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Chalk Talk

October 19, 2013

Ok ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the blog. Never done one before so I'm not really sure what's about to happen. It will be a journey, maybe more so for me than you, but it will hopefully hold some interest and be remotely entertaining if nothing else. 


This is the first of what I hope to be many blogs/vlogs with bits and pieces of stuff that I've either been up to, working on or just things I think may be of interest to others as it has grabbed my attention enough to make me want to put pen to paper (finger to screen in this case as I'm tapping away on my iPad).


So first things first... to the person responsible for the very 'cool' blog title, "Chalk Talk", a huge thank you (will credit you by name if you would like me to or you may remain my anonymous benefactor.... just let me know via the usual routes).


I thought I might begin gently and not, at this stage, be too controversial or to play my 'jokers' early (as they used to say on a long forgotten TV show). I have a show today with one of my long term outfits, the truly fabulous Mid Wales Opera (currently touring Britten's Albert Herring), so I've arrived early to begin this blogging malarkey as we are in the beautiful location of Harlech on the Welsh coast. If you've never been here then let me tell you that you should pay a visit - in fact hotfoot it right now, this minute, before the last of the early Autumn sunshine fades beyond the watery horizon of this powerful and enchanting place. I feel like I've been coming here all my life as we regularly used to holiday on this part of the coast with 'Mam and Dad' (for those who don't know I am a boy from the 'Valleys' after all hence the 'Mam') when we were kids... glorious beach and a dreamy castle on a hill.


I drove up through the Mid Wales countryside soaking up the glories of the scenery and looked ahead of me to the sky becoming ever brighter with each passing mile. 'Roof will be down by the time we reach Barmouth with any luck' I thought to myself. It was down from Barmouth right through to Harlech - gorgeous on an October day and definitely not expected considering the dreadful weather that I'd left behind at home.


So why the 'I'm sure I'm having a better day than those people sat at a desk' seemingly gratuitous paragraphs above? Well, it got me thinking about a subject that continuously frustrates and baffles me in equal measure. Why do we, as musicians, often not really appreciate the joys of what we do? Ok, I know that some of you reading this will be musos and yes, times aren't quite as good as they used to be and work is getting harder to come by but even without these things we are a privileged (or at the very least fortunate) bunch that we regularly have these sorts of journeys to these fabulous places in order to do our work. I know that not every day is like this and there are times when it can feel like you are on the way to 'yet another gig' for people who 'aren't really interested' and who often think that we have 'other day jobs' to pay the bills but, come on folks, it can be simply amazing. Do we sometimes forget why we came into this wonderful profession? I'm not going to insult anyone by listing that one universal 'golden' reason that brought us all to a life as a performer but, for me, it is quite simple -  being a musician is not what I do….. it's who I am. I genuinely love my work pretty much the majority of the time. Not always fashionable, I know, but I've covered it up for far too long and now I have the opportunity to pin my particular colours to the mast. Those of you who know me well will know that I am not always 'Mr Happy Chappy' and I can be difficult at times but I always try to put a little of my soul into everything that I do especially these days with a stick in hand more often than a fiddle. I feel very conscious of the need to put in every effort when I'm asking players to do likewise after all it only seems fair both to one’s colleagues (I can hopefully still use this term of endearment even though I've moved over to the 'dark side') and most importantly the music and the audience. Perhaps it's time for us to really show how much we enjoy our work with a smile and a wink and a nod and not only in the direction of each other but with our greatest supporters - our audience.


I'm sure that the time is coming when the band and the audience and the conductor and the soloist and the music and the sheer joy of it all can become one again. Just maybe it's what can see us through what are difficult times in the Arts - after all, music is what people turn to for all occasions, both celebratory and in order to escape. We aren't medics and we can't save your life but by God we can, for a brief moment, make it infinitely better...


Oh bugger, I said I would start gently and that I wouldn't play my cards too early but there it is.


Just a couple of bits to finish with:


What am I listening to at the moment?


The latest album by the Civil Wars, a stunning follow up to ‘Barton Hollow’. Also Shostakovich's extremely dark but strongly moving 14th Symphony.


What am I reading?


Tom Service's illuminating book on conductors and conducting 'Music as Alchemy' and a frivolous little book called the 40 Crapest MP's…. hilarious.


What am I working on?


Copland's Appalachian Spring, Mozart's Jupiter Symphony and Howard Blake’s The Snowman (shows in Dublin in early December).


Thanks for taking the time to read....., Si x

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