Monday, 28 November 2011
For all those who want their nippers to enjoy the Classics - a plan dear to my heart of course - will find the perfect answer in the CDs from the Classical record company Naxos. Here are the first four titles in their series: "My first Classical Album", and first Beethoven, Mozart and Piano discs. Each bursting with fabulous performances of brilliant music.
I had great fun illustrating the covers and there are more little pictures inside the booklets that are crammed full of information. I'm actually rather proud of these, and I'm currently sketching ideas for the next four.
And when your children are old enough, bring them to a concert... have plans for events in both Hatfield and Saffron Walden next year... and maybe elsewhere. Watch this space!
Thursday, 10 November 2011
Even now my head remains full of pomegranates and princesses, Scheherazade refusing to fade away entirely. For permission reasons I'm unable to post any film; you'll have to use your imaginations. But we did get a mention in The Independent in an article by Daniel Hahn: Take a look by CLICKING HERE!. It's a very interesting article... and I will definitely be adding these books to my Christmas list.
Monday, 7 November 2011
And so... a dream fulfilled. Yesterday, two concerts with the de Havilland Philharmonic Orchestra, featuring Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite, Scheherazade. The day went by in a blur, filled with spices and perfumes, sounds and stories and pictures of the East. Here are a few pictures from rehearsals and backstage through to the performance itself.
I hardly know where to begin to describe the day or how important it was to me. I have loved this music since I was a child. But also, of course, I was back with my lovely de Havilland colleages, and the tremendous and really rather wonderful Robin Browning, who conducted a beautifully warm and passionate account of Scheherazade, full of storytelling and drama, in the Beecham mould. He was, as always, superb!
I have been planning my part in the concert since March, and while this was my fifth concert with the de Havilland and Robin, every year is different.
This year I realised I could not achieve what I wanted to in paint alone, so I used oil pastels instead, with a tiny bit of paint added on top for certain details.
Interpreting the music, meant going back to Rimsky-Korsakov’s autobiography, My Musical Life (which I’ve read often), to help the detective work required to find the best stories to match. In fact he did not want to be too specific, but I settled on: Sinbad’s first voyage; the tale of the second Kalandar Prince; the tale of Prince Camaralzeman and Princess Badoura, and lastly, the third Kalandar prince’s tale, featuring the magnetic rock and famous shipwreck. All of this was held within the framework of Scheherazade’s story, of course. Then I practised for many weeks, developing compositions to match the music and stories...
All too soon the day arrived. There were fraught moments: I forgot some paint and brushes, so a double base player dashed to Homebase for some yellow emulsion and the orchestra treasurer lent some brushes... Such is the comradeship that exists between us!
And I must thank, as always, the St Albans Children’s book Group, and Orchard books and UH arts team for their brilliant support (including lovely Aladdin’s Lamp art activities between performances).
After a morning rehearsal, it was no time before the orchestra were tuning up and the capacity audience (both performances were sold out in advance) were filling the theatre. There was a real buzz to the day, and for me, being given this extraordinary opportunity to present this favourite music to an audience of children was a rare privilege. But how would it work out?
In the event, I am told that toddlers to teens were transfixed by the orchestra and the music. The day went by in such a blur... But there are fragments that I remember. I had a spectacular costume, created by Trina Bharwaney of Boo Boo Designs, with a turban and Arabian Nights shoes, baggy pantaloons and a tunic, all made out of Indian silks. I felt quite different in these clothes and strode on stage like a mighty Sultan. In truth I was terribly dry mouthed and nervous. But once I started... there was no going back. And I think it was the best concert yet. There were moments of humour (like spilling the raffle tickets all over the stage!), and drama, when my pastel flew out of my hand. But it is the concentrated moments I will remember most, the rare alchemy when music, story and image all came together. When the audience held their breath and even I felt carried away by Rimsky’s flying carpet. There were the moments when the music suddenly sounded so overwhelmingly beautiful that I felt rooted to the spot with emotion. The violin solos (so exquisitely played by Richard Aylwin) stopped my heart for a moment and I almost forgot to draw. And there were tears. From me, the orchestra and indeed in the audience as Scheherazade cast her spell.
It’s odd that Rimsky-Korsakov is so often dismissed as cold and unemotional. Perhaps that view comes from critics who don’t understand the power of a fairy tale or the joyeous outpouring that comes with a happy ending . Everyone pulling together made for a fantastic happy ending to this extraordinary day. I will never forget it. And while everyone who was part of it should be applauded, and while I get a bouquet, for me the real hero of the day was the man himself... Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
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