Composer, author, lecturer, guitar teacher

As the Winter Solstice approaches

As we approach the end of 2015 I have been reflecting on a year of listening to symphonies – well over 300 now – on the home straight I’m picking my way through the Russian Miaskovsky’s 27 (bought as a box-set sometime back). I continue to find every now and then an inspiring new work in the genre. Last week I heard a live radio broadcast from London which included Alan Hovhaness’ Second, titled ‘the Mysterious Mountain’. Earlier in the year I listened to two of his later symphonies (he wrote 67! far too many!) and didn’t enjoy them, but no.2 got through, even if I’m not sure how truly symphonic it is. It is the sort of piece I would recommend to someone new to the classical field – melodious, wonderful harmonies, not too long. You can find it on youtube:

All of these experiences will feed into my book on the symphony.

I enjoyed the Beatles remastered One CD/blu-ray when that was released awhile back. I also found a stunning performance of ‘Little Girl Blue’ by Janis Joplin on youtube on the Tom Jones TV show from 1969. This was always one of my favourite Joplin tracks on CD and to watch her do a live performance which is so touching was great. The link is

Notice how different her demeanour is to the singers of today – tentative to start, something slightly awkward and gauche – yet those are the very things that make her so affecting. The phrase that always chokes me up is at the end of the second verse where she suddenly exclaims ‘Ooh I know you’re unhappy!’. Then she really opens out and goes up a gear for the last verse. Only the very last sign-off line doesn’t quite match the sweetness of the studio cut, but otherwise … how moving.

For something different in the way of Christmas music try Arnold Bax’s On Christmas Eve tone poem or Kate Bush’s ‘December Will Be Magic Again’.

I hope you all have a magical Christmas and thanks for subscribing to this blog through 2015.

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