When I was much younger than I am now, I had the books of Dirty Beasts and Revolting Rhymes, by Roald Dahl. I have a lot of sympathy for Roald Dahl as an author. He does what Enid Blyton dares not. Make stories for children (and about children) where you can say ‘fart’, dirty people walk around with corn flakes in their beard, fantastic things happen to children who deserve them, and nasty people get the really horrible fates they deserve. His children’s stories are playful, a little grotesque, and full of excitement. Nothing of dogs called ‘Timmy’ or lashings of ginger beer. What ho!
Roald Dahl lived in Cardiff during his childhood and also went to the same school as me, very briefly (Llandaff Cathedral School). He enjoyed his time there rather less then I did.
This evening I sneaked into the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama to see the dress rehearsal of a musicalised version of this doggerel. The British composer Martin Butler (who I’ve not heard of – he did a different musical version) Brian Irvine (who I have also never heard of) took 4 of these and turned them into a one act opera which is just as playful as the poems. My little sister was in this production and it was splendid. The vocal performances are easily the best I have seen from a student group and much better than many amateur groups. Bravo!
At one point a rather large ladder fell down, but the performers didn’t bat and eyelid, which made me half believe it was meant to happen. All the performers wore delightful 1950′s tweedy clothes, that I was rather envious of.
Lots of people were eaten by the ‘dirty beasts’ during the 40 minutes. They all deserved it.
Rather sadly the performance was the only one available to the general public as this is a production which will tour around local schools. Our loss but the schools’ gain.
Here is a little video of Timothy West reading The Anteater. It has one of my favourite bits of gentle British xenophobic leg-pulling. Its at the expense of Americans, of course.
“Some people in the USA,
Have trouble with the words they say….”
Last weekend I spent a weekend camped out in Lichfield Cathedral, and I don’t mean sleeping in the cathedral. I was part of a reunion choir, the St Teilo’s singers. We’ve sung together for the past 15 years, taking our name from the church we were originally based at, St Andrew and St Teilo’s, closely associated with the Cardiff University Anglican Chaplaincy. Continue reading →
I’ve had this merry little catch running through my head all week, and I just had enough time to do a multitrack recording of it. There is a cheeky little message hidden inside this 17th Century song about a girl having a lesson on a spinnet. Its a baroque keyboard instrument a bit like a little harpsichord, but you can ‘shake’ or wiggle your finger on the keys to produce vibrato.
Its by John Isham and called “When Celia was learning on the spinet, to play”
I found this recording on my mac today and I thought you might like to hear it. Its my own voice multitracked. I was in a performance of Twelfth Night some years ago and this one of the incidental songs which Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Feste sing in a night of drunken revelry. Its a simple catch (a sort of round – think ‘row row row your boat’) by Thomas Ravenscroft, and is almost contemporary with Twelfth Night. Ravenscroft wrote quite a bit of music to the songs in Shakespeare’s plays, but they very seldom are performed with the plays. They are not masterworks but are quite pretty.
I recorded it in about 10 mins while my wife was gossiping on the phone, so don’t judge me too harshly!
I have spent most of the time since 1995, singing. It is widely accepted that going to University is simply an opportunity for doing things that you really want to do and not have your parents, guardians, or house hold pets looking down their noses at you. For the majority of the student population this usually taken to be over indulgency in alcohol, sex, swearing, Methodism, bear-baiting or local government. For me it meant singing. This might at first glance seem rather boring and uninviting when you compare it to the candid delights that await the novice clubber, but bear with me. Continue reading →