Thursday, July 15, 2021

‘The Golden Age’ by Woodkid

15 July 2021

I am grateful, once again, to Jess Gillam’s wonderful podcast ‘This Classical Life’ through which I discovered the 2013 album ‘The Golden Age’ by Woodkid. Yoann Lemoin is a French video director who has worked with Lana Del Rey, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift. As Woodkid he created this sumptuous collection of songs about a boy’s childhood - his golden age - and his departure from it through the pains of adolescence. The music features the Paris National Orchestra mixed with electronic instruments and effects. It feels operatic in scale and mood - part concept album, part film score - a little earnest but unusual, melodic and engaging. And naturally Lemoin has created accompanying video material for the album, see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWMMdX6KYGM

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Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Wimbledon 2021

6 July 2021

As we travelled to Wimbledon on Saturday it felt like a very long time since we were last at the Championships - though we were actually there for the men’s singles quarter finals the last time they were played in 2019. It’s just a long time since we have been anywhere! This was my first train journey since March 2020 which felt incredibly strange. I am pleased to report that London is still there. But I am more pleased that, following a little rain on our way there, we enjoyed a rain-free day and saw almost eight hours of continuous tennis. We had tickets for No. 1 Court which meant we were lucky to see Emma Raducanu’s amazing win over Sorana Cîrstea - the most exciting atmosphere we have witnessed in many many years of going to Wimbledon. It was genuinely thrilling, but that was just the start of a stunning day. We also had an all-too-brief glimpse of a very promising match between Nick Kyrgios and Felix Auger Aliassime before Kyrgios had to retire through injury. We finished the day watching Daniil Medvedev come back from two sets down to beat Marin Čilić in five sets which was a brilliant match. I think this was our best ever day at Wimbledon.

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Thursday, July 01, 2021

Nottinghamshire

1 July 2021

We had a lovely holiday in Nottinghamshire last week, staying at a cottage overlooking the Chesterfield Canal, just outside the pretty village of Gringley-on-the-hill, close to the borders with South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. We had some great walks along the canal, and in Sherwood Forest, Clumber Park and Daneshill Lakes. We visited Nostell Priory near Wakefield, Gainsborough in Lincolnshire and Retford. Despite driving there and back in rain we enjoyed a mostly dry and sunny week. It was a wonderful break.

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

‘Vulture Price’ by Arooj Aftab

17 June 2021

I am grateful to The Guardian’s feature on ‘The best albums of 2021 so far’ for introducing me to ‘Vulture Price’ by Brooklyn-based Pakistani composer Arooj Aftab. It’s a beautiful collection of songs, drawing on traditional Urdu ghazals, accompanied by violin, harp, double bass, and synths, creating a spare texture. The music is a peaceful meditation. The seven tracks encompass a range of musical styles - including jazz, Hindustani classical music, folk and reggae. It’s an interesting and enchanting album.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2021

'Macbeth' by WIlliam Shakespeare

9 June 2021

Last weekend we enjoyed our first live theatre since seeing an open air production of ‘Twelfth Night’, in the car park of The Place in Bedford last September (reviewed here in September 2020). On Sunday we were in the lovely surroundings of the Walled Garden at Luton Hoo Estate, on a beautiful summer evening, for a performance of ‘Macbeth’ by the Handlebards. The Handlebards are “cycling actors who carry all the set, props and costume needed to perform extremely energetic, charmingly chaotic and environmentally sustainable Shakespeare plays across the globe”. We first encountered them at the 2018 Milton Keynes International Festival, where we saw their all-female troupe performing ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (reviewed here in July 2018). We saw them again in 2019 in the garden of the Quarry Theatre in Bedford when we watched their all-male troupe performing ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Sunday’s show was an all-female production of ‘Macbeth’ played for laughs by just three actors. It was charmingly silly and incredibly enjoyable. Handlebards performances tend to be more about the challenges of presenting Shakespeare with so few actors and how the cast overcome them. I’m not sure anyone unfamiliar with the plot of ‘Macbeth’ would really have followed it but I don’t think that mattered. There was some great use made of bicycle accessories and Lady Macbeth went through quite a lot of hand sanitiser trying to clean her hands of blood. This was glorious slapstick tomfoolery and, after so long away from live theatre, it was wonderful to rediscover the joy of being in an audience again.

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Friday, June 04, 2021

'The Final Game' by Caimh McDonnell

4 June 2021

Caimh McDonnell is a former stand-up comedian turned novelist. Having enjoyed ‘The Stranger Times’ - his comic novel which tells the story of a Manchester-based newspaper that reports on the paranormal (reviewed here in April 2021) I have been reading his earlier book ‘The Final Game’. This is a standalone crime novel but features characters from his Dublin Trilogy books. Set in Dublin it follows the members of a private detective agency as they try to work out whether a murder has been committed while simultaneously taking part in a bizarre series of ‘It’s a Knockout’ games to determine who will inherit the dead woman’s fortune. It’s very silly but enjoyable. Caimh McDonnell writes some very likeable characters and, in Jimmy and Phil, has created a lovely odd couple detective pairing.

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Friday, May 28, 2021

Andy Kershaw Plays Some Bloody Great Records

28 May 2021

Regular readers may remember I was a big fan of Andy Kershaw’s much missed BBC Radio 3 show. I really enjoyed seeing him live, promoting his autobiography in December 2018, and it was a treat to hear him back on Radio 3 in 2020 for ‘The Kershaw Tapes’ in which he introduced recordings made on his trusty Sony Walkman Pro cassette recorder during his travels in Africa and the Americas in the 1980s. Two more episodes of ‘The Kershaw Tapes’ aired on Radio 3 a few weeks ago and are available to listen to on BBC Sounds: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000vqjl and https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000vwq0. This week I have been immersing myself in the first episode of Andy’s new podcast ‘Andy Kershaw Plays Some Bloody Great Records’, available at: https://andykershaw.co.uk/podcast-1/. It’s great to rediscover his inimitable delivery and a typically eclectic mix of music old and new from across the world. As I have noted here before, I'm not always that keen on Andy’s favourite music but I do share his insatiable appetite for music that is new and different, and his sheer enthusiasm for music is infectious.

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