, which was a pity.

Which got me to looking at internet radio streaming bandwidth.     I don’t understand why stations like “The Jazz” can stream at 128kps, but the BBC is stuck in the dark ages with 48kps.

48kps is really no use for decent sound:   it sounds a bit too underwaterish.

 I don’t really understand these things, but feel that the ‘flagship’ BBC should be doing better.

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Library sale time again.   February 17th.   Hooray!   

Once or twice a year, Perth Library has a sale of surplus books (plus a few cds etc.) which is well worth getting along to.     Books are displayed on tables by category and replenished from boxes throughout the day.

It can be a bit of a scrummage, but the books are really cheap.    £15 to £20 will buy you about two carrier bags full of hardback books.    Enough to keep you in reading material for a wee while.

It is interesting.   I come across books that I maybe saw first time round in the shops, or heard on the radio, but never got round to buying  for some reason.    But here they are again, only for £1 or £2.      Who could resist it?

The only problem is where to put them all when you get home.     And I do have a slight problem with throwing out books, so the result is that we have books all over the house.     I can tell you where most of them are, or at least which room a book is in.     Is that sad?

I rather think that this time I may not be allowed to go unless a clear out is promised.

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Slow Traffic

It took us 108 minutes to go 50 miles yesterday from Perth to Edinburgh.    That’s an average speed of almost 28 mph.     It is pretty ridiculous when at least 35 of those miles are on a motorway.

First holdup:   roadworks at bridge of Earn – carriageway resurfacing.    Understandable and necessary.    Second holdup:   accident at the big Dunfermline junction.    Third holdup:   a lorry had broken down on the A8000, causing massive tailback northbound and southbound right back over the Forth Bridge.   Fourth holdup – for some inexplicable reason the people who look after these things had decided to switch on the part time speed limit and traffic lights going in to Edinburgh on the Queensferry road approach.     We sat at the lights at red while we watched all the busses and taxis whizzing past in their dedicated lane (not one went past).    This was at 6.30 at night.   What on earth is going on?

Journey back was much quicker, but a bit more exciting as snow cut the motorway down to one lane from Kinross northwards.    Lots of lorries at that time of night.    Artics are totally useless in the snow, and if they stop, they simply cannot get moving again.     So imagine the frustration when the lorry in front was being held back by a car going far too slowly for the conditions *.    We all did make it up the long hill back through the Bridge of Earn roadworks, but it was touch and go.

*  there is a definite technique to driving in snow:   too fast, and you lose control;  too slow and you lose momentum and stop.    I wish we had snow for longer each year sometimes so that more people learn.

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Displacement Activity

This is a totally mad site:   you create a ‘person’ who then dances on a podium in front of a crowd of similar people to the one you created.

Totally addictive.


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Trinity Guildhall Showcase

There was a Trinity Guildhall Scottish Showcase concert in Perth Concert Hall last night.     Lots of young musicians from all over Scotland.

 In a very varied evening, I was particularly impressed with our local Perth Youth Orchestra who ably performed two pieces, and the String group from St Mary’s Music School in Edinburgh who played Britten’s Simple Symphony wonderfully well.   It is not simple at all, of course.

I really enjoy watching youth groups, particularly youth orchestras  perform.   They bring a freshness and excitement that can be sometimes lacking in performances by professionals.     

This was the second Scottish Showcase – I hope there will be more.

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