'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, June 30, 2007

Classical Guitar - Sound Waves....

For the technically minded amongst you I thought you may be interested in actually seeing the sound waves from a recording of Robin playing the classical guitar.
This photograph shows the first three notes of a well known guitar piece.
Can you tell which?

No, well, it is tricky I must admit.
I'll tell you.
It's 'Un Dia de Noviembre', by Leo Brouwer.

The second photograph, actually shows two of the same notes, later on in the piece.
As you can see, the shape of the notes are very different, with the oscillation of the second note clearly visible, as Robin plays vibrato.
The notes look longer because Robin is playing tenuto, as he adds his own interpretation to the music.

The final picture shows the end of the last note, as it fades out, with a much smaller sound wave to finish off, which is a harmonic, E. You can see that this is a very different shape to all the other notes.

It's amazing what you can find to do on a wet Saturday afternoon!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Monet for Nothing....

Well here he is.
Robin all set and ready to go.
After all the trials, and tribulations of various equipment and microphones, I felt the final choices should be recorded for posterity.

If you remember, the other day, I blogged about, 'Everyone Wants To Be One - A Musician That Is...', and how Tony Blair was considering reforming his band, 'Ugly Rumours'.
As I said then, Robin has his eye on the now ex-Prime Minister's job.
From the picture, on the wall in the studio, you can see that he has indeed got the 'Houses of Parliament' in his sights....

Thursday, June 28, 2007

An Eerie Quiet in Hillhouse

An eerie quiet has descended on Hillhouse.

There are three reasons for this.

1) Son number one is in school.

2) Son number two has a cold and is therefore subdued. To say he is normally 'high energy' would be an understatement. To give you an example, the other day, Robin took him in the park with our two dogs. As they went about their walk they came across the boxer, Amir Khan, training. As Khan and his running partner ran down the hill, they had to make way for son number two as he steamed past them, at twice the speed, going UP the hill, with Robin and canines in hot pursuit...

3) Robin has taken himself off to the recording studio, shut all doors on the way, and started recording in earnest.

All I can hear is the very distant, muffled, sound of the guitar, which I'm sure will not be the case on the end product, thanks to the two Neumann microphones currently being put through their paces.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Domenico Scarlatti and the Honky Tonk Piano - Revisited

Back in May, I was talking about 'mishaps' in the recording studio, one of which occured when Hill/Wiltschinsky were recording Domenico Scarlatti's sonata K141.
To read the original post, click here.

This recording took place in Rotherham, which sadly, is currently struggling under a few feet of floodwater.
On the day in question Hill/Wiltschinsky spent an entire day recording this piece. At the time, editing a piece as intricate as this was virtually impossible, so the sonata was recorded in one take. Nowadays with the advent of digital recording the editing process is much easier.

When the duo realised that they had the take they were looking for, Robin leapt up and played some honky tonk piano, to relieve the tension.
Only to find that the sound engineer had recorded Robin's piano playing over the Scarlatti.

What you can hear today is the version they recorded immediately after this incident.
So, I hope you enjoy Hill/Wiltschinsky performing 'Scarlatti's Sonata K141'.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Inside a Musicians Mind....

Robin woke up at 5am with the first two lines of a poem going through his mind. He tried to ignore it, and go back to sleep, but eventually gave in to the urge and got up.
By 5.30am he was waking me to read his latest creation.
I dutifully did, but must confess, it wasn't until a more reasonable hour that I gave it my full attention.
What I like about it is that you can read it on many levels.
It could be about one persons time on earth, or, mankind in general.
Is it the work of an artist, supposedly at rest, a reaction to the terrible storms we suffered here in the UK yesterday, or the sign of a tortured mind...
You decide.


I'm the rain and the wind

And the sweet summer sun,

I'm a name in the sand

I'm a figure of fun,

I'm the dance in the trees

Building up by degrees,

I'm the eye of the storm

I'm the ice in the freeze,

I'm the kestrel, the sparrow,

The swallow, the quail,

I'm a spirit of energy,

Blazing my trail,

I'm a maverick, lunatic,

Spendthrift and miser,

And, as I grow older,

I, for sure, get no wiser.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Celebrate the Arts Not Stupidity

Well, Glastonbury is over, and all the revellers will be returning home to dry out, and the locals will have peace and quiet restored.
There has been a huge amount of media attention, with easy access to T.V. and radio coverage. So if you couldn't make it there, you could still enjoy the music, from the comfort of your own home.
That's a good thing, but, why can't other forms of music get as much exposure?
For that matter, not just music, but all areas of the arts.

If people, and particularly children, were able to view and listen to ALL types of music and learn about the more wholesome aspects to life, and our cultural heritage, then maybe we wouldn't have quite so many problems today.

This area was discussed by Kenneth Woods, over on 'View from the Podium', the other day. Having left the concert hall on a Saturday night he was confronted by a typical scene in many towns and cities across the country. Young people, drunk, and disorderly.
We shouldn't be surprised. The lack of coverage on our televisions about anything positive is minimal. Yet, reality shows are on every channel, endlessly.

As Ken points out, people need to be given meaning and hope in their lives, through music, theatre, arts and literature.
I couldn't agree more.

This should be tackled on many fronts. Adults should have easy access to inspiring and enriching programmes, which is where the T.V. companies should take some responsibility.
Children are our future. If all they know is 'Big Brother', how can we expect them to appreciate the arts?

Atarah Ben Tovim recognised this problem years ago and has actively been inspiring children around the world with her television programmes and school concerts. Robin worked with her many times throughout the mid 70's and early 80's, and Atarah continues with her good work today.
We need more strong, inspiring, characters like her around.
However, I don't think we have heard the end of Kenneth Woods view on the subject.
If he has some ideas up his sleeve, to improve the lot of our younger generation, then he can count us in.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Everyone Wants To Be One - A Musician That Is...

Actors want to be one.
Ex-Presidents experiment with saxophones.
And a soon to be ex-Prime Minister wants to be an axe man...

An article in 'The Sunday Telegraph', by Tim Walker and Richard Eden, reports that our very own Prime Minister has a desire to reform his band, 'Ugly Rumours'.
Not only that, but apparently, he has been doing a lot of practice whilst running the country, as it helps him unwind.

Well, as you know, Robin is also a mean electric guitar player. I refer you to a previous blog, 'Force Ten To Be Reckoned With', if you would like to have a listen.
He did after all, play with both Deep Purple and Jethro Tull, but that's another story.

It's not of course, unprecedented that rock and jazz musicians turn to politics, Bob Geldof, Bono, Frank Zappa and Dizzy Gillespie spring to mind.

But for Mr.Tony Blair, from Wednesday, he may find himself at a loose end. I'm sure it must be something of a shock to the system when you step down as Prime Minister.
If he would like, he can always give us a call, and we'll set up a few lessons.
But now, I have to go and have a long talk with Robin......
as he has expressed a secret desire to be Prime Minister in the not too distant future....

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Power of Music

I seem to be in a 'Sir Thomas Beecham' mode at the moment. (See yesterdays blog)
I found another quote from him that really struck a chord - no pun intended.
This is it:

"The function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought. Music first and last should sound well, should allure and enchant the ear.
Never mind the inner significance."
Sir Thomas Beecham

This can of course apply to any style of music. As long as the listener is enjoying it then music has fulfilled its objective.
Music is a form of expression whether that be political, religious, emotional, stirring or angst ridden, some message is being passed on.
You can listen to music on many different levels. To study and learn, to relax and unwind, to enter the mood of an occasion etc.
Whatever the reason, music, should be enjoyed.

Throughout the day we are surrounded by music as Robin practices new and old pieces. But when he's not playing, he has a need to listen to it. Our house is very rarely quiet.
Robin has very eclectic tastes, which, is an essential part of understanding music in general. The ability to understand and apply techniques used in many genres of music is a valuable one.

So, what did we listen to yesterday. Well, during the day, at one point, it was, 'Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste', by Bela Bartok. (Leonard Bernstein: New York Philharmonic). Which also happens to feature in one of our favourite films, 'The Shining'.

We were both particularly busy yesterday, so it was quite late in the evening before we met up again, and then we watched/listened to the 'Arctic Monkeys' on the highlights of 'Glastonbury Festival'.

These are very different styles of music, but, both fulfilled a need of the moment, and were both extremely well delivered performances by the artists, albeit, very different.

What that all says about our state of mind yesterday, well, I'm not really sure.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Robin's son, 'Caruso' and Sir Thomas Beecham

What can I say, other than there has been huge global interest in the, 'Robin Hill with Russell Watson' video, both here, and over on YouTube.

When this performance was first shown back in 2001, son number one, was only 3 years old. As you can imagine, we all settled down to watch, only to have the entire performance drowned out, by an over-excited child becoming hysterical...he was very embarrassed when I reminded him of this yesterday!

However, judging by the responses I've been getting, you all seem to be enjoying it. I certainly haven't been able to get it out of my mind since posting the video yesterday.
But, as the English conductor, Thomas Beecham, once said:

"Good music is that which penetrates the ear with facility and quits the memory with difficulty."

Thomas Beecham was another local chap, coming from St.Helens, Lancashire. So with Russell Watson from Salford and Robin from Huddersfield, the north of England is certainly doing its bit to promote music.

For any newcomers to the site, of which there are many from around the world, you may like to check out David Juritz's, 'Round the World and Bach', as he could be visiting a country near you soon.
He's in Lisbon today and returns briefly to the UK for a concert in Portsmouth Cathedral on Saturday, before setting off for Africa shortly.
Judging by the photographs on his site, he is still smiling, but, I'm sure by now he is beginning to feel a little tired, so if he's playing near you, go along and show some support.

Back here, well, we have plenty more for you to see coming up, so do keep checking in.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Robin Hill with Russell Watson

We found this video footage the other day of Robin performing on BBC1, back in 2001, with Russell Watson.

This came about as Robin had been performing on 'Friday Night is Music Night' for BBC Radio 2, and Russell was on the same show. Having heard him play, Russell then contacted us, to collaborate for the performance you can see today.
This was actually the first time that Robin and Russell played together, but they went on to perform on many other occasions, in venues such as, 'The Bridgewater Hall', 'St.David's Hall' Cardiff, 'NEC - Birmingham' and 'BBC Proms in the Park'.

Robin always enjoys performing with other musicians and these concerts were no exception.

This footage is Russell singing 'Caruso', by Dalla, accompanied by Robin on guitar, and some members of the string section of the 'BBC Philharmonic'.

The voice is a powerful instrument, and unfortunately, the sound of the guitar is sometimes low in the mix, but you can still hear what is going on, and there are some fine examples of the tremelo that we were discussing the other day.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Many and Varied Uses of Savarez Guitar Strings...

After the technical blog yesterday, about the tremelo technique, I thought we would have a light hearted approach today. Don't worry though, there a plenty of exciting things coming up, including some video footage.

As you can imagine, we get through a large amount of guitar strings, in this house.
Robin uses Savarez, Corum, strings, and as I've said before, regularly changes them.
The bass strings will certainly be changed before every concert, and in between as well. The treble strings, less frequently, but they never stay on longer than a couple of weeks or so.
But what happens to them......
Where do they all go.....

Well, on the whole, you can open any drawer in our house, and a curling mass of strings spill out, and try to escape.
They are unceremoniously returned, and the drawer shut quickly, to prevent any further spillage.

They are also frequently found wound around my vacuum cleaner, with me beside it, patiently 'unwinding'...

But there is an upside.

Robin is not known for his DIY skills, (not a good hobby for someone who relies on his hands to make a living), but he does have to occasionally 'fix' items around the house.
This ALWAYS involves an old guitar string.

The most useful attempt was on our toilet.
For more than 10 years a 'G' string allowed the smooth flushing system to work by holding the ballcock to the lever. It only had to be changed once in that time, and we were quite sad when we had a new bathroom fitted, and returned to a more conventional method of plumbing.

Other uses have been, threading through the locks of a suitcase broken in transit, holding down the bonnet of a car, tying on the bumper of a car, (different cars and only temporary repairs...), attaching bird feeders around the garden and very handy for travellers, to attach to plugs in hotels when the chain has broken.

One of the most ingenious uses was to retrieve some car keys, from the ignition of our locked vechicle, with the aid of coat hangers and a sort of 'noose system'.

But one of the most satisfying, was the repair of these glasses.

Son number two likes to transmogrify into a character, he refers to as 'Mr.Snug', whilst wearing these glasses.
He was therefore devastated to find the 'nose' had fallen off. Not to worry, 'Savarez' saved the day.

Ohh, they are also excellent play things for cats. Our cat Ramsbottom spends many hours chasing them around the house before they get relocated to a drawer, toilet, car, glasses etc.
But don't forget, this is only once they have played many thousands of notes....

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Neumann microphones and the Art of the Tremelo

All is going well in the recording department.
The microphone we finally settled on is a Neumann.
The reason for this, is that it is the only microphone we have tried, which is able to capture the full natural sound of the guitar without losing any quality.
A problem we had with all the other microphones we tried, was that, although the bass strings recorded well, the treble strings had a 'metallic' sound, which wasn't doing Robin's fabulous Miguel Rodriguez guitar justice.
Not so with the Neumann.
Having reported on the testing process the other day, and all 109 takes, the final test was to shut Robin in his music room, with guitar and also freshly recorded piece, then the rest of the family stood outside, listened, and tried to identify whether it was live or recorded.
The Neumann passed the test, and the children think we've gone mad....

Robin isn't one to make life easy for himself.
His first chosen piece is, 'Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios' by Agustin Barrios, which translated means, 'An Alm for the Love of God'.
This, and 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra' by Francisco Tarrega, are probably the two most famous 'tremelo' pieces which, as well as making huge demands on the right hand, are also very tricky in the left hand.

The tremelo is one of the most difficult effects and techniques to master on the guitar, as it relies on the rapidity of execution between the thumb, anular, middle and index fingers, p,a,m,i, of the right hand, for the 'classical tremelo', and for the 'flamenco tremelo', which has five notes, the fingering is, p,i,a,m,i.

It's made all the more difficult in the aforementioned examples as they constantly change from top string to inner strings for the tremelo notes while the right hand thumb provides the arpeggiated accompaniment.
The left hand , particularly in the Barrios, has many awkward stretches and hardly ever repeats itself. The tremelo is such an impressive technique that, when Robin introduces a piece in concert, involving the tremelo, he now gives a demonstration of how it works, very slowly initially, and then, at full speed.
Audiences love it.

Fortunately Robin is well prepared.
When he wrote 'The Guitar Gymnasium', (or see my links section for Amazon UK and USA), the right hand exercises were written with the intention of developing and strengthening the independence of the right hand fingers, for just this reason, alongside the Tarrega exercises, which are also in the book.

So Robin is now able to record, listen, learn, then re-record until he is satisfied.
As Glenn Gould said, "The tape recorder is the finest teacher."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hill/Wiltschinsky - Pump It or Dump It...

Top 10 Sources has a system in which you can 'click' on a 'HOT' button, or 'NOT', depending on how you rate the blog entry.
I'm pleased to say that many of our entries have had positive results. That's reassuring, as anyone that runs a blog will realise, that a lot of time an effort goes into each entry.

It also reminded me of a rather strange experience that Hill/Wiltschinsky had a few years ago.
The duo were in America on tour, and at one point were booked to play for 'St Louis Classical Guitar Society'.
As part of the promotion they were asked to do a radio interview, which they happily agreed to.

We were all taken down to the radio station and Robin and Peter talked about their music and answered the varied questions about their time together.
The duo then performed live, 'Jota' by Peter Wiltschinsky, after which, as the adverts were playing, they were informed that the audience could call in and either 'Pump it', (turn the volume up and request another piece), or, 'Dump it', (no more music...).
They were completely unaware that this would be happening, so there was a rather tense few minutes as the people of St.Louis made their decision.

I'm pleased to say they chose, 'Pump it', so the interview continued and the duo went on to perform, 'Ritual Fire Dance', from Falla's ballet, 'El Amor Brujo', (Love the Magician).

They must have enjoyed it as the concert hall was full later that day....

Sunday, June 17, 2007

From Arise 'Sir Loin' to Green Day to Cecilia Bartoli

Yesterday Robin played a private function at Hoghton Tower.
This has long been one of our favourite places to visit, as it is so beautiful, and steeped in history.
This ancient, fortified manor house, has had many distinguished guests over the years.
King James I, William III, George V and Queen Mary all visited.
It is also well documented that William Shakespeare spent a lengthy period of time there between 1580-1581, writing a short story in the process.

Rumour has it, that when James I visited, he so enjoyed the loin of beef that he was served, that he took out his sword and knighted it, "Sir Loin", thus giving us the term 'sirloin steak'.

So, Robin was able to perform in the same rooms as some rather eminent people, which always gives him a great deal of pleasure.

We haven't had our Sunday morning quiz for a while. Mainly due to Robin's commitments.
Today, whilst not the usual quiz, we did enjoy some varied music whilst relaxing with coffee.
We started with 'Green Day', 'Wake Me Up When September Ends', and then, by complete contrast, 'Cecilia Bartoli', 'Rinaldo: Aria: Lascia ch'io pianga' by Handel, from 'The Art of Cecilia Bartoli'.

Variety is, after all, the spice of life.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Sound Checks Complete and Wives of Musicians Unite...

My ears and head are aching.
For weeks now we have been testing microphones and trying out various settings.
In just the last 3 or 4 days, I have listened to 109 takes of, 'Un Dia de Noviembre' by Leo Brouwer.
It isn't the playing that I am expected to comment on, but the sound, timbre, balance, etc.
I have added sound engineer to my list of jobs....
Finally, we have settled on a microphone, and now we can focus back on the music.
It was with great joy that I listened to take 109, and enjoyed the piece and the playing, rather than scrutinising the sound.

Hopefully recording will commence next week....

As you know, I have been following the progress of David Juritz in his project, 'Around the World and Bach', as I feel it is not only an interesting concept, but also supporting a worthwhile cause.
David has added a 'round up' of the first week over on his site, which, is a good way to gain insight into what he is doing.
I was particularly pleased to see that he acknowledged the strain that this project puts on his wife Jane.
It's difficult enough when tours are organised down to the last detail, but when you are literally playing to pay your way, there is obviously more at stake.
There's no doubt that it is hard for the performer to be away from home.
Robin always finds this difficult, particularly when travelling alone, although he does of course have his guitar!
But, it is also hard for those left behind.
As David has said, 'Jane is sounding tired and trying not to show her anxiety, alongside the increased workload of updating websites and dealing with 'phone calls'.

In case Jane, or David for that matter, read this, remember, it will all be worth it.
I have blogged before on the situation that 'wives of musicians' find themselves in.
It's pretty well summed up on a post, 'Traits of a Guitar Widow', over on 'Guitarist Widow' site.
The instrument doesn't really matter, if you are married to a musician, then you'll understand.
So as Jane, fends off calls, deals with websites, looks after children, runs the home, and if it's anything like our house, receives many calls from various parts of the world - day and night - just to make contact, then remember, you are not alone....

Friday, June 15, 2007

Musicality and the Nature/Nurture Debate

It's the old nature/nurture debate.
Is musicality inherited or environmental?
Well, before we go any further, I haven't got all the answers...
However, in our not so random sample of 2 small children, there have already been some discoveries.
When son number one was a mere 8 years old, Robin was playing chords on the piano, and explaining major and minor to him.
In a moment of madness, Robin then said that if he could identify 10 chords correctly, in a row, then he would buy him a playstation game.
Robin felt sure his money was safe.

Not the case.
The tension mounted to unbelievable levels as son number one rattled through the answers, getting them all correct.
By the time we were on number 9, son number one could barely remain seated, and was almost passing out with excitement.
He got the 10th one right, and Robin's pocket, was considerably poorer.
But it wasn't all about the game.
Both son and parents were shocked at the speed that he had picked up the concept, and, to this day, continues to identify major and minor accurately.

But, is this just a skill that he learnt, albeit very quickly, or have some musical genes been passed down through Robin?
I suspect there's an element of both at play here.
The exposure our children have to all forms of music is probably much higher than most.
Even before birth they both got very excited at the sound of the piano. Whether the sound waves of the piano transverse the uterus more happily than those of the guitar, I wouldn't know.
But it's interesting.

Both boys have an excellent sense of rhythm and a substantial knowledge about music and composers.
The reason I have been thinking about this today, is that son number one came running out of school yesterday, brandishing a piece of paper and beaming from ear to ear.
The project in his music class had been to find out, and write up, all about a composer.
He chose Robin Hill, his dad....
I must say he did an excellent job, and visited this site three times, gathering information!
He was also very proud when all his school friends decided to 'Google' 'Robin Hill Guitar' and found that there are in fact many references to him.

Whether he, or son number two, will go on to be involved in music, remains to be seen.
It can be hard being the son of a musician, so much more is expected of you at the school concert, than the other children.
We, therefore, haven't forced the issue in any way.
We do however have some excellent footage of him conducting at a very young age, maybe 3 years old, and his timing is impeccable.
So, watch this space.....

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Anagrams and Album Titles....

So, Sir Paul McCartney has done another 'secret' concert in New York.
This time in the 700 capacity Highline Ballroom.
It must be quite refreshing for him to perform in such a relatively intimate venue. Anything after the first 3 or 4 thousand tends to just turn into a distant blur of swaying humanity.
The show was dedicated to John, George, and his late wife, Linda, and the more aware Beatles fans have already discovered that the title of the new album, 'Memory Almost Full', is an anagram of, 'For My Soulmate LLM'. (Linda Louise McCartney)

That's either an incredible coincidence, or, a fantastic piece of marketing, that would have had the McCartney camp delighted, I'm sure. It certainly captures the zeitgeist of the 21st century.

Either way, it got me thinking.
As you know, Robin will be recording a new CD shortly.
We will be needing a title.
R O B I N H I L L - not an easy one to apply the anagram technique.
We could try adding the names of our children, but they have plenty of unusual letters. What can you do with F,V,O,X and a few more.....

Or, maybe Robin has some cryptic message he wants you all to try and untangle, you'll just have to wait and see.

Mind you, it has been a while since the duo have released any new material.
Now, Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo - there has to be something in that lot.
I'll get the Scrabble out and start practicing....

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

'Top 10 Sources - Classical Guitar'

Update: 2010

Sadly all the 'Top 10 Sources' links have been taken over.
I have removed the link from my links section and can only apologise for any inconvenience.
However, I decided to leave the original post in place, and here it is:

If you recall, a few days ago, I was able to announce that 'Life of a musician' had been included in the 'Top 10 Sources - Guitar' section.
This, we were delighted about.
Things have moved on since then.
The very nice people over at 'Top 10 Sources', contacted me again to suggest having a purely classical guitar section.
This, we thought to be an excellent idea, as we were being swallowed up by all the other genres of guitar playing.
So, yesterday, I was delighted to find, that true to their word, 'Top Ten Sources', now has a classical guitar section.

I have added a direct link in my links section, and, for those of you interested in classical guitar, it will be worth watching as the site develops.
There's already some posts about an interesting site, 'Classical Guitar Video Archive', so if you are trying to find some old footage, it may be a good place to look.
I'll update you all from time to time as to how it's going.

Meanwhile, David Juritz was in Vienna yesterday, and again today, before setting off for Venice. I must say I'm rather envious. If you are going to go busking, what better place to be than Venice....

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

From, Fish - Brain Food for Musicians, to Oscar Peterson, to Elgar

We had an interesting discussion last night.
Robin declared that prior to each concert on board the QM2, he had the desire/need to eat fish, salmon for breakfast, and whatever was available for lunch.
Now, it has long been known that fish is 'brain food', and this, Robin felt, was the root of his need.
One could think that it was maybe caused by a return to the basic hunter/gatherer instinct, he was after all mid-Atlantic, and therefore, presumably, surrounded by many thousands of our scaly friends.
But I think not.
His body was telling him that his brain needed a little extra on the days of his concerts.
During the talk, I went down the path of, 'well, you have a good, balanced diet, and the majority of the need must be in your fingers and their agility.'
Robin is adamant, and I'm sure he's right, that when performing, the hands are acting in a well rehearsed, mechanical way, with both motor and neural memory involved.
But what makes a performance special, is the mind. It's here that the interpretation takes place, the fingers are merely following orders.

To quote Glenn Gould:
"One plays the piano with one's mind not one's fingers."

Robin's theory seemed to serve him well, after all, he delivered two hugely successful guitar concerts.
Naturally, I now get the feeling, that I will be required to add exciting, lovingly prepared fish dishes, to the agenda, as a pre concert ritual.
I'd better go and acquaint myself with the local fishmonger.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, 'Oscar Peterson Misses His Own Tribute'. Simon Houpt reported on a sell out concert in the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall. Unfortunately the jazz legend wasn't well enough to make the journey.
However, a large photograph of him at the piano and smiling broadly, was placed on the stage.
His wife, Kelly, and daughter, Celine, were both in attendance, and were touched by the whole evening.
I'm sure they will return home and tell him how much the public appreciate his contribution to music.

Also, there has been a lot of talk in the UK about Elgar and his 150th anniversary, with many saying that celebrations of Elgar's works, may not necessarily be found abroad.
I was therefore pleased to see this report in the 'Chicago Tribune', 'Elgar At 150. Anybody Care?' by Alan G.Artner.
Artner feels that after 40 years of listening to Elgar's music, that people should care.
Well done.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Robin Hill is Home - and a New Merchandising Idea?

Robin is home and hasn't yet succumbed to jet lag. Quite the opposite in fact. He has already taken son number two for a game of football and is now out on a country walk. I suspect the joy of feeling ground beneath his feet is overriding the need to sleep - for the moment. (I'm quite shocked he hasn't, as yet, played his guitar).

I was asked the other day how large the theatre on board the QM2 is, and, was unable to say. So, I looked on the Cunard website, and the Royal Court Theatre is multi-tiered and seats 1,105 guests.
It's amazing that a venue that size is floating about at sea.
It did however get me thinking.
Robin manged to fill the venue for both his concerts. That's over 2000 people watching him perform in one week. Admittedly, some will have been to both concerts, as the programmes were completely different.

So to merchandising.

I read an article in 'The Wall Street Journal', 'The New Record Labels', by Ethan Smith.
Basically, there's a clothing label, 'Lyric Jeans' that specialise in jeans with lyrics to famous songs written down the legs. "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" for example.

We could branch out, and form, 'Dots on Denim', swirling round your legs could be the score for 'Tre Esercizi', or 'Canzone', both Robin Hill originals. You'd have to have very long legs though, there are a lot of notes involved in both these pieces.
2000 people in a week, all need to wear clothes, and would like a memento of the do the maths, or math, for my US readers.

David Juritz has posted some photos of him playing in London on the day of departure. We know he was in Paris yesterday, and today, he's in Zurich. So he must have made enough to get himself that far...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Second Concert Success for Robin Hill

This is Robin, ready with his guitar, about to leave his room and go on stage for the second, and last, concert of this trip on the QM2.

This is Robin just after the performance:

There appears to be a certain amount of relief, and release of tension, in this image.
I can now report that the second concert was as successful as the first. The theatre was full, balconies included, and once again, he received a standing ovation.

Robin was particularly pleased, as he had decided to play two pieces for the first time in concert, which is always a nerve wracking experience. Not only that, but he told the audience during the introductions, which must have cranked up the tension even further.
You can just imagine them waiting for a mistake.
However, there weren't any, the audience loved the pieces, and, in fact, he was told later by one couple, that they were privileged to hear him play.
That's very nice.
The two new pieces were, 'Tango en skai' by Roland Dyens, and 'Un Dia de Noviembre' by Brouwer.

Later that evening, Robin had been invited out to dinner, and by huge coincidence, found himself sitting next to a gentlemen that went to the same school, was one year above Robin, but they had many mutual friends, and knew all the same teachers.
It really is a small world after all.

One thing Robin has enjoyed on this trip, is what he calls, 'sleep utopia'.
You gain one extra hour in bed every day that you are on board.
What he fails to have remembered, is that he's going to lose all those hours, in one huge serotonin rush, tonight, when he flies home.
That, coupled with two small children very keen to see him, and waking early due to the light mornings, could all feel a very long way off soon.

Meanwhile, David Juritz has arrived in France and has a pretty hectic busking schedule around Paris. If you go to 'Round the World and Bach' you will see his itinerary for the day, and also a link to his blog.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

From the Changing Face of Music Festivals to Strawberries and Champagne on the QM2

The times, they are a changing, that's for sure.
Yesterday, in 'The Daily Telegraph', I read an article by Nigel Reynolds, 'Glastonbury luxury for discerning free spirits'. An area that overlooks the festival, and nicknamed, 'The Ritz', provides 75 luxury tents where the occupants can be pampered in style, whilst still enjoying the music.
Hot showers, massages, foie gras and Glastonbury beef fillets, are just some of the items available.
Although expensive, most of the tents have already been allocated to people from all around the world.

The music festival culture appears to be changing.

Then, today, in another report by Nigel Reynolds, along with Helen Brown, 'Rough it at the festival? That's so last century', we hear that many of the festival goers are returning to the Isle of Wight, older, hopefully wiser, and taking their children with them.

I shouldn't be surprised.

Back in the 7o's Robin was just as likely to be found behind his Fender Stratocaster, jamming with Deep Purple or Jethro Tull, as he is to be seen with his Miguel Rodriguez guitar today.
Just to highlight the point, my last message from Robin told me that he had spent the afternoon on board the QM2, with a linguist from New York.
This very nice gentleman, had answered Robin's call, during his last concert. He offered his services to inform Robin of the correct pronunciation, for various Portuguese words, that Robin uses during his introductions.
They had a very pleasant time, drinking champagne and eating strawberries, whilst recording the words into Robin's apple....

Meanwhile, in the UK, for the moment, we wish David Juritz the very best of luck as he sets off busking, 'Round the World and Bach'. He leaves today from Turnham Green tube station.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Standing Ovation on the QM2 to 'Memory Almost Full' - McCartney

Well, I can report, that the guitar concert was a resounding success.
The venue on board the QM2 was full, both upstairs and down, and Robin received a standing ovation which was very much appreciated. Applause alone rewards any artist for all the hard work they put in, not just on the day, but for years prior to ever reaching the concert platform. To get a standing ovation, really encourages a performer, as audiences don't tend to give them away easily.

Unknown to Robin, one member of the audience was undertaking his own form of art work, whilst Robin was on stage. He later sought Robin out and presented him with this drawing he had made whilst Robin was performing. He was delighted.
As you can see from the photo, he has a post concert look about him!

During the concert Robin was introducing 'Xodo Da Baiana' and happened to say that he had been unable to find suitable translations for some of the Portuguese titles, and if anyone could help would they please contact him.
A very nice man from New York City came forward at the end of the concert and offered his services as a translator - they are meeting up later today.

Life at sea runs slightly differently to land and the concert was at the unusual time of 2.30.
So what does a musician do to unwind post concert when it's only mid-afternoon.
Well, this one went back to his room and read a couple of chapters of 'Wuthering Heights', prompted by his recent visit to the Bronte household.
He did go out later in the evening and watched the RADA show, which he found very amusing and very well acted. Well, what do you expect, it was RADA.

Meanwhile in the UK, Sir Paul McCartney has given a 'secret' gig at the 'Electric Ballroom' in Camden. The secret didn't last long though and the 1000 invited guests and media had to run the gauntlet of photographers.
This was all in aid of promoting his 21st solo album, 'Memory Almost Full', sold exclusively through Starbucks coffee house.
To read a full review of this "utterly compelling concert" read Robert Sandall's report, 'McCartney looks back to where he once belonged'.
I'm off out to get a coffee and a CD....

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Top 10 Sources for Guitar - We Made It!

Contact with Robin remains a little sporadic, but, some messages are getting through. I can tell when he has been away for a few days as I start receiving strange e-mails.
Usually ghoulish pictures of himself taken on his apple photo booth, resulting in very distorted and rather amusing images.
No I won't be publishing them here...
Also icards, the last one being of a frog, I think cabin fever must be setting in, although he has to do something when he isn't practicing.

Last night he did go out to see a great jazz trio, with extra alto sax and flugel horn, sounds interesting.
He has also met up with his neighbour, who hasn't heard any practice, since the socks have been stuffed between the stings. That's a relief for Robin as he's always aware of intruding on other peoples privacy when away from home. Hence, we rarely stay in hotels on holiday, opting for self contained houses/villas to get around this problem. He and his neighbour seem to get on well which is good.
Robin has also found a room, hidden away somewhere, that he can run through some pieces without having to worry.

I had good news today, 'Top 10 Sources' contacted me and said that 'Life of a Musician' is a 'very interesting and unique blog' which they have added to their guitar section. It's nice to be appreciated, and, I have of course, added this to my links.

Robin, has also made it onto the front page of 'The Daily News', the QM2 on board newspaper. The first of his two guitar concerts is today, 2.30 mid-Atlantic time, which I think is 4.30 GMT, but it may be 5.30, as they seem to lose an hour most days. Either way, whenever I get some news on the concert I shall keep you posted.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Khachaturian's Birthday and Sabre Dance on Electric Guitar

Intermittent contact has been made with Robin, mid Atlantic, and the weather yesterday, wasn't looking too sunny. This is the QM2 as it noses its way through the waves.

As Robin is shut away in his room practicing most of the time I don't think he is too concerned.
Although his guitar has caused a problem for the first time at sea, and surprisingly, from another musician.
Mid rehearsal he had a 'phone call from the neighbouring room, and the occupant said that he was a pianist trying to compose, and he couldn't concentrate because of the sound of the guitar!!
Robin has now stuffed a pair of socks under the strings and is continuing his muffled practice.

Today would also have been the 104th birthday of the Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian. He was born in Tbilisi on the 6th June 1903 and died in Moscow on the 1st May 1978.
The son of a book-binder, he showed an early love of music, but, it wasn't until he moved to Moscow in 1921 that his musical talent was discovered.
He joined the Gnesin Music Academy in 1922 and began to study the cello. His creative gifts developed rapidly and by 1937 he was an established composer, with works being published as early as 1926. ('Tants' for violin and piano, and 'Poema' for piano).
His early works include the Trio for clarinet, violin and piano (1932), Symphony No.1 (1935), and the Piano Concerto (1936) which brought him international acclaim.

In the 1940's came the ballet 'Gayane', which contains the popular 'Sabre Dance', the Second Symphony, and the Cello Concerto, amongst others.
He later wrote film scores, conducted and was a composition teacher. (Thanks to 'The New Grove: Dictionary of Music and Musicians' for specific details.)

For one of his most famous works, the ballet, 'Spartak', he received many awards, and it is said that during one performance he left suddenly in the middle of the first act.
He was later found nearby and said, "If I had stayed, I would have caused a terrible scandal."
When asked why, as the production and the orchestra were both excellent, he replied, "They have cut 4 bars of my music."
Although the audience hadn't noticed it had exasperated the composer.

He did have a sense of humour and was known as an animal lover. In fact, whilst on a trip to Germany, he was given the gift of a Poodle whom he named Lado. (the musical notes, La and Do)
To read more about Aram Khachaturian, visit the 'Virtual Museum', where you can listen to Sabre Dance on the opening page.
Incidentally, Robin once recorded Sabre Dance on electric guitar, it proved very popular and was incredibly high energy!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

From 'All Quite at Sea' to Sgt.Pepper and the Short Stories to Vincent Van Gogh

All is very quite out in the Atlantic. I've been unable to speak to Robin since he set sail yesterday, and as yet, haven't received any e-mails. This is unusual as it is high priority for him to establish some contact with home. I can only assume, they are having some technical difficulties on board the QM2, which will be resolved soon.
So, for today, it's just you and me!

After my blog about the re-creation of tracks from the 'Sgt.Pepper' album, there was a huge increase in traffic to the site. Not surprising really, but I was very pleased to find that many new visitors, stayed on to have a good look around. So, hello to you all, and do keep checking in.

Related to The Beatles blog, BBC Radio 4, are running a series all week. Five writers, all with Liverpool connections, have each chosen a track from Sgt.Pepper, and used it as the inspiration to write a short story.
Yesterday was, 'Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite', by Heidi Thomas.
Today, at 3.30, is 'With a Little Help from My Friends', by the fabulous Alexei Sayle, Wednesday will be 'Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds', by Linda Grant, Thursday, 'A Day in the Life', by Jimmy Mulville, and finally on Friday, 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band', by Laurence Wilson.
Read more about it on the BBC 4 site, and follow the links to listen again for up to seven days.

I also discovered this YouTube video, via artsJournal, 'Did Van Gogh trace his self-portraits?'

From this post, a short time ago, you will realize we are big Van Gogh fans here.
Whatever the final verdict, as far as I'm concerned, the skill is in the painting, no matter how the outline got there.
It seems unlikely that photography was used, because as far as I was aware, only one photo of Vincent existed, and it's very frustratingly of the back of him, as he walks away. Is the photo in the video authentic? I'd love to hear if anyone knows differently.
The camera obscura may have been an option, but once again, that doesn't account for his skill with the paint.

Meanwhile, back home, I think I'll start looking into the possibility of carrier pigeons.

Monday, June 04, 2007

From the QM2 to 'Around the World and Bach'

We were up at 5.30 this morning, and I must say, it was delightful. The sun was shining and the birds singing. The taxi driver must have thought I was some sort of mad woman, as I babbled on about the glorious day, whilst we waited for Robin to say goodbye to dogs and children, in no particular order.
The novelty had worn off by about 8.30, when I was sure it must be nearly lunchtime.

Robin only had a short flight down to Gatwick, and son number two had kindly lent him his favourite book, 'The Gruffalo', to read whilst away.
The last time I saw it, it was sandwiched between, 'El Noi de la Mare', arranged by Llobet, and 'Un Dia de Noviembre', Leo Brouwer.

He has now arrived in Southampton and has settled into his room on board the QM2. Robin will be performing two guitar concerts, Thursday and Saturday, so he has time to relax, (I don't think so), prepare, (more likely).

David Juritz, the violinist and leader of the London Mozart Players, is about to undertake an interesting project.
He's busking his way around the world, to find out more, and to follow his progress, visit, 'Round the World and Bach'. He's due to leave on the 9th of June, so log in and see what it's all about. It's worth looking at his own web page just to hear some incredible playing!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Robin Hill is Busy and Sgt.Pepper - It Was 40 Years Ago Today...

It's a busy weekend here for us.
Robin is out playing in rather an unusual venue. Some years ago he was asked to perform at Entwistle Remembrance Park, and it went so well, that he has been back every year since.
He now does three dates over the summer, today, Sunday 8th July and the third will be Sunday 5th August.
He is playing outside, which is always a challenge, but the views are spectacular. Just to prove that the north of England isn't all flat caps and clogs, this is where he is.
He has quite a fan base now, who all make a day of it, taking a picnic, and enjoying the weather. They have been remarkably lucky over the years, and only on one occasion has there been a torrential downpour and thunder storm!

We also have to prepare for Robin setting off tomorrow, to join the QM2 in Southampton, on its way to New York. He'll be performing a couple of concerts on board, so more of that as the week unfolds.

Last night Robin didn't get home until after midnight, and as we relaxed for a while before bed, we decided to watch a programme I'd recorded earlier in the evening, 'Sgt Pepper -It was 40 Years Ago Today...' on BBC2.
As we are both massive Beatles fans, we thought we would give it 5 minutes, before turning off in disgust at what had been done to such fantastic music.
It wasn't the case. We were so drawn into it, that it was gone 2am, before we finally went to bed. (Not ideal with a concert the next day...)

Now, I know this isn't classical music, but bare with me...

The Beatles original engineer, Geoff Emerick, steered some modern day bands through the pieces, using the original analogue valve equipment.
First in were 'Kaiser Chiefs'. After their initial shock at the restrictions of 4 track recording, and acknowledging that we should, 'respect our elders', regarding analogue recording, as the 'sound is much better', they went on to give an excellent performance of 'Getting Better'.
We had been concerned how these modern bands would approach these classic pieces, but we were soon put at are ease.
Especially after hearing front man, Ricky Wilson say:

"Musically it's like having a big brother, you get the benefit of learning from them, but then again, you get the things about the fact that they always get there first, and everythings pretty much a hand-me-down after The Beatles."

For such a successful band to be 'big' enough to acknowledge the past, was very refreshing.

Next came Bryan Adams, with a fabulous version of 'Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band'. He really put his heart and soul into the song, and, gave the impression that he must be a big fan.

3rd on, The Fray, America's most downloaded band, with their version of 'Fixing a Hole'. They passionately wanted to be faithful to the original, and, were therefore rather nervous about the whole thing. But they needn't have been. With the use of some good old fashioned English tea towels over the drums, they came up with an excellent version.

4th, was 'Magic Numbers' with the only track that The Beatles didn't play any instruments. 'She's Leaving Home' was written by Paul McCartney after reading a newspaper report about a runaway. Magic Numbers put the vocals on to a string section with a very pleasant result.

5th, 'Razorlight' playing, 'With a Little Help From My Friends'.
They recognised The Beatles tradition of Ringo singing one track on every album, and therefore Razorlight's drummer, Andy Burrows, took on the challenge. It had a great laid back feel throughout, and I wouldn't be surprised if he has gained much confidence as a vocalist.

6th on were 'Travis', with 'Lovely Rita'. In true Beatles style, they decided to experiment and the result was half the band recording in the studio, whilst the other half were in a stairwell as it had excellent reverb! They even tackled playing the comb and paper, all in the name of The Beatles famous adlibs. Again, a great achievement.

Finally, on this part of the programme, 'Stereophonics' arrived. Unfortunately they had been told they were recording Sgt. Pepper intro, but it became clear, they were in fact meant to be doing the Reprise version. All credit to them, they took it in their stride, and performed a high energy version to compliment the original.

So, as you can see, despite ourselves, we really enjoyed the whole programme.
The attitude of the bands involved showed that they weren't trying to compete, merely show their respect, for the past recording.
Really, this is no different to the approach that classical musicians take every day. Here, the tradition is to recreate a masterpiece from the past, and this is exactly what these bands achieved.
After all, the original tracks can take it.
For Robin to enjoy, and respect, the results of this programme, is quite an achievement.
When Sgt.Pepper was originally released, Robin was a young boy, on holiday with a friend, and spent most of the time at the piano in the hotel, trying to recreate the songs. They have been in is head, all the time, ever since.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

From Elgar's 150th Anniversary to the Latest Member of The Zimmers?

Today is the 150th anniversary of Elgar's birth. To read more about him you can take a look at 'The Elgar Society' site.
There are many celebrations going on around the country over the next few weeks, and here are a few of them.

Meanwhile, at home, my gran has been over for the day.
She's always interested in current events and keeping up to date with the world of blogging.
She has been following the success of 'The Zimmers', and was rather amused by the video.
If you want to see it, go to this earlier blog of mine, 'From Concerto Premiere Coming Soon to The Zimmers: My Generation', and follow the links.
I think it all went to her head, at 87 years young, she found Robin's Fender Stratocaster, learnt a few power chords and is now hoping for an audition....

Friday, June 01, 2007

Robin Hill and the Bronte Sisters

Robin has always felt, and stresses to his students, that it is important to listen to a wide range of music played on different instruments, and not to focus solely on the guitar and its repertoire, but to draw inspiration from the other branches of the arts.
As the Paraguayan guitarist and composer Agustin Barrios said:

"One cannot become a guitarist if he has not bathed in the fountain of culture."

With this in mind, he found himself, with son number one, at The Bronte Parsonage Museum, in Haworth, West Yorkshire.

The achievements of the Bronte children are remarkable.
Charlotte wrote 'Jane Eyre', Emily, 'Wuthering Heights', Anne, 'Agnes Grey' and 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall', and brother Branwell, shared his sisters' literary gift, if not their success, but his portraits of the three sisters are in the National Portrait Gallery.
It seems incredible that so much was achieved before their untimely deaths, all before the age of 40.

To be surrounded by their personal possessions, and to soak up the atmosphere in which they worked, is truly inspirational, and stresses the importance of widening ones horizons when approaching a career in music.
The fact that Charlotte and Emily Bronte often wrote in the same room, may have fuelled their artistic tendencies, in much the same way as performing with other musicians opens you up to a 'full' musical picture, increases delight in playing, and enables you to play more effectively and musically.