Friday, 22 August 2008

The Twittering Machine

Despite being laid low with a horrible sore throat/bug which has meant I've not been able to go to a single EIF event, I could not miss this, so drugged up with anti-biotics and paracetamol, made it to the 'Twittering Machine' in the Royal Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh.
This was the second performance (we missed the first night) of only two public performances of our son, James' classical composition, (along with pieces by other gifted young composers, some still at school) commissioned and played by members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra in the Temperate Palm House, a splendid 19th century conservatory , the tallest in the Botanics. And so surrounded by tall palms and tropical plants from lontars to bananas trees, orchids, hibiscus and other exotic plants we listened to twitterings and melodies reminiscent of birds, trapped in cages then flying free in dawn sun and twilight. This was the brief set by the organizers who used Messiaen and the work of Paul Klee as the springboard for inspiration. Alisdair Nicholson, the Scottish composer, from Skye and the Black Isle, was their composition tutor in a course of workshops which produced this work and the second half of the programme was his own work of the same title. I was interested to learn that he used as his springboard plainsong Gaelic chants by the St.Kildans (St. Kilda being one of my obsessions of the moment).

Two of the other student pieces were of a very high standard, that of Lliam Paterson( very accomplished) and Gordon Douglas (quirky and original), the latter a member with James of their own (the Boroughmuir) jazz trio.

I have to admit tears trickled down my cheeks at hearing James' work: it was extraordinarily beautiful. 'Mothers! They're so embarrassing,' Alistair teased me. Apparently the piece reduced another woman to tears on the first night. So it wasn't just me!

All that Jazz

August, 2008 A segue from poetry. Confession time? OK. My secret love is... singing jazz. Having done the Fionna Duncan vocal jazz course last year (2007) and not able to get a note out, what with nerves, total ignorance of diaphrams and other parts of the anatomy only known to singers, my performance was credited as the 'bravest' (jazz speak for 'at least you didn't cop out of the gig at the last minute'). Amazingly (general stupidity) I did not realize there was a performance at the end of the course - I thought it was just workshops. Anyway, due to being blown away by all the jazzers, the tutors, Fionna Duncan, (grand lady of Scottish jazz), the lovely Sophie Bancroft and Liane Carroll who is the kindest most unDiva-like and generous of special people,(as well as being the Biggest name in Jazz in the UK) I have just completed the course again and this time able to get a note out. Wow. Of course, this is not just the result of a week's course but a year's lessons with wonderful, patient teacher, Sophie Bancroft. Check out the photos c/o click on Photos, then All that Jazz. And you can hear downloads of my favourite singers by clicking on my list of MySpace/music audio excerpts. No, you will not find me on MySpace. Come on. Get real. As Fionna says 'this is just the start of a journey.'

Shore Poets, May, 2008

I see Andy Phillips has mentioned my reading at the Shore Poets (Edinburgh) in his blog Tonguefire
and then links it back to my blog. Oh dear, I have since deleted that item. It seemed narcissistic to mention one's own reading! But then to hell with false modesty! What is a blog for if you can't mention your own events. But it's for others to comment.

From what I can remember of my deleted entry, I think all I said was that it was an initial disappointment not to be reading with Kate Clanchy(one of my favourite poets) - who had pulled out, but that this was swiftly rectified since Alan Gillis who read in her place, was absolutely brilliant. I was not familiar with his work before but it is exuberant, witty, fast-paced and bubbling over with energy. He told me he was influenced by Ciaran Carson. He helped run the Seamus Heaney centre up in Belfast but now lectures at Edinburgh University in the English dept, but also on the Creative Writing post grad course.
Alan and I swopped notes on Dublin - his first public reading was in the Skerries at an event including Michael Longley which Alan was recommended for by Brendan Kennelly (my former tutor and first and continuing mentor). We also swopped notes on other poets we both know. So it was nice to read with such a terrific poet and also find some connections.

A pleasure to read with Ken Cockburn too - whose workshop with Vikki Feaver I attended a few years ago on first arrival in Edinburgh. A terrific workshop too.

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