Monday, 22 August 2016

Coming home ... and I'm feeling good

This was my view yesterday morning, 12 hours after I left the Great British Music Camp. Probably one of the best weeks of my life.

After too many months without touching a saxophone (cancer will have that effect), it was SO good to get back at it.

Coming home feels good - no tent or air bed in sight - but there's so much to miss.

The only question now is - What next?

Sunday, 14 August 2016

My first night under canvas for several years

I have a tiny home for the next week. First night passed in a dream.

Music by day will make up for the canvas (although it's not canvas, of course).

Location:Clonter Theatre

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Are you a thought leader?

I wouldn't consider myself a thought leader, but after reading Mindy Gibbins-Klein's 24 Carat Bold, I will definitely aim to be more courageous.

In my head, experts are defined by others - there are several 'experts' whose claims have been debunked over the years. I can't imagine why anyone would ever think of me as an expert in anything, but I do think I can make myself more credible.

As with most business books, you take the nuggets that work for you and there are some great ones. It's all about engagement and that starts with you. How can you expect people to engage with your own ideas if you're not engaging with others'?

I'm not putting this one away on my bookshelf - it needs another read to glean more nuggets.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Never say never

Just a simple family group.

Only this is far from simple. Our family has been split for many years - so many years ago that no-one can really remember why. Turns out they can be in the same place at the same time and get on.

People even laughed.

There were even friendly debates about who had been at which family gathering 30 or 40 years ago.

So never - never - say never. If enough people want something to happen, it can happen.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A Hymn to opportunity

Urban Hymn is due for its UK release on 30 September and you should see it if you've been fortunate enough to grow up in a family, or ever been given an opportunity or ever met someone you want to help, or if you have a human bone in your body.

This is a film to move you. It moved me to want to support more initiatives like Billy Bragg's Jail Guitar Doors, which provides one of the pivotal moments for two of the trio of great women at the heart of this film.

Beginning with TV footage of the looting from the summer 2011 riots on the streets of the UK, the film has a lot more to say about some of the putative stories behind those images.

There are some deeply memorable moments around music in Urban Hymn, particularly some of the early juxtaposition between Jamie (Letitia Wright) singing through a cloud of smoke and care worker Kate (Shirley Henderson) as part of a community choir. Another clash comes with tomb stones - one to Jamie's mother and one to Kate's son. And a third graveyard scene which is just heart-breaking.

As she prepares to sing the final song in the film (and the music throughout is beautifully used to fill in some of the gaps in the story), Jamie explains her song is about opportunities, and why you should always take them. The trouble is, I guess, that sometimes people take the wrong opportunities presented to them.

Which brings us inevitably to Jamie's best friend, Leanne (Isabella Laughland). Best friend but certainly worse influence. For very, very understandable reasons. Laughland is definitely one to watch. Her portrayal of Leanne's descent as Jamie moves on up is physical and gut-wrenching. There is not one of us who could take that constant stream of rejections without it having an effect, although explaining something doesn't mean you can excuse it.

The two most shocking moments of violence in Urban Hymn are followed by characters whispering in Jamie's ear - "You'd better be good" and "Make her proud". We all have angels and devils on our shoulders and sometimes they both have the right message.

Director Michael Caton-Jones (Memphis Belle) and writer Nick Moorcroft (St Trinians 1&2) excelled themselves and this went straight to the top of my list of 2016 films. A lot of that's for the broad spectrum of music and how it's used. About the music, Caton-Jones sums it up: "The transcendental power of music and how it can transport you to somewhere else, how it can cheer you up when you’re sad, how it can remind you of something, is possibly the overall theme of this film. That power of music is something that I feel very strongly about. I kind of wanted to make almost a musical but not one where people break into song all the time, but where the singing was actually an integral part of the story."

Sunday, 31 July 2016

'Hope and Glory' by Stuart Maconie

It's taken me longer than normal to read this, but I've got there in the end. Part of the reason for the lengthy read is that I didn't actually want to stop reading it at all.

Maconie's writing style is deeply engaging and every chapter contains far more than just 'information' about one particular date, despite that being the premise of the book. I learned more about events I've either heard about or lived through than I expected.

Several of the days coincided with relevant anniversaries as I read. Yesterday was 50 years since THAT football match. There was much discussion in the first chapter about votes for women, which I was reading when the nation decided to go for Brexit. At least I had my cross on a bit of paper, even if was - once more - ignored. I was reading the chapter about the opening day of the Somme on the centenary of 1 July 1916 and it was a poignant reminder of the tragic loss of life in that whole war and that day in particular. It's a day we should never forget.

This is just one of the tomes Maconie has crafted so the only decision now is which one next.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Jazz: not just a four letter word

Thanks to a good friend, I now have a cushion that says it all.

I discovered this moveable feast called jazz in 1979 and there's no looking back.

Thanks, Robert, for this visual reminder of an auditory life. I've had years when I've barely played a note and some when I've not listened to much. That makes me sad. Never again will I allow my tastes and passions to be subdued.