'The Fast Melody' from Julia Wolfe's 'LAD' (originally for 9 bagpipes). This piece is an important part of #softLOUD (https://seanshibe.com/softloud/) which is coming to the #EastNeukFestival and #EdinburghFestivalFringe this summer! Slowly getting the hang of the click track. I've never used one before, and having an amp blaring in front of you while a metronome ticks in your ears is jarring. At the same time, the consistency and relentlessness is kind of cool to part of; I'm discovering a new urgency to the piece! #juliawolfe #bangonacan #minimalism #newyork #electro-harmonix #LAD #guitar #classicalmusician #electricguitar #electric #stratocaster #fender #mexicanstratocaster #strat #mexican #cream #practise #POG #compressor #hotroddeluxe #summer #festival #summerfestival #ijustwannabearockstar #melody
“For the second of the three Northern Chords concerts, it was a first appearance at Baltic for the chamber music festival.
And what a fine venue it proved to be, with good sound, clear sightlines and comfortable chairs.
Since its inception nine years ago, founding artistic director Jonathan Bloxham has consistently brought together some of classical music’s best new talent and this year was no exception.
Here was a classic two-hander featuring New Zealand-born Ben Baker, one of last year’s stars, and, for the first time, young Scottish guitarist Sean Shibe.
They shared the repertoire with duets and a solo for each.
Baker started with Bach’s Sonata No. 3 for solo violin with its second movement in particular played with clarity and finesse.
From 300 years ago we were then brought up to the present day with the premiere of Jack Sheen’s meditative homage to choreographer Yvonne Rainer, performed by violin and guitar and with a background soundscape of street noises and voices.
Before the interval, we were into the Latin section, with the Spanish composer Manuel De Falla’s Siete Canciones (Seven Songs – of which we had six), originally written for piano and voice but this time being played on violin and guitar.
You would never have known these weren’t De Falla’s original choice of instruments, so perfect was the integration.
It was the music of South America that took centre stage in the second half, firstly with Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Five Preludes for Guitar – each dedicated to different people, including one for Bach.
Sean Shibe is one very gifted guitarist and it was a pleasure listening to his delicacy and his strength of playing.
Combining these instruments was a masterstroke as they complement each other so well, and with no finer example than in the last duet – two movements of the Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla’s History of the Tango.
The voices of the two instruments rang loud and clear with rich tones, fine balance and the two players trading musical punches with panache.
If it was a reminder of French virtuosi, Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt, the encore provided an opportunity to hear a Grappelli composition courtesy of an impromptu cello part for the festival artistic director.
A lovely ending to an evening of well-programmed, high entertainment.”
When playing the Fantasy op.9 by Arnold I’ve always borne in mind Donald Mitchell’s biography, in which he is likened to Dickens – both were communicators of great joy and comedy, but pointedly aware of the human predicament. In introducing the Fantasy over the course of the last season I’ve often returned to these words, good material to ponder on when initially listening to his work.
As a ‘cellist in the National Children’s Orchestra of Scotland, I took part in performances of his Symphony no. 5. In the wordds of Mervin Cooke, this is music that “moved into more disconcerting aesthetic regions” than previous Symphonies – when I reflect a little more, it occurs to me that it I’ve always thought of the Fantasy op.9 as a piece that similarly displays this darker part of Arnold’s personality. Both pieces have these jarring mood swings, here angry, there utterly tender…
It’s hard not to feel insecure when publicly describing a piece in your own words (ideas so subjective being easily challenged), so I felt privileged to have a little time after a recent concert to speak to Catherine Arnold, his daughter, and to hear what he was like from someone so close to him – biographies, however intimate and well researched, often maintain too much distance…
Arnold was a complicated man, to say the least. In our conversation Catherine reminded me of an anecdote so familiar that I must have heard before, one telling of his character and typical of his behaviour. Richard Rodney Bennett, Arnold and Britten are at 10 Downing Street, having dinner with the Queen Mother. Arnold, emboldened by the fine wines of the Prime Minister, is well-watered and in a verbose mood. He leans across the table to seize Britten by the lapels: “You know, Ben, this Richard Rodney Bennett is a fucking good composer! He’s better than you!”
The good guys at Delphian Records have uploaded a few sneak peeks at my upcoming debut album with them. Some of the most tender music Arnold wrote comprises one of these excerpts. Listen to an Arietta!
I passed through Royal Leamington Spa today, the town my Grandmother grew up in. The last time I was there I must have been 12 or 13, my Dad was driving me around, and we were on the hunt for a guitar that would, when I finally found it, last me most of my teenage years.
We wandered around the streets looking for the where she lived, eventually finding the right road and house number. There was a statue in the front garden, covered in the lichen of many decades, of a young woman on horseback – my Dad wondered aloud “Is that her…?”
We never found out, but the lady who answered the door was the partner of the late sculptor who, as it turned out, my Gran used to model for.
I took a picture of the station this morning as the train left, to send to her, and she sent a response pretty quickly:
“My old stamping ground. I remember seeeing famous pianists on Leamington Station platform including Artur Rubinstein and Myra Hess. They had been playing at Leamington Spa Town Hall. Both looked tired after their concerts. Must have been about 1947 or 1948”
The Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon has so much to ponder inside, kitsch mugs shaped like The Bard among old posters with famous names, but I couldn’t help but think of other things. Rubinstein and Hess standing on the platform and the life my Gran led there, 15 kilometres away and 70 years ago.