Saturday, 17 August 2013

A London Symphony

This evening Thomas and I listened to the London Symphony by Vaughan Williams (mostly to console ourselves after watching our favourite cricket team Surrey loose in the county T20 final). If you thought he was mostly a composer of 'pastorale' music then think again!

I then found this amazing youtube version embellished by the most stunning paintings of the old city - especially apt as his music is just like a painting but with sounds. It's at - if you're not especially into this sort of music just think of it as film music and you'll get along fine (but it is far better than any film score I can think of)!

Some of my favourite bits are:

The extremely quiet and brooding opening showing a misty daybreak over the city, RVW described it as “all that mighty heart lying still”. Especially goose-bumps for me is the harp depicting Big Ben's chimes (at about 2:50). But it is a movement of great contrasts - watch out for the rude awaking at 3.20 and suddenly London is “alive with the noise and scurry of street traffic – hansom cabs and most likely the occasional motor.” but more contrast with the delicious passage for just harp and solo strings at 8:35.

Perhaps my favourite movement though is the slow movement which starts at exactly 14:00. Vaughan Williams composed it just before the first world war and is made all the more poignant in that his friend and fellow composer George Butterworth described this movement as “an idyll of grey skies and secluded byways — an aspect of London quite as familiar as any other: the feeling of the music is remote, mystical.” a few years later Butterworth died in the trenches of France in 1916. Thomas commented on another favourite 'hairs standing up on back of neck moment' a magical rising fourth in the French Horn from 16:15 (and other places eg 18:20). The French horn has a lovely rather distant sound and the rising note is made all the more effective as the bass gently drops down (a 5th) in the opposite direction, a bit like a musical sigh. I also love the occasional quoted street cries e.g. 'who will buy my sweet red roses' at 21:10.

Vaughan Williams said of the third movement (from 24:45): “If the hearer will imagine standing on the Westminster Embankment at night, the distant sounds of the Strand with its hotels on one side and the ‘New Cut’ on the other, it may serve as a mood in which to listen.”. Can you hear the sound of the buskers playing apparently a harmonica and accordion (imitated by muted horn and strings)?

The final movement is full of many colours and moods. It starts with a short and rather alarming even desperate passage but then goes into a fabulous march but then you get some of the music from first movement and to be honest I struggled to un-pick or find out much about it except that RVW refers to a passage from an H.G. Wells novel 'Tono-Bungay': “To run down the Thames is to run one’s hand over the pages in the book of England …There come first the stretches of mean homes... the dingy industrialism of the South Side and on the North Bank the polite long front of nice houses, artistic, literary, administrative people’s residences, that stretches from Cheyne Walk nearly to Westminster... We tear into the great spaces of the future and the turbines fall to talking in unfamiliar tongues. Out to the open sea we go, to windy freedom and trackless ways. Light after light goes down. England and the kingdom, Britain and the Empire, the old prides and the old devotions glide abeam, astern, sink down upon the horizon... The river passes – London passes – England passes.”

Monday, 12 August 2013

Fame at last!

We were all very excited the other day when we were visited by none other than the BBC!
BUT to find out more you will have to visit our Pilgrim Harps blog at
Our harp blog is fairly new so this is also unashamedly a request for some visitors and followers
- as I have just added a 'join this site' tag at the side, at the moment I'm the only follower :( .

I also promised the answer to the question in my previous post. Well, according to the sign at Blickling Hall a 'Sitooterie' is a Scottish word meaning something to 'sit out in'; a place designed for relaxation, reflection and contemplation. Some definitions also associate this sitting area with a conservatory but at Blickling it is created by yews trained over a steel framework to form what they describe as a 'green summerhouse'. There is also a beautiful
mandala floor design inspired by a ceiling rose in Blickling Hall made from recycled copper also stained glass decorations and lovely benches made one of the members of staff. Well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Another special stay in Norfolk.

OK - this post starts with a little quiz: (and without 'Google')' does anyone know what a Sitooterie is?
We saw this sign at a recent visit to Blickling Hall in Norfolk
We visited Blickling Hall whilst staying again at our lovely Norfolk bungalow - well with this view from the front garden, the temptation to return for another stay was too irresistible to er, restist! 

One of the great attractions of this part of the world is the huge number of interesting places to visit.
This is the car park to one of a number of fully accessible board walks at the Norfolk Broads.

This is Barton Broad - it is amazing that anyone can get through here let alone Thomas in his chair - fantastic!! 

The route led all the way down to this wonderful platform with plenty of wildlife to see.
One highlight was a kingfisher zooming past right in front of us.

The Broads is a unique area famous for many things; for instance it's where Nelson learned to sail. But it's also the only place in Britain where you can see the beautiful Swallowtail butterfly. Unfortunately there were none on show this time but we did see newly hatched caterpillars on this Milk Parsley. This plant is a rare relative of Cow Parsley and is the only food-plant of Swallowtail larvae.

Another favourite part of Norfolk is this idyllic track or 'loke'. This leads from our bungalow and makes a beautiful walk across the fields and woods.

We were treated to some amazing sunsets - I took this shot of the barley growing in the field in front of the bungalow.

If anything, the moon looked even more atmospheric down the loke.

Sunrise was rather beautiful too - can't wait to be back!!