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.

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