Each time I go on tour I am reminded of the unsung heroes of travelling orchestras. They don’t take a bow, but behind every successful tour is a slick operation that happens as if by magic. It begins days before the musicians have even boarded the plane, when thousands of pounds worth of precious instruments, music and music stands are carefully packed into reinforced trunkers, loaded onto a lorry, ferry or plane, and finally driven hundreds of miles, across borders, through the night, and intostrange cities.
The drivers of these lorries are the linchpins of an orchestral tour. As well as being HGV drivers, Stage Managers of orchestras have to negotiate unfamiliar laws which prevent lorries from driving on foreign motorways or cities on Sundays, because concerts happen on Sundays too. They check the trunkers to make sure they only contain what they are supposed to, and not stray books, clothes, shoes or even wine (yes that did happen once) which might cause them delays at borders. Sometimes they don a smart DJ to move a piano mid-concert, and they probably know how many cello desks there are in a Beethoven piano concerto and how many trumpets in Strauss’s Til Eulenspiegel.
Touring is a fantastic experience for musicians, and the excitement of playing in foreign concert halls is exhilarating. However, once we leave a concert platform most of us don’t spare a thought for what happens next, but, working when the orchestra rests, Stage Managers are always one step ahead of us in our schedule. As we hunt out a “tour bar”, their workday is recommencing on stage, starting with dismantling the magnificent orchestral set. The lorry is carefully reloaded, driven through the night and, hours before the orchestra arrives, unloaded again and a new stage set, ready for another concert in another hall, and so the cycle starts again.
where sheep are up high in the meadow,
ears to the ground
The sheep have been up high in the meadow all week, keeping themselves to themselves. Nobody really knows why they are up there. But then nobody really knows what motivates sheep anyway, deep inside. It may have been that the weather has been unnaturally warm for this time of year and that the grass is sweeter up there after the heavy September rains.
Elsie Sidebottom has seen the ghost again, up by the planes. This is of course utter nonsense. But Elsie is adamant, as the rest of the Sidebottoms have been for years, that there is a ghost up on the moors. That in fact it has always been there, even before the plane crashed. One of the Sidebottoms, from the Brookhouses branch, recently told the Winterbottoms, who are by nature scared of ghosts and that kind of thing, that there wouldn’t have been a plane crash in the first place, if it hadn’t been for the ghost. Since then little Carl Winterbottom imagined the ghost to be some kind of a very tall, bearded man, holding a powerful lantern up into the night skies above Bleaklow. Carl worried about this a lot when he and his family returned from Magaluf last week and descended low over the Dark Peak on their approach to Manchester airport.
Old Tom Hollingworth had other concerns than a measly ghost. He was just keen to get up to the planes before the fell runners did. Tom despises fell runners. He told Liz Blackshaw once, when she offered him a glass of water outside her cottage, saying he looked parched, that these mountains are supposed to be a serious, all day challenge, that should leave One marked and that etches itself deeply into One’s face, should One accepted it. The mountains are not some outdoor gym, built for a quick half an hour jaunt up and down before breakfast.
Therefore, on Tuesday, Old Tom left at seven, without breakfast, not at his usual eight o’clock and stumbled over Rasta Whyley. Rasta was sunning himself early in a blissfully Human-free environment, on the back step, when Tom rudely kicked him out of the way. Rasta felt once again that Human should be more considerate. After all Human is only an employee. Rasta hissed and half-heartedly clawed at Tom’s battered boots. As always he did not bother with a losing fight when he encountered one. No point getting involved. He knew exactly where Human keeps his ham. How human of Human to think that the cupboard was out of Rasta’s reach. Just because human needs a stool! Rasta didn’t even bother looking back, but keenly listened to the increasing distance of Human’s hurried footsteps.
The cricket pitch is being prepared for next weekend, now that the season is over. Much to the annual disgust of the Mindy Alport, landlady of the Saracens Head, who hates plums at the best of times. She’d much prefer the sheep dog trails to take place here, not up the road, in Coalby. After all, the sheep graze high in SlopsHop’s meadows, not Coalby’s. Why move them out of their natural habitat? No wonder the poor buggers looked confused last year, panicking up and down Coalby Manor’s manicured lawn to the sound of Les Gillespie’s shrieking whistle which made his mangy sheepdog Lola howl in agony. No wonder Les came last. Still Mindy would much prefer to watch him torture the sheep than endure the plum pie bake off.
She said as much to Old Tom as he strode past the pub, on a mission, as usual. Tom mentioned in no uncertain terms that he was not looking forward to the fell race and the ensuing piss-up afterwards. Only Mindy could have sworn he’d expressed this in two words, both starting with the letter ‘F’.
Dark Peak traffic update: due to congestion at Pikenaze Hill the air quality in the whole of the Smalldale Valley continues to be poor for the time of year. Residents are advised to keep windows shut. The constant congestion is caused solely by the volume of traffic passing through the valley. Local politician Max Overeight, of the United Kingdom Independent Liberation League, voiced the opinion of the people clearly at last week’s Council in the Nag’s Head, Old SlopsHop. The bypass was needed. Urgently. Now. The community did not care about a couple of bluebells. No wonder UKILL are gaining support in the area. By the time Max got round to mentioning that the new housing estate at Dipdale had been given the go-ahead by Parliament, after previously being rejected at local authority level, most of those present had sampled too much of the local ale to quite notice what this meant for their daily commute.
Weather outlook: The areas microclimate continues to contradict the national average. Rain is expected at times, with sunny spells in between. It remains unnaturally warm for this time of year.
This concludes today’s digest from Old Slopshop, in the Dark Peak, here sheep are up high in the meadow, ears to the ground.
It’s been a heavy couple of weeks on the back shelf at the world famous symphony orchestra that I am privileged to play with. We opened the season last Thursday with a fabulous performance of ‘Daphnis and Cloe’ by Ravel, full forces and the angelic voices of the chorus to spurn us on to fantastic heights (Go here for an interview about the piece with our principal flute). Viktoria Mullova outplayed us all in Shostakovich’s 1st Violin Concerto. The concert was well received with a lot of students and new faces in the very appreciative audience. Thank you, Siemens, for supporting us!
We took the Shostakovich (and Ms Mullova) to Leeds on Saturday, padded it out with Wagner’s ‘Flying Dutchman’ Overture and substituted Daphnis with Sibelius 5th Symphony, a staple in our repertoire. We will be taking “Den Fliegenden Holländer” to Germany on tour next March. The Maestro seems very excited about this; we think he likes taking German music to Germany on tour. He also likes taking English music to Germany on tour, but for some reason, until quite recently, the German audiences didn’t seem to be too keen on it. In March we will be taking the Enigma Variations, Elgar’s absolute blockbuster. The Germans love this one. Even my father.
We did work on Monday this week, which is rare. Monday is our Sunday, normally. Which is great for shopping. Not so good for going out for a meal. The reason for the rehearsal day was that we needed yet another symphony for the Manchester concerts this week and yet another concerto for Nottingham on Tuesday.
What a reception we had in Nottingham! The hall was sold out (or at least it looked it, from the back shelf) and the audience loved it. Paul Lewis performed a wonderful Brahms 1st Piano Concerto (and will continue to do so tonight and Sunday), the Dutchman appeared again and we gave another smashing performance of Sibelius 5, judging by the reaction of the audience. What a treat to play to such a full hall!
Yesterday afternoon we opened this season’s the Opus One Series with the Brahms and Dvorak’s 8th Symphony. Fantastic to see that the matinee audiences are growing!
With regards from the back shelf, come and see us some time!
After yesterday’s introduction it is time to know where I stand and what I need to learn to do.
I have a self-hosted website
Absolutely essential. And cheap these days. I opted for a server that allowed me to install WordPress onto the new site easily. Then I migrated my existing blog (the one with the most relevant content) to the new site. Why? See 3. Job done!
A constant bone of contention. I have one. But I never really knew what to put on it! After all, you don’t want to impose on people with your drivel. But the nobody read it anyway, at least I don’t think so. Stern note to self: research Google Analytics!
Location of The Blog After much deliberation I moved The Blog from a wordpress.com and a blogger site to my self-hosted site. The word out there is that one can benefit an awful lot from WordPress’s own promotional activities. But the limitations are great. The installation of widgets and plugins is severely limited on a wordpress.com blog; and although there are work-arounds for some applications, the generalrule is that no third party plugins are easily installed. What that means is: no mailchimp code, no links to one’s own books and music from Amazon and so on (that’s as far as I got, really…).
Rather than researching work-arounds instead of writing creatively, composing music, making glass or playing the bass I quickly opted to host The Blog on my own site. If in the long run this is the right decision only time will tell.
Currently The Blog and my musical projects inhabit the same home page in one long string of relatively unsorted posts. Note to self: order and reduce categories!
And if you decide to stay with your wordpress.com or similar, non-self-hosted blog, here is a helpful article on how to make mailchimp work via wufoo: http://smugmughugs.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/how-to-use-wufoo-in-wordpress-blogs/
The “Match Games” diary starts not, as one would expect, at the conception or the beginning of the novel, but at its end.
With the manuscript now completed and safely at the editors for a few months the real adventure starts:
Writing the book was, I thought, the only and most challenging adventure I would have. And it was hugely enjoyable! Out of all my creative endeavours losing myself in the story of Lukas, the reluctant detective, with his love of beer and preconceptions, his life in a dull rut, was the most entertaining and fulfilling pastime; how could I help this feckless oaf grow into a superhero worthy of his physical statur?
In the end, Lukas himself took charge and the story developed a mind of its own. It made me, it’s author, write it in the way it wanted to be written.
And I knew nothing about writing! I still don’t. But I do like to tell a story. And it needed to be involving. And ultimately uplifting. On top of all that Lukas wanted to become a better man.
And he did.
And now I am here at the start of this new adventure, based entirely in really. A reality that is at my fingertips, quite literally. A reality away from the bookshop and the library, entirely virtual, yet frighteningly real.
And I know little about it. It’s a steep learning curve, they all say.
And I am ready to learn. Join me on this journey if you wish.
As we all wait with baited breath the release of Scivener for IPad those of us writing and brainstorming mainly ’on the go’ need to rely on available apps to aid us in the process.
Mind mapping has been a total revelation for me; I have used SimpleMind excessively, for Character sketches, action and reaction diagrams, ’what if’ scenarios, timeline outlines and so on.
You can add notes, pictures, actions, links, relationships and of course it is full customizable with regards to colours, outlines et cetera. It works similar to Roz Morris’s index card system.
There is a paid desktop version of SimpleMind available, as well as a very useful demo of the software that lets you save your mind map in various formats for import into Scivener . Scivener then opens these as notes with sub-notes, so the relationship between ’strands’ or trails of thought are preserved.
I use iA Writer, which is fantastic for fast and furious idea jotting. I do ALL of my writing with this app. Annoyingly, it’s recent update auto-corrects inverted commas (’) to spaces; I have no idea why and if you write your dialogue with single inverted commas instead of double, you get auto corrected every single time! I now use “ for dialogue exclusively and convert them all later in Word, with the ’replace all’ option.
Manuscript is a lovely app if you want to see your budding novel in book format. It does chapters and chapter outlines, index cards and export options. It is a nice app to keep track of versions of full drafts (and its word and page counts).
Goodreader is of course perfect for annotating PDFs, once you have exported a full draft and don’t want to trawl around individual chapters.
Writer Lists is a fun app that supplies lists from names to birth signs to Aussie slang, and has just had a major update.
I also use Pages, Numbers for an alternative to mind mapping when working on chronology and timeline and ’Dictionary’– there is a useful translation option with this app.
Please leave comments and suggestions as to other writing apps and tools below.
Just uploaded a couple of chapters from the 3rd draft of my forthcoming novel ‘Match Games’ which is currently being edited.
To access a synopsis and the trial chapters:
Please Click here or on the temporary cover image below to access.