Monday, 6 April 2009

The Card, Scarlet and Black and Mozart

It is ten thirty in the morning of October 16th and I am still not mentally or physically strong enough for the task in hand. There is a mood of dissatisfaction with myself. I did get up before 9am and accomplished the collection of the daily free along with buy the Mail for the third Great War DVD, It was a bright crisp morning to begin with but by walking vigorously I did manage to achieve a sweat. However on return I was not immediately able to get to work and used half an hour for five games of quick level one chess after bombing out again yesterday to a forced draw after over 30 games and I still not feel ready to tackle work and will do another five games which is stupid and confirms what I feel about myself!

It is 4.30pm I have redeemed myself a little by undertaking some sold work of 101 set making and sorting of the material which has accumulated of the past two months. There is still much to do before I can progress to other activities with a free mind.

I have eaten more than required, a three egg omelette with the rest of the gammon joint and then two cheese topped rolls with half the smoked salmon and a little lemon.

I also watched two films while doing the work. The first I have seen part of before as a youngish Jack Guinness in the Card. The film based on a short comic novel by Arnold Bennett was made in 1952 and was seen, although I can never be certain as there are no records, with my mother and aunts, although about that year we went with less frequency because of the amount of time devoted to homework on moving to the John Fisher School. The film featured three outstanding actress personalities of the day and subsequently. Perhaps the most well known internationally is Petula Clark, This was the first playing of an adult by Petula and he first screen kiss, although the female star in this film was no doubt Glynis Johns, and the outstanding actress Valerie Hobson. Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent, now a forgotten song writing couple composed the score of a musical version and this year it became a two part play on BBC radio 4. It the familiar story of a young man of the most humblest single parent beginnings, who uses his wits to make his way from altering his school grades to get into grammar school and then creatively getting himself invited to the town's social event of the year. When this caper gets him the sack he seizes the opportunity to become a rent and debt collector. And then works out a money making wheeze while on holiday with his fiancé and her chaperone. This he invests in a saving's club scheme buty it is bringing the towns successful football star to play for the local club plus fund raising for charity which leads him to become a councillor and then the Mayor. It will helping out a friend that he decided to run off and marry the love of his life, Because of his redeeming qualities he is rightly given the title The Card a fun character, rather than scoundrel or fraudster.

Much greater attention was required with the Gregory Peck staring true story film Scarlet and Black and not to be confused with the 1993 BBCTV adaptation of the Stendhal novel. The film is based on the true story of Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty an Irish priest who assigned to the Vatican under Pope Pius XII led a vast network of Italians helping Jews and escaped allied POW's to evade the German occupiers. The film centre on the head of the Gestapo, the ruthless Colonel Kappler to unmask and capture the priest who in the film adopts various disguises to escape the efforts to prevent him leaving the Vatican to do his work, including an assassination attempt inside the Vatican. At the end of the film the Nazi hunter and torturer begs the priest to help his wife and children escape from the wrath of the Partisans as the allies enter Rome which the vehemently denies. However upon capture the Gestapo head learns that his family has escaped to Switzerland and once a month throughout the subsequent years of his imprisonment he is visited by the priest who eventually baptises him into the Catholic faith.

And so I returned to the Great War and what proved to be the defence of Paris when the demoralised expeditionary force agreed to the request of the French to reverse and attack, sensing it would be possible to force an opening between the advancing German armies. Similarly the Russians at even greater cost than the French delivered blows to Austrians before Christmas that first year, when a stalemate line had been created from the coast to the Switzerland had been created after the resistance of the Belgium army failed and they had to fall back from Antwerp

The statistics over those first few months when names such as the Marne, Verdun, Ypres had already become familiar is that just under one million French young men had perished, were wounded or missing and over million Russians. It was during the period that in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth the call to take up arms was made and over 1 million volunteered and the fleets and men also joined from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, proportionately more than elsewhere, from India and South Africa in defence of the Empire and the mother country(s), but to the horror of Germany who could not understand why their support for Austria against Serbian separatism had created a world war.

And then at Christmas, despite all the horror and cold and the change from a war of honour and chivalry of old, into bestiality and carnage not seen before or since, men sang Carols, decorated Christmas trees and went to meet each other and discovered that both were fighting in the name of Freedom and that both believed that God was on their side shouting hi Tommy and hi whiz bang in reply or words to that effect., then showed there presents from their heads of state and showed pictures of their families before returning to man the Tommy machinegun and hurl the flying bombs which went whiz and bang as the blew up limb from limb splattering the survivors with innards and drenching with the blood of comrades. And to explain all this I will leave to the politicians, the Kings and their Queens and God, or should I say Gods, because several were and have since been proclaimed.

After this combination of mass slaughter and spectacular bravery and self sacrifice I was in the mood for Mozart, and for Mozart live at the Sage. I have waxed enthusiastically before at these buildings within a glass shell on the Gateshead bank of the Tyne with the famous Newcastle Road Bridge to the left and the new Millennium pedestrian and cycle Bridge to the Right where is also located the Baltic Contemporary Art centre, across the an elegant hotel and the Law concerts and an area of night life for adults, the Biggs market is for kids. The outer structure is not beautiful or as iconic the gherkin in the city, although designed by the same architectural firm, but inside it beats anything anywhere especially the Royal festival Hall concert building. First there is the sense of space with outside concourse acting as a veranda deck on which to one side it is possible to hold outdoor concerts and inside the vastness has the cultural impact of any cathedral, except it appear taller and longer and wider. At ground floor you do not immediate gain an impression of height of the concert halls. At the Baltic side entrance and the most popular with its access from the car parks there is the public music centre and library where you can or read anything about music, make enquires or use the banks of internet stations. There and large modern toilets as part of the lower structure of the concert halls, modern type of booking and information centres, and cloakroom.

Between the two halls there is an expensive bar and snack meal facility where although my plain and excellent coffee only cost £1.30 a cup of the more frothy kind and a small glass of wine cost the man before me £5.10. To one side there us an open plan restaurant, expensive but on in the same league as haute and nouvelle restaurant in sky at the Baltic. Unless you wish lose weight or are energetic it is wise to use the vast lifts to gain entry into the first level of the concert halls. That to the upper level of the main Hall appears to be the highest and steepest single stretch stairway have ever seen, but the central stairways are more conventional in stages and here there is also the inside veranda with its bar, and discrete coffee and ice cream. At this level between the two main halls there is a rehearsal, experimental music hall where earlier in the day, there had been a symposium on obstetric anaesthetics.

You still do not get any idea of the nature of Hall two from the entrance, or I made way my way for the second occasion to the second of three seating level designed like the Globe Shakespearean theatre and by coincidence or did I select from a plan got the same seat as before overlooking the stage from the side and with the first seat of the front row. The lighting was a softer red tonight not the glowing red for the Ritchie Havens concert. There first surprise is the depth of hall below, as those entering at the main level go down into the main auditorium which also as two separated levels above its floor. However it is when you look up that the WOW factor hits you because above the third level balcony the space between them and the lighting balcony is about the same as the three levels below and the ceiling soars for some distance above the lighting level. The hall is cylindrical with the stage at one end and only allowing for a single row of seats, with one row of standing overlooking. There are two rows of seat is around the rest of the higher levels with standing option and although the hall is cylindrical the layout of the seating suggest twelve angled sides with those at the side appearing longer than those at the ends. My only criticism is that unamplified voice and sound does not carry well to the heights as it does across the auditorium. My created image is a false one because I have failed to mention that the total seats are around 400 with the consequence of a great intimacy especially for those sitting at the front stalls on the same level and a couple of feet away from the musicians.

And so to the music, A Mozart Flute quartet, a clarinet quintet and a quintet for Piano and winds performed by members of the Northern Sinfonia Chamber Concert. A little irritation is that there was no advance publicity on which pieces were to be played nor was a programme available. However I recognised the Flute quartet in D Major 285 as I have a vinyl recording going back to when I was a very young man, and was able to confirm the numbering from the internet as the first reference was to a recording by Laurel Zucker where both this quartet and those in A and C major can be heard 40 mins of music for free, amazing and to be listened again in full tomorrow. I have the Clarinet concerto although the quintet sounded very similar and this was confirmed when I looked up the played piece and heard and read the notes. Both pieces are written for the bassest clarinet which is about a third longer that the usual because of having four additional. In both pieces the work is distributed amongst the players with the clarinet and the flute primus inter pares. These contrasted from the piano and winds quintet which is ensemble. I did not know the Piano and Wind quintet and had difficulty in getting a free online recording until a You Tube excerpt so picture plus the sound. For this performance and the clarinet I had a direct view of the soloist but for the flute I had to strain as the musician was under my direct view so I relaxed closed my eyes and listened intently. As has been commented about Mozart he is never short of notes which reflects his portrayed (Amadeus) excitable hyperactive nature, which is also reflected in his prolific productivity.

I quickly forgot the potential parking problem as the car park was full on arrival and I risked one of the unused places designated for the disabled. I need not have worried as on exiting they were all occupied by owners who were not displaying certificates and every other conceivable area was also occupied including some on precarious slops. On return I took of the suit suitable for the event and comfortable but I must get another for everyday use leaving for the unexpected special, but like having a crazily organised disorder of a home but a front room to admit visitors who of course never come and I would be put out if they did unexpectedly because of the layer of dust. I was pleasantly relaxed but hungry and resisted the temptation for a bacon roll settling for one with cheese. I was in a better state, almost pleased with my being except that I could not answer the question, what have to done for other's today that will be valued by them?

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