Monday, 17 December 2007

Back In The Day...

I recently bought Boys and Girls - A Ladybird book of childhood. It's a Christmas present for someone, but when I received it today in the post, I had trouble putting it down. I should wrap it up sharpish, otherwise before I know it, I'll have read it from cover to cover!

I was a bit of a bookworm (a.k.a. nerd) when I was a kid. When I was growing up, many of the books I read were Ladybird books, from the Peter and Jane series through to informational Learnabout books. Obviously I've moved onto more challenging titles since then -last week I managed to complete my first Janet & John book, ha-ha.

Ladybird Books was swallowed up by Penguin Group in 1999, but still publishes titles aimed at children. Not surprisingly there is a big collectors market for the original titles.

Boys and Girls A Ladybird book of childhood is absolutely dripping with nostalgia. Over the past ten or so years, there has been a massive interest in childhood & the old days, from the friendsreunited website through to the School Disco. One of last years most popular Christmas books was The Dangerous Book for Boys. Boys and Girls continues in the same vein. I'm sure that it will sell by the shed load, a great present for the children of the late 60's and early 70's. Kids today, busy with their PlayStations and Nintendo wii's....they don't know they've been born!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Keep Music Live

Just got back from a nice weekend away at my sister's family. One of the highlights of the trip, apart from seeing my splendid nephew, was to attend a concert by Derby Concert Orchestra at Derby Cathedral on Saturday evening.

It might surprise some people that a shaven headed football fan has a hidden interest in classical music, but I come from quite a musical family. I played the violin when I was younger, and for a year I was leader of the School Orchestra. I don't admit to being a brilliant violinist (I only completed Grade 6), but being in an orchestra gave me some great opportunities, including playing concerts at the Royal Festival Hall on London's South Bank with the Hillingdon Schools Symphony Orchestra.

These days I no longer play, although my old violin is still knocking around somewhere. Fortunately my sister was far better than me, and attained Grade 8 status (Jen undoubtedly has more talent than me, and was more dedicated to practising than me when we were younger). She carried on her playing days and has been a member of the aforementioned DCO for over ten years now. I always try to catch one of their concerts when the chance arises.

The latest concert was a programme of 'dance music' with a strong Viennese theme to it. Music by Khachaturian, Ravel, Dvorak, Copland, and the highlight for me - The Blue Danube by Strauss. Ironically I was in Vienna last week to watch England play Austria in a pointless friendly! This piece of music takes me back to my childhood - I close my eyes and can see a Tom & Jerry cartoon, with Tom chasing Jerry around a frozen lake on ice skates!

It's always a thrill for me to watch live music, and I hope that watching live classical music in this country continues forever. It's difficult for some groups to keep going financially. The Derby Concert Orchestra players all have full time jobs - playing in the DCO is a labour of love for them and they have to rely on grants, subs & donations to keep going.

For me, the great classical composers are geniuses. Through music alone their compositions tell a story, paint a picture, evoke memories & feelings, inspire and delight. Tragically many of these composers died penniless (Mozart), went mad (Schumann) , or didn't live long enough to see the fruits of their labour (Bach). They left behind a massive legacy, and a lot of classical music is timeless. Compare this to wealthy mediocre artists of today!

So, the point of this post? If you get a chance, go along to support your local orchestra at least once in the next year. If they're like the DCO, then the standard will be high, the music will be fantastic, and it will be great value for money (a tenner for an evening's entertainment).