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Weedon Weekly: 6th August 2017

The cover of Avril's book

ARK! ARK! BREAKING NEWS! 

A while back, I met playwright, children's author and BBC programme maker Avril Rowlands through our shared love of music. We 'clicked' at once, and last autumn we started on the enjoyable but fairly mammoth task of converting her much-loved book 'Tales from the Ark' into a stage musical, with Avril's lyrics and my music. Well, the exciting news is that it has been accepted for staging at The Swan Theatre in Worcester for a week's run next May. 

I'll keep you up to date as things progress. The next job is to finalise funding, including finding 'Ark Angels' who invest affordable sums to help us on our way. 

For starters, email me here if you'd like to listen to a taster of the music you can expect. I'm no singer (to put it mildly) so this is an instrumental version, you'll be relieved to know. 

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Weedon Weekly: 29th July 2017

Music, food and love combine

THE HAPPY HORMONE

My working weeks are so unpredictable that I've decided "Weedon Wednesdays" is a promise I will repeatedly fail to deliver. So I'm changing it to "Weedon Weekly". That is why this offering is being hatched on a Saturday!

Shakespeare said "If music be the food of love, play on!" I wonder if he realised that there was a strong scientific basis to what he wrote? Humankind would agree that good music, tasty food and falling in love are all very pleasant in their way. The interesting fact is that eating, listening to music and feeling love all have an identical effect in the body. They cause the release of dopamine, the so-called 'pleasure chemical'.

Taking the science a step further, it has been discovered that combining music with an outstanding meal or a passionate event means that the tune you were hearing at the time is 'burnt' into your memory. It becomes a favourite, and can be used to reproduce that rush of euphoric chemicals each time you hear it, just as if you were eating that same meal or feeling that passionate love all over again. I can only imagine that, if you fell in love while dining with an orchestra playing in the background the effect would be almost overwhelming!

Now here's another fascinating thing: the effect of that tune doesn't depend on its musical quality. It could be a really rather mediocre piece of music. So the fact that some tunes become big hits is less dependent on whether they are good than where you heard them and what you were doing. So songs played in restaurants, or romantic venues (dance halls, cinemas, holiday resorts etc) have a much greater chance of becoming popular.

This could have a bearing on concert attendance. I've noticed that clubs which offer food (especially savouries) are much better attended. Could it be that the audience are getting hooked on their double dose of dopamine? I don't think we can (or even should) try to introduce romance into the equation, though moody lighting is also another factor in successful clubs!

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Weedon Wednesday: 18th July 2917

Yamaha Club magazine
OKC magazine

 FAILED AGAIN FRIDAY!

Once again, my Wednesday isn't a Wednesday at all! This time I've been otherwise engaged writing articles for which the deadline suddenly loomed large. I regularly write for OKC magazine (Organ & Keyboard Cavalcade) and the Yamaha Magazine. If these are publications you've not come across, you can link to OKC here, and to the Yamaha Club here.  Both contain how-to articles, product news and reviews and details of music holidays. 

 

If you'd like something else to look at, how about a composer re-writing the tune to Happy Birthday to You? I don't 'do' birthdays myself anymore, but this tune is very topical as its been the subject of yet another copyright court case. It looked for a while as though most of the world had been breaking the copyright laws by using it freely. However, the latest news is that those who DO celebrate their birthdays can breathe a sigh of relief to extinguish their candles. The tune is OK to use!

Weedon Wednesday: 13th July 2017

On our campsite

WEIRD WEDNESDAY!

If you were wondering where this Weedon Wednesday went, it was wretchedly wrecked by wi-fi. Enough of alliteration! I was trying to put the piece together in the van on a rural campsite and connection there was none. But what a weird piece of news inspired me this time! Did you see this item on the BBC?  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-40560477

It seems that being inspired by another's music is now a sueable offence, giving the unfortunately inspired musician a fine running into thousands of pounds for allowing another's music to unduly influence their work.
Don't get me wrong. I'm strongly against one composer deliberately pinching chunks of another composer's music for personal gain. That's obviously cheating, theft, call it what you will. But I often listen to works like Rachmaninov's 2nd Symphony or Wagner's Meistersinger Overture to turn on my ears and creative juices before penning something far less ambitious myself. Luckily, my inspirations all come from composers who are long gone, and subsequently out of copyright. 
But it seems people can be innocently inspired to greatness without realising it. How else can we explain this:  I had it in my head that Accentuate the Positive was part of the Jungle Book. Tony said it couldn't be - Bing Crosby sang it donkeys' years before Jungle Book came out.  So I searched on Google "Is Accentuate the Positive from Jungle Book?" and found that there are thousands of us thinking the same. In fact, the Jungle Book tune is Bare Necessities. But the two songs bear (pardon the pun) a strange resemblance - until you actually listen to them. A jury might well claim that the one inspired the other. But even if that were so, does it really matter? We only have 12 notes to play with. It's hardly surprising that, by the law of averages, they sometimes group themselves in a similar order, is it? What do you think?
Speaking of which, thanks to all of you who are responding to these posts. I enjoy reading all your reactions and I'm planning to include a collection of them now again as "Your Thoughts on Thursday". 
For now, may the inspiration be with you!

 

Weedon Wednesday: 5th July 2017

Penny at The Tower, Blackpool

TIME TO GET DIS-ORGANISED?

I've noticed that, if I tell people I'm a pianist, they say things like "How lovely - I do envy you!"  But I never get that response when I say I'm an organist. More often than not, eyes glaze over. I've even had remarks such as "Oh, church dirge music?", "You play The Birdie Song  in places with sticky floors, do you?" and "Regina Dixon, eh?" Now all of those reactions are accurate: I do play church organ, I have played 'entertainment organ' in sticky floored venues and I've even had the joy of playing at Blackpool Tower. But doesn't it just show how the word 'organ' covers so many different bases, and many of them misunderstood or even disliked. When I explain that I mainly play an instrument that can sound like an orchestra, a choir, any solo instrument you can name - even a piano or organ, I often get another puzzling response: "You mean one of those things that plays itself?"  Even the organ world has its own divisions. Many pipe organists eschew electronics and vice versa. 

The oddest thing is, when you play people a selection of clips on various types of 'organs', there's usually one clip amongst them that they like. One chap of my acquaintance who heard some orchestral music played on a modern electronic organ said "That's more like it - proper classical music. I'd much rather hear that than an organ. Don't like organs at all."

It seems that the organ world as a whole could have done a better job in the PR department. People are usually well informed about different makes of cars, computers, washing machines, even pianos, violins and guitars. But by all being under the one 'organ umbrella' we've ended up virtually out of sight. 

Maybe you're like me, and you simply enjoy any good music which is well played, irrespective of the instrument. I thought it would be fun over the coming weeks to share our favourite organ performances in whatever styles, so I'm setting the ball rolling today.

As a fan of classical orchestral music, I'm particularly bowled over by this one: 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pdsb94nvpNE
 
Or this one:    

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mibQV_iWU6g

Marco Cerbella can do no wrong in my book - lovely repertoire, beautifully selected sounds and heart-felt performances. People might ask why one would want to hear orchestral classics played by a 'mock' orchestra. My feelings are that Marco and his like are both orchestra and conductor, giving their own interpretation, and they can set up and play in venues where an orchestra would neither be expected nor even fit, bringing lovely music to a new audience. 

Next, a taste of pipe organ music but with a modern twist:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=wr9SXtvunwk

Yes, the one and only Cameron Carpenter, sparkling his way through one of his virtuoso arrangements.

Tony has been greatly enjoying Mike Reed's daily offerings on Facebook, which capture what I like best about Hammond organ:

 https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=4BuHuVrEHp4

I think that should really be titled 'What a difference a sound makes' as Mike is constantly adding or subtracting footages and moving his hands around the keyboards to such good effect. A few mornings back he was struck by inspiration so early that he appeared on Facebook playing in his pyjamas!

Time for a dollop of theatre organ music I think:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=JmLVY0fTZrM

George Wright playing one of my favourite melodies, only enhanced by the thick warbling tibias and exotic harmonies he uses. My romance with theatre organs is still in its infancy. I came to them later in life, which is a shame as my great uncle was organist at the New Gallery and I could have learned a lot at his side.

So there we are - a random scratching of the surface of some of my favourites. If I could only use one instrument , it would be the Yamaha we started with as it can pretty much make all the sounds. But what about you? I'd love to hear about your favourite tracks, especially if you can email me a link! Maybe by sharing the many different styles of organ music we can win over some new devotees?

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