'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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review of 2010 - Life of a Musician - Robin Hill

As we head towards the end of another year I thought it would be interesting to see just what this particular musician has been doing over the last twelve months.
I must say I was surprised as I looked back over events and worked out a few rather astonishing statistics.

In the last year alone Robin has visited 27 different countries! But that isn't the whole picture as many of them he has returned to a number of times. For example, India 3 times, Italy 11, USA twice, Brazil 4 times and Norway a staggering 15 times.
So anyone thinking about a career in music really needs to be prepared to travel extensively.

Here are the 27 countries: United Arab Emirates, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Seychelles, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, France, Majorca, Tunisia, Italy, Turkey, Greece, Norway, Scotland, Iceland, Holland, Croatia, USA and Gran Canaria.

All of this obviously requires longs spells away from home which can be difficult, particularly when missing important events.
This frequently happens and Robin has missed both our children's birthdays this year and also the funeral of my much loved Grandmother. This was particularly difficult for him. To be away from home at such trying times is hard indeed.

But there have been many other events.
Two albums have been released, the first in March with, 'Hill/Wiltschinsky Duo Soler Sonatas', and the second, recorded in January and released in September, 'Cancion' Izzy Cooper & Robin Hill and 'Les Filles De Cadiz'.

But there have also been problems.
One particularly worrying incident was, 'Too Much Inflammation...', which was the result of a nasty ant bite, ironically sustained at home and not during one of the four trips up the Amazon, and the photograph of the offending hand has been taken up by insect bite sites around the world!

Travelling always has its difficulties but this year we have dealt with suspect packages causing the evacuation of the airport and consequently missed planes. Luckily, through sheer determination and numerous 'phone calls between agents in London and America, rescheduled flights were arranged and Robin arrived just in time.
Not so with the elements.
He spent a very frustrating few days in Amsterdam, stranded after all airports were closed due to Volcanic ash. Eventually he made it home via trains and boats, but it ate into the few precious days he was meant to have at home.

From my point of view, I was delighted to have reached the milestone of, 'Life of a Musicians 4th Birthday,' which is quite an achievement in the blogging world, especially when you consider we are now posting the 714th blog post...

I even allowed myself the luxury of a blog post all to myself, after a number of requests from regular readers. Funnily enough, 'Anna Hill's 'Unofficial' Desert Island Discs' has become a very popular one and continues to be visited regularly.

So, looking back it has been an eventful and fulfilling year.
Once again I would like to thank all our regular readers for their continued support, and also those who just dip in from time to time.
Here at Hillhouse we hope you all had a very nice Christmas and wish each and every one of you a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Monday, December 06, 2010

From New York to Cartoon...

It has been a long time since my last update, but then you all had 712 previous posts to look back through!

Whilst quiet on the writing front it has been very busy on the musical one.
Robin has performed 8 concerts and travelled to many places including the Norwegian Fjords, Italy, Greece, Croatia and finally New York.

Here is the welcoming sight of the Statue of Liberty, albeit a little hazy:

And the familiar New York skyline:

Plus the spectacular Verrazano Bridge:

But despite seeing some incredible places Robin was very sad to be away from home on youngest son's 8th birthday, the downside for the travelling musician is they frequently miss these significant family moments.

Now home again, recording of some 'warming' flamenco style pieces is underway, which has been particularly beneficial given the 'big freeze' currently sweeping across the UK.

Here the poor ducks have been reduced to a minimal swimming area, and believe it or not this is actually a very heavy frost rather than snow!

Another problem with frequent trips away from home is that 'others' take advantage of your comfortable armchair and refuse to give it back....

And if you are wondering how a musician relaxes when at home, well, they draw pictures of fictitious musicians of course!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

'Cancion' Izzy Cooper & Robin Hill and 'Les Filles De Cadiz'


We are all very pleased with this wonderful CD review:

'Cancion' is now available on CD Baby and on iTunes and all other major digital distribution stores.

Whilst you can hear snippets of each track we thought you may like to hear one piece in its entirety.

The piece we have chosen is track 13, 'Les Filles De Cadiz' by Leo Delibes and is the first piece on the music player in the sidebar.

'Les Filles De Cadiz' is basically a bolero rhythm which Robin has arranged in a typically flamenco idiom, and the lyrics are rather flirtatious and coquettish, for example:

'Tell me, neighbour, if I look good and my skirt is becoming this morning do you find my waist slender? The girls of Cadiz rather like to hear that.'

This suited Izzy very well.
In one review of the concert Izzy was described as a 'minx' 'mischievous, friendly, charming', all ideal qualities for 'Les Filles De Cadiz' and which can be heard in her lively and vibrant performance.
You can read the whole review by Jack Troughton here: 'Classic classical cocktail'.

One of the things I love about this recording is the energy and powerful synergy between the two musicians. You really can sense that both Robin and Izzy are truly inside the music.
In fact, make sure you listen right to the end as there is a spontaneous, and unrehearsed exclamation which was left in as it really captured the mood of the session.

The combination of voice and guitar captures the quintessence of the music, a point highlighted by Jack Troughton in his review:

'The highlights of the show were when Izzy and Robin strip the sound down to a very simplistic voice and guitar. The filigree of the instrument’s notes holding secure the jewel of the vocal, it was basic but breathtaking.'

A second review, by Nikki Luxford, 'The perfect goodbye', opens with:

"Outstanding and incredibly hypnotic...describe the polished performance given by Izzy and Robin Hill..."

You can read the rest of the article here:

And here's another review, just in:

We have been delighted with the reception of the 'Cancion' CD so far and hope that you will enjoy listening to it as much as Robin and Izzy enjoyed recording it.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Concert: Launch of 'Cancion', Izzy Cooper and Robin Hill

As regular readers will know Robin recently collaborated with the soprano Izzy Cooper to record their debut album together, 'Cancion'.
This has been an exciting and interesting project, and one that gives a new and refreshing look at the unique blend of the voice and guitar.

The official launch will be on Wednesday 1st September 2010, held in the beautiful gardens of 'Salon El Canor, Teulada, Spain'.
After a champagne reception, the concert begins at 8pm, there will be drinks and canapes available during the interval and the evening culminates in a firework finale.

For those lucky enough to attend there will be an opportunity to purchase the CD a few weeks before it is available for digital distribution, plus, a signing session has been arranged!

So far tickets have been brought from the UK, Sweden, Belgium and of course Spain itself.
For details, see the poster, or contact Izzy Cooper at

What a perfect way to end the summer with a few days away in the sunshine of Spain....

The first of many interviews have already taken place, this one 'Back in the Groove', by Jack Troughton

More will follow and once Robin arrives in Spain he will have a very busy schedule!

For those interested in the word cancion, it is the Spanish word for 'song' and is not only the album title but also the name of one track which was composed by Robin and inspired by the haunting and lyrical aspects of Izzy's beautiful voice.

As I know my blog readers like a little extra inside information, I can tell you that whilst the music had been written a few months earlier, the lyrics were composed the night before recording, by Robin in his hotel room, literally on the back of a guitar string packet!
In fact, he sang it down the 'phone to me, making alterations as he went, and by breakfast the next day had the completed version that can be heard on the CD.

So if you want the chance to hear many track from 'Cancion' live in a one of performance, then book yourself on a flight and spend a few days in this beautiful part of Spain.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Happy 4th Birthday to 'Life of a musician - Robin Hill'!!!


Once again I can't believe a whole year has gone by and 'Life of a musician' is celebrating its 4th Birthday! In blogging terms this makes us rather more mature than the average 4 year old...

As always it has been a busy year with extensive travel and many concerts performed. We have seen the release of a CD, 'Hill/Wiltschinsky Duo - Soler Sonatas', and the recording of another, 'Cancion', with soprano Izzy Cooper, which will be released in September!

The most popular post over the last year has been, unsurprisingly, 'Music Practice Tips - Classical Guitar', although close contenders were, 'Inspire Young Minds with Music', and one which was rather a surprise, (although I think I picked up a few hits thanks to a BBC broadcaster of the same name...) 'Anna Hill's 'Unofficial' Desert Island Discs'.

There have been fewer posts than I would have liked, but even when time constraints have prevented me from writing, I have tried to keep everyone updated via my Twitter feed, 'AnnaHill'. This tends to be a combination of work and leisure related information, but that was the whole idea. There seem to be many readers out there who like the little extra insight that can be gained from Twitter.

Naturally, I would like to thank you all for returning and reading on a regular basis, and also those that just dip in from time to time.
It is very much appreciated.
I hope the next 12 months will bring many more exciting adventures in the life of this particular musician.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Too Much Inflammation.....

Since my last post Robin has actually been back to Norway and performed three more concerts!
However, today I am talking about something completely different.

Regular readers will know that this year has been very busy.
Robin has travelled to all corners of the world including three trips up the Amazon, one to Egypt and the middle East and one visit to Mumbai.

It was therefore with some irony that in a visit to our local park he was bitten by an unknown insect probably a spider or an ant.

An allergic reaction followed, in the most frightening place for any musician....his hand.

To highlight the problem let me first show you Robin's normal left hand.

As you can see, it is very strong and used to many hours of playing, every single day.
If you follow the regime outlined in this post, 'Music Practice Tips - Classical Guitar' this will be the outcome.

However, currently, Robin's right hand looks like this...

As I'm sure you can imagine, this has caused a great deal of anxiety.
A very sore and swollen hand certainly affects playing and on the brink of a lengthy trip this is far from ideal.

Although I have written about hand problems before, 'Recording For Teldec With Sutured Finger...'.

I have also referred to Robin's hands frequently in posts such as, 'Robin Hill, His Hands and an Unknown Mozart Score' and here, 'Guitarists Hands - and Nails'.

The inability to play is worrying on many levels.
Obviously his income depends on it, but the issue runs far deeper than that.
Musicians who perform at this level live for their playing. The fear that something may prevent them doing this is very frightening.

Luckily for us, our dear friend, and also doctor, quickly prescribed various medications and, hopefully, the problem will resolve in the next few days.

Meanwhile, I shall attempt to calm the nerves of this musician whilst he is restricted in his playing....
Wish me luck.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Two Guitar Concerts in the Norwegian Fjords

I thought you might enjoy a brief update into the life of this musician over the last week, and it has been pretty eventful.
Robin is currently in the beautiful Norwegian Fjords and enjoying the views:

But of course he is actually there to give two concerts, both of which he has now performed.
The theatre, which holds more than 1000 people, was full on each occasion and the audience very appreciative.
Robin has spoken to many of them since, who so enjoyed the first performance that they went along to the second.
In fact one gentleman, who's father was a pianist, thanked Robin for the two concerts saying he had, 'such a wonderful touch on the guitar'. He was close to tears.
For a musician this is a fantastic reward for the many years of hard work that go into each performance. To move a person, not only during a concert but also after the event, is quite an achievement.

But Robin has had time to enjoy some of the spectacular and dramatic scenery, including the snow capped mountains which are making him wish he had taken a coat...

Here you can even see the QM2 amongst the mountains and houses:

But even in remote parts of the Norwegian Fjords it's possible to bump into someone you know.
As Robin enjoyed a walk he met an old friend, Francisco Yglesia, a Paraguayan harpist and former member of Los Paraguayos.

Last I heard they were discussing strings....

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Manuel de Falla and his House

The music of Manuel de Falla is known and loved throughout the world and has influenced the careers of many musicians.
Robin is no exception.
The Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo have recorded many of his pieces.
The Teldec CD 'Virtuoso Guitar' features 'El Amor Brujo', La Vida Breve' and 'El Sombreo de Tres Picos' (Three Cornered Hat) plus many other incredible pieces by Tarrega, Albeniz, Scarlatti etc, with some of the tracks performed by Wolfgang Lendle.

Plus I have mentioned Falla here on the blog a number of times, 'Alicia de Larrocha, the Ritual Fire Dance and a Maths Exam' and amusingly here on, 'Hill/Wiltschinsky - Pump It or Dump It' and 'Manuel de Falla's, 'Miller's Dance' and the Solar System'.
But Robin has also collaborated with other musicians and this post refers to one such performance, 'Review: Robin Hill and Izzy Cooper'.

So as you can see, Manuel de Falla has been a major part in Robin's life, so he was delighted to find himself in Falla's birthplace, Cadiz.
So you can imagine his excitement when he turned a corner and came across this bookshop:

Then, right next door he spotted a plaque:

And found himself standing in front of Manuel de Falla's home, (Upper floors):

Falla's birthplace overlooks a beautiful square and this is part of it:

Over the day I had many 'phone calls as Robin described each new discovery, even down to this glorious fountain, complete with turtles:

Cadiz is certainly a place I also wish to visit to pay my own respects to the wonderful composer, Manuel de Falla.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Naples and the Anniversary of the Death of Giuliani

Today Robin is in Naples.
He has been a number of times before and always seems to have some sort of adventure, as you can read here on the post 'Navigating Naples and the Tale of the Mandolin.'

But today isn't as much an adventure but more a time of reflection.
181 years ago, this very day, Mauro Giuliani died in Naples at the age of 48.
The Italian guitarist and composer has played a huge part in Robin's life, and that of all classical guitarists world wide.
I have written about him before in the post, 'The Divine Giuliani - Beethoven'
It somehow seems fitting, that by coincidence, Robin is there today.

However, Naples has a strong musical history, Ferdinando Carulli was born there, Rossini spent some of his early career as musical director of the Teatro Del Fondo in Naples, where he was commissioned to compose one opera a year, and Paganini is known to have been at various points in his career.

It is somehow comforting to know these incredible musicians have walked these very streets:

Naples is also the location of one of the most active volcanoes, Mount Vesuvius. It last erupted in 1944, but is constantly monitored, so that anyone living in 'the red zone' can be moved to safety if any changes are detected.
Hopefully that won't be today as here is the enormous ship 'Eurodam' with the mighty Vesuvius in the background:

However it was this picture that really made me nervous:

As always on his travels Robin somehow manages to find a music shop.
This one specialises in mandolins plus the rather unusual Italian guitar.
I can relax though as I have been assured that it has remained firmly on the top shelf.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

From Brazil to Barcelona with a Classical Guitar

Since my last post a lot has been happening.
The life of this musician is certainly varied and thankfully very busy.
In the last month alone Robin has performed 5 concerts and shared his music with in excess of 2500 people. Not to mention travelling to Brazil, Spain and Portugal.
This is an incredible achievement.
The time away spent away from home can be difficult, but this is eased by the reaction to all the concerts performed.
Both audience and organisers have been equally positive and enthusiastic.

Returning to Brazil was a real treat for Robin. Although the journey there is long and exhausting, the rewards on arrival are incredible.
Lovely people and amazing scenery.
To wake up to this sort of view is really something special:

There's one village in particular that Robin always loves visiting, and in fact this was the second time he'd been there in just a few months.
The village is, 'Boca de Valeria', and the local people are keen to talk to any visitors and show them around their homes.
The children all get very excited and Robin has decided that on his next visit he will offer to play for them in their small church:

You can read more about Robin's previous trips to Brazil and see some lovely pictures, here, 'Arrival in The Amazon, Caruso and Fitzcarraldo' and here, 'Back to The Amazon'.

Robin managed to get home before the disruption of the volcano in Iceland and spent a whole 10 days with the family!

It wasn't without its difficulties though.
A lunchtime concert in Doncaster Museum had to be cancelled as Robin broke down on the way there.
He was devastated by this.
In the whole of his career he has never had to cancel a concert. (Even when extremely ill on a two week tour in Ireland some years ago he managed to complete every single performance. Although on the last concert he was unable to go on stage for an encore as he physically couldn't face the bright lights. The next morning we found out he had measles.....medical advice was to stay in a darkened room....)
However, a new date has been found for the concert in Doncaster so put it in your diaries now: 9th March 2011.

After another week away, travelling to Spain and Portugal, and 3 further concerts Robin returned home for a quick visit.
In just two days he managed to catch up with all the family news and start memorising some new pieces.
This is an essential process when performing so frequently.
New pieces have to be learnt and rehearsed until ready for public performance.

Now Robin is off again.
He is back in Spain and preparing for his concert in 2 days time.
There are so many exciting things being planned at the moment that I sometimes wonder when I will find the dates to fit them in.
However I usually manage it. Somehow.
So keep checking in to find out what happens next...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hill/Wiltschinsky Duo - Soler Sonatas

It is an exciting day as The Hill/Wiltschinsky Guitar Duo have released a new CD!
11 Tracks, and all of them are Soler Sonatas.

As a taster I have put the entire track of, 'Sonata No 43 - Allegro' as the first piece on the player in the side bar.

For previews of all the tracks you can visit: 'Hill/Wiltschinsky Duo Soler Sonatas'

Here is a little about the recording:

Antonio Soler (1729-1783)

Antonio Francisco Javier Jose Soler was born in Olat, Gerona in 1729 and was a celebrated composer and organist. He is frequently compared to Domenico Scarlatti, (particularly as at one point he studied with Scarlatti), but Soler’s keyboard sonatas can often be more varied in form than those of Scarlatti.

His musical career started at an early age, when he entered the choir school at Montserrat in 1736.
By 1750 Soler had become maestro de capilla at Lerida and in 1752 was ordained and joined the Escorial community of Jeronymite monks.
It was at this time that he wrote the, ‘Llave de la modulacion’, (Key to Modulation) in which he showed how to move from any major to minor key within moments, the principles of which are still valid today. However, at the time he was criticised for his modern and daring views.

Soler was a highly inventive and adventurous composer whose music exhibited great optimism and energy.
Like Scarlatti, his music is well-suited to the guitar but, unlike Scarlatti, it is rarely performed or recorded on the instrument.

Hill and Wiltschinsky have arranged all the sonatas on this album to give a small insight into his wonderful music.

Follow the link to hear previews of ‘Hill/Wiltschinsky Duo - Soler Sonatas’ and, as I have said, I have added the whole of ‘Sonata No.43 – Allegro’ to the player in the side bar.
The sheet music for these vibrant works will soon be available for download from the Robin Hill site. I'll keep you posted....

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Inspire Young Minds with Music

Earlier in the week Robin performed at our youngest son's school.
This was all part of an excellent scheme, 'Parents at work week', when parents of the school are asked to talk to either a class, year group or the whole school, about their work.
As you can imagine this proves a popular and interesting diversion for the children.

The letter mentioning the project arrived whilst Robin was away on a lengthy trip, so I took the executive decision to put his name forward, to perform for the whole school.
After all, Robin is always keen to talk to children about music and to demonstrate the guitar. Here are three previous posts related to promoting classical music to children: 'The Halle Orchestra, Sarah Connolly and a Meeting with Mark Elder', 'Return to Islay and the need to Promote Classical Music', and 'Arrival in Peru and the Liverpool Philharmonic'.
He is also very aware that sometimes this may be their first experience of classical music, so it's a role he takes seriously.
Plus, he did the same for the eldest son a few years ago...

The fact that the audiences ages ranged for 4-7 years didn't stop Robin treating it like any other concert, albeit a short one.
He prepared in the same way he would for for any concert.
He also gave a great deal of thought to the programme.
He wanted to demonstrate to the children the versatility of the guitar and allow a little time to talk to them about each piece.

All 200 children were seated in the hall when Robin appeared from the music room where he had been warming his fingers up with some scales and arpeggios.
He started by asking them what the instrument was he was holding.
Thankfully they all knew it was a guitar, except for one child who thought it might be a large violin...
However they didn't know the term classical or Spanish guitar. This gave Robin the opportunity to briefly talk about the origins of the guitar in Spain and led nicely into the introduction for the lively flamenco dance, Malaguena.
They loved it and I think many were surprised by the sheer power of Robin's guitar in the large hall.

After some enthusiastic cheering Robin decided to play them a piece in a very different style, and explained that this was an Italian Renaissance Lute piece, over 500 years old.
This beautiful 'Preludio' was also very well received and paved the way for the next item which was the prelude from the first Cello Suite by Johann Sebastian Bach. Robin explained that Bach was born in 1685, which was a very good year for composers, as small children, and in fact adults, like this sort of detail.

One thing Robin has realised over the years, is that when performing to children, one shouldn't underestimate them. Maybe consider the length of pieces played, but not the content.
Children are ripe for inspiring, and introducing them to what could potentially be a lifetimes enjoyment of music, is a heavy responsibility.
All children need to be given the chance to at least try.

After the Bach it was time to demonstrate the guitar's versatility even further.
A bit of rock and roll.
A basic rock shuffle and then, naturally, a little Deep Purple, with 'Smoke on the Water'.
Initially Robin showed them how an electric guitarist would play it, as if he was using a plectrum, then as a classical guitarist, plucking strings individually and introducing a bass line.
Cheers and shouts followed.

As time was rapidly passing there was a quick demonstration of some film music, with the Pink Panther...which they all recognised.

Then a little discussion on the great art of the tremelo.
An ideal way to show this difficult technique is through the piece, 'Recuerdos de la Alhambra'.
Many people often think that it is two guitars playing, but in fact it is one, with the bass line accompanying the melody on top.
Robin started by showing the children, firstly very slowly and then faster and faster until he reached the desired tempo.

Finally it was time to call upon the duties of son number two.
He had been waiting patiently amongst the audience for his stage debut as engineer.
Robin asked if the children knew that a guitar could play with an orchestra.
They either didn't know or weren't prepared to say...
So Robin was able to tell them that he had an entire orchestra here in his computer, which doesn't replace a real orchestra but that would give them an idea of just how fantastic guitar and orchestra can be.
The 'Adagio' for Rodrigo's 'Concierto de Aranjuez' followed, beautifully executed by both musician and engineer. Given that only one rehearsal had taken place this had been rather a worry.
Obviously we were forgetting that the poor child has heard this piece, pretty much constantly, since before he was born.
Even though the school bell rang in the middle, a hazard of performing in schools, the whole event was much appreciated.
The children love the whole thing and have continued to tell youngest just how fantastic his Dad is, ever since. Gaining extra kudos in the playground has been a nice little extra.
The teachers also enjoyed it and the head mistress said she wished they could end every school day listening to such beautiful music.

It's so important to allow our children to hear music of all styles, and to give these children the opportunity to see a musician live is a chance that schools should take when offered.
There isn't a better way to stimulate interest and inspire these young minds.
Since then, many parents have approached me to say how much their child had enjoyed the music and a few have said their child now wants to learn the guitar.
One poor parent however was dismayed.
His children had gone home and told him just how much they had enjoyed hearing Robin play and how this was going to be a hard act to follow.

Given that they are the children of the senior school headmaster, and he was scheduled to speak later in the week, it did make me smile.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Abbey Road Studios - The Right Decision

After completing this post I heard via LondonJazz that EMI had released a statement and that Abbey Road was not for sale after all.
Whilst I'm delighted at this news I felt that some of the points I made in the original post could actually apply to the world of classical music in general.
So I decided to run it anyway, with a little of the ire removed....

There has been so much written about Abbey Road Studios in the last week, and rightly so.
The fear of the famous studios being sold off by EMI has caused outrage from supporters.
Beatles fans are in a frenzy at the potential loss of their sacred meeting point.
But Abbey Road is so much more than The Beatles alone.
After opening in 1931 Sir Edward Elgar conducted the London Symphony Orchestra whilst recording his own works.
Many, many others have used the facilities including the British conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent, Yehudi Menuhin and Andres Segovia.
The studios are not only used for recording, but also for remastering and occasionally, as a rehearsal place for many orchestras (more of that in a minute...)

The argument that the digital revolution has allowed musicians to record from home doesn't stand up to close scrutiny.
Yes, many artists can, and do, record at home, but how many homes do you know that can accommodate the 90+ musicians that make up an orchestra?
And yes, you can use software programmes to simulate an orchestra. But whilst these are an excellent tool for the composer, and useful for generating interest, they can't replace the musicality and energy produced by real musicians.

Also, the independent sector need to consider the consequences of their disdain for record companies.
Classical musicians need record companies.
Anyone wanting to record a concerto requires an orchestra.
To record with that orchestra you need a large recording studio.
Both of these are expensive commodities and as we know for our own sorry situation last year, (London Symphony Orchestra at the ready, Abbey Road pencilled in, but the funding elusive) unless you are backed by a record company, funding is virtually impossible to get.
Most available funding won't be issued to an individual artist, so unless you can find private backing the situation is not good.

Whilst this digresses from the Abbey Road situation the two are connected.
Do we really want to find ourselves in the situation when the only orchestral recordings available are old ones?

Music is essential to every one's well being.
New compositions are essential to future generations.
Recording studios are essential to the whole process, and Abbey Road has the ability to draw in more musicians than practically any other studio around.

The argument that Abbey Road isn't busy enough also seems rather evasive.
Numerous film scores are recorded there every year and you often read, from twitter alone, the various orchestras that are frequenting the premises.

The men in suits behind this decision need to think very carefully.
Money is important but so is history and musical heritage....remember the Cavern Club demolished only to be rebuilt a few years' later..on the same street?

Maybe they need to look more closely at alternative options.
Instead of focusing purely on finances, they should use the power and inspirational features that Abbey Road has to offer to inject a new enthusiasm into an ailing world of classical music.
The best case scenario would be for Abbey Road to continue as a recording studio, maybe opening their doors to other functions as an alternative way to procure income.

Another option is the interest shown by the National Trust.
They could, potentially at least, keep the doors open as a museum.
Whilst this wouldn't be ideal, it would be better than losing the site completely.

Alternatively, there may be a private buyer.
In this case the world will be at their mercy.
They may decide to keep it as a studio, but they may also choose to alter it's function completely.
Heaven forbid that Abbey Road studios become apartments for a select few...

To return to Abbey Road being used as a rehearsal place for orchestras. Surely there is potential for more bookings this way.
I know from experience that Robin rehearsed there with the BBC Philharmonic in preparation for a, 'Proms in the Park' performance.
The sense of history was awe inspiring.
However, it didn't prevent Robin from breaking into Jimi Hendrix's 'Voodoo Child', complete with waa waa pedal. This caused mirth and encouragement form some sections of the orchestra and disapproving glances form others....

But this is the sort of incident that makes Abbey Road unique.
So many musicians have passed through their doors, each creating their own memories and contributing to its illustrious history.

Record companies should maybe consider the old Cree Indian saying, "Only when the last tree has died and the last river been polluted and the last fish caught will we realise we can't eat money."

The world should take note.
If Abbey Road goes, so will so much more.
What Abbey Road has achieved is irreplaceable.
If you feel strongly and wish your voice to be heard, now is the time to shout.
A good starting point would be to add your name to the 'Save Abbey Road Petition', here's the link.

And finally, to inspire you whilst you shout, and if you want to add an extra twist....

As I said at the start of this post, EMI have announced that they are not selling Abbey Road studios. I left these particular links in place as some of you may be interested in the comments and mood of the general public. Also, as a reminder to EMI of the strength of public opinion, in case they should change their mind.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Robin Hill & Izzy Cooper Recording & Concerts on the QM2

The onset of 2010 has been a busy one.
After a snowy start, and precarious journey to Dewsbury, for a highly successful lunchtime concert, Robin set off for a week in London recording with soprano Izzy Cooper.
I'm listening to the recording as I write and I know you will all love it.
Robin and Izzy have performed many times together, and due to high demand this classical guitar/vocal album will be released in 2010.
With everything from the sweetness of Rodrigo's 'En Aranjuez Con Tu Amor', the raunchy flamenco of de Falla and a Robin Hill original, 'Cancion', there really is an eclectic mix.
It was an intense week, recording all day with the evenings spent preparing for the next session.
This was made all the more difficult by the death of my Grandmother. She and Robin had a very special relationship, as can be seen by this post, 'A Professor Calls and Lunar Bianco'. But professional as ever, the recording went on, and when you hear the words to 'Cancion', you will hear how difficult this must have been.
So it was a very tired guitarist that arrived home in the early hours of Saturday 23rd of January. This didn't prevent us spending an hour or so listening to his weeks work accompanied by the dawn chorus.
But by the 26th Robin was off once again.
This time flying to Dubai to join the Queen Mary 2, for an extensive trip visiting Cochin, Phuket, Penang, Port Kelang, Singapore, Laem Chabang, Vung Tau and finally Hong Kong.
Four concerts were performed in the beautiful Royal Court Theatre and with four different programmes Robin was kept very busy.
However, it wasn't all work.
Over the 2 1/2 weeks he met up with some old friends.
First there was the fabulous and extremely talented magician, Brett Sherwood.
The two get on very well and discovered they had a mutual interest in table tennis.
During one of their games some passing passengers stopped to watch.
They couldn't resist asking Brett if he could make the ball disappear. Sure enough, quick as a flash, the said ball disappeared before their eyes, only to to reappear a few seconds later.
This was a virtuoso performance by Brett and made Robin's task of beating him at table tennis all the more difficult.
The next time I'm in a pub with Brett I shall be plying him with drinks until he tells me how he does it!
I'm also very grateful to Simeon Wood, another old friend who was also on the QM2, and in fact left the same day as Robin. After completing his own gruelling 13 hour flight from Hong Kong he took the time to 'phone me and make sure I was aware that Robin's flight had been delayed and that he had therefore missed his connection.
All the more ironic as a few weeks previously he had been laughing about the fact that travelling with Robin always seem to result in some form of disruption.
Believe me, I know.
But now he is home, for a while anyway, and the house is once again filled with the sound of the guitar.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Lawson Trio - Purcell Room

Whilst Robin is away performing in far flung countries it gives me the opportunity to tell you about an exciting concert coming up this month.

As regular readers know, we actively encourage young people to become involved in music.
So it was a delight over the Christmas period to spend a few hours with our friend, the pianist, Annabelle Lawson, and to discuss a project she has been working on for months.

Annabelle's enthusiasm and dedication to her instrument is remarkable, making her, and the rest of the trio, ideal representatives of the 'Chamber Music 2000 Scheme', initiated by the 'Schubert Ensemble' some 10 years ago. Hardly surprising really, when your Dad is the concert pianist, Peter Lawson!

This gala performance marks the culmination of 4 months of chamber music workshops, run by the Lawson Trio, and will feature 11 world premieres, plus performances by the Lawson Trio and the Schubert Ensemble.

There will also be student groups from 6 institutes including the 'Junior Royal Academy of Music', the 'Purcell School' and 'King's College, Cambridge'.

It promises to be a fantastic evening and an ideal opportunity, to hear the Lawson Trio and the Schubert Ensemble, but also to encourage a new generation of aspiring musicians.
The place to be, the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre, Wednesday 10th February, 7.45pm.
More details here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Anna Hill's 'Unofficial' Desert Island Discs

Back in 2007 I wrote the post, 'Robin Hill's 'Unofficial' Desert Island Discs'.

For those unfamiliar with the Radio 4 programme, you can read all about it here.

After this blog post I was asked by a Twitter friend, egoboss, what my choices would be...
As one of the founders of the personalized news site 'Ensembli', and also the online business development company, 'Egoboss', and after a nudge from Carl over Christmas, I thought I better get on with it.

So over the holiday period I gave it some thought.
I must say the task was far harder than I had initially anticipated.
A lifetime of listening to music, and being involved in the music industry, makes narrowing down to just 8 pieces a real challenge.

But here are my choices:

1) Take Five: Dave Brubeck Quartet

'Take Five' was written bu Paul Desmond and performed and recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quartet on numerous occasions. Written in 5/4 time it has endured as a jazz classic.

This piece of music is so familiar to me and brings comfort and sorrow in equal measures.
As I grew up this piece was repeatedly played by my stepfather, Tony. Looking back I now realise what a significant role he played in my musical education.
He had exceptionally eclectic tastes, and many hours were spent listening to all styles of music.
This partially resulted in my musical tastes being completely out of step with my generation, which was possibly one of the greatest favours he did me.
To hear music from all eras and styles was the best education I could have asked for.
Take Five was such a significant piece to all in our family, that on the terribly sad occasion of Tony's funeral, Robin performed his own arrangement of 'Take Five', live, accompanied by saxophonist, Munch Manship.
How they ever managed to perform so beautifully under such sad and emotional conditions I shall never know, but will always be very grateful. My only regret being that Tony wasn't able to hear it as he would have been delighted.

2) Schubert Piano Trio No.2 in E flat major, D929 (Op.100)

Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was a prolific, Austrian composer known for his melodic and harmonic writing.
As the rules of 'Desert Island Discs' only allow me one movement, it is without hesitation that I choose the 2nd movement, Andante con moto.
I actually remember the very first time I heard this movement.
I was driving the car with the radio on and despite reaching my destination I simply couldn't turn the radio off. I remained in the car until the piece had finished, and was consequently late for a lecture, but it was worth it!

3) The Beatles: All My Loving

Anyone who knows me will not be surprised to find a Beatles track in my list.
It's another example of being out of kilter with my peers as I was only a baby when The Beatles split.
The problem was choosing a song.
It could have been 'Something', 'She's Leaving Home', 'Here Comes the Sun', 'Eleanor Rigby' or any of them really.
But choose one I must, so I have decided on, 'All My Loving'.
The reason being that the energy and enthusiasm of The Beatles shines through, even though the song was written in 1963!

4) 'Eternal Dance' by Robin Hill

I am in the enviable position of being married to a musician. People generally seem very interested in musicians, which is one of the reasons this blog started in the first place!
But Robin is not only a performing musician but also a composer.
I added 'Eternal Dance' to the list, not out of a sense of loyalty, but, because I think it is the first movement of a fantastic concerto.
As Sir Thomas Beecham (1879-1961) said, "Composers should write tunes the chauffeurs and errand boys can whistle."
'Eternal Dance' certainly fulfills this requirement as our chauffeurs and errand boys have never ceased to whistle it since its creation....
You can read more about 'Eternal Dance' here.

Needless to say, if any orchestras are interested in adding the concerto to their programme then please feel free to get in touch, and likewise, if any guitarists out there are interested in performing or recording this new and exciting guitar concerto, don't hesitate to contact me!

5) 'God Only Knows' The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys released 'God Only Knows' in 1966. Its complicated melodic structure and vocal harmonies made it one of the most technically sophisticated songs of the time.
As Sir Paul McCartney is known to have listed it as one of his favourite songs, then I'm in good company.
It's also one of the songs I have listened to for most of my life and continue to listen to today.

6)Violin Concerto in D minor Op.47: Jean Sibelius

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius made his mark early in my musical development.
The movement I choose , I, Allegro Moderato, would often be played when I was home alone as a teenager, loudly, whilst I marvelled at the sheer brilliance of the music.

7) 'Say a Little Prayer' Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin has to be the greatest soul singer of all time.
This is a difficult song to sing, and believe me I've tried...
If you haven't got a copy in your collection then I suggest you rectify that immediately.

And finally,

8) 'Hissing of Summer Lawns' Joni Mitchell

Both Robin and I love all Joni's work, particularly from 'Court and Spark' to 'Travelogue' and consider her one of the greatest song writers of our times.
The track 'Hissing of Summer Lawns' from the album of the same name is on the list because it is a highly significant song for Robin and I. Say no more.

I am also allowed to take a book.
I have selected, 'Crime and Punishment' by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
I have read this before, many years ago, and it is such an incredible story that I would like to read it again.

My luxury item:
This would have to be a never ending supply of writing paper and a fountain pen with a lifetime's supply of ink.
If I'm going to be stranded on a desert island at least I would finally have time to write all the stories that constantly circulate in my imagination!

So there you are, a small insight into my musical tastes....

Friday, January 08, 2010

Lunchtime Chamber Concert - Robin Hill

If you are in Yorkshire then I know the perfect place for you to be on Wednesday 13th January at 12.30pm, Dewsbury Town Hall.
As regular readers are all too aware, it isn't often that Robin performs in the UK, so this is an excellent opportunity!

Although only an hour long, as is traditional for lunchtime recitals, it is certainly an eventful hour.
The programme features, amongst many others, Tarrega, Llobet, Dilermando Reis, Albeniz, J.S.Bach, Villa-Lobos and, of course, Hill.

Robin has performed at Dewsbury Town Hall a number of times before. Here is the post I wrote after the 2007 concert, 'Fasten Your Seat belts - Robin Hill Live in Dewsbury'.

As Kirklees Council have said in their advertising, "Robin's concerts at the Town Hall have been so popular that we felt we just had to have him back!"
For contact and venue details visit here.