Monday, 16 May 2011

Text Your Support

If you enjoy brass bands please consider supporting Abbey Brass (my local band) by texting a donation. Its easy and convenient.

Simply send a text to 70070 including our code – BAND14 – and a monetary amount:
To: 70070
BAND14 £5
You can donate £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10. After you’ve sent the text, you’ll receive a confirmation text back containing details on how to add Gift Aid, meaning Abbey Brass could benefit from an extra 25%.

And, if you're not yet sure, then keep following this blog for more about the band. 

Sunday, 15 May 2011

The Final Eurovision Countdown

Well, the Eurovision results are in and counted up. Let me begin this post by saying that I was pleasantly surprised how much more varied the voting was last night. One thing that's always got me down about Eurovision is how predicatable the voting has become, but last night most people actually seemed to be voting for the songs rather than because of the politics. Well done Europe!

Anyway, this post is where I share information on the winners for those who were unable to see the results, or simply couldn't be bothered to wait for them.

At number 3 its....... Sweden:

Next, a number 2 it's........ Italy:

But, finally, at number 1 (and winners of Eurovision 2011) its Azerbaijan:

So what do you think of these winners? And what would you like to have seen as number 1?

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Eurovision Evaluation

Last year I very much missed Terry Wogan's commentary, but either Graham Norton's got better this year I'm more used to his style as I enjoyed hs wry comments.

The opening version of last year's winning song was interesting. I enjoyed the comedic beginning and the pyrotechnic danceable ending, but the middle was a little bit strange in my opinion. 'Germany's Simon Cowell' showed off his musical skill to great aplomb, but I wasn't too sure about his singing. 

What follows is a list of the 25 participating finalist countries with my comment on their songs. If you want to watch them then I suggest you check YouTube, as I've posted this as soon as possible after the performances were finished, so they weren't yet available to embed.
I loved the last winning entry. This one was totally different, featuring a very tuneful singer. The background of the earth made a great prop for his song abot saving the earth- twee but something close to my heart.

Bosnia & Herzegovina
Is it just me ordid the guitarist look like Spike Milligan? A good rhythm to this song, but the dancer/trumpeeter didn't seem to match the rest of the band. I was also put off by the fact that I couldn't understand all the words despite the fact that they were singing in English. 
Catchy start with clear words and going into a good rhythm. Enough repetition of words to have me singing along, but not overdone. It felt very much like watching a proper live concert. You may have gathered that  liked this one!
 Interesting harmonies in places. As commented on the UK commentary, a song that could have come straight out of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical (had it not been sung only partly in English). To be honest, I got bored with this one quite quickly, not helped by the camera-work which made me dizzy.
Not really my cup of tea- too poppy for my taste. The women's oufits didn't do anything fr me either. Managed to give me a headache.
I'm afraid that I automatically approached this song with dread. And, whilst it seemed quite well performed, it certainly didn't redeem myself in my view. My Mum comented that Jedward appeared like overgrown imps and I tend to agree. Plus, it was hard to hear them as the backing singers were at the same volume almost all the way through.
The drumming certainly made an impact from the start. The words to this song seemed to make the singer seem rather desperate ("I will be popular"). The backing dancers actually made more of an impression on me than the lead singer. The breaking out of the box stunt was pretty good though.
 Interesting scenery and backing dance. And what was with her dress? Quite catchy, but I'm not sure I really want it stuck in my head.
Certainly made an impact right from the beginning. An interesting mix of contrasting styles using hip-hop and opera together- not sure it really worked though. I did enjoy the bits where the opera singer was doing his bit, but I was put of by the other bits. And what was with the section where they danced together?
A talented performer, good at both singing and dancing (and pretty good loking as well). There was to much happening on stage though and in my opinion it detracted from the performance.
This made a relaxing break from all the pop so far, especially set against the scenes of sunsets and clouds. A very talented tenor, whose music I could appreciate despite not understanding the words. 
A good start going into a toe-tappin rhythm. Very smooth! The piano solo was particularly good in my opinion. An impressively long and high note at the end. I enjoyed this one.
A catchy opening melody, as were the smiles onstage. A real feel-good song, encouraged by the 60s style animations on the screen behind.
United Kingdom
Am I allowed to comment on this one? Why not, its not like I can vote for them!
Unforunatly the pictures at the beginning of this piece made them look like criminals. This is one of Blue's best songs in my opinion, although I have heard it sounding better than in tonights performance.
What were they wearing on their heads? In fact, what was this full-stop? I can only guess that they were setting out to make an impact- well they certainly did that. There's always at least one like this in Eurovision, but think this might be the most perculiar I've seen yet. Where else would you see a woman ddresed as a fairy with a pointy at riding a unicycle in a pop/rock song?
This is only the third time that a Eurovision singer had defended their title. I quite ehoyed the bizarre white-clad dancers. Pity I couldn't say as much about the song, which really just failed to make an impact on me. The 'cathedral' of lights at the end was pretty cool though.
A very swarmy, but good singer who reminded me of John Barrowman. A twee message set against a rhythm which only just failed to make me want to dance. I liked his attempt to try to get the audience to join in, which wouldn't have been to hard to do given the repetative nature of the song.
A brave start siging acapella, which paid off because of the singer's lovely voice. A simpe, but engaging song peformed with true feeling.
I enjoyed parts of this song, but I didn't feel that the performance was of a consitently good quality. At times I thought the lead vocals were excellent, but at other times they seemed almost out of tune. Overall, I didn't think much of it really
I enjoyed this piece until the singer came in, but the beginning of her bit didn't seem to fit somehow. The swaggering walk forwards didn't impress me.
Some talented singers amongst this group who performed a good, but not particulary striking song. Quite jolly, but I'm not sure if  I liked it or not.
 I would havee liked to have understood the words to this song, as its catchy tune and rhythm weren't quite enough to make it for me. I would have liked it if they'd extended the drum solo, as the short snippet sounded quite promising.
The singing was almost a backing track to the beautiful sandart going on behind it. A nice song as well.
A very 60s feel to this song, the background of which unfortunately made me dizzy in places. I got the feeling that this would have been very good had I understood the words, but it lost something without them. Having said that, it had a feel-good feeling to it.
A very striking dress in this one- swirly green on a black background. A lot heavier than the other entries this year, with a little bit of rap thrown in. It felt almost like they wanted to ram their song into a high position with sheer volume. 

What was your favourite song? Do you agree with my evaluations, or do you have different  views?

Parting Mozart

Last weekend I went of to Bristol to sing Mozart's Requiem with only a few hours rehearsal time. Now, normally I'm a soprano but, since I had a cold and knowing how high this piece went, I decided to take the alto part. Having sung this piece before as a soprano, it was really interesting to see the differences between the two parts.

People often make the mistake of thinking that its easier to sing soprano than alto because you have the tune. Whilst this may be true with some music, its not the case with Mozart's Requiem! For a start the 'tune' moves around the parts, and then you have notes which 2nd sopranos will find hard to reach. This is why when you pick parts it is important to consider your range as the main factor in your choice. When I was younger I was an alto for sure and yet, as an older child, I was told that I had to sing soprano in a production of Joseph which I'd joined. The result was that I ended up being told to sing higher all the time as I had problems with the tops notes- not a pleasant experience at all! So, what do you do when you're clearly a second soprano and you're faced with something like Mozart's Requiem where you havea choice of medium-high soprano or medium to low alto? Well, the answer is that its not easy and I'm afraid I don't actually have the solution. Anyone else got any tips?

Countdown to EuroVision

Well, its that time again that you either love or loathe- EuroVision finale night! If you're of the loathe bunch then yo have my permissin to skip this post, but if you're in the love posse (or one of the few inbetweeners out there) then read on for some (great?) videos.

As someone living in the UK its almst an obligation to start this post by sharing my country's entry for this year. So here are 'Blue' singing 'I Can':

We're all hoping this song will win this year, since the last win for the UK was way back in 1997 when 'Love Shine A Light' by 'Katrina and the Waves' won:

Anyway, enough about the UK entries.
This year Germany will be the hosts of EuroVision and the host city will be Dusseldorf. This is the entry which they won with last year, 'Satellite' by 'Lena':

This year Germay will be putting forward 'Taken by a Stranger', also by Lena:

If you're excited about EuroVision why not share with us your country's entries for this year, or the entry from the last time they won. Alternatively, if you're country is not taking part, whyy not tell us what you think of the above videos. I'd love to hear from you!

I'll be sharing my thoughts on some of the songs after tonight's show. If you'd like to join me then the BBC has a great scorecard to help you keep a record of your opinions. Click here to go to the webpage where you can download it.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Being Brave at Abingdon Air Show

On Sunday I was lucky enough to be able to play at Abingdon Air Show with Abbey Brass, the brass band that I belong to. It was a fantastic day during which we not only played 3 short sets, but were able to listen to other musicians as well as visiting all the stalls. One of my favourite music groups was a group playing traditional folk instruments and dancing- very interesting.

The organisers requested that we played the piece 'Braveheart' which they'd heard at our last concert. The music is taken from the 1995 film of the same name which starred Mel Gibson. Its very moving and I very much enjoy playing it, especially since may instrument gets some of the tune near the beginning in the version we play. The movie's not bad either, in my opinion.

Anyway, this got me thinking about film music in general. On radio 2 this morning I heard the latest Take That single, featured in the latest X-men film. It was another film theme tune, that of Stardust, which got me interested in the Take That reunion- I loved the song when I went to see the movie and was surprised when I discovered who sang it. I can work the other way round as well. I enjoyed the song 'Everything I Do' by Bryan Adams and when I heard it in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves then it quickly became my favourite Robin Hood movie at the time. The insperability of movie and music in many people's minds can clearly be seen by the fact that Andrew Lloyd Webber kept many of the original film songs when he took 'The Wizard of Oz' to the stage. Incidentally  'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', taken from this movie, was another song that Abbey Brass featured at the air show.

Do you have a favourite movie song?

Monday, 9 May 2011

Monday's Music Moves Me

Hosted by Xmas Dolly

This song was on my CD player as a drove thrrough the rain on the way back from singing Mozart. Its been in my head ever since: