'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

Monday, April 30, 2007

Borat, Kennedy, Ronnie Scot's, and Robin Hill is off to Singapore...

For those of you who are 'Borat' film fans, you will know that it was Sacha Baron Cohen's brother Erran, who composed the score. Due to the controversy surrounding the film, he was surprised to get a 'phone call from Marat Bisengaliev, the Kazakh violin virtuoso and conductor.
The result is a new composition for symphony orchestra called, 'Zere', which will be premiered at St.James's Church, Piccadilly, London, on Friday.
Bisengaliev will play violin and conduct the Turan Alem Kazakhstan Philharmonic Orchestra. For a full report read Adam Sweeting's article in The Daily Telegraph.

Nigel Kennedy has also had a glowing report from Ivan Hewett, for a performance at Ronnie Scott's, where he combined jazz with Bartok and a bit of blues thrown in. Read more here.

Meanwhile, Robin is oblivious to all of this.
Having flown overnight from Miami to Heathrow, he then immediately boarded a flight to Singapore. Another 12 and a half hours...Ouch.
It's tough at the top.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fort Lauderdale and the Multiple 'Phone Calls

Once again Robin is in Fort Lauderdale. He was only there at the beginning of April! The QE2 docked in Port Everglade, Pier 21, if you are of a nautical persuasion. This is also the day that he jumps ship.
His bags are packed and he has a free day to while away before his flight. Unable to practice, he decided to leave case and guitar in a safe place, and take himself off on a shopping spree.
As this is one of the rare days that we can actually speak to each other, I keep getting 'phone calls telling me of his progress.

1) He's enjoying feeling the land beneath his feet, especially as it is very warm, and sunny.

2)After a short trip into town he found a huge shopping mall. One that he should have been directed to last time he was there when trying to buy clothes to last until his suitcase arrived. The taxi driver told him he was lucky to get out alive from the place he was taken to last time.....

3)He has found a very interesting CD shop where he had purchased a DVD of Joni Mitchell featuring Jaco Pastorius. You will recall that this is Jaco's hometown after all.
Also, a DVD of Chick Corea and some flamenco music.

I look forward to seeing them both, but for now, hopefully, they will keep Robin amused whilst he does some seriously long journeys.
He has more work to do yet, even if it is only to pay for the 'phone calls...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

From A Day in New York to Heavy Weather to Rostropovich

Robin was lucky enough to have some time in New York yesterday. This was a rare treat for him as usually he is just passing through. He didn't have a full day, as getting through security took longer than anticipated, and he had to be back on board the QE2 by 4 pm. So, unfortunately, didn't manage to get to The Cloisters, as recommended by Paul, in New Jersey, and Ted, in New York. Many thanks for the directions though!

One thing he did need to do was to get some new strings for the next stage of his trip.
He found himself a luthiers in Manhattan and stepped inside, the first thing he saw was a copy of his very own book, 'The Guitar Gymnasium.' He was quite delighted and it reminded him of seeing a Hill/Wiltschinsky album in Tower Records a few years ago.

After a chat with the owner, Robin purchased some strings, along with another footstool, and this rather beautiful capo.

As he left the shop and walked down the road he came across the legendary Birdland Club. This is the famous New York jazz club that so influenced the band Weather Report that they named their famous song 'Birdland' after it.
This has always been rather a special track for us. In the early days we would listen to it very loud, late at night, often with musician friends, and just enjoy.
Now, well, usually son number one tells us to turn the music down, he's trying to sleep...

However, we should also take a moment to remember Mstislav Rostropovich the outstanding cellist, conductor and pianist who died yesterday. Obituary provided by The Daily Telegraph.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Just a Clumsy Phase - I Hope....

This is where being a regular reader has its rewards. You are privy to backstage information that the audience would have been totally oblivious to.
If you recall, Robin's last concert on the QE2, for this trip anyway, was on Wednesday.
Whilst still in his room making final preparations to go to the theatre, Robin decided his right hand thumb nail required some reinforcing, this is done with super glue, or, special nail glue.
There was only 20 minutes to go until the recital started, so he was already changed, and ready for the off.
Applying glue to a tiny part of the nail is a difficult procedure. When Robin is at home, I am occasionally called upon to assist, by holding a tweezer or squeezing the 'exact' amount of glue that is required, onto 'exactly' the right spot. It is always a rather tense time because if you get it wrong, it is then a lengthy and frustrating operation to remove the glue with cheap nail varnish remover.
Robin is, however, very adept at doing this, and deftly applies the correct treatment, one handed if necessary.

So there he was, alone in his room, and somehow he managed to spill the glue - all over his left hand.
As he frantically tried to remove it, he managed to glue himself to the G sting of the guitar....
By this stage there was only 15 minutes before the performance and the audience were already taking their places.
Little did they know that the artist was currently 'stuck' to his instrument.
The only thing to do, was to literally, pull his finger off the string.
He was then left with the dilemma of changing the string, which had bits of glue attached, or just to pick off as much as he could.
This is a bigger problem than you imagine.
To change a string minutes before a concert is a tuning nightmare. They need a few hours to be played in.
He opted for the, 'pick as much off as he could', route.

No need to worry though.
He put his professional head on and delivered an excellent concert. So good in fact that he was recalled twice to take a bow.
Unfortunately on the second exit he managed to walk straight into a piano - no permanent damage was done, to either of them.
I hope it's just a clumsy phase he's going through....

Thursday, April 26, 2007

It's a Ball at the Proms

The papers are awash today with the announcement that the BBC Proms will stage a night of Michael Ball's West End songs. Click here to read more of Nigel Reynolds's article in The Daily Telegraph.
I'm sitting on the fence with this one. On one hand, I feel there are so many opportunities for the public to hear and see this type of music, that the Proms should be left alone for, what is now a rare chance, to view 'classical music'.
However, on the other hand, Ball is very good at what he does, and it could be that many people who haven't contemplated going to, or watching, the Proms in the past, may be enticed back to sample more.

Introducing people to orchestral music has also been discussed by various conductors. Eight leading symphony orchestras have suggested that every child should receive a free ticket to a classical music concert as part of their education.
An excellent idea to promote classical music to the next generation.
To read more, and for a list of the orchestras involved, go here.

For those of you who enjoy singing, but are not quite sure of the lyrics, then, as Richard Alleyne reports, 'The answer my on the internet'.
There are currently many unofficial lyric sites.
I stumbled across one recently that listed the 'Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo' as one of the artists. On investigating further the site said, 'The artist will not release the lyrics to their songs.'
Come on guys, do your research. They are a classical guitar duo, they don't have any lyrics!
But, if you do want to look into the words for your favourite songs, then Yahoo are to make lyrics available on line for free.

Meanwhile, out at sea, there have been some rather amusing developments in the last of the Robin Hill concerts on the QE2. But the details are sketchy at the moment, so I'll report more on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Two Down, One to Go - On This Part of the Trip

News and comments are slowly trickling back on the two concerts performed so far.
The first, which was on Sunday, was very well attended and received.
Between two of the pieces, Robin had some rapid retuning to do, which he generally does very slickly as he introduces the next piece.
The altered string often tries to return to the original position, so one technique to prevent this, is to pull the string a few times so that it relaxes back to the tuning you require.
On this occasion, Robin was stretching the bottom E, whilst talking, but it 'slapped' back into position in a rather 'Stanley Clarke ' fashion.
He reassured his audience that he wasn't about to go into an 'Earth, Wind and Fire', style medley, and continued with the concert.
Audiences always seem to like the little personal touches, that are obviously not planned, and luckily Robin isn't fazed by things like that.
In fact, after the concert, he was talking to a couple who have been on board for 4 months as part of a world cruise. They had been to every classical concert in that time and said that Robin had the best response.
That's nice to know.

The second concert, which was on Monday, also went very well, although it wasn't an easy one for Robin.
The sea was rather rough and there was a certain amount of pitching and rolling going on. When you consider accuracy of finger positions is paramount, and millimeters make a difference, you can see that the moving neck of a guitar, that is beyond your control, is not going to help.
However, he did it, the audience enjoyed it, and he feels much better now!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

So here we are. It's my birthday today and Robin is a few thousand miles away feeling rather nauseous in the Atlantic.
He's a romantic soul though, as he gave me some presents before he left, one of which was a bunch of flowers carefully chosen to be in full bloom today. He timed it perfectly, they are beautiful, but then timing is his thing.

It's also the day that in 1792, the national anthem of France, 'La Marseillaise' was composed by Captain Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle. I'm sure he didn't do it all in a day, maybe today was just the day he 'went public'.
So whilst I can't see or speak to Robin, we can communicate via e mail, once he wakes up!
There is another way though.
I read this the other day:

'Music carries me immediately and directly into the mental condition in which the man was who composed it.
My soul merges with his, and together with him I pass from one condition into another; but why this happens, I don't know.'
Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)

So, all I need to do is put on some of Robin's compositions, and I'll be right there with him.
As far as the rest of the day is concerned, well, family are coming over later, and I've saved a couple of episodes of 'House' to watch this evening.
If it's good enough for Jeremy Denk to be an overt 'House' fan, then it's good enough for me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Concert in Mid-Atlantic

Have you ever thought about how a soloist feels before going on stage?
Robin wrote this poem on a previous trip, but as he is mid-Atlantic at the moment, and has his second guitar concert tonight, I thought I would share it with you.

The Concert in the Mid-Atlantic

Waiting in my padded cell,

And dreading the recital bell,

The summoning of execution,

From which there is no absolution,

It's outcome all depends on me,

Escape prohibited by sea,

Check fingernails are all intact,

Check nerves that are severely wracked,

Check music is inside my head,

And rise up from the cabin's bed.


Believe me, he does actually love what he is doing!
But it is a lonely time waiting to be called on stage. For those who are as passionate about their music as Robin is, I think it is inevitable, that they will feel this way.
The skill is being able to control the tension and use it to your advantage, which, after many years experience, Robin is able to do.
It isn't quite the same when performing with Hill/Wiltschinsky, as there is a certain amount of backstage bravado going on, which helps to diffuse the tension.

It obviously worked last night as the concert was very well received and Robin has had lots of very nice comments. To add to the evening, and make it feel very special, all the audience were attired in evening dress!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Miguel Rodriguez 'Churchdoor' passes the Sound Check

Robin has settled in on board ship but there has been little time to relax.
Most of the day has been spent practicing in preparation for his first concert tonight.
He decided to take his Miguel Rodriguez 'Churchdoor' on this trip and was looking forward to trying it out in the theatre.
This afternoon he went along for a sound check and although the acoustics in the theatre were very dry, the Churchdoor was completely unfazed, and produced its usual bright, vibrant and powerful sound.
Robin therefore decided to play unamplified.
He always prefers to, but sometimes it just isn't possible, you just have to try the venue out when you get there and make a decision.
Whilst running through the sound check there were actually a few people sitting in the theatre who gave an enthusiastic round of applause at the end.
Robin told them, 'That's only the rehearsal', so I hope they go back later to hear the real thing.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Southampton and the QE2

Robin and his luggage have arrived safely in Southampton and joined the QE2. At least there wasn't a long haul flight to endure, but, merely a short hop down the length of the country.
Mind you, there are plenty of long flights coming up, as he will be visiting some exotic, far flung places, and I'm hoping for some nice photographs. You'll have to keep checking in to find out exactly where he's going.
But for now, he is settling into his room, with a sea view, and I've no doubt, started his guitar practice.
Usually on these trips he performs two 45 minute concerts. But I have had a message to say he'll be doing three this time and the first is tomorrow.
Good job he does have all that music memorised after all...

Friday, April 20, 2007

Robin Hill and Memorisation

Today we have entered the 'twilight zone' where the number of hours in the day seem to be halved and the amount to fit in doubled.
Yes, it's that time again, Robin is setting off on his travels tomorrow.
I did take time out to read an article in The Guardian, 'All in the Mind', by pianist Susan Tomes.
Tomes discusses the art of memorising music and the strains that this puts on musicians. It's worth a read, there are lots of good points.
She states that, 'many musicians find it so stressful that they play less naturally than they would with the score.'
Also, that, 'memorising music is more complex than memorising words and the challenge is multidimensional for those who also have to play instruments.'

I wouldn't dispute that, but it isn't the case for all musicians. However, I can only talk about Robin's view on memorising music.
For him, it is a part of the process of learning and understanding the piece, and he would never perform any music until he felt that process was complete.
Robin likens it to actors on the stage. You wouldn't expect them to walk around still holding onto their script. They only get up on stage to perform once they have immersed themselves in the part.
The same applies to music.
However, at the beginning of his career, he did have music on stage with him, but rarely looked at it, mainly because he usually plays with his eyes shut. In fact, quite often the music on the stand wasn't even the piece he was currently performing. He would literally forget to turn the pages.
The issue was that it was there. A crutch to lean on.

Over time he realised that not only was it redundant, but was also obscuring the view for most of the audience. Even if the music stand is put slightly to the side, someone won't be able to see very well.
So, many years ago, he took the brave decision to perform without music, and he still maintains it is a liberating experience. All his attention goes on interpretation, the notes are already there.
Frequently members of an audience will comment that they have just observed him perform for an hour and a half, without the aid of music, and are amazed that so much information can be stored in the mind. It seems to make the concert experience special for all concerned.

Robin does actually have many hours of music memorised to call upon when required, a combination of physical, audio and sensory memory.

However, he does still take music with him when he travels. Not just new pieces he is working on, but, also ones that will be performed in that concert. He hasn't quite shaken off the crutch altogether, even if it doesn't actually make it out of the suitcase.
Speaking of which, there's a pile of music to make space for in the case I'm just packing....

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Robin Teaches in Leeds, I investigate William Grant Still

As Robin is out all day, at Leeds University, putting a few students through their paces prior to their exams, I decided to follow a lead sent to me by one of our American readers, so many thanks to 'kamel'.
I was referred to a story on NPR, (National Public Radio) in the US.
They were running an interview yesterday on William Grant Still, an African/American composer, in which his granddaughter was talking about his life. Although unable to hear the entire interview with Judith Ann Still, extracts are available here.
It's a fascinating story which depicts the problems faced by a black composer/performer throughout his life.
He was born in 1885, Mississippi, and as a child enjoyed listening to opera with his stepfather and also attending concerts.
By 1914 he was playing the oboe and cello professionally, and thanks to an inheritance from his father, was able to undertake further musical studies at Oberlin College, until he was recruited into the navy where he remained until after the war.
Throughout his career he dedicated his life to composing/arranging/conducting and performing.
Still's has been characterized as an :
'American composer whose musical works included African American themes and spanned jazz, popular, opera, and classical genres.
He created over 150 musical works including a series of five symphonies, four ballets and nine operas.'
Whilst listening to the interview it struck me how sad it was that Still was not only struggling to get pieces performed in the same way as many composers do, but also had to deal with huge prejudice.
He did, however, continue with his quest throughout his life, despite the many obstacles.
I must confess that I was not familiar with his works, but having read/listened to an account of his life, was intrigued, and have since listened to some of the many pieces available. So far, I have really enjoyed what I have heard, and you can 'feel' the 'American' style of orchestration shining through. This is something of which his family are rightly proud.
He was unsuccessful in getting any of his music recorded whilst he was alive, but his family have since rectified the situation and now his music can live on through the various and varied available albums.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Robin Hill's markings on 'La Catedral'

I have previously written about Agustin Barrios, the Paraguayan guitarist and composer, but today I found this picture.

It is 'La Catedral', (The Cathedral), and as you can see from all the markings, Robin was working on it at the time.
The piece was allegedly inspired by a visit Barrios made to the main Cathedral in Montevideo. While walking past the building he heard the music of J.S.Bach being performed on the cathedral organ. This spiritual and musical experience later provided the basis for the original 1st movement (this later became the second movement as he added a much later composed introduction).
The original second movement, still obviously inspired by the music of Bach, was, with it's moto perpetuo semiquavers, an impression of the bustling streets outside the cathedral and the temporal world.

Robin was lucky enough to be in Montevideo whilst working on this piece, and derived a great deal of inspiration from visiting the very cathedral. Robin tells me that he always now sees the interior of the cathedral in his mind's eye when he performs this work.
This picture is from the inside.

Just as a little extra snippet of information, Barrios is thought to be the first classical guitarist to have made gramophone records, in 1910, and to have played a complete Bach Suite, (Lute Suite No.1).

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hill meets Doctor Who

Robin has taken time out from guitar practice today for a trip to the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry with son number one, as they are currently showing Britain's biggest Doctor Who exhibition.
Doctor Who has a massive fan base, both old and young, but the reason I'm writing about it today is the music associated with it.
Some months ago we downloaded the album, Dr Who Theme (TV version), by Murray Gold.
It has proved hugely popular with both children and their friends.
The new arrangement of the Doctor Who theme, which was originally composed by Ron Grainer, is exciting and beautifully done.
In fact there are a total of 31 tracks, all depicting various characters and scenarios of the series.
Any self respecting 10 year old is able to identify the episode by the music.
This brings me to my point.
Many children don't have access to orchestral music, yet, most do have access to a television.
Gold has introduced an entire generation to the joys of the orchestra, whether the children realise it on a conscious level or only in a sub-conscious way.
From the haunting vocals in, 'The Doctor's Theme', choirs in, 'The Daleks', or the scary and dramatic, 'The Cyberman', (a personal favourite in our house).
This can only be a good thing. The arrangements are superbly done, subtle, and effective.
So if there are any reluctant classical music listeners, of any age really, who happen to be Doctor Who fans, then this is an excellent introduction.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Frustrations of a Modern Day Composer

Robin put his new pieces on a disc yesterday and we sat back and listened.
For him this is a frustrating process, as what you hear from any computer generated programme, is not as it sounds in his head.
Sibelius is a fantastic tool, and the orchestral sounds are pretty realistic, but nothing can replace real musicians.
An orchestra brings a piece to life, and allows it to breathe at the appropriate moments, interpreting the composers intention under the guidance of a skilled conductor.
But as we have neither orchestra or conductor stashed away under the stairs, for now, we'll have to make do.
However, today, Robin did have a play around with the programme, and managed to add more expression, so we are another step nearer to what he is trying to achieve.
It did prompt a discussion on the advantage/disadvantage modern composers have compared to their predecessors.
Until recently the technology just wasn't available for them to hear their scores played back.
For me as the non-musician, I felt it must make life easier for the modern day composer.
Robin, as the musician, wasn't as sure. It certainly is nice to hear your work, but, he already knows in his own mind what it is going to sound like, and until that is achieved by real orchestral musicians, he will always be disappointed.
However, as Frank Zappa once said, even when your music is recorded by a real orchestra, there will still always be parts you're not happy with.
I guess that for musicians, as they evolve, so does their music. It's part of the artistic process.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder...

It's important to take time out and appreciate the transient beauty around us.
This is what I mean:

Robin captured this image yesterday, in our garden, brought on by the sunny spell. By this morning the white petals are less vibrant and the beauty beginning to fail.
Unlike the piece Robin is composing which is nearing completion and will hopefully have a longer life span than the flower.

I read a quote today that also touched me:

"With a great musician...his playing is become so transparent, so
full of what he is interpreting, that himself one no longer sees
and he is nothing now but a window opening upon a great work of
art." Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

The musician is merely a temporary custodian of the music, rather like being a parent really.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Robin Hill Composes....

At last the sun has reached the north of England and we are basking in beautiful weather.
Not Robin though, mind you, he has just returned from the Caribbean...
The muse is upon him, and he is locked away in the music room composing another movement to, 'A Walk in the Park.' Not a guitar in sight!
It isn't the first piece he has written for other instruments, there's a piano concerto called, '3 Van Gogh Portraits', which is a personal favourite of mine.
As 'A Walk in the Park' progresses I am periodically called to 'listen' to a particular part and proffer an opinion. It's all rather exciting.
The problem is that Robin has another trip coming up fast, and I have a long list of things for him to deal with before he goes.
Dilemma. Do you interrupt a musician at work to deal with mundane everyday household decisions.
Answer. No, how could I deny the world some music. I'll just have to make a few executive decisions myself.
Meanwhile, it was good to read in 'The Daily Telegraph', and article by Edmund Conway and Harry Wallop. BA have managed to make a fortune out of Robin's various missing suitcases, and even guitar, in the last few months. For every call I have had to make to the lost luggage department, they have been making money. Hardly an incentive for them to improve their record...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Robin Hill Plays 'J.S.Bach - Cello Suite No.1'

This is what I really miss when Robin is away on his trips.
Let me set the scene for you.
I am tidying up the kitchen after a typical family breakfast. From the music room come the sounds of J.S.Bach, Cello Suite No.1.
Whilst recently on the QM2 Robin was stopped as he did his daily deck pounding, (makes up for the lack of dog walking), by a couple asking if he would play a piece at the second concert. The man hummed the first few bars, which he had heard on a Segovia CD, and Robin identified it as Bach Prelude.
He explained to the couple that he knew the piece, and had played it a long time ago, but that he hadn't prepared it for the concert.
A quote from his book, 'The Guitar Gymnasium', says, "An amateur practices to get it right - a professional practices so he can't get it wrong."
Therefore, there wasn't time to achieve this before the concert.
It did stimulate his interest though, and after searching through his vast music library on his computer, found the required piece and set about taking it down.

Once home the job of memorizing was underway.
That brings me to breakfast this morning.

As I tidied up, Robin appeared, perched on the edge of the table, and announced he had now memorized the piece.
As the original is for cello, Robin had added the occasional bass note where the harmony is implied but not stated.
This is a very symmetrical piece which gradually modulates to the dominant key almost exactly half way through, it then proceeds to ratchet up the tension by means of a dominant pedal note and after many cascades of scales and arpeggios finally resolves back, on the final triumphant chord, to the tonic (D major).

(The original would have been G major, but this arrangement, and in fact most guitarists, use D major.)

Beautiful, and all as I emptied the dishwasher...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Teaching Children....A word from Sir Peter Maxwell Davies

As I mentioned a few days ago, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies was giving a speech at the annual conference of the, 'Incorporated Society of Musicians. To read a transcript of the speech go here. It's long and interesting, but one point that jumped out at me, was the problems our children face when trying to get even a basic musical knowledge from school.
He talks about working at the Royal College of Music, as part of an outreach programme, where he met teachers who thought that, "teaching standard Western music notation was to indulge in extreme elitism", would "inhibit children's creativity", and was "alien to the working class values of ordinary people".
Surely by not teaching them you are 'inhibiting their creativity'.
As Davies said, 'imagine not teaching them how to write the alphabet...'

Davies recognised the need for children to understand music many years ago and back in 1959 was Director of Music at Cirencester Grammar School. Here he vowed to give the children the musical childhood he hadn't had.
He made them sing sounds before writing them down so that the sign on the paper represented a meaningful sound to the children.

All sounds very sensible to me.
Especially when you read it alongside an article in 'The Daily Telegraph' by Graeme Paton, about, 'Tone-deaf teachers 'killing off' singing'. Apparently, primary school teachers are too embarrassed to sing in front of the class.
Maybe some of the budget allocated to 'promote singing in the classroom', to 'improve self confidence and language skills', should be redistributed to employ those people who actually know how to do it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Home Again

Robin is home and delighted to see all the family. He actually arrived 5 hours earlier than scheduled which was very nice.
Credit where credit due, after recent scathing comments about BA it is only fair that I point out the good side.
An alert check in assistant in New York noticed Robin had two flights, and put him on 'stand by', for a direct flight to Manchester. They had a place, paged Robin, got him on board, and therefore returned him home early.
Also, his case managed to catch the same plane, and there were no problems taking his guitar in the cabin. Well done BA.
If we think we have problems transporting instruments then read this article. Oh dear...
It seems unlikely that this Bosendorfer piano will be played again.
And another thing, as Shane Richmond reports, we have to be nice to each other here in the blogosphere.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New York Calling and Trouble Brewing in the Arts World...

Robin has now docked in New York and talked me through the sites he could see as he walked around the deck. We started with the Statue of Liberty, then Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan. Not bad.
He then went off to pack. That concerned me as he told me he was starting it yesterday. Considering he hasn't had any clothes for most of the trip it made me wonder what he needed to do.
I was quite looking forward to the prospect of only a few pairs of socks and the 'M*I*A*M*I' t-shirt to wash.
He has since informed me that once his case arrived he took great joy in wearing most of its contents.
Oh well.
Back here in the UK, I read an article by Martin Beckford, on the state of funding in the arts world.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen's Music, is to express his views at the annual conference of the 'Incorporated Society of Musicians', on Thursday.
Sir Peter, another northerner as he was born in Salford, Lancashire, adds to the list of musicians from this part of the world.
It seems serious problems could develop unless there is an increase in funding prior to the 2012 Olympic Games.
Watch this space.

Monday, April 09, 2007

From Salmon at Sea to the Nielsen Flute Concerto

As Robin is 'at sea', gradually heading towards New York, he is making good use of the time by working on a Bach Prelude. That was after he had dined on a salmon omelette for breakfast - I hope he's doesn't expect that when he gets home...
Yesterday I had wanted to listen to BBC Radio 3, 'Discovering Music', as Kenneth Woods had brought the programme to my attention. ( I was also delighted to read that he is a Frank Zappa fan!)
As I was out at the time, this morning I investigated the BBC Radio 3 playback and was able to listen to the whole thing.
Stephen Johnson took us through the Nielsen Flute Concerto, with the soloist Sharon Bezaly, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and conductor, Kenneth Woods.
It really brightened up a wet Easter Monday, with an interesting exploration of the piece before the performance.
As I listened I was supervising son number one in the art of grating cheese ready for a sauce. After he left, I was so distracted by my listening, that the Hillhouse canines helped themselves to the whole lot, right behind my back.
It's time their master returned to restore some discipline.
I guess lasagne is off tonight, we'll have to have bolognese instead...

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Second Concert Success

I'm late posting tonight for two reasons.
Firstly, I have been visiting my brother after his horrific accident. I was delighted to see him looking so well despite the ordeal, and even walking about, well, hobbling really. It was all rather emotional, (for me), as you can't help thinking how lucky we are to still have him with us, and sadness for the family of the other man. Robin has been waiting anxiously for news and is very relieved to hear of Jonathan's progress. He'd guessed that he was doing well, as the reply to Robin's e mail about understanding the concept of bunjee jumping was, "The bridge doesn't usually follow you to the ground."
The second reason is that I have been waiting for news of the last guitar concert on board the QM2.
In true professional style, Robin put his personal concerns behind him, and gave an excellent performance.
He played:

Mozart Variations

Danza Brasilera - Morel

Misionera - Bustamente

Sons de Carilhoes - Pernambuco

Asturias - Albeniz

Jota - Trad.

Berceuse and Danza del Altiplano - Brouwer

Judging by the whistles at the end, I think the audience enjoyed it.
Robin also informed me that earlier in the day Richard Dreyfuss had been in the same theatre doing a questions and answers session.
As Robin's work has now finished I'm sure he will be going for some R&R.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

What a Week....

I've rather a mixed blog for you today.
The first part is great news. Robin docked in Grenada and his case has now been returned to him! He really enjoyed having a walk around the 'Spice Islands', which he said are very interesting, hilly and lush. The weather was fantastic with a cooling breeze. Even better, was returning to the QM2, having a bath, and being able to put on his own clothes!
Now that he has his nail repair kit, he can plan his programme for tomorrow. He did consider changing it, as any flamenco pieces may have proved too much for his nails, especially if he was unable to strengthen them prior to the concert.
Hopefully I'll be able to report back on that tomorrow, but many thanks to all the staff on the QM2 for recharging 'phones/computers, and generally finding him things to wear!
There was a story in the paper today, by Christopher Hope, explaining how many original pictures of the Beatles have been inadvertently thrown out, including the only copy of the photograph for their 'Please Please Me' album. That's a real shame.
This brings me to the second part of the blog and the problems we have been having with our very own photographer, Jonathan Keenan.
He also happens to be my brother, which does, of course, make him Robin's brother-in-law.
On Wednesday evening he was doing a shoot in the centre of Manchester (UK), 30ft up in a crane, when the crane fell over.
He was thrown onto the cobbles below, landing on his head and shoulder.
Amazingly, nothing is broken, and despite severe head lacerations and bruises all over his body, he has now come home.
Sadly, the crane operator was not as fortunate and died the next day.
You can imagine the turmoil the family have been in. At times like this everyone pulls together, gathers around, and takes comfort from just being together. Thoughts of what might have been are never far away.
For Robin this has been particularly difficult as he is so far from home and unable to be here. There have been many 'phone calls, reassuring in all directions, and thankfully, Jonathan is home and starting a period of recuperation.
Robin was able to send him an e mail though, which went something along the lines of, "Don't you know the rules of Bungee jumping?" But that's men for you!
I'm surrounded by artistic sorts, sometimes I think life would be so much simpler if they all worked in a supermarket.
Still, at least Robin is able to take his mind off things on the Island of St.Kitts. I'm sure he'll take a break from his guitar practice to have a look around.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Elgar Again, and nearing Grenada

Poor old Elgar, why won't they leave him alone. Read this article by Amy Iggulden.The fact that people like the music, isn't that enough?
Norman Lebrecht says, "He left three works of great stature, the Enigma Variations, the Violin Concerto and the Cello Concerto, but the rest is of rather medium quality."
In my view, if he'd only composed one of those pieces he should still be classed as a 'major figure in music history.'
Well done to Julian Lloyd Webber, and James Inverne from 'Gramaphone', for standing up for Elgar.
Meanwhile out at sea, there is a rumour that someone, somewhere, has put a suitcase with Robin's name on it, on an overnight plane to Grenada.
The QM2 will be docking there later today.
We don't know if this is true, or if it is in fact his case, because, as yet, I still haven't managed to speak to a 'person' at BA. Still, six days 'on hold' isn't bad, is it?
Until I hear from Robin I don't think I'll believe it, so you'll have to check back later to see if it has arrived.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

One Down One to Go

At last I have some musical news to report.
Robin did the first of two concerts last night, and despite his borrowed suit and shoes, managed to give an excellent performance.

It was a 40 minute recital and here's what he played:

Malaguena - (Trad. Arr. Hill)

Six Renaissance Lute Pieces - (Arr. Chilesotti revised Hill)
(Andante - Bianco fiore - Danza - Gagliarda - Se lo M'Accorgo - Salterello

Capricho Arabe - Recuerdos de la Alhambra (Tarrega)

El Noi de la Mare - (Trad. Arr. Llobet)

La Paloma - (Iradier - Arr. Tarrega)

Three Pieces - Dilermando Reis
(Conversa da Baiana - Si Ela Perguntar - Xodo da Baiana)

It went very well and later in the evening an Italian lady tapped him on the shoulder and gave him the thumbs up sign. I think she was referring to the performance rather than his attire.
Today Robin was able to take a break from guitar practice and go ashore in Bonaire, just off the coast of Venezuela, to stock up on a few more essentials.
He even found that one of the Officers on board has the same Apple computer and he very kindly let Robin recharge.
Still working on the mobile 'phone...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Case of the Borrowed Tuxedo....

You can imagine how I felt to see this front page headline in 'The Daily Telegraph' today. It's almost as if the Telegraph have been following the saga!
As David Millward and Paula Sheppard report, BA are the 'worst airline in Europe for losing luggage'.
They are losing 23 bags per 1000 passengers and most of them seem to be Robin's.
Yes, they were responsible for the lost case and guitar only a matter of weeks ago, and the current missing suitcase.
For anyone in the same position, take it from me, the online baggage tracer is a waste of time. It continuously says, 'No information available', and in the last episode we had, it still said that after I'd finally spoken to someone, and they told me it was on the way to our home!
Trying to actually speak to a person is also a nightmare. If you're lucky, you get put 'on hold' and are able to listen to some soothing guitar music, which was infuriating when it was a guitar I was trying to trace, but now, I seem to just get a message saying all the operators are busy, call back later, then the line goes dead. I'm not surprised with the number of bags they're losing.
It's all very tedious and, as yet, Robin is still struggling with a very limited wardrobe.
That's unfortunate as the first of his two concerts is today.
He seems to be keeping his sense of humour though. I had an e mail from him last night saying that he had managed to borrow a tuxedo, which fit him like a glove - it had 5 arms....
The reception area have also lent him a pair of shoes.
I do feel for him, it's hard enough getting up there on stage and playing the notes, without having to worry about your 'thrown together' appearance!
Robin is also currently stalking the decks of the QM2 on the look out for anyone with an Apple computer. He needs to recharge, and, of course, the charger is in the case. So far, he has found two Apple enthusiasts, but they have older models which don't have the nifty magnetic connector that his does.
So if you are reading this on board and have the right charger, please go and find Robin Hill, otherwise our e mails will dry up shortly...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A Sting in the Tale

I have had no news yet whether the suitcase arrived in time although I suspect that it didn't. I'll update you as and when I can.
Meanwhile, at home, I was pleased to read an article by Amy Iggulden on the Classical Brit Awards. Sir Paul McCartney and Sting have both been nominated for an award in the best album category. I'm sure that this 'classical crossover' can only help introduce new fans to the whole area. So good luck to them both!
There has been so much happening here over the last few days, that I didn't have the chance to tell you about an evening out we had, prior to Robin's latest trip.
It was the Spring Concert at son number ones school. It is a chance for many of the children to demonstrate their musical skills, with many solo performances, on a variety of instruments. The guitar was well represented, and the drums seemed very popular this year...
However there were two highlights for me.
The first, was the recorder group, 'Mary Poppins Medley'. It wasn't so much that 'proud parent' moment, as the antics on stage. As they progressed through the piece one boy started gyrating, completely out of time, and I was trying to remind myself that he was only 10. They all kept playing, right through to the end, although there was quite a lot of smirking going on, which isn't easy when you are playing the recorder.
I found out later that son number one had spotted a wasp crawling up the trouser leg of this unfortunate boy. He had a dilemma. Did he try and knock it out of the way, or could this have been seen as an unprovoked attack, culminating in a very public battle, which wouldn't have gone down well with the Headmaster.
He chose to wait and see what happened. Consequently, the poor boy was trying to shake the wasp out from his trouser leg whilst continuing to perform. All credit to him, not a wrong note was played!
The second highlight was the upper school choir singing 'All Things Bright and Beautiful', arranged by John Rutter.
The arrangement was fantastic and it was beautifully delivered. We were so impressed at the quality, and amount of work that must have gone into training these 9/10 year olds, that we sent a card in to the music teacher the next day. Unfortunately son number one forgot to give it to her. Oh well, I'll tell her next term.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Robin Hill Saga

And so it goes on.
Robin made it to Chicago, but his suitcase didn't. He's making a habit of travelling very light these days.
He then had to endure another flight to Miami, unsure when, or if, he will get his case back, before the QM2 sets sail.
He spent the night in a hotel, and when he got up early the next morning, couldn't face his travel weary clothes.
The only shop open at that time of day was part of the hotel, so he ventured in to purchase a shirt. No such luck, the only thing they had was a t-shirt, with 'M*I*A*M*I' emblazoned across the chest. I think he's more distressed to be seen wearing it than he is about the loss of 10 days worth of clothes.

There's a bigger problem though. If the case doesn't arrive before 5pm US time, then he won't see it until Thursday when he docks in Bonaire.
Thanks to the security alerts last year, strings, nail kit, footstool, all have to be in the 'lost' case.
Whilst Robin's guitar obviously does have strings on, he needs to change the treble strings prior to every concert. Therefore will need a set of Savarez very quickly.

I read the other day that Fergie, from the Black Eyed Peas, recently suffered a similar fate with the loss of luggage, except they lost all 30 (!) of her cases. How does she remember which case she packed her nail kit in? I'm sure it's tiny compared to the one Robin needs. Which brings me to another point. Every day minor repairs to nails are required. No nail kit, no repair.

So, having settled into his very nice room on board ship, (at least it didn't take long to unpack), he decided it best to assume the case wouldn't appear, so urgent supplies were needed.

With the help of a local taxi driver he found a music shop and got himself some strings and a footstool. He was delighted to see a huge picture of Jaco Pastorius on the wall, and when he asked the shop keeper if Jaco had frequented this store the owner replied, "Hey, he was just a local guy"!

His friendly taxi driver then took him for some basics, you know, toothbrush, razor etc. He even managed to get a few pair of socks, but I, and Robin can't understand why they don't appear to sell underwear in Fort Lauderdale. Anywhere.
If any of our American readers can offer an explanation I'd be delighted to hear it!

So if you have been near Port Everglade, Hollywood or Fort Lauderdale today, and come across a rather dishevelled, unshaven, guitarist, sporting a 'M*I*A*M*I' t-shirt, I hope you were kind to him. If you see him again, will you lend him some suncream.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Windy City - If You Can Get On The Flight....

The next time you find yourself thinking that the life of a musician is glamorous one, then just remind yourself of the recent trauma that Robin was subjected to, when BA lost his suitcase and Miguel Rodriguez guitar. If you remember, both were returned, albeit after a very tense day.
You would think that was enough excitement to last a lifetime of travel, but, today has seen the next installment.
This morning we were up at 4am so that Robin could catch the first flight to Heathrow. Apart from the early start, this part of the journey was fine.
After the 'lost guitar' episode he vowed not to let his precious instrument in the hold again, and so far, apart from a little hassle, that hasn't been a problem.
However, once at Heathrow, he checked in for his flight to Chicago, and then went for security checks.
Should be fine, there were 4 hours to kill.
Robin stood, impatiently, in the endless queue for the entire time, repeatedly telling the officials that his flight was nearly due to board. Only to be informed that it hadn't been called yet.
Eventually, he told the staff again that his flight was due, and they calmly informed him that he had missed it!!! They'd had him there for 4 hours, can you believe it.
Robin tried to resolve the problem at the airport, and I tried to calm the situation at this end.
The outcome is that they found him a seat on the next flight, which should still give him time to make his connection.
When I last spoke to him he was on board, with his guitar, and starting to relax. In fact he was just about to listen to some 'Chicago' on his iPod.
So whilst it can be glamorous and exciting to travel the world, it's not always easy...