Eurovision 2017: EBU issues statement regarding Eurovision 2017 

The EBU has done today what the EBU has to do frequently and spoken up about how arrangements are proceeding for next years Eurovision Song Contest. 
In short, yesterday there was going to be an announcement about where in Ukraine Eurovision 2017 was going to be. But at the last minute that announcement was postponed. Today, Eurovision Overlord Jon Ola Sand took time out to explain why that postponement had to happen.

The message? We need to make sure that all the arrangements are just so. There’s no point in rushing this. And, don’t worry all will be fine.

The fact the EBU even had to issue the statement says something a little dark about the Contest I love so very much.

I see lots of people on The Social Media getting all het-up about the apparent ineptitude of producers to make arrangements. Buried deep in that sneering indignance is a deluded sense of entitlement on the part of fans. The hidden message is that fans think they can (and should be allowed to) do better.

The reality is that this television programme and the logistics it demands are second nature only to one broadcaster and that’s Sweden’s SVT. The scale, cost and impact of the event both in a host city and on screen makes the programme a significant event to mount – there’s only twelve months to make that happen, the budget is huge and the pay-off doesn’t always equal the investment.

That the EBU felt they needed to issue an explanation only serves to highlight increasingly vocal minority who reckon (based on little practical experience of what’s actually involved) they could do better. 

Eurovision’s foundations were rooted in a desire to showcase the technical achievements of a fledgling broadcast network. Eurovision is so successful now that it’s tremendous impact and reach are taken for granted by some of its most passionate fans who appear to never be satisfied.

The reality is that the event will happen. Tickets will go on sale. Hotel rooms will be available. If they’re not, you could always just watch it on TV.  There’s a novel idea. 

Read the EBU’s statement regarding the location of Eurovision 2017 here.  

BBC Proms 2016 / 11: Walküre and Tippett’s Child of our Time

Writing about Wagner or choral works are a bit of a nightmare.
You need to know the works inside out so you can reference the various signposts in what you’re writing about. If there aren’t any signposts then everything just presents itself as a bit of an amorphous blob.

Fortunately, there is another way to talk about tonight’s Prom: by using the emotions the music triggered in me. And at various those emotions were unexpected, sometimes indescribable, but all of them exquisite. 

The final scene of Die Walküre, the first half of tonight’s Prom felt familiar, reassuring and still gratifyingly rich. A lot of that is down to the tremendous introduction I had to the work in Budapest earlier this year. A special time.

Tonight’s performance of the last scene of Die Walküre by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales under Mark Wigglesworth gave me the chance not only to revisit happy memories but also to go deeper with the music. 

And as I did so, I overlooked the promised conclusion implicit in Wagner’s writing: that much-needed nearly understated climax that creeps up on you unexpected and gives you the release you hadn’t realised I needed. 

Wagner’s music is now fast becoming a drug. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it.

Tippett’s The Child of Our Time was a moving experience. There was a bleakness to his writing – a surprising lushness to his scoring too. I expected him to be more like Britten. Now I’ve had an introduction to Tippett’s seminal work, I’m now wishing Britten had had the balls to be more daring in his writing. My childhood hero now seems a little tame in comparison. 

My overwhelming impression of the work is how unexpectedly timely it felt. There is a realism to it which is neither over-indulgent nor superficial. 

Its origins – inspired by a pre-WW2 shooting of a Naxi diplomat by a Jew – might at first seem dated. But the universal messages – a grim struggle between the horrors of reality and a vague sense of hope – still resonate today. It’s music which doesn’t have the answers, but explains reality in such a way you can reconcile yourself with it. At least that’s how I heard. And I was grateful for it too.

That experience of hearing it for the first time makes Child of Our Time an incredibly important composition for me as a listener. And judging by the warm prolonged applause in the hall tonight, a lot of that was down to the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales.

Gustavo Dudamel / Intelligent Life Profile / Clemency Burton-Hill

Clemency Burton-Hill has profiled conductor Gustavo Dudamel in Intelligent Life, and tackles the ‘too good to be true’ view some cynical commentators rely upon when talking about him. 

To quotes stand out in the piece, the first from Dudamel’s LA Philharmonic boss Deborah Borda:

He is real. I told you: once in a hundred years. It’s real, and people can’t believe it’s real … For some reason, it’s very difficult, especially in classical music, for people to accept a positive story.

The second from Simon Rattle helps contextualise Dudamel’s career in a larger narrative and provides a much-sought after bone for the cynics to gnaw on:

He will be one of the most important musicians of our time, without any doubt … Important musician, as opposed to conductor. Another level. He absolutely has that in there…He can transmit anything that he wants. So now it is for him to have more and more sophisticated and powerful and rounded and profound ideas to transmit, because immediately he will find a physical way of doing that…But he desperately needs to go and read some books and study harmony and structure again, not just with his instinct, but with his intellect.”

Has he told Dudamel this? “Look, I’ve told him a lot.” Rattle sounds like a father, loving but resigned. “And he’s very good at not quite listening. He hears what he wants to hear.”

After the Whirlwind by Clemency Burton-Hill is available on the Intelligent Life website.

Proposals to offer alternative services on floating ‘Southberg’ during ‘Festival Wing’ build


The Southbank Centre’s plans to transform the Hayward Gallery, Queen Elizabeth Hall, and Purcell Rooms have been given a little more impetus with a proposal that for the three years the ‘Festival Wing’ is being built, a temporary floating river site could be used to house impacted services. Oddly however, the Southbank are saying it doesn’t form part of their plans.

It’s an exciting prospect, reminiscent of the many additions made to London in the run up to 2012. That said, the thought of a concert on a floating platform does put me in mind of the Academy of Ancient Music playing Handel’s Water Music up the Thames during the rainy Jubilee Pageant. I’ll probably visit when the river isn’t too rough and the sky is blue.


BBC Proms 2012: The point of a Beethoven cycle

Today sees Daniel Barenboim begin his Beethoven cycle at the BBC Proms.

I’ve written a blog post about it – it’s a little long, but well worth a read (obviously). If you’ve not got time to read it, then the very least you should do is watch this flashmob version of the Ode to Joy from Beethoven 9 published on the interweb a few weeks ago. A good pal recommended it on the basis that it was a little bit emotional. Having watched it, I concur.

In listening to all of Beethoven’s symphonies, I think this is the point we all look forward to. This is the Christmas Day (or the Christmas Eve, depending on which you think is the better of the two) of Beethoven’s works. The pinnacle of his writing. Inclusive, rousing and deeply satisfying.