November 20, 2007

Trio Mediaeval

Serving as a sublime antidote to the ‘consumer Christmas binge’ (below) and the onslaught of the ubiquitous ‘Noddy Holder / Roy Wood / Shakin’ Stevens / Paul McCartney / John & Yoko’ medleys in our stores, I am currently listening to Trio Mediaeval’s ‘Folk Songs’ on my favourite label, ECM:

As an aside: interestingly, whilst perusing the shelves of my local 24-hour Tesco at the weekend, I was aware of their ambient in-house Eno-like soundtrack consisting of a single chord which ‘came and went’, overlayed with subtle bird calls. It lasted for the duration of my shopping visit and was quite acceptable – certainly more than those nauseous, repeated airings of the ‘Best Christmas Album Ever’ (which one shop assistant recently told me would “drive her crackers” by Christmas Eve!)

With this excellently-produced collection of Norwegian a cappella vocals and percussion, Trio Mediaeval definitely win my vote for the perfect way to brighten winter’s dark days. And, of course, with ECM, the music is only half the story – the other being the beautifully designed, collectible packaging.


Music without mud

July 13, 2007

Proms banner

The 113th BBC Proms – live on BBC R3/(BBC4) for 2 months – enjoy (without the mud!)


Monkey, Gorillaz, Original, Modern.

May 8, 2007


Looks like yet another great coup for Manchester. The launch event of the first Manchester International Festival (£6m budget for events over 2 weeks) is a circus opera Monkey: Journey to the West based on an ancient Chinese legend but reworked as a big stage production. I remember watching the English series of ‘Monkey’ produced by the BBC in the early eighties – brilliant!

The music for the stage show has been composed by Damon Albarn and the design and animation is by Jamie Hewlett, the artist behind the virtual band Gorillaz.

Monkey: Journey to the West
Palace Theatre
Thu 28 June – Sat 7 July 2007

For info about the Manchester International Festival check here

For the Monkey story check here


Manchester original modern by Peter Saville


Finzi and Whistler

January 10, 2007


I have just finished reading the long-anticipated biography of the English composer Gerald Finzi, by Diana McVeagh – ‘Gerald Finzi: his life and music’ – a fascinating insight into the life of one of my musical heroes (1901-1956).

The above is my shot of a section of the small but wonderful etched porch window of St James’ Church, Ashmansworth (near Newbury), just across from the Finzi’s home. It displays the initials of fifty English composers with their dates of birth emanating from a tree’s roots (in this image, those of Sir Edward Elgar – ‘EE 1857’ – can be seen, along with Delius, Vaughan Williams and Holst just above, and Stanford below). It was created by the artist Laurence Whistler, a friend of the Finzi family.

Finzi’s devoted wife, Joy, was a talented portrait artist, some of her works having appeared in the National Portrait Gallery.

Laurence Whistler’s artist brother, Rex, produced the huge and impressive mural in the dining room of Plas Newydd, Anglesey, North Wales.