Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I still haven’t quite planned our trip away this summer/autumn but we have both made an effort to attend some local cultural events to keep our entertainment levels up. Indeed, as I write this, LSW is attending a couple of talks at the Cheltenham Literature Festival and will no doubt return full of much new thinking.
We went to two contrasting concerts recently. The first was a programme of what I suppose are modern classical music composers and performers. The concert had been arranged by a local magazine and creative arts consortium called Good On Paper. The five performers were a mix of local and internationally renowned musicians. All were interesting – especially avant-garde cellist Sebastian Plano and Japanese vocalist Hatis Noit – and there were passages I really enjoyed. The final act was the now famous Lubomyr Melnyk who demonstrated his ‘continuous music’ piano playing; it was technically impressive but, by the end, for me, overbearing.
Later in the week LSW and I went to the Tetbury Music Festiival. Despite the proximity to our home, this was, rather shamefully, our first visit to the festival. We saw an excellent performance of three piano trios (by Haydn, Schumann and Schubert). This was the first classical music concert I had been to for many years and I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it. I also surprised myself in that I actually knew the last work by Schubert; it must have been one my Dad had taken me to see played when I was a teenager and he first introduced me to classical music.
It felt good to support these local cultural events and I hope their success breeds more in the future. The atmosphere for both was reverential and enhanced by the beautiful surroundings of a church. Whatever the concert – modern classical, classical classical or just modern, I do like to be able to listen to the music rather than the chatter of the crowd. A third concert I saw this week at the wonderfully eclectic Rich Mix in London also provided these sorts of listening conditions as I saw one of my favourite bands: Kefaya.
This concert was totally different from the other two. Kefaya is a cross-cultural collective who play jazz with Middle Eastern, south and south-east Asian and Caribbean influences. I have seen Kefaya in various guises many times over the last few years. Here, they mostly ran through their latest album of Afghan songs fronted by an Afghani singer. There was a lot of energy in the largely Afghani audience but, again, there was respect for the music and full attention to the band. I loved it – especially when they let loose with their trademark jazzy duelling between guitar and keyboards, all backed up by phenomenally pacey and intricate tabla playing.
Apart from music LSW and I have also taken in some local art. We have known local artist, Maggie Shaw, for many years and have bought many examples of her work; several remain our favourite pieces of art in our house. Unfortunately she died last year.
We were honoured to be part of her memorial exhibitions at the beginning of this year and lent one of her largest pieces for this. Last week there was a further exhibition of her more recent work alongside that of two of her companion artists. As usual, Maggie’s work stood out for me as truly remarkable. Had we not already been in possession of so much of her output (and not starting to think about further downsizing of our house and wall space) we might have bought another of her pictures.
The absence of demands on my time from any work, continue to make it easy to fit in trips to Nottingham to visit my parents, and to London to see sons, exhibitions and gigs there. This week, on the back of a regular meeting in London with my financial advisor and the Kefaya gig, I was able to catch up with Eldest Son, his girlfriend and Youngest Son’s girlfriend; a real pleasure. I also visited the new exhibition at The Barbican where I am still a member and so can feel I am attending for free.
The latest exhibition at the Barbican is called Into The Night: Cabarets and Clubs In Modern Art and, as the title suggests, it is about the relationship between art and nightlife. It examines this relationship in the period from 1880 to the late-1960s through focus on a dozen nightclubs in a variety of cities including Tehran, Ibadan in Nigeria, Paris, Berlin, Mexico City and New York.
As usual, the exhibition was very well presented. My favourite section was probably that on Vienna’s Cabaret Fledermaus (1907-13). The posters, menus, programmes, ashtrays, flower pots, chairs and other accessories to an experience at this club were all exquisitely designed along consistent lines. The set and costume designs for the performances were flamboyant and smacked of decadence.
For each of the clubs chosen for the exhibition, drawings, pictures and photos helped to bring it must have been like to actually be in the nightclubs. Aiding this further, the exhibition included reconstructions of parts of four of the nightclubs. Particularly striking were the zinc shadow theatre models for the Chat Noir club in Paris. For each reconstruction, despite the recorded sound, the only thing lacking was the smoke, bustle, heat and pandemonium that must have driven the fun of the customers in between – and maybe during – the cabaret and other performances. It was a well arranged exhibition and was very enjoyable.
Top tasks for this week: planting the whitebeam and cherry trees I mentioned we had bought in my last blog post, planting lots of bulbs and organising that long-considered trip away.