Category Archives: Live music

Ebony And Ivory

The great Alexei Sayle once had a routine that went along the lines of: ” I heard this bloke on the radio the other day going on about how we could all live together in perfect racial harmony on piano keyboards. Well, I’m telling you, pianos aren’t going to solve nothing, no way, no how”

That’s as might be, but late last year a piano was involved in something pretty darn special. Flash back about seven years: For reasons I neither remember nor understand, my then wife and I bought a keyboard at Costco as a Christmas present for the kids. It came loaded with tunes that they could play by simply following along with the book, and I considered it a waste of money, to be honest. The kids and their mum both had some fun with it, and it stayed at that.

However, as my daughter’s interest in all things creative grew, she took up playing the guitar, and began paying more than passing interest in the keyboard, apparently just playing along and following the instructions. She seemed to be doing pretty well, when as luck would have it, the son of the woman who made her spare land available for a community P-Patch (allotment) turned out to be a genius, who later on was accepted into Julliard at 17. My daughter took lessons from him on an informal basis, but eventually he was no longer an option, so her mother signed her up for lessons with a local teacher.

Just before Christmas we were informed that the pupils would be giving a recital for the benefit of the parents, so on the appointed night, I hurried to the teacher’s home and took a seat in the studio. The kids in my daughters’ group ranged from about five to thirteen years old, and as you can imagine, all parents waited with bated breath for their own child to perform. I, of course, was no different, and I have to say that heavily biased as I am, she gave a wonderful performance, playing 5 short pieces. I don’t have the sheet available, but they were not easy pieces, and as she had made the effort to dress for the occasion, my daughter looked every inch the professional musician. As we were departing, her teacher commented on how well she had performed, despite being extremely nervous – apparently one of her legs was shaking almost uncontrollably with nerves during the entire performance. I hadn’t realised this, as my daughter is one of the most confident and self – assured people I know. Of course, I congratulated my daughter profusely, as I found her playing to be flawless, but as I say, I’m not exactly the most unbiased of listeners.

The kicker came when her teacher said that she would like her to perform again, two days later at another of the recital sessions. At this later performance I was seated so I could see her hands and was amazed at the level of dexterity and professionalism she showed. I know this is a dreadfully overused cliche, but her fingers just danced across the keyboard, and I have to admit choking up with pride that she could play with such flourish and elan.

Just to push things even further, a couple of weeks later my ex and I received an email from her teacher saying that she would like my daughter to take an exam from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto some time in May. Bloody hell! This is the institution attended by Oscar Peterson and Glenn Gould!

Lest you think I’m getting ahead of myself, this exam is a test of both ability and progress, and in no way means that she is headed north of the border for schooling, but if she’s good enough to take one of their exams, her teacher must think very highly of her indeed. I honestly don’t know what to make of it all. I’ve always known that she is highly talented and extremely creative, but where the hell she gets it from is beyond me, I mean, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, even if I use both hands. One thing of which I am certain, though is that whatever path she takes, she’s always going to go straight to the top. I’m also certain that I’ll never hear her repeat one of Eric Morecambes’ more famous catchphrases, used when performing one of his musical pieces: “I am playing all the right notes. Just not necessarily in the right order.”

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Who Are You?

Before we get going, I’d like to make an observation. Have you ever noticed that just about the only acceptable way to approach a complete stranger on the street is to compliment them on their tee shirt? It’s true. I’ve done it several times and always received a positive response, be it the guy behind me at the ferry terminal in a shirt that read “In dog beers, I’ve only had one” or the chap in the coffee shop wearing a  shirt from the Medicine Department of Miskatonic University or the guy in a different coffee shop in the Liverpool F.C.replica shirt with the number 10 and the name Coutinho on the back. On each occasion I’ve said “Great shirt, mate”, and received a smile and thanks in return. Actually, I had a really enjoyable, if short conversation with the Miskatonic “alum”, made even better by his response to my telling him I sport one from the Literature Department.

Of course, you can only get away with such comments to other guys. If the  woman ahead of you in the coffee line is impressively shod  and you say “Cute boots” to her, the next thing you experience will be lying on the gurney while  the nurse rinses the mace out of your eyes and the E.R. physician prepares to remove one of the aforementioned items of footwear from the place where you used to have functioning genitalia.

You cannot believe how much empirical research went into the above statement, you really can’t.

This leads me to my story. A few weeks ago my sweetie and I went to see Wussy at the Funhouse. It’s a dump, a real scuzzy pit, to tell the truth, but the chance to see Wussy was too good to pass up. We skipped the first two openers, but  had the misfortune to hear the third, and not even an unbelievably good margarita could kill the pain of having to hear them. Anyhoo, on our way from the door to the bar I saw a rather scruffy looking guy sitting next to the merch table wearing what I took to be a Joy Division “Unknown Pleasures” long sleeved tee. On my way back, drinks in hand I said ” Love the shirt, man” to which I received the response “Thanks, you have to go to Cleveland to get one”. It was then that I realised that the back bore the name of a Cleveland record store and the front was the “Unknown Pleasures” cover art trimmed into the shape of the great, I mean the state of Ohio.

I thought no more of it until my sweetie pointed out that the guy looked like, and it was here that I misheard her, because the guy looked nothing at all like the former Joy Division and New Order bassist, until the penny dropped and I realised she’d said “Buck”.  “Nah, it can’t be” was my natural reply.  She produced her phone and pulled up some pictures. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck!!!!!!!!!!!! “You’ve just freaked me out” was all I could manage to say. Of course, it WAS the former R.E.M. guitarist and I’d just not recognised him.   Those of you who know me know that I love R.E.M., but never had the chance to see them live, don’t bother with music videos and don’t even touch”Rolling Stone” on the basis that I can actually afford real toilet paper.  I was truly bummed not to have recognised him, but now couldn’t do anything about it. He sat with the headliners who were staffing their own merch table and during the show ambled around, having a good time. This town doesn’t really appreciate overt  fanboy behaviour, so I just let it go and made sure not to stare, unlike the loser who made a point of introducing himself and shaking Buck’s hand. Wanker.

I bet he told all his friends, and anyone else who would listen about it until he was blue in the face and they were bored to tears. Don’t you just hate people like that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That’s Entertainment.

First, an apology. I had intended to post long ago, but the fact that I’m rarely home, and when I am I’m doing other things  (O.K. “Call Of Duty”- See “Tin Soldier” coming eventually) means I’m now well behind schedule. Anyhoo….. As regular readers  know  I have made a number of shocking revelations in this blog over the years, and I’m about to add another: I’m not much of a fan of musical theatre. Are  you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.  Some months ago my sweetie informed me of the schedule at the theatre where she works. One show on the list was the Broadway production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s  “Cinderella”. Not my kind of thing by any metric, but as the father of a nine year old daughter, I know on which side my bread is buttered. It was a pretty easy decision as there was no danger of not being able to follow the plot and my daughter  has a penchant for the performing arts. Of course, it did cross my mind that a day out of this nature would win me plenty of credit at the bank of daughterly good will.

We took the boat across in plenty of time and picked up my sweetie who dropped us off before taking my son to the computer museum, so they both got some one on one time that day. I  had some idea of what to expect, but even so I was somewhat taken aback by the gender imbalance of the audience  as there appeared to be a total of about two dozen guys in the 3,000 strong audience, and most of them were grandfathers. Making a quick trip to the bathroom I had my choice of stalls, but across the hall the line for the Ladies seemed to stretch around the block.  This was 1 March, and I’m pretty sure there are still some moms waiting in line. I guess this is what it must have been like when The Beatles were on the Ed Sullivan show, only with higher pitched voices – the audience, I mean, not the performers. I suspect the average age was about twelve, taking into account all the mothers, of course. Tiaras and smart dresses abounded and more than a few of the younger element came in full Cinderella costume. I wonder if there is a theatre equivalent of football’s “Full kit wanker” ie, the guy who turns up to a football (soccer) match wearing not only a replica shirt but also shorts and socks as if somehow expecting to be called onto the pitch in an emergency.  If the leading lady and her understudy had been struck down unexpectedly  there would have been enough six to eight year olds in the audience for a full scale audition without the need for the costume department to worry.

Thankfully this didn’t occur, and the show opened on time. I have to state for those of you who haven’t seen this production that like almost all musical theatre, especially that of the classic R&H era, the show is fluff all the way down. Extremely well produced and engaging fluff, but fluff nonetheless. None of the songs are strong enough to survive outside the show but the production values, costumes and cast were of the highest quality,and for the best part of three hours everyone in the auditorium was lost in the story.   I will admit that I enjoyed myself as it was a very impressive production and Cinderella’s on stage costume changes were stunning in the extreme.  Of course, my daughter was riveted by the show and afterwards remarked that it didn’t seem like an almost three hour performance. It was very enjoyable and even though it is really not my thing at all, it was great to be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the willing suspension of disbelief required for a show like this. I’m not so sure I’d have been as keen to see “South Pacific” or “The Music Man”, but what the heck, who could refuse to take his nine year old daughter to see “Cinderella”?

So there  you have it. I have been to as many musicals as  my daughter who is less than 1/5 my age. I enjoyed the experience immensely and got to see the look of joy my daughter wore for the whole performance. It won’t become a regular experience on my part, but at least I have been spared the horrors inflicted on my sweetie, who as part of her job had to sit through not only “Dirty Dancing” but also “Mama Mia”. Thank Goodness my daughter has never heard of ABBA, although if the music of One Direction is turned into a musical ala Green Day I may be forced to reconsider living within a thousand miles of a stage.

 

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