Felixstowe Recorded Music Society: Heather Farthing

Grimethorpe Colliery Band
Heather told us that she had three reactions to the invitation to present another programme (barely two weeks after her last one!): first, a sense of despair.  Whatever could she come up with as an idea?

Then also the thought some of the traditionalists amongst us might have put our heads in our hands and sighed “Whatever Next?” as her last programme had been almost exclusively 20th Century music.

But – and this was a more hopeful Whatever Next? – what was favourite five years ago, two years ago, or even last week may not be favourite now. Leading to the question, whatever next? Musical interests evolve with what we come across over time, things we hear on the radio, concerts we go to – our meetings have been the means of introducing her to many new things.

So this is a programme of things Heather had been especially interested in just this year, since her last programme – things she had come across for the first time, or have rediscovered this year.

We started with something rousing. Heather had a CD windfall half way through last year.  A Brennan machine is a music player with a hard disc that you can load your CDs onto in MP3 format so that it plays them all.  A friend (in a major downsizing house move) got one, loaded up his CDs and then took the brave step (or foolhardy depending on the reliability of the technology) of getting rid of all his CDs. (Heather added that she wouldn’t have been brave enough). Anyway, he sorted out several he thought she might like and passed them on. So from her “new” second-hand CD comes Movie Brass, recorded by the Grimethorpe Colliery band.

Heather has this on her iPod, and if inspired to go on the rowing machine listens to this CD – music for exercise has to be bold enough to register above the hiss of the machine and her puffing and panting! And to take away the pain! We would know the tune: The Dam Busters, played by Grimethorpe Colliery Band.

That should have woken us all up – which was a bit ironic, because her next choice was a big contrast. Another of these second-hand CDs. Never used to have any trouble sleeping, but now sometimes she wakes in the night, instantly wide awake, with her mind going 19 to the dozen about nothing of any importance!  The iPod to the rescue again. The next piece is so soothing it clears her mind beautifully. It’s not so long that she falls asleep in the middle, but by the end she’s usually ready to drop off again.
Agustin Barrios Mangore was a Paraguayan guitarist who lived from 1885 – 1944. He was heavily influenced by J S Bach. He was a great showman. This piece, La Catedral, written 1921, was his response to hearing Bach played in Montevideo Cathedral. It has three movements, which in total only last seven minutes so we heard them all. The opening prelude (possibly a later addition), the second (Andante) which portrays the inside of the cathedral, and the third (Allegro) contrasts it with the bustle of the street outside. The guitarist here was Franco Platini

The next CD was Penny Merriments, Street songs of the 17th Century. Bought when Rosalie had a wonderful stock of CDs at the Magpie Bookshop, just on a whim. Heather had never listened to it much, but revived interest this year because of an interest in Samuel Pepys.  Last spring she went to the “Plague, Fire and Revolution” exhibition at Greenwich Maritime Museum. She brought along a book of the exhibition, which she had acquired to enable her to digest it in more detail. (We were able to have a glance at this during the interval.) For Christmas she had been given the BBC Radio set of 11 CDs, a dramatization of the Pepys diaries. Pepys was a real polymath: the son of a tailor, he witnessed the execution of Charles I, went to St Paul’s school and then Cambridge, and under patronage of his cousin Edward Montagu became an administrator in the Navy. He excelled at his work. He was also very interested in science, knew Hooke and Boyle, anatomy and medicine (he had an operation to remove gallstones and celebrated the anniversary of it each year). He was a member of the Royal Society and enjoyed debate with men such as William Petty who proposed a NHS, education for women and decimal coinage. He built up an extensive library; arts and theatre were very important to him.

Pepys wrote: “Music is the thing of the world I love most’ He played the flageolet, recorder, viol, violin and lute and sang too. This interest in Pepys had sent Heather back to the Penny Merriments CD, and we heard a couple of the songs he would have listened to and perhaps sang.

First the story of the Great Fire in 1666, London Mourning in Ashes, in which if you listen carefully you can hear the story of the way the fire spread, how King Charles was issuing commands and how the Duke of York even worked with a bucket in his hand (or perhaps that was Pepys engaging in a bit of royal flattery!) And then, as Pepys was extremely keen on female singers, Seldom Cleanly, a humorous ballad about a non-too fussy housewife.

Penny Merriments was performed by Lucie Skeaping, Douglas Wootton, Richard Wistreich and The City Waites.

“As new things catch our attention not all discoveries are fantastic, some are disappointing”. Heather read a newspaper review of a CD called the Lost Songs of St Kilda and had to investigate. She has not been (yet) to St Kilda, but has been to the Outer Hebrides, which seem like the edge of the world. St Kilda is a remote cluster of islands, rocky and largely barren, 40 miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. By 1930 the way of life there was becoming untenable as the population fell away, and the remaining inhabitants asked to be evacuated to the mainland. Among them was four year old Norman Gillies, who had been brought up on the island by his grandmother – his mother had been evacuated for hospital treatment earlier but died. Norman was posted to Suffolk in WW2 and met and married Heather’s mum’s sister, and lived in Chelmondiston where she grew up. He died two years ago, the last but one survivor of the original evacuation. So her family were all familiar with Norman’s telling of the story where his mother was taken onto a ship in village bay and waved good-bye to her infant son. [A further connection is that John Donald is a cousin of Heather’s mother.]

A volunteer at a Scottish care home listened to a resident called Trevor Morrison, who entertained fellow residents by playing the piano. He asked about the tunes he played. Trevor Morrison had been evacuated from his home in Glasgow to the Isle of Bute as a boy during the Second World War. There, he met a piano teacher from St Kilda. The teacher, (name now unknown), determined to preserve the music of his lost home, sat the boy down and taught him the songs of St Kilda. The volunteer recorded the music and they have been arranged by Craig Armstrong.

However, after all that build up and explanation, just imagine the disappointment – they weren’t even songs, but the first half of CD were arrangements for piano only and so bland as to be boring.  She was very disappointed.

But the second part of the CD was more interesting, with arrangements by different people, including Rebecca Dale. We heard two tracks off the second part of the CD, each named after one of the islands of St Kilda, but arranged by different people. Soay, arranged by Rebecca Dale, and Dun spoken and sung by Julie Fowlis (the only actual song on the CD). Heather has heard her sing live – she has a wonderful voice). Soay has a sense of place, the sea birds whirling in their thousands in front of the vast cliffs plunging down into the sea, where there is nothing else but sea.

Given a box set of Haydn’s London symphonies this year (Nos. 93 to 104), Heather has been working her way through them. She chose Symphony 102. Six of the 12 have nicknames: The London, The Surprise, The Miracle, The Military, The Clock, and The Drum Roll. They seem more attractive than those with just a number, and Heather got to know those first. So in defence of those with just a number, here was No. 102, the opening movement, labelled Largo/Vivace. It was played by the Dresdner Philharmonie conducted by Gunther Herbig.

To chill into the break, a CD, released in 2016, recorded by Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra under Hans Ek, featuring compositions of the E.S.T. (Esbjörn Svensson Trio), arranged for symphony orchestra and jazz soloists.

Heather heard a fragment on the radio and her ears pricked up as it had some had saxophone on it (although not this track), an instrument the versatile Heather has been turning her hand to for the past year. Esbjorn Svensson (born in 1964 in Sweden) trained in classical music and piano, but was also drawn to jazz. A pianist and founder of the jazz group Esbjörn Svensson Trio, he died in 2008, at the age of 44, in a scuba diving accident. The track we heard was called from Gagarin’s Point of View.

[When we had a chance to look at the book of the exhibition of Plague, Fire and Revolution which Heather had brought along and also Snapshots of St Kilda, which added to our enjoyment and interest.]

Heather started the second half with a download onto a memory stick from You Tube, as she had not been able to locate a reasonably priced CD. So this was played first to enable Ivan to set it up – but there was no problem in playing it.

It included her final “visual aid” – a book of music she had acquired from someone clearing their books (couldn’t remember when). It was a piece she had been playing quite a lot this year. Having looked up the publisher, Litolff’s, and the distributor, Enoch and Sons of London, the reference number on the pages would indicate that the book dates from 1896.

The piece was the Passacaile by Handel, from his Suite VII. Heather liked it for its structure and clarity. And now also because of an associated memory. At her church there were two organists, herself and Paul Benyon.  They used to play organ and piano when both were there and developed a musical understanding: Heather on script, Paul improvising. Great fun, all unrehearsed. Unfortunately he now lives in Martlesham and goes to church there. One person who also enjoyed that was his late mother in law, whose funeral was followed by a Service of Thanksgiving at her church earlier this year. Thinking about something to finish with as a flourish Heather thought of this Passacaile. Before the service all she said to Paul was: there are 16 variations of eight bars in length, all following the chord sequence G minor, C minor, F, Bb, Eb, C minor diminished 7th, D7 and G minor. Shall we?  Yes. It was bold, quite loud and a celebratory piece which Joyce would have loved.  We heard a slightly more restrained orchestral version.

Heather bought a CD of Ravel’s piano concerto for the left hand in D Major and had not really listened to the one in G major much before. Then she heard the second movement on the radio, and in particular liked the ethereal piano passage which floats high over the orchestra about half way through. There was a realisation that she actually had this on a CD and has been listening to it since then.  We heard the Piano Concerto in G Major, second movement Adagio assai. The soloist was Francois-Joel Thiollier, with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antoni Wit.

Heather arrived at contemporary French composer Yann Tiersen by several different routes. First, a couple of years ago she bought a book of piano music because she wanted the two pieces it contained by South Korean composer and pianist Yiruma. It also had a couple by Yann Tiersen which was the first time she had come across him.

Secondly, You Tube often suggests little videos you may like, as it sees fit from other things you have watched. That was how she came to see a video clip of Yann Tiersen somewhat bizarrely playing a piano in a forest. All on his own. But she liked it.
Then her brother in law said she simply had to watch his favourite film and lent her the DVD. The film she could take or leave, but the music sound track was by Yann Tiersen. The film was Amelie, and she bought the CD, which to her delight has not only piano music but also accordion tracks – very French. We heard the final three short tracks from CD: Le Banquet, La Valse d’Amelie (piano version) and La Valse des Monstres.

Heather ended her programme with a contemporary composer of popular music. And where was she introduced to it?  After hearing part played during a short period of meditation in church, although not this track. Obviously worked a treat – as instead on concentrating on what she should have been, she was wondering about the background music. So Robin Gibb  of Bee Gees fame, writing in a classical style: a requiem inspired by the Titanic, written in 2012 – the centenary of the sinking. Titanic Requiem: In Paradisum. The orchestra was the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

In conclusion: the final Desert Islands Discs question – Which of all the choices would you save if you could only have one? Heather’s choice would be Mangore – The Cathedral.  But next week it could be different….. “And so a final question – I wonder what new musical treats are in store for us in the coming year?”

Norman thanked Heather for her interesting programme and the research that had gone into it, although if that last item was Paradise, it was not really one he wanted to share with Mr Gibb!

Mike Fowle (author)

The references on this page are not meant to accurately link to the artists Heather mentions – but they should serve as a starting point – we don’t spoon-feed! (Trevor Lockwood)

Who Am I

Trevor Lockwood, aged 44Sometmes you must let others define who you are. Many years ago I had an astrologer prepare my chart. This is the main entry – me as a Piscean with the Sun in the Fifth House, with a Grand Air Chine.

It said:

Sun In Pisces in the 5th House
Will anyone every really know you, truly understand you, plumb the very depths of your soul and sincerely appreciate what is there? It’s doubtful and would prove difficult indeed because the dynamic of the Piscean personality is one of extremes, evidenced in its symbol, two fish, joined, but always to swim in opposite directions. The Piscean nature carries within it all the extremity and diversity the myriad forms its element, water, can display deep still ponds, rushing babbling brooks, slow streams, gentle rain, raging storms, ebbing and flooding tides. Its placement in the zodiac as the 12th and final sign is thought to be a composite of the journey of the human soul, blending and exhibiting characteristics of all the other signs, and usually they will manifest in their extremes as well. Who really could understand all that – even the Pisces native is often stymied by himself. In your chart, particular placements and aspects enhance and emphasize these extremes, and you probably frequently find yourself misunderstood.
You have within the kite shape of your pattern, a Grand Air Trine. This indicates highly idealistic and individualistic people with excellent mental faculties. They have incredible artistic talent, frequently expressed through some medium of communication, writing, music, film, and the ability to influence others through their ideas and their ideals. This pattern carries tremendous momentum and frequently produces geniuses, but they are also very apt to drift, and quite subject to frustration. However, you have a very forgiving chart with many opportunities to pick up the thread and start over.
You are an old soul who has gone through many lives; a reservoir containing the wisdom of each, with no lack of diverse talents and abilities. You carry within yourself the best and the worst of the human experience to draw from, so your gifts are great, and as such their use can be great, for good or ill – a staggering responsibility when you allow yourself to think about it, and on occasion you do. These gifts can be used to greatly serve others or to greatly serve yourself. Much of your life will seem to involve choosing between extremes. And through it all, there seems, not only to you, but others in your life notice it as well, there is a sense of blessedness about you, as though you are being protected by the gods.
Rarely motivated by material ambitions, you can succeed at anything you put your mind to, provided it inspires you. You are multifaceted with many talents, but your greatest gifts lie in the realm of the creative, artistic or musical. Your strengths lie in your idealism, inspiration, limitless imagination, sensitivity, and peace-making. You have a talent for independent, creative work, but can function equally well in a helping role. Mystic, artistic, musical, emotional and imaginative, you are a dreamer. Outwardly you might seem quiet and unobtrusive, but your inner life is rich. Though it may prove difficult to verbalize or interpret your inner experiences in a way others can understand, the world of your imagination, feelings, and intuition is as real to you as anything in the outer world.
You really have few prejudices and are not apt to objectively or subjectively judge the actions of another; you require an experiential basis for that. And even then you’re not one to pass critical judgements but are understanding and tolerant. Insatiably curious about the human experience, adventurous enough to explore it fully and with a bent toward the extreme, by this age, what you have not experienced, you have at least imagined – given the limitless potential of your imagination these things can blur; what you imagined, you might as well have experienced. All this has served to render you essentially ‘shock-proof ’. At the same time it has also enabled in you a rare sympathy of spirit – friends, even strangers, comfortably confide anything in you, never having the slightest concern that you would be shocked or judgemental or castigating. You are incredibly forgiving of the human condition, its frailty, its cruelty, and will give chance after chance to those who may disappoint you, even hurt you.
You have charisma and a natural radiance that is a powerful factor in attracting partners and if you use it well, you will make honourable and successful attachments. Impressions are important and you enjoy being grandiose, but with a magnanimous yet modest demeanour. Your creative talents can bring gain through speculation, investment, enterprise, children, pleasure and places of amusements, anything which allows you to project your natural love of life. You need to express your identity through your work, project yourself and make an impact on others. However you cannot thrive in a subservient position. You are not adverse to risk, if the gamble is worth it. There could be loss through speculations, troubles and jealousy in courtship, trouble with children, and sorrow through love, pleasure and pride.
A master of satire, your caustic observations can flood and surround like fireflies on a summer night, flashing off and on so fast one can’t keep up with them. Yet, if a bright remark whose exact meaning or intent escapes you is casually tossed your way, you get a decidedly uncomfortable feeling. Humour is one of your secret weapons; your disarming smile often covers unshed tears. You’re as facile with slapstick as you are with sophisticated jokes. The fun can be warm and innocuous and it can also be cold and unsparing. Whatever the case it often is a cover for another emotion you hide; your laughs are often masks and they disguise you well. But you do bring a sense of fun to relationships and if children are around, they are taken with you immediately. Your nature is dramatic and expressive; you do like being the centre of attention
You can get upset now and then, your anger is seldom violent or long lasting and the placid waters soon calm. Although you have difficulty in fathoming yourself, you have no problem in seeing all the subtleties of others clearly. You’re not easily fooled, you see right through them and their agendas, but you can easily fool others, and you do, a lot. You are generally charming, of good and gentle nature, and not much will excite you to violent action, but if and when something does, your temper takes its form in your clever, caustic tongue issuing out barbs and arrows drenched in biting and levelling sarcasm that pierce right to the heart and soul of whatever adversary was unfortunate enough to rouse that monster in you from its abyss.
Your ability to love is boundless and you are the consummate romantic. You can easily fall in love with love, and may be disposed to love affairs. You respond very strongly to beauty and reciprocate magnanimously to love. You’ve had to learn to be economical and cautious about money, it didn’t come naturally to you. You have a tendency in love relationships to lean emotionally on your partner. You require reassurance and faith, and respond poorly to nagging and criticism. Your nature ensures that you are inclined to heavy use by others, and as a result of that, sometimes in the sanctity of your home, you can come undone rather easily. You would require a partner who can put you back together, wrapping you up and tying the knots tight enough so it won’t happen again too soon, but that also knows it will, understands well the wear and tear your life takes on you and doesn’t resent the routine maintenance required.
However, partnerships will function best for you when you avoid vacillating between extremes – having unrealistic expectations of your partner and feeling the odds are stacked against you. A lover and a peace-maker, not a fighter, you try to avoid open conflict, patiently ignoring or “tuning out” problems hoping they will go away by themselves, rather than directly confronting them. Sometimes you become detached from your immediate environment, with no thought to housekeeping and day to day duties, so that things become a bit disorderly; that it bothers those around you more than it does you, bothers them even more. You also tend to do things in a subtle, often covert, manner. Then there are those ever so slight tendencies to be lazy and negligent, or to wallow for a bit in self-pity, or to indulge in fantasies of martyrdom. But to be fair, in reality, you do live your life in a lonely understanding of truth that is too deep to express so you are apt to be overcome with spells of loneliness and depression and become rather gloomy about it. However with the proper handling one can snap you right out it. Pisceans are particularly vulnerable to sug­gestion.
Gentle at heart, impressionable, receptive, you are a sensitive person with a genuine love and concern for others. So keenly empathic, you often sense things psychically or intuitively that prove to be right. Tolerant, forgiving, nonjudgemental, you accept people unconditionally regardless of their flaws, mistakes, or appearance. Your depth of compassion often allows you to feel the pain of others’ suffering as if it were your own. You are sympathetic to the needy, the disadvantaged, even the misfits of society. More than most, you are aware of, and witness to, the tragedies of human existence.
Within whatever work or job you do, you give selflessly. Your life is a devoted, compassionate service to others. That said, you tend to give of yourself and your resources, indiscriminately, to let others take advantage of your kindness and to encourage the weak to remain so, by becoming dependent upon you. You have little sense of boundaries or limits, of knowing when to say “no”. Moderation and self-discipline in that respect are not your strong points. Standing against the injustices and inequities in the world, choosing to always believe the best in others, will often leave you misunderstood and disillusioned, because you’ve put yourself in another impossible situation that will inevitably lead to disappointment – but you know that. You have this internal conversation with yourself almost daily and have had for as long as you can remember.
Occult beliefs and practices have probably always held an interest for you, tugging at your imagination, as though you were born with an understanding of esoteric principles – and you were. Even when not involved or practised in some way, they have served to anchor your vivid imagination and keep you emotionally stable.
At the same time you don’t believe you can live forever, you worry that you won’t. You don’t take as good care of yourself as you should and spend more of your excess energy than you have to spare helping friends and relatives which usually results in you taking on their burdens and troubles. For some of your ilk, such depletion of energy can pose a risk of excessive substance use in an effort to manage this serious drain on their health, physically and emotionally.  But you have a hidden inner resistance. If you have risen to the challenge you have discovered this latent strength and know how call on it, literally hypnotizing yourself into or out of anything you choose.

A Week of Contrasts

I probably need to get rid of the black dog first. It’s right that you should do what you wish, not just respond to the demands of others. I’m a sensitive soul and two events this week were enough to through me off balance. When I was  sadly let down. Nuff said, time to move on. The rest of the week was good if I ignored the rest of the world. My government is now threatening Russia – what’s the matter with them? Not in my name!

Went to Leiston (location of nuclear power stations – ugh!) to see a group of shanty singers from Sheringham. Forgot where Leiston was so went sailing past the turn, nearly reaching Lowestoft! Turned round and got there eventually!

Went to an Indian restaurant Cinnamon My beautiful companion enthused so much promising to include a visit on her birthday. It was good. Not sure I’ll make the birthday guest list, from what she was saying she has a lucky victim already selected. It’s one advantage of being an old man, as I no longer pose a threat, or even a prospect!

Then to St Margaret’s Church, Leiston, a beautiful place, well worth a visit even without the singers. Magnificence in a small church – please visit.

That was Friday – excellent group of lads from Sheringham, so good that no-one bothered to smash in the head of the guy with a Nowich City  Football Club scarf (that typo is deliberate).

Saturday saw a different church, St John’s Felixstowe, different women and a change of atmosphere. My lovely friend Maggie played the violin as part of the orchestra for an oratorio about Hercules. Not my favourite work, and it lasted just two performances when originally performed. However the soloists, orchestra and the choir did a sterling job. We are so lucky that so many folk practise for hours just to receive a few claps from the audience, and a mound of personal satisfaction. Why do we waste so much money on foreign footballers and nothing on locally-created arts?

Shared lunch with Maggie at Bencotto’s before she left to rehearse. Surprised at the lack of vegetarian options, yet it remains my favourite place in town.