Saturday, April 19, 2008

Paco Peña and Nishat Khan

Spent a very pleasant evening last night in the company of a friend at the Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool (affectionately known locally as 'the Phil'). We were there to see Flamenco guitar legend Paco Peña. I first saw Paco Peña in 1992 at an open air gala concert at the Kings Dock in Liverpool. He appeared with other luminaries, namely soprano Montserrat Caballe, tenor Alfredo Kraus and Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the presence of the King and Queen of Spain. It was a good night and thankfully the August weather was kind.

Last night was a less grand affair but very enjoyable nonetheless. I find the subculture thing quite amusing. There is definitely a Hispanic subculture in the Merseyside region. As we sat, we noticed prominent persons with involvement in the teaching of languages in Liverpool Authority, Wirral Authority and my Spanish tutor from college. You get the impression that anything with a vaguely Spanish theme attracts an audience of Spanish teachers, ex-patriot Spanish speakers and nobody else.

What I hadn't quite grasped about this concert is that it was a double header, Paco Peña and Nishat Khan, an Indian sitar player. I'm afraid my knowledge of music doesn't extend to the sitar with the exception of knowing that Ravi Shankar was much beloved of 60s pop/rock bands going through their mystical/psychadelic phases. Well, it seems Nishat Khan is no slouch either. He has worked with such big names as B.B.King, Pat Metheny and Carlos Santana. Initially the collaboration between Khan and Peña seemed a bit of an unholy marriage. But this particular brand of east/west fusion is not as unnatural as it at first seems. Apparently, Flamenco has its roots in the music of nomadic peoples of Rajasthan some of whom, in the 15th Century, found themselves in Spain. Apparently.

It was great to see two people who clearly are very passionate about their music yet are able to share a mutual respect. This was also evident in their respective ensembles. Their percussionists were each given the opportunity to shine in a friendly duel of the tabla vs the cajon. The cajon was interesting. At first I thought the player was just sitting on a speaker tapping casually, but apparently it is an instrument and boy could he play it!

A most pleasant evening!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Parting is such sweet sorrow - Part 4

Oh I do so hate goodbyes! Today, we finished the college component of our course and this is a photo of my curriculum studies buddies. There are six other similarly sized groups doing the PGCE. I started the course with no intention of connecting with anyone. After all, I wanted to get a teaching qualification, not make friends. But, well, I've kinda grown to love these guys. We've been through stuff together. There is nothing like a bit of solidarity in shared adversity to bond people. We've had so many laughs and now it is the end of an era. We will of course be in contact through Facebook/email and what have you, but it just ain't gonna be the same - boo-hoo!

On Monday, we're all off to school to start the final teaching block. God willing, we will all meet up again at the graduations in July, if not before for some celebratory night out.

(I'm the old, fat hag in the blue jacket. Diet tomorrow, defo!)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Treasures of Tudor England

I love music...anykind of spake the O'Jays. And I do love virtually any kind of music. Some jazz is just a bit too inaccessible for me and I struggle greatly with a lot of country music, though BBC4 is helping me combat some of my more sweeping musical prejudices. I was brought up on the Beatles (no surprises there!). As a teen I was a big Queen fan and my big sis took me to see them live at the Liverpool Empire before they started playing aircraft hangars (which they always said they never would). Hormones took me into the realms of sweet soul music - which has little to do with the bland, thin gruel that they now call R&B. I shook my rump to the funk with the best of them in the 80s. If a butterfly's wings can cause a tidal wave on the other side of the world, I dread to think what shaking my 45 year old rump (46 next week) would do! I endured a lengthy desert period during the 90s when I was too busy bringing up family to listen to the radio and have more recently developed a penchant for what I believe they call 'indie' bands. In a lot of regards, this correlates with the musical journey of many of my contemporaries and does not surprise those who know me.
But you have to know me pretty well to know that, in addition to the likes of Snow Patrol, the Kooks and the Killers, my iPod contains a goodly proportion of Sacred music from the Renaissance. This is my very private passion. So it was a particular treat for me to attend a concert of the Sixteen under the expert direction of Harry Christophers. It took place at the Liverpool's Metropolitan Cathedral, a treat in itself and was part of their Choral Pilgrimage. This is the second year that I have been to a Choral Pilgrimage Concert - last year it was my favourite- the Music of the Sistine Chapel - which was an utterly sublime performance. This year the theme was the Treasures of Tudor England, showcasing the works of Parsons, White and Tye who wrote during the times of great religious turbulence between the reigns of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. As always the performance of the Sixteen was utterly captivating.
The Sixteen were involved in the recent excellent series on BBC4 called Sacred Music. During the interval, Harry Christophers was walking past us and Him Indoors went to compliment him on the series. Him Indoors can get away with that kind of stuff, he's such a lovely bloke. But I must say, Harry Christophers is a lovely, gracious chap, too. The thing I love about the Sixteen is the fact that they are not just performers, they are also part of a scholarly tradition. They are clearly passionate about what they do. I love passion in people. I don't care if it is about train spotting or music or football; passion is the key. I don't mean fanaticism, I think there is a subtle distinction to be drawn there. Passion has a transcendent quality that fanaticism doesn't.
During the interval, we went for a drink and I left my programme on the pew, " It'll be OK, we're in a Cathedral, no-one would take it". But of course, we returned and it was gone. Awful! OK it was only a 3 quid programme, but it was the principle of the thing. Him indoors, ever the attentive darling that he is, went and got another one and told me not to let it spoil the evening. But I could feel the ball of bitter gall in my stomach. "These snobby so-and-sos - all from Hoylake and Formby and the likes, but not above nicking someone else's programme to save £3! " Spotting the fact that the elderly chap that was in front of us wasn't there in the second half I had him down as the prime suspect in this heinous crime. Anyway, we settled down and enjoyed the rest of the concert. At the end, the lady next to me utters, "Oh, this isn't my programme, mine's here. I'm awfully sorry, I seem to have picked yours up by mistake." Gulp! I felt a bit small but I'm glad that my faith in human nature was restored.
I shall definitely be keeping my eye on the website to see what the Sixteen are doing in the future. They play in some fabulous cathedrals at home and abroad. A perfect excuse for an occasional weekend away, methinks...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shift Happens

We were shown this video as part of a presentation in a Professional Studies lecture this morning on global citizenship. It was preceded by the question, "Why do you want to teach?"

Actually, after watching it I feel that the teaching qualification that I don't yet have is pretty well obsolete.

On the bright side, after scraping the lowest professional level pass that you can get in my first assignment, I found out that I got a B at Masters level in my second. WOO-HOO!!! Suppose I'd better get started on the third now since it is due in on Monday...