Friday, August 17, 2007

A wonderful summer of music

Over the last month or so I've been regularly attending the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and yet again what a wonderful season it has been so far. My first time at the Proms was last year. After many previous years of watching the Last Night on TV and latterly watching some of the other Proms, I decided I really ought to go. I love classical music and the Proms has deepened and broadened my appreciation of the different styles and composers. This year I've tried to deliberately choose concerts which contain pieces which are both familiar to me and others that are new.

Last night's Prom featured three works. It opened with a piece I had not heard before, Grieg's awesome Funeral March for Rikard Nordraak. Grieg wrote the piece as an immediate reaction to the death of his friend and contemporary Rikard Nordraak who died from consumption at the tragically young age of 24. Apparently Grieg arranged the piece in various forms for a military band and brass and percussion but last night was the full orchestral version.

The second work last night was Grieg's equally impressive Piano Concerto written when he was just 25. The piece was accredited with putting Norway on the musical map and was famously sent up by Eric Morecombe who played 'all the right notes but not necessarily in all the right order' in a Morecombe & Wise Christmas Show.

The second half of the concert was Walton's First Symphony. I am becoming a fan of Walton's music although he seems to be one of those composers who is often forgotten. Trying to find recordings of his work to buy seems to be about as impossible as finding that proverbial needle in a haystack. Walton, who died in 1983, I think was one of the finest British composers of the twentieth century and I particularly like his coronation anthem, Crown Imperial and the Spitfire Prelude & Fugue from The Battle of Britain. The First Symphony is an interesting piece, the programme notes describe it as being 'convulsed with emotion' and it was written during a turbulent time in Walton's love life. A passionate relationship with Baroness Imma Doernberg had come to an end influencing much of the first part of the work, whilst a new love affair gave Walton the inspiration to complete the final movement. The piece was rather grandly described by Sir Henry Wood, founder-conductor of the Proms as the 'world coming to an end, its dramatic power was superb...' Indeed it does sweep the listener along and I have never seen such furious and sustained playing of the timpani!

One of the things I love about the Proms, apart from hearing great music being performed by the world's finest orchestras and soloists, is the fact that it is a great leveller. Everyone comes to the Proms, young or old, rich or poor, from all walks of life and background. I am sure there are many there who are experiencing classical music live for the first time while others are passionate about their music and know the pieces intimately. But I love the fact that the Proms is for everyone, not just classical music aficionados. You don't have to understand the technical side of the music or really anything about the structure and form of music to enjoy it - I certainly don't! It's nothing more than a blissful couple of hours being entertained, taken on journey that is often in the experience of the Proms I've been too, emotionally intense both uplifting and sombre, moving and inspiring. Its wonderful and long may the Proms continue!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Disengage brain before reading or watching the 'news'

What has happened to the news? Its no longer about the important or serious events of the day but about the stupidity of the great unwashed and even when it borders into something approaching a serious news story it strays into mawkishness and hype. Take today for example. There was the tragic story of a man killed in Warrington at the weekend after confronting youths causing a disturbance outside his house. Instead of reporting the facts of the tragic incident, we are told in somber tones that the man - 'a father of three' - was trying to 'reclaim his street.' Is it necessary to have such obviously emotive language? What relevance or depth does it add to the story? None at all in my mind and it feeds into this worrying emotional incontinence that seems to have developed since the death of Princess Diana ten years ago.

Then, there was the story of a young man in his twenties 'tombstoning' off Durdle Door in Dorset - in other words throwing himself from the top of this rock into the sea. Any fool can see that is an incredibly stupid and dangerous thing to do although it seems that he was encouraged by his friends, so probably wasn't his fault then! Another example of gross stupidity and abdication of personal responsibility is a 'news' item on the BBC News site about a girl who overdosed on caffeine after drinking seven double espressos. Surely anyone of even moderate intelligence can work out that to consume that much coffee is not going to do you much good. And the silly girl's defence - she did not realise it was doubles! Ah well, that's alright then, so it wasn't her fault at all.

In the Daily Telegraph there was a story about how one in three office workers are suffering from 'e-mail stress,' apparently a deluge of e-mails. Have you noticed how everything these days has a label? Even perfectly normal everyday activities suddenly become known by these 'buzz-words' and there is a condition or affliction for every pressure in modern life. Another story in the same paper tells of another study which has found that attractive people have more chance of promotion at work than unattractive colleagues. Wow!

It worries me that our news is full of these inane stories whilst the important issues and the real matters of the day are buried, such as the pensions crisis or a sobering report on the poor care for those over 65 suffering mental health problems.

But nothing it seems is written about or presented in an objective and factual style. Our news has been reduced to the baseness of a coarse soap opera.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Learning who my friends are

Over the last few weeks I have become acutely aware of who my true friends are, the people that I can depend on, the ones that I can trust, those that respect me. There isn't many sadly. Mainly I've realised this through events at work where a number of people I used to work with have left me feeling very disappointed in them. Today was in many ways the icing on the cake.

One of my former colleagues and a good friend, Steve, left today. He's only been with the company for 3 years but we've worked together for most of that time. We sometimes had our disagreements and arguments but most of all I'll remember his good humour, timely advice and friendship over that time. Normally when someone leaves it is I think a courteous thing to have a collection and buy them a small gift and card. None of that happened and I was told quite curtly by one of my other colleagues when I asked, 'we don't do collections for people who are being made redundant.' True, Steve along with the rest of my former team have been made redundant but he had found a job with another company so was leaving for that reason. I thought that to not get him anything was mean so I bought a leaving gift and card and I was the only one who bothered. I think that's shameful, I really do. It annoys and angers me that people can be so selfish and uncaring. I know he wasn't always the easiest of people to work with but he had a big heart and as a person was someone that I always felt could be trusted and depended upon.

As it happens there is a lot of bitterness in my former team. A number of snide and unkind remarks have been made about me by several people I thought were good colleagues. Some of it has been said to me directly, which while I ignore at the time sticks with me. It hurts.

I am beginning to wonder now why I should waste my time with people like this. Its sad because until recently one of the main reasons I've stuck so long in my current job was because I thought I worked with good people, who I could trust and respect. I've realised perhaps belatedly that I have been deluding myself and that leaves me feeling disappointed and used.

I leave my current job in 3 weeks and will be starting a new career with a different company. I've decided because of all that has happened recently - all the ugliness and nastiness - that I am not going to have a leaving do. Why bother? True, there are some people that I will be sorry to say goodbye too but the realisation is that most of them are just people who if I didn't work with I probably wouldn't care to pass the time of day. The people that I will keep in contact with are those that have been more than people who have just made up the numbers.

The same is true of my wider circle of friends. There are frankly a lot of them who do just make up the numbers, who bring nothing to the party as it were. There seems to be a lot of these in my life and why am I wasting my time and energy on people like this?

I do feel uncertain about the future and my new job. I am not sure what it will be like and whether I will enjoy it. However, I see it as an opportunity of cutting loose the past, moving on and having the opportunity to start afresh building new working relationships and hopefully some enduring friendships.