Burns, Music and Sun January 2018

January 31st
Lots of to-ing and fro-ing today across a windy Northumberland gathering up music from choir members, chittery chattery as I go, then gathering photos from different choir members and editing the concert recording, and finally here is a highlights video of our Burns Night Celebration.

January 30th

January 29th
No Burns, no sun, and the music’s starting to move on. Turn up the volume and enjoy this one.

January 28th
While I’ve been quietly going about my business today, sorting out the next lot of music, fielding emails, singing with Rock Festival Choir at evensong and making shepherd’s pies, my youtube channel has achieved a mighty milestone: 30,000 views. Do have a browse and find something you like on there – there’s bound to be something because I do indeed cover such a wide range of styles!!! https://www.youtube.com/user/seapieparcel

January 27th
An even lazier day than yesterday with much telly and a nattery stroll. However, I’ve been listening to the Burns Concert recording off and on and it’s as lovely as I hoped. When I went to Edinburgh on Wednesday, I saw Jean Armour’s umbrella at The Writer’s Museum. I took the photos hoping that this little fade-in would be the result after Thursday night when Lionheart Harmony sang my No-Umbrella Blues which mentions the Burns statue in Dunedin. (Jean Armour was Burns’ wife, by the way.)

January 26th
Weariness from lack of sleep, lolling about, brief rehearsal for Rock Festival Choir, nattering with lovely people at Mick’s gin palace, but mostly remembering happily the Burns loveliness. This is our end-of-first half rant, A Man’s A Man, with the tenors and basses in fine voice before the audience joined us for the last verse, and also Burns himself with a load of other clever men at the Scotland National Portrait Gallery.

January 25th
Burns Night Concert Evening. It was brilliant. A full house, excellent music-making, food, decorations, readings, chat. The audience participated with great gusto. Here’s our predicable finale with everyone joining in and a photo of the scene.

January 25th
Concert morning – filled so far with programmes – the printing and folding thereof, but also a bit more of this:

January 24th
I decided this morning to go for a nice long walk so I went to Edinburgh, and set out a-foot to find Burns-related things that I’d recently read about, so…Edinburgh Waverley to The Burns Monument (in the rain) to St. Giles’ Cathedral (in the rain) to The Writers’ Museum to St. Giles’ Cathedral (in the sun) to the Scotland National Portrait Gallery to The Burns Monument (in the sun) to Edinburgh Waverley. What you see here is the “rose” part of the Burns Window in St. Giles’ Cathedral with the sun peeping through. What you’re hearing is more of The Bridge Singers’ repertoire for tomorrow’s concert – O My Luve Is Like A Red, Red Rose.

January 23rd
Sleepless night, after exhilarating choir, before early start to take Jamie to the train, and then on to the dentist who declared “They’re all perfectly fine,” before applying the sharp, whiney, grindy-away thing to my gums and rendering me bloody and pained. This has been followed by sleeping with the television on as Billy Joel might sing, and programme writing. Here are another few extracts from last night’s Burn rehearsal featuring a few of our soloists and instrumentalists. This time’s the statue’s in London, and yet – it’s the same statue! There are four versions of it: in Dunedin, London, New York and Dundee.

January 22nd
It was a glorious final rehearsal tonight before The Bridge Singers’ Burns Night Concert on Thursday. It’s sounding good. We heard all the soloists, clarinets, recorders, duets, quartets, chamber choir, full choir, and we’re ready. Here’s a little bit of Ae Fond Kiss to whet your appetite, and the left hand of the bard himself in Dunedin, New Zealand.

January 21st
Lazy day. More snow. Some tidying. People from afar interested in this piece. he video is images of “St. Cuthbert” places in North-East England with a haunting processional anthem composed in his honour. A solo “monk” begins the chant and then rest of the choir join him in a procession and worship at the shrine of St. Cuthbert. I read at St. Cuthbert’s shrine in Durham Cathedral that the bells on the lid his coffin were rung to summon the monks to the shrine on particular days. I use this idea in the processional part of my song. The first performance of this was by a class of 6 year olds re-enacting the internment of their local St. Cuthbert, the second was by Rock Festival Choir who processed in while singing. Jamie was the solo monk! St Cuthbert, who lived on islands off the coast of Northumberland made friends of the sea birds including the Eider Duck or Cuddy Ducks or Aves Beati Cuthberti. When Vikings attacked Lindisfarne Priory, the monks fled, carrying the remains of St. Cuthbert with them. They eventually rocked up at Durham where he still remains in the cathedral.

January 20th
Today I made haggis sausage rolls and also cranachan cheesecake. Both were tasty, both inspired by my current Burns obsession. One made its way into the tummies of Rock Festival Choir, the other made its way as we rounded a sharp corner into a delicious mess all over the inside of a car, and then ultimately into a roadside bin. The delicate jug of accompanying raspberry sauce remains in tact, so a silver lining, perhaps? A sad business, but there was much laughter. I have no photos or music about this, but here’s some other music about potential food-carrying disasters

January 19th
Fingers Adrift recorder consort practised in our spare living room tonight in readiness for the Burns concert next week. Much merriment ensued as is always the case with these music-making ventures. Here are some of our best bits: Rattlin Roarin Willie; Ca The Yowes; The Tailor Fell Through The Bed. And it’s the feet of Robert Burns as seen in Dunedin, again. I take photos of the feet of people on statues.

January 18th
This evening we had a very thrilling rehearsal of Lionheart Harmony preparing for our guest appearnce at The Bridge Singers’ Burns Night celebration next week. We’re singing, amongst others, this song which mentions the Robert Burns Statue in the Octagon in Dunedin, New Zealand, and I have to say that I think we’re making an excellent job of it. I’m not aware that any other groups have ever performed this for male voice choir, so that’s an added thrill. This is the version for children’s chorus with backing track.

17th January

Rivets. I set off before dawn, clockwise on the Felton/Swarland loop. I love these rivets. I’ve done them before. You’ll also be noting that this pavement was just for me.

Skeleton. Big sun and tiny plant. I took this while communing with the stoat. A frosty breeze was a-blawing too, both of which contributed to the not-quite-in-focus-ness of it.

Tree. The trees have more exciting shapes in the winter.

Fence. The fields were sparkling prettily up at Swarland

Stoat. During about half an hour of this walk this morning I was accompanied by a white stoat with a black tail. Ermine. I’ve never before seen a stoat in its winter coat. It fossicked and frolicked to and fro in and out of fields, across the road, under hedges and over ditches, never stopping, and always too far ahead for a photo. But what a treat and worth being out in the cold wind for all on its own.

Sheep. Easier to photograph than the stoat, but not as rare. The sea is in the distance.

Roof. A roof with a dusting of snow is a prettier thing than one not so-adorned.

Prints. On the land between the well-and-less-used roads are emus sometimes. Today there was a loud cockerel.

Shadows. This metal fence serves no practical purpose these days it seems to me, except to provide excellent shadows. The one fence without the other would be joyless.

Railings. They’re round an obelisk. I like the obelisk because it is a surprising thing in the middle of nowhere.

Bus Stop. When the bus did come up the hill it glistened and sent out a spray of stardust as it sloshed through the snowmelt.

Layers. There was a fetching haze over the farmland this morning. The van caused me to leap into the trees to avoid injury, but I managed to recover in time to include it in my shot.

Sycamores. Not just any, of course. They still cause much delight.

Roofline. I do like chimneys, but my main concern here is that the tree needs trimming or else it might bring down the silvery line in a gale.

Oh,  it was easy to tell from the stars that there would be sun today, and after the gloom of the last several days, I felt it needed celebrating, so I donned my woollies, and strode forth for the dawn. Album: Sun, Snow and Vanishing Points.

16th January
Dropping Jamie off for the train the sun rose and for once was not lurking behind thick clouds. I popped into Morrisons for supplies, then home to choir planning and piano practise. I’ve just come back from The Bridge Singers’ committee meeting, gambolling through falling snow. Lovely. All my plans for the choir were approved, so all’s dandy.

15th January
We had such a wonderful rehearsal for The Bridge Singers tonight – so much gorgeous Burns-related music mastered in such a short space of time since Christmas. I think our Burns Night Celebration next Thursday (7.30pm – tickets from Tim 01670 793237) is going to be sublime and also lots of fun. Alas, I had to take the decision not to do this one which was on our original playlist – too tricky in the time allowed. But maybe in the summer when the roses are actually out…

January 12th, 13th, 14th
Three days. Three W places: West Thirston; Worksop; Wakefield. Three music skills deployed to facilitate music-making in others: to sing solos with confidence; to encourage gallery visitors to compose and perform their own music (80 or so participants in about 20 different families); to play tricky arrangements with gusto. Three other musical skills called upon: dexterous recorder playing; arrangements of Northumberland folksongs; concert planning. Three non-musical skills activated: making vegan flapjack (although this goes with a fail as it was forgotten about in the recordering maelstrom of Friday evening and not offered to the intended recipients); driving long distances while coughing; making Dad laugh a lot. Three art works I relished: Pierced Hemisphere by Barbara Hepworth; Hold Fast, Stand Sure, I Scream a Revolution by Serena Korda; Five Metal Forms by Henry Moore. three stages of throat health: raspy; intermittent coughing with deeper than usual pitch; increasingly raspy tones again, but ultimately on the mend – all due to extensive drinking of water while talking non-stop for six hours. Three sporting highlights: Cardiff City wins; England cricket team wins; Liverpool v. Man City on the radio driving home was a corker. One piece of feedback that made my weekend.

January 11th
The talk hereabouts is all about the lack of sun and how we all have to have our lights on in the middle of the day. I have a hankering to go for a long walk through the gloom, but am nursing my throat, which was much thinner today. I always think of Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit and Mark Tapley in their swampy, disease-ridden sojourn in the USA when we have weather like this, and resolve to be more like the cheerful Mark Tapley. Thanks to my friend Shuna, I found this recording of one of my favourite Burns songs today. It’s incredibly leapy, betraying its origins as a fiddle tune, I suspect. So hard to sing, but Sheena Wellington does a wonderful job here. http://burnsc21.glasgow.ac.uk/will-ye-go-to-the-indies-my-mary-new/

January 10th
Again no sun today, also no voice for speaking or singing, but then, no-one to sing or speak to on account of Jamie heading to Peterborough and me not heading out anywhere and having a one-day policy of not answering the phone, which rang five times, so if you were one of those five, I apologize, but you wouldn’t have heard me whispering anyway. I did make learning tracks for Burns’ electioneering song “Wha Will Buy My Troggin?”. Those of you from Northumberland will recognise the tune as Buy Broom Bezzoms reportedly by the 18th century Newcastle fiddler William Purvis. The image is of our concert poster, and is inspired by Naismith’s portrait of Burns in which he stands in front of Alloway Brig near Ayr. In our version he’s standing by our brig instead.

January 9th
There was no sun today – very gloomy indeed. This picture is from last January 9th. There was Burns and music though: more recorder arranging and now finished. It’s The Tailor Fell Through The Bed, which will be sung by the choir (represented by a vibraphone here) and accompanied by the recorders.

January 8th
The next section of Ca’ The Yowes and a tree in the winter sun. It was The Bridge Singers this evening after a dreadful absence of three weeks, singing Burns. It sounded grand, and we laughed a lot and our concert on 25th January is going to be beautiful. Do come and hear us, because if you don’t you’ll be missing a treat.

January 7th
Ca’ The Yowes for recorder ensemble, a plane whizzing by at sunset.

January 6th
It’s been a day off from Burns and from the sun on account of feeling fat-throated and weary, but there’s been lots of music due to the Twelfth Night revelry at the village hall this evening. I played my treble recorder with gusto and reasonably nimble fingers, there were mummers and sword dancing, there was “fancy part” cameradierie with the violinist from Craster, there was a psaltery which I rather loved the sound of, there was a hog roast, there was King Tim, there was the winning of the table quiz (due particularly to my knowledge of fashion through the ages and popular historic dances as supposed to composers of the day – much to my distress), there was recorder jollity. Tree Christmas tree on the bridge was taken down too, but not before I attempted to take its photo through the window. The out-of focus nature of all of these photos was rather pleasing I thought. And this is Epiphany music.

January 5th
Rattling Scaffolding. I was rather taken with the scaffolding on yesterday’s metallic walk so explored it more fully today, and indeed the sky was playing ball too with a thin strip of orange to place things in front of. Musically today, I’ve been arranging music for Fingers Adrift including this one – a tune used by Robert Burns to set his lyrics to: Rattlin Roarin Willie.


Farm gate sneck

Manhole cover1

Busy pole

Manhole cover 2

Mossy post

Stormwater Drain X

“Felton Sycamores”

Two Handles

Memorial Bench

K6 Self-Portrait

Bauble River

January 4th
Sunrise. Setting out in intense almost-drizzle, there was nothing of note being offered by the sun or moon, so I headed for my old friend, the unevenly-hung gate. Distracted by a nearby man-hole cover, I opted for the metallic walk.






January 3rd

flowery windows

Giving up on the sun at sunrise on account of the grey skies and residue of a nightstorm, I set off to Alnwick in search of bananas. When I emerged from Sainsbury’s, bananas in hand, the unseen sun was casting a glorious light on the growling clouds, but my view of it was impaired by petrol stations and general unsightliness. I leapt back in the car and sped towards Alnwick town centre thinking that I would put something historic and beautiful twixt me and the sun. I parked (not forgetting to display my disc) and raced off in the direction of the Lion Bridge and Castle. On my way, I was stopped in my tracks by a glimpse of the biggest moon I’ve ever seen in my life disappearing behind the buildings. I sped up in search of a hill to gaze at it from, and found myself outside the elevated St. Michael’s Church, but alas too late, and also by now the sun was not playing either.

Shiny gravestones from the 17th and 18th centuries make up the floor of the choir.

Wringing my hands in disappointment and still without photo, I noticed that the door to St. Michael’s was open. Having never explored this one before, I went in and found things of interest to snap. I pondered as I wandered on whether Robert Burns (my current obsession) had written any poems with Michael in them. Upon emerging from the church I found that it was now sunny. I went home, consulted my Burns tomes and found that verse 10 of Address To The Deil is all about St. Michael, so I wrote a fragment of song using it. There.

January 2nd
There was a most spectacular sunrise this morning. The entire place was imbued with a rosy glow, so I hightailed it up to the compost heap and stood gamely upon it with my camera. The best of it was behind me, but if I’d done even more hightailing up one of the hills to see that I would have been too late. My composing today has centred around this Robert Burns song of which I have tweaked the rhythm and added accompaniment parts. My voice is gone, so Jamie obliges for demonstration purposes.


January 1st
Jamie and Cheryl go for a sunrise walk at Ross Sands. Number of other people seen: 8 (2 beachstrollers, 1 scarecrow impersonator, 1 avoider, 2 twitchers, 2 Christmas hatters) plus one unaccompanied canine yapper, one airborne encircler and no pre-10am-ers. Northumberland perfection.

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