Street musician, Aachen

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This accomplished accordionist was playing in the square by Aachen’s large and impressive cathedral.  I was on dog duty, looking after our pooch while my other half was inside the cathedral (no dogs allowed).

It was a pleasure to sit in the square for a while and listen to him playing, and I dropped some coins into his hat when I eventually moved on to wander around this central area of Aachen, in Germany.

It’s a lively, attractive city, with cobbled streets in the medieval old town and market area. There are many small squares, several slightly quirky fountains, and of course, the magnificent cathedral built by Charlemagne. The interior reflects his wealth, power and influence, but there are plenty of architectural and historical riches to be found on the streets in the surrounding area too.

Definitely somewhere to return to!

York’s Northern Lights

IMG-20191024-WA0002The minster has been cleared. The spectacle is to be viewed standing in the nave, empty of chairs, and used as cathedrals were in the middle ages. Standing space, no seats, just looking up in wonder and awe. The organ roars and vibrates, playing an overture to set the scene. The music and the blue/green lighting creates an anticipatory atmosphere before the show begins.

York Minster’s Northern Lights spectacular is a totally immersive experience of sound, light, voices, music, sound effects and dramatic, apocolyptic, spirit-ful elemental images projected on to the east window and the roof. Its message includes – in graphic flames and thunderbolts – current concerns about climate breakdown. Nature is there: the sound of a sparrow as it flutters across the high ceiling of the nave, flowers bloom and entwine across the vaulted roof; images of stained glass windows form patterns there, and the east window is an ever-changing backdrop of colours and shapes and eras.

I experienced this a few days ago. It’s on for just one week. If you’re in or near York – go and see it!

Street musician, Lincoln

This cool older guy was at one with his saxophone and lost in his music in Lincoln’s busy highP1010462 street. On a sunny day, there were  plenty of people about and, as someone who has been occasionally visiting Lincoln over the years, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the city has come on and is more in step with the times.

Lincoln has always been dominated by its huge spectacular cathedral. The ascent up the cobbled and appropriately-named Steep Hill to reach the cathedral on foot is part of the visit. It can be a challenging walk!

It’s a lovely place to visit, especially now it attracts a lot of tourists. When I first went there in the late 60s, it was a bit of a dull and proper city, compared with swinging London, where I grew up.

When the university was set up in the city, it breathed new, young life into the place, making it a livelier destination than it ever was when I first went there.

Earworms

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Ageing music book, Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau, France

Earworms – those snippets of songs or strains of music which suddenly appear in your head and won’t go away. Sometimes described as “I’ve got this song/tune/piece of music on the brain”. And it often doesn’t go away does it?

Singing with my local Rock Choir in Cheshire, I very often have an intense bout of Earworms, especially when we’re limbering up to perform at a big concert or when we start to learn a new song, so I had to smile when I saw someone doing research into this phenomena when I went to a concert recently.

A stand was set up in the foyer of the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester with the intriguing words “Do you get Earworms” on a large poster. I went to check it out in the interval and agreed to take part in the short survey being run by the Royal Northern College of Music.

They were interested in responses to the music being performed that evening – the theme was space and the cosmos, and top of the bill was Holst’s Planets Suite. I can pretty much conjure up the opening bars for Mars at will –

Da-da-da-daaaa, da-da-da-da, da-da-da-daaa, da-da-da-da, and so on…..

But my head was still filled with floating remnants of the 18 songs I’d performed with Rock Choir at the Liverpool Philharmonic the previous week, and with the first section of the new song we’d started to learn at Rock Choir that morning.

I wondered if there might be room for any more, but the brain and the memory is Tardis-like and there was room for the Star Wars theme, which I’d heard in the first half of the concert, to replay itself as I chatted to the researcher and answered a few questions.

But I need to keep those 18 songs I performed to hand in the filing cabinet in my head as our choir has some charity gigs coming up and we’ve been told we could be singing any of the 18. Attention has to be firmly in place to pick up what song to sing, based on the intro music. Earworms can be very useful!

Street musicians, New Orleans

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Oh they were good, this trio, very good, with a nice easy style. They’d gathered quite a crowd around them on this busy Sunday morning and I stood around watching and listening for quite a while.

They deserved every dollar bill and more that was put in the hat out front of their space.

New Orleans – NOLA – what a place, with a special buzz and music at every street corner.

I first featured NOLA in a post a last year, when these musicians made an appearance along with other street scenes.