Tag Archives: Manchester Camerata

Annual Review

31 Dec
Bramall Hall, in the County of Greater Manchester.

Image via Wikipedia

The last day of the year seems like a good time to re-hash the last twelve months – not much point doing it next March, is there?  I won’t include links to previous posts because I don’t expect you to go and read them again; I’m just glad you showed up at all today.

On a personal level, we acquired a new dog and six fish (now, sadly, five fish).  I went on a back-to-work course; had a work placement and one interview but still no job.  I was in the audience for the first leaders’ debate and was given a new kitchen and bathroom by my landlord.  The whole of my downstairs and part of my upstairs has been re-decorated this year, and it’s all hidden by the Hub’s ever-growing mountain of crap.  I discovered I am two inches taller than I thought I was; and Glee.  I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary; witnessed a police siege in my street; and won £100 in shopping vouchers.  The Hub’s CFS/ME got steadily worse and he was diagnosed with anaemia and restless leg syndrome, so I doubled my fun-poking efforts.  I became a pirate for a week; had several colds and infections and a wisdom tooth extraction; and still claimed to be as healthy as an ox.  Have you noticed that you never see oxen anymore?  Spud had three holidays – two courtesy of friends – and Tory Boy helped win the election (sort of) and saw the Pope’s back while interning in Westminster.

The general election threw up my favourite quote of the year:

Paddy Ashdown: 

The British people have spoken; now we just have to work out what they’ve said.

As far as the writing goes, I was published in several poetry ezines and two collections; was counted part of the Manchester blogging scene; and saw one of my poems turned into a piece of art work.  I took part in April’s NaPoWriMo and November’s Poetic Asides Poem A Day challenge; performed at Bramhall Hall with Manchester Camerata; and at Stockport Art Gallery with its vanishing audience.  I completed an excellent creative writing course at a local college and was a founder member of Stockport Art Gallery Writing Group.

My blog was given a makeover and I had three guest bloggers.  This blog is growing exponentially.  In March I was thrilled to reach the magic figure of 5000 hits; in the nine months since then I have had over 21,000 hits with the figure at this moment standing at 26,671.  I started a new blog for my South African poems and sometimes it gets as many as three readers a day. 

Not a bad year, overall.  Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share it with me.


The prompt for Big Tent was to write a list poem.  I was inspired to write a haiku by today outside:

A Stockport Winter

dull grey cold muddy
miserable the same as
a Stockport summer

If Music Be The Love Of Food, Play On

12 Mar

[An intellectual] is someone who can listen to the “William Tell Overture” without thinking of the Lone Ranger.  ~John Chesson

Bramall Hall Photo Gallery
Photo – Bramall Hall and lawnsPrevious | home | Next
an image of the Park and Hall

 All photographs from http://www.bramallhall.org.uk/gallery/index.asp 

I had a fantastic time on Wednesday night.  You know how when you intend to go out drinking you line your stomach with a good meal? Actually, that’s not something I do because I’m not really a drinker and I hardly ever go out in the evenings unless there’s a college course involved, but I think it’s a good life principle in general and I always eat before I go out anywhere, just in case whatever I’m doing runs over my next scheduled meal time.  Unfortunately, my love of food remains with my stomach and doesn’t often extend to my brain, with the result that at least twice a week I forget to take out dinner from the freezer, as happened on Wednesday.  Fortunately, I am blessed with the best of sons who now becomes No.1 Son over his older brother: Spud had food and came home with a chicken chow mein that was not only edible and plentiful, but delicious.  But, even more importantly, it meant that I DID NOT HAVE TO COOK.  That was what moved him up the rankings.*

Belly full, I was collected at six-thirty by my good friend J.  I was going to call her the Taxirhymist because I wanted to mention that she is extremely generous with her car, ferrying me from workshop to college to gala performance to writing group to art gallery without accepting any petrol money; and she is a talented poet but has only discovered her talent in the last year; but it sounded pretentious when I read it back and she is certainly not that, so I shall simply call her my good friend J.  Me, mgfJ  and three other writing buddies all performed at Bramhall Hall on Wednesday night, along with the poet Terry Caffrey and a string quartet from Manchester Camerata.   I wasn’t expecting much, if I’m honest: we attended a workshop at Stockport Art Gallery on Saturday and discovered ten minutes into it that we were going to perform some of our work the following Wednesday.  I hadn’t even heard of the Camerata at that point.  I think Terry was disappointed that none of us snatched at the opportunity and had to be gently bludgeoned into perhaps possibly maybe thinking about it.  However, of the six people at the workshop, five of us turned up, so the message that this was a big deal must have got through.

If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music. ~ Gustav Mahler

Bramall Hall Photo Gallery
Photo – a view of the Lesser HallPrevious | home | Next
an image of the Lesser Hall

 We were greeted in the Lesser Gallery by two men who seemed quite excited to have us there; poetry reading is not usual for the Hall, apparently. They were delightful hosts and showed us into the Chapel whilst someone went to fetch Terry.  That gave me and a writing buddy time to look through teh rpintouts and notice that our poems weren’t in there.  This might have been a hindrance to our reading if it had not had the foresight to bring along our own copies for just such an emergency.  In my case, I wanted to bring a copy because I had made changes to my poems since submitting them to the gallery the day before.  This was also the moment when I knew I had been right to single out mgfJ for the honour of my being my good friend J: our printer is out of ink so I had emailed my copy to her and she had printed it out for me and, more importantly, brought it with her.   What a woman!

 When words leave off, music begins.  ~Heinrich Heine

Bramall Hall Photo Gallery

Photo – Bramall Hall Chapel

Previous | home | Next

An image of the Chapel

Terry found, greetings greeted, and apologies made for the omission, which wasn’t his fault, he took us upstairs to meet a couple of Camerata wigs (I hesitate to call them big because I have no idea if they were) and to have a quick run-through of the running order.  Then it was time for a toilet break.  I should mention at this point that the house has been built and added on to since the Eleventh Century.  It is mentioned in the Domesday Book.  Never having read the Domesday Book, I don’t know if there’s a map in it pointing the way to the public lavatories, but I could have used one.  When I came out of the loo I found myself alone in a corridor with doors on every side.  I had no idea where I was or in which direction I had come or needed to go.   I felt a little like Alice and I would have appreciated at that point a wine bottle labelled, ‘Drink Me.’  Not having the option to sprawl in a corridor and get plastered, I tried opening each door until I found one that led to some stairs that I remembered we had come up.  More doors at the bottom and lots of dark, empty rooms later, I found the wheelchair access ramp which indicated I was almost home.  I stopped to ponder the absurdity of a wheelchair access ramp leading to an upstairs toilet, and decided that there must be a downstairs disabled toilet, surely?  It was the law.  Then it occurred to me I was in a fantasy world of my own when I should be finding my own rabbits to follow, and I ran and ran the three steps that took me to the very door I needed, leading into the Great Hall.

Image of the Great Hall


Music is one of the best ways to enjoy the present.  It’s not much fun to look forward to hearing music or to remember what a song sounded like last week, but music right now absorbs you and places you in the present moment.  ~Sonnett Branche




Music is what life sounds like.  ~Eric Olson

Bramall Hall Photo Gallery
Photo – a view of the Great HallPrevious | home | Next
an image of the Great Hall

The big photo shows the Hall set for dining but on the night there were plush blue chairs laid out in rows.   Despite its name it is not a huge room; there were about fifty people present and it felt cosy.  The musicians had set up in front of the magnificent fireplace (see small photo above).  I was relieved that we had back row seats because I expected to fidget a lot.  I have never been to a classical music concert before, unless you count Cliff Richard, and though I love the likes of Vivaldi and the well-known classics, I’m not familiar with much in the way of the good stuff.  My expections were massively confounded.  The Camerata began with Mozart’s String Quartet No. 18 and followed it with Dvorak’s Romance (listen to me writing as if I know what I’m talking about).   The Mozart was nice but the Dvorak – cliché alert!  but it’s the only way I can describe it – absolutely blew me away.  I had noticed a man sitting with his eyes closed during the Mozart and thought he was asleep at first, before spying his nodding head and deciding he was a poseur, but I offer him an apology right here, right now, because I found myself listening to the Dvorak with my eyes closed and being aware of nothing but the music.  There is nothing in the world like live music played by polished professionals at the top of their game in an intimate setting with a thousand years of history behind it.  I highly recommend you try it.  Even better if you get to do it for free.

As I was carried away on violin strings to another realm of being (or, to give it its technical term, ‘listening’), I wondered how many wandering minstrels, bards, players, Robin Hood rejects and the like had stood in that very spot and entertained people through the ages.  It made me feel much less nervous: nobody remembers them so it wouldn’t matter if I messed up because nobody would remember it but me.    I stopped worrying about my nervous gut; stopped praying, ‘Please don’t let me break wind up there, please don’t let me break wind.’  I didn’t stop having a glass of wine in the Banqueting Room, of course: it would have been rude; I’m sure I saw an invisible sign saying, ‘Drink Me.’  Trouble is, I had to down it quickly and so I found myself praying while I was waiting to read, ‘Please don’t let me vomit up there; please don’t let me vomit.’

Music is love in search of a word.  ~Sidney Lanier

Bramall Hall Photo Gallery
Photo – the Banqueting RoomPrevious | home | Next
a photo of the banqueting room

We didn’t have much time in the Banqueting Room because we gathered for another quick run-through and for photographs in front of the fireplace.  Fortunately, only one with me in it came out.   I know it’s true that the camera adds ten pounds but, to quote Friends, just how many cameras were on me that night?


Motley Crue

Terry is second-left; MGFJ is in red; ‘The Blob’ auditionee is second-right.

We were introduced by Frank.  I have no idea who he was or in what capacity he was there, but he was lovely.  He explained that Terry would explain why we were there, then Terry stood up and explained why we were there.  Then we read out our bits  and the writing buddy who went first thanked Terry for the opportunity and mgfJ who went last thanked the audience for having us.  Then Terry thanked us and thanked the audience and it was all very civilised.  The audience just looked bemused.  They had come to a concert expecting to hear the Camerata, and found a group of giggly – but extremely polite – poets hogging twelve precious music minutes.  However, they charitably clapped the Stockport Art Gallery Writing Group, which was how Frank and Terry introduced us; it surprised us all, because no-one had told us that that’s who we are.

The evening was rounded off by the Camerata’s performance of Janacek’s String Quartet no. 2 (Intimate Letters), the hideous music upon which our poems were based, and the point of us being there.  But you know what?  The magic worked again and it was wonderful – lots of plinks and plonks and stalking soundtracks, yes; but the passion and the obsession was tangible through the music.  I have to say that I will never, ever listen to it on a cd, which is how we first heard it at the gallery; but if someone offers me the chance to hear it played live again, I might just accept.

The evening ended with appreciative applause for the musicians, who took several bows and exited, then came back for more applause, bows, etc.  All well and good for the three violinists, but what about the poor cellist?  I swear she had a hump. 


Music is the poetry of the air. ~ Richter    


                                                                                                                                            All quotes from:  http://www.quotegarden.com/music.html 


*Don’t worry, Tory Boy: it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and you have more money than your brother so you can easily regain your place.

It Has Only Just Hit Me

6 Mar

I was at Stockport Art Gallery this morning, at another of their free poetry workshops, run by Terry CaffreyIt was great fun and I have the bones of at least three poems from it.  The reason I mention it is because he has somehow talked the six of us who attended the workshop into going to Stockport’s Bramhall Hall on Wednesday night, to recite our poems to a paying audience who will be expecting Manchester Camerata, but not six bewildered would-be poets. 

We have been promised a free glass of wine for our pains.  I think I’m going to need it.

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