HelenEdith's Blog

The minutiae of my life, plus website updates and book reviews

Archive for August, 2008

Website update: Holiday Pictures – October, 2007 – Beamish Colliery Village

Posted by HelenEdith on August 31, 2008

The next part of the Beamish site that we explored during our visit last year was the Colliery Village.

I particularly enjoyed looking around the school, set up with old-style desks just like I remember from my early years of primary school before we had a new school and inkwells went out and biros came in! I also enjoyed the row of miner’s cottages very much. They came complete with people acting out the daily life of the early 1900s.

There were also mine buildings to view, although we didn’t explore those in great detail and didn’t don hard hats and actually go down the old coal pit.

My pictures are here: Helen Stephenson’s North East England Holiday Pictures – October, 2007 – Beamish Colliery Village

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Website update: Holiday Pictures – October, 2007 – Beamish Home Farm

Posted by HelenEdith on August 25, 2008

The first part of the Beamish site that we explored during our visit last year was the Home Farm.

I enjoyed looking around the implement sheds at the horse-drawn implements. I mostly remember these implements as being pulled by a tractor, but the actual design of the implements hasn’t changed much.

As well as the implements, the Home Farm keeps rare breeds, and we spent some time at the pond looking at the ducks and geese.

My pictures are here: Helen Stephenson’s North East England Holiday Pictures – October, 2007 – Beamish Home Farm

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Website update: Holiday Pictures – October, 2007 – Beamish, The North of England Open Air Museum

Posted by HelenEdith on August 24, 2008

Most of my Beamish pictures have been edited for some time, but now I’m finally getting around to putting them up on my website.

The first instalment consists of pictures of the trams, the bus, and a form of transport that doesn’t actually go anywhere: the merry-go-round.

Here they are: Helen Stephenson’s North East England Holiday Pictures – October, 2007 – Beamish, The North of England Open Air Museum

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Mensa Music Weekend 2008 Bassoonist’s Report

Posted by HelenEdith on August 20, 2008

As I had to work on Thursday, I was unable to arrive in time for the ice-breaker, but headed out from the office at about 5:30pm, checking in at my B&B in Brookmans Park on the Great North Road on my way by, and arriving at the John Lill Centre at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield in time for the Friday evening session, where I met Judy waiting outside, as it transpired that those who were staying on campus had discovered that having dinner in half an hour was a bit optimistic and hadn’t yet returned!

When the main contingent got back from dinner, Dave Silver helped me bring my rolling shopping trolley of sheet music inside, and the weekend’s musical activities began for me.

As I didn’t sing, my time was divided between the orchestra and chamber music.

The orchestra worked on three pieces over the course of the weekend.

The first piece was the Bach A minor violin concerto, for which Robert had augmented the original string orchestration to include our wind section. I had a cello part, but Robert had been busy in Sibelius creating parts for the upper woodwind to play.

The second piece was Alison Keep’s arrangement of Vaughan Williams’ “Greensleeves Fantasy”. Alison brought her laptop and printer with her, and made a few adjustments to various bits of music during the weekend. In fact, she did a couple of tasks in Sibelius which were rather more substantial than a little bit of adjustment!

The third piece we worked on was the first of a charming set of five little wind concertos by the 18th Century Nottingham composer, Henry Hargrave, for which I supplied the music. Like the Bach, it was only scored for strings, and Alison kindly entered the viola part in Sibelius and got it to print out parts for the B flat clarinets and E flat saxophone so that the whole orchestra could play. It worked out very well giving the viola part to the clarinets and saxophone, as Wendy was our only “real” viola player and the ensemble was better balanced with some more instruments playing the viola line.

Although there were more than six people at the weekend with wind instruments, some of them also played a stringed instrument or sang, and when we divided into smaller groups, the wind group consisted of just six of us. We sometimes needed to get people to double on a part as we had insufficient sextet music for the combination of Cyndy on flute, two clarinets played by Dave and Don, Sally’s alto saxophone, my bassoon and Alison’s trombone. We made ourselves at home in the gamelan room, where we played Alison’s arrangements and a selection of music borrowed from the library by Dave or brought from home by myself.

The highlight of Friday evening was a jam session. Dave Silver brought his shiny red accordion, Hilary got out her recorder, and one of the flautists (Cyndy) also got out her instrument. Dave allowed several other people to have a go on his accordion in the course of the evening. There was singing, both with Dave’s accompaniment and without; and we were treated to a handbell performance, with the performers learning from Joyce as they went along.

I detached myself from the wind group on Saturday morning as Vivien had volunteered to play through my Danzi bassoon quartet. We were joined by Wendy and Stan, but very quickly discovered that we just couldn’t get the piece started. Fortunately Robert, our conductor for the weekend, was in the kitchen area with Monica, who was also at loose ends, and both came and joined us, with Monica doubling the violin part and Robert doubling the viola part. (He plays the viola as well as conducting!} We weren’t sure whether we needed Robert more as a conductor or as a viola player, but he managed to get the group going, although we did abandon the first movement, which Robert deemed not to be sight-readable. We did get through the other three movements, though, and the whole piece turned out to be very democratic and not just a bassoon solo with an accompanying string trio, and so was musically interesting, albeit a little too challenging, for all who were present. Vivien told me that if I send her the violin part to practise that she will have another go at it next year, which is very kind of her, as she was speaking rather incredulously about seventh position at one point!

I did manage to fit in enough time with Hilary, our recorder player, to play through a Boismortier trio sonata, with David playing the piano part. I would have loved to play through the Quantz trio sonata I had with me as well, but there just wasn’t time. Nor was there time to gather the personnel together for the Telemann Concerto a 6, which is effectively a double concerto for recorder and bassoon. We would have needed a string quartet and David to pull it off, although interestingly, bearing in mind that more people in the group play the violin than the viola, a third violin can be substituted for the viola. Maybe next year…

I was also hoping to join up with Alison for some trombone and bassoon duets; and would have liked to get together with one of the cellists for a play through of the Mozart sonata for bassoon and cello. However, there just wasn’t any time for either of those two activities to happen. Maybe next year for them as well…

On Saturday evening, we went to Frankie & Benny’s for a meal. Some people drove down from the University to the Galleria, but I was one of the ones who elected to walk. I had a lovely dinner down there, where I ate too much food, and did lots of talking. I hope I did some listening, too! I certainly got to know my dinner companions better, so I think I managed to shut up sometimes and listen. We were joined for dinner by Jo Sidebottom, our Mensa Special Interest Group Secretary, and it was good to be able to put a face to the name that appears on our Intermezzo newsletter.

Having spent Friday and Saturday working on our orchestral music and playing through different pieces of chamber music (or singing, if you were a singer) we spent Sunday morning brushing up what we were going to play in the afternoon for our end of weekend concert. Then we made one last visit to the refectory, where I enjoyed a swordfish steak for my Sunday lunch. It was just as well we had to walk back from the refectory, as I needed to walk off the swordfish before I was ready to play again.

The afternoon concert started with the Hargrave Bassoon Concerto No.1 and I stood up out the front to play it. I slipped up a couple of times, but made sure I kept going! Then we played Alison’s arrangement of “Greensleeves”. Each group of players then presented a sample of what they had been working on during the weekend, with my contributions coming in Alison’s arrangement of Fucik’s “Florentine March” and the first part of the opening movement of a quartet by Walckiers, which were both played by the wind sextet from the gamelan room. I also played in a trio written by David Dreebin specially for Sally (oboe), Dave (clarinet) and myself (bassoon) and which we had rehearsed with the composer present. David also composed a flute trio which was performed during the concert, although that performance wasn’t a World premiere. There were solos from Dave Silver and Alison Keep; two different string quartets performed; and the choir did two sets of numbers. The choir sang a capella – I was impressed! We finished with the Bach A minor violin concerto, performed to a very high standard by Helen Cass.

Then we all packed up and went home, hoping that we’ll be able to meet up again next year for some more of the same.

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Book review: Fern Michaels – Weekend Warriors

Posted by HelenEdith on August 11, 2008

(The first in The Sisterhood series)

This book started with a Prologue, then moved on in time to Chapter One, then moved on again before getting into the story proper. However, having set the scene, I doubt whether the other books in the series will need to do this.

The series is about a group of women who have been failed by the justice system for one reason or another. They get together, along with a British ex-spy who can find out anything about anybody in about two hours flat, and they take it in turns to take the law into their own hands.

Kathryn’s name is first out of the hat, so she gets to choose the punishment for the three motorcyclists who raped her in front of her disabled husband. The reason why she can’t pursue them through the law courts is because she’s left it too long and the statute of limitations has expired for the offenses.

Men might be a trifle uncomfortable reading this book when they discover what Kathryn’s chosen punishment is for the three rapists, but it is a rather good punishment which fits the crime pretty well.

We follow the progress of the women as they carry out the punishment – with plenty of suspense along the way as their well-laid plans don’t always work out exactly as intended, but they do get their men, and their men don’t go to the Police!

The book ends with the next woman being chosen to avenge the crime against her, and I’ll be putting in a reservation at the library for that one pretty soon.

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Website update: Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden

Posted by HelenEdith on August 10, 2008

The first full day of our Yorkshire holiday last year was spent visiting Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden.

My pictures have now belatedly arrived on my website, and can be viewed by visiting Helen Stephenson’s Yorkshire Holiday Pictures – October, 2007 – Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden.

I’ve got two or three particular favourites, including these:

Fountains_Abbey_20071007_IMGP2810_ed Fountains_Abbey_20071007_IMGP2823_raw_ed Fountains_Abbey_20071007_IMGP2866_ed

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Website update: Yorkshire Holiday Pictures – October, 2007 – Cottage near Grewelthorpe

Posted by HelenEdith on August 10, 2008

It’s taken me a long time to get around to this, but I’ve finally put up the pictures of the cottage where we stayed in Yorkshire last October:

Helen Stephenson’s Yorkshire Holiday Pictures – October, 2007 – Cottage near Grewelthorpe

It was a nice cozy cottage and just right for the two of us.

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Entry for August 08, 2008 – Full Orchestra

Posted by HelenEdith on August 8, 2008

The playing part of Marlowe Music Week came to an end this evening with a Full Orchestra session in our usual church hall, although many people are going to dinner next Sunday to round off the week. I’m awkward to feed, and I’m ducking out of that. I also didn’t make it to “Party Pieces” yesterday evening. I’d been out every evening since last Sunday, and decided that I needed an evening in.

This evening’s orchestral session started off with Schubert’s “Manfred” Overture, and then continued with Benjamin Britten’s Matinées musicales, after Rossini. I’d never seen the music to either of these pieces before, and wouldn’t mind having another go at them another time, but that isn’t really the point of Marlowe Music Week. We don’t rehearse pieces and perfect them: we take the music out of the library, play it for our own enjoyment, and then move on to the next piece.

We did the first movement of Dvorak’s 6th Symphony before the refreshment break, and then played the other three movements after stopping for tea, coffee or squash. The Scherzo was conducted by Nick (Malcolm’s and Sheila’s son) in one. Margaret (my fellow bassoonist) was a bit sceptical about whether we’d manage to read it through in one, but we did pretty well and only had to stop a couple of times to regroup.

As this was the last occasion when we would all gather, after the music was over for the evening, we had a speech from Jim Kelly, who thanked Malcolm and Sheila for their efforts in putting Marlowe Music Week together. He commented that we did it for £10 each, but if this week was put on by an organisation, it would probably cost over £200 each, and if it was put on by the Government, the cost would probably be nearer to £400 each! We did have to smile at the list of personnel that Jim said would be required, but he made the very good point that Malcolm and Sheila work very hard to pull the week together, and that we get unbelievable value.

Malcolm and Sheila were presented with theatre tokens and Sheila also received a large bunch of flowers. Gerry and Mary, who hosted a BBQ, received a bottle; and Arthur, the churchwarden received a small wrapped gift. Joyce, who hosted a lunch and “Party Pieces” usually receives a token of our thanks at her “Party Pieces” evening.

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Entry for August 07, 2008 – Cataloguing my sheet music

Posted by HelenEdith on August 7, 2008

It is to be hoped that I won’t be all musicked out after Marlowe Music Week, as I’ve got a Music Weekend planned for later this month. I have to go away for this one and I’ve got my accommodation all sorted out as I’m staying off-campus due to missing out on a spot in the on-campus student accommodation.

I’m planning on taking quite a bit of sheet music with me, and this afternoon I had my music down off the shelves to find out what I had that wasn’t in my Chamber Music spreadsheet. I’ve now updated it with everything except bassoon solos. They’re not of particular interest to other players, but the music for two, three and four players is of interest, and that’s what I was updating. Really I should download the database module of Open Office and put it in there rather than on a spreadsheet, but by the time I’ve learnt to use Open Office, that would take a lot longer than just updating a spreadsheet.

While I had the music down, I should have checked whether it all had my name stamped on each part, but I didn’t do that, so it will all have to come down again. The stuff I’ve had for a while is mostly named, but some of the newer stuff isn’t – and it all needs a name on each part before I let anyone borrow it during the Music Weekend!

I got so carried away with this project that I lost track of the time and realised that I wasn’t going to make it to “Party Pieces” tonight. It’s a shame to have missed it, but I’ve been out every evening since Sunday and I really needed a night in.

I had hoped to find time during my week off to edit my pictures from our Yorkshire holiday last October, but there just hasn’t been time. Maybe tomorrow morning… If I go to bed now, I might not have to use tomorrow morning for sleeping, and might therefore have time to look at some pictures. And go to the library. And do some laundry. Yes, there’s plenty to do!

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Entry for August 07, 2008 – Classical Orchestra

Posted by HelenEdith on August 7, 2008

Our Thursday morning session was Classical Orchestra. We had a good turnout, including one lady who comes along and plays the mandolin at the back of one of the violin sections.

We started with the Mozart overture to “The Impresario”, which I didn’t play much of because I was a few minutes late. Margaret had to hold the fort in the bassoon section by herself. The bassoon part was written as as a single part, but it divided at times, so once I had my act together, I was able to add a bit.

Then we moved on to Haydn’s Symphony No.94, also known as the “Surprise”. Arthur, the church warden said afterwards that it wasn’t entirely successful, as his wife, who suffers from narcolepsy, had dropped off to sleep and the surprise bit didn’t wake her. However, from a playing point of view, I think we produced a highly satisfactory rendition.

We took our refreshment break after we’d played Haydn, and then we tackled Mozart’s Symphony No.41, also known as the “Jupiter”. That’s a long symphony, and kept us playing until it was time to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed playing it, but have to admit that the quavers in the final movement, which should be tongued, were played slurred by today’s bassoon section. That was better than struggling with the articulation and getting left behind. Actually, I’m not sure whether I’d manage to articulate those notes properly even if I had time to practise. I’ve never mastered double tongueing on a double reed instrument, and those quavers move really fast.

Many people went on to a BBQ lunch, but I came home for a quiet afternoon.

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