'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

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Foulds before Flying ( for Robin Hill )

Yesterday I talked about Robin's 'Concerto Primavera' and it was a coincidence when I looked in The Telegraph today to find an article by Simon Heffer on John Foulds.
John Foulds was born in Manchester, England, in 1880. Manchester is just a few miles down the road from us and, with Walton coming from Oldham, it seems we are a quite a prolific lot up here in the frozen north of England.
Foulds was a composer and conductor who joined the Halle orchestra when in his 20's. By 1906 he had left the Halle to concentrate on composition.
His major work, 'A World Requiem', which commemorated the World War 1 dead, was very popular at the time, but was last performed in 1926.
That is about to change. On November 11th, Armistice night, it will be performed again at The Albert Hall, under the auspices of the BBC, and sponsored by The Daily Telegraph.
I only hope we don't have to wait 81 years for the next performance of 'Concerto Primavera', or any of Robin's other concerti for that matter...
Meanwhile, here, things are a little frantic. There's packing to be done ready for Robin's journey tomorrow.
He is currently in denial about his trip, which is normal, he'll be fine when he's actually on his way. So instead of getting organised he has gone shopping with son number two. That's fine by me, it will save me a job, as he is buying food he won't be home to eat!

Friday, March 30, 2007

Concerto Primavera - Robin Hill

Robin has been locked away in the music room all day practicing hard on the guitar. Whilst he was doing that, I was searching through one of the many piles of paper around the house and came across this:

(You can click on the image to enlarge, but it's a bit of a fiddle I'm afraid, I will try to resolve the problem!)

It is the review for the premiere of 'Concerto Primavera', and as you can see, it went down rather well.
Since then, it has been re-written for guitar and orchestra, and is equally as exciting.
Robin worked very hard that evening, in the first half Hill/Wiltschinsky performed some of their own pieces, and then, Carulli, Sor, Mendelssohn and Petite, before Vivaldi's G Major Concerto with the orchestra.
After a well deserved interval, Robin went back on stage with Simone Rebello and the orchestra for the grand finale.
It was very exciting for me to be in the audience and hear the concerto come to life after months of composing and rehearsal, I think I know every note of 'Concerto Primavera' as well as Robin does.
Maybe I was meant to find it today, Spring, after all, has arrived.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Happy Birthday - Sir William Walton

After Elgar's removal from banknotes here in the UK, I thought I'd better make a stand for another great English composer, Sir William Walton, especially as it would have been his birthday today.
Walton was born in Oldham, Lancashire, but lived the later years of his life on the Mediterranean Island of Ischia. I can't say I blame him, Lancashire is known for its wet weather, which is why there used to be a huge cotton industry here. Sorry Oldham, but I think Ischia would win every time.
In the 1920's and 30's Walton was considered the most important English composer of his generation.
In 1970/1 he composed 'Five Bagatelles for Solo Guitar', as a 50th birthday present for Malcolm Arnold which were dedicated to the guitarist Julian Bream.
In fact Walton was so pleased with the Bagatelles that in 1972 he composed 'Varii Capricci for Orchestra' based on them, which was one of the last pieces he wrote before his death in 1983. (He did actually rewrite the final movement in 1977).
So Happy Birthday Walton.

Meanwhile, Robin has been working hard on finalising two programmes for next week, so the music room door has been firmly shut whilst he prepares. He did emerge to take the dogs for a walk in the Lancashire drizzle though...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Would you like a CD with your Coffee?...

There was a nice article yesterday in 'Slate Magazine', by Daniel Gross, in which he was looking at CD sales, and poses the question, 'If the CD is dead, why are so many companies going into the CD business?'
It has been well documented that generally CD sales are falling due to a preference for digital singles over albums, resulting in the closure of many record shop.
However, that isn't the case for all.
Gross points out that some stores are seeing an increase in sales, and suggests that what's required is a different style of marketing.
The recent signing of Paul McCartney to Starbucks is one example. They already have established outlets, with the facility to sell over the counter, and a large volume of customers each day. I'm sure they must have done their sums and feel it will be a financially viable option.
I have often said in past blogs that a new approach is required to encourage audiences to attend concerts, and, particularly to draw the next generation in. So a revamp of marketing approaches for performance and music sales is what is needed.
Luckily, we spent the morning in a meeting doing just that. It was a productive time and hopefully will 'streamline' the Robin Hill experience when we have it up and running.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sshh - It's a Secret....

Robin has gone back down to London today. He's there for an important meeting, and no, I can't tell you anything about it at this stage. In fact, I'm not sure when I'll be able to pass on this exciting news, so you'll just have to keep checking in. Nothing like a bit of intrigue to keep you all guessing, and no, I'm not open to bribes...
He decided to go down on the train and I think he quite enjoyed the experience of travelling without his guitar. It certainly makes life easier.
Robin seems to be making a habit of heading south at the moment. If you remember he was in London last week doing his bit to save the rainforest.
Here's the picture to prove it.

Meanwhile, I've been holding the fort at home, as always. I did remember to take a break and listen to 'Tales from the Stave', BBC Radio 4. This week Frances Fyfield discussed the creative process behind Benjamin Britten's opera 'Peter Grimes', with the musical experts Dr.John Evans and Dr.Paul Banks. It's such a delight to hear them thoroughly enjoying themselves as they pour over the score. I recommend it as some lovely lunchtime listening.

Monday, March 26, 2007

'A Walk in the Park' - Robin Hill

All the neural activity yesterday certainly paid off. Whilst Robin was out in the park with dogs and children I had a 'phone call. He said that he had come up with a new piece and within half an hour of getting home the basic score for an orchestral movement was down in print.
It never ceases to amaze me, even after 15 years of marriage, that when Robin says he has some music in his head, it isn't just the main theme, but the entire orchestral score. Sounds like it should be painful!
Let me set the scene for you.
Here was a man, on a beautiful sunny day, enjoying a walk with his dogs and children. This was a precious time for him, as he is frequently away from home, and in fact over the next six weeks will be away more than he is here.
The piece he has composed conveys the mood so clearly, and by the end of the day we were listening to the final product.
It is such a lively, happy and optimistic piece, which really does portray the image of two happy boys running around, in the way that only small boys can, accompanied by two bumbling Labradors.
Then, there is the occasional reflective moment as Robin remembers that this is just a brief time of happiness with his family before going off on his travels. That can't continue though, he has long ago learnt that you must appreciate the moment. So, we are brought back to the happy scene by a long, flowing scale on the harp.
The whole piece lasts a couple of minutes and as yet I couldn't tell you if this will become a larger work. Maybe, next week, we will get a melancholy movement as he jets back off around the world.
You, like me, will have to wait and see.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

From Billy Cobham to John McLaughlin

Sunday morning = musical quiz here in Hillhouse and today it was a particularly upbeat affair.
We were given the task of recognising the time signature for two pieces. The first, Billy Cobham, 'Spectrum' from the album also named Spectrum. It's fast and furious and no matter how hard I tried to get in and count, I just couldn't do it. For those interested, I was informed by an amused Robin that it is in 7/8 time.
Fuelled by his success, he put another track on.
John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, 'Miles Beyond', from the album 'Birds of Fire'.
Robin was obviously intent on winning this morning. It starts in 4/4 time but moves swiftly on to 9/4. No, I didn't get that one either.
Incidentally, John McLaughlin appears to be a dog lover as two of his album covers sport Labrador/Retriever dogs, and I was pleased to see we aren't the only ones who allow our dogs on the furniture.
He, and any other dog lovers, may be interested in an article by Roger Highfield, 'Dogs' behaviour - it's all in the wag.' Apparently dogs wag their tails to the right when they are pleased to see you, and to the left when they secretly want to run away!
We have been studying our two canine friends in the interest of science. The results are mixed. Milly, dependable, loyal and aged 7, has a definite right sided wag. Miss Bimps obviously hasn't read the article and has an equal sway in either direction. She, however, is the 'dotty' one, and it isn't as much her tail that wags but the whole body making it difficult to assess.
In the light of my musical failings this morning I sent Robin, (he'd already done a few hours guitar practice), sons and dogs off to the park so that I could play Aretha Franklin, 'I Say a Little Prayer', very loudly, and sing along. No-one sings it like Aretha, and certainly not me...

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rachmaninov - Again!

I've been a bit slow off the mark with this one. A few days ago Matthew Guerrieri over on Soho the Dog wrote about Rachmaninov's great-great grandson, 'Alexander Temple Wolkonsky Rachmaninoff Wanamaker', and how he wants to alter some of the musical scores to enable the family to retain copyright. More on the subject in the Arizona Daily Star.
There has been an outcry, as you would expect, no-one wants to see changes made to music long after the composer has died.
However, I don't feel it is as straight forward as that, and in fact this kept me awake last night! I left a comment on 'Soho the Dog' and will be interested to see if there is a reaction.
The issues I raised looked at things from a slightly different perspective.
The more I thought about it the more I realised that if a family owned a large property that had been handed down through the generations, or even just the family heirlooms, then they would be furious if suddenly after 'x' number of years it was all taken away and put in the public domain.
However, if they discovered that they could retain that property by adding an extension to the West wing, or making a minor alteration, then you would understand them undertaking the work, hopefully sympathetically, in order to continue the line of inheritance.
The other thing is that for the composer, I do feel that they also would want their descendants to benefit from any success they may have had and continue to have long after their death.
It's basic biology that we want to take care of our blood line after our deaths if that is possible. For a few lucky people that is the case.
There is something quite reassuring that a piece composed now may help future generations of that family even though they won't ever meet.
It should be remembered that the original scores will still be around, and there are numerous recordings of Rachmaninov's works available. That can't be undone.
If, as the great-great grandson is suggesting, a composer is employed to make a few alterations, then we can only hope that they will be minimal.
For lesser known composers, I think they will just be pleased that their music is kept alive.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Potholes, Starbucks and Robin Hill Recordings

Let me show you how my warped mind works. I read a headline in the paper, 'Councils filling 1 million potholes a year.' Well, we know from our musical experience that there are '4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire', which made me think the others are evenly distributed across the country.
From that my mind wondered to Sir Paul McCartney and his new signing with the coffee shop chain Starbucks.
In fact, as Starbucks recently announced, they are launching a new label called 'Hear Music' as a joint venture with Los Angeles based Concord Music Group.
What a coup for them all.
To sign McCartney must have been their dream come true, especially with an album due out in early summer. (As yet untitled.)
If they are looking to expand even further, then look no further.
All we need is the orchestra and recording studio and we're ready!
There are so many fantastic concerti waiting to be recorded for both solo and duo guitar, composed by such eminent composers as Rodrigo, Vivaldi and Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

Robin has performed many of these, either as a soloist, or with the Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo.
If Starbucks are feeling particularly adventurous, then why not try some new compositions, some of which have been premiered, and some as yet unheard.
Oh, and while they are at it, I take my coffee strong with just a little milk...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Home but not Free

You would think the days Robin is at home would be relaxed and carefree. Often they are, but these are busy times, so whenever he is here, there are plenty of things to fit in.
It's particularly stressful for me as I am still struggling with visa/passport issues, all of which have to be dealt with whilst I have him here with his passport...
It will now be a nail biting time to see if it is returned in time for his next trip.

To add to the craziness of the day son number one and two have been keeping me busy.
Number two needed to make an Easter hat for an event on Saturday. This has required a two stage approach. Phase one: making and painting the basic hat. Phase two: adding flowers, ladybirds and various little artistic touches, all involving yet more paint, some of which actually made it onto the hat.
Later this evening I'm off to cubs with son number one. It's my turn to make the drinks for 45 noisy and excited small boys, and to wash up afterwards. Robin can't be involved with either of these activities as neither paint or washing up liquid are good for the guitarists nails...
So, to help out, and allow me to get on with some work, Robin is having a break from his guitar practice and has taken son number two out for some male bonding.

I was also delighted to receive an e mail from Tom Alban, the producer of BBC Radio 4 'Tales from the Stave'. He was very happy to have found that he had been 'blogged' a couple of times here in the last few days. It's always nice to get feedback, both ways, and it's good to see that the BBC have their eye on what is going on out here in the blogosphere.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Heavy Metal and the Mind - of Robin Hill...

I read an article by Nic Fleming, in The Daily Telegraph, which says, "Intelligent teenagers often listen to heavy metal music to cope with the pressure associated with being talented, according to the research."

The study was carried out on a group of 'gifted' youths by a psychologist from the University of Warwick, Stuart Cadwallader. He feels that the perception that gifted children are more interested in classical music and reading is wrong, and that the students turn to heavy metal as a way of relieving stress.

Statistics can be made to show anything you like really, but I'm sure there is some truth in this.
Whether the fact that many schools, (in the UK anyway), have limited access to classical music has affected the outcome of our youths listening habits is another story.
Heavy metal, rock, R&B etc are all readily available.

Let me show you a picture.

This is Robin playing electric guitar some years ago, and yes, that really is him under all that hair! This was taken at a time when Robin played not only in his own bands, Spring, Force 10 and Hooper, but also with the major artists Deep Purple and Jethro Tull. Whilst not all heavy metal there was certainly an element of very loud electric guitar.
What this says about Robin, I haven't quite worked out...

Meanwhile down in London, The Mousetrap was fantastic and Robin hasn't told me 'whodunnit'. He will be home again later today.

Also, a very big hello to all our American visitors. I'm not sure what has triggered a huge increase in interest over there. The last time this happened it was due to some radio plays of Hill/Wiltschinsky playing Radames Gnattali, but so far I haven't established a reason. If there is one, please let me know so I can follow it up.
Either way, hope you enjoy the blog!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

From Rachmaninov to The Mousetrap

I listened to the BBC Radio 4 programme I mentioned the other day, 'Tales from the Stave'. Francis Fyfield talked to conductor Marin Alsop and music critic Geoffrey Norris about Rachmaninov's Second Symphony finally being restored and now on loan to the British Library. The enthusiasm as they looked through the hand written score was infectious and it reminded me of the points I made in my blog the other day.
Future generations won't be able to see the work unfold, with alterations being made, as composers now often work through music software programmes. But, if you read my earlier blog, it does offer some suggestions as to how future historians will still be able to unravel the composer behind the music by looking in a slightly different way.
Meanwhile down in London, Robin is finishing his last day at ExCel, supporting Brazilian Springs in their quest to save the rainforest. The whole team have worked very hard and Robin has played his guitar for so long that I don't think he has any fingerprints left. Actually, he doesn't have any on his left hand anyway, they were worn away many years ago and only string shaped grooves remain.
As a reward for all their hard work they are off to St.Martin's Theatre tonight to see 'The Mousetrap', the longest-running murder mystery in the world.
Well, even Robin has to have a night off occasionally.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Bank of England - Patriotic - I Don't Think So

As I had my first cup of coffee of the day I went on my usual morning visit to Jessica Duchen's site. She was discussing an article written by Stephen King, it's well worth a visit as I'm sure the comments will be flooding in, especially as the story has now been picked up in Italy. (Well done Jessica!).
King's article left me rather perplexed and resulted in me leaving a long and rambling comment on Jessica's site.
However, the feeling didn't leave me, and I have been thinking it over ever since.
It's all about the recent removal of Elgar from the 20 pound note in the UK. Strange that they should choose the 150th anniversary to do this, but then banks work in mysterious ways.
What made me cross was that King says "his appearance represents a peculiar celebration of mediocrity", and that he should never have been on in the first place.
Let me quote from 'The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians'.

Sir Edward Elgar:
"His abundant invention, largeness of vision, and strength and singularity of musical character place him high among European Romantic artists and at the peak of British music of his time. He drew inspiration from the culture and landscape of his own country, resourcefulness from the study of his continental colleagues; and he worked in all the major forms except opera, creating a significant body of symphonic literature, the finest oratorio by an Englishman, and in his popular music a style of direct national appeal."

The list of works covers nearly four pages.

Mediocre is not a word I would use in connection with Elgar, but then maybe King, Head of Economics at HSBC bank, knows something that Groves Dictionary (or musicians bible) doesn't.

Many of the points I raised on Jessica's site I shall probably return to on another day, but one I will follow up now is the British attitude to anyone that succeeds. We seem incapable of appreciating those that do well, whatever their chosen field is, but allow hours of television time on brainless 'reality shows', which really are a celebration of mediocrity.

This is a debate we frequently have here in Hillhouse and Robin has a saying which just about sums it up:

"To the triumph of industry over indolence and merit over mediocrity." Robin Hill.

Oh, by the way, Robin has played for many hours today and is currently dining out in London whilst his fingers recover!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Mothering Sunday Madness

I was rudely awoken at 5am by the alarm clock, not the traditional start to Mother's Day of a lie in and burnt toast, but business is business.
As I waved Robin off to the airport shouting, 'Nice weather for a flight', (it's currently gale force winds and hailstones here), I did feel a twinge of guilt, especially as I crept back under the still warm duvet. However, I was joined by a wriggling and squirming son number one, so sleep remained elusive.
After only four hours sleep and a rather bumpy flight I think a few extra cups of coffee will be required to get those fingers moving on the Brazilian Springs stand at ExCel this afternoon.
If you happen to be there, go along and say hello, in the less formal setting of an exhibition, it's an ideal opportunity to get up close and see how it's all done.
I'll report back later when I have more news.

I am pleased to say that Robin, guitar and suitcase all arrived safely in London. He had no trouble taking his guitar in the cabin which was a huge relief. Mind you, as it was BA that lost it last week, I don't think they would have dared refuse entry today. Interestingly, they also told Robin that all airlines should now have the same policy. Lets hope they are right.
His first afternoon has gone very well and I should have a bit more to tell you tomorrow.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

To Study or Not to Study - That is the Question...

I was listening to a programme this morning discussing the issue of studying and revising for exams.
Apparently it isn't 'cool' to be seen to work hard, however, it is also not that 'cool' to fail your exams. So that leaves the students with a dilemma.
Do they break from convention and get on with their work, become secret studiers, or risk failing exams and jeopardising their future.
The fact is that to obtain success in any walk of life requires commitment.
This is a passage from Robin's book, 'The Guitar Gymnasium'

"I also feel that outstanding performance on any musical instrument can only be achieved through hard and painstaking work. The musician who excels above his colleagues is, generally, the one who has taken more pains. This is also sometimes a surprise to, not only the general public, but also, other musicians, who, also being part of the general public, half-believe outstanding virtuosity and musicality to be innate. This misconception is often fuelled by well-known musicians claiming their practice is minimal, and, indeed, by them trying to make meagre effort a virtue! We all met at school the pupils who claimed they hadn't revised and then came top of the class, believing that a)their peers would think them 'swots' if they admitted they had been up all night revising b) adopting this attitude gave them a 'safety net' if they didn't get good marks c) how much more impressive to appear as a natural genius d) this attitude would also deter would-be competitors who believed themselves inferior."

Robin Hill 1999

So there it is. Whether you decide to do it covertly or overtly, hard work is the only thing that will get the results you want and need.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Robin Hill Turns to South America

Sometimes I can't quite believe how lucky I am, and today is one of those days.
The sun is streaming through the window and I've just been listening to a selection of some of the most vibrant, ebullient, rhythmic, melodic and lively music you can imagine.
See if you can guess the theme, here's some of the composers:
Jorge Morel, Federico Bustamente, Dilamando Reis, got it yet?
No, well here's a few more:
Villa-Lobos, Antonio Lauro, Agustin Barrios and Pernambuco.
They are all South American.
The reason is that Robin is deep into his practice for ExCel starting on Sunday afternoon, all day Monday and Tuesday. As he will be on the Brazilian Springs stand we felt a South American feel would be appropriate.
As the whole exhibition is an international food and drink event I'm sure there will be plenty there to satisfy all the senses.
I must now get back to my eavesdropping, all that music and it's not even lunchtime!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Rachmaninov's Second Symphony - Found

As I flicked through The Daily Telegraph this morning I came across an exciting article by Geoffrey Norris, -'Lost symphony in a Co-op bag'.
Rachmaninov's Second Symphony has been found, and since authenticated, in the effects of an elderly collector who has died.
It's a fascinating story which will be discussed on BBC Radio 4, March 20th at 1.30, 'Tales from the Stave'.
Norris points out that the First Symphony is still missing, so keep your eyes open when turning out your attic.
It made me think about future generations and how their searches for lost pieces may take a very different turn. With the advent of music software programmes such as 'Sibelius', many composers now use this convenient method to notate their music. However, this will deny those 'yet to be born' historians a valuable insight into the musical deliberations and the evolution of a composition. Handwritten scores (as with handwritten manuscripts of literary works) often provide an illumination of the compositional process. However, one will still be able to see a piece developing over time if the pages of manuscript are printed out, played through, and alterations made.
My fear is that most musicians are not organised (nor indeed are they generally interested) in filing away 'stages of composition' for posterity.
Their main focus is perfecting their music.
So I'd like to leave a few suggestions for son number one, two, and their descendants.
All those pieces of paper lying around randomly are important. Don't just throw them out. They are the vital link in a chain that will show a work in progress.
Do check behind any cupboard and even under the eaves. There will be more music there.
If you find what looks like a shopping list, do turn it over and check. The chances are it's part of the final movement of 'Primavera', or the middle section of 'Celtic Concerto'.
Don't forget that all those bags full of tapes and CDs tell a story. Many of them contain short clips, ideas, whole pieces, interviews, t.v. broadcasts etc. all of which could prove extremely useful in the future.
So whilst I'm not comparing Robin Hill with Rachmaninov, we do need to consider new methods of tracing living and deceased composers and their music.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The Final Furry

As there is a lull before the final stages of preparation for Robin's mammoth stint at ExCel starting on Sunday, I decided it was time to introduce the final furry.

This is Milly a 7 year old Golden Labrador with the coldest nose imaginable. Her greatest pleasure is to place it firmly on any exposed flesh causing maximum shock. She generally does this to Robin first thing in the morning to announce that she is ready for a walk.
She is extremely loyal and generally sits beside me whenever I'm writing as moral support.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

And Relax...

Despite the trauma of yesterday it was pretty much business as usual here. We did take time out to chat over a coffee a little more than usual, most of it conducted in a whisper as Robin was still rather hoarse from straining his vocal cords yesterday. Good job son number one was at school, I didn't want him learning any new words. (Son number two was playing with his lego oblivious of the chaos around him.)
Robin was also spoilt for choice, which guitar to play. The Churchdoor recently returned from unscheduled globe trotting, or the other Miguel Rodriguez freshly retrieved from Paul Fischer's workshop. (Incidentally, we are delighted with the refretting and renewed polish to the neck, it's sounding fantastic.)
I had my own dilemma. What do you feed a man who has just returned from 10 days of 6* luxury dining?
Answer: Home made fava soup.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Missing - Miguel Rodriguez Churchdoor........

I really don't know where to begin to describe the anger/frustration/despair that we are feeling here at the moment.
Robin has finally arrived home from Mombasa but British Airways have managed to lose not only his suitcase but also his irreplaceable Miguel Rodriguez Churchdoor guitar. (For non-guitarists Miguel Rodriguez guitars are highly prized, soaring in value, and, along with the instruments of Fleta, Hauser and Friederich the favourite choice of many eminent guitar players. Yesterday's 'phone calls expressing worries about the safety of the guitar in transit are proving rather prophetic.
To add to the misery his other concert guitar, another Miguel Rodriguez, was still at Paul Fischer's workshop having been re-fretted and having the neck repolished.
You can well imagine Robin's feelings having made three flights, spending numerous tedious hours waiting in a sweltering Nairobi Airport, very little sleep and then, for a finale, a 2 mile run down the labyrinthine corridors of Heathrow airport at 6am to make his connecting flight to Manchester (having been seriously delayed by the endless security checks).
After all that the last thing he needed to see at Manchester airport was an empty carousel.
The relevant paperwork was submitted and a very subdued Robin arrived home.
He only stayed long enough for a cup of coffee before driving back down south to Oxfordshire to collect his other guitar. There's no way he could be without one.
I spent the day 'on hold' whilst trying to find out if they had any idea where this guitar was. They didn't.
Since the terrorist alerts this has been our nightmare situation. Some airlines have relaxed the rules about taking musical instruments on board, but not all. So when travelling on a number of different airlines it becomes impossible.
I'm afraid to say that Robin has now had to make a tough decision. If the airline won't let him take his guitar on board, then he won't be getting on either, and somewhere an audience will be very disappointed.
As writing I have finally managed to get through to BA and both suitcase and guitar have been found!!!
One, (they don't know which) has arrived in Manchester, and the other is due shortly.
Until they arrive at our home I don't think either of us will relax.
Robin is still driving home from Chipping Norton but is hugely relieved. (We both had a fear that it had been stolen at Nairobi airport and would never be seen again.)
I'll keep you informed...


Miguel Rodriguez and suitcase have been reunited with their rightful owner. One very relieved Robin Hill. The Churchdoor has been unpacked, inspected, and is currently being played. A little cold but I'm sure Robin will soon sort that out.
Many thanks for the comments and 'phone calls of support we have had.
I'm off to open a bottle of wine.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Rodrigo, Frank Zappa, Charlie Mingus and The Beatles...

Sunday morning in the Hill household is traditionally a time to sit back and listen to some music.
Robin has flown from Mombasa to Nairobi and is waiting for his flight to Heathrow.
In between 'phone calls about the safety of his guitar I am sure he is listening to his ipod.
So I felt it was up to me to maintain standards at home. As a concession to an absent father I allowed son number one to take control of the remote.
His initial choice was Rodrigo's 'Concierto de Aranjuez', I was pleased with that. As a very small child he had been so used to hearing Robin practice this piece, for a concert with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, that he used to sing along in his cot.
Then he selected 'Dog Breath Variations' and 'G-Spot Tornado', both by Frank Zappa, and finally a bit of Charlie Mingus.
Not bad for a 10 year old, his dad will be delighted when I tell him.
Son number two only made one choice and that was 'Hello, Goodbye' by The Beatles.
I feel justified in announcing that their musical education is coming along nicely.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Help Save the Brazilian Rainforest

The tradition of musicians being associated with good causes goes back a long way.
High profile artists such as Paul McCartney, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell have all been connected with rainforest preservation worldwide.
So when we were approached by Brazilian Springs, to help promote the work they are doing in aid of the Brazilian rainforest, there really was no hesitation.
The Brazilian rainforest is often referred to as "the lungs of the planet", as it not only reduces global warming by absorbing harmful gases, but also produces 20% of the world's oxygen.
For every 300ml bottle of Brazilian Springs water you purchase, the Brazilian Rain Forest Foundation can buy at least 12 square meters of rainforest. One bottle a day for a year adds to an area the size of a football pitch.
Alongside preserving and regenerating the forest they are also helping local farmers to find alternative farming methods.
Follow the links to the sites for more information and some very nice pictures, and even better, if you are in or around London on the 18/19/20th March come to ExCel and talk to the company yourself whilst listening to Robin play his guitar on and off throughout the day.
They will be on stand No ST4723, or, just follow the sound of music.

Meanwhile out a sea, Robin had the luxury of enjoying an evening as a member of the audience for a change, and watched an enjoyable show with singers and dancers covering songs by Cole Porter and Irving Berlin amongst others.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Anyone for Tennis

Robin takes a break from guitar practice to have a game of tennis. In fact he has two. One of singles and one of doubles.

He's actually very good at tennis, (he should be his father was a Wimbledon umpire for many years) and I'm quite relieved I'm not on the receiving end of some of his serves. There would be many balls floating in the Indian Ocean by this stage soon to be washed up on a beach in Madagascar.

Between tennis tournaments Robin has spent some time composing. I look forward to hearing his new pieces on his return.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Robin Hill Relaxes...

As Robin has now finished his work on board ship he can allow himself some time to relax.
Unfortunately the weather has taken a decidedly misty turn.

What is that in the middle of the picture?
Is it the Mozambique Channel equivalent to the Loch Ness Monster?

There has been plenty of positive feedback from various members of the audience which is always nice. One lady has asked if Robin has recorded 'La Paloma'. He was able to reply that it is soon to be recorded on the next CD.
La Paloma, which means 'The Dove', was composed by Sebastien Iradier who also composed the famous Habanera in Bizet's 'Carmen'. Bizet thought it was a folk melody but later realised his mistake and credited Iradier with the theme.
I'm sure Robin will be making good use of the time practicing La Paloma, and many other pieces, as he has a busy time coming up.
Don't forget the 18/19/20th March at the ExCel London, international food and drink event.
You'll need to look out for the Brazilian Springs Europe LLP stand. More soon.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Music in Maputo

Robin has arrived in Maputo, Mozambique, but seen little of it as today is concert day.
This morning he had a sound check, which was fine, then the rest of the day was spent in practice and rehearsal.
If you have ever wondered what a soloist looks like backstage, about an hour before his concert, well, it's something like this...

The concert itself is 40 minutes long, but done as two performances, and at the time of writing he has completed the first one.
Robin was pleased with how it had gone and amazed, once again, how the Rodriguez guitar just sings out in any situation.
Not time to relax yet though as he still has the second performance.
It's an awful long way to go to play what amounts to one evening recital!

The second performance has now taken place and went very well. The cruise director said it was 'excellent'. That's great news and I think Robin is off to the bar for a well earned drink.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Robin Hill Docks in Durban

Crystal Serenity docked in Durban today. Various day trips were available, but for a working musician taking a whole day off is not an option, especially as his recital is tomorrow.
He did have a quick trip ashore, mainly to feel land beneath his feet for an hour, then it was back to his guitar practice.
Or not.

This is a rare glimpse of Robin relaxing. After hours of right and left hand exercises what better way to recover than on your balcony, in the sun, being served coffee, and reading a good book.
Incidentally, the book is 'Suite Francaise' by Irene Nemirovsky.
I'm off to make my own coffee, it's the butlers day off...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Reluctant Mariner Robin Hill Turns Poet

As you can see from this photo the sea remains rather rough although Robin said it is much calmer than it was...

It's still nothing compared to one of the early trips Robin made in 2005. He was en route from Honolulu to Japan when they encountered some severe weather. The 40 foot waves meant long periods of time confined to his cabin. So he wrote this poem.


This wild, malevolent, livid sea

Is not quite where I want to be,

Cocooned inside the luxury liner,

I affect the pose of discerning diner,

The tiger sea - wrong side of sane,

Spits angry foam against the pane,

My fellow passengers take delight,

In witnessing this savage sight,

They taunt the beast and sip their wine,

Complacent they just drink and dine,

The audacity of the parasite boat,

To ride the tiger's back and float,

At 14 knots towards Japan,

Is more than I can really stand,

Will we arrive safe in the bay?

Or will the wildcat claim it's prey?


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Cast Off From Cape Town

To prove that Robin really is in Cape Town this is the view just before he set sail earlier today. I assume it is 'Table Mountain' in the background.

A rather uneasy looking musician about to do the lifeboat drill....

But now they are at sea and he can concentrate on preparing for his recital.


As I mentioned the other day Robin will be playing in London on the 18/19/20th March.
It is part of the international food and drink event being held at the ExCel centre.
He will be there on the Sunday afternoon and all day Monday and Tuesday.
Anyone with an interest in food should have a great day out as there will be stands from around the world.
As for Robin and why he is there, well, it's connected with the Brazilian rainforest, but more details soon.
It will be an excellent opportunity to see and hear him play, with the added bonus of the less formal setting allowing you to ask questions if you want to.
You will need to check your diary and get tickets in advance.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Cape Town Now Calling

Robin has now arrived in Cape Town and made the short journey from the airport to join 'Crystal Serenity'. On the way he passed the Groote Schuur Hospital where Professor Christiaan Barnard made medical history in 1967 when he carried out the first human heart transplant.
The weather so far hasn't been quite as predicted, it's currently cloudy and wet. Apparently the locals find it very difficult driving in the rain and it has a similar effect to the traffic problems the UK faces when it snows!
I'm sure it is only temporary as he said the sun was trying to come out. I was rather amused to be able to report that it is a beautiful sunny day here.
He can however console himself in his luxury suite, with balcony, currently overlooking Cape Town's most famous landmark Table Mountain. (if he could see it for the mist...)
If he takes a walk to the other side of the ship he can see Robben Island. Yes, that is the prison island that held South Africa's first democratic President, Nelson Mandela.
OK, that's the end of your geography/history lesson.
Robin is delighted to be reunited with his guitar, which coped well with the journey, and is no doubt putting it through its paces now.
He had a funny e mail waiting for him from Leeds University. The students have to fill in an evaluation form and under 'any further comments' one of them had put 'Robin Hill's Fab'......

Friday, March 02, 2007

Cape Town Not Quite Calling

As I write Robin is heading towards Cape Town.
He left at 7.30 this morning for a short hop to Heathrow, a total of 147 miles, he then waited 5 hours for his flight to South Africa. For those of you that like facts and figures that journey is 5996 miles and will take 11 and a half hours.
That should allow him to get quite a way into 'Hard Times'.
Still, I'm reliably informed that it is a wonderful 79F there at the moment, so I'm sure that will ease the aching joints of a travel worn musician.
Most people these days are aware of the environmental impact that flying has and we are no exception.
The problem is that when it is due to work there really is no alternative. We do all we can when at home, recycle, walk instead of using the car whenever possible, etc, but it remains an issue we are concerned about.
We have however made a contact that could well help us sleep easier in our bed(s) at night.
It's all connected to the Brazilian rainforest and I'll tell you more in the next few days.
But for now, any of the UK readers in the London area, you could well get to see Robin play later this month.
Watch this space for more details.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hyperion Records, Carulli and Lovejoy

We had an interesting 'phone call today from Hyperion records.
Back in 1984 Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo recorded 'Virtuoso Music for Two Guitars' at Pluto Studios in Manchester.
This was their first recording which launched their careers.
Today Hyperion contacted us as one piece from this album had been used in an episode of 'Lovejoy' on BBC1.
For those not familiar with this t.v. programme, it is a series starring Ian McShane, about the shady dealings of an antique expert called 'Lovejoy', based on the novels by former doctor, Jonathan Gash.
As far as I know at this stage the piece they used was Carulli - Nocturne de Salon Op.227.
That's good news.