Homespun

Looking forward to hearing these:

at King’s Place soon. I was there last night to hear these amazing women hold the room in their hand with tales of Miss Lalla (“she was just a precious person…she never went anywhere without her violin and her rifle.”), Jeanette and Jeanie, lullabies and dips in the archive.

Most heart-tearing of all was the 70 year writing to the Library of Congress in 1940, begging them to preserve the songs and stories of her now-vanished family in Maine. After a string of letters, and pair of white Christmas mittens, knitted each stitch with affection and a song, her wish was granted and we remember this:

It was 1883, and I was 12 the night before we left Nova Scotia for Maine. Everyone was singing and playing, pretending it was merry as usual and Mother was asked to sing this (Farewell, sweet Erin). In the middle of the song her voice broke and she left the room. I never heard her sing it again.

Sunshine

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Recommended. By the time Henri started his tap-dancing stairway to paradise, I’d been carried away many times. Beautiful sets, stunning costumes (the jewels!), and a great cast.

Last night

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Coming to a venue near you…the London Handel Festival at the Foundling Museum. A good match, as Handel left a score of his Messiah to the Coram foundation and gave charity performances of it in this building.

Portrait of a city

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Playing this tomorrow, I’ve loved getting to know it. Vaughan Williams wrote in several different styles through his life (folksy, bombastic, nostalgic, mystical, jazzy, harshly modern and high Edwardian). His symphonies are especially diverse, and his second – A London Symphony – opens with a shifting, misty scene for strings and low wind and brass that conjures the river Thames and is completely different from the flourishing optimism of “behold the sea!” that opens his first symphony.

It’s not till over 3 minutes in (the length of most pop songs) that you get any bustle, and almost the same again before VW’s sketch of the Cockney cheer and noise of bus horns breaks in. This excellent recording also has a literal portrait of the city accompanying it, with pictures from the late 19th / early 20th century.

Written in 1912 and 1913, premiered in 1914 and  dedicated to a friend who would die two years later at the Somme, where Vaughan Williams was himself a stretcher bearer, going out to collect the wounded and dead and where the shelling was to damage his hearing permanently, this is the last days of an Imperial city  that is already shifting and crumbling. Poignantly the score was sent to Germany for its second premiere and disappeared during the war, leaving Vaughan Williams to reconstruct it from memory in 1918.