Thursday, 17 December 2009

That time of year, again...

Yup, nearly Christmas and the whole thing starts all over again: resolutions to not buy anything made in China, to eat less, to be nicer, blah blah blah. Never works, but it's the thought that counts, eh? Not really, thought is cheap and actions do tend to land us back at square one, no matter how noble the intentions. Still, I've never been one for New Year's Resolutions and that certainly won't change as we exit the Noughties (who invented that word? Has he/she been executed, yet?). The Fingernails are going to love their gifts, as will Mrs. F, once she's got over the shock of the prospect of six months' worth of acting lessons. She's been banging on about how much she'd like to do it for so long that I felt it was high time to indulge her and fast-track her consciousness to something a little more edifying than the daily routine of keeping house and child-rearing. Nothing wrong with any of it, of course, but everyone needs an outlet, a means of self-expression, and my dearly beloved hasn't had that for many a good long year. It's extremely eco-friendly, too: just a few sheets of paper with the enrolment details and requisite scripts, then it's off to a local basement for a bit of sisterly theatre.

My choir is now 27-strong and sang magnificently this last Monday evening. We now have a strong backbone through accomplished singers in every section, allowing us to undertake much more ambitious and interesting repertoire than ever before. When I think what we started with, back in 2007, and what they're capable of now, my mind boggles. It's not as if we rehearse all year round, either; just five evenings before each service.

Tomorrow heralds the end of piano rehearsals for La Vie Parisienne. Not the greatest piece in the world, not the best actors in the world, so not really the best reason in the world to get out of bed in the morning, either. Still, it's work and I'm fortunate to be in enjoyable, gainful employment. And a very merry Christmas to you all, those unseen masses who never read my blog because I've not told anyone about its existence. That's quite a concept.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Show Time, again

Just got back from the premiere of Poulenc's extraordinary 'Les Dialogues des Carmelites', which tells the story of an order of carmelite sisters in Compi├Ęgne who get beheaded in the aftermath of the French Revolution for, er, well, it's never really made clear. Still, it's a tear-jerker, rendered more powerful by Poulenc's piano-bar harmonies. So if your taste in theatre extends to nuns being killed to a backdrop of Erroll Garner, this is the show for you. After a bit of research we might discover Dave Brubeck's setting of the Treblinka massacre; you never know.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Still nobody out there

It really has been a long while since I posted anything here, but life has gone on just the same: joy, disappointment, gain, loss and everyone's a wee bit older but not necessarily wiser.

My personal plus for 2009 was getting back on the conducting podium. I honestly hadn't realised how much I'd missed it since stepping down off the box and easing myself past the violas after a performance of Madama Butterfly in 2004 before taking my bow on stage. The fare this time was nowhere near as well-known or acclaimed as Puccini's megahit, but Alfred Bruneau did write some good tunes and his works really do merit a bit more attentione than they currently enjoy. The icing on the cake is that I've recorded it, the CD to be released in early 2010. And it sounds incredibly good.

Future possibilities include appearances in Rotterdam, Spain and Canada. I love life.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

More Question Marks

Had a long chat with my brother in Australia, this evening. It really looks as if this story about our Dad being born in New York City was a red herring to throw the British Secret Services off the scent when he successfully applied for entry to MI6. Knowing that we are descended from Irish aristocracy, my brother's research turned up a certain Laval, Graf von Westmeath, a Field Marshall in the Austrian army in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Born in Ireland, he enrolled in the Austrian army at the age of 16, moving up to Colonel by the age of 27. His grandson, Laval Llewellyn Wilhelm, Graf von Westmeath, was born in Siena in 1870, popping his clogs in Vienna a year after the Second World War had started. This timeline makes him a possible grandfather candidate. Maybe our father was born in 'enemy territory', a fact better hushed up by anyone wishing to work as a spy. Vaguely mentioning origins in a still-neutral country must have been infinitely preferable to saying 'Actually, the reason I speak fluent German is because I was raised in Austria'. I also remember my mother telling me when I was very young that my father also spoke Serbo-Croat. Only today, forty years on, does this seem to make a little sense. There's a picture of the original Laval on his Wikipedia page and the family resemblance is, I feel, quite marked. He died in 1862. In Croatia. His eldest son shares a birthday with Fingernail 1, but only psychogenealogists might find that even remotely significant.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Back Again

I know I'm not the most prolific blogger that ever set finger to key but that break was just a little too long. Things have happened: my choir sang magnificently, our bloody neighbours moved out, only to be replaced by an admittedly far superior version: speaks excellent French, has a job and is very considerate. He's a gem; we need to keep him. Unless we get the wherewithal to buy the place and extend ours, of course. Work has been enjoyable, the Fingernails have been mostly wonderful and Mrs. F has been temping, so bills haven't been quite a scary these last few months. We even managed to get away for a week. One short-lived, chronic illness on my part aside, it was a wonderful week.

And that's about it, or at least all I can summon up the energy to remember. Seeing as I'm the only one who ever reads this I might just as well note down the things that come to mind most readily.