Thursday, 31 March 2011

It's a dear...


Our hotel is called the Wilderness Edge; so obviously Steve's mac decided to blow up in homage to survivalist instincts.
We played pool, table tennis and table air hockey, whilst being watched by an inquisitive deer; but after 2 hours that was enough of that!
My computer was still alive so I enjoyed watching the last 2 episodes of Danish drama The Killing, as well as episodes of Silk and Monroe...
What? We're here to work are we?
Gig tonight - but we have been told there's lots of stuff on in Pinawa tonight [population 1500] - so who knows what will happen.
Richard has been at the lights [and the lighting guy] for 2 hours yesterday, and since 10am - such fun!... so they should be spectacular.
This is the Deer capital of Manitoba, as evidenced mainly by the large amount of poo pellets all over the ground... I have seen 6 actual deer. No bears yet.
We did find that wonderful Northern American thing [in small places mainly], the espresso-coffee-shop-plus-bookshop... hoorah for that.... but I did take Mike on an excursion trying to find it... it is indeed 200 metres from the hotel.
Wilderness Edge...? ...not quite.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The weather turns

This was the view out of my bedroom window when I awoke on Monday morning... lovely, but not perhaps what one expects in [even the north] of the Southern States in late March...

The snow did finally disappear, however... it felt as if this was presaging the weather in Canada, however, sitting here in Winnipeg, it is much milder, and was sunny when we arrived.

West Jefferson was a lovely community, and a very appreciative audience... and one of the best at joining in... their ra-ta-ta-ta-tas in Chanson d'amour were fff ! Also their usual lighting person was ill, and so Jim stepped into the breach, and did a splendid job. I got a bit of cycling in in the hotel gym, before we spent a day travelling up north.

The pilot on the flight from Toronto to Winnipeg was retiring after 40 years (luckily he did not decide to go out with a bang); thus, for the first time, we witnessed an airport custom, at both airports the plane was given a guard of honour by the firetrucks and given a ritual soaking.... cool!

So we are here in MB... off to Pinawa at lunchtime after a morning in Winnipeg...

Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Forgot to mention below what a splendour it was to have Carole Sterckx with us for our gigs at Paris and for the bulk of the German adventure… ..always a cheery countenance, and a great help selling our CDs (even when we have forgotten to tell her that we are not allowed to!), and of course, keeping in touch with our friends worldwide…

Her German language expertise, also a wonderful help on the latter tour. We are lucky she can get time off from her sensible job at the German Historical Institute London to accompany us.

…and whilst forgetting things, also forgot to mention that we had another pianist in Bonn – Sam Hogarth – we met him at a concert in a barn in Surrey last summer, and he works at the Cologne Opera, playing and conducting. He was therefore very much on hand for a gig in Bonn; he also has a passion for jazz – perfect for us!!

Monday, 28 March 2011

Wright Brothers

Fantastic morning at the field where the Wright Brothers first achieved powered human flight...
...a brilliant museum with this great art deco memorial on Kill Devil Hill (down which they took a memorable failed attempt to fly which nearly killed Wilbur!)

Their self-taught engineering was quite remarkable, and their perseverance too. Unlike the reverse story later in the century, it was the Americans who did not want to invest in the new technology and so they travelled to Europe to get some more funding. Poor old Frank Whittle had the opposite journey with the jet engine just a few short decades later.

I was delighted to learn that they thought that the power bit was the easy part, and that control was king, so they did some 600 test glide flights to get the plane structure correct, and tested 200 wing designs in their tiny wind tunnel... before they got to fly the kitty Hawk with its (light) engine, which they also built... wonderful endeavour...

And as it says in the museum... from Kitty Hawk to the Moon in 66 years....

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Shops for the London Quartet

Well, America is consumer-driven... and we found we each had a shop all for ourselves [yep, no-one else was there hardly]....


I was going to go to the gym....

Friday, 25 March 2011


Wonderful evening in the excellent Thalian Hall, Wilmington; thanks to our old friend Stephen Barefoot for inviting us, and for everyone who looked after us so well.

Now excitingly on to Kill Devil Hills, where the Wright Brothers perfected their flying machines... hopefully we will have time to look around the museum etc.

But first... in search of a decent espresso...

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Southern States

So we survived Richmond VA... [Mike passed on greetings from Richmond-upon-Thames]; and our excerpts from Way Out West were greeted with suitable enthusiasm.
Now at the seaside in Wilmington NC... and the rainstorm of last night is gone and we are bathed in Spring sunshine.

A digression; whilst posting something at Fedex, we were served by a Persian Sitar player, who travels the world playing [when he is not at Fedex near Richmond]... he escaped Iran 10 years ago, and now has a very different life in the US... amazing the people we meet on our travels...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Bonny Bonn, then across pond

As ever, we had a wonderful welcome in Endenich at Haus der Springmaus...
And despite 8 visits in recent years, managed to sing some songs that had not been heard before...

A splendid rounding off to our three-day German adventure... and a delight to see our friends, The Weerts Sisters from Holland, and Ingeborg, one of our faithful Bonn fans.

An evening of friends old and new...

Happy thoughts keeping the spirits up through the long minutes sitting about at Toronto aeroport.... [where we are now]; another good thought is our doing somehow [minus piano!] On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine.... we have to really, we are performing in Richmond VA tomorrow... Somehow Steve and I got cast as the fat and the thin one [Laurel and Hardy, or Dick und Doof in Germany!] - don't know how that happened... but you should see our dance!

Altogether now.... 'On a mountain in Virginia, stands a lonesome pine, some pine...'

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Best of British

Three shows in Germany...
...with new show, Best of British.... Monty Python meets James Bond!
Neckarsulm - that's Neckar-sulm, not Neckars-ulm (thanks audience for pointing that out!) - firstly, and tonight back to our 'spiritual German home', Haus der Springmaus, Bonn.
Mr Chris Hatt joined us on piano for the first show.

...and a quick night of harmony at The Capitol, Mannheim inbetween, where we shared a bill with ALL4MUSIC & Die Steegmüllers, a family of singers.
After our individual sets, we all sang together at the end of the evening, the Il Divo/Céline Dion song, I believe in you.... A harmonious ending to an evening of great harmony!
We also sang Happy Birthday to my wife from the stage - she was delighted that 500 Mannheimers also wished her well & sang so loudly!

Looking forward to singing to our Bonn audience, and being amongst friends.
Our pianist for tonight will be Sam Hogarth... who happens to work in Cologne; how very convenient!

On Tuesday - v early am - we fly to the USA and Canada for two weeks...

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


The concert at the Musée d'Orsay went splendidly.... Malcolm Martineau was naturally a joy to work with, and audience were fully appreciative. They enjoyed our French intros, and laughed a lot.

We were delighted to have concocted a programme which involved so many artists and poets caught up in the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Also pleased to make MM play Flash, Bang, Wallop from David Heneker's Half a Sixpence for the first time! [Also, thanks to our friend Hubert Drac for providing some French translation for this song, so it was not relentlessly cockney... As we were on at lunchtime we were pleased Hubert could see the gig, as otherwise he is playing in Henry IV - le bien aimé in Théatre des Mathurins.]
Good to have a Tommy Steele number nestling amongst, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Longfellow, Lord Tennyson, Sullivan [with and without Gilbert], William Morris, Vaughan-Williams, Elgar, Robert Pearsall, Hildegard of Bingen, Haydn, Shakespeare & William Byrd.

At Malcolm's suggestion we also included a superb Joyce Grenfell song [with music from her great collaborator, Richard Addinsell] which mentions all the Pre-Raphaelites, Oh Mr Du Maurier.

We ended the programme with Photograph by Antonio Carlos Jobim.

There was a fabulous typo on the programme... right up there with the excellent Hilliard example:

David James:- Counter tenor
Rogers Covey:- Crump tenor

We provided the items for the programme piece first followed by creators; the French having decided to change this order, it came out thus:
William Byrd - Agnus Dei from The Mass for Four Voices
Harold Edwin Darke - In the Bleak Midwinter
Maud Michael William Balfe - Come into the Garden
Herr Balfe must be revolving in his grave.... or do the people at the Musée know more than we do about his tastes!?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Greetings to our new Italian agent

...via EPAM we are delighted to be represented by studiomusica

What fun awaits...

Monday, 7 March 2011

rehearsing at Musée d'Orsay

A joy to rehearse the day before a concert in the venue. [It is a lunchtime tomorrow (12.30)].
...and to be accompanied by that Rolls Royce of pianists, Malcolm Martineau.
Then to be finished by 6pm, and have Paris arrayed gastronomically before us... how lovely.

I will wait till tomorrow pm to take full advantage of the viticulture, but for now well feasted, and ready for tomorrow's exertions!

A celebration of the Pre-Raphaelites and their musical times....