'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Robin has enjoyed his first full day at home and has spent it catching up with paperwork, manuscript that is, along with taking the boys out and dogs in the park.
Just as he was unwinding we had a call, and another foreign trip was booked, so now he has two to fit in before Christmas. He does also have a few concerts booked here in the UK so I think I'll have to get used to watching his video on You Tube to remind myself what he looks like!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Cuckoo Clocks and Microphones

Robin is now in Southampton airport with quite a few hours to spare before his flight up to Manchester.
This worries me.
When Robin had 4 hours stop over in Frankfurt a while ago he came home with a cuckoo clock. He kept getting drawn back into the shop until finally he made a purchase. You either love them or hate them, fortunately I love them. However, it can be rather off putting when trying to catch the news headlines at 10 o'clock.
Robin 'phoned me a short time ago and said he was bored with hanging around so was making some enquiries about a new microphone.
This could prove to be a very costly phase of boredom, although it should earn its keep far more than the cuckoo does.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Albeniz, Sor, Bustamente ...Hill

Today Robin performed the second and final concert of this trip. It was an excellent programme with some of my favourites, Asturias (Albeniz) and Danza Brasilera (Morel) to name just two.
He also played 'Canzone', one of his own pieces, which is beautiful and always well received, then rounded off with a lively 'Jota' to send the audience on their way with a spring in their step.
He is looking forward to setting foot on dry land tomorrow and coming home to see the family.
One thing he is currently working on is a track list for a new CD. So if anyone has any requests or suggestions, then now is the time to say.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Fog and more fog

The QM2 is surrounded by fog and has been since yesterday. The foghorn sounds every 2 minutes and is very loud, as you would expect.
Robin is feeling rather isolated as he is not receiving my e mails. There's some technical problem on board, so he gets all the messages at once, usually first thing in the morning. The rest of the day he keeps checking and then in desperation for news of family etc. he calls on the satellite 'phone. Hopefully normal service will resume shortly.
Tomorrow is the second concert, so Robin will be in high practice mode now.
All week I've been trying to keep up with his changing time zone, only to realise that tonight it's my turn. If I go back an hour, then I think we have just about caught up with each other. All I have to do is remember to change all the clocks.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Tarrega, Reis, Sabicas and more..

Robin did the first of two concerts yesterday on the QM2. The theatre was full and by all accounts it went very well.
He started with Malaguena which is a traditional piece that he arranged. It certainly wakes everyone up and is not an easy piece to start a performance with. I suppose it's a bit like selling a house, most people make their minds up in the first few moments, so you want to win the audience over as soon as you can.
This was followed by some Tarrega, Lute Pieces, a traditional piece, Reis, Iradier and then Sabicas.
The audience must have liked it, as the signing session afterwards was very busy, and the assistant helping told Robin that some guests had been in requesting his CD on weeks when he wasn't even on board!
That has got to be good.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Claude Bolling

The house seemed incredibly quiet despite children and their friends. I realised it was the lack of music. When Robin is home the house is flooded with sound. He's either practicing or listening to music, both at great volume.
So when taking a coffee break I put on one of his Cd's. I chose 'Robin Hill's Eklectica.' Amongst other things this features Claude Bolling's Concerto for Classic Guitar and Jazz Piano Trio. It seemed to fit the mood of the moment.
I haven't listened to it for some time and was delighted to be reunited. It's a fantastic piece in seven movements. I've seen Eklectica perform it on a number of occasions and it is always very well received. It amazes me that the piece isn't more popular.
Having said that, the other day we did get an e mail from a guitarist asking if we knew how to contact Monsieur Bolling.
Hopefully that indicates that others feel the same as I do.
I think I should make it my mission in life to publicise this piece.
So if you haven't heard it, you can buy it by clicking on the 'Robin Hill-solo CDs' link!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Stormy Weather...

Whilst I walked dogs and children in the park, Robin pounded the decks on board the QM2, he likes to take his usual walks whenever he can.
He has just told me that all the passengers have been informed that tomorrow will be the roughest day of the trip, (just to put them at their ease..).
I reminded Robin that not that long ago he was sailing the most feared stretch of water, where two great Oceans meet, Cape Horn. The piano was chained down, the dancers couldn't dance as it was too dangerous, so they 'phoned Robin in his room and asked him to do an extra spot.
True professional that he is, he agreed and hot footed it onto the stage, in a rather lurching manner.
He said it was a strange experience, he not only had to worry about his playing but also whether he would be thrown off his chair.
He got through it though and was no greener than any of the audience that had ventured out.
The weather remained bad for a few days and they were unable to dock at the Falkland Islands. Maybe another time.
Having reminded him of all this and the fact that he is a hardened old sea dog these days, I'm awaiting his reply..

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Footstools Galore

I have just spoken to Robin who is now relaxing, well practicing actually, on his luxury liner with a view of the Statue of Liberty from his porthole. I'm not a bit envious.
Having discussed the need for two footstools yesterday, Robin managed to trip over one of his and break it!
After talking to some of the crew he discovered there was a shop in Brooklyn which may be able to help. As he had a few hours before setting sail, he caught the shuttle boat and found the 'Guitar Center'. I was very relieved to hear it was mainly steel strung and acoustic guitars as Robin does have a habit of buying classical ones at the very top end of the range. Worryingly, he also established that the nearest place for those was in Manhattan, far too close for comfort.
The Guitar Center was a huge place and the assistant took him to a display of footstools, Robin chose one, the assistant picked it up, and the whole display collapsed! Fortunately they both thought it rather amusing.
He's back on board now and we'll talk one more time before he's out of range for the mobile so it will be e-mail only.

Monday, October 23, 2006

JFK Airport ..Soon

We were all up before sunrise and battling with the early morning traffic. Robin is now 6 hours into his flight. In years gone by, pre-children, I always travelled with him. Usually at that time it was Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo tours. It always used to make me laugh how each member of the duo coped with long haul flights. Robin would fidget, keep getting up for a walk and generally drum his fingers on the armrest. Peter Wiltschinsky was very different. He would sit down, put his lap belt on, and not move a muscle until we reached are destination, no matter how long the flight was. It was almost as if he went into standby mode!
Now Robin has devised a new strategy. He closes his eyes and runs through the entire concert in his mind imagining every note. As he always plays from memory he feels this is an excellent mental exercise.
So next time you are on a plane, check out the man sitting next to you. If he remains very still for 45 minutes with his eyes closes, then gets up, walks around, drums his fingers for a while before repeating the whole process, then you could well be sitting next to Robin.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pre Travel Denial

Today we are preparing for Robins next trip. Or should I say I am.
Robin is in the denial phase of any tour away from home. Whilst I iron shirts and count out socks ready for packing, he has decided to compose a new piece.
It's not that he doesn't like going. After all, he's happiest when out there performing, but the build up to going is always hard. Children start playing up, dogs sit by the front door hoping they can tag along, and I start thinking about how to amuse two children on half term whilst he's away!
Only Ramsbottom the cat seems indifferent, but more on him another day.
Meanwhile the composition is coming along very nicely and I'm sure that by the end of an 8 hour flight he'll have it all worked out, and I look forward to hearing it on his return.

Friday, October 20, 2006


I have been doing a mental check list of things that need to be done before Robin goes off in the early hours of Monday morning. Apart from the usual packing requirements for a week away, we do have to consider the reason he is there. Concert clothes, footstools, (one for stage, one for backstage), and strings are just the beginning. Strings are the things that seem to surprise most people. Generally, those that dabble in playing the guitar will have the same set on for many months at a time. Not so in our house. Each concert requires a new set, sometimes only the bottom three, but sometimes the whole lot.
Consequently spare sets always have to be carried. On one memorable occasion a string broke, luckily we were on holiday in Portugal and not there for a concert. However, Robin without a guitar = nightmare, so we flagged down a passing coach which happened to be full of musicians, (this is true, honestly), and although they didn't have the required string they did give us directions to the nearest music shop in which to purchase one.
Since then I have always double checked the string status before any journey..

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Classical/Rock Crossover

I have been following the debate on Jessica Duchen's Classical music blog about the crossover between classical and rock/pop music. This was sparked by the latest Sting CD featuring the music of John Dowland, and Paul McCartney's Ecce Cor Meum. I am looking forward to hearing both of these.
Robin has managed the crossover playing mainly classical, but in the past has played with Jethro Tull and Deep Purple - a long way from Rossini or De Falla!
Whilst this is a difficult, and rare transition, it is not unheard of and can work either way.
Chick Corea is an outstanding jazz musician who plays Mozart extremely well, Benny Goodman the jazz clarinet player also played Mozart.
Both Rick Wakeman and Elton John originally trained at the Royal Academy of Music before venturing into the world of rock.
One of our friends, Julian Gregory, is a long term violinist with the BBC Philharmonic who in his spare time relaxes by playing bass guitar in a progressive rock band!
Finally, the jazz guitarist John McLaughlin's Apocolypse albumn was produced by George Martin and recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra.
So it can be done and much can be gained by either discipline observing the other.
I shall be listening to Sting and McCartney very soon with great interest.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Force 10

Robin has had quite a few lessons this evening, and now they have finished, he is settling down to running through the two solo programmes he will need next week. Yes, another trip is looming. It's good to be busy though, in fact we had to turn a one week long trip down because of a previous booking. A good situation to be in!
Robin does keep getting distracted by these old reel to reel tapes. I'm not surprised, it's quite a strange experience hearing yourself play, and even sing, on some of the early tapes. It is sad that some great recordings never got released and some great pieces never got as far as being recorded in a studio.
I have my eye on a few of the songs played by Force 10, a highly creative band of quite some years ago now, and hope to do something with them at some point. They have stood the test of time very well.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Manchester Calling

It's not always glamorous at the top, travelling to far flung places and staying in luxurious surroundings. Tonight Robin set off in torrential rain to play at a corporate event in Manchester. The satellite navigation decided not to work and the traffic was so bad it took him 20 minutes to get less than a mile from home. After a few frantic 'phone calls all went quiet until a relieved Robin called to say he'd made it in time and was about to go on.
He's not home yet, but I spoke to him in the interval and it was going well. At least he'll be home tonight...hopefully.

Monday, October 16, 2006

BBC Radio 4

Today I was listening to an article on Radio 4 about live music being played in Doctors waiting rooms.
The general feeling was that it reduces stress in patients, doctors and staff. This can only be a good thing.
At the moment it is a pilot scheme in Bristol, but the results have been promising, so hopefully we will see it roll out across the country.
I know that there are benefits as Robin has been involved with a similar scheme at St.James Hospital in Leeds.
Every year or so he goes over and plays for a couple of hours, partly in the reception area where visitors and staff can stop and listen, and also on some of the long stay wards where there are some very sick people.
The response he has had from patients and staff has always been hugely positive.
At times of pressure and emotional trauma surely listening to live music played well can only help distract from your worries.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Old Masters

A friend called around today with an old reel to reel tape machine in excellent condition.
After a bit of fiddling about Robin got it going.
He has literally hundreds of old reel to reel tapes so it was an exciting time selecting one at random and putting it on. (Musicians are not known for actually labelling anything, so this was a complete unknown!)
The first thing he played was a piano piece Robin had written and recorded when he was about 18. It sounded great and he murmured something about how he could hear it as a concerto. So I imagine in the not too distant future he will be locking himself away in the studio, the sounds of a full orchestra will be drifting around the house, and he will only emerge when he feels he has done this old friend justice.
Who knows what else we will find in the Hill archives.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Cds and How to Get Them

We had an e mail today from a couple in Connecticut desperately trying to track down a Hill/Wiltschinsky CD. They had been given a copy of Latin Guitars Volume 1 and obviously enjoyed it as they wanted to get hold of a copy of volume 2.
That isn't actually as easy as it sounds, as over the years the duo have recorded for many labels, Decca, Teldec, ASV, Hyperion etc. and have more than 45 recordings in circulation.
We are currently looking into downloading, so watch this space.
In the mean time, try they have a selection of duo, and Robin's solo CD 'Virtuoso'.
If there is something specific you want and have had trouble getting it then do contact me here and I'll see what I can do.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mozart's Dog

Robin has two dogs. Both Labradors, one yellow called Milly, the other chocolate called Coco, (as in Chanel not the drink). Coco has become known as Bimps which may seem strange but I will explain why.
Mozart had an English Terrier named Miss Bimperl, shortened to Bimps which when translated means 'Spot'. Mozart obviously had a sense of humour naming his canine companion with a typically English Spot the dog.
Coco is completely chocolate in colour with no hint of a spot anywhere. She is however completely eccentric and 'dotty', hence the nickname of Bimps.
Just a little snippet of information for you.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Applause and Psychology

I have just been reading through the blog Adaptistration by Drew McManus. I frequently visit this site as it encourages interesting debate.
Two entries got my attention, one regarding audiences clapping between movements and the other was the need to utilise the skills of psychologists in promoting music.
As I have discussed previously on this site, Robin has very strong views about audiences showing their appreciation, whether it be at the end of a performance or in the middle of a piece. He is just delighted that they are there and obviously enjoying themselves and the added input will usually enhance his and the audiences enjoyment. He has even experienced the orchestra themselves joining in the applause after a particularly difficult part of one of his own concertos!
As far as using the skills of a psychologist to promote music, well that's easy for me. I am a psychologist.
I was never quite sure if I became a psychologist to cope with living with a musician, but it has been most helpful!
Initially I was in private practice but now I manage Robin as a soloist and also with his duo Hill/Wiltschinsky. I can assure you that the skills I have been trained in are proving very useful.

Update on Students

Robin enjoyed meeting his new students and seeing what level they are at. One pupil chose to play Gavotte in E major - J.S.Bach and then Capricho Arabe - Tarrega. Robin was amazed to see that the student was using the exact fingering that Robin had devised over years of studying the piece. After some discussion they discovered that the student had previously had lessons from an old pupil of Robins! It's good to know that they are still using the advice they were given some time ago!
Robin also decided that modern technology could help him demonstrate a poor left hand technique to another student. Robin had his new camera with him so took a short piece of video and played it back to the unsuspecting pupil. It worked, he could see immediately the mistakes he was making. A useful tool which I'm sure Robin will use again.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Leeds University

Today Robin has gone over to Leeds university to start this semesters lessons. Robin was approached last year to take over from Graham Wade providing one to one lessons on the performance course. He really enjoyed having more advanced students, although ability was variable. It will be interesting to see how this years students will get on. He's a hard task master so they had better start practicing their right and left hand exercises.
He has to fit in a certain number of lessons per pupil over each semester. This could prove tricky as he has many overseas trips coming up. Still, it will give them all time to get to grips with the pieces.
They are very lucky students as there is nothing like being able to talk things over with someone who is actually out there doing it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Superior Man

I have just been reading Jessica Duchen's Classical music blog and she is talking about the torment of proof reading the final copy of her book. This must be hard as it is the last chance to make any alterations.
In 1999 Robin wrote 'The Guitar Gymnasium' which is published by Mel Bay. Whilst the book is aimed at guitarists, in that there are many studies and exercises, throughout the text he has added many quotes and thoughts that he has found helpful over the years as a performer. These can be applied not only to musicians but I feel many people could gain some comfort from them in all walks of life.
One of my favourites is, 'The superior man is distressed by his want of ability.' Confucius 551-479 BC.
The artist Vincent Van Gogh has proved his place in history, even if it wasn't in his own life time. This is what he wrote in a letter to his brother Theo:
'It constantly remains a source of disappointment to me that my drawings are not yet what I want them to be, the difficulties are indeed numerous and great, and cannot be overcome at once. To make progress is a kind of miner's work; it doesn't advance as quickly as one would like, and others also expect, but as one stands before such a task, the basic necessities are patience and faithfulness. In fact, I do not think much about the difficulties, because if one thought of then too much one would get stunned or disturbed.' Vincent Van Gogh.
I hope that Jessica can gain some comfort from these quotes, she is after all, not alone in her torment.

Suitcase unscathed

The troublesome case has now been returned to us in one piece and none the worse for its travels.
It's a huge relief as we can now charge various electrical equipment and get on with preparing for the next concert.
I've now seen some photographs of the theatre on board QM2 and it looks great. Hard to imagine a venue of that size on the high seas!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Suitcase, what suitcase?

Two days later and still no sign of the wayward case. It is now getting very annoying as the chargers for mobile phone, ipod and camera are inside it along with music, footstools and nail kit.
Not to mention that all concert clothes do need to be washed before his next performance on Saturday...
Despite the fact that Robin was returning from New York on a direct flight to Manchester the case has spent a night in Amsterdam. We have been assured that it is finally back in the UK and should get it today.
We'll see.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Homeward Bound

After a long wait in JFK airport and then an overnight flight Robin arrived back in Manchester.
Unfortunately his luggage didn't and we hope to be reunited with it tomorrow. In all the years of travelling it is only the second time this has happened, which I suppose isn't that bad, just highly inconvenient at the time. It would have been another story altogether if had been his guitar!
It was a successful trip, not only the concerts, but Robin met some interesting people and may even have made a few contacts for future work. That can only be a good thing.
For now though he's going to relax for the evening. That's after he's finished his practice of course!