'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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Home or South America?

Gales, rain and even the threat of snow - ideal flying weather.
Robin is en route for Heathrow and then has to transfer to Manchester.
He nearly wasn't though.

This highlights the unpredictable nature of life as a musician.
Early evening yesterday I had a call from Robin as he waited in Los Angeles airport.
Our London agent had 'phoned asking if he could divert Robin to South America.
Now, I don't know about other musicians diary keeping, but back in December Chris Foley ran a poll on the methods used to keep track of concerts, rehearsals etc. You can read it here.

We couldn't contribute to the poll as the category we use, wasn't available. That is of course - me.
Robin's reply to the agent was therefore, "I'm not sure, I think I've something on, you'll have to call Anna."
Which he did.
I then had a frantic few minutes as I tried to work out if Robin could in fact stay away for another week and go onto South America, before travelling back to North America for a pre arranged concert.
The diary was packed.

When Robin is home I have to fit in any appointments he needs which results in a rather busy time. All of these could have been rearranged, but some were important.
In the near future Robin has a trip to a rather exotic country which requires extra travel protection, ie, Malaria tablets.
If he didn't collect them next week he wouldn't be here long enough to start the course before the trip in March....
Even that is solvable. I could have arranged for the relevant medication to be forwarded to a port somewhere and collected by Robin whilst on his travels.

But then I realised that one date couldn't be changed.
A private performance at the weekend which has been organised for a long time.
We don't like to let anyone down, so, I had to say no to South America.
You have to remember that all this was going through my mind in seconds, as I scanned the diary, with the agent on the 'phone waiting for an answer. It was obviously hectic at his end as he tried to resolve the problem.
Normally, like most musicians, Robin always accepts work, even if it requires some reorganisation. But on this occasion it wasn't possible.

Meanwhile I had an image of Robin, waiting patiently at Los Angeles airport, unsure if he was to catch a flight to Heathrow, and then home, or, South America, which ultimatly would have resulted in a total of 5 1/2 weeks away.
As soon as I'd realised he couldn't do it, and confirmed this with the agent, I called Robin.

The temptation for a practical joke was just too great.
I have after all been on the receiving end of many.
"You're going to South America but they are flying you home for the weekend, then back again...."
"Only joking!"

At the time of writing Robin has arrived at Heathrow and we are now waiting to see if he gets through all the security checks in time to make his connecing flight.
I'll let you know - tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Los Angeles at Last and the Professor Returns?

The Queen Victoria has arrived in Los Angeles and this is where Robin begins his long journey home.
During the last 1000 nautical miles, a recent message from him made me laugh.
He had been enjoying the late afternoon sunshine, relaxing on a lounger, and reading a book.
Robin had the feeling he was being watched so glanced up.
A group of passengers were standing nearby with a video camera trained on him.
Taking refuge behind his sunglasses he tried to carry on reading as if nothing was happening.
Not wanted to upset anyone he maintained his pose for several minutes.
At which point the group switched off the camera and moved on.
He doesn't mind this.
It's an honour that someone feels strongly enough about your performance that they want to capture you on film.
It's also a nice feeling to know that somewhere in the world, marked under 'Family Holiday Jan 2008', and consigned to the archives, is some footage of Robin reading a book.
You never know, it may even find its way onto a site like YouTube at some stage, with a title such as, 'Rare chance to see musician at rest'.

But this is where concerts on board cruise ships differ from those on land.
On land, after the event, and a certain amount of socialising, you are free to go. At this stage most musician will switch off and relax post concert.

On board ship it's different.
You are fairly anonymous until the first concert, and, after that, your movements tend to be monitored by many hundreds of guests.
In some ways it's very nice. You get to talk to some interesting people, and it's always an honour when someone takes the time to tell you how much they enjoyed your performance.
For the guests on board, they have an opportunity to meet artists, which wouldn't arise on land.

However, there must be times when Robin just wants to relax, this has been a 2 1/2 week trip, which is a long time to maintain your composure every single time you step out of your room.
So, I have come up with the solution.
Next trip I shall have to find room in his suitcase for his Professor disguise.
You can remind yourself of it here.
It may prove impractical in the blazing heat of some of his ventures, but, that's the price you pay for anonymity.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sea, Strings and a New CD

I know it has all been rather light hearted recently, but behind the scenes, there's still a lot going on.
In the next few days we will be announcing the release of a new album. I'm very excited about this, so, keep checking in for more details.

But this blog is about the life of a musician, and many people enjoy seeing the places that Robin goes, the people that he meets, and the music that he plays.
It is after all his life at the moment.

Whilst Robin is away it can be difficult to keep up to date with what is actually going on, as there are many communication problems to overcome.
Frequently we are unable to talk via 'phone, although last night there was a bonus call, as the Queen Victoria was sailing only a mile off the coast of California, so we were able to get an intermittent signal.
He is sure that I have perfected the art of talking as if the line is breaking up. He swears that our conversations are always fine until he asks any taxing questions, at which point, "I...sorry....can'".
I'm not so sure there isn't a little projection going on.

Also, email can be patchy.
Some days it's fine, other days no messages.
Add in a constantly changing time difference and you can see how it becomes difficult.

One message that did manage to make it, relates to a blog I did a long time ago, which has always been popular, 'The Many and Varied Uses of Savarez Guitar Strings'.

Here's another to add to the list.
Often in hotels, and on board ships, the clothes hangers are designed to only be used in the wardrobe. Understandably, they don't want everyone packing them and taking them home.
But it doesn't help if you want to dry a shirt in the bathroom. There's nothing to 'hook' it over the rail.

Answer: Savarez guitar strings, as demonstrated here:

Musicians have to be versatile.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mad in Manzanillo

I'm beginning to think that Robin has spent too long on his own.
Without a concert to focus on he appears to be thinking about other projects.
Yesterday he was in Manzanillo, Mexico, and sent a selection of photographs.

The first was titled: 'The New Stage Boots'.

The Second: 'The Mexican Dresses'.

The third: 'The Bandstand'.

The message: "Where's the band?"

Either he feels the need to collaborate with some local musicians, or, the sun has finally got to him...
But, he does now have two days at sea, as the Queen Victoria makes her way to Los Angeles.
Hopefully a gentle breeze from the Pacific Ocean will help to clear his mind.
I do know that he is already thinking about programmes, for the next two overseas trips that he is making, and also running through some new pieces.
So maybe all is not lost.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

An Ornithological Day in Acapulco

The Queen Victoria was in Acapulco yesterday.
As Robin has completed his concerts, he was been able to have a good look round, and liked it very much.
There's a huge sweeping bay, and houses dotted all over the hillside, which he anticipated would look spectacular after dark.

First though, a trip to town turned into rather an ornithological day.
First there was his new friend a parrot:

Apparently he was very heavy but had, 'beautiful plumage'.

Then there were some pelicans having a rest on a small fishing boat:

Even the taxi rank looks interesting, made up entirely of VW Beetles:

So, whilst Robin had 'Fun in Acapulco', I took our two children to the nearest town, so they could spend their Christmas/Birthday money, that was burning a hole in their pockets. We had a good day too!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Guitar Concert One Day, Socks The Next...

As the Queen Victoria makes its way up the coast of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, heading for Mexico, Robin seems to have turned his hand to more domestic issues:

He appears to have developed a new sock drying technique, patent pending, which apparently was highly effective!
Not sure what health and safety would say, but, he assures me he didn't leave the sock unattended...
Now I know I packed enough, 20 pairs in fact.
A handy hint for travellers, insert your socks in your shoes, it saves space in the suitcase, and maintains the shape of the shoe.
I can only imagine that due to the very hot weather, more socks have been required than expected.
He does however say that it is rather a labour intensive method, which makes me think the other 19 pairs will be returning unwashed.....

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wife of a Musician - Part 2 - Travel

As Robin is on the Queen Victoria, somewhere between Costa Rica and Mexico, it seems appropriate to look at travel, because all musicians have to do it.

Robin's office is his music room, but, every time he goes out to work, long distances are involved.
In the early days, if he was performing in the UK, he would drive to the concert, give his performance, socialise with the organisers and guests, then drive home again, no matter how far, or how late he would arrive back.
But this is hugely impractical, exhausting, and a pace of life that can't be continued.
Now we have a 3 hour rule.
Any venue, more than 2 1/2 to 3 hours drive away, he stays over night, and returns refreshed the next day.

But frequently musicians don't only play in their home country, but, anywhere around the world.
Most people think it's a fantastic and glamorous way of life and in some ways it is.
However, if it's a two week tour somewhere, the musicians generally only see airports, hotels and venues, as they constantly move from city to city.
If they are lucky, they may get a day off at some point, and will then make the most of it.

I know how hard it is as I often travelled with the Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo.
Yes you get a feel for the country you are in, and hosts are very kind, usually entertain you, and show you a few historical sites. But on the whole, the same applies, airport, hotel, venue, hotel, airport.
I was lucky, as I would usually get an hour or so to look around, before the concert, whilst the duo prepared.
By morning, you pack up and move on.

Sometimes they would have midday concerts, or masterclasses, and then travel onto the next town in time for an evening recital.
So it is hard work.

But the travelling Robin is doing at the moment is different again.
He still has the long haul flights, but as he often performs on various incredible cruise ships, he gets to unpack, and his room becomes home, for the main part of the trip.
Depending on how his concerts fall within the trip, he will get to see more of the countries he visits.
But if they dock at a beautiful island somewhere and his concert is the next day, he really will only allow himself a short visit, as for him, the priority is, and always will be, giving the best performance he can.
But, as on this current trip, sometimes he's lucky.
He has performed his last concert and still has a few countries to visit, so will go ashore and make the most of it.

It's hard though. Can you imaging seeing some incredible place, but the very people you would love to share the experience with, are not there.
One memorable trip to Venice resulted in a huge 'phone bill as Robin took in all the beautiful buildings and relayed the scenes to me on the other end of the 'phone.

As the wife of a musician you have to accept that they will be away from home, and sometimes for quite long periods.
So often you hear of musicians relationships failing because of these separations.
But I knew about Robin's travelling when we married, and have accepted it as part of our way of life.
Luckily, I have always been the sort of person that has plenty of things to do, and keep myself very busy. In fact, when Robin is away my work load obviously increases, so I often find I have too little time to achieve all I need!

That doesn't mean it's easy, you just learn how to cope with it.
It is hard at times and particularly for the children.
They miss him very much, but are also accepting of the situation and, for them, it's normal.
We have all learnt to make the most of the times when Robin is home, and in some ways, are all happier for it.
Musicians have to play, not just to earn a living, but also because it is a basic need.
Without his music he wouldn't be the man I married, simple as that.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

William Walton, Julian Bream and the Paraguayan Harpist

A worried man pre-concert:

Relieved and rehydrating post concert:

Robin continues to receive positive feedback after his final concert, and, consequently meets some interesting people.

One enthusiastic lady introduced herself as, 'a Misionera', which is a girl from Misionera, in Argentina. This was prompted by Robin performing Federico Bustamente's 'Misionera', in the concert.

He has also spent some time talking to a Paraguayan harpist, and they whiled away many hours discussing the virtues of South American music and Barrios in particular, along with comparing their nails and various treatments....
The harpist had an interesting tale, he once met William Walton and Julian Bream in a restaurant on the Mediterranean island of Ischia. Walton had by this time moved there from Oldham, a very wise choice I'm sure.
The three talked for some time, and Julian Bream gave him his latest CD which contained, amongst other things, Walton's Bagatelles.

Robin later went out to dinner with a ventriloquist and I imagine they enjoyed a few 'gottles of geer'.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Concert on Cunard's Queen Victoria

I told you it was sunny when Robin went through the Panama Canal.
Here's a view from the Queen Victoria yesterday, which gives you an idea of the beautiful terrain.

Apparently the odd crocodile was spotted basking on the banks as they glided by.
Today, they are at sea, the Pacific to be exact.
It is also the day of Robin's concert.
So, I imagine he is in his room, running through the programme, to limber up before his performance. Not to mention the numerous right and left hand exercises.
Some of the pieces he will be playing are, Asturias, Tango en Skai, Jota and Canarios, so it should be a very nice programme.
I let you know more about it as soon as I have news.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Pre Concert Panama Canal

Robin is practising hard as his second, and final concert of this trip, is tomorrow.
He has had many excellent comments from passing passengers about the first concert, so expectations are high.
Hence many hours of practice.

Today the Queen Victoria is going through the Panama Canal.
It's just incredible how these huge ships manage to fit in, and in fact, I think they are built with the Panama Canal in mind.

To the side of the canal is lush, green, forest, full of exotic wildlife, so it really is an experience.

Just in case Robin gets too involved in his rehearsal, and forgets to go outside and have a look, I found this great timelapse footage of a journey through the Panama Canal.
It's much sunnier on Robin's trip than in the film, he's basking in 100 degrees and above at the moment....

Panama Canal Timelapse

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An Iguana in Aruba and the Queen Victoria

The Queen Victoria is now back at sea, having left Aruba, but here she is whilst still in dock.

For those not quite sure where Aruba is, it's in the heart of the Southern Caribbean, about 15 miles (20Km), off the coast of Venezuela.

Robin took great delight in making a new friend. A 2 and a half foot Iguana that happened to be passing by.

Then there's the statue in the square:

Robin now feels it's safe enough to send a few photographs, and I feel brave enough to look at them. (See yesterdays blog)
He did spend some time on land, but as always, his thoughts are never far away from the next concert.
Consequently he usually returns to his room to practice after a quick look around.
Still, it's very nice to be able to take a break in such beautiful surroundings.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

All Animals are Equal....

Robin sent me this photo the other day, taken whilst in Fort Lauderdale.

This one is of the Queen Victoria, in dock, whilst passengers, and Robin, enjoy some time on land.

He has now arrived in Aruba, but as yet, hasn't sent me any photographs.
There's a reason for this.
He daren't.
Today is son number ones 11th birthday and he has 6 friends over for a sleepover.
That makes a total of 8 children in the house.
And me.
Robin has 'phoned and spoken to the birthday boy, and sent him an iCard.
Plus he did set up a drum kit before leaving which somehow I managed to keep hidden.
Thankfully, so far, the party goers haven't asked to try them out.
I'm desperately hoping it stays that way.

Robin has, quite rightly realised, that to see images of Caribbean beaches, may just be too traumatic for me.
Maybe by midday tomorrow I'll be able to face it...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Wife of a Musician - Part 1- The Music

The Queen Victoria, and consequently Robin, are somewhere between the Florida Straits and the Caribbean Sea, so I guess he'll be needing his suncream.

So I'm going to take this opportunity to look at an area that has been brought to my attention a lot over the years.
People generally seem to have a fascination with music and therefore musicians.
It's one of the reasons I started this blog in the first pace.
So often, when at concerts, I have been asked about, not just the music, but, how it works being a musician. The practical issues of performing and travelling, and generally being involved in a life that many people wish to do, but few make it.

I'm not quite sure where this fascination comes from.
Maybe it's what appears to be a glamorous lifestyle, up there on stage, travelling extensively, which is a basic requirement of most musicians.
But it isn't all glamour.
Years of solitary practice have to be done before you even attempt to make a name for yourself.
The music industry, like many others, is a cut throat business. It's hugely competitive, highly unpredictable, and therefore only suited to those who couldn't perceive of doing anything else.
They are simply driven by the music.

Even though I am unable to travel as much with Robin as I used to, I still get asked about his life, usually via e mail, and from all parts of the world.

It appears that I have inadvertently created a band of followers, trying to read between the lines, as to what it's really like to be a musician, or, closely associated with one.

Obviously I don't have all the answers, and can't really judge anyone else or their relationship, but I do have 16 years of marriage to a musician to fall back on.

Peoples' perceptions of life with a musician can be very different.
Sometimes I hear, "It must be so incredible being surrounded by music all the time,"
whilst others will say, "Doesn't it drive you mad hearing the guitar all day long?"

The fact is that life with a musician is many things, too much to deal with in one blog, so, I'll do it in stages.

Part 1, is all about, 'The Music'.

You have to understand the musician, and their music, from the beginning.
The fact that I have also had a life long interest in music, and particularly the guitar, has certainly helped.
If you are considering a relationship with someone, and you can't stand the instrument they play, then I'm afraid it's doomed to failure.
Musicians need to practice and they do it a lot.
Robin, when home, will do anything between 4 and 6 hours of physical practice a day, every day, be it a birthday, Christmas or family holiday. Although he will do a reduced amount on such occasions. (The only day I've known him do no practice, other than when ill or travelling, was our wedding day!)
Much of that will be technical exercises, scales and arpeggios, and the rest playing pieces and learning new repertoire.

I don't actually 'hear' a lot of that these days.
It's going on in the background, and subconsciously I know where Robin is up to in his routine, but I don't generally consciously acknowledge the sounds I'm hearing.
I am after all getting on with my own work.
But, when Robin is running through his repertoire, or preparing for a concert, I hear every note and constantly tell myself how lucky I am to be listening to such incredible music.

I'm frequently called in to hear a particular musical phrase and asked which sound I like the most. "Does this fingering, or, that fingering sound better?"
"I like this interpretation what do you think?"
But I take all this as an honour.
I respect Robin's musical knowledge and expertise. For him to ask my opinion is high praise indeed.
No matter that I may have been making the tea, bathing the children, feeding the dogs etc. at the time...

For me, to hear Robin in concert, or receive feedback after a concert, is when I feel privileged to have been a part of the whole process.
I know the amount of time, effort, thought and practice, that has gone into every single note that is played in public.
Nothing is ever performed until it has gone through an extensive period of rehearsal and interpretation.

This takes time though.
That is where all the hours of practice come in.
Of course whilst this is under way, life goes on around the music.
Every day things need to be dealt with.
Calls made, agents to deal with, tours to plan and pack for, and a million other household jobs.
The wife of a musician quickly discovers that everyday issues are best dealt with yourself.
It's not that Robin doesn't want to do these things, and he does help out in many ways, but there's no point in even asking until he is taking a break, or, has finished for the day.
To maintain such a level of skill requires one to be completely focused.
But, when home, his working day is more flexible than most peoples, and it is very refreshing to have someone to collect from school or nip to the shops.

Anyone considering a relationship with a musician has to understand, and love, the music.
Right from the start you need to realise that they will never change.
Music is their life.
But remember, that must have been one of the things that attracted you to them in the first place, so why on earth would you want to change them anyway?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Freedom in Fort Lauderdale

At last I can speak to Robin.
The concert yesterday went very well, and the audience were highly enthusiastic, with many standing to applaud at the end.
He did manage to acquire some nail damage during a lively performance of 'Malaguena', but didn't need to carry out any 'on stage' repairs which was a relief.
The cruise director was very pleased and said, 'Fantastic as always', so I think he should be happy.

Robin has now arrived in Fort Lauderdale, and took great delight in telling me he was sunning himself on a lounger, and it was only 9am.
Particularly annoying for me as I had just returned from a very wet walk in the park with the dogs.

He has also had the chance to frequent the fabulous, two storey library on board, and is now enjoying, 'The Secret Agent' by Joseph Conrad.

So, for now, he can relax for a while as his next concert isn't for a week.
I knew I should have done more practice.....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Video of Cunard's Queens & Arts Council Cuts

It is concert day for Robin and he is rehearsing hard but I won' get any details until late tonight or even tomorrow.
But if you follow this link you can watch a video and read a report by Tom Leonard, which opens with a beautiful image of the 'Three Queens' sailing past the Statue of Liberty, with fireworks in the background.
It's very strange for me to see knowing that Robin is on board. Especially when it shows the Queen Victoria in dock. I swear I can hear the distant sound of the guitar...

But I do now have the opportunity to mention the current cutbacks we are experiencing here in the UK.
I had an email from the 'Musicians in Residence' scheme, which has been running for many years, and which the Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo have occasionally had dealings with.

The scheme was aimed at supporting musicians and promoters in the Yorkshire region, by offering grants to promoters in the area, to book quality artists they would otherwise be unable to afford.
They have now had their funding removed and the scheme has been stopped.

It's a real shame as the general public are the ones who lose out.
It is now unlikely that smaller promoters and venues will be able to afford the top ranking acts without this financial assistance.
However, it isn't all caused by the Arts Council.
The Musicians in Residence scheme also reported a reduction in promoters taking up the offer over the last few years.

This brings me to an area we have discussed many times here. If people aren't given the chance to see live entertainment, be it music, theatre, or whatever, then their appetite for such things diminishes.
They begin to only expect performances in the major towns and cities, and even there, they are having similar problems.

Meanwhile on the television, reality T.V. is viewed by millions.
It appears that Oscar Wilde was right:

"The English public feels perfectly at ease with a mediocrity."

So some things are never new.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Cunard's Queens in New York

There has been little communication from the high seas today and we are now reduced to e mail.
However, I did talk to Robin late last night, and he was very impressed with Cunard's new ship, the Queen Victoria.
He thoroughly enjoyed the experience of standing on the deck, with Mozart playing gently around him, whilst he watched the QE2, which was alongside, and the Hudson Bridge in the background.
The QM2 was of course also there, and the celebration of this historic event, complete with fireworks, was fantastic.
You can read more about it in this article, 'Three Cunard Queen Ships Meet in Manhattan for Once-in-a-Lifetime Event'.

When we spoke, the QV had set sail and the QE2 was still with them, but I expect they have now gone separate ways.

I was rather amused to discover that someone found this site by a google search, 'Cunard Queen Victoria, Does it have irons in the rooms'?
Well, from my experience of Robin's many trips abroad, on various lines, I have never seen any evidence of there being an iron even in the same hemisphere, never mind in the room.
However, I suspect they do have them on board, and probably in each room, but that Robin hasn't quite worked out its function.....

He is there to work though and it's the first of his two concerts tomorrow.
So I would imagine that Robin is running through the first programme, and limbering up his fingers with some right and left hand exercises, to recover from the long journey.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An Englishman in New York

Robin has arrived safely in New York.
After spending the night in a hotel, he has now transferred to Manhattan, where he will join the Queen Victoria.
This makes a change as usually you board in Brooklyn.
But there's a very special reason.
The QE2, QM2 and the QV, are all in New York together.
This is an historic day for Cunard, as it has never happened before, and won't again, as the QE2 will shortly leave the fleet.

To celebrate the occasion, there will be a firework display later today, against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty.
As snow is also forecast, it should be an incredible sight.

I'm hoping for more news tomorrow, and have requested some photographs, but we'll have to see if they arrive!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Dark Side of the Moon

It is a cold, damp, January day here, and I wasn't pleased when the alarm clock rang out at only 6.30 am.
Neither of us wanted to get up, and we managed to silence the noise, and grab a few more minutes.
But reality set in, and we had to organise ourselves, and set off for the airport in a short while.
It's a well practiced procedure in this house and we all know the routine.
Before long we were in the car, and on the motorway, which was thankfully quiet.

We said our goodbyes and then I had to drive off as Robin made his way inside the terminal.
This is always the hardest part.
Especially as son number two was howling in the back of the car.
Luckily, other son had stayed at a friends last night, so I was spared two sets of tears.

By the time I got home Robin called to say he was checked in and ready to go.
It's as hard for him as it is for us.
I don't envy him the flight to New York.

However, after watching a programme on, 'the making of' Pink Floyd's album, 'Dark Side of the Moon', Robin decided to download it, and was looking forward to putting his feet up, his headphones on, and revisiting the music.
When I say 'putting his feet up', I mean that literally.
He's quite tall, so usually has to adopt the full lotus position whilst flying, due to the lack of leg room.

But it will all be worth it.
He gets an overnight stay in New York, and then will be joining Cunard's 'Queen Victoria'.
Weeks of sunshine, good food and plenty of sleep lie ahead.
Oh, and a couple of concerts of course.
I'm not envious, not a bit....

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pre Maritime Tension

It has been one of those weeks when we have had to remind ourselves of this quote:

"Don't say you don't have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresea, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein."
H.Jackson Brown Jnr

There has been such a lot going on that my posts here have been neglected.
However, it will be of benefit to you all, as some of that time has been spent finalising the next CD to be released, which I'm very pleased about.
More of that to follow over the next few weeks.
So keep checking in, it will be worth it!

Another reason for extra demands on my time are various family commitments.
I shall cover some of those issues shortly, as I cope with being the 'wife of an absent musician' during a particularly difficult week to come.
There have also been many jobs which required my time but are too tedious to mention.

But for now, my priority is washing, ironing and packing for a trip which starts tomorrow....
As we have been so busy, I haven't actually done anything in preparation, so I can only hope most of the clothes Robin needs are actually clean.
I've got as far as writing a list, so that I can feel a sense of achievement as I cross each thing off.
I'm easily pleased...
I shall now go and brace myself for the next few weeks to come.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Born To Be Wild

It's a strange coincidence that we found a CD of electric guitar music that Robin made a few years ago, especially as he is currently in that mode.
Also, we had been talking about Karl Maddison, the sound engineer on this album who sadly died last year.

The brief for the CD was cover versions of rock classics.
Karl was an inspiration as Robin tried to capture the mood of the songs, quite often during a dull, rainy day, at a studio in Rotherham. Not exactly Rock 'n' Roll!
He sat at the mixing desk whilst Robin thrashed away next to him and by all accounts they both had a great time.

This track is 'Born to be Wild', originally by Steppenwolf, and used in the 1969 classic film, 'Easy Rider'.
The film with Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper captured the zeitgeist and the music featured included artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan.

Anyone wanting to hear more of this CD, which includes Blue Oyster Cult's, 'Don't Fear the Reaper', and Eric Clapton's, 'Layla' amongst others, should contact Music Factory Rotherham, and yes, they are the Jive Bunny people.

Robin's nails are now rested and he is back to preparing for his forthcoming concerts.
It amazes me how he can switch between electric and classical guitar so easily. In fact it is quite unusual for classical musicians to play other styles.
I'm sure we won't have heard the last of his electric playing though. The flame has well and truly been rekindled, and as soon as he is home again, I'm sure he'll be getting out his Fender once more.

But for now, enjoy 'Born to be Wild'.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Electric Guitar and the Halle Orchestra

It has been rather a strange few days.
As the school holidays came to an end son number one discovered a talent for drumming.
The whole drum kit wasn't set up, but he made use of what was available, and he has requested a new bass drum pedal for his birthday....
Not to be outdone on the noise front, Robin has been playing his electric guitar.

Now this may seem strange to regular readers, as they will know that he is soon off on a trip, and has many programmes to be working on.
But, in an unprecedented move, Robin decided to take a few days off from the classical guitar, to allow his nails to rest and grow, before going away.

Hence the electric guitar.
You didn't expect him to be without an instrument in his hands did you?
I must say it has been a delight to hear, and, Robin has been thoroughly enjoying himself, and now has a new, very funky piece, nearly written.

What he enjoyed most of all was playing along with son number one.
Not to be outdone, second son joined in with his Christmas triangle, and a shaker.

But now school has resumed and we are all getting on with our work.

I read an article by Ivan Hewett today, where he talks to Mark Elder about the forthcoming 150th anniversary of the Halle Orchestra.
If you remember, I spoke to Mark Elder back in November, you can remind yourselves here, and was very impressed with him as a conductor, and his ability to engage with the younger generation.
So, if you are in the Manchester area on January 30th, you can see The Halle's 150th anniversary concert at the Bridgewater Hall. For more details go here.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Benny Goodman Orchestra - Sing Sing Sing

Our very good friend Paul Griffin, recently sent us a link to the Benny Goodman Orchestra, and it makes fabulous viewing.
Paul has been a friend for many years and collaborated musically with Robin in the band 'Force 10', which I have written about before.

Paul's dad was also an excellent trumpeter, Chris Griffin, and you can see him on the following video.
I have mentioned Chris before, here, when Robin whiled away some time in an airport, talking about him.

Robin knew Chris well and they had huge respect for each other musically and it was with great sadness that we learnt of his death back in 2005.
However, if you find yourself in the Catskill Mountains, and need a fabulous place to stay, try 'The Griffin House' where you will be guaranteed as much talk of music as you could wish for!

But for now, you can see Chris in the video, with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, playing 'Sing sing sing' from Hollywood Hotel.
Trumpets, left to right: Harry James, Ziggy Elman, Chris Griffin, Johnny Scat Davis.
Another of Robin's favourites, Gene Krupa on drums.

I think you'll agree, these guys really know how to play....

Benny Goodman Orchestra Sing Sing Sing from Hollywood Hotel

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A New Year and an Old Recording

Normality, or what passes for it in this house, hasn't quite returned yet, and won't until school re-opens on Monday.
However that hasn't stopped Robin from getting on with his work.
He has a lengthy foreign trip coming up, which requires a number of programmes to be prepared, so rehearsals are in full swing.
He did however allow himself some time to listen to an old reel to reel recording of Eduardo Abreu playing 'Madronos' by Torroba.
You can guess what's coming.
Yes, Robin dug out the music and has been relearning it in his leisure time.....

He has in fact recorded this piece, many years ago, on an album for the BBC, which was never for sale, but frequently played on air.
What I find interesting is the way that revisiting a piece of music highlights the learning curve which never diminishes for classical musicians in particular.

As Robin has been playing through 'Madronos', which incidentally means 'Strawberries', he has discovered new fingerings and positioning for both left hand and right hands, which makes for a smoother performance.
Years of practice, listening and observing really do pay off in the world of music, and there's always more to be learnt.

Nor does Robin's delight and enthusiasm diminish over time.
The reverse is probably true.
The pleasure he got from listening to Eduardo Abreu play this piece, and also from the rest of the album featuring both Abreu brothers, was immense.
It reminded me of this quote, even if it is a little tongue in cheek:

"The older I get, the more I admire competence, just simple competence, in any field from adultery to zoology."