Be in a symphony

Take a wander around the Southbank Sinfonia whilst they play Beethoven 3 on 27 March. Also, post-concert party. Bethnal Green. See you there.

I normally balk at writing-up press alerts, a joyless process that necessitates deciphering what the message is, rewording it (to pass it off as your own), or coming up with a new angle entirely.

When you’re not deriving money from your art resentment isn’t far below the surface.

The decision to write up a PR’s email is often decided upon based on other factors. It’s worth sharing those ideas here. You know, in the spirit of full transparency.

  1. Do I like the brand?
  2. Do I like their print?
  3. Do I like the person sending the email?
  4. Do I like the idea?
  5. Is there an idea?
  6. Are they trying hard?
  7. Have they committed a massive howler?
  8. Do I want them to be better?
  9. Is there something unusual and/or engaging about what they’re sharing?
  10. Does the event include pianist Eric Lu?
  11. Do I want to attend the event?

In the case of the Southbank Sinfonia’s gig on 27th March in Bethnal Green, I am delighted to announce that seven of the ten criteria have been met. Easily.

The Sound Within (part of their deftly tagged #ConcertLab season) captures the spirit and joy of the Philharmonia’s Virtual Orchestra installation I visited in Bedford last year.

Only here, Southbank Sinfonia ventures north to the Oval Space (where I interviewed Anna Meredith for a podcast) in Bethnal Green and gives audience members the chance to wander around the orchestra as they doing their playing thing. There’s even a party at the end of it.

It’s basically like taking a trip down Youth Orchestra Lane.

The Academy of Ancient Music & the Jubilee Pageant

A great film has bubbled up on YouTube over the past few days, proving that things like the recent Jubilee Pageant in London still has the opportunity to delight over a week after the actual event.

The Academy of Ancient Music have produced a touchingly straightforward and full twelve minute record of their big moment on the Thames, laying bare the true glamour any ensemble has to grapple with when fulfilling a brief involving live music, a moving barge and the very high risk of inclement weather.

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Finishing Touches

A Lick of Paint

Workmen paint the railings at the recently refurbished Greenwich Boat Pier. An extraordinary year for London is already underway, and its about to get just a little bit more exciting.

The Olympic Games is not an event I especially look forward to. I can’t remember ever having sat through an entire opening (or closing) ceremony and I certainly don’t recall making a date to watch any particular sporting event.

But with the Torch Relay now making its way across the way and the Games fast approaching, it’s difficult to not to get swept along by the most modest of observations. Even as simple as seeing railings being painted and I feel a sense of inclusion in an event on paper I’m not really that interested in.

But, London has been transformed. Buildings have sprung up over the past year, train stations refurbished, pathways cleaned up and surfaces reapplied. Where I live – Lewisham – new homes are almost complete. Previously dead and unloved areas of the capital have been rejuvenated, in a short amount of time. It is impossible to ignore such things and not to tie them in to a series of events we’ll probably none of us see in our lifetimes again.

This weekend, the Diamond Jubilee kicks off. Weeks later the Olympic Games. Weeks after that the Paralympic Games. Straddling all of that is a Cultural Festival and amid that is the BBC Proms.

From a writing perspective, that’s a dizzying array of multiple narrative arcs. Or if you want the musical equivalent, what real life might be if we were to transpose one of J.S Bach’s finest fugues.

I’m on Greenwich Pier this morning because for the first time in six months, I’ve been able to cycle into work. After the difficulties I suffered with my bike lock jamming, then getting the bike removed from London Bridge train station and then having to get a new bike lock, I wanted to indulge myself on the first day ‘back’.

My bike remains reliable. Admittedly, the frame is possibly the only element which hasn’t been replaced. Purchased five days after I started at the BBC, three days after the London bombs and four after the announcement that London had secured the Olmypic Games for 2012, it represents a period of time which has raced by. Now we’re on the brink of momentous times, that bike feels like it should be integral to my own experiences over the coming months.

It’s going on one massive journey. Just like the rest of us. And even the grumpiest, most cynical of individuals can’t fail but to be carried along.

London 2012 Goodie Bag: Hither Green Station Coffee Stop

I do love my coffee. I also have a tendency to jump at any opportunity to indulge. The justification ‘I deserve it!’ is so much a part of my internal dialogue, I barely hear it now.

On my journeys into work (mostly done around 8ish am), I’ll capitalise on my enthusiasm for the day by charging my body with caffeine.

I’ve already had one (a cup of strong instant) coffee at home, but stopping to purchase one not only completes the image of the hard-trodden London commuter I like to project, but also feeds my addictive personality. There is no guilt associated with caffeine: it’s OK to have another one.

There’s another benefit to be had when I buy coffee at Hither Green Station. The barista is terribly friendly. He’s a regular sort. A reliable individual. He’s been working there for a few years now and knows exactly what my order is whenever I stand at the counter.

Hither Green Station Coffee Stop

I don’t buy coffee every morning. Sometimes I’m running late. I know I can order and take delivery of my ‘Americano with a splash of milk and a sugar’ within the space of a minute if pushed, but sometimes it seems a little rude to put my coffee-serving pal under such pressure on a regular basis. So, sometimes I’ll skip the coffee and step onto the train, wondering whether he’s clocked that he’s missed custom for that day.

Other days – if I’m feeling daring – I’ll build buying a coffee into my hastily redrawn schedule. If there’s a train following just a few minutes after the one I should get in order to get into work on time, then I figure the justification ‘I needed to get a coffee’ is acceptable.

There aren’t many businesses I come into contact with is daily basis which prompt me to speak so warmly. But given that so many people are coming to London for the Olympics this year, I figure this is one very local thing which absolutely needs trumpeting.