15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition gets underway in London

The first stage on the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition – six-weeks of international auditions – got underway in London today with two UK pianists (BBC Young Musician of the Year 2014 Martin Bartlett, and Yuanfan Yang) and Russian pianist Alexander Panifilov.

The remaining London auditions at St Paul’s School in London SW13 run until Friday 6 January. The sessions are open to the public; no ticket required. Auditions run from 2.00-9.15pm. Check the Cliburn website for the running order.

After London, the audition jury travel to Hanover (8-11 January), Budapest (13-15 January), Moscow (18-20 January), Seoul (23-24 January), New York (8-12 February), concluding their tour in the competition’s spiritual home Fort Worth (15-18 February).

From 146 auditioned, thirty will perform a 45-minute recital including a commissioned work by Marc Andre Hamelin in the preliminary round. Twenty performers will go through to the quarter-final second round. Twelve competitors will be selected for the semi-final round, each performing a 60-minute recital and a Mozart piano concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra.

For those who progress through the gruelling selection process, the resulting six finalists play another concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony, plus a chamber work with the Brentano String Quartet. The winner gets $50,000, three years of Career Management including valuable mentoring and marketing support for the duration.

The competition is named after the first winner of the Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in 1958. Cliburn’s landmark win resulted in a ticker-tape parade in his home country, catapulted the musician to ‘unheard of stardom for a classical music performer‘, and saw the man invited to perform at the White House by Ronald Reagan.

Medici.TV are live-streaming the competition from the preliminary round starting on 25 May 2017. The final round runs from 7-10 June 2017. There will be a tantalising 110 hours of content available come the final result.

4/365 Judgy Trainers

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First day back. Not so much a petulant child, more sensible adult with an exquisite remove. At least that was the image I had of myself throughout the day as I lightly padded my way through my contracted hours in my especially supportive trainers.

I always feel a little guilty about wearing my trainers if I’m not running. It’s as though they’re crying out when I put them on in the morning. “Your don’t seem to be wearing your stupid dry-fit running gear. Why is that? You’re not using us just for walking, are you? Loser.”

I have an excuse. Rather, I have good reason. My back is killing me. Lower back. Shooting, burning pains. I can’t bend down without having to plan out each individual move in my head first. I make a strategic assessment about the value of the thing I’m bending down to reach for. If it’s not important enough, its overlooked. The cats haven’t had any attention for days.

So, I take myself off to the Marvellous Debbie in Forest Hill. Before becoming an expert Shiatsu therapist, Debbie was a dresser for a variety of West End shows back in the day when Cats was at its height and Phantom was giving the impression that Lloyd-Webber was unstoppable. We’ve known each other for as long as me and The Husband have. She is a miracle worker.

While she has me face down on the floor, groaning and wincing, we talk about Elaine Paige and her dog, Marti Pellow’s questionable contribution to the semi-staged performance of Benny, Bjorn and Rice’s Chess, and the most recent episode of Sherlock.

When she’s finished prodding and poking, discussing the various exercises I need to do in order to maintain my now corrected posture. “You have a flabby core,” she says, “you need to pay attention to it.”

She confirms that running should be forgotten about while I pay more attention to planking. “Start with the easy stuff,” she says, resting her body on the floor on her elbows, “Plank for a minute. After a few days increase it to two minutes.” God help me. We go through the basics of standing, commuting, and walking before I hand over my £45 and leave. Desperate to put things into practise immediately, I get to the bus stop convinced I’ve spent the previous ten minutes walking like a baboon.

Back home, post-bath and mid-wine I’m feeling toasty. Tomorrow can wait. And I know that when my core says so, running will be something I’ll happily return to. In the meantime however, I’ll be avoiding those judgemental trainers of mine.

This year I’m returning to my blogging roots and writing a daily journal.

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3/365 If I were a kept man

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When I’m on leave from the day job I often end up thinking that I’d quite like to be one of those husbands whose spouse earns so much money that I’d end up staying at home pottering – a mid-morning coffee in front of the TV, a trip to the community library, and a spot of light cleaning in the afternoon. Such seemingly dull pursuits can be unexpected sources of pleasure (read Paul Dolan’s brilliant Happiness By Design for a steer). And when I’m finding pleasure in the banal then that’s an illustration of the extent to which I’ve unwound from my everyday contractual obligations.

Sometimes I’ll ponder what the conversation between me and my imaginary spouse would have been to have secured the role of Kept Man.

In one scenario I’ll imagine us having a grown-up conversation early on in our relationship where he reveals the extent of his money earning potential, I say, “There’s really no point in me working, is there?”, and he agrees. I’ll be found having cocktails with girlfriends asking me, “But don’t you get bored?” and I’ll say, “No, really. I don’t. What good is a Bachelor of Arts in Music and History anyway?”

Other times I’ll imagine us having a massive argument, him blurting out in a moment of guilt, “Don’t worry. I’ll support both of us while you write your book.” I’ll wipe a tear away, nod, smile stoically, and acknowledge his generosity. I never write the book, instead maintaining a daily ritual of visits to the home office where the first draft never gets started.

In another scenario I imagine me having deceived my husband into thinking that I’ve been signed off work for an extended period of time when I have instead been fired. Time passes. Both of us get accustomed to their being only one bread winner. Roles get redefined. Everyone lives happily ever after.

Today as part of my last Christmas holiday hurrah, I took myself off to Lewisham Shopping Centre to buy the neccessary ingredients for my first Itsu Recipe Book excursion. Ingredients are pricey, and preparation is more chemistry than actual cooking. But, the flavours are wild and the end product much cleaner on the palette than British cuisine. Tomorrow’s lunch is Tuna and Salmon Tartare.

These are the points in the holiday I hate. It’s not the returning to work which grates – I get that I have to work. Rather its that I’ve reached my optimum state of mind when I’ve been on leave, even if I haven’t been away anywhere. It’s as though my mind, now fine-tuned, can operate at the best it can.

From here I can see the banal everyday-ness threatening my hard-earned renewed state of mind. I want to protect it at all costs. I fear old habits creeping in to day-to-day life and creating mayhem, like a petulant teenager crashing home, discarding his school uniform all over the floor, before sulking in the corner of his room.

This year I’m returning to my blogging roots and writing a daily journal.

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2/365 Because being right is what is important

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Logged on to Facebook this evening. First time since I deactivated my account on New Year’s Eve.

The first picture I saw triggered a familiar reaction. A bitter taste of vindication followed. It was as though the fuse had been lit on a bomb buried deep inside me. I was frantically trying to blow out the fuse forgetting that all I was really doing was hastening the impending blast.

That’s what social media does. Regardless of intent the seemingly innocent picture can provoke all sorts of emotional responses in the recipient. Don’t anyone deny it. We’re all made the same way. Never has the sight of two smiling people generated quite so much bile.

I had logged back in to retrieve the contact details of the people who had messaged me with their email and postal addresses following my announcement about abandoning the platform.

I had worried a few days ago that my announcement might have looked like I was being needy. I’d checked with our New Year Pals during the third glass of champagne and later explained how it had seemed like the right thing to do – proper digital etiquette to explain your thinking. Everyone understood. I was relieved.

Now I read the messages some people had sent and felt a vague sense of panic. I was touched about people sharing their details. They had ‘opted in’ (to use cold community management terminology), but what would I say to them in a one-to-one message? I didn’t really feel like I knew enough about them to strike up private conversation. Would these new highly-valued relationships falter? Would I end up crawling back to the platform everyone else happily uses without an issue when I realised I couldn’t do without it? Has Facebook given the illusion of close personal contact? And if it has, what are the implications for a generation of people?

Returning to FB this evening, albeit temporarily, felt odd. A bit like how I imagine returning to an ex’s on a cold weekday afternoon to retrieve your belongings after a bitter break-up. You’re there to bag up what’s yours. The longer you hang around, the more things you see that make you realise it was the right decision to leave in the first place.

What I learn during one brief visit back to the Facebook bubble is that retrieving people’s email addresses automatically isn’t as straightforward as you’d think. It seems that at best you can retrieve people’s Facebook email addresses, but anything else is a whole lot more difficult. Facebook has in effect created whole networks of people hidden by the digital equivalent of British Telecom’s ‘Ex-Directory’.

It also turns out that that last night’s feline dirty protest wasn’t the only one mounted during our New Year break. Communication from our next door neighbour late last night revealed that she too had discovered a similar deposit, only she had discovered it with her hands not her nose. Access to the cat-flap has now been reinstated.

This year I’m returning to my blogging roots and writing a daily journal.

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1/365: Cats shit outside the box

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Returning from our New Year celebrations on the south coast earlier this evening, we were greeted by a dirty protest inside our front door.

Encouraging our cats to use a brand new litter tray turns out to have failed. Our two black furry blobs seem unimpressed by the closed-off backdoor cat flap (so the local un-neutered tomcat can’t gain access and spray everywhere), choosing instead to communicate their disdain with two pungent deposits.

It appears that the choice we face is stark: it’s either piss from a nearby unwelcome cat or shit from our own disgruntled moggies in response to an unresponsive cat-flap.

An inauspicious start to the year.

This year I’m returning to my blogging roots and writing a daily journal.

Sign up for email updates below, or follow @ThoroughlyGood for weekly summaries.