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Queen Guitar Rhapsodies

My Week In London

Never mind the weather, the music has been enough to warm my cockles

It all started so well with the Gulf stream on its best behaviour. We were blessed with warm air and most pleasant temperatures until early in the evening. What’s more the sun was in a jolly mood and illuminated the busy comings and goings and bustle of city life for much of the day, and at least as far as I was concerned, put a smile on my face. Then it all changed on Thursday, wet winter making its unwelcome appearance. I hate winter. It does nothing for me whatsoever, although I am told it is good for the rotation of crops and suchlike natural phenomena. But rain, wet winds, and dropping temperatures are just not my cup of tea (not that I drink much of that!) and I have never got used to them, even though I was born and bred in this great country. Right, glad I got all that off my chest!

Then it got better again thanks to music. Music transports me onto another planet away from the mundane, the temporal. For the second time in 8 days I heard a performance of Stephen Dodgson’s In the Midst of Life. The first occasion had been at the hands of John Williams during the concert dedicated to the music and memory of Stephen Dodgson held at St James Piccadilly on Thursday 3rd October. This was a most moving occasion and gave the audience insights into the varied and complex musical personality of a wonderful man and composer. On the second occasion I heard it played by Cassandra Matthews in a class at the Royal College of Music in her own very personal rendition. This is a great piece, enough to lift the spirits on a cold day of even a grumpy old so-and-so like me! The work is half descriptive and half meditative; descriptive of the very same cosmopolitan hustle and bustle which energises me when the sun is out, and meditative in those poignant still moments which thread their way through the work. If you do not know this piece listen to it as soon as you can.

Carlos with Michael Nyman 26 July, 2013

On the same day Friday I lingered after the class to meet with some of my students for various lessons. At one point I casually glanced at my watch, not may I hasten to say because I was bored or wishing for the lesson to come to a speedy conclusion, far from it. No, it was because I knew that in some faraway corner of Europe - in Uppsala, Sweden to be precise – a concert dedicated to the music of Michael Nyman was about to commence with the composer himself participating. To my great delight the concert included my arrangement of the theme music from The Piano composed by Nyman. I arranged it for solo classical guitar + classical guitar 2 + electric guitar + soprano saxophone + bass guitar. My only apprehension was whether it would be well received or not. Would it be considered strange and disrespectful to the piano original?

At the time of writing I still don’t know whether it was well-received or not by the audience but something has happened which has pleased me hugely, and that is Michael Nyman’s personal note to yours truly in which he said how much he liked my arrangements. Now that has been enough to make a ray of sunshine pierce through the clouds and warm my cockles.

It’s a funny old thing how clouds and rain and wind can seem uplifting and dramatic when you get into the right frame of mind. And by Friday evening I was well and truly feeling good. Bring on sun and rain and cold and heat, one after the other in the space of an hour, they would make no difference to my spirits for my head is spinning to the musical events of the day, untroubled by the elements, nor even by the deafening sounds of the city which so often upset me.

So off to the cinema I went on Saturday night and saw Woody Allen's latest movie Blue Jasmine: a film all about the virtue of truth. This is a great film and I recommend it to you. Somehow, and for reasons I cannot quite put into words, it seemed a grand finale to my week: the film's themes a flip side to the music of The Midst of Life.

To be frank about that piercing ray of sunshine as I read Nyman’s note – it didn’t really happen, I just imagined it.

13th October, London

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