November Stuff Of The Day

November 30th
Ten nice things of the day: snow, cake, singing, Alison-chat in the snow on the bridge, Robert Burns, composing, feedback, Jamie, Dad-chat, lunch made from sparse remnants of cupboard food tasting delicious.

November 29th
Robert Burns Of The Day: There’s been so much in fact, it’s hard to pick, but I’m loving this Westlin Winds, here sung by Karine Polwart.


November 28th
Robert Burns of the day: This rather lovely setting of O My Luve Is Like A Red, Red Rose by Robert Schumann.

November 27th
Prunes of the day: the ones in the kingdom of the fruits. This is The Bridge Singers rehearsing last night. We almost nailed the nutty rhythm! This is also a close-up from my brother of Dad’s birthday cake from Saturday. It was Dad who introduced me to this song. In other news today I have been tinkering with the Twelve Days Of Christmas, seeking out yummy Robert Burns songs, chatting with Penny, waving my arms about.

November 26th
Varying afternoon moods of the day: 1.15-1.45: irked – with constant delays to our departure from home, then difficulty parking in a busy Morpeth. 1.45-3.10: joy then slight frustration – at meeting up with our fellow Lionheart Harmony friends, chatting and warming up at the Riverside Lodge followed by a delay to our start time at the Morpeth Lions Club’s “Meet The Lions” Christmas event, due to the guest band overrunning. 3.10- 3.35: enthusiasm turning rapidly to life-draining irritation – at the thankless task of singing to an assembled hall of people eagerly eating tasty snacks, furiously summoning the volunteer tea-pourers to their tables and chatting loudly, as we background-sing while trying to maintain an eager demeanour for those few who are actually listening. 3.35-4.05: taciturn resentment and mild curiosity – as we wait in the bar for our next slot while watching the silently playing Scottish League Cup final on the large telly. 4.05-4.10: manic looking on the bright side as Gwyn and I exchange vaguely amusing remarks about the ongoing quest in the hall to find the oldest male and female guests in the room (92 and joint 95s respectively, it eventually turned out), and the decorative light fittings. 4.10-5.30: increasing delight and a return to joyful merriment – our second set accompanied no eating or drinking and followed a specific request by the compere to be quiet while we sang, and we performed with cheerful tunefulness and a good deal of performance bravura, and my new sleigh bells enjoyed their public debut in the closing community singing, and we were given a box of chocolates as we left, and everyone was very happy with us and grateful that we were there, and as we called in to the petrol station to fill ‘er up and purchase bread for Jamie’s commuting breakfast, there was a deal on my favourite egg and bacon sandwiches, so I’ve got one for tomorrow’s lunch…yum. 5.30 onwards: gentle relaxation and increasing sleepiness – rum and coke with a fish pie I made in the morning before the moodiness set in, and unchallenging telly.

November 25th
Dad of the day: my Dad. His birthday and the assembled revellers (Mum, Jamie, Michael, Frances, Fran, me) pose with the cake before lunch. A very, very happy day. We drove there (me) and back (Jamie) and on the way back, tiring somewhat of the radio fare, we found a home-crafted CD entitled “Car Stuff” in the glove box which neither of us had any recollection of. It turned out to be several madrigals sung by The Kings Singers, some flamenco guitar, two of our favourite movements from Handel’s Israel in Egypt, and “our” song – the Et Resurexit from Haydn’s Nelson Mass. We sang along at great volume from memory with no mistakes on the alto and tenor parts, and it made us laugh with great delight. When we first knew each other we were singing in the Auckland Dorian Choir with Karen Grylls and we used to practice the Nelson Mass together in between rehearsals. This was our favourite bit. It was the “ands” that did it – what a joker that Haydn was.

November 24th
My piece of the day: In The Bleak Midwinter, as rehearsed rather distantly by Rock Festival Choir tonight in St. Paul’s Church Alnwick. It’s their annual Advent recital next Sunday and this piece in its male-voice choir version is slotted into the programme. After the practice and a drink at the John Bull, we forayed to The Tanners to hear Gary sing and to chat with him and lovely, always smiley Yvonne, then home for an early start. In other news today, I’ve been making a birthday cake. Well at least the components of it. It will be assembled tomorrow for a very lovely fellow.

November 23rd
Robert Burns Of The Day: Here Awa, There Awa. I’ve been making an arrangement of this song today for the choir. It’s a very beautiful melody. However, it’s also a beautiful poem and here’s the wonderful Shirley Henderson reading it.

November 22nd
Lively collection of children of the day: Felton Beaver Scouts. I made my debut at Beavers tonight with singing, composing, piano-ing. I was praised by assembled parents, not for musical prowess, but for keeping their attention for a whole hour. It’s good that all those years of experience mean that I can transform myself from a weary Wednesday sloth into the very essence of energetic and inspirational creativity in a matter of 20 minutes while stomping through the rain to the meeting. After another two hours of slothfulness post-Beavers, I went to Morpeth Station to pick up Jamie. He was the only passenger to emerge from the train to the welcome sight of a person with an umbrella. To get to his train door I had to negotiate this drippy underpass roof which was labouring under the day-long deluge outside.

November 21st
Statistic of the day: views on the seapieparcel channel ( nudged over 28,000 overnight. Some highlights from the last 1000:
Most views: All The Nations Like Bananas – silliness from The Bridge Singers.
Number of videos viewed: 104
Most popular countries: UK, USA, Australia
Most popular day: 8th November with 70 views of 21 different videos.
Water Of Tyne Statistics: 2 views – one in Ireland, one in UK. The reason I’ve chosen to put this one here is because the score was requested today by a former pupil of mine who is now a professional musician. It’s great to know I’m not forgotten and can occasionally be useful to these young stars.

November 20th
Headline of the day: Bananas! Jamie’s been in London today and he spotted this headline on his way to the station. He arrived back in the village at half time in The Bridge Singers’ Rehearsal, just in time to sing his solo. We had our accompanist, Scott, in attendance tonight and we rose to the occasion with excellent work on our “with piano” selection: “Chantry Chapel Carol”, “Ruddier Than The Cherry” and “The Prune Song”. We also quickly knocked off the new version of “I’ve Never Seen A Straight Banana”, “Tiny, Flickering Flame” and two of the Britten numbers. Three rehearsals to go until the first of our festive fruity recitals. Loads of time, right?

November 19th
Radio find of the day: Moz Walsh’s The Innocent Ear. You don’t know what’s playing until after you hear it. It’s a brilliant concept and I love his anecdotes in between the music. The programme starts after 2’30”.

November 18th
Overture of the day: Egmont by Beethoven. One of my all time favourites. I heard it on the radio today. I particularly love the horn bit in the 2nd half. If you listen to the whole thing you’ll know it when it happens!

November 17th
Instruments of the day: sleigh bells. I went to Newcastle on the bus with one of my lists of mixed intended purchases. I was reasonably successful with the list. I bought sleigh bells from JG Windows and put them in my back pack. From then on I jingled relentlessly as I made my way along Northumberland Street back to the bus, and around Marks and Spencer as I chose the lunchtime pie. It’s a spectacular set of bells, I must say, with four sides adorned with a bell of loud and cheery proportions (and one on top!), and will be useful in I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas and Sleigh Ride with Lionheart Harmony next weekend when we have our first festive gig – yes in November, but what can you do, when a selection of Christmas music and community carols is requested? Also, Windows now has a new room full of classical sheet music with a sofa for perusal purposes. What a place.

November 16th
Distraction through the window of the day: The choir like me to tell them stories of things I see through the window. I was in the middle of sending them an email about what we might sing in next week’s rehearsal when this happened… “There are workmen on the bridge, and they have thrillingly purple signs. There are two men. One is large and scarlet with an ill-fitting high-viz waistcoat and a kind face. The other is scrawnier and wan and has ensconced himself in the truck cabin with his phone (the weather must be perfect for signal today) while KindFace does all the work. This work has so far consisted of setting out their various purple signs and removing the broken concrete slab, which you will recall suffered road-sweeper damage in the earlier pebbley resurfacing comedy revue show. He’s also now removed the other two slabs….ScrawnyPhoneMan has now emerged from the truck wielding a thick-set hammer and some metal strips. There’s clanging…….There’s minor chaos as sudden gusts of wind are blowing over the purple signage and the hammering of the metal strips is harder than they imagined – they’re having to get down on their hands and knees, and as a shocking result of this, bumcracks are on view to everyone on this side of the street….They’re working at a presto speed, putting the new slabs in place with the help of a nifty yellow tool and athletic leaping….KindFace is packing everything up while ScrawnyPhoneMan is on the phone in the middle of the bridge. KindFace is using a saw to cut tiny pieces of plastic….KindFace hoists his sagging trousers. ScrawnyPhoneMan adjusts his sagging crotch, and then leaps into action taking the orange barriers to the Felton side of the bridge while still on the phone. He realises in a humorous sketch routine that he can’t carry one barrier in each hand while holding his phone. He puts one barrier down and talks while walking….He goes across to the new bridge to pick up a sign, and sees something in the river he wants to take a photo of on his phone. A lorry reverses. The sign is forgotten….then remembered…KindFace is distracted by a taxi, but still does three times the work of the other who is loud and attention-seeking and would be a nightmare to work with, I suspect….Smoko time….They adopt the swing-it-like-a-baby technique for piling the old slabs on the truck. Teamwork with cigarette. They’re not perfectionists, but perhaps all will be well…They’ve swept their rubble away under the truck. When they drive away, I think the rubble will still be there, unless I’ve missed something magical…They’re in the truck. They’re plotting their route to the next job using phone and map. And after more phone chat and writing with a pen, KindFace puts his spectacles on his nose, takes a mighty swig of water and they’re off…rubble remains.”

November 15th
Round trip of the day: Morpeth to Worksop and back to lunch with Mum and Dad and watch Paddington 2 with Mum. It was grand.
1. River Tyne. all mine, all mine 

2. Sunset Cathedral (Durham)

3. South Yorkshire

4. Retford Lower Level: the promised concrete land of abandonned food scraps and people travelling to Worksop wearing my Dad’s accent on their sleeves.

5. Mum and Cheryl in the back row for afternoon bear delights.

6. Racing twixt cinema and homeward train, I notice that the entire Worksop market is being packed into banana boxes. I pause for a photo and overhear to my left, “What’s that f*ing bitch tekkin’ photos of. Weirdo.” Be still, my f*ing heart, I’m a F*ing Worksop Weirdo Bitch. Ah my beloved hometown

7. Arriving with time to spare at the station, I espy this little critter waiting for a bus.


November 14th
Income of the day: a rare occurrence, but royalties were paid to me today for performances in New Zealand, most notably of Hodie Christus Natus Est and The Swing. They were both on the telly apparently. I know no more details, but here’s the world premiere of one of them – the first choral piece I ever did compose.

November 13th
Proud moment of the day: a singer who was going to leave the choir a month ago, struggling with the large amount of notes and rhythmic intricacies I throw at them, is now, after a little bit of light-hearted intensive care, volunteering to sing solos in concerts, and nailing it in front of the choir today. This picture: My favourite sculpture as seen on Sunday: Pierced Hemisphere by Barbara Hepworth

November 12th
Singer of the day: Not any of these singers and musicians who were part of my cheery Musical Sculptures workshops at The Hepworth Wakefield singing and accompanying my song about Henry Moore’s Five Metal Figures, and then gave lovely feedback to my colleague Rachael on the front desk. No. Singer of the day was my friend Vicky Johnson who sublimely sang the soprano solo in the Alnwick & District Choral Society‘s remembrance concert this evening. I got just back in time to unpack the musical detritus you’re listening to from the car, grab a warmer coat, toss the car keys to Jamie and off we went. I met lots of people I know there too and there was much happy chatting as well as the delightful music. No recording of splendid Vicky, alas, hence this poor substitute for singing but still – delightful music all the same!

November 11th
Quirky opera of the day: L’Enfant Et Les Sortilèges by Ravel, performed by Opera North at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. The music is Ravellian but also hints at a whole range of other styles – I loved it. All the singing was exceptional – very clear and sparky, my favourites being the cat duet and the fire aria. The set and costumes were vibrant and very imaginative – my favourites were the arm chair and sofa. The teapot made everyone laugh on account of the positioning of the spout. The audience was cheery and fidgety – lots of children which is a very good thing. As you can see from this webpage, Opera North have done their absolute brilliant best to make this opera and their performances accessible to a family or school audience. I’m not sure all the parents/grandparents present had taken full advantage of this.  This story would have been difficult to grasp for some, and whining and loud desires to leave punctuated the proceedings. The mother (with her son) beside us was an excellent example though – she whispered explanations and pointed out visual and aural treats whenever his interest sagged. Jamie and I were very well-behaved, and thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. Thank you to the members of The Bridge Singers who bought me a gift voucher for this theatre as an end-of-year gift in July – I still have a few treats left -this was the first.

November 10th
Bargain of the day: Sainsbury’s Chinese Box. After another day of “completing the list” which this time contained re-composing my recorders and bass piece (because I’m better at composing now than I was in 1987), writing a press release, marketing, dealing with the gas fitter, we did a combined effort in the kitchen (me on washing up from earlier, Jamie on “cooking”), then settled down to an old Lewis on the ITV player and this, which we purchased on Thursday “reduced for quick sale” to less than half price. Delicious – and more so because of its extreme price reduction. I heartily recommend it. Our box varied from this one in that the crispy chicken was in fact duck in plum sauce – an improvement, in my opinion.

November 9th
Mixed reactions of the day: to Silent Night in a barbershop style, which we revived at Lionheart Harmony tonight. We’ve done it before, but it divides opinion. “I don’t like the floppy bit at the end.” “I just can’t warm to this one.” “I think it sounds mellow.” “I don’t mind it.” “I just don’t like it.” “I have no opinion, but it’s tricky.” “I like it.” “I think it’s great.” “I didn’t like it at first, but I really do now.” Messing with well-loved and perfectly delightful songs is a risky business – they asked for a traditional carol in a barbershop-ish style and that’s what they got!

November 8th
 Old piece of the day: Sanctus for bass with treble and tenor recorders. Today I’ve been mostly ploughing through a list of administrative tasks. I completed the list, hurrah. One of the items, was to locate this piece of music composed in 1987 following a request from some recorder players in London. It’s not been performed since its premiere in the Auckland University Clocktower in 1987 and seemingly only exists in this hand-written score. I used to take great pride in my music hand-writing and had a wide-nibbed inkpen for the purpose. I do believe that the bass in this first performance was none other than Richard Knowles!

November 7th
Choir of the day: It’s The Bridge Singers again with more photos and a recording from Monday. “What a splendidly batty evening!” declared Shuna, adding, ““Food, friends and frolics: what a wonderful choir!”

November 6th
Choir of the day: The Bridge Singers. Just look at them. I had suggested, “Bring your bananas and we’ll take some group shots.” People were walking through the door at the beginning declaring with horrified seriousness, “Oh no! I forgot my banana!” Luckily I had spares! This is one of the reasons why I love ’em. Also, we started the Christmas element of our fruit repertoire and it sounded so very fine. There’s a recording and many people took many photos…more of which another day.

November 5th
Recorder of the day: sopranino. I have one. Alison has arranged a concerto for two flutes by Vivaldi for our recorder ensemble Fingers Adrift, and the final business of the day meant I got to play lots of semiquavers on my sopranino recorder including D#s and C#s in close proximity. I did not play this particular music, but I think it shows off the sopranino recorder in a merry light. Vivaldi is such a chirpy composer. Earlier we wholesomely walked in the northerly wind from Embleton to Beadnell and ate fish and chips from Seahouses at the beach in Bamburgh.

November 4th
Cathedral of the Day: Durham. My brother is here to stay for a few days. Wheeeeeeh. We met in Durham and roamed the cathedral admiring stonework, ate cake, laughed, admired the decorative drainpipes around the castle, crossed a few bridges while strolling along the sunshiney Wear. We saw two plaques dedicated to the Scottish Soldiers from 1650. We ate egg and bacon sandwiches at The Angel Of The North, then watched the sun set about his shapely calves while a man fixed his bike by the angelic feet in the gleaming gloaming. This man was in the photos of each member of a party of fancily dressed revellers who arrived shortly after us in a convoy of about 20 be-flagged and be-ballooned vehicles.

November 3rd
Robert Burns Of the Day: She’s Far and Fause performed by Antonio De Innocentis. It’s a bit like Dowland, this version – another favourite of mine. In other news Rock Festival Choir tenors and basses sang my in The Bleak Midwinter at practice tonight – it was mellow. It’s going to be a delight at the Advent concert on Dec 3rd. Also news that Anne-Marie is doing That First Christmas Night with her primary school choir. Also feedback about Red, Red Rose from Twitter: “wonderful haunting melody to go with Rabbie’s words and rosy pictures…shared it with my loved husband and daughters also.”

November 2nd
Robert Burns Of the Day: Rattlin Roarin Willie. I’ve been listening to and searching for Burns songs again all day and this is one I’ve found that I’ve taken a fancy to. I’m thinking this might be a rollicking finale to our Burns concert in January. I’ll need to whet my arranging blade for this one I think. In other news, Lionheart Harmony sang lots of my arrangements and one of my songs tonight as we launched into Christmas practice, and one piece of pleasing feedback rolled in on YouTube for “That First Christmas Night” from someone who happened by “This is so beautiful….” Anyhow, here’s The Corries on Willie:

November 1st
Robert Burns of the day: The Birks O’ Aberfeldy. I’ve been perusing all my Burns paraphernalia and discovered this song today, which I did not already know. Lovely melody and I particularly like this arrangement by the Douglas brothers. A birk is a birch tree. You can do a walk called the Birks Of Aberfeldy near Aberfeldy which is northwest of Perth. There are waterfalls, I read.

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