Tuesday, June 9, 2015

tennis and spires

In the tennis season I find myself comparing a perfect bow stroke to the beautiful one-handed backhand of Federer. The way the ball pings off the middle of the racquet in the middle of the curving flow of the arm not only gives maximum momentum to the ball with minimum effort, but also is is a thing of beauty. The bow and string can have the same relationship and the same result if played this way, the tone carried through the air like a tennis ball in free flight.

From the top of a flyover on the North Circular today I glanced sideways and saw in the distance the city skyscrapers dominated by The Shard. What is it about spires? The triangular shape, magic threes?  The medieval cathedral builders knew the power of that magic and now it's Mammon that gets the honour. Is it a coincidence that the word spire appears in the word inspiring?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Jenny Ward Clarke 1935-2015

Few people I have known have made as great an impact on so many as Jenny Ward Clarke who died of cancer on March 1st 2015.

A concert in celebration of her gifts played by her friends and past students on May 22nd reflected many of the musical strands which ran through her career; Bach and Vivaldi, Haydn, Stravinsky clarinet pieces and a quartet "For Jenny" composed by her long-time friend Duncan Druce, Casals' arrangement of Song of the Birds and a Bach Chorale sung by the whole audience. The concert brought together so many old friends and colleagues in an atmosphere of warmth and homage to an extraordinary person - wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, gardener, raconteur, cook, knitter, letter-writer and much more.

Jenny was a precious friend and memories of her will certainly sustain us all in the future.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Music and mime

In a recent obituary of distinguished music critic Andrew Porter, I was struck by and agree with his sentence describing a well-known conductor's antics on the podium: … if one averts one's eyes one hears something less extraordinary than the performance he mimes. 

In my own occasional efforts at conducting, I am well aware of this danger and find it usually preferable to direct whilst playing the violin which is preferable also for the musicians being directed!


I’ve never blogged before so hello people out there!  I warmly invite you to reply with any thoughts you might add to my own.

Now that I have given up most of my orchestral playing, I find myself with time to reflect on the continuance of life as a musician. I am well on in my 7th decade, but not yet entirely decayed. The Beach Boys album Keepin’ the Summer Alive springs to mind. Many of us are happy to turn to other occupations and put the instrument to rest as fingers get stiffer, hearing less acute and stamina reduced, but more than anything I just find I want to carry on trying to play the music I love. I actually enjoy practising and preparing for the occasional concerts I do more than ever before and I would love to hear in this blog how others are dealing with the reduction of professional work vis à vis one’s confidence as a musician, albeit an ancient one.