London! Part 1

Let me just start off by saying that London is an amazing city!  We are staying next to Gabriel’s Wharf, one block from the Thames River.  This side of the river just opposite of St Paul’s Cathedral has been transformed into miles of promenade with restaurants, theaters, music and thousands of people.  Bands are playing, screenings of plays are shown, dancing occurs at tea time and on and on.  Here are two pics, the first is roughly the view from where we are and the second is a night shot from Jubilee Bridge which is one of many bridges that cross the river right in our area.

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St. Paul’s is the domed building you see dead center.

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The “Eye” is a huge ferris wheel that turns very slowly.  Each pod holds about 10 people and is meant not as a ride, but to view the city from above.  Big Ben is the clock tower on the right side.  This view is looking to the left from our apartment.  Mid day on Monday a Tea Dance was held right on the promenade.  A caller taught you the next dance, and a ballroom dance band played the music.  Hundreds of people danced for two hours.  That night, a screening of One Man, Two Guvnors played at the same location.  The play was hysterical and starred the guy who does Carpool Karaoke.

On Sunday afternoon, we went to Evensong at Westminster Abbey Cathedral.   This is the mother of all churches in London and perhaps all of Christianity.  Evensong is a church service sung completely by the choir.  It was a magnificent sound in the space.  No pics allowed inside but here is a shot of the front:

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We have visited the Tower of London (a 12C castle), the Tower Bridge (which most people call London Bridge, but isn’t), the National Museum, Big Ben, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Picadilly Circus (which is just a square), Leicester Square (where all the theaters are), Buckingham Palace, the changing of the guard and Royal Albert Hall.  Today we hit the British Museum and the Portrait Museum and will be attending The Proms (the largest and longest musical festival in Europe) at Royal Albert Hall.  The concert tonight is a Bach Cantata and Bruckner Symph 9.  A pic of the Hall:

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A pic of the Royal Opera House, which is closed in the summer:

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The changing of the guard, which happens daily at 11am:

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Last night, we went and saw the hilarious Book of Mormon musical; an over the top satire of two missionaries who get sent to Uganda.  This is the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time and deserves a blog post of its own.

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Gourock Part Du: Music

Our Gourock stay was mainly a family vacation from our “3 month vacation”.  But we were able to squeeze in some music while here.  Just across the firth from where Bruce and Sheila live is the town of Dunoon.  It used to be the holiday vacation town of wealthy Glasgow families, but is now just a quaint town along the harbor.  Every year, they host the Cowal Highland Games, which took place yesterday, the day we departed.  However, on opening night, they compete with Scottish Dancing, in all age classes, and end the evening with a huge Craic or party with beer, food, beer, live music and did I mention beer?  We took a short 15 minute ferry ride to get to Dunoon, which was muy bueno compared to the 2 hour drive it would have taken had we gone all the way around the harbor.  The picture of Bruce and Sheila in the previous post was taken on the ferry.

The party takes place in a large tent, mainly because it rains a lot in the UK and you can never be sure…..Here is a pic of Liz and I listening to the sound check:IMG_1050.jpg

Oh, here is a pic from the ferry heading toward Dunoon:

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The bands play a fairly rock’in version of Celtic music, backed by a full drum set.  Otherwise, whistles, guitar, pipes and accordian seem to be the instruments of choice.  We listened to 3 bands, one of which was from Dunoon, and like everywhere, quality varied depending on the skill of the musicians.

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Off to walk London this morning.  We will try and find Evensong (choirs at the various cathedrals), tickets to a show and tickets to a concert at the Proms.  More on all this in a future post……

Scotland part 1: family….

Hello All!  I blog to you from just arriving in London and I must say, what a cosmopolitan city!  We are staying right on the River Thames on the South bank adjacent to the National Theater.

Part 1 of this blog is about family.  I begin by sending our thoughts to Brett and Teri back in Utah.  If you remember from one of my first blogs, we will be spending most of our Italy trip with Brett and Teri.  Brett has family in Ascoli Piceno just 15 miles or so from Amatrice, one of the towns devastated by the 6.2 earthquake.  Fortunately, his loved ones are ok, but last I heard, 57 people had died in Ascoli Piceno due to the earthquake.  We still plan to meet his family as part of our trip, albeit from roads that enter from the coast.  We hope that AP recovers quickly, and we look forward to meeting them in late September.

The River Clyde empties into the ocean just beyond Glasgow.  Liz’s second cousins, Bruce and Sheila Murray live in Gourock, about 40 minutes drive from Glasgow and along the Firth of Clyde which is the area where the river opens up toward the ocean.  This is one of the most scenic spots in all Scotland.  We visited Bruce and Sheila first in 2010 when I was guest artist at the Royal Conservatory in Glasgow and again when I was guest artist at Kings College in Aberdeen.  Here is a photo of the view from their sun room:IMG_1001.jpg

And a pic of their town from the south:

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The tide is out, but you can see the town just beyond the pier.  Gourock has one of the only two outdoor seaside pools, salt water, and heated to about 85 degrees:

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The first time we met Bruce and Sheila (2010) in Gourock, we noticed a painting that we instantly recognized as a painting done by Lesley Bohm (Liz’s Mom).  I asked about the painting and learned that it had been painted when Lesley was about 16 or 17 years old.  She had given it to Bruce’s Aunt Gena (which was Liz’s grandfather’s sister) while visiting in Aberdeen.  We have 2 paintings (among many) of Liz’s Mom from her teenage years:  both done in Venice.  But this painting was much larger and quite beautiful.  I said so, and joked that if the painting ever went missing, I would have no knowledge of it.  Upon arrival this week, I asked of the painting and Sheila brought it out for me to see.  They both said that we should have the painting, and take it with us.  They had enjoyed it for years and believed that it would mean the most to Liz and I to have the painting now.  We are bringing it home with us, in the original frame and matting, from some 60 years ago.  This is an incredible act of kindness and we will forever be grateful.  Here is a photo of the painting that Liz took yesterday:

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Liz’s folks will be visiting this Xmas, and I am sure that it has been many years since they have seen it.  Many thanks to Bruce and Sheila.  We hope to see you again in the near future!

IMG_1018.jpgThis pic was taken on a ferry boat to Dunoon, just across the Clyde from their home.  They took us to the opening party of the Highland Games (dancing, piping and bands) on Friday evening.  More on that in the next post!

Hike to Hell!

I wasn’t planning to blog again til Glasgow, but I can’t resist telling you about our stop in Galway.  Although the best music we heard was in Dublin, Galway has to be my favorite large Irish town (tough to beat Kinsale for small hamlets, though).  It is a city of 60K which is perfect for walking and visiting the shops and pubs.  And, since it is a seaside town, we walked 2 miles up and back along the promenade.  We didn’t take any pics of the town but here is a shot from across the River Corrib, which dumps into Galway Bay.

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There are no shortage of large swans in this region as well.  Our day trip was to Connemara National Park (there are 6 in Ireland, and they are all free entry).  Just outside the park, we visited the Kylemore Abbey.  This 19C home was built by the Randolf Hearst of England; a guy named Mitchell Henry who was not into newspapers, but like Hearst, visited an area and decided to build a summer home there.  This “castle” changed hands twice after his death; the second time it was purchased by a nunnery who still operate the home today.  It includes a school and a place to make chocolate (what the nuns do when they aren’t praying).  The garden grounds are worth the price of admission, some 6 acres total.

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The highlight of the day, though, was the afternoon spent in the national park.  If Bohm is in the name, no trip is a success with out a “hike to hell and back”, as our kids often said when hiking around with Grandma.  Diamond Hill (Hell) is a 6.7K hike to the top of the mountain and is the feature of this Irish Nat. Park.  From sea level, one ascends 1800 feet in less than an hour and a quarter.  The view all along the way, and from the top, are absolutely beautiful.  The coastal range lies right on the coast providing panoramic views. The first pic is of “base camp”.  And yes, we hiked over the top of that thing.

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Heather covers large swaths of the mountain before ascending the craggy dome.

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And of course, the view.  The house in the left corner of the pond is Kylemore Abbey:

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I await our Aer Lingus flight, relieved to know that the Europ Car that Liz insisted on renting, is back in the rental fleet unscathed.  We did have our hair raising moments, however!  See you in Scotland!

Fermoy, Cork and Kinsale….

We picked up our rental car and started off down the wrong side of the road.  Destination:  Cork.  Cork lies in the Cork and Kerry region (100 miles from Dublin), in the South West of Ireland.  On the way, we needed lunch and coffee so we stopped in the little town of Fermoy.  Liz’s band Leaping Lulu plays dozens of Irish tunes and many have names after regions or towns in Ireland; Sligo Rag, Queen of Connemara, Queen of Argyle and Fermoy Lasses.  A cute town to be sure, and plenty of Lasses.  Beyond that, who knows?IMG_0950.jpg

When I was in Ireland in 1998, the food was a bit on the boring side you could say.  Not no mo’.  Great food and great coffee.  And as you see above, they still have books stores…..and record stores (Tower Records still lives!), and barber shops.  They must cut their hair and shave all the time because there are almost as many barbershops as there are pubs.

Anyway, off we go to Cork.  Cork is a port town.  Most significantly, it handled the majority of imports and exports for Ireland.  It also has the the butter museum (the biggest export of Ireland) and more importantly, the Jameson Distillery.  This was also the last stop for the ill fated Titanic and the Lusitania was sunk by the Germans just off the coast.  Otherwise, it is really just a smaller version of Dublin.  After walking the town and eating at a pub with good music and fabulous Irish Stew, we decided to visit the nearby port village of Kinsale.

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Kinsale is the most picturesque village you could imagine.  We spent all day walking along the seaside and in the village.

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Out on the peninsula lies Ireland’s oldest remaining fort, Fort Charles.  It protected the coastal port of Kinsale and staged many battles against various antagonists since 1200.  the ruins are quite extensive and impressive.  Much of it remains in such a way that you can easily decipher the use of each structure.

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Today, we are off to Galway.  We will stop by the Lakes of Killarney and the Cliffs of Moher on our way.  Tomorrow we will hang in the town of Galway and then off to Connemara National park on Monday.  Tuesday we drive back to Dublin and fly on to see our relatives in Gourock, just outside of Glasgow.  ‘Til then!

Demon Musicians (Barber) of Fleet Street…..

Dublin has been a fantastic walking city for exploring the city.  Everything is tightly packed in a radius that allowed us to literally walk to every major area and attraction in one day (although touring all attractions would take a few days).  Our airbnb was located about a 20 minute walk from Temple Bar area and the Liffey River.  Our first stop on our walk was St Patrick’s Cathedral, built in 1200 or so.  Back in 1998, we brought the USU Marching Band to Ireland to march in the St Paddy’s Day Parade (U2 walked right through the band to get to their concert venue at the end of the parade route!).  Our scholarship quintet played a few gigs on this tour and St Pat’s Cathedral was one of them.  It was cool to be back.IMG_0773.jpg

Next, we made our way to Christ Church Cathedral (one of the few Protestant churches we’ve seen on this trip)  This church was built in 1100 or so, but more significantly, premiered Handel’s Messiah some 400 years later, with Handel himself at the organ.  He probably thought the church was old!

Want I really want to share with you is the story of the USU quintet in the Temple Bar area, where we stayed back in 1998.  Suffice to say, I couldn’t remember where we stayed.  But as we walked through the Temple Bar cobble stone streets, things started to look familiar.  We indeed, had stayed at hotel on Fleet Street.  Back then, the quintet decided to try and make some extra dough, and play on the street corner.  As they played (and racked up about 50 bucks a piece), the owner of a bar from down the street heard them playing and came down to listen.  After they finished, he approached me and asked if they would play at his pub.  Well, yeah!  I grabbed a traditional Irish Song book from a local shop and took the students down to play.  The place was beyond packed, and the quintet scattered about in the bar and took their places.  They played their set to great applause.  But then, I told our first tpt player Roxanne (who was just under 5 feet tall),to climb up on the big wood bar.  She looked at me incredulously and I said that I was serious. I opened up the song book to Danny Boy and Drunken Sailor, and she played the tunes.  The bar patrons went bonkers singing along and toasting the students.  The owner was beyond pleased and took us upstairs to his restaurant for quite the feast.  I am sure that all of the students have never forgotten this experience.  To make a long story longer, I recognized the bar immediately and found the Fleet Street Hotel that we stayed in just down the block.  We spent the whole evening in the bar listening to incredible music and of course…..drinking pints!  The owner still owns the place but did not come in to the bar that day.  Here are the pics:

 

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And finally, a pic of the Fleet St Hotel from back in 1998:

 

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Sadly, Trinity College is undergoing big renovations to the main building which houses the music department.  The music dept will head to some unknown location in fall, so I was unable to visit and tour the department.  TC is a big choral music school and I hoped to find some original scores of major chorus and orchestra works.  I am sure everything is in a box someplace.  Meh!

Tourist Days in Austria

Since the festival performs at churches around Burgenland, a Mass is used for the church services.  So far, the Paukenmasse of Haydn has been performed in Vienna at St Stephandom, at the church in Pottersdorf and at the Bergkirche in Eisenstadt.  The original manuscript pix of the cover and the first oboe part, page 1 are included here.  There are no trombones in this Mass, so I get the day off……

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Friday and Saturday, Aug 12 and 13, were tourists days for the festival.  On Friday, we toured Forchtenstein Castle (complete with draw bridge entry and moat) and took in Donnizetti’s Elixir of Love at St. Margarethen.  The third largest open air opera theater in Europe (the other two are in Italy), it is a still functioning rock quarry and a World Heritage site.  The weather held at about 60 degrees, and you buy a bottle of wine and sip it while you enjoy the opera.

On Saturday, the tour was to Melk Abbey, a 90 minute ferry ride on the Danube and lunch in Durnstein.  The Durnstein region of the Danube is known for its apricot orchards and one can purchase apricots in all forms, the best of which is as a nectar and a liqueur.

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The family on the top deck of the boat:

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The Danube from the top of the castle ruins above Durnstein:

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Today, we rehearse Haydn’s Stabat Mater and perform it at 5pm today at the Bergkirche.  Tomorrow, the final day of the festival, is an important holiday in Austria and we will perform the Paukenmasse one last time.