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.

A football final and 18 songs at the Liverpool Philhamonic

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall; Part of the 300-strong choir

Hanging on to daughter’s arm, enjoying the atmosphere, I made my way through a couple of riotous street parties in Liverpool last Saturday afternoon, en route to the iconic Art Deco Liverpool Philharmonic Hall where I was going to sing in a big Cheshire and Merseyside Rock Choir concert.

I had to arrive early for sound checks (we had a live 5 piece band and very good they were too), line ups and a quick run through of some songs as a warm up. We knew it might be a bit busy in Liverpool as The Reds had reached the final of the European Cup being played in Madrid. Busy and lively it was. Daughter had taken me early, the rest of the family and friends were to follow later.

We parked then linked arms to make sure we stayed together as we walked to the venue. Liverpool was buzzing, the atmosphere was good humoured and boozy. Inhaling the beer we had to laugh and just go with the energy. We stalled at one point in a narrow street, where it was very lively, a red smoke bomb had been let off and the crowds were singing. Stuck in the middle of it, we just joined in with the crowd singing “When the Reds go marching in”. There were smiles all around and high spirits, but at no point did we feel threatened. It was a great warm up to the concert for me and I arrived energised after experiencing a footie crowd in full voice.

While daughter went off to look at Liverpool’s two cathedrals before meeting the rest of my fan club, I did the warm up, line up, got changed, ate a snack, applied the red lipstick and sat with voice part friends (all lower soprano) from my choir.

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We lined up backstage as music from the band played something beaty, the lights swivelled and swirled and the dry ice machine pumped out atmospheric clouds. Then it was time to walk on stage, take our places and perform. No nerves for me, just pure excitement, and knowing that I was perfectly capable of singing all 18 songs we were performing, word, note and moves perfect. I was more than ready.

Our opening song was Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now  – there was no chance of that as the energy was high right from the start! We sang rock, pop and gospel, old songs from the 80s, current pop songs, ballads and the emotional Rock Choir “anthem”, Labbi Sifre’s Something Inside So Strong, a powerful song which brings a tear to a few eyes as we sing it. The concert ended on a high for our final song, Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, followed by our encore, The Communard’s Don’t Leave Me This Way.

While I’d been singing my heart out, Liverpool had won the European Cup, so back on the streets it was even rowdier with an even higher charge to the atmosphere. What  a night. More street parties and celebrating happy people. Daughter and I linked arms, said “See you at home” to the rest of our group and went once more into the partying fray to get to the car.

I’d been looking forward to this concert but never imagined it would be partying all the way before and after the performance. It’s an experience that will stay with me for a long time. I’m still glowing now.

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

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These words are in my head right now as I’m learning to play the Elton John song of the same name on my piano. I’ve got a touch of earworm – it’s a very poignant song with a touching melody – and it’s got me thinking about how hard it can be to say sorry, even when we know we’re wrong.

The words are roaming around in my head……….It’s a sad sad situation, and it’s getting more and more absurd………..sorry seems to be the hardest word………..and they make me consider them in the context of a couple of real life situations which are in the news:

1) Towards the end of last week, Prince Philip crashes his car into another on a public road, his large car rolls over on to its side and he somehow manages to get out shaken but basically unhurt.

The two people in the other car are hurt, not seriously, the baby in the back is mercifully unscathed, and the official announcement is that Philip has been “in touch” with these drivers to “wish them well” or somesuch weird words.

How about sorry? It probably is the hardest word to say if you come from a place of “never explain, never apologise.” One of the injured passengers says she is still waiting to hear from him, and that no apology has been offered.

2) The whole Brexit mess in the UK is getting more and more absurd almost by the hour; it’s taking over the headlines to the extent that the media can barely keep up with the twists, turns, events, happenings. Prime Minister Theresa May seems to be ever more stuck between a rock and hard place, her apparent innate inflexibility making her dig deeper into the hole she’s already in.

Absurd is one way of describing the Brexit mess. It’s the stuff that nightmares are made of.

Antidotes are necessary – walking in nature, watching birds, appreciating what is good in life and being kind and generous to others, maybe giving them a smile (however they voted in that confounded referendum).

A great nation is like a great man: when he makes mistakes, he realises it. Having realised it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers.            Lao Tzu

Sorry doesn’t have to be the hardest word.

 

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Wanting and Needing

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As the annual festivities approach, I’m busy learning a seasonal song  – All I want for Christmas – to perform at the local gigs our Cheshire Rock Choir are giving in the next few weeks.

It’s a bit of annoying song to sing – quite light and superficial in a way, with a catchy melody that that doesn’t exactly sing itself; it has to be learned, so there’s some note bashing going on too.

But it’s some of the words which have given me pause for thought:

I don’t WANT a lot for Christmas, there is something that I NEED

which made me recall what Assagioli’s psychosynthesis says about wants and needs. Psychosynthesis is sometimes called “a psychology with a soul”. It explores, amongst other things, how our psychological make up is composed of an infinite number of subpersonalities. It works with the transpersonal qualities of love and will, and focusses on transpersonal qualities which we can express, but which we often block, especially if there is a conflict of wants and needs going on between some of our subpersonalities.

Examples of transpersonal qualities are beauty, courage, joy, power, inclusiveness, understanding, wonder and humour. Returning to wants and needs, we might want something, but at a deeper level, that want is the outer expression of a need – but there is often no apparent connection between what we want, and what we seek, or need.

I might want a cup of coffee, expertly prepared by a barista…but what need could be hidden behind that? Maybe I’m just in need of some caffeine because I’m tired, but sitting down in a cafe to drink my coffee forces me to stop what I’m doing and take a rest. What do I get from the rest? A break, a pause, a space to recoup my energy, a time to be still, to be in the moment? And what might the underlying transpersonal quality be? I suggest it could be peace.

Back to the song – I don’t want a lot for Christmas….OK, not much, message received. But …….there is something that I need. What might that be? The words of the song move on to the final chorus –  All I want for Christmas is you, baby.

What’s the transpersonal quality there? My guess is that it’s love.

 

Liverpool’s Albert Dock

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Liverpool has some stunning architecture and somehow the old and traditional, and the new and modern seem to have blended together very well in the Pier Head and Albert Dock area.

I never tire of seeing the iconic Liver Birds on top of the classic older buildings at the Pier Head. I remember seeing the angular new buildings going up near the traditional stuff several years ago and wondered if they would ever be a match for their long established grand neighbours.

Now these buildings are finished. They are unashamedly modern and unfussy, with reflective glass and sharp edges…..but oh how well they work alongside the established, iconic traditional grandeur.

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A close up of the Liver Birds and the classic dome rising proudly above a modern cheese wedge of a building had me reaching for my camera again…..

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…..as did the light on the cobbled promenade by the Mersey. The former warehouses on the left are now apartments.

It didn’t use to be like this when I first came to live “ooop north” and visited Liverpool. It used to be a rather scruffy place – parts of it still are – but lots of innovative planning and design has made the city a big tourist attraction. Of course, the Beatles, the Mersey sound of the 60s, the siting of the Tate Gallery in the Albert Dock, the history and the Maritime Museum have something to do with this as well!