Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Don’t give up trombone

I took up trombone in 2009, at the Duxford Saturday Workshop, and was learning it for two years. Then, after one-year break, I enrolled to the Fuerteventura School of Music (Escuela Insular de Música). You see, I never went to “proper” music school, so I thought it could be fun to try it at last — some forty years after my first attempt. Back then, the teacher who conducted an interview concluded that I was tone deaf and should not waste my time learning music. Now I know the old hag was wrong, but maybe that was a blessing in a very good disguise. And so, for the last nine months, every Monday I was travelling to Puerto del Rosario with my Steinbach.

Imprinting or not, I think that the Duxford system is superior to what they practice here — and, by extension, to the formal music education in general, be it in Spain or former Soviet Union. (I know! I hate generalising like that. Still.) There, after learning just a few notes I was able to play a simple melody. Every lesson, we were adding a new note and using it in a new song. It felt very organic.

Here, the method is like this: first you have to learn the five harmonics in the first position. You play some exercises with these five notes only. Then you learn how to play the five harmonics in the second position. You play some exercises with those five notes. Then you play some exercises that contain the notes from the first and the second positions. Then, guess what, you learn how to play the five harmonics in the third position. You play some exercises with those five notes. Then you play some exercises involving the notes from the first and the second, the first and the third, and the second and the third positions. Then you play some exercises utilising the notes from all three positions. I am not joking. After that, you proceed to the fourth position. And so on. It was incredibly boring for me, so I can imagine how boring this method must be for children.

By the end of my first year in Duxford, I was able to play, however badly, the Colonel Bogey March, making use of all seven positions. Here, I was not supposed to move beyond the fifth position.

So what. It was not that I forgot everything learned in England. Here I was able to concentrate on technique, playing some useful, if boring, exercises. My teacher (who, by the way, also teaches trumpet, flugelhorn and French horn) told me that I should work on my picado (staccato). The key, in his view, was to play each note as if pronouncing the syllable “tu”. He said that I tend to play everything ligado (legato), which sounded to him like “da-da-da” rather than “tu-tu-tu”. Are you still with me?

A few months ago, my teacher suggested that next year I join a brass ensemble he is leading. Until the last moment, I did not have a heart to tell him that there won’t be next year as I don’t stay on Fuerteventura. But this Monday, when he gave me my final paper (papeleta de evaluación final), I had to.

“Bueno”, he said, “¡mucha suerte! ¡No dejes trombón!”

More photos of trombone @ Shutterstock.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Habadekuk @ The Junction

If walking in the rain while looking for a cow- and cow-patty-free patch of grass sounds like a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon, then May Bumps (so called because it happens in June) could be your cup of Pimm’s. Last Saturday, I walked along the river from the Cambridge city centre all the way to Chesterton in a hope to catch a glimpse of actual races. The picnickers’ accents were becoming increasingly posh until I felt that I was trespassing. By that time it was really pouring, so I turned back. I suspect the rowers were starting to feel miserable too.

The evening concert of Danish outfit Habadekuk at The Junction turned out to be far more pleasant — if pricier — affair. Man they are awesome. I can imagine them filling a decent-sized venue, say, in London. Yet, just as on so many occasions before, J2 was shamefully empty. The band did their best to involve the audience in dancing and singing, but the critical mass was clearly lacking. Shall I deduce that this backwater of Cambridge is simply not ready for Danish polka?

Friday, 14 June 2013

Pick Me Up: a Sketch Show

by Lowell Belfield, Jason Forbes, Ryan O’Sullivan, George Potts and Ahir Shah

Yesterday, on suggestion of my friend, colleague and bandmate Sergio, I went to see this show at Cambridge ADC Theatre.

This is perhaps the funniest and cleverest sketch show I’ve ever seen in English theatre. (Well I don’t go to theatre very often. So what. It does not make the show less funny or clever.) But how to describe it? The early Monty Python, but more coherent? The English version of Kharms! Charms! Shardam! of the Moscow Hermitage Theatre? Forget it: you have to see these guys live. If you are in Cambridge, you still can go to the show tomorrow, 15 June, at 11 pm (!) — better get your drinks before. Or catch it in August at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Un gran poder conlleva una gran responsabilidad

by Mauricio González
with Bea Fernández, Raquel Rodríguez and Javier Vaquero

I tried to make the most from my visit to Las Palmas. So I asked in the tourist information what’s on. This show was on and it was marked “danza”, so I thought, why not to watch some dance on Friday night.

It was not quite what I expected. Well I didn’t quite know what to expect. Maybe... dance? Not just any old dance, mind you. Interesting choreography? Perhaps young beautiful fit bodies (as opposed to flabby or ageing)? You see, ladies and gentlemen, I am hard to please.

To be fair, there was some dance. But it was not even mainly dance. There were some songs, cabaret-style, some chat, with lot of sexual not-quite-innuendo; high heels, corsets, wigs, that sort of stuff. It was not bad at all, even though I did not catch all the jokes. I don’t mind (in fact, I do appreciate) these guys taking the mickey out of classical ballet or modern dance. All I am saying is that if their parody / statement were also aesthetically pleasing at that, it would be so much better. (Is that too much to ask?)

I know, it is not politically correct, but I just love the comical scenes involving sign language interpretation. For example, one in Tacones lejanos. And another in Father Ted. So it will come as no surprise to you what kind of scene I liked the most. (Sorry cannot explain it in more details here.)

In the end they got the audience to form a conga line and sing, so we all conga-ed (singing) through the auditorio to the scene, through the backstage and dressing room into the kitchen of some sort, where the beer, wine and various snacks were served. All in all, it turned out to be a pleasant evening.

In case you were wondering, the title is a quote from Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility”. No, I didn’t get that either.