'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

Sunday, December 31, 2006

New Year's Eve

Whether you are already nursing a hangover, or about to go out and enjoy your evening, we wish you a very pleasant time.
All at Hillhouse would like to say, 'Have a happy and healthy 2007'!
Thank you all for reading about the 'Life of a musician - Robin Hill' in 2006, keep logging in over the next year as we have lots of exciting things coming up..

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Barrios and his Headress

Today I was reading Alex Ross:The Rest is Noise, and he was referring to a picture of Messiaen with a bird on his head. This wasn't actually the case but was rather amusing.
It reminded me of the guitarist Agustin Pio Barrios Mangore, who was born in Paraguay in 1885.
He appeared to be something of a character as in 1932 he began to call himself 'Nitsuga Mangore - the Paganini of the guitar'. Nitsuga is Agustin spelt backwards and Mangore was a legendary Guarani chieftain. He also promoted himself and performed concerts in full Indian dress.
Robin Hill - Yorkshire, Peter Wiltschinsky - Yorkshire/Ukraine, there must be something in their backgrounds that I can come up with and produce some outlandish costumes. I'm off to find my sewing box..

Friday, December 29, 2006

Robin Hill and his Eclectic iPod

I often see people wearing headphones as they are going about their day and wonder what they are listening to. It's easy to make assumptions based on appearance but I'm sure they are not always correct.
The other day we had some friends round for a meal, so put the iPod on party shuffle and left it to do it's thing whilst we relaxed and enjoyed ourselves.
Our guests were quite surprised at the variety of sounds filling the room.
As a classical musician you would expect Mozart, Bach and Beethoven, as a guitarist, they weren't surprised to hear Pepe Romero and Paco De Lucia, they weren't even too shocked at The Beatles, Pat Metheny or Ravi Shankar, (Robin does own a sitar and there are plans to do some recording with it at some point in the future).
They were most surprised by Steely Dan, Shakira, Billy Cobham and Black Eyed Peas. I don't know why really. As I've said before it is essential for musicians to listen to all styles of music to give a more rounded performance. Classical musicians particularly are often required to play in many different styles, so it can only help to be truly eclectic.
Anyway, I must go and ask him to turn down the Arctic Monkeys a bit...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Testing, Testing

It's always a strange time, post Christmas and pre New Year. Technically I should be back into the swing of things. In reality, apart from checking up on travel immunisations for Robin, I haven't done a great deal. Unless you can include a family game of Disney Trivial Pursuit.
Robin however, is starting to prepare for some solo concerts, that are coming up at the beginning of January. He's also still sorting out this new recording equipment and really wants to get stuck into that before he's whisked away on various trips.
I think he must be making some progress as there are some very strange noises coming from the music room. Either he has decided to re-train as the next Pavarotti, or he is testing some integral part of the equipment.
It's very frustrating for him as all he really wants to do is play! I'm sure once it's up and running he'll be very pleased as he'll be in total control of the recording sessions, which as I said the other day, removes a lot of pressure.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Music with Matt Munro

Last night we watched a documentary on Matt Munro. He had an incredible voice and after a slow start to his career evntually found fame and fortune after moving to the USA. On his return to the UK he was then given the acknowledgement that he deserved, but it makes you wonder why the British can't appreciate their own home grown musicians without a struggle.
This all brought back many memories for Robin. In the late 70's and early 80's he did a lot of session work, both on classical and electric guitar, and consequently played with many big names.
At the time Robin was listening to bands like 'Tower of Power', and performing in his own band 'Force Ten', (more on them another time), as well as his classical concerts which were beginning to take off.
Even though he didn't naturally listen to the 'crooner' style of singing, he could certainly appreciate it.
During this period he worked many times with Matt Monro, usually for week long stints at various venues around the country. He therefore played songs such as 'Portrait of My Love', 'My Kind of Girl', 'From Russia With Love', and 'Born Free'.
Listening to these tracks reminded Robin of many of these shows. One memorable occasion Robin trapped one of his fingers on the left hand adjusting a stool seconds before the gig started, but despite the throbbing digit, he made it through the performance.
Matt Monro was an entertainer in every aspect of his shows which made it a pleasure for any of the band members to work with him.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day with The Beatles

We are huge fans of The Beatles in this house and the children have grown up listening to all their recordings. Son number one's favourite track is 'Rocky Racoon', whilst son number two's is 'Hello Goodbye'. In fact Hill/Wiltschinsky have arranged and recorded many Beatles tracks over the years, enough to produce 4 CDs!
So it was with some trepidation that I gave Robin a copy of 'Love' for Christmas. I wasn't sure if he would like the original recordings being altered.
Today we sat down to listen for the first time.
What a fantastic job George and Giles Martin have done. I knew we were going to love it as soon as the first track played.
It was 'Because' and the vocals alone remained from the original multi-track recording. It is beautiful in its simplicity with fantastic harmonies. There aren't many vocalists that could get away with all other instruments being removed and the piece still sounding so fresh. The only other thing heard on this track is some distant birdsong captured on the original recording which just adds to the whole feel.
From that point on I knew the whole project had been safe in George Martin's hands.
The rest of the day has seen Robin fiddling with his recording equipment and gradually getting the studio ready for his next CD. More on that as it develops.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

We at Hillhouse would like to take a moment to thank all the growing band of readers around the world for their interest and to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.
As son number one only went to sleep at 4.30am and woke me again at 5.30am I am feeling slightly delicate this morning.
Robin however slept through the whole thing, as only fathers can, and is beautifully refreshed!
So thank you once again for your support, have a great day, whether it's just starting or nearly over, and keep logging in as there's lots more to report.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Eve and 'Silent Night'

Busy day in Hillhouse with plenty of secret comings and goings. Children are beside themselves with excitement and I may need to sedate them to get them off to bed tonight. (Only joking, it's the one night of the year that they force themselves to go to sleep without any struggle..)
No rest for Robin though, he's still putting in a couple of hours of practice, we'd all be too shocked if he didn't.
I'm just preparing to watch the annual service from King's College Cambridge which is always a good way to unwind from the pre Christmas chaos.
Just a little snippet of information for you. The carol 'Silent Night' was first played in 1818, an eventful evening as the church organ broke, and it had to be played on guitar. You see, you can always rely on guitarists.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

New iPod and Downloads Galore

Yesterday Robin went out to buy my Christmas present and came home with an new iPod. He did also have some secret packages that were spirited away to an unknown location, (well a cupboard in the music room actually, but I promise I won't look.)
Since the purchase of the iPod, I have been inundated with technical information and its amazing capabilities, most of which I'm afraid I can't remember.
I do know that all day we have been unable to attract Robins attention as he has been wearing his noise reduction headphones and listening to his freshly downloaded tracks. I have tried the headphones and they are great. I often wear them around the house, not actually plugged into anything but they are fantastic at filtering out children, doorbell and telephone!
I must say the new toy is incredible and has a huge capacity for tracks, videos, photographs and pretty much anything. The main attraction for Robin was that the battery lasts an amazing 20 hours, so it's ideal for all the long haul flights he does. As he has plenty of those coming up next year, at least he can while away the time listening to just about anything he wants.
I don't think he has realised yet that all the invoices for the tracks are being sent to my computer so I know exactly how many he's been purchasing.....
Those packages in the cupboard better be good, but at least I inherit the old iPod.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Recording Companies

There has been a lot of debate recently about the role of record companies and how the situation is rapidly changing.
Hill/Wiltschinsky have recorded with many major labels, Teldec, ASV and Hyperion to name just a few.
There is nothing quite as exciting for an artist as coming across their latest recording in Tower records New York!
These contracts are harder to come by now as labels try to adjust to modern technology.
We have been recording in our own studio for some time which has many advantages. You can go over a piece as often as you like until you are happy with it, not having to worry about engineers etc.
I recently read an interview with Pepe Romero who was saying that he was about to undertake some recording in his own living room. (His children are obviously grown up and he can't have two dogs and a cat..)
He is looking forward to 'intimate music making' for the reasons I have given.
Problems do occur though. When we got the musicians together to rehearse for 'Robin Hill's Eklectica' we couldn't get the double bass up the winding attic stairs and didn't even attempt the piano!
This CD was therefore recorded in a studio, as will any orchestral pieces, unless of course you have an extremely large lounge..
I was in fact contacted the other day by a company asking me to review their product. Whilst I haven't tried them out myself their website looks interesting for those of you wanting a complete studio on your PC, they are called Fleximusic and have a few different packages available.
We, however, are sorted out in that department, and all we need is Robin to stay here long enough to record his next CD.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Flamenco Guitars...

Robin was going out this morning and as he left the house his passing comment was, 'Listen out for the doorbell as I'm expecting two guitars.' !!!!
He beat a hasty retreat before I could ask any questions.
The said guitars arrived, both Flamenco, one a Conde Hermanos and the other a Ramirez.
By this time Robin was home, and eagerly fought his way through the packaging adding, 'They asked me to try them out.'
Oh yes....
Well, some time, and many rasgueados later he decided they weren't the ones for him.
They were both beautiful instruments though, particularly the Ramirez which had traditional wooden peg heads. But they have to feel right to the player. We once had a family holiday in Spain and spent a day in Seville, not looking at the sights,(which incidentally are fantastic), but in a guitar makers shop trying out various instruments. Despite the intense heat outside this was the only time Robin broke into a sweat!
So we now have two huge boxes standing in the hallway awaiting collection.
But at least I can breath a sigh of relief.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Ramsbottom, Solti and Concerto Primavera

Ever since I went wireless I have been working from the kitchen table. This makes life much easier as I can keep an eye on general goings on in the house and keep working whilst I make the tea.
As I've mentioned before we have a cat called Ramsbottom. I realise this is rather an unusual name for our feline friend but it came about some years ago as we drove through a small northern town called 'Ramsbottom'. Son number one was quite small at the time and found this highly amusing, as only small boys can, and announced that if ever we got a cat then that is what we would call it.
Some months later Peter Wiltschinsky offered us a male, ginger, stripey kitten currently called Meatball. We agreed and Meatball arrived.
Son number one immediately remembered his idea and thus Ramsbottom was born.
Well, Ramsbottom is mesmerised by the computer. He sits for hours in front of it watching all the images as they glide around the screen.
I have a sneaking suspicion that he is heavily involved in 'Le Chat' rooms, possibly having long debates with Solti about the joys of living with musicians.
Meanwhile, Robin is oblivious to all this, as he is locked away in the music room making a few alterations to 'Concerto Primavera'. Sounds great.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

You Tube Mania

Sorry for the late posting today but I have only just managed to reclaim my computer.
Robin has now discovered the merits of You Tube. As you may recall, I had broadband fitted whilst he was away recently.
Now he has returned he is delighted to find so many previously unseen clips and videos.
As I go around the house there are whoops of delight as another old master is unveiled. I was called to watch Segovia performing in New York in 1963, the Assad Brothers playing four hands on one guitar, (which is always a good encore!), and some excellent Jaco Pastorius.
It's opened up a whole new world to Robin.
The problem was that as he was away at the time of installation, with his computer, so he could only sample this new delight on mine.
Thankfully my fairy Godfather came around this evening and sorted it out.
So now Robin can watch as much as he wants while I get on with some work!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Post Rufford Old Hall

There's an 'end of term feeling' about the house today. After many weeks of travel to far flung places, tight schedules for UK concerts, and endless amounts of washing for me, things have calmed down a little.
More information came to light about Rufford Old Hall. There are three ghosts. A 'Grey Lady' who can be seen in the driveway, (don't all old mansions have one of these), a man in Elizabethan clothes who hangs out around the fireplace in the Great Hall, and Queen Elizabeth 1 who disappears if you try and talk to her.
Robin took son number one with him for this concert and they were given a room to rehearse in some way from the Great Hall. Little did I know that my son and heir was walking the corridors of this old house, on his own, with no lights on admiring the paintings.
I'm sorry to say I can't report back on any ghostly sightings, but I do hope the man in Elizabethan clothes enjoyed the lute pieces.
Robin is in good company performing in the Great Hall as it is said that Shakespeare also appeared there.
Meanwhile back at Hillhouse I issued Robin with a list of tasks to complete in preparation for Christmas only to find him surfing the internet for new machine heads! He has literally worn the others out along with the frets so I think we may have to get some repairs done.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Sad Day

It is a sad day here in Hillhouse as Peter Wiltschinsky's mother died in the early hours of this morning. She was a remarkable lady who gave the duo huge amounts of support from the early days as struggling students to present day.
I knew her well as she frequently came to Hill/Wiltschinsky concerts. One of her favourite pastimes was to mingle amongst the audience during the interval, eavesdropping on conversations, and then reporting back all the tit bits of information and enthusiastic comments to us backstage!
She was a very proud lady, and was immensely proud of what the duo have achieved, and our sympathy goes out to all the Wiltschinsky family.
Robin meanwhile went to Rufford Old Hall where he carried out a solo performance in this fabulous setting. The event organisers and audience were very understanding about the whole situation, and the concert went very well.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Carols and Choirs

What a wonderful evening we had. The Great Hall is always a pleasure to sit in with the backdrop of the pipe organ used on this occasion to great effect.
It was lovely to have a good sing to the usual Christmas Carols, 'Once in Royal David's City', 'O Little Town of Bethlehem', 'Hark The Herald Angels Sing', and 'O Come All Ye Faithful'. The choir have a good reputation which was well deserved with some beautiful descant counter melody. We were particularly impressed with a quadruple canon in 'Rejoice and be Merry.' Considering all the boys are under 11 years old it was a fantastic achievement.
Despite only a few hours at home after his journey, Robin thoroughly enjoyed the evening, especially as he was able to sit back and enjoy the performance without being the one giving it!
It did bring back some memories though, he whispered to me at one point that he remembered being 8 years old, playing 'Ye Banks and Braise' on violin, in the very same hall. He was terrified at the time, and with just cause, because at that stage he hadn't realised the need for practice.
It was shortly after this that he fell in love with the guitar and things took a very different turn.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Home at Last

Finally Robin has made it home after 24 hours of travelling. I did get to talk to him during a stop over in Miami which was very nice. In fact I also spoke to Ian Cooper as they had flown the first leg together. He was very complimentary about Robin's playing, 'Hey, your man, what a fantastic player, really enjoyed it.'
I was equally positive in my enthusiasm about Ian's playing from the reports I'd been getting. 'Only one thing,' he added, 'I got fed up with being beaten on the tennis courts.'
'Oh, well, England - Australia, we have to take our wins where we can get them!' was my reply.
Anyway, 'my man' is home, and we have a carol service to attend.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

San Jose-Miami-London-Manchester

We have remained incommunicado all day. A combination of time difference and disembarking the boat.
The constantly changing time zones is rather confusing. Sometimes he loses or gains an hour every day which makes it difficult to keep track of. It's not just me though, the other day Robin said he went for breakfast and couldn't understand why no one else was about. You guessed it, Robin had put his watch forward on the one day he didn't need to, everyone else was fast asleep.
There was a small window of opportunity for a 'phone call but I was out at the at second sons Nativity, in which he played a rather splendid shepherd, so we missed that one.
My guess is that he is on route for Miami so I may get a call sometime this evening.
What I do know is that Robin was invited to dinner with the cruise director last night, so things must have gone well.
He also e mailed me an action photograph of himself playing paddle tennis just to prove that he is out there getting some exercise!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Post Concert Downpour

The first day that Robin could relax as he'd completed his concerts and he awoke to torrential rain! Luckily it was only a passing tropical storm and the rest of the day has been delightful.
The concert went very well, two performances, both full. Vivaldi and Junkfunk played with Ian Cooper went down a storm, (maybe I shouldn't say that whilst they are at sea), but audience and artists both enjoyed themselves.
There was a minor hiccup in the second performance when Robin's capo fell off and must have been damaged as it refused to clamp itself to the neck of the guitar.
He asked someone to collect another one from the dressing room, he has hundreds of them and I'm always finding them in trouser pockets when I do the washing, and manfully went on to play a different piece until it arrived.
All in a days work for the travelling maestro.
No time to rest though, he's now practicing a couple of Christmas carols that are part of the programme he's playing at Rufford Old Hall the day after his return.
Any local people reading, I'm afraid you won't be able to get tickets for that one as it's sold out.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Panama Canal

I awoke this morning to find an e mail from Robin rather anxiously asking me to find out where Caldera is. He had been told that the ship wasn't going to dock in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, on the 14th as planned, but this place called Caldera. This could have potentially caused problems as he has a very tight schedule for getting home. He's due to arrive back during the day on Friday and has a duo concert on Saturday.
So the last thing he needed was to miss any connections.
Initial the only Caldera I could find in my atlas was in Mexico so I resorted to the internet. Glad I did, as within minutes I had discovered that it is in fact in the same bay as Puntarenas, so no cause for alarm.
Meanwhile on board rehearsals have gone very well, more tennis has been played, and Robin was just off for a soundcheck the last I heard.
The concert is tonight, but I won't hear about it until tomorrow. So we'll all just have to wait!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Vivaldi and Junkfunk (Hill)

Things are hotting up out at sea. The Australian violinist that I've been talking about is Ian Cooper, an excellent performer who composed a piece for 100 violins to play at the opening of the Sydney Olympics!
Robin and Ian have decided on two pieces that they will play tomorrow. The first is Vivaldi concerto in D major. This was originally written for lute, strings and continuo. Robin has played this piece many times and was impressed that Ian also knew it from memory. He plays the violin pizzicato whilst Robin is playing the solo bits on guitar, then with the bow during the orchestral parts. Robin was very excited about it and said it was a great sound with lots of energy.
The other piece they are playing is one of Robin's called 'Junkfunk', which is a samba. I've heard this piece done solo, duo and quartet, and I'm sure it will sound fantastic.
My only regret is that I won't be there to hear any of it. I'm sure the audience are in for an excellent evening.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Aruba - Where?

The concert went very well last night with good attendance and lots of nice comments. Robin then went off with his violinist friend, Ian, for sushi which was rather brave..
They are still talking about what they will play together and have come up with a few ideas having spent some time listening to each others ipods to get to know their tastes!
Robin has now arrived, for a few hours at least, on the island Aruba. I must confess I'd never heard of it so felt compelled to look it up.
To save you the bother, it's a small island just off the coast of Venezuela. Very hot, beautiful sea and palm trees.
Sounds alright to me.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Soundcheck in the Caribbean

Tonight is the first recital and Robin is just setting off for a soundcheck. He'll then have a few hours to prepare for the concert and a few hours to relax after it I'm sure..
He has met an Australian violinist on board who has asked him to join him for one piece of music during his show. Obviously he wasn't too upset by Robin beating him at paddle tennis.
So now they are working out what they might play.
But more pressing is Robin's own concert tonight which I will report back on when I have further news.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Cayman Islands Calling

I have had a call from Robin as he stood on deck watching the Cayman Islands come into view. 'The weathers fantastic', he said, 'Oh lovely', I replied as I thawed out from the latest school run.
He has played more paddle tennis, very similar to the real thing but with a strange ball and wooden paddles, so it feels like tennis, but you are less likely to lose all the balls overboard. They hadn't banked on Robin's rather powerful right hand, built up over years of extensive guitar practice, (shake his hand at your peril), and now there is at least one ball floating in the Gulf of Mexico.
As well as tennis and sunbathing he has been doing large amounts of practice as his first recital is tomorrow.
Meanwhile, in his absence, I have had broadband fitted and I'm really enjoying watching videos on You Tube without having to wait for hours to access them. At least I can watch him on there, and in fact if I put it on repeat and shut the laptop in the music room, I could just pretend he was in there practicing away!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Crystal Symphony

Robin has now joined Crystal Symphony, appropriately on our crystal wedding anniversary!
We did manage a 'phone call to congratulate each other on 15 years of marriage before he set sail.
He's settling in nicely and is enjoying the weather and festive feel to the ship. He also managed to beat an Australian at tennis, so is feeling pretty good!
Now it's down to the serious business of practice.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Tampa for Robin, Tantrums for Me

Before the birds had even thought about getting up Robin was on his way to the airport and jetting off to Florida. Some hours later I walked two small children through pouring rain to school, getting soaked from above, and by every passing car that sprayed us. When home again with the youngest son, and a complete change of clothes later, I decided that although Robin was heading for much nicer weather, he did have to endure an 8 hour flight. Mind you he has taken his new toy with him and will be composing away with his headphones on as we speak.
Before he left he estimated that he could get three hours of use from the laptop before it would need recharging.
I should imagine that is at least one movement of a new concerto ...

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Frantic Packing

No matter how early we start getting ready for the next trip it always seem to be a mad dash in the last evening.
Mind you there are certain things that can't be packed away until the last minute, Robin's guitar for example.
That will be double cased just before bed with slackened strings to help the poor thing whilst it is in transit. Robin will be horrified to see me refer to his beloved guitar as ,'thing', it is of course a precious instrument and 'a very jealous mistress', as Segovia once said.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Concerto Primavera

Robin has been over to Leeds to see a few pupils at the university, but since his return has been immersed in his new computer, inputting the score of 'Concerto Primavera'. This should take him quite some time as he's making a few alterations as he goes along.
He had said he was undertaking this task next week whilst away, but as I've said previously, a day or two before any foreign trip he goes into denial. That's where we are at the moment.
I'll have to confiscate the computer tomorrow to get him to do a few things before he leaves on Wednesday..

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Wakefield without Wiltschinsky

The duo had been booked to play in Wakefield but again Robin had to go it alone. It wasn't as stressful this time as he knew in advance and the organisers were happy to hear Robin's solo performance. They have seen the duo many times and realised they were still in for a great evening.
Robin always introduces the pieces with a little bit of information to make it interesting for the audience. Both Robin and Peter have composed and normally introduce each others compositions.
As Peter wasn't there Robin had to announce his own piece, 'Canzone', and this is what he said.
"Normally Peter introduces this one, I told him with a name like Wiltschinsky he shouldn't have gone to that sushi bar."
The audience were highly amused, and Robin has been asked back again, so I guess that was a good sign.
It sounds to me like he's trying to carve a little niche for himself as a stand up comic!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Trauma in Tenby

There was rather an unexpected twist to the Hill/Wiltschinsky concert last night. At 7.35pm it was decided that Peter Wiltschinsky wasn't well enough to perform. This left Robin 25 minutes to change his mind set to a solo concert and decide what he was going to play..
Ever the professional, he went out and gave an excellent performance, with all credit too him as that would have taken some courage.
Between pieces he was tuning the guitar and paused to inform the audience that it didn't actually require tuning but he was just thinking about what to play next.
They were very amused and also very appreciative that the show had gone on.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hill/Wiltschinsky on Upper Frog Street

Robin is currently on route for Tenby which is about a 5 hour drive from our house. They have played there a few times before and it is a lovely place to visit. We spent a very nice week there a while ago on the beach with the children. I don't imagine that Hill/Wiltschinsky will be making many sandcastles, especially in December.
But they are booked into a hotel overlooking the sea which sounds rather nice, and the concert starts at 8pm at a venue on a road called Upper Frog Street!