Music/theatre/art 2

I went to the most extraordinary concert last night – two very solemn German gentlemen playing, so we understood, guitars. And so they did for the first half of the programme – 8 string and 6 string and a little tiny descant guitar and two people to one guitar and all sorts. Anyway, after the guitar pieces they put their guitars away and one of them got out a sort of African drum thing and the other one a range of foreign sorts of instruments starting with a bamboo piece which I think had strings which he played with a decrepit bow and produced a moaning whining sort of noise. Anyway they set to work with some rather nice rhythm and a few voice effects and this scrape-y sound which gave way to various horns and things – all very odd! After the interval it got even stranger The chap actually smiled for the first time as he told us about it and said we were allowed to laugh but it wasn’t really ridiculous at all. Well, I’m not too sure – it certainly did seem funny to watch them solemnly and with the utmost concentration saw away at a long bit of dowelling held between the teeth with a bow, drop pebbles in water, turn sirens on, throw sticks in a box, play a violin with paperclips on the strings and do various other weird and wonderful things. It was quite effective tho’, producing all sorts of eerie and sad noises – not what I’d call music though myself.

The play was G.B. Shaw – ‘Heartbreak House’, which I don’t remember ever having read. It was very well done – though as it is described as an Extravaganza in the Russian manner, or something of the sort, I felt it might have been even more amusing if I had known enough about Russian plays to realise when Shaw was poking fun at them. But it was very witty in its own right, and we enjoyed it.

I think my next endeavour might be to see if I could make penny whistles out of bamboo. I have got quite intrigued with trying to play my two (I have one in C major and one in D, and have to think very hard all the time which one it is I’m playing as of course any particular fingering produces either an A or a B depending which I’m using). The easiest change of key is to flatten the seventh note of the scale – so the C pipe will also play in one flat, and the D pipe will also play in one sharp. Now I need a pipe set in three flats, I think (whatever key that is, I never know) and then I could play most of the tunes in the hymn book! I’m not so good at the jiggy things in my special whistle book as at the hymns!

I am enjoying, for the time being, our rehearsals for the Messiah, which we have been doing with X (who is a name to conjure with in this part of the world, even if you have never heard of him!). He works us terribly hard, for a couple of hours, with only five minutes break in the middle, and I arrive home exhausted. We have only one more week or maybe two before the performance.

I’ve enrolled for a folk guitar class for next term at the High School. It’s a ‘pressure cooker’ course for ten lessons, one weekly, and I’m expected to do an hour’s practice a day, so I’d better spend the next few weeks dipping my fingers in meths to harden them so they don’t fall off!

Hardening the fingertips

X’s ex-piano teacher phoned me yesterday to tell me with amazement she had passed her exams with 112% [??] and how pleased she was. As I’ve always said, she said she has no coordination with mind and hands although ‘she is very musical’. She was particularly surprised at the examiner’s remarks on her sight reading ‘a remarkable effort’ – isn’t that ambiguously blissful!!!

Watched the BBC’s Twelfth Night which was enjoyable – though I find the comic relief a bit tedious some of the time – at least until the actual plot against Malvolio develops. Of course the main plot hangs upon a near impossibility. (Or is it absolute? Can there be identical twins of different sexes?)

X’s show (La Pericole, Offenbach) was excellent in all ways, except I thought, the leading lady. She had a voice to shatter glass which she used to the full in the tiny little theatre, and all the time she sang she frowned.

We went to see Stephanie Cole. She was due, according to the programme to be doing a monologue by Alan Bennett and then talking about her life in the second part. We had to be there at 1.15 and got there in time – only to find a man playing the Wurlitzer organ, which he proceeded to do until 1.40. X hates that machine anyway, and he admitted to being an amateur. ‘Soldiering On’ started about five to two, and finished at 2.40. It was a lovely performance. We settled back in our seats to wait for the interval to be over, when a man appeared on the stage to announce, ‘That’s all. You can go home now’! The fact that only about a dozen people had left their seats for the interval before he appeared showed that this was news to everybody. But being so surprised, and basically elderly, we did not boo as we should have done, but just left feeling done down.

We went to the opening for exhibitors of the Easter show. There were some lovely watercolours done by a guest artist, and unusually I did not see any erotic figures by X, our dentist. Y said he has some big commission on at present, which may explain it. The big sculpture which he was organising for the Red Square in the village was eventually finished, and it’s not so odd as it threatened – except that the water tends to get a bit green and turgid.

Do you find your new guitar a great improvement? It must be like my using such expensive paper to learn to paint, I feel there isn’t room to have handicaps, and I try and leave as much lovely paper bare as I can. With some of the modern tunes I feel you could leave quite long pauses between notes, vibrating with beautiful mellow tones!!!

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