Tag Archives: London

A Night at the Proms

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Ligeti: Poème symphonique
Berio Sequenza V
Xenakis: Phlegra
Jonathan Harvey: Mortuos plango, vivos voco
Louis Andriessen: De snelheid
John Cage: 4’33

I went to the Royal Albert Hall the other night for the late night Prom. May have got there a little too early and despite having to dash over to the park to find the toilet I was still third in the queue for an arena promming ticket! At one point a lady from the venue came out and gave us all a raffle ticket to mark our place in the queue but no one ever asked to see them so I wasn’t sure what the point was. Shortly afterwards a load of people who were at the earlier Prom came out for the interval and started having picnics on the wall next to me!

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After the first prom finished there were more people joining the queue and to my surprise people who were at the first prom were given preference over those of us who had waited in the queue. Either way I still got ticket number 26 and when we were allowed into the arena found it quite easy to get very near the front.

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While we waited I noticed that behind the orchestra position on the choir seats sat 100 metronomes stretched across the whole width of the stage. As we sat several members of the orchestra sat on the stage near the metronomes and suddenly without warning they started them going and left the stage. People around me continued to talk as the metronomes clicked frenetically away. It was only after a while that the house lights dimmed and the audience began to focus on what was happening (apart from one woman whose voice could be heard loudly from the area of the circle). Slowly the metronomes started to run out of steam and one by one they dropped out until only two next to each other remained clicking in a melancholic duet slighly out of time with each other . You could have heard a pin drop as the last metronome ticked slowly to a stop, the silence in the room held for an eternity until the audience broke into applause.

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Afterwards there was an example of Proms humour as the applause died away someone clapped mimicking the metronomes. This was then imitated by others but was suddenly halted by the first blare of a trombone as Byron Fulcher appeared at the top of the steps to the left of the stage dressed in a clown outfit complete with white face and red nose! He played Berio’s Sequenza V very theatrically before collapsing on the floor at the end. Afterwards was my favourite piece of the night which Xenakis’ Phlegra – I first heard Xenakis on Radio 3 from the Proms a few years ago and fell in love with his music straight away so it was good to see a performance at such close quarters.

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We were told that when the Xenakis piece finished we would be plunged into darkness for the next piece but sadly the RAH doesn’t do dark very well. It was a shame really as I would have liked to have heard Jonathan Harvey’s Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco in complete darkness with the way the 8 track recording spun around the room. Following an interview with composer Louis Andriessen there was a performance of his piece De Snelheid which I found the hardest of all the performances this evening – all of which, I later noted, that my wife would have asked “what the hell is that…” if she heard them!

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The final billed performance was John Cage’s infamous silent piece 4’33” which I’d been looking forward to. I liked the ironic way the orchestra tuned up for it before sitting silent through each of the 3 movements, turning the pages at the end of each bit. The idea is that the performance space creates it’s own sounds and throughout you became aware of the small sounds that go on around you all the time but are usually drowned out. The shuffling of feet, people coughing, seats creaking and even the sound of your own movements all become the focus as the orchestra sits there in silence. I did wonder if Radio 3 had to turn off the system that would normally shut down the transmitters after such a lengthy period of dead air.

The final piece which wasn’t on the original bill was by Matthew Herbert and was called Encore Intervention – Small, smaller, smallest. A team of people had roamed around the hall during the performances recording bits on mobile phones to create a soundscape. The audience was meant to join in at a given point by sending themselves a text message but this sort of went wrong as I don’t think we all got the instructions so mobiles were going off left right and centre but to my mind this added to the whole composition.

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Oh what a night!

We had been saying for a while that we desperately needed a good night out and last night we got it! And the best thing was it was a night out that money just can’t buy (well not yet anyway!). It all started with a posting I spotted on Facebook and quickly responded to  with a good story and ended up with us seeing Priscilla – The Musical again for the 3rd time! We first saw the show in Sydney when we went there for our Honeymoon and we saw it again when it opened in London with Jason Donovan in the role of Mitzi.

We had been saying for a while that we wanted to see it again so when I saw the posting which said that they were holding a registration evening for “Mates of Priscilla” (MOP) and asked people to tell them why they should be there I e-mailed them the story about flying from Melbourne to Sydney just to see the show and before I knew it I had an e-mail back saying that I was in! I thought that we had just won some tickets to see the show but two days before we were to go I saw some pictures on facebook of a previous event. So we knew that we were in for an interesting evening!

Priscilla Shoe small

The evening didn’t get off to a good start as my train up to London was cancelled and this meant that our plan to get something to eat before we got there almost went out the window. In the end though Sarah went ahead and ordered so the day was saved! At 6pm we crossed over the road and as we arrived a load of people were being ushered into the foyer. We were all given MOP registration forms to fill in which asked us some stupid questions like describe yourself in 3 words or tell us something about yourself as well as questions like who’s your favourite Priscilla character (Felicia) and why do you love Priscilla. When we handed the forms in we were given a ticket for the show and a goody bag. In the bag was a program, a t-shirt, a blue feather boa and a ping pong ball (hopefully unused!).

We were told to put our t-shirts and boas on, which we did, while the Best Mop told us the idea behind the scheme. The idea is great we will be informed of upcoming special offers for Priscilla and we have to publice them. In return when people book the offer using our special MOP code we get points – and what do points mean? Well if we collect enough points we could be eligible for special trips such as a trip to the opening in New York or a trip to Oz. So if you fancy going to see the show check with me first – ok?

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We were then told that there was a special surprise that we were the first to try out but it was, like all good queens, running a little late – in the meantime they produced one of the costumes worn by Oliver Thronton when the show first opened that we could try on. Then a drag queen appeared and we all had our photos taken with her. We were just having a group photo taken when we were told the special surprise was ready and would we all come outside. Outside there was a pink double decker bus which we were all invited to get onto.

The bus had been decked out Priscilla style with flashing lights and typical decor. We went upstairs and sat at the back of the bus. The bus took us down to Trafalgar Square, back up Haymarket to Piccadilly Circus before heading up Shaftsbury Avenue and finally taking a detour through Soho to Old Compton Street and back to outside the theatre. All the time there was music from Priscilla playing and we were served glasses of fizz and special Priscilla cupcakes with a shoe on top! All the way people were laughing and waving out the windows to poor unsuspecting passers by. The drag queen entertained us with suitable comments and dashed up and down the stairs. Our glasses were regularly topped up and we all had a great time!

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Sorry about the photos I only had my cameraphone!

After all that the show could have almost been anticlimax but of course it wasn’t. We had seats in the Grand Circle which is the first time we haven’t been in the stalls. We had said last time that we should sit up high so we could get a different perspective on the show and see the shoe scene from above as some of the detail can be lost from below! As almost everyone around us were our fellow MOP’s our section was probably the most enthusiastic part of the crowd with whoops and cheers at all of the best lines. The part of Bob is now being played by Ray Meagher who is famous for being Alf in Home & Away, a fact recognised by our t-shirts.

So not just a good night out, a fantastic night out. A huge thanks to everyone who made it a fantastic evening and as Sarah asked me as the curtain came down at the end – when can we go and see it again?

Sarah and Drag Queen small

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Look it’s Wossy

I was just looking through a box of old stuff and I found this picture of Jonathon Ross taken on a show I did at the Brewery in Chiswell Street, London many many years ago – you can see how many by how young he looks!

If I remember correctly Mike Smith and Maggie Philbin were also presenting on this show too. It was for a NEC and it was showcasing their new products some of which are old hat now. I seem to recall a voice activated phone that had a mind of it’s own!!

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Art, photography & a man in a chicken suit

So I’m staying in a big posh hotel in central London, where the rooms are £260 per night! I was in bed for 4 hours last night which makes it  about £65 per hour…Anyway I’ve been admiring the art and photography that there is around the corridors and rooms in the hotel.

For example there are a number of original artworks in the foyer. My personal favourite is this one by Iranian artist Hossein Cheraghchi which is untitled and is hanging alongside another of his works in the foyer area behind reception.

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In the corridors around the hotel are some wonderful black and white photographs – there are many of central London but also a large number of pictures of natural beauty such as trees. This one is just outside the room I’m working in, but the picture I took on my cameraphone really doesn’t do it justice.

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The sad thing is that with all this wonderful art around the picture that will forever remind me of this hotel is one that greets me everytime I go into the gents toilets. I’m sure it will haunt me forever and I will wake up in a cold sweat wondering just who the man in the chicken suit is!!

man in chicken suit

What a cock!

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Projections of the King

All this thinking about doing some shooting on 8mm film has stirred up a memory from about 25 years ago. Not long after I moved down to London and started working for the AV company Viewplan I was asked to go and operate a job one evening. I remember Stuart, one of the senior technicians and a Geordie as well, asked me if I had ever operated a 16mm projector before.

I said that I hadn’t and he said “Never mind it’s easy” and proceeded to give me a quick lesson on how to thread the film and operate the machine. Armed with the knowledge I had learned in the 5 minute tutorial I set off to South London in a van with a projector, screen and stand.

The venue turned out to be a room above a pub on the Catford one way system. I set up the equipment and gave the DJ a feed to run into his sound desk. The event turned out to be the annual get together of the Eternal Elvis fan club and my job was to run a three reel Elvis film before the disco started.

So I set the first reel going and when it ran out there was a pause while I moved the spool from front to back and threaded the second reel through the projector. When I started it running there was a repeat of the last few minutes as the film was really meant to be shown on a two projector set up that was sync’ed together. A little while later I repeated the procedure with reel 3.

At the end of the film the organiser stood up and made some announcements before the disco started. I was, at this point, standing on a chair next to the projector starting to rewind the film back onto the correct reels. Then I heard the organiser say and finally would you give a big hand to our projectionist Kevin! At which point 100 or so Elvis fans turned round, looked at me and applauded! I had no where to go – so embarrassing!

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Take a hike

Here’s a great site – if you have to make a short journey in London and would rather walk than pay £4 on the tube then check out Walk it. if you put in your start and finish points not only does it work out your route but it tells you how long it will take depending on the speed you walk and how many calories you will burn while doing it!

Other cites are available too so take to the pavement and walk it – it’s good for you and good for the environment.

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What will you do now my blue eyed son?

I was walking through central London today on my way back to Charing Cross feeling a bit grumpy as one of my colleagues who was supposed to be meeting me didn’t turn up. On my route I passed the National Portrait Gallery and as I did I spotted a poster for an exhibition called  Beatles to Bowie the 60’s exposed. I had heard about this on Radio 4’s Front Row the other week and knew it was a collection of Rock photographs from the 60’s. I really fancied going to see it but the entry fee of £11 put me off. I sighed and walked on…

Just as I was walking away another poster caught my eye, it was for an exhibition called Bob Dylan 1966 tour, Photographs by Barry Feinstein. I thought now this I’ve got to see, how much is it and to my delight it said entry free!

Dylan Poster

The man on the door directed me downstairs and to the area behind the shop. It was little more than an anteroom between the shop and the toilets and hung around the walls were about 16 images of Dylan taken on his (in)famous 1966 UK tour. There were some I had seen before such as the one that was used on the cover of the No Direction Home DVD but I hadn’t realised that it had been taken in England. It was taken as Dylan waited at the Aust Ferry terminal in Gloucestershire in-between his gigs in Bristol and Cardiff. At that time the ferry was the only way to cross the River Severn as the bridge hadn’t opened yet.

There were others too that I hadn’t seen before. On one wall there were three images which I decided were  my  favourites. Two were taken in Liverpool the third in Sheffield.  The first Liverpool one shows Dylan sitting on the steps of a house surrounded by what could only be described as street urchins. The second showed Dylan standing in a Liverpool street but what made the photograph really effective was the perspective of the houses behind him

Dylan Gallery

The third picture the one taken in Sheffield was a comedy one of Dylan standing in the door of a bookies which had a huge sign in the window saying LSD. After I had seen all the pictures I took a look at the book Real Moments which was for sale in the shop. It had pictures of Dylan from the 1966 tour as well as the 1974 tour of the US with the Band. It looked interesting but I didn’t buy it! I considered the poster but discovered it was £5 so I gave that a miss as well.

I left the Gallery and crossed the road but I hadn’t gone 100 yds before I was stopped in my tracks again. I saw another poster which said Hard Rain which is of course the title of a Bob Dylan song so I took a look and at the bottom of the poster, which was for an outdoor exhibition, it said Lyric by Bob Dylan. I looked around and then spotted it.

Hard Rain

Attached to a railing outside St. Martin-in-the-Fields was a line of images. The exhibition consisted of the words of Dylan’s song and for each line there was a corresponding image put together by Mark Edwards. The exhibition was subtitled “Our headlong collision with nature” was was to raise awareness of the effects of pollution and climate change on the world in the run up to the Copenhagen Climate Change summit.

Hard rain railings

It’s an extremely powerful set of images, some of which are quite harrowing. It works well because Dylan wrote the song at a time of international crisis when the world was on the brink of disaster due to the Cuban Missiles episode. The images which were written about the aftermath of an atomic war hold well for the effects of climate change. Particularly harrowing is the image which accompanies the line

“I met a young child beside a dead pony”

I didn’t photograph that one but here are some of the images from the work along with the relevant lines

heard many people wispering

Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’,
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’

young girl gave me a rainbow

I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow

tell it and think it

know my song well

There is a book that accompanies this exhibition too – I might have to drop hints for a birthday prezzie. The shop at St. Martin-in-the-Fields is also selling postcards of some of the images which are really good value at 50p each. The website is at www.hardrainproject.com and the exhibition runs until 31st December – Go and check it out or view the images here.

The National Portrait Gallery  Dylan exhibition runs until the 29th November – some of the pictures in the exhibition can be seen in this gallery on the Rolling Stone Magazine website

I strongly recommend both.

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Words

Sometimes I see or hear words which just stick in my head and this week has been no exception.

Firstly as I was walking through London’s West End I passed a group of people sitting outside a pub enjoying the autumn sunshine. A conversation was in full swing but as I passed the only words I heard were

“The girl with the Dragon Tattoo” *

These words just got stuck in my head – they would make a great title for a short story.

And then yesterday we were driving round Southampton when I saw a sign outside a shop which said

“Three men and a suit”

Which again resonated with me. It turns out that it is the name of a Southampton Graphic Design company who also have a web design company called three men and a surfboard – Crazy stuff.

(*Ok I’ve found out now it is the title of a book – damn beaten to it lol)

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High speed twits

So I am sitting on one of the new high speed trains that run on the lines built for Eurostar. The new high speed trains run between Ashford and St Pancras in London. It’s the height of the rush hour and there can’t be more than 30 passengers on board. Something tells me they are going to need to attract more customers if it is going to be commercially viable!

I wouldn’t normally use it but circumstances have made it necessary. Maybe I should explain why it isn’t any use to me.

It takes me about half an hour to get to Ebbsfleet and by the time I have parked and caught a train into London the journey will have taken me about an hour. The alternative is to walk to the station at the end of my road and catch a train to London which takes 50 minutes!

I just don’t think that there is enough of an advantage for most people to make use of the service, nor is the distance great enough. Maybe the trains would have been better used on say the London to Edinburgh or Glasgow routes where they would make a difference.

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Just what this country needs…..

…a cock in a frock on a rock!

priscilla

We went to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert – the musical again, almost two and a half years after we saw it in Sydney. We’ve had been hoping it would find it’s way over here after moving from Sydney to Melbourne and back again. We bought tickets almost as soon as they went on sale and as such had fantastic seats in the 3rd row.

I think the London audience was better than the one in Sydney, more vocal, more enthusiastic and how can I put this? More Gayer!! The Palace Theatre is very near to London’s gay community and as such the two front rows were almost exclusively male! In fact looking out from the stage we were probably the first heterosexual couple you would have seen!!

There were some changes from the musical we saw in Australia but not so one of the stars as Tony Sheldon once again plays transsexual Bernadette. In this performance however Jason Donovan takes the role of Tick and Felecia/Adam is played by Oliver Thornton. Also appearing is Clive Carter as Bob and former Pop Idol contestant Zoe Birkett as one of the Divas.

I had mixed feelings about Mr Donovan, who strips down to his pants in the first two minutes of the show. There were times when I thought he fitted in quite well but other times where I felt he looked a little lost on the stage. He didn’t seem to fit the part as well as the previous incumbents. There was a great bit though where they’re on the bus and discussing Kylie and they get onto the subject of Neighbours and Tick admits that he always fancied Scott!!

Other honourable mentions must go to Wezley Sebastian who was fantastic as Miss Understanding and his Tina Turner is almost worth the price of the ticket on it’s own. Also the kid who played Benjy the night we went was adorable and a chorus of Ahhhs went up everytime he appeared. One of Jason’s best performances was the duet of Always on my mind with the kid.

As I said the audience were most enthusiastic shouting and cheering and clapping along. A great big cheer greeted the Cock in a Frock line (which was delivered much better this time thankfully) and the opening bars of “I will Survive”.  Men and women cheered when Jason got his kit off and the sight of Oliver Thornton’s bum seemed to go down well. Kanako Nakano looked good as Cynthia and performed the old ping pong ball scene really well.

Talking of ping pong balls – when the scene ended in Oz we were showered with them and Sarah picked up handfuls of the things. This time a few measly balls fell of of the ceiling, most disappointing. Luckily I spotted one on our way out so we now have ping pong balls from both the Northern and Southern hemispheres!!

Overall the show is fantastic but we knew that already. We hope we get another chance to see it before the run ends and highly recommend you do the same 😉

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