February Music Stories

February 28th
Cake and phone box. Jamie tried to go to London today. He made it about 100 metres past The Northumberland Arms and on account of the snow came home, realising that he would miss his train from Morpeth if he skidded about much longer. I see on the National Rail Live Departure board that the train he should have caught will be arriving into London 168 minutes late. So glad are we both in so many ways that he did not get on that train. The meetings he was to attend are all still going ahead and he is currently part of them on his headphones through the computer – no break for lunch because they eat while meeting, so I’ve made cakes for him to snack on until the moment this evening when he will be free for lunch. Chocolate cakes with raspberry jam and chocolate/Bailey’s gloop inside. I get to eat one or two too 🙂
Also, today I’ve been fiddling with one of my Science and Music Mini-Units. This one’s all about lungs and breathing.

February 27th
I like the snow when there’s a red phone box and I’m indoors.

February 26th
I recently came across the word bimble, which I rather like. I might say that I went for a bimble today in the sun, snow and no-wind from the outreach Sainsbury’s in Alnwick to the town centre and back but perhaps my bimbling had more purpose than the word bimble allows for. I deposited cheques into the bank by filling in a paying-in slip and interacting with a bank worker in that olde worlde, people-centred manner that Alnwick perhaps suits. I was all ready to be cutting edge and e-magical, as last time I went into a bank to do this (in Cramlington) I wafted my card at a machine and interacted with it in a touchy-screeny sort of way and it printed out a teensy little art-work of all my cheques. Tonight has been the utter joy that is The Bridge Singers. I can’t sleep because of the thrill of it.

February 25th
A bit of pruning in the fleeting, freezing afternoon sunshine, and some Huey Lewis and The News practice.

February 24th
Finding, as I tidy up my camera, that many of the photos I took in Yorkshire on Wednesday are of things I’ve written songs about. Here are four of them:

Chantry Chapel, Wakefield under glowering skies.

The remnants of a banana at Dodworth Station.

Two K6 Phone boxes, a war memorial and a clock tower in Barnsley.

February 23rd
Being particularly thrilled again by the singing of my No-Umbrella Blues by Lionheart Harmony at rehearsal tonight. Chance remarks included, “This is becoming one of my favourites that we sing,” and “This is a brilliant piece,” and “Well yes, of course we’ll sing that one at Wooler.” (Sunday March 18th 3pm, if you want to hear us as the guests of Veronica and her choir.) Here we are singing it for the first time on January 25th.

February 22nd
Years ago, someone asked me to create musical activities to help with the study of flowering plants in a class of 9-10 year olds. I did this, and then went to town as I tend to, and produced a whole unit of work using the science and music curricula with a bit of design, art and dance thrown in. Earlier this week, someone else asked me for the same thing and I was reminded of this earlier effort, so I have spent today and a bit of tomorrow sorting it out for my website because I think it’s marvellous and imagine that others may find it useful. Here it is then: Seeds Grow Into Plants


February 21st
Today I went on a reconnaissance mission for various upcoming projects and wandered round in each of these places: Morpeth Station; Newcastle Station; Leeds Station; Barnsley Station; Barnsley; Huddersfield; Huddersfield Art Gallery; Huddersfield Station; Hepworth Gallery Wakefield; Wakefield; Leeds Station; National Railway Museum, York; York; York Station; Newcastle Station; Morpeth Station. I had lots of ideas for upcoming projects and compositions. I chatted with several Wakefield friends on duty at the gallery. I did work. I read stories (for work). I took this photo in the Hepworth Gallery of one of Anthony McCall’s works. I got cold. I warmed up. I waited for Jamie at Morpeth in the car and heard that Cardiff won again.

February 20th
Today this song became the first of my YouTube videos to slip over 1000 views. I composed it for a school in Alnwick to sing at the unveiling of the statue you see in the video. I went to the school a couple of times and they did indeed learn and enjoy it. The unveiling was delayed and delayed, but eventually did happen, but whether that school sang at it and whether they sang my song, I don’t know, because I never heard from them again. And then the headteacher left, the school moved house. I’ve never sung it with anyone since. It makes me wonder who might have indulged in these 1000 “listens”. I can tell you a few facts about these listeners:

    • They have been in 43 different countries.
    • The top 10 countries are United Kingdom 43%, United States 37%, Canada 3.2%, Australia 2.1%, Germany 2.1%, Netherlands 1.7%, Italy 1.2%, New Zealand 1.0%, Belgium 0.9%, Sweden 0.9% – an interesting mixture, I think.
    • There has only been one view in Egypt but it was 12.52 minutes long which means they listened to it over three times on the trot.

It leads me to speculate upon who these 1000 people are in these 43 different countries, because although I believe it to be an excellent song, of course, full of rhythmic and melodic delight, and that it is adaptable for use by singing groups of varying abilities, it has quite a specific subject matter in quite a specific geographical location, and not all these 1000 views can be supportive friends of mine. Maybe you have ideas of your own?

February 19th
Monday, so everything revolves around the gloriousness that is The Bridge Singers. I’ve spent the day printing (double siding on A3 each of 100 copies individually) and folding and stapling and labelling. Pah – you order 50 copies of two things and the only option is to buy copies that you have to print yourself, and the way it’s formatted means that you can’t print a booklet unless you do the above and thereby take four hours. A photocopier in the house would of course help, but there really should be the option to actually buy the copies and have them delivered by the postman. Anyway, I listened happily to Olympic curling on the radio while I worked quietly away, only hissy-fitting once when the printer did a silly thing with five sheets of paper at the same time. Choir was glorious. We tackled Bogoroditse Devo by Rachmaninov and Weep O Mine Eyes by Bennet from start to finish and sounded gorgeous. We romped through Abendlied again, we had our AGM, which, thanks to the extreme efficiency of our chairman, only lasted about half an hour, and then we sang a bit of Burns (She’s Fair and Fause) and made a decision or two about other Burns songs we might continue to sing. “Not Troggin!” was the shout from the altos.

February 18th
I’ve been working with this song today, preparing learning tracks for the choir. Quite by coincidence this version of it cropped up on BBC Radio 3. I love the jovial syncopated accompaniment and also the clarinet solos who I believe are played by Barney Bigard himself. Nice tromboning too. This tune is generally presented as a slower, wide-ranging epic which conjures up images of rows of lumbering camels and desert shadows, so I do like the merriment of this version. These people are members of Duke Ellington’s band including the man himself on piano. I’ve always loved his clever arrangements. The only thing I don’t like is that it fades out. I guess this stance is ironic for someone who spent two years providing daily fade ins and outs, but they were just tasters. I’m not sure I’ve ever presented a proper ending where the volume is just turned down!

February 17th
It’s lovely to share things, eh? Jamie and I like to share things. Today we’ve shared the chores: one cleaning the bathroom when the other tackles the kitchen…one making cakes while the other gets the tea. We’ve also shared our cold: one has the sneezing, snuffling, snorting nosey bits while the other has the rasping, cheese-grating, coughing, throaty bits. As a result of all this we’ve spent most of the day on the sofa watching things on the BBCIPlayer and are now almost up-to-date with the things that our Lionheart Harmony colleagues spoke of on Thursday night. Cakes and tea were nice too, but what with the snoring and throat-clearing, drastic measures are needed for the sleeping. No music today, alas, but tomorrow perhaps….

February 16th
Learning tracks galore today. Nearly done. Also Portfolio updating. Also a delicious quiche. Mmm.


February 14th-15th
In an attempt to spread news of my recent splendid Burns arrangements further and wider I’ve spent two days tweaking and uploading the scores to this very website and writing a bloggy catalogue to send to others. You have a look and share with your choiry friends, why don’t you? Also last night Lionheart Harmony continued with No-Umbrella Blues and it’s sounding wonderful – part of what we sing now it seems.

Robert Burns Arrangements


February 13th
House tidying and website updating, both of which will no doubt continue into tomorrow. Here’s a little bit of what I’ve managed to complete. Song Stories: Loud Blaw The Frosty Breezes.

February 12th
We entertained our prospective wedding couple at choir last night – we’re singing for them at the gorgeously resonant Brinkburn Priory in April. They seemed to like us and I had a very happy musical-decision-making chat with them while talented others rehearsed the choir. One of their choices is this. Should be fun, eh? We’ll have to channel our inner 1980s fade-outs, and Gary, our guitarist, will no doubt be practising his sliding-across-the-floor-while-playing technique.

February 11th
A day of minor tasks including learning tracks for She’s Fair and Fause (which the Adam Quartet sang at the Burns concert) and using up the salmon. These photos are from the station mooching on Saturday.

Striking a pose at Babworth

February 10th

Snowdrops at Babworth Church, the place where Thomas Ilderton was curate in the mid-1800s. After Babworth he came to be vicar of Felton and in 1870 put in the Quiet Window.


Post pie, Michael took me to the trains via Babworth. Three trains later and after much mooching in stations, I was home.


February 9th
Michael’s birthday and we went to Langold Lake. There were lots of Great Crested Grebes. I wrote a song about them once so when we got home I made a video using that song and some photos we took of the birds, who were not bothering as much as us about the freezing wind.

Heading south at great speed through Newcastle

South Yorkshire huffing and puffing.

February 8th

Soft growth on the wall at Retford Lower Level.

I’ve travelled south, had a brainwave about a new piece, made a Nectarine Bakewell Tart, and had lots of laughs with three Camms.

Retford Lower Level is being improved.

February 7th.
A day of technical irksomeness. Oh you know…lyric dialogue box sullenness before breakfast mainly centering around refusals to paste and fear of umlauts….printer guzzling of black ink and then refusals to accept the new cartridge…nowhere the length of Northumberland selling the correct cartridges…and then helpful advice from a retail operative down at the Metro Centre which made me realise that the ones I found in Alnwick would have done after all….return home to find gloom and low power throughout the village….printer deciding to self-clean at length mid-Rachmaninov…computer deciding to upgrade its system mid-Schumann. Here’s the mid-Rachmaninov in full. Yum.

February 6th
I went on a railway adventure with Jenny and Anne to Saltaire in Yorkshire to buy a new recorder. Armfuls of treble and tenor recorders were taken by the staff into the “2nd hand room” for Jenny and me to try, and although we were in the same room and at times playing duets, and both were listened to carefully by Anne, we were indeed working fairly independently to ascertain which was the perfect match for each of us. Anyway, when we took our selections to the till it turned out we had gone for the same make, wood, model, the only difference – a treble for me and a tenor for Jenny. Ooh. Anne also had a clot of wax cleared from an unseen orifice in her own ailing tenor recorder so we all went away very happy. Saltaire is a picturesque and fascinating place all built by Titus for his employees and family at the mill. The recorder shop, and the galleries we visited to look at the works of David Hockney, and the café where we ate our mountains of sausages and smoked chicken, mango and orange segment salad are all in the old mill building. And through the constant snow along Caroline Street we found this K6 phone box, in which I’m pleased to say I was not the only one who was happy to mess about. It was with phone too – a telephonic bonus!

February 5th
We tackled the whole of Rheinberger’s Adendlied tonight at The Bridge Singers. It was glorious. Apart from a blast through Dowland’s Come Again and a bit of Dona Nobis Pacem, that’s all we did, and we did not get bored and they did think it’s as sublime as I do. one reaction waiting in my Inbox when I got home: “Pure dead brilliant rehearsal tonight. Loved every second of it!” Have another listen to what we’re aiming for!

February 4th
Interest from afar in this song today – it’s the story of glass making in Sunderland from St. Benedict Biscop to industrial glass blowing and Pyrex to art glass. Also I was wallowing in some madrigals as I prepared the scores for choir. Mmm.

February 3rd
No work, and two films in a day IN Newcastle. Early Man and Phantom Thread. Both excellent. Both funny. Yet quite different to each other. There were bananas in the first, by the way. I recommend them both.

February 2nd
Did you know I had a concert last week? On Burns Night! Here are some highlights from that splendid occasion!

February 1st
In our The Bridge Singers’ Burns Night concert last week, we sang this song which I fashioned into a round. The song inspired our lovely soprano Yvonne to create this wonderful piece of art. I think it was the lyrics that inspired her as much as anything.
The Robin cam to the wren’s nest
And keekit in and keekit in,
O weel’s me on your auld pow,
Wad ye be in, wad ye be in.
Ye’se ne’er get leave to lie without,
And I within, and I within,
Sae lang’s I hae an auld clout
To row ye in, to row ye in.

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