I headed over to Wales again on Saturday night to Cardiff’s St David’s Hall for a concert by the Cory Band and Only Men Aloud. To be honest, it’s not my usual gig of choice but it was really good. Some great programme and interesting arrangements, it was a fantastic display of musicianship by a really dedicated – and multi-award-winning – musicians. It’s hard to believe that the Cory Band are amateur players. With rehearsals twice a week, and pure enthusiasm for their craft, they definitely know what it takes to win and play up a storm. Only Men Aloud were great too – effortless singing and thoroughly entertaining.
My big disappointment, however, is my own response to music at the moment, particularly live. Music doesn’t seem to set my heart on fire as it used to. Where’s the music that really sparks the musical embers of my soul, that makes me stop and just listen? I’m not sure if this response is down to my total immersion in the musicological side of things for the last two years. You know the scenario, you turn your hobby into a job and lose the love of it…
But then I heard Derren Brown’s Desert Island Discs on BBC R4. He chose a lot of Bach, and Richard Strauss’s ‘Morgen!’. Unpretentious choices with a melancholic edge, topped off with Ben Folds’s ‘The Luckiest’, it was the first time for several months that I’ve sat up and wanted to engage with music. And it struck me, in many ways, I’ve stopped listening to music purely for how it makes me feel. I’ve become habituated to analysing the arrangement, or how music is used as a film soundtrack. Then I thought about how my knowledge of music compositions, particularly classical, is full of little holes. I know a lot of composer’s names, when they lived and the nature and style of the music they wrote but how much do I really know of their repertoires? How much do I really know beyond the celebrity classics? And if I took some time out, switched the time I spend reading about the UK’s current political environment (which frankly does nothing to set the embers burning!) to wandering through an A-Z of composers and their works, what will I find?
So, I dusted off ‘The Rough Guide to Classical Music’, a weighty tome that’s been sitting in my stash of music books for a few years and plan to start working my way through their recommended works. Nothing too academic and entertainingly written, it offers the perfect alternative to radio’s curated and advert-interrupted content. And it’s a straightforward approach. I’ve previously tried to work my way through Aaron Copland’s ‘What to listen for in music’ but its theoretical approach isn’t right for now. I’ve decided to keep my listening to late composers, figuring that if composers are still alive, maybe their best work is still to come! So A is for Albéniz, Albinoni, Allegri, Andriessen and Arnold. One work a day starting with Albéniz’s ‘Iberia’ and ‘Suite española’ performed by Alicia de Larrocha. A startlingly energetic start which offers so many strands of musical interest!
Debbie, Notes from Last Night
About Debbie Nichol: A lifelong lover of music of all types, Debbie Nichol has recently completed an MA in Music with the Open University, focussing on music repertoires, reception and social histories. By trade she’s a marketing and training specialist and when not studying or working, spends time singing with a chamber choir and writing a music blog: www.notesfromlastnight.co.uk