Oxford

Oct. 16th, 2016 05:06 pm
smallhobbit: (Cat)
A few month's ago SM signed up to take part in a bring and sing at the Holywell Music Room as part of the Oxford Lieder Festival.  There's no charge, apart from paying for the accompanist and you get to sing two songs of your own choice in the music rooms where Haydn and Handel both played.  We decided to make a proper trip, travel up on the Friday, spend a bit of time in Oxford that day, stay over, SM would do his singing bit in the morning while I did my thing and we'd look round a bit more in the afternoon before coming home.

Oxford pics )
smallhobbit: (Cat)
So, just to fill in the gaps:

I went to my favourite London museum, the Victoria & Albert (V&A).  I only had a couple of hours, so it was important I forced myself to focus on seeing the areas I particularly wanted to see and not get distracted.  Which isn't to say I don't enjoy pottering from one exhibit to the next, but there were items on my list.  Firstly, I went to Curtain Up, a celebration of Theatre in the West End and on Broadway.  It's a fascinating exhibition, highly recommended if you are in London before the end of this month.  It had a combination of productions I'd seen and those I'd not, so was particularly interesting.  (SM saw it on a different day and recommended it to me - I told him I'd already seen it.)

I also saw the illustrations from Beatrix Potter's London, and the Musical Wonders of India display - sadly the latter was only one case of instruments, the museum sometimes has some larger scale exhibitions from India.  And then I went to the recently revamped Europe 1600-1815 exhibition.  It improved slightly when I realised I'd come in from the wrong end.  They have lots of beautiful items, but I think I prefer seeing them more in situ, although it was interesting seeing the sweep of the changes in style in the two hundred years.

In my travels during my trip I frequently passed Edith Cavell:
Edith Cavell )

We spent an hour and a half in the National Portrait Gallery.  I took in the whole of the top floor, which is from Tudor to pre-Victorian times.  By the end I was rather tired at looking at paintings of the great and the good (as they saw themselves).  SM told me about an exhibition of nudes, which I misheard as newts.  The nudes were good, but I was a tad disappointed at the absence of amphibians.  I took a quick glance round the middle floor, but had seen enough tedious men, although there was a portrait of Dame Maud McCarthy who was a nursing sister in WWI and rose to be the British Army Matron-in-Chief.  So I went to the shop and bought a tea towel from their Save the Bees range.
Maud McCarthy )

And I went on a theatre tour of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.  One of the two oldest theatres in London - longest running that is - the building itself has burnt down several times.  The tour is done by a couple of actors who appear in character to share the history, which is effective rather than awkward.  I already knew quite a lot of what we were told, but seeing everything made it far more interesting.  I would certainly recommend going; it's more expensive than some theatre tours, but I think you get value for money.  And for a visitor to London it also gives a strong sense of the history.
smallhobbit: (Cat)
I went to two lunchtime concerts at St Martin-in-the-Fields, although the first wasn't technically a concert.  It's called a service, but basically is just various choral pieces with a religious theme.  This week's Great Sacred Music was based on works by William Blake.  As expected there were versions of The Lamb (Tavener) and The Tyger (Rene Clausen), plus a lovely solo called Dream Valley by Roger Quilter.  The choir, St Martin's Voices, were very good.  In addition there are always two hymns for the congregation to join in with.  The first was fairly unexciting, but, of course, Blake wrote the words to Jerusalem, which Hubert Parry set to music.  The organist let rip, the choir couldn't be heard and we sang along and it was marvellous.

The second concert was by a choir from Gent in Belgium, Vivente Voce.  SM and I went to this together.  He said it quickly became apparent it wasn't going to be my sort of music.  He didn't rate them that highly either, and I can't tell you what they sang, because we gave the sheet to an American lady who sat next to us.  But it was only just over half an hour and the church was relatively cool on a very hot day.

Friday I went to see the Bolshoi Ballet at the Royal Opera House perform Le Corsaire.  My seat was in the Upper Ampitheatre, so a long way up.  Although I had a good view of the stage (I was about in the middle) the dancers were a long way away.  Obviously extremely accomplished, all the dancers were impressive, especially Mikhail Lobukhin (the corsair) and Anna Nikulina (Medora).  I've never been one particularly for soloists, preferring ensemble pieces, which were beautifully executed, especially in the second act.  It was ballet, so not a lot happened over a fairly long time.  There were two long intervals, and the ballet didn't finish until almost eleven, so I decided I'd had my money's worth by the end of Act 2 and left - which probably saved me 15 minutes just getting out of the building at the end.  I met SM and we went for a drink in the Young Vic bar (he had been to see Yerma that evening) and I spent the money I saved by not buying a £12 programme on wine.
smallhobbit: (Butterfly)
I was determined not to waste any of my time in London, so I selected various things to do during the day.

First up, on Thursday morning I went to the V&A (my favourite museum) to see Captain Linnaeus Tripe: Photographer of India and Burma, 1852 - 1860.  It's a free exhibition and one I found fascinating.  Tripe (what a splendid Dickensian name) was an army captain and engineer employed by the East India Company.  What particularly impressed me, apart from the way he adapted and improved the means of developing his photographs to combat the Indian climate, was the pride he must have taken in his pictures.  He would deliberately alter the negatives with his thumb so leaves and clouds would have much greater depth than was possible given the length of time it took to take a photo.  The pictures he was sent to take had a commercial/military purpose and yet he made them artistic as well.

Friday morning I took the National Theatre backstage tour.  We saw three of the four theatres and learnt much about all of them.  In the Olivier we were able to watch the start of the transformation of the stage from Everyman to The Beaux Strategem.  The different staging possibilities are amazing, especially considering the plays are in rep and therefore change between two different productions every few days.  From there we were taken to the Littleton and saw the scenery being installed prior to Three Days in the Country.  That looks stunning.  We were also able to hear a pianist at work on one side of the stage.  We were able to visit the rehearsal room for Three Days and see the costumes hanging on a clothes rail.  We walked through the Dorfman, but were unable to stop as there was a workshop in progress.  There's a new walkway installed, which means people can walk along above the workshops and see what's being made.  And I even saw the statue made for King Lear of Simon Russell-Beale.

From there I went to the Museum of London Docklands, for an exhibition of photographs taken by Christina Broom, entitled Soldiers and Suffragettes.  Although interesting I wasn't as taken by this exhibition.  Broom was a good photographer, but it was evident her photographs were all taken with an eye to earning a living.  There's no fault with this, but she was clearly intent on keeping on the right side of establishment.  Her suffragettes were parading and talking, but not really protesting.  Her soldiers were brave and patriotic and did as they were told.

Lastly I went to the main Museum of London for a tour of the gateway of the Roman fort.  This was very interesting - there isn't that much to see, but the guide, one of the museum curators, was full of knowledge, which she communicated well.  She had an ability to encourage her listeners to imagine themselves back in the Roman era - and also in the Victorian era, when the wall of the fort was the back of a row of shops.  I think Gloucester has more to show in the way of ruined fort, but it was well worth making the trip to see it.
smallhobbit: (Butterfly)
In addition to the theatre I went to three very different performances which involved music.

Firstly, High Society at the Old Vic.  Up to a couple of years ago I would never have thought I'd enjoy musicals, but now I really do.  It's definitely a feel good experience.  Plot with a happy ending; singing; dancing - just so much fun.  And songs which everyone recognises.  Jamie Parker as Mike Connor, forgetting one of the lines in "Well, did you evah?"  Joe Stilgoe as Joey Powell, playing the piano at the beginning and incorporating tunes suggested by the audience.  It was the first thing I went to and started my holiday on and excellent footing.

As a complete contrast Thursday lunchtime I went to St Martin in the Fields for Great Sacred Music.  A short performance, lasting little over half an hour, which included a couple of hymns the congregation were invited to join in with.  The theme for that particular week was the modern Scottish composer James MacMillan.  He's not a composer I would go out of my way to hear, but being in Trafalgar Square anyway I was glad to have had the opportunity to learn more about him.

And then in the evening I went to Sadler's Wells to see Matthew Bourne's The Car Man.   My best description would be fanfic set to ballet.  It is an AU of Bizet's opera Carmen.  There is slash: Luca/Angelo and full-frontal nudity.  I prefer my ballet to be slightly more traditional and in that sense enjoyed the second act more than the first.  To me some of the ensemble pieces would have been at home on the set of a musical rather more than a ballet.  Nevertheless I enjoyed the spectacle and have added it to my list of things I am glad to have seen.  Also, I was pleased to identify Bizet's L'Arlessiene as being included in the ballet.
smallhobbit: (Cat)
Yesterday evening SM and I went to Tewkesbury to see Tewkesbury Camerata in concert.  Unlike the classical music the Camerata usually play, this was songs from the shows.  The Camerata, with their leader and co-founder, the lovely [livejournal.com profile] vix_spes, were excellent as usual and the music was fun and light-hearted and had the audience tapping along.

It was a combination of instrumental items with sung pieces, for which the South Wales Gay Men's Chorus provided the singing.  They were brilliant - so obviously enjoying the singing and the performance.  Stand out for me was "Can you feel the love tonight" from the Lion King which was just beautiful.  At the end they relished the opportunity to have the audience join in with singing "Do Re Mi" from The Sound of Music.

The soloist who had been booked fell ill two days before the concert, but they were able to find an excellent stand in.  Leo Roberts was educated at Tewkesbury Comprehensive, and had as a singing teacher Mark Aitchison, the other co-founder and the conductor.  Leo has just completed a twelve month UK tour of Shrek: The Musical playing Shrek.  Yes he was excellent and we were very lucky to hear him, especially as he had to rush back to London later in the evening.

It was an extremely enjoyable evening, with once more the chance to hear performers I wouldn't normally have heard and would certainly go to hear again.

In a couple of days I shall be heading East to spend a few days in London: three plays, one musical, one ballet, two tours, two exhibitions and the annual Sherlock picnic.  Reports will follow on my return.
smallhobbit: (Cat)
Bristol Opera (an amateur group) have been performing this Stravinsky opera for the last few days.  Since SM was singing in the chorus I went, twice.

The first time I took my mother, who had expressed an interest in going, and my son and daughter-in-law came to.  We went to the opening night, so didn't expect perfection.  The costumes were stunning and the chorus were good.  Unfortunately the male lead couldn't reach the high notes and was frankly a bit old for the part (Rakewell is described as young and handsome).  However the female lead was excellent and we were happy to listen to her.  So an interesting experience, but one we all felt lasted far too long.

I was not greatly looking forward to my second trip - closing night, followed by after show party.  Fortunately the three main leads alternated, so there were different singers.  Rakewell was much younger and had a much better voice.  The young man who played Nick Shadow was extremely good, not only a better singer than the previous Shadow, but also a better actor and for me the outstanding performer.  I may have preferred the earlier soprano, but it's hard to tell, both were good.  I did enjoy the performance.

But Stravinsky's music didn't appeal; I like the orchestral music to tie in with the choral music and in this piece there seemed to be no connection.
smallhobbit: (Hopkins)
This afternoon [livejournal.com profile] moonlightmead and I went to see the screening of The Crucible at Cineworld in Gloucester Quays.  The story of why Mead was with me, and the detour that we made, will have to be another post, this one is purely about the play/film.

I was delighted when they decided to film the play, and even happier when I realised I could see it locally and that the second screening wasn't on a Brownie night.  I would have liked to see the play again, but it was a sell out and going to London isn't always that easy (or cheap).  I understand that some cinemas sold out - Gloucester isn't the height of culture and there were plenty of empty seats, but the utter silence from those watching is testament to how much those who were there appreciated the opportunity.

I'd read that they'd tried to do something special with the filming of the play and to me it worked very well.  Although they had captured the play in its entirety it felt like we were watching a film.  For the scenery changes between acts the actors were made to look ghost-like which worked extremely well.  There were occasional shots which included the audience but there was never the feeling that they were being filmed for their reactions.  At times we could see the microphone lines taped to the actors, but that was really the only indication that this was a filmed play.

I found the play just as compelling as when I saw it live and it dragged me through the same set of emotions.  A few times it lacked the power it had on stage - when the girls are mimicking Mary in the courtroom scene was one - purely because watching live you have the ability to look around more, rather than having the direction of your view dictated.  And I no longer felt I was having to restrain myself from going onto the stage, either to confront the judge or comfort Proctor.  But that's inevitable when watching a screen rather than from the third row.  I was sitting next to someone who had been in the upper circle at the Old Vic and they were delighted at being able to see the action from much closer.

And yes, watching Richard Armitage go through the range of emotions once more was wonderful.  I was so pleased that I had been able to see John Proctor again.
smallhobbit: (Cat)
On Saturday I went up to London to meet up with friends and go with them to the Sherlock Holmes exhibition at the Museum of London. The meeting up with friends bit was great - we talked, three of us shared three different bottles of fruit flavoured cider, we ate pasta/pizza.

The Sherlock Holmes exhibition was okay.  But it cost £11.45 to go in.  There was the inevitable multi-media - for which read screens showing very short snippets from various versions of Sherlock Holmes, but no identification as to which was which, just a long list of the versions.  There was a section on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his original creation.  There was a room with a number of paintings, purporting to let you imagine what it was like when Holmes was there - which as one of my friends said, were the same as was used for Dickens' London a couple of years ago.

There was a room with various props and clothing, which were vaguely interesting.  The best bit - and in prominent place - was the Belstaff coat belonging to BBC Sherlock.  There was nothing much that I hadn't seen before - either in other smaller Holmes exhibits (a couple of years ago we went to the one in Portsmouth) or as general Victorian miscellania.  The final room had a screen showing a waterfall - presumably Reichenbach - and from there the visitor walked straight out of the exhibit.

I thought it was expensive, when I learnt very little that was new.  At the same time for someone who wanted to learn more I'm not sure that there was that much.  When I left the room showing the waterfall I thought there would be more to see - after all we all know that Holmes returned.  So if I had wanted to go back and look at something again I would have been unable to, since we were completely outside.

We wandered round the shop and looked at various items that we might have bought.  I realise that there will be a markup on products, but these felt extortionate.

So I was left, once again, with the feeling that despite what may be said, this museum really wasn't concerned about the visitors' reactions so long as they paid up.  Sherlock Holmes is a big draw, so I have no doubt they will do well out of it.  It just reminded me why I very rarely go to paid exhibitions.
smallhobbit: (Cat)
SM and I spent two days in Exeter at the beginning of the week.  Highlights for me were:

Exeter and its environs )

After this two day trip, and having watched the final episode of Almost Human, the following morning SM went back to work and I went to London.  The Wednesday was spent mostly at the theatre, for which there are separate blogs, but on the Thursday I had the opportunity to visit parts of London.

London )
smallhobbit: (Cat)
and so, another week of finding the bright spots:

Day 87 – Writing was successful.  One drabble for [livejournal.com profile] watsons_woes and my [livejournal.com profile] lewis_challenge fic went to beta.  I should add that it came back with various questions, plus the comment that the victim changed his first way through - clearly his wife didn't like my choice of name.

Day 88 – My hour of escapism with Kennex and Dorian.  Karl Urban does have lovely eyes.  SM has realised that it is what is termed “buddy cop”.  Fortunately he hasn’t enquired any further as to where that can lead.

Day 89 – I had my eyes tested at the opticians today.  One of the girls in the office recommended them and the optician was really good, explained everything and I am considerably more confident about buying glasses from them, even if they are more expensive.

Day 90 – I ended up with three different fics to beta on one day.  Good job they were all different fandoms, or I could have got very confused.

Day 91 – It’s not often that you’re working in your office when someone arrives to ask you to cast off for the blanket they’ve just finished knitting.  Or you walk into a room full of people to have someone come rushing across to tell you how they’d picked some flowers for someone and wasn’t it wonderful.

Day 92 – Sherlock Holmes Annual Picnic in Regent’s Park.  As always it was good to see everyone.  But the best bit was sitting in the pub with my friends and playing a card game that involved each of us producing mini fics on the spot.  I have some great friends.

Day 93 – With a bit of time to spare before catching the train home I went to the British Library and spent an interesting half hour looking through their current First World War exhibition:  Enduring War, Grief, Grit and Humour.



 
smallhobbit: (Cat)
The past week was particularly difficult.  Part way through the previous week our manager, who we all like a lot, went in for a minor heart op.  On the Friday we heard that it wasn't quite as simple.  We went into work on the Monday to learn that she was going to have a double bypass op, sometime later in the week, which would then mean 8 to 12 weeks recovery time.  The three of us from the office went into the hospital that afternoon (the manager just sitting waiting so was continuing to work) to go through everything that needed to be done for the next couple of months.  You can imagine what a shock that all was to us.  However there was a couple of days to get a few things sorted before she had the op, which was good.  Only she had the op the following morning.  So we were left running the office between us.  The manager's husband also has a main position where we work, so he was out too.  And work became very stressful.  We work well as a team, so that isn't a problem, but given the circumstances it wasn't easy, dealing with all the expected and unexpected matters.

Nevertheless, here are the week's happy moments:
Days 80 to 86 )
smallhobbit: (penguin)
This trip was our Christmas present from SM’s parents - or at least they gave us some money and we used it to pay for the concert tickets and Travelodge.  It was the opportunity to see Andreas Scholl again and visit the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe.

Sunday night and Monday morning )

London

Mar. 17th, 2014 10:33 pm
smallhobbit: (penguin)
Not knowing what to buy SM for his birthday, I suggested I take him to London for the weekend, which is where we have just been.  The weather was wonderful - we left in the cold and miserable and decided when we were there that we didn't need all the clothing we'd brought.  There was sunshine, it was warm, my glasses went very dark.

Friday evening we went to a concert at St Martin's in the Fields.  It was the Fauré Requiem, amongst other pieces.  Not really my sort of thing, but it was SM's birthday and he likes choral stuff.  Anyway the Belmont Ensemble of London were very good and the two instrumental pieces (a Mozart symphany and Fauré's Pavane) were the pieces I enjoyed most.  I wasn't particularly grabbed by the London Chamber Choir, so let my mind wander at will.  Various plot points were considered and discarded, although I did allow my mind to dwell on Inspector Stanley Hopkins (as played by Richard Armitage) for a while without plot.

Saturday we took the Thames Clipper to Greenwich and visited the Cutty Sark.  I hadn't appreciated that a lot of the Cutty Sark's trade was the wool trade with Australia, thinking that it was just a tea clipper, whereas SM knew about the wool trade, but had no idea that the ship began her life carrying tea.  What amazed both of us was how few were needed to sail the ship: 31 when sailing to China, less when sailing to Australia.

Saturday evening we saw Urinetown: The Musical, which I raved about in yesterday's post.  And then Sunday morning we went to Sung Matins at the Chapel Royal at the Tower of London.  The singing, which included an anthem by Elgar, was again excellent.

It was an excellent weekend, one that felt like we'd been away for much longer.
smallhobbit: (penguin)
When I was in London at the beginning of this week I had some free time on the Tuesday morning before going to Talking Lear.  Accordingly I decided to visit a gallery/museum or two.  [livejournal.com profile] elfbert recommended the Saatchi Gallery, which is just off the Kings Road.  I'd never been before, so I thought it would be worth going for that reason if no other.  I have to admit to not being a particular fan of modern art, but then there are only some strands of classical art I like as well, so perhaps it would be true to say that I'm quite particular in the sort of art I do like.  The Body Language exhibition was interesting, although some of the paintings left me wondering 'but why?'  The one picture that particularly struck me was Walking with Vito by Henry Taylor.

Having finished walking round the Saatchi Gallery I decided to move onto the V&A, because it was only one stop on the tube and I like the V&A.  With limited time I headed for the East Asian galleries, because I love wandering around the items from China and Japan.  I suppose they could be termed my museum equivalent of comfort food.  There was a junior school group looking round at the same time and at one point one young girl, looking at a group of three statuettes, one of which was headless, said "ooh, 'e's lost 'is 'ead".  There was a large document which initially looked as if it was written in Chinese characters, but on reading the description and looking more closely the artist had used English words, but combined the letters to resemble Chinese.  I was fascinated and started spotting words like "the" and "peaches".  As I was doing so, one of the teachers from the school came up and told her group that if they could read Chinese they would know what it said.  I explained to her what I'd discovered and pointed out one of the words to the group, who were as fascinated as I was and came to inspect it more closely, one of the girls chatting to me about what she could see.  I love the enthusiasm that kids of that age have.

Before I left the museum I went to look at the short listed entries for the Jameel Prize 3, which is a competition for artists and designers who are directly inspired by sources rooted in the Islamic tradition.  Inevitably some of the short listed entries did not appeal to me for various reasons, but the two that I particularly liked were the beautiful silk textiles of Rahul Jain made in a workshop in Varanasi in India on drawlooms, at which local Muslim weavers work in pairs; and Florie Salnot's Plastic Gold project creating necklaces and bracelets.  The work is done by Sahrawi women who live in refugee camps at desert sites in Algeria, using hot sand, simple tools and spray paint.

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