Anyone for G and S?

In all the heavier-duty excitement of Liszt’s anniversary I had failed to register that W.S.Gilbert expired a hundred years ago; and, perhaps just as significant, the copyright of the D’Oyly Carte opera company expired fifty years ago. I am old enough to remember the fuss which that moment provoked – the high-brows hoping to kill off the whole dreadful phenomenon there and then; the not so high, including Harold Wilson and Spike Milligan, trying to extend it. The company muddled through to 1982, but finally the Arts Council had had enough, and a lot of well-educated people heaved a sigh of relief that the Savoy Operas had finally passed into history.

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A new career?

I’ve taken to singing bass on our new course in Barcelona (Ivan Moody was conducting when this picture was taken). I’ve been having a wonderful time, though I noticed that the really expert singer next to me – Tomàs Maxé – kept looking at me, as if we weren’t on the same part.

Bologna station

Snapped on Bologna station in August. Why was the functionary wearing a top which carried an English-language slogan (Cleaning Service)?

If the atmosphere in Tokyo at the moment is relatively radiation-free – apparently it is less than in the cabin of the aircraft which flew us here – the mood among the local population is one of getting on with life. Apparently they collectively held their breaths (and stopped drinking the water) for about 24 hours at the time of the earthquake, and then turned what was left of their attention to abusing the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

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Victoria and me

In case anyone has concerned themselves about how I am celebrating the Victoria anniversary year, here are some details:

In the course of 2011 I am directing the following choirs and ensembles:
The Tallis Scholars (throughout the year)
The Choir of Merton College, Oxford (throughout)
The Choeur de Chambre de Namur, Belgium (March and April)
The BBC Singers, London (April and December)
Ensemble Opera Polifonica di Firenze, Italy (April)

Intrada of Moscow, Russia (February)
Tewkesbury Abbey Choir, UK (May)
Musica Reservata Barcelona, Spain (June, July and September)
The Tudor Choir of Seattle, USA (July)
The Cathedral Choir of Trondheim, Norway (August)
The Renaissance Singers of Seattle, USA (in New York, October)
Coro Costanzo Porta of Cremona, Italy (May)
The Choir of the Girona Festival, Spain (June)
Fukuoka master-class choir, Japan (June)

The Tallis Scholars Summer School – Sydney (January)
The Tallis Scholars Summer School – Oakham (July)
The Tallis Scholars Summer School – Seattle (July)
The Rimini course choir (August)
The Barcelona course choir (September)
The Evora course choir (October)

Between March 24th and April 20th I conducted the first five groups listed above in a total of 15 concerts and one service, in two continents and five different countries (the Choeur de Chambre de Namur also sang in Paris). 13 of these events included the Victoria Requiem and they all included music by Victoria (the service in Merton College Chapel on Palm Sunday included one of his Passions). I took all the rehearsals in Namur in French and all the rehearsals in Florence in Italian. The BBC event was broadcast live, during which I spoke, in something passing for English, live from the stage (about Gesualdo). And my feelings at the end of such a run? A greater than ever appreciation for Victoria’s music, and a deep respect for the singers who have given it voice. The quality of what I have heard so far has been breath-taking. I hope by the end of the year our efforts will have given general interest in polyphony a real boost. The Tallis Scholars will sing music by Victoria (including the Requiem) at the Proms, in the Royal Albert Hall, on the 4th August at 10.00pm.


A short trip recently with Caroline to Marrakesh, Morocco, yielded some of the usual stuff:

and some of the things I really like:

Conversely, these storks were not offered for human consumption, but lived on the ruined walls of a 16th century palace:

and for language anoraks – not least those I met last week in the endlessly multi-lingual country of Belgium – here is proof that the Moroccans have invented a letter of their own. Standard Arabic doesn’t have a hard ‘G’, but Moroccan Arabic does. I assumed this came from the French influence, but apparently not. I was told much about original tribes and the sounds they make – though I couldn’t help remembering that the word Afghanistan has this hard ‘G’ too…


Although I am as keen a supporter of our ‘summer game’ as anyone in the barmy army, before this month I had only twice seen an international match abroad: in 1989 at the Chidambaram Cricket Ground, Madras (where one of the Australian fieldsmen collapsed on account of the heat and had to be taken off on a stretcher); and at the WACA in Perth in 2008 (where I sat next to Dennis Lillee at lunch). Now two came in quick succession: the first at the Basin Reserve in Wellington for the opening session of the second test between Pakistan and New Zealand:

And, not much more than a week later, at the mighty Sydney Cricket Ground, where England lost a One Day International to Australia:

The difference between the two grounds couldn’t be greater. Before being turned into a megastadium, the SCG used to have a grassy mound just like the one pictured above in Wellington. It seems to have been buried.

Anyway here is Brett Lee bowling to Jonathan Trott (my picture):

Happy days.