May 25th, 2012


Give me all the music

If you're not on Twitter, you're missing most of what I have to say these days (remember when I posted seven or ten times a day? Ah how life has changed) and probably don't know I'm in the middle of enjoying the Lufthansa festival of the Baroque. It's a two week series of performances that mostly takes place at St John's Smith Square ... except for the one choral concert they do at Westminster Abbey. That was last night, and the music was two motets (Bach and Handel) and Handel's "Ode for St Cecilia's Day."

Unusually, I found the English words of the ode very pleasant - possibly because they were by Dryden rather than some hack lyricist. Here's the ending, which gave me goosebumps:

"So when the last and dreadful hour
This crumbling pageant shall devour
The trumpet shall be heard on high
The dead shall live, the living die,
And Music shall untune the sky."

Pretty good, huh? Even better with big old Gothic pillars rising into the sky next to you. I was there with my roommate and we had seats facing the chorus ... really, a highlight of the musical year for me.

The soprano who sang it, Sophie Daneman, was great and is supposed to be performing in Lully's "Atys" with Les Arts Florissants later this year, so I'll be looking to hear her again. As for me and my roommate, well, looks like we'll be heading to York this Christmas for the Early Music Festival. Hurray! As for this festival, there are four more concerts schedules, two for tonight (Friday) and two for Saturday - I'll be seeing Saturday's organ concert then heading out to booklectic's to see the Eurovision finals. Gotta mix it up with the high and low culture, you know.

A day of indulgences

Today was payday and a great and glorious day of indulgence it was. First, at work we have an "egg and bacon sandwich" club. The way it works is that everyone who is in the club takes turns buying egg and bacon sandwiches for everyone who's in the club on a rotating basis. Last time it was my turn; this time I got to have a nice hot breakfast sandwich delivered to me at my desk at 10AM. Awesome!

Next up was my two month review with my boss. Here in the UK when you start a job you are on probation with limited rights and benefits (and it's easy to fire you); while you're on probation, you have monthly meeting to review how things are going. I reviewed the list of goals I made my third week there and was pleased to see I was making progress in all of the areas I was hoping to. Boss man said he was pleased with me overall and had no complaints and then wanted to talk about strategy for the next month. I liked this.

Then it was noon (before I knew it!) and I went across the street (well, down the street then across) to the National Portrait Gallery, where I saw this Lucien Freud retrospective. He's one of three artists I hadn't heard of before I moved here (David Hockney and Francis Bacon were the other ones) who are all just really famous in England. I thought it would be good for me to really get a good feel for his style and chanced the "sold out" sign on the website in hopes there would be tickets at the door: and indeed there was (just a half hour wait to the next slot). I enjoyed the show quite a bit, especially after reading this trashing of Damian Hirst in the Guardian yesterday and seeing the horrible self-indulgent, hagiographic exhibit of David Hockney's crap two months ago. Freud can paint; his paintings are often ugly but he is a master of the materials. I got through the exhibit in 1:15 despite the press of the crowds, but I have to say, it was really worth the effort to see it.

Back to work and nobody seemed very focused - the question was when would the drinks and food order show up for the party my team was hosting at the end of the day? Right about when I did, apparently. This meant my next goal was walking around the company giving away ice cream bars - an act which made me a real hit, I think, given the warm weather.

Then it was nearly time for the drinks party. All work had stopped. So what did I do? I headed out to get some money from the cash machine and get a massage. When I got back to work, the drinks party had started. WOO who put vodka in the Pimms? Really, it was a nice way to start the weekend! I left at 6 and headed over to the Young Vic (via the footbridge over the Thames) to meet a friend for "The Suit," a Peter Brook directed play about a man who gets angry at his wife and just can't get over it. When the play was over, I was unable to resist the call of the banana split for sale in the Young Vic restaurant. It was better than expected - sprinkled with pistachio nuts instead of walnuts, and honey instead of chocolate syrup (not that chocolate wouldn't have been nice), and all of the whipped cream my heart desired. I had a good catchup with my friend over our desserts while the sun slowly set (it was a short show). Then it was home and my roommate has made me another Pimms! Really, this is my idea of a GOOD FRIDAY. Hope yours was nearly as nice!