Friday, January 30, 2009



Yesterday was a day of contrasts, an example of what I relish both about this job and living in Birmingham.

Through the day Kerrie and I were up in Kingstanding at Christ the King school, working with 9 & 10 year olds on the culmination of 'Smartie Mission' our maths/food collaboration. They had counted baked beans, green beans, peas and Smarties, to measure car production, airplane growth and casualties in the Gaza crisis. Water measured sea level rise. Breadsticks became the world’s tallest buildings, spagetti measured the world's great journeys, a mashed potato range showed the world’s mountains and city altitudes to scale, cabbage compared deforestation with the area of Sutton Park. Home made pizza and home made cake along with Wagon Wheels were cut to form pie charts translating information surveys they conducted. The whole school visited in groups along with parents and Year 5 acted as their hosts and guides. It was good fun and genuinely engaging and enlightening.

Then, just a few hours later I'm being pinned back in my seat at Symphony Hall as the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra let lose on Wagnerian compilation. It was a fantastic sound and a great spectacle. I loved it. To my uneducated ear the soprano, Irène Théorin, sounded like she was nailing some pretty tough stuff. The orchestra's new conductor, Andris Nelsons, was wonderful, a Disney/Pixar vision of a conductor who, with his magic wand, conjors music from a phantom orchestra and then somehow becomes that music before disappearing into the music. As you can tell, I did get a bit carried away.

However, when I wasn't being carried away my mind did wander in other directions including pondering on conductor's batons. How many conductors are there in the world who require batons. Does a conductor need more than one baton? Are there different weights? Do they wear out? Does more than one company bother making them? Surely there isn’t a huge demand. Certainly Mr. Nelsons doesn’t look like the sort to snap his baton in rehearsal room fury and hence have to buy a whole stock of spares.

Anyway, how wonderful to be able to mix these two rewarding extremes in one day.


Friday, January 23, 2009


Next Generation OATP

Christ the King school work is going well. Year 5 have decided to call the piece Smartie Mission, it’s kind of next generation Of All The People In All The World and all angled towards giving them a major maths work out. In order to give myself a physical work out, I’ve resolved to cycle out and back to Kingstanding for each session. My reward, an endless succession of punctures in the glass strewn gutters of Perry Bar.



Watching Rehearsals

On Tuesday Craig and I sat in on a rehearsal with Birmingham Contemporary Music Group. It was fascinating to watch the process. The speed and precision of George Benjamin’s work as conductor was exhilarating and seeing this clarity mesh with the musicians’ tight concentration truly impressive. The adroit players breezed through Francesco Antonioni’s beautiful new work Ballata with tweaks in pacing and interpretation, identifying moments of congruence and divergence the only apparent adjustments. Better value for the rehearsal room spectator was work on Benjamin’s own piece, Three inventions for Chamber Orchestra, the fiendish nature of which allowed us, for a short time at least, to see great musicians struggling.



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