Archive for August 2007

Save Greenwich Market!

August 31, 2007

Market stall

In the centre of historic Greenwich, south-east London, is an early nineteenth-century covered market, lined with interesting small shops and filled at weekends with colourful craft and food stalls, always thronged with local shoppers and tourists having a wonderful time.  Like so many other characterful sites in London (Camden Market, the bookshops in Charing Cross Road), Greenwich Market is threatened by developers — in this case Greenwich Hospital — who think the site is ‘uneconomic’ (it’s ‘only’ open at weekends!  It doesn’t have a Starbucks!!) and have plans to pull it down and use the space to build a block of flats.  In the centre of Greenwich!  Already they have put up rents so that stallholders and shopkeepers are being forced out of business…

It’s just about the only reason I go to Greenwich now (and already the last surviving second-hand bookshop seems to have gone).  You can help:  please SIGN THE PETITION at


(picture from )

All you need is…

August 27, 2007

…a simple stage set and a few props that can (literally) be packed in the back of a van,  a six-piece band, a small cast of young singers (singing in English), and a garden somewhere, and you have the ingredients for a performance by GARDEN OPERA (oh, and good weather is a help).

I’ve just walked home from the Old Observatory Garden in Greenwich (a magic setting), with a song in my heart, a lump in my throat, and — oh dear, is that something in my eye? (sniff)…  This was a performance of La Boheme, one of sixty performances on Garden Opera’s summer tour, and it was wonderful.

As a corrective to over-elaborate productions at *ahem* the Royal Opera House and elsewhere,  Garden Opera is about the essentials, stripping away distractions such as lavish settings, chorus, supernumerary actors and production ‘Konzepts’;  what remains is the essence of the opera, the music, the storytelling and the emotion.

Of course you also need a company whose members are all totally dedicated to what they are doing (on a shoestring), and an arranger, conductor and director with a clear idea of what they are aiming for.  Garden Opera is a shining example on all fronts, and has given me some of my most intense operatic experiences in recent years (including the most moving Magic Flute ever — and the only one in which the Queen of Night also played Papagena and [if my memory serves me] the serpent;  a mind-stretching Don Giovanni;  and a Carmen with a stomach-turningly realistic and unexpected murder only a few feet from where I was sitting). (more…)

Divided loyalties, mixed feelings

August 26, 2007

Decisions, decisions… This week I had to decide between the Proms (using my season ticket) or the RPO Summer Serenade series at Cadogan Hall.  Having started the week on a terrific high with the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra prom (which ended with the kids doing a conga around the stage, wearing Venezuelan football shirts and twirling their instruments in the air while the audience rose to its feet and cheered), and a fine (but not roof-raising) account of Bartok’s Bluebeard’s Castle, I opted for some calm and civilised chamber music at Cadogan Hall.

Turned out to be a slightly low-key experience — everyone in the world (including all my friends, and even my colleagues who work at the Hall) were either on holiday (or on honeymoon, in one case) or at the Albert Hall or otherwise occupied, so the audiences were distinctly thin on the ground.

Tuesday was Mozart wind music — the C minor Serenade (what a fantastic piece) and the ’13 Wind’, which is lovely but does go on too long.  My initial feeling was that these were orchestral players not used to playing chamber music — they hadn’t realised how quietly they could, or should, play.  I didn’t recognise any of the players, which was unusual for me, apart from John Anderson on first oboe and David Chatterton on contrabassoon (not as authentic as a double bass would have been, but it was a great sound — up through the floorboards — and we contra players must stick together!). 

Wednesday (more…)

Hello world again

August 24, 2007

The link to my old site ( has now been redirected to this one — thanks, Eddie.

Hello to myself

August 23, 2007

Well, it’s getting there.  Phew.

Hello world!

August 23, 2007

Welcome to my new website.  My old site at is still there but hasn’t been updated for a while; feel free to browse it while I get this one up and running!