'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, December 29, 2008

Concierto de Aranjuez and the Stray Piccolo

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and are preparing yourselves for the New Year festivities.
In the lull between events the sound of music has been filling the house.
After a month without live music permeating every corner of our home it has taken some getting used to.
Particularly as Robin is rehearsing the fabulous, 'Concierto de Aranjuez' at the moment, and playing along to a recording at high volume.
More than once I have had requests from the children for Daddy to turn the music down...

Joaquin Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez is an incredible piece and one that places huge demands on the soloist.
Robin has performed it many times over the years, from huge venues with over 3000 people, with Carl Davis and the Liverpool Philharmonic, to small more intimate settings with local orchestras.

He relishes any performance.
It is a piece that requires frequent practice in order to deliver an authoritative and exciting performance.
I was once talking to Paco Pena and I asked him, as Paco de Lucia had just recorded and performed the work, if he had ever contemplated doing the same. He informed me he hadn't recorded the piece as it would require him to take at least a year out to learn it.
That's how hard it is.

But Robin is ready. After many years he finally feels he is in the position to record it.
He has a performance later this year, hence the current preoccupation.
So we are listening to various recordings and interpretations at the moment.

Actually, I was quite proud of myself, (and it shows just how well the wife of a musician gets to know any piece of music they are playing) when listening to one recording I said, "The orchestra played a wrong note there..."
We listened again, and sure enough I was right. One wrong the piccolo department.
I said I had a good ear.

So, if there are any orchestras out there who are planning to perform or record this piece, now is a good time to approach us.
Otherwise we may have to take the recording overseas...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Many thanks to you all for your patience over the last few weeks whilst I took a break and made use of the time by having my computer repaired. (Many thanks Pete!!)
I hope that you have enjoyed looking back over the archives in my absence.

December has been a particularly busy time for Robin, and consequently for me, and he spent the grand total of 18 hours at home during the entire month.
He has been to 15 countries and performed 6 concerts, all of which went extremely well.

Robin should have been home for a whole day, but there was an unfortunate, and worrying situation on his flight from Philadelphia.
Mid Atlantic the plane developed a problem and had to return to the US.
After an anxious time, and much delay circling Philadelphia to burn off and dump surplus fuel, the plane, thankfully, landed safely, all the passengers were transferred to another aircraft, and they set off once again. Later in the flight Robin, who is a veteran of 100s and 100s of flights, asked one of the stewardesses how common this kind of procedure was in her experience. She replied that she had been a stewardess for 26 years and had never ever had to turn back during a flight before.

For most of this time away Robin has been in the Caribbean, so he has returned today with a rather pleasant suntan.

However, home he is, and back just in time to celebrate with the family over the festive period.
As you can imagine we are all delighted.
Whether Robin will be quite so happy about 5 o'clock tomorrow morning when we are woken by two hyper excited children, and he has to drag himself out of a jet lagged sleep, remains to be seen....

But for now, we all hope that you have a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Time for a Short Break

I'm taking a couple of weeks off.

This is a particularly busy time of year and it has been difficult to get the chance to prepare any posts.

However, a few weeks ago, my Mum called around with two, giant lever arch folders, full of the printed version of 'Life of a Musician'.

As only a Mother can, she had been dutifully printing off each post as it was published.
It's quite staggering to see just how much I have written over the last 2 and a half years, and the variety of topics covered.

So, whilst I take a break, (to oversea the building of an extension to house these enormous tomes), I know there is lots for you to look back on.
In fact, there are 648 other entries, so there should be plenty to keep you occupied!

Enjoy browsing the archives, and I'll be back soon.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell - Experience Reunited?

Those who follow this blog regularly will know that Jimi Hendrix has played a huge role in Robin's musical life.
But it wasn't just Hendrix, it was the whole 'Jimi Hendrix Experience', the meeting of three musicians who changed the face of music.
Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell.

It's not just Robin though, most musicians I know have spent a lifetime listening to the music of Jimi Hendrix. Right across the range from classical, jazz, to rock.
There was something so exhilarating, exciting and original about their playing, interaction, and complete 'ease' with their instruments that seems to inspire all musicians. Nigel Kennedy, for example, has always been very vocal about his musical roots and love of Hendrix.

So it was with great sadness that we heard of the death of the last surviving band member, Mitch Mitchell.
Mitchell was a fabulous drummer and the interplay between him and Hendrix was legendary.
You can read an interesting and informative obituary in The Telegraph.

The sad news prompted a weekend of listening to various tracks and searching for a fitting YouTube video to show all the band members at their best.
But it didn't stop there.
Robin has spent some time practicing Rodrigo's, 'Concierto de Aranjuez', for a performance next year, and emerged from the music room as I was surfing the net.

Just to live up to his reputation of the 'Hendrix of the classical guitar', he proceeded to play the opening bars of the concierto with his guitar behind his head...
It wasn't until I pointed out that this may not be the best way to treat his valuable Rodriguez guitar, and that maybe he should try it with his Stratocaster instead, that he stopped. (I know, it's boring always being the sensible one...)

Anyway, the world is a poorer place with the loss of Mitch Mitchell.
Our hope is that finally, after many years, the trio have now been reunited, and are holding the best ever jam session somewhere....

But here on earth, we have to be content with archive footage.
There's so much to choose from it has been difficult.
We finally settled on a song called 'Killing Floor', originally by the band, 'Electric Flag', as it shows beautifully the energy and interaction on stage during a live performance.
As the video won't post to blog, you'll have to click the link to watch, but it's worth it... 'The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Killing Floor.'

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Sir Paul McCartney

Since my last post Robin has been busy.
He performed his second concert on the Queen Victoria and was very pleased with the result.
As I have said before, he doesn't often say that he is happy with a performance, so this must have been quite a concert.
He has had many lovely comments from members of the audience which always helps when dealing with time away from home.
But he is now at approximately 30 000 feet, flying from Istanbul to Manchester, and is expected home later today.

So whilst I prepare for his return, and tend to a sick son number one, you can read about a new piece of music composed by the Royal composer, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
The piece, 'Liber Pulsationis Fabulatoris', has been dedicated to another Sir, Sir Paul McCartney.
Maxwell Davies appears to have a sense of humour as the first three letters spell, 'Lib Pul Fab'.
To find out more, read this article by Mike Wade, in The Times.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The QE2 - Final Journey

Now this is confusing as Robin is actually on the Queen Victoria.
But as he has performed many times on the QE2, and I have many QE2 fans who follow this blog, I couldn't let such a significant day pass without a mention.

I am referring to the preparations for the final journey of the QE2 as she leaves Southampton.
You can read an article by Caroline Gammell here.

The QE2 is very special and Robin has had many happy times on board.
I have written so many posts about her over the years, and you can see some of them by typing QE2 into 'search blog', but here are a selection.

'The QE2, the Giant Cat, and Plenty of Practice', 'Comedy on Cunard, Coffee and Clapping and YouTube', or maybe, 'Post Rodrigo's 'Adagio'.

There has been a minor problem though in the early hours of the morning.
Apparently the QE2 ran aground, but even this event was so gracefully done that most passengers were unaware of the problem!
You can read Kate Kelland's report here.

We wish her a safe final journey. Meanwhile, Robin and the Queen Victoria have arrived in Port Said, Egypt, and his second concert is tomorrow.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Queen Victoria Concert and Arrival in Alexandria

Since my last post it has been a busy time.
Robin joined the Queen Victoria on Saturday in Valletta, Malta, and immediately started preparing for his concert on Sunday.
I'm pleased to report that it went very well and he now has a few days until the second, and last concert.

The timing has worked out perfectly for Robin as today the Queen Victoria arrived in Alexandria, Egypt, a place he hasn't been to before.
So he is allowing himself some time to look around.

Someone told him the Bazaar was one of the scariest places they had been, but also that it felt like you were walking onto the set of an Indiana Jones film! I am waiting with interest for some feedback.

Robin however is very excited at the prospect. He has spent the morning working on a concerto he is performing next year, (as always work comes first...) and will be walking the streets of Alexandria this afternoon.

It looks a fascinating place.
It is the second largest city in Egypt, and is often referred to as the 'Pearl of the Mediterranean', as it has an atmosphere more Mediterranean than Middle Eastern.
I'm sure there will plenty to do and see.
With such an interesting past, to read some examples try, the 'Lighthouse of Alexandria', one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, or the 'Library of Alexandria', the largest library of the ancient world, or even the 'Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa', the ambiance must surely be incredible.

In fact I have often read that you should explore Alexandria at random and enjoy the atmosphere as much as the sights.
I just hope he doesn't get lost.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bang & Olufsen Part 1

Robin has arrived in Malta after an early start and is now settling into a rather nice hotel for the night.

So, whilst he prepares for his concerts later this week, I have other news for you.

If you live within travelling distance of Wilmslow, Cheshire, (UK) then here's a date for your diary.

Two weeks today, on Friday 21st November, Robin will be performing at a special event.
He's very excited about this as he gets to use the rather nice audio equipment belonging to Bang and Olufsen.

The performance starts at 7.45, and during the interval you will have the opportunity to look around the Wilmslow store.

Robin is a big fan of Bang & Olufsen and I frequently have to hide the catalogue from him when it arrives on our doormat.
I have spoken to the manager and banned him from selling any products to Robin whilst he's there on the 21st...

If you are interested in attending the concert, then contact the store directly on 01625 527666, but be quick as the event is ticket only, and there are a limited number of places available.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yma Sumac 1922 - 2008

The legendary soprano Yma Sumac, often called the 'Peruvian Songbird', has died at the age of 86.

When asked recently how she would like to be remembered, this is what she said:

"That I made good music and made happy, their hearts."

She certainly achieved her wish.
Tributes have been made around the world.
Her international success was based on her extreme vocal range, well over four octaves, and at her peak a staggering five!!

Despite a lack of formal training her skill has influenced many over the years.
The song 'Ataypura' featured in the Coen Brothers 1998 film, 'The Big Lebowski', and samples of her songs have been used by the Black Eyed Peas.
In fact, Yma herself appeared in many films over the years.

A good example of Yma Sumac can be seen in the YouTube video of the song, 'Gopher Mambo'.

This displays an intoxicating cocktail of ethnic South American vocal sounds, Cuban and Latin American rhythms with amazingly virtuosic and tight trumpet section and the most stratospheric, scintillating classical soprano imaginable.

So, enjoy the good music and be happy in your heart....

Yma Sumac - Gopher Mambo

Monday, November 03, 2008

Pugwash Puganini Hill

We have had a very exciting weekend.
Many months ago son number two was promised a puppy.
He's too young to remember the whole 'puppy' experience and was desperate for his own small furry friend.
Having established that this wasn't just a passing phase we finally relented.
So, here she is, introducing:

Pugwash Puganini Hill

She is a delightful little girl, a cross between a Pug and a West Highland White, therefore known as a Pugland.
Having taken delivery of her on Saturday she has managed to make herself very much at home, and win over all the Hillhouse members, human and furry.

In fact as I type, at a rather unusual angle, she has fallen asleep on my knee.
Fortunately she has a big, confident personality, despite her size, as she has a lot of different noises to get used to.

So far, luckily for us, she is very happy with the sound of the guitar.
There was a momentary hesitation with the violin, but she has now got over that.
And she appears perfectly at ease with the harmonica and the tambourine, (yes, all played regularly here at Hillhouse.)
We haven't subjected her to the drums yet, much too loud for those little ears.

So watch this space.
Traditionally every pet we have ever introduced into our home has had a piece of music composed for them.
Pugwash Puganini will be no exception.
Expect something big.
Although small she is full of character, and her Dad's smitten...

Friday, October 31, 2008

Presidential Election, Finance...and fooling some of the people...

When Robin is home for a reasonable length of time we tend to have a lot of jobs to catch up on.
This period has been no exception and we finally seem to be up to date.
Also, Robin is working on new pieces for his constantly evolving programme.
Hence the lack of information recently!

However, like most people, we are aware of the current financial situation and many musicians are concerned about future work.

When the whole world seems to be feeling the credit crunch it is often the world of entertainment that suffers.
This shouldn't be the case.
What people need in times of stress is the access to nourishing music to distract them from everyday life.
Luckily for us, so far, we haven't been affected. Long may that last.

So with thoughts of finance, and the Presidential election, which will be held next week,I found a few quotes to brighten up your weekend.

The first relates to the election.
Although we are based in the UK we are following events very closely.
We also have personal reasons, which I can't discuss for legal reasons, but hopefully one day they will be resolved and I shall then be able to share the details with you.

So I was very amused to find this quote, made by the American writer, Gore Vidal:

"Half of the American people never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half."

Regarding the current world financial crises I found a couple of interesting quotes. The first from the American financier, Alan Greenspan:

"Since I have become a central banker, I've learned to mumble with great coherence. If I seem unduly clear to you, you must have misunderstood what I said."

The second by John Kenneth Galbraith:

"Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists."

So whilst these quotes may not be directly related to the life of a musician, the current climate and impending election affects us all one way or another.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

John Williams, Andres Segovia and a Can of ....

Recently we heard that John Williams was to play at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.
He performs there regularly and we always try to go whenever possible.
It is always a great evening, and a delight to have the opportunity to see such an incredible player, so close to home.
However on this occasion we won't be able to attend as Robin will be away from home, giving his own recital.

But this generated a conversation about the rare chances one has to see such players, and how important it is to take those chances whenever possible.

We have both been very lucky in that we were able to see Andres Segovia perform on a number of occasions.

Generally thought of as the 'Daddy of all classical guitar players', it was always a wonderful experience.
Even in his final days as a performer, when he was helped onto the stage, he still had the ability to hold an audience rapt.

On one of the occasions that Robin saw Andres Segovia, he was lucky enough to be backstage after the event.
As he walked through the warren of corridors, that always seem to accompany the area behind the scenes, he heard the guitar being played.

He walked on, very aware that he was within feet of one of his idols.
As he passed the open door of Segovia's dressing room, Robin glanced in, only to see the maestro, guitar in hand, sipping from a can of 7Up fizzy drink.
Given that Segovia was in his 80's at this point, it seemed rather incongruous.

What I would give to have captured that image on film...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hill is Home and Jeff Beck - 'A Day in the Life'

After a successful second concert Robin has now arrived home.
It was something of a stressful journey as hold ups in security meant he boarded his plane with only minutes to spare.

However, he is delighted to be back, and we spent a very pleasant evening watching Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scott's on BBC4.
What a fantastic, original and virtuosic performance by Beck very ably supported by his excellent band.
How refreshing to see and hear him, at 64, still innovating - a master,not only in the art of the electric guitar, but also of music itself. Highly effective, lean arrangements utilising silence and space and brilliant dynamics.

For the next 6 days you can witness Jeff Beck at Ronnie Scott's, here, courtesy of the BBC.

I knew it would happen though.
I turned my back for a minute and Robin disappeared.
Then the distant sound of his Fender Stratocaster could be heard from his studio.
Robin just couldn't resist going off and having a quick blast...

One of our favourite songs on the programme was Beck's version of Lennon and McCartney's 'A Day in the Life'.
Here it is, not from Ronnie Scott's, but Live at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Jeff Beck - A day in the life (Beatles)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Clairvoyant Rabbit and the Turkish Shoeshine Scandal.

Please excuse my absence for the last few days, and apologies to those of you that sent emails asking where I was. It's very nice to be appreciated!
To bring you up to date, Robin is still on the Queen Victoria, and had a very successful first concert.
It was well attended after the passengers had been exposed to a TV interview being played on repeat for the entire day.
They will be ale to watch a second interview tomorrow, as later today Robin will be back in the studio for further questioning.

Today he is in Civitavecchia, Italy, but it was whilst in Istanbul that he uncovered the Turkish shoeshine scandal.
The story actually begins back in August.
At that time, Robin was in Istanbul, and had our eldest son with him.
They set off to take a look around.
One of the first people they came across thrust a baby rabbit into the hands of son number one, and allowed him to admire it:

Like most young children he was very taken with the small furry creature and dutifully cuddled it.
The owner then produced a larger rabbit, (not out of a hat) which proceeded to select a piece of paper form a table which apparently would tell them their fortunes.
Unfortunately it was in such poor English that we are none the wiser.
But then the owner wanted to be paid.
As Robin and son only intended going for a walk they hadn't actually taken any money with them.
So after much arm waving and gesticulating they managed to hand back the rabbit and beat a hasty retreat.

Only to come across a young Turkish shoeshine boy.
As he walked by he dropped one of his brushes, and Robin dutifully picked it up and handed it back to him.
The grateful boy then thanked him profusely and cleaned his shoes - before asking for some money.
Once again the Hill men had to explain their lack of cash and made off as quickly as they could.
The fact that they had only been in Turkey for 10 minutes and already owed two people money, was the cause of quite some mirth on their return home.

However, Robin has since returned to Istanbul a number of times, and on this trip guess who he met?
As he walked through a park, there was the very same shoeshine boy, dropping the very same brush, right in front of him.

"You really are an old butterfingers with those brushes," Robin exclaimed as he went on his way...

As the old Turkish proverb says:

'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.'

Just a little story for you.

Friday, October 17, 2008

'The Ageless Audience' and Classical Music

Robin is now in Istanbul and settling into the Queen Victoria, which will be home for the next week, and I'm waiting to hear which day will be concert day.

When he does perform his concert, the age of the audience is likely to be, but not exclusively, 40 +.
There are many reasons for this, and it is often an area debated in a very negative way.
So I was very pleased to read a recent report by Diane Haithman in the Los Angeles Times, 'The ageless audience.'

The report challenges the view that the audience for live performing arts is aging, and suggests that this is in fact nothing new.

It's so refreshing to read a more optimistic take on the whole area.
Rather than the doom and gloom of the decline in interest in classical music by the younger generation, it focuses on the more logical issues that prevent younger people attending concerts.
Finance plays a part along with having young children.
When in your 20's you may well choose to spend any available money in a different way, and by your 30's, are often caught up in life with small children.
By your 40's onwards, the situation starts to change, and coincidentally, that is when people tend to start attending classical concerts...

There's also the argument that listening to classical music requires a higher level of concentration, something that is achieved over time, and with more life experience.
It's all there in the report, and is well worth a read.

But we shouldn't sit back and assume that people will naturally move towards classical music as they get older.
They do need to have some early exposure to encourage the transition.
This is one of the reasons why I blog, Twitter and run a MySpace page.
MySpace in particular highlights the need to interact with the younger generation in a way that is familiar to them.
Many of our 'friends' on MySpace are young, electric guitar players, who can see and appreciate the skill required to be a classical player, even though they don't do it themselves.
I have even had messages from some saying they would go and see Robin perform live, as they hadn't before realised how exciting it can be.
All that achieved from just 5 tracks on a MySpace page.

It is also why I have often mentioned the need for more access to classical music on mainstream television.
Then there will be more opportunities for the younger generation to hear and see performances, even if by chance.
A good example of this was the recent 'Maestro' series on BBC 2, which I wrote about here.

A worrying development I recently heard about in the UK, although I've not confirmed this information, is that for GCSE Music you no longer need to be able to read music.
If this is the case then it is absurd, and maybe they should re title it GCSE Music appreciation.
How on earth can you be given a qualification suggesting a certain level of ability has been obtained, if you can't actually read a note of music?

As I mentioned the other day on Twitter, our youngest son, age 6, took his violin into school and played a few pieces.
One of his peers went home and told his mum that our son could read that funny language!
Even at the age of 5/6 children appreciate that 'notes' are indeed another form of communication.

Would you give someone GCSE French if they couldn't speak a word of it?
I hope not.
This is not completely off topic.
The point being that 'early exposure' is vital.
We need to reinforce the importance, and influence, that music can have on our lives at an early age, to give children the chance to discover it in more detail later on.

In the words of G.K.Chesterton:

"Education is simply the soul of society as it passes from one generation to another."

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Alicia de Larrocha, the Ritual Fire Dance and a Maths Exam.

The Glory of Spain:

This is one of Robin's favourite DVDs and it has entertained him on many occasions whilst travelling.
But yesterday he found another use for it.
Son number one was anxious about a forthcoming test and Robin was trying to reassure him.
Then he remembered that on this DVD there's some footage of the pianist Alicia de Larrocha, performing Manuel de Falla's, 'Ritual Fire Dance.'

Robin played this too our eldest, who was suitably impressed by the incredibly dexterous, rhythmic and virtuosic performance.
He then asked what this had to do with his maths exam.
The answer was simple.
Alicia de Larrocha has been known to admit that prior to a concert she often is so scared that she hopes for an earthquake so the performance can't go ahead.
When watching her play with such confidence, this seems hard to imagine.
Strangely, it is often those with the most ability that have the most fear.
Their need to give the best possible performance, at all times, is a weighty responsibility.
The point being made, was of course, that son number one was only anxious because he cared.
He had done the work and wanted it to be reflected in his results.
We shall see...

But I did find the same performance on YouTube, unfortunately it won't post to the blog, but you can visit it here, so sit back and marvel.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Electric Light Orchestra - Mr. Blue Sky

Traditionally Sunday morning in Hillhouse is iPod shuffle time.
As Robin has been away so much this year we have lapsed in this most enjoyable pastime.
But this morning we did put shuffle on, and the first track to play brought a smile to our faces, and a grimace from the children, as in Pavlovian fashion they thought it was Monday.

The reason for this is that the track was, 'Mr. Blue Sky' by the Electric Light Orchestra.

But why should Mr. Blue Sky make our children think it was Monday?
Well, it is because we have found it a very effective means of motivating reluctant schoolboys to embrace the day.
It doesn't have to be Monday.
We use it most days of the week.

I'll set the scene.
All had breakfast.
All watching the hands of the clock as they progress perilously close to the time we need to leave the house.
Two long faces.
The solution is simple.
You turn on the iPod, select ELO, pump up the volume, and then all dance around and sing along to this wonderfully enthusiastic and optimistic piece of music.

When I say 'we', I actually mean me and sons numbers one and two.
Robin is usually looking on with amusement, or, far from home imagining the scene.

But it isn't just random gyrating.
We each have our own little part to play.
For example, the harmonies are planned out and practiced to perfection.
All three of us give virtuoso 'air guitar' performances for the guitar solo, and we each have our own lines to deliver.
Mine being, of course, "Hey you with the pretty face, welcome to the human race," in which I use artistic licence to gesticulate wildly at both boys as it wouldn't do to show any favouritism.

By the time we reach, "Today is the day we've waited for," we are singing in unison and all more than ready to launch ourselves out into the world.

There is a down side.
We may all be motivated to 'carpe diem', but the whole process requires a minimum of five minutes.
Like most houses on a weekday morning, there's a very tight schedule.
The result is the school run becomes just that. We run all they way there, arriving just as the bell is ringing.
But it's worth it.

However, you don't need to have children to use this particular 'Hillhouse tip' to start your day in a positive fashion, anyone can try it.
To help you on your way I have posted a video to get you started.

ELO - Mr.Blue Sky (Original Promo)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Airport Antics

Robin is now acclimatising to life at home.
He did perform an extra concert on the Queen Victoria, as she circled off the coast of Istanbul, waiting for the sea to become calm enough to dock.
All the staff and crew were very grateful that he stepped in, at only 30 minutes notice, to entertain the patiently waiting guests.

Then the eventful journey home began.
Whilst going through customs at Istanbul airport, Robin was taken to one side, searched and questioned.
"Have you visited any other countries before arrival in Turkey?" was the first one.
With thoughts of the film 'Midnight Express' coursing through his head, his mind went completely blank.
He couldn't remember one destination he had been to in the last week.
"Errm, ohh, you're not going to believe this but I really can't remember," didn't seem to satisfy the officer.

Eventually, he pulled himself together, explained that he had been on the Queen Victoria, and handed the official a Turkish landing card.
The customs men were happy, and off Robin went.

Once I arrived at Manchester airport to meet him I was greeted with the information that his plane was an hour late.
That was OK, I'd made arrangements for children to be collected from school, so purchased a newspaper and rather enjoyed some time reading and some people watching.

However, as the information on the screen shifted to 'landed', then, 'arrived', and slowly to, 'reclaiming luggage', (yes, I'm very familiar with the whole process, and for those not so used to it, don't be fooled by the 'reclaiming luggage' stage. Sometimes that only appears once you have already been reunited with your loved one, or, they are wandering around looking for you, whilst you while away the time in a coffee house thinking thy are still disembarking...)
But still no sign of Robin.
Even on the occasions of missing luggage, of which there are many, (try this one, or this one, for a start) he should have appeared by this time.

I was starting to become concerned.
Then, finally, he appeared and all was revealed.
He must have been looking particularly shifty on this day, as once again, he had been stopped at customs.
Not just stopped and asked to remove shoes and go through the scanner once again, I mean seriously stopped.
Taken off to an interview room and asked to sit down.

"So, Mr Hill, how long were you in Istanbul?"
"Just under two days."
"That seems a strange length of time."
"Well, I was just passing through."
"Passing from where?"

He we go again.
But this time he was ready, and recalled the various destinations, reasons for his travels, which was reinforced by the concert guitar in a large, protective case right next to him...(which had already been scanned and proved to be completely harmless.)
Finally they let him go.

Strange really.
He passes through the airport so frequently that you would think he was on first name terms with most of the staff.
Then again, maybe that's the problem.
Frequent traveller, multiple destinations, glazed travel weary expression...
Anyway, he's home and he's fine, as thankfully he was able to convince the various customs officers that he simply wants to play his guitar, and make music.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Tagging, Chain Letters and Shakabuku Films.

Robin has now left the Queen Victoria, for now, and is on his way home.
As he set off from Istanbul he called to say he was delighted at the prospect of 10 days at home.
Not surprising really as he hasn't been here for that long since July.

So whilst Robin reclines at 30 000 feet, and whiles away the hours with his new Sony Reader, I started thinking.

It was connected to the recent post I ran, 'I've Been Tagged', where I had to 'tag' six friends.
Apart from warofthewords who was unable to participate due to the lack of a blog, (which she hopes to rectify soon), there has been a fantastic response.
You can read Jessica Duchen's reply here, Ben Clapton's here, Chris Hambly's wonderful experiment here, and Ari Adler's here, in which he discusses the ease of communication these days and mentions the similarity of tagging to chain letters.

And this is the point I have been pondering.
What is it that makes us reply to these intrusions into our busy lives?
Chain letters have been around for many years, in fact one landed on our doormat only a few weeks ago.
It was sent to son number one with the promise of entry into the 'Guinness Book of Records' if he completed his part of the chain.
He did and this is why.
As you know he has been in a short film, 'Lollipop', which you can watch if you click the link in the side bar, and read about it here.
Since then we have remained in contact, and become friends with, many of those involved. (Thanks to Nick Rowntree for the quick response to my e mail yesterday!)

The company that made this film, Shakabuku Films, (and yes, that is son number one on their home page) have made many others.
One of which is called 'Chaingangs'.
This was an incredible achievement as the entire film, from writing the script, filming, editing and even down to adding the music, was done in 48 hours, as part of the National 48 hour film Challenge.
They did it, and they won.
But what has all this got to do with tagging and chain letters?
Well, watch the film, and you'll see why I couldn't quite bring myself to ignore the task I was set....


Sunday, October 05, 2008

All Quiet Since the Second Concert

All is disturbingly quiet from the Queen Victoria.
I do know that the second concert went very well.
Actually, they were experimenting with a new venue.
It was smaller, but very atmospheric, and the roof went back to add to the ambiance.
Initially there had been some concern about the sound.
But the sound men did an excellent job and the concert was extremely well received.

In fact, as the venue was smaller, the concert was repeated later in the evening, and many of the audience from the first performance returned to hear it again, despite it being the same programme!

Robin even enjoyed the 'open top' performing as he was fanned with a gentle cool breeze, (a scene I'm finding hard to imagine here in the UK at the moment...) instead of sweating under intense stage lights.

Since then, news has been scant.
Robin was approached and asked if he would perform an extra concert as there was trouble ahead.
A storm was brewing out at sea which was going to delay arrival in Istanbul.
Whether the concert has gone ahead I don't yet know.
Whether anybody felt well enough to go and see it, I also don't know.
Whether Robin was well enough to perform it, you guessed it, I don't know.

The lack of messages isn't a good sign.
From experience, the only time email messages dry up are when seasickness strikes.
The only way to cope with it is to lie down and wait for it to stop.
Those following me on Twitter will have read that Robin has had to wear full evening dress to go to the computer room and send a message on a number of occasions this trip. (His computer is in the local Apple store being repaired...)
If he's prepared to go to such lengths to receive news from home, then the current lack of contact doesn't bode well.

But I may be completely wrong.
Anytime now I could get a call from Istanbul and everything be fine.
Lets hope so.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Santorini and the Second Concert plus Nokia's New 'phone

The Queen Victoria is in Santorini today.
Robin has been there many times before and always enjoys it.
See 'Sun, Sea and Santorini' for one of his previous experiences.

When I last spoke to him, Robin had just completed the long walk up a very steep hill, and was enjoying a cup of coffee and a spectacular view.
He will only be on land a short time, as his second concert is tonight.
So whilst the tourists explore the island, Robin will be rehearsing.

He must be doing something right, and getting excellent reviews from these various trips, as he keeps getting re-booked.
A point highlighted by a waiter this morning over breakfast:

"You're back again? You're always back again."

It's a good job really judging by the views of the younger generation.
Apparently, they rarely, if ever, pay for the music they listen too.
Where has this 'something for nothing' attitude come from?
Free downloads and file sharing are a real concern for most musicians.

However, Nokia have come up with an idea.
They have unveiled a new music service.
You can watch a report by the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones here.
It appears that people will be paying for their music, albeit indirectly, when they purchase a 'phone with this service.

How much of that will filter back down to the artist I have yet to establish.
But it could possibly be a long term solution to the problem.
I shall be watching with interest...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Navigating Naples and the Tale of the Mandolin

Robin has now joined Cunard's Queen Victoria and is currently in Naples.
Fortunately he didn't arrive there yesterday, as the police seem to have been rather busy, '100 Arrested in Naples'.

He is also, once again, a man on a mission.
If you remember, back in the summer, there was an ongoing saga connected to a mandolin.
It started with, 'Sorrento a Mandolin and a Music Box', where Robin spotted a beautiful mandolin but came home with a music box.

By June we had, 'The Mystery of the Mandolin', in which the entire family temporarily became detectives worthy of the best overt operation in recent times.

Swiftly followed by, 'Captain Corelli Causes Chaos', where I had a crash course in the life and works of Hummel, Guiliani and Mozart.

Then finally, 'Guitarists and Their B****y Nails', when Robin proved his purchase a worthy investment as it kept him amused for days whilst resting his battle worn nails.

Well, although the mandolin was found in Sorrento, it was originally made in Naples.
So today Robin is attempting to find the home/studio of the maker, Nicola Spoto.
We have the address, you may have read a tweet yesterday in which I mentioned shining a torch inside the mandolin, to make a record of it...

He allowed himself an hour or so to achieve this goal, as his first concert is tomorrow.
No matter how interested he is in the history of the mandolin, he's more interested in giving a well rehearsed concert on Wednesday.

Well, it was an eventful hour.
The taxi took Robin straight to the right road which was in a fascinating and vibrant area of Naples.
However, most frustratingly, Robin found every house except the one he was looking for.
No matter how many he times he went up and down the narrow street, lined with the most impressive houses, number 34 was never found.
Number 33 and number 35 were discovered, but not number 34.
The mystery of the mandolin is set to continue.

But if the BBC need a reporter, from the scene of the city police station, he's right outside.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I've Been Tagged

Yesterday I had a message over on Twitter from Paize_Fiddler.
I'd been tagged on his blog, 'Free Spirit'.

For those not familiar with tagging, you could read, 'What is a Blog Meme?' by Chris Garrett, or, 'Blog-Tag: A Game for a virtual Cocktail Party,' on The Jeff Pulver Blog, or even, '8 Random Facts About Me (tagging meme)', on James Cridland's blog.

My brief was, "to write six things about me personally, that my readers might not know", and then, 'tag' six other twitter/blogger friends and make them 'it'.

My initial reaction was mixed.
I was delighted to have been chosen from all the people out there in the blogosphere, but also concerned, as the message arrived in the frantic 24 hours that always occur prior to Robin going away for a concert.

So we used the journey to the airport constructively, to come up with my six, 'things about me'.

1) I have known Robin since I was 7 years old!!!

2) I completed writing a book a short time ago, (which has nothing to do with music...), and in the next few weeks will be ready to send it off and try my luck with an agent.

3) As a teenager I was asked to be the lead vocalist in a rock band. When I questioned the fact that they had never heard me sing, they said, "It doesn't matter no one will be able to hear you anyway!"

4) I have a degree in Psychology which has proved extremely helpful in understanding the mind of a musician....

5) At the age of 16 I took two jobs, whilst continuing to study, to pay for my first classical guitar. One in a shoe shop (which I hated) the other as a breakfast waitress, (I was terrible. I'm not good at early mornings, and kept dropping very hot boiled eggs into the laps of business men...)

6) In an ideal world I would have 4 dogs, a couple of horses and a few cats.

So there we are, my six things.
The next stage was to tag six more people.
This is the part that I have found most difficult.
Who do you choose?
All the people I know in the blogging/twittering world are all very busy.
Will they be pleased to be picked, or, annoyed at the intrusion.
I decided to go with my gut instinct.
Most people recognise that participating in such events only helps to promote their particular cause.

So, here they are:

1)Jessica Duchen. 'Jessica Duchen's Classical music blog'. Because I am a great admirer of her blog/books/articles and she is currently thinking about ways forward with her writing.

2)Solobasssteve. Steve Lawson, found on twitter here, or his website here. Because Steve is a prolific twitterer, web enthusiast and a consultant/thinker in social media, and I'm sure will have an opinion on the whole thing.

3)Audio aka Chris Hambly, and Chris's site here. Because Chris is a web developer and specializes in marketing, search optimisation etc. So should understand...

4) MadViolinist, Ben Clapton. Also a blogger friend, 'Top Left Hand Page'. Because Ben is currently running a really nice series on his blog, called, 'On This Day...' and it may help people to find it.

5) warofthewords. Naomi Fox. Because Naomi is in a very similar position to me, in that she spends a great deal of time promoting her husband's work, and I'm full of admiration at what she manages to achieve! Wire Duck Records.

6) aribadler. Ari also has a blog, 5 Ws, and is a former newspaper reporter and a media-relations professional, so maybe he can use the experience of tagging in one of his lectures.

So there we are.
The six people that I have now made 'it'.
I now have to go off and email them all, grovel a little, and hope that they see the positive side to the whole thing!
Hopefully they will link back if/when they accept the challenge so that we can gain a little insight into their approach.

Ohh, and by the time I finally get this post published, Robin should have arrived in Rome!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Week Flies By...

It has been rather a frustrating week.
We had all been looking forward to having Robin home, for a whole week, but also knew that it would be a busy one.
We hadn't counted on me taking a few days out to recuperate from a heavy cold, but it was a relief that Robin was around to shoulder some of the domestic responsibilities, whilst I felt sorry for myself.

We also hadn't expected a sick, and very vocal, cat.
Poor Ramsbottom was also unwell, requiring a visit to the vets (he protested all the way there) an injection, and a week's worth of tablets.
I now have mastered the art of medicating cats very well, and he is improving daily.

Then there was son number two's birthday party.
We, along with one of his friends parents, hosted a noisy and chaotic party for over 30, 5 and 6 year olds.
All went well, and was greatly enjoyed by all the young guests. I was informed by his teacher the next day that the whole class had been very quiet, and it would be lovely if we could tire them out in such a way more frequently...No chance.

Then of course his birthday itself.
I was just pleased that Robin was home for such a significant event.
Over the years he has missed many of these family occasions when away from home and it's hard for all concerned.

By this weekend, he then had two private functions to play at, whilst I prepared everything for another trip which starts tomorrow.
This week has gone all too quickly, but at least it is only 1 week away from home this time.
We have coped with much longer.

However, communication will be hampered, as Robin is without his computer.
It has been sent away for repair.
This has been very frustrating, as he has been unable to do any recording in his time at home, and also, will not have his Apple back until after this next trip....

But this is the reality of life as a musician.
When travelling extensively, time at home is precious, whatever is going on.
But after a week of chaos, illness, vocal cat, parties, etc. I think there's a small part of Robin that will sit on the plane tomorrow, put on his headphones, listen to some calming music, (without interruption), and feel that a week away from home may just be rather refreshing....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Coosh Headphones - The Verdict

There's something quite exciting about receiving an item before it goes on general release.
So it was a great deal of pleasure that I opened a parcel from America which I knew would contain a brand new style of headphone.
My excitement turned to amusement when I discovered the headphones attached to a giant ear, with the message, "Hopefully you will have better luck trying to get them off your ear..."

10/10 for marketing so far.
Who has developed this new style headphone?

The claim, by Coosh, is that they have produced a, "comfortable and better sounding headphone and headset to hit the audio market for under $25."

So, what do they look like?
Well, exactly like this:

I received a white pair and immediately planned my approach.
First, I was to test them out.
Initially whilst sitting comfortably in an armchair, and then a more extreme test as I head banged along to Led Zeppelin's 'Black Dog', before commencing a break dance routine on the kitchen floor.
I must say, that the Coosh claim stood up to the challenge.
Not only did they stay on, but they also felt good.

The second part of the challenge had to wait until Robin's return from a concert tour.
I wanted him to listen with his highly critical musician's ears.
His first impressions were very good.
Comfortable to wear and a nice sound.

So we did a comparison test with two other makes.
Firstly, a top of the range, and highly expensive set of noise reduction headphones.
I must say that the noise reduction 'phones did win on sound quality.
But, when compared to a 'typical' ear bud style headphone, then Coosh can certainly hold there own, and the added comfort would make them our choice of headphones.

My only regret is that they didn't send me a pink set.
In this male orientated house I may have stood more of a chance of keeping hold of them.
And as far as the break dancing, well, unfortunately I didn't manage to get any footage of me spinning on the kitchen floor, but luckily, these guys saved me from having to perform a rerun and sustain any permanent damage:

To see the Massive Monkees put Coosh headphones through their paces, just watch this video....

coosh crash test #1

Friday, September 19, 2008

Robin Hill, his Hands and an Unknown Mozart Score

The current trip on the QM2 is nearly complete.
Robin actually performed his last concert on Wednesday.
It went very well and he must have been playing with his usual enthusiasm, as the piece of a table tennis ball that had been reinforcing his right thumbnail, managed to shatter!
It wasn't a problem though.
He had another piece prepared in his jacket pocket.

One of the differences when giving a concert at sea, rather than on land, is the access the audience has to the artist, for days after the event.
Robin is always very happy to talk to people, particularly about the guitar, which was highlighted recently when one guest said he'd, "Never met anyone that talked about an inanimate object with such passion"!!!

Robin also appreciates it when anyone takes the time to say how much they enjoyed his music.
This morning I think he had one of the more unusual compliments.
It occurred whilst selecting a croissant for breakfast.
A lady tapped him on the shoulder and told him how much she had enjoyed his concert.
She then went on to say, "I hope you don't mind me saying but you have very nice hands!"
Robin wasn't quite expecting this, all before his first coffee of the morning, and responded with, "Well, thank you very much."
It turned out the lady is an artist, that specialises in painting hands and feet, so had a professional interest.

I must say I agree with her, but I would add that Robin also has very distinctive hands.
Many years before we married, I heard the sound of the classical guitar coming from the television and dashed in to see who it was.
At that moment the camera was focused on the hands of the musician.
I studied the image and declared it to be Robin.
Sure enough, as the camera pulled back to reveal the performer, it was indeed him.
But that's enough about hands.

Robin has had plenty of time to relax since his concert. He has visited Gibraltar, is currently in Lisbon, and later today starts the journey back to Southampton, arriving on Sunday.

I however, have decided to visit my local library.
You never know what you might find.
It seems that a handwritten score by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been discovered in France. Read about it here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Review: Robin Hill & Izzy Cooper

On the 28th August Robin and the soprano Izzy Cooper performed a concert in Spain, 'Viva La Classica'.
I mentioned how it had gone at the time, rather briefly, as I was in the process of retrieving my son before he became stranded, when his Dad flew off to another concert.
You can read the post here.

So I was very pleased, when yesterday I was notified about a review, written by Jack Troughton, in 'Round Town News'.
I was even happier when I read the first line, "The golden blend of Izzy Cooper's powerful voice and the glorious guitar playing of Robin Hill made Viva La Classica an enchanting success."

The programme was a varied one:

Act 1:

Les filles de Cadix - Leo Delibes
Siete Canciones Populares Espanolas - Manuel de Falla
Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 - Heitor Villa-Lobos

Un Dia de Noviembre - Leo Brouwer (solo - Robin Hill)
Recuerdos de la Alhambra - Francisco Tarrega (solo - Robin Hill)
Malaguena - trad arr.Hill (solo - Robin Hill)

En Aranjuez, con tu amor - Joaquin Rodrigo
Granada - Agustin Lara
Tu Quieres Volver - Gypsy Kings

Act 11:

Lascia Ch'io Pianga - George Frederic Handel
Plaisir D'Amour - Jean Paul Martini
Scarborough Fair - Simon and Garfunkel
Fields of Gold - Sting
Ave Maria - Charles Gounod

Tango en Skai - Roland Dyens (solo - Robin Hill)
Cavatina - Stanley Myres (solo - Robin Hill)
Asturias - Isaac Albeniz arr.Hill (solo - Robin Hill)

My love is like a red red rose - Robbie Burns
Somewhere over the rainbow - E Y Harburg & Harold Arlen
O Mio Babbino Caro - Giacomo Puccini
Imagine - John Lennon
Por ti Sere - Brendan Graham & Rolf Lovland

Here's a photo, courtesy of Round Town News, of Robin whilst performing one of the solo pieces.
The more observant amongst you will notice the lack of footstool. He is in fact, on this occasion, using a special cushion, designed to mould to the shape of the leg.

The review itself is a great one.
Izzy is described as a, "star", and Robin, "holds an audience spellbound", and one line I particularly like, " His fingers flew along the guitar's neck like the wings of a hummingbird."
But don't take my word for it. Follow the link and read it for yourself, "One Enchanted Evening".
Both Izzy and Robin are delighted at the reception they received, and have already been taking orders for the album they will be recording together.

My job, to find a time in their busy schedules to make that possible....and soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Richard Wright - Pink Floyd - My Thoughts

Like many people around the world I was shocked, and saddened, to hear yesterday of the death of Pink Floyd's Richard Wright. You can read David Gilmour's tribute here.

Richard Wright was one of the founder members of Pink Floyd and wrote, or contributed, to many of Floyd's classic tracks.

Music has the ability to evoke many memories, feelings and emotions.
For me, 'Dark Side of the Moon' is a seminal album, which has influenced me my entire life.

As a child I recall hearing this album drift up the stairs as my Dad listened, late at night, and then as a teenager, enjoying it with my friends.
It is a recording that we still listen too today.

Two of my favourite tracks on the album were written by Richard Wright.
The first, 'The Great Gig in the Sky', and also, 'Us and Them'.
It is actually with an ironic comfort that the opening words spoken on 'The Great Gig in the Sky', now come back to me:

"And I'm not frightened of dying. Anytime will do. I don't mind. Why should I be frightened of dying. There's no reason for it. You've gotta go sometime."

I hope that over the coming months Richard's family will gain comfort from the words he wrote back in 1973.
This track is incredible, and features the soaring voice of Clare Torry.
Rumour has it that she was given little information about the track, and just asked to improvise.
She recorded her part very quickly, and was in the process of apologising for her performance, when she was greeted by the stunned amazement of all present in the sound room.

Although Richard may have left us, his musical legacy will live on.
As I have already said, I learnt to love Pink Floyd through my Dad's influence.
When I told my 11 year old son about the sad news, his first reaction was to break into song, with the words, "The lunatic is on the grass," (Brain Damage).
So the baton has already been handed on.
Pink Floyd will be enjoyed for a long time to come, and are already contributing to the memories of the next generation.
What more could a musician ask?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bananas on the High Seas and Bottom E

When sitting amongst an audience, waiting for a concert to begin, have you ever thought about the musician you are about to watch and wondered what they are doing backstage?

Every artist has their own routine, but most will be warming up, and in Robin's case this means scales and arpeggios.
So I was quite surprised to receive this photograph, taken immediately before going on stage for his first concert on the QM2.

Yes, it is Robin brandishing a banana in rather a menacing fashion.
From experience I know that shortly after this picture was taken he will have eaten the banana.
As most will know, bananas are an excellent way of giving yourself an energy boost when you most need it.
Performing before an audience is both mentally and physically tiring when a soloist, (funnily enough Robin never feels like this when playing his electric guitar) so pre concert is the perfect time to boost those levels.

He's not precious about this.
He doesn't demand a dressing room full of bananas in various stages of ripeness so that he can select the perfect one. In fact on many occasions event organisers have commented on how self reliant and low maintenance he is!
It's just if he can, he will eat one.
Every little bit helps.

Writing this has also reminded me about fish.
From choice Robin always eats a good meal before a concert.
Some musicians don't. They wait and eat afterwards.
But Robin wouldn't entertain performing without a hearty meal.
His food of choice is fish.
To explain why, you can read an old post about fish being brain food for musicians, here.
For those interested in musicians and their brains, you can also read this post from 2007, 'Musicians Have Bigger Brains,' which I wrote after watching a particularly interesting programme.

The banana served him well and Robin went on to deliver a great concert.
Despite the incredibly rough sea, and many passengers feeling decidedly unwell, there was an excellent turnout and have been many nice comments since.
Robin was delighted to receive one in particular, "You play like a machine gun," and had obviously made quite an impression on this chap, as he remembered meeting Robin once before and went on to quote the time and place! (April 4th, New York, apparently)
It must be a very nice feeling to know that you have made such an impression on an individual that they remember the meeting so well.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Off Again...

I know that I have neglected the blog in the last few days, but hopefully you have been keeping up to date with Hillhouse proceedings through Twitter.
It has been busy here as Robin arrived home after a month away, but only for three days.
After such a lengthy separation (apart from my 2 hours in Alicante airport...) it is important to spend time together as a family, and simply enjoy a few precious days together.

Robin was amazed at how much son number two had grown in the four weeks since he'd seen him, and even more amazed at the progress he had made on the violin.
Do we have another budding musician in the family?
Only time will tell.
I'm just pleased that his enthusiasm for the instrument continues.

However, all too soon the alarm clock was ringing, and before we knew it we were on the road once again to the airport.

But it wasn't easy.
We had to leave the house by 6.30, as any later and the traffic would have been at a standstill.
We were lucky today.
We got there without any problems, said a quick goodbye, which caused much amusement to some passing air hostesses, and even made it back in time to sit down for half an hour before I had to take the children to school.

Although slightly delayed, Robin arrived at Heathrow along with his luggage, (which is always a relief), was met by a driver, and taken to Southampton.
He has now boarded Cunard's Queen Mary 2 which will be his home for the next 12 days.
Robin now has to prepare for a T.V. interview later today which will be broadcast tomorrow, plus his first concert, which is also tomorrow, the second one being next week.

One things for sure, the life of a musician is never dull!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Microphones and Hecklers

Judging by the title of this post you may be thinking that the concert yesterday didn't go too well.
Actually, it went very well indeed.
However, (I'm sure you can sense a but coming on), for the first two pieces the microphone wasn't working.
I don't know why, a sound check had been carried out earlier in the day.
So whilst Robin struggled on stage, behind the scenes chaos ensued, as the engineers tried to correct the problem.

Luckily Robin has a magnificent guitar.
On this trip he has taken his Miguel Rodriguez Churchdoor, which is a powerful instrument.
Also, Robin is known for his ability to create a huge sound.
So all was not lost.
The audience could hear, and, after the first two pieces the microphone was fixed.
Mind you, it isn't exactly conducive to relaxing 'into' ones concert...

Just as he recovered from this incident, a passing Spanish man, outside the theatre, shouted, "Concierto de Aranjuez," into the venue, before beating a hasty retreat.
As hecklers go, it could have been much worse!

But what should a musician do in this situation?
Ignore the interruption and pretend it never happened?
Stop playing and break into 'Concierto de Aranjuez' just to show he can?
Run outside and 'deal' with the perpetrator?

Well, as it happened Robin was about to introduce the next piece, through one of his now functioning microphones, so his reaction was to say, "No microphone and a heckler - this is not my day."

It was the right thing to do.
The audience were very amused, and he received a huge laugh.
I've always thought Robin has a secret desire to be a stand up comic.

But the serious point to all this is that being a musician is so much more than just producing the music.
Audiences want to be entertained.
Yes they have come to hear the music, but appearance, and stage presence, is so important.
You have to look in control, even if at times you don't particularly feel it.

Personally, I also feel that talking to the audience is vital.
It's such a great opportunity to engage them and pass on interesting information about the music they are about to hear.
This only enhances the whole experience.

But for many musicians this can be a huge ordeal. They are comfortable whilst playing their chosen instrument, but very uncomfortable with public speaking.

Fortunately, not Robin.
He has always talked to his audiences.
He feels that playing the notes is the difficult part, (and also the part he is so passionate about), so the speaking feels easy.
Having said that, all these years of experience have made a huge difference.
He has learnt what type of conversation people enjoy.
Like anything else, preparation is important.
You need to have thought about what you want to say before you go on stage. Not wait and hope inspiration strikes whilst under the blinding stage lights.
It won't, especially if you find the interaction with the audience difficult to start with.

However, you can't prepare for every eventuality, as Robin found out yesterday. That's where years of experience plays a very large role.
Assessing the situation, and making a split second decision on how to handle it, isn't always easy.

But judging from the comments Robin has been receiving since the concert, everyone was happy.
That's good news, as after all, it is why Robin's there.
To make music and to entertain.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Naked Wife and Everest...

Since I last posted, Robin has been to many places, and carried out the first of his two concerts on the Queen Victoria.
This took place on Sunday whilst cruising the Ionian Sea and all went very well.
There was a good, and extremely appreciative audience, many of whom have been passing on some very nice comments.

This is all very helpful for Robin.
Now he is in his 4th week away from home he is rather travel weary, so to know that your music has been appreciated really makes a great difference.

Since the concert he has been to Aghios (Crete), Izmir (Turkey), and today, Athens (Greece).
So whilst Robin called me from one sunny destination after another, I escaped the rain, by checking out the latest Google searches.
I must say there have been some particularly amusing ones recently.
Here are a few:

'My wife nude on the QM2' - I really would like to know more about this one. I assure you that Robin was in no way involved with this incident, but as he will be joining the QM2 very soon, I shall ask him to investigate!

'Julian Bream's wife' - Sorry, you got the wrong guitarist.

'Robin Hill private bank' - I wish....

'Plastic making machine of Robin' - We've had lots of merchandise over the years but I'm pretty sure we have never made plastic Robin figures.

'Robin Hill jean weeks' - Neither do we have a line of designer jeans.

'Robin Hill and Everest' - Yes, Robin has travelled to most parts of the globe, but he has never performed a concert on Everest. Now there's a thought...

'Downside to being a musician' - If you're even asking that question then music isn't for you...

'Can musicians have children' - err, yes. We have living proof on that one.

'Robin's dark side' - I didn't know he had one.

So there we are, just a few randomly selected and quirky Google searches that have amused me recently.
Meanwhile, back out at sea, Robin performs his last concert of this trip tomorrow. So he has been rehearsing all day in preparation.
At least he won't be suffering with cold hands in the Mediterranean climate.
On second thoughts, maybe Everest isn't such a good idea.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Coffee in Alicante

We have had a strange few days.
Robin and son left Crystal Serenity some time ago.
To prove Robin did actually do a concert whilst there, here's the poster:

And this was taken during the sound check:

They then spent a few days in Spain preparing for the concert with Izzy Cooper. This is one of many rehearsals:

Apparently the concert was a huge success.
The beautiful setting was the perfect backdrop for a lovely concert, with a programme that included pieces by Leo Delibes, Manuel de Falla, Villa-Lobos, Leo Brouwer, Tarrega, Joaquin Rodrigo, Handel, Puccini and many more, and there was even a firework display at the end!
I'm hoping to get some pictures at some point, but I do know that the audience had a wonderful evening.
Despite some technical problems, which required Robin to tell a few jokes whilst the team sorted it out, all went extremely well.
So successful was the event that a recording will hopefully be made in the next few months.
It was 2am before the audience finally let the pair go, so it was rather a tired party that arrived to meet me at the airport.

Not that I minded.
I'd been up incredibly early myself in order to arrive in Spain at 11 am....
The reason for this madness??
Well, when it was arranged that son number one would accompany Robin on the Crystal trip we thought they would both be returning home at the end of it.

After all flights were booked and plans made, it became obvious that the only available date for the Robin and Izzy to perform, was the 28th August.
So, the Hill men were diverted to Spain.

Unfortunately, Robin then had to fly straight off to Malta...
So, on Friday, I flew over to Spain to collect my son, before he became an abandoned child.
We had checked out all possibilities for him to fly solo, but unbelievably it isn't possible between Alicante and Manchester before he is 12 years old!!

Actually, it did at least mean that I briefly met Izzy, and also had a whole 2 hours with my husband.
Obviously coffee and a sandwich in Alicante airport isn't the romantic of settings, but when he's away for a month anything is a bonus.

The time sadly flew by, and before we knew it there was a tearful farewell, as Robin boarded a plane to Malta.
Son and I then spent many hours sitting in the sun, outside the airport, catching up with news, before our flight home.

Now Robin has joined the Queen Victoria where he has two concerts over the next week, the first one today.

More on that soon. Hopefully.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Still Missing and 'Maestro' BBC 2

I have a confession to make.
I am addicted to the BBC2 series 'Maestro'.
Luckily for me, the third episode was shown last night, as it helped take my mind off the missing suitcase.
Yes, the case is still missing, and Robin's concert with soprano Izzy Cooper is tomorrow....

The BBC's aim, along with the series, 'Classical Star',(which I have previously posted about here, here, here, here and here) is an attempt to introduce fresh viewers to the area of classical music.
This must be a good thing.

The selection of contestants appears to be well thought out, as they include 'celebrities' from such varied backgrounds they will hopefully bring their own 'fan base' along.
The initial eight were, 'Goldie', 'Jane Asher', 'Bradley Walsh', 'Peter Snow', 'Sue Perkins', 'Alex James', 'David Soul' and 'Katie Derham'.

The idea is that the 8 novice conductors are gradually whittled down to one final winner, who will then go on to conduct the BBC Concert Orchestra in front of 30 000 people at the Proms in the Park.

I'm not going to divulge the 'evictions' so far, as some of you may wish to see for yourselves.
The judges, Sir Roger Norrington, Zoe Martlew, Simone Young and Dominic Seldis have been offering advice, (often amusing), alongside voting contestants off the show.
All this is overseen beautifully by Clive Anderson.

The BBC Concert Orchestra, a very fine orchestra, (and one that Robin has performed with on a number of occasions), possibly have the most difficult task of actually following these novice conductors as they learn to multitask like never before...

I hope that the programme has been successful in its aim.
I did find an active forum debating each episode, which I suppose is a good sign.
However I would like to hear the views of the various 'classical music blogs', so far I have found little, except a brief mention by conductor Kenneth Woods, that he has been watching.

As the BBC are offering a much needed opportunity for classical music to be seen on television then maybe we should start discussions in the blogging world...

I've outlined it, you debate it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

No News is Good News?

The news is - that I have no news....
Actually it has all been rather difficult for the last 24 hours.
Here are the facts so far:

I know that Robin, and son, left Crystal Serenity on Sunday morning as they called me from a hotel whilst waiting for their transport to Athens airport.

I also know that they arrived at the airport and boarded a flight to Madrid.
After the recent dreadful events there, I was rather anxious about this particular flight. I know this was completely irrational, but try telling that to your brain as it works overtime.

The anxiety then increased when there was no call on arrival at Madrid.
However, I reminded myself, frequently, that it was a rather tight connection, and that the flight Athens - Madrid had been delayed by 30 minutes, thus making the situation worse.

So, with the aid of a glass of wine on Sunday evening, I reassured myself that there just hadn't been time to call home.
Then, later, I got a call - from a public 'phone box (Remember those things!)

They had landed safely in Madrid, run as fast as they could to make their connection, and caught it - just. Then they flew to Alicante.

The battery had gone flat on the mobile, hence the use of a 'phone box.
That's all OK, I was just relieved that my two Hill men had arrived.

10 minutes later another call.
"Can you get hold of Izzy (Cooper) and tell her we are here but they have lost our luggage..."
The 'phone line went dead.
I called the only number I had, spoke to a very helpful lady who said she would pass the message on, and basically that was the last thing I heard.
This was late Sunday evening.

So all day I have been thinking about what might be happening. (Apart from a very pleasant few hours when I was out with family.)
No news is good news, right?

My current thinking is that the luggage didn't appear as the charger for the 'phone will have been in the suitcase.
But to lose both sets of cases!!!
Maybe they are still on the dockside in Athens. Or perhaps left in Madrid. Or even on the wrong plane completely and are right now in Honolulu....

The concert is on Thursday so there is time for the cases to appear.
But I have been concerned how Father and son have been coping with the complete lack of clothes, wash bags etc.
More importantly, strings, nails repair kit and most of Robin's music will also be missing....

Actually, I'm rather pleased I'm not there.
And as the 'phone can't be charged until the case arrives, I don't even have to deal with any of the 'long distance' fallout.

But this is a scenario that we are unfortunately rather familiar.
A few examples, 'The Robin Hill Saga', 'A Case of the Borrowed Tuxedo', or, 'Lost Luggage Again', and the most frightening, 'Missing - Miguel Rodriguez Churchdoor...'.

An added frustration has been an inability to access Twitter. This is ongoing and I don't know if it is just me, or whether the whole system is down.
The lack of tweets for 24 hours has made me realise just how much I use it - and how much I needed a few reassuring words from the global community over the last day.

But for now all I can do is wait.
Hopefully at some point the cases will be returned.
So the 'phone and charger will be reunited.
Then I can find out exactly what has been going on.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Happy with Havana

No, Robin hasn't suddenly arrived in Havana, he's enjoying the delights of Istanbul.

It remains difficult to communicate with him at the moment so seemed a good time to tell you of another project I'm involved in.

I was recently asked to take a look at a new site, and to give my opinion.
Well, I like a challenge.
Especially when the site in question is called '' There can't be a musician in the world who hasn't been influenced by Cuban music in one way or another.

Just the name of the capital city, Havana, is enough to cause great excitement in this house.

It is after all the country of birth of the guitarist/composer/conductor Leo Brouwer.
You can read a recent post about him here.

And who hasn't heard of the Buena Vista Social Club?

Cuban music is so familiar to us all. Cuban rumba, son, guaracha, bolero and cha-cha to name but a few.

But it's not all about the music. Havana is arguably Latin America's best preserved colonial city. Then there's the cars, the tropical climate plus the fact that centuries of Spanish and African interaction have created a diverse culture.
Actually, even the Cubans are astonished at their own evolution.

So, I took the project on.
The aim of the site was to produce a "sophisticated consumer-orientated website to encourage web users in all things Cuban," and to, "generate interest in what makes Cuban culture so unique."

I must say, having spent a great deal of time on the site today, that it seems to have achieved its goal.

It did take me a little while to navigate my way around, possibly the down side of all the 'sophistication', as my poor old computer struggled at times. Plus it wasn't initially clear that when you click on the photographs at the bottom of the page you are rewarded with some wonderful videos.
Subtitles are provided in English, if required, and hearing Spanish as I watched just enhanced the whole experience.

It is certainly an excellent 'platform for modern Cuban artists to reach out globally'.
But it's not just musicians. All area of the arts are covered.

I would like to have seen a section devoted to the history of the arts in Cuba. Whilst I recognise that this would be a huge undertaking, I feel it would be worthwhile cause.

I have always been interested in Cuba so it was no surprise that I enjoyed the footage and information given on this site.
But I feel sure that anyone about to visit Havana, would gain a lot of inspiration, and insight, by taking a look before they travel.

So basically, yes, go visit 'Havana-cultura'
and discover not only the music, but all the arts of this amazing place.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Opera House Odessa, Snails and a Tea-cosy

The travelog continues.

Odessa proved to be a fascinating place.
Situated in Southern Ukraine on the shores of the Black Sea, it has always been a strategic port.

It has quite a Mediterranean feel, partly due to the French and Italian influences on the architecture of some of the buildings.

An example is the Opera house, this rather elegant and spectacular building, with a small boy in front talking on the 'phone. (I'm really dreading this 'phone bill...)

The cosmopolitan nature of Odessa is documented by the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, who lived in internal exile here for a year.

The continental flavour was continued, in a culinary sense, when son number one elected to eat snails for the first time.
Well, not exactly elect, it was actually more of a dare.
The prize must have been exceptional though, as he managed to consume the entire plate, and I hasten to add there were no ill effects.

As far as I'm concerned, snails should stay in the garden.
They hold no appeal to me at all.

I suspect that this was also the view of Doug Larson, judging by this quote I found sometime ago, and never thought I'd get the opportunity to use: (regular readers will remember another obscure quote I was delighted to include regarding Billy Connolly and a teas-cosy. You can read it here.)

"Never doubt the courage of the French. They are the ones who discovered snails are edible."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mr. Creosote and a Pelican in Mykonos

Communication has been patchy, to say the least, over the last few days.
We have been able to talk briefly on the 'phone, but e mail has been particularly unreliable.
As you can imagine this is frustrating for all concerned.

However, Hill and son have been having an exciting time.
On Saturday they were in Mykonos, Greece, where they enjoyed a typical Greek island and made friends with one of the locals:

Sunday was spent cruising the Bosporus strait and the Black Sea whilst enjoying games of tennis and table tennis.
Son number one also mentioned that he was beginning to feel rather like 'Mr Creosote' after all the fine dining...

By Monday, today, they had reached Yalta, Ukraine, and enjoyed looking around this fascinating place.

Of course, between all this sightseeing, Robin has been preparing for his concert on Wednesday.
And whilst his Dad was rehearsing, well, like all good boys, son number one has been calling his Mum...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Take Five, Spain and MySpace

It's rather a strange experience for me, and for Robin, on this trip.
He is so used to travelling alone, and even has his usual room on Crystal Serenity, but this time is sharing it with son number one.

For me, it's odd to be receiving e mails from both of them, and pictures of my eldest, globetrotting around Europe!

To prove they are both there, here is the official Crystal photograph, of them beside Serenity:

The first two days were spent in Venice, and here he is again, sporting a Crystal t-shirt given as a present from a previous trip:

After a day at sea, they arrived in Katakolon, Greece, and spent a very pleasant time having a good look around.

But it isn't all fun.
Robin has also been working hard. Not only on the programme for his recital in a few days time, but also the new pieces and arrangements for the concerts in Spain, with Izzy Cooper, which are on the 27th and 28th of August.
You can see details of the Spanish concerts, including the official poster, here.

Meanwhile, here at Hillhouse it has also been busy.
I have been very pleased with a number of comments recently over on our MySpace page.
Go and have a look, and if you haven't been there for a while, you'll see there is now another track added, 'Footsteps of the Moai', taken from the new CD, 'Eyes That Talk To The Sky'.