BBC Symphony Orchestra sub-principal viola Phil Hall always has a ringside seat close to the conductor at concerts and rehearsals. Here, Phil reports from the rehearsals for last Friday’s BBCSO concert at the Barbican. You can listen to the concert here.
Guest leader Simon Blendis and Maxim Vengerov Photo: Mark Millidge
When it came to the orchestra's attention that the great Russian violin virtuoso Maxim Vengerov would direct Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade from the violin, my curiosity was aroused. Not because I doubted Vengerov's musicianship or talent but because I had never heard of any violinist attempting this extraordinary juggling act. Not that surprising as it turns out since, as Maxim claimed, no-one has done it since the great Belgian violinist Eugene Ysayë a hundred years ago.
Maxim began the rehearsal with an apology: ‘I must say sorry to Simon our concert master for stealing his beautiful solos.’ But as soon as he launched into the first solo there are smiles all round as his big, passionate Russian sound heated up the chill of Maida Vale Studio 1. Maxim was a pleasure to rehearse with – a very big-hearted, charming person, constantly addressing the orchestra as ’friends’ with names of principal wind players written into his score above their solos. A small gesture that means a lot. By turns he directed with his hands, baton, violin bow or just a nod of his head.
Maxim has spent the last three years on a sabbatical studying conducting in St Petersburg with Vag Papian and Yuri Simonov, but has developed a style all his own. He takes broad tempi because, as he recently admitted in an interview in the Daily Telegraph: ‘...we used to be right to use slower tempi...to feel the space between the notes’.
In rehearsal was a cute ‘Lost in Translation’ moment; ever courteous Maxim addressed our second clarinet: ‘Peter, you must play like over-the-hill.’ Titters all round until guest leader Simon Blendis gave Maxim the meaning of the idiom. ’No!’ he exclaimed, ‘Sorry, I didn't mean that! I meant in the distance, far away.’ We string players were glued to his amazing bow arm and he gave an object lesson in how to play the theme of the slow movement. We didn't want him to stop demonstrating.
In the second half of the Barbican concert last Friday, Vengerov strode boldly on to the stage, Stradivarius and baton in hand, and a full house held its breath. I was holding my breath too as he seemed to leave it to the very last second to put down the baton and pick up his violin from the table just in time. Occasionally there were moments of Svetlanov-like expansiveness and some eyebrow gestures and smiles worthy of Rozhdestvensky. Moments too of complete uncertainty when his back was turned to play the solos ? (how the wind players placed their chords I'll never know) ? but it was an exciting ride for the orchestra, like playing giant chamber music. One of those concerts to tell the grandchildren about, if I ever have any…
Producer David Coomes introduces this week's broadcasts in The Essay.
The Essay this week is given over to reflections on Forgiveness, a word we often use swiftly and glibly, without fully understanding its meaning and consequences. Five essayists approach Forgiveness: what it is, what it isn't (or shouldn't be), and how to do it.
Do we appreciate how hard it is truly to forgive? And do we confuse it sometimes with forgetting? In fact, is it possible at all? Do we mistakenly think of it as a magic wand, giving us a warm, cosy glow inside, helping us to evade or cope with the consequences of the wrong? Do we too easily forgive retrospectively or vicariously? Where is there a place for justice to be done and to be seen to be done?
The series kicked off last night with journalist and writer, Madeleine Bunting. 'Nothing is a more familiar part of our moral furniture,' she says. As a child growing up a Catholic, she recited The Lord's Prayer and its plea to be forgiven 'as we forgive others'. In later life, she has discovered that forgiving is hard, very hard, a choice rather than an emotion, and 'emerging as one of the dominant themes which has shaped the struggles of (her) own emotional landscape.' You can listen to Madeleine's broadcast here.
Tonight's essayist is writer Mark Vernon, a former priest in the Church of England, who argues that Forgiveness is one step too far, is impossible for human beings to do properly, and whose apparent public examples like Nelson Mandela reveal in their own lives not so much a situation-changing forgiveness, but 'pragmatic reconciliation'.
Baroness Rabbi Julia Neuberger (Wednesday) speaks as a Jew. She has never understood retrospective or vicarious forgiveness for one simple reason, often exemplified in Jewish history. Only the victims have the right to forgive, nobody else. She has never understood, either, friends who tell her it is time after all these decades to forgive the Nazis their atrocities. Really? Those 'atrocities' damaged or destroyed people's lives, and who are we to forgive? Presumptuous, to say the least. 'The whole point of forgiveness is that one seeks it from those very people one has wronged.'
The historian Dr David Starkey believes forgiveness to be more than a moral injunction; it is also one of the corner-stones of what we can still call - just - Western Christian civilisation. But for how long? 'And is this corner-stone, like most of the rest of the fabric itself, already eroded beyond repair?' Arguing that it is, with constant references to Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, which has arrived early, he fears: 'Forgiveness is a product of tough and testing times. Our times, on the other hand, are neither tough nor testing but feather-bed soft and somnolently secure.'
Concluding the series is the award-winning poet Michael Symmons Roberts, who advocates that Forgiveness goes alongside Justice, it doesn't replace it. 'Forgiveness, in the traditional elegy, was undergirded by justice'. Once, of course, people believed that if justice evaded them in this life it would be done in the next. But if, as most of us believe, there is no next life...
My colleague Roger Short and I arrive at night; several bats are flying around outside the airport and a couple of large black beetles scuttle into the arrivals lounge, alongside the passengers.
We drive to Zelda Game Farm, close to the Botswana border; to meet a Nharo family, one of the many indigenous hunter gatherer communities of southern Africa, sometimes collectively referred to as the San. They have one of the oldest genetic lineages stretching back thousands of years, from which all modern humans may originate. One thing is certain, they are some of the warmest and friendliest people we meet on our trip.
the Nharo family
Over the course of several hours, they share their songs, dances, stories and traditional crafts with us – something they do for anyone visiting the area. After years of displacement and changes to their way of life, they are keen to preserve a largely oral tradition, and cultural tourism seems to play an important part in this.
Xasa speaks to us in beautiful and rhythmic Xhosa, also known as the ‘click language’. The various southern Africa languages and speech patterns that I hear throughout our trip seem to connect directly to the music. It has a heartbeat through it unlike any Western Music I’ve heard - whether through obvious rhythmic dancing and clapping or the natural punctuation of the languages of the songs.
For most of the performance Xasa and the other women in her family sit in on floor and the men dance and move round them in a circle. The moth cocoons wrapped round the men’s ankles act as shakers, adding to the rhythmic clapping and singing. The whole thing becomes quite hypnotic – very in keeping with the healing trances used by the elders.
Back in Namibia’s capital Windhoek, we meet singer-songwriter Elemotho. Born and raised in the Kalahari, he is now an international artist. His songs carry the traditional musical styles of Namibia; chanting from the San, praise-singing and storytelling from his grandmother, as well as rhythms heard on the radio from Zimbabwe and the Congo.
Elemotho and Sam
‘I’m interested in the power of words’ he tells me. Elemotho grew up under Apartheid, learning Afrikaans at school – one of several languages he speaks, including English and Setswana. His father spoke 10 African languages and his brother speaks 7. Elemotho wants his children to be equally multilingual. ‘But some songs I can only sing in Setswana – they don’t work in any other language’. He explains the lyrics of one of his songs. It uses a traditional phrase about listening to the Elders, and combines it with more modern ideas of personal conscience and democracy. ‘Basically it means people be free’, a relevant sentence in this young country. As I listen to his singing, I might not understand the words, but the musical message is crystal clear.
Commonwealth Connections is broadcast on BBC Radio 3 as part of World On 3 (Friday 11pm-1am) the series runs until the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this July.
Recording Elemotho and Sam at Avis Dam, Namibia
It is said that if you set sail westward from the UK and follow the currents you will always land up in Barbados and curiously in some ways Barbados still feels quite closely connected to British culture.
On a scorching day just before Christmas, we met Wayne ‘Poonka’ Willocks and his Ruk a Tuk band on the beach near Bridgeton. I was astonished when I heard this three piece drum and penny whistle band by how familiar it sounded – like a mini Scottish pipe band, without the bagpipes. There was a little African swagger in some of the drum rhythms but otherwise it was a very similar soundworld. The pennywhistle made me think of the ‘piping aboard’ traditions you get in the Navy and may well have been drawn from the strong British Naval presence in the 18th and 19th centuries – judging from the number of ship canons found and now displayed at the Garrison in Bridgeton.
a BBC sound engineer of the future
Barbados is small but it is proud of its successes and cherishes its most talented people. Pop singer Rihanna was in town while we were there but walks freely out shopping and is treated like a local girl – by chance I met her old Sunday school teacher who knows her family and takes an interest in this nice girl, who sang so sweetly in the Church choir.
The Mighty Gabby
Another singer beloved of the Bajans is ‘The Mighty Gabby’ – a man of the people and an Ambassador for the Arts in Barbados, he is greeted with huge warmth and respect everywhere he goes. As big in his own country as his best friends Mick Jagger and Eddie Grant are elsewhere in the world, to be around Gabby is like being around a superstar. He uses his fame and his considerable talent to be a spokesman for his people and his songs reflect his interests and social concerns over several decades from everything from racial prejudice, anti-war reflections, anti-government action, love and of course his personal passion, cricket. Cricket legends Wes Hall and fellow fast bowler Charlie Griffith are gods.
The first thing I noticed about my guest Douglas Kennedy was how energetic and fresh he seemed...could it be true that he had just flown in from America? Here is a person who really knows how to travel, I thought, and he clearly has it down to a fine art. Douglas told me he had slept soundly during his flight: that's the secret, and I admired him for managing to drop off in those slightly surreal circumstances (being surrounded by other people, all wrapped in light acrylic blankets, 35,000 feet up in the air, etc.). He tackled the interview with great relish - so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the music, so happy to share his experiences of life. He seemed delighted that I'd enjoyed his novel, Five Days, about a brief and life-changing affair. Relationships seem to lie at the heart of his work, and he often writes from the woman's point of view - completely convincingly. We talked about that, and about his desire to create books that are "popular serious novels" or "serious popular novels" - both sides being equally important. And he was very candid about how he's dealt with various ups and downs in both life and work. I left the studio wondering if Douglas Kennedy's novels could ultimately take the place of self-help books...they're certainly not short of solace and sound advice for the troubled heart.
Douglas has commented on his Essential Classic interview with Sarah on his Facebook page. You can read his thoughts at:
Keith Lockhart, Principal Conductor, BBC Concert Orchestra. Photo: Chris Christodoulou
The BBC Concert Orchestra’s Principal Conductor Keith Lockhart reflects on his two upcoming concerts at Southbank Centre’s Queen Elizabeth Hall: World To Come (24 February) and World Once Known (31 March).
2014 marks the beginning of the worldwide observance of the centennial of World War I. As such, it is the perfect time to reflect on the changes wrought by 'the war to end all wars.'
When the smoke cleared in 1918, most of the social and political structures that had defined life in Europe since the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire had disappeared. This change not only had profound political consequences, but was reflected in people’s new attitudes toward social convention, religion, and artistic expression. Composers, and other artists, simply didn’t recognise the world around them.
World To ComeAs a cataclysm like the First World War closes some windows for good, it opens doors for fresh voices and new ideas. In the years immediately following the conflict, innovation and new energy in classical music moved away from its traditional European epicenter. New York was the quintessential 'modern city' of the 1920s. Skyscrapers shot upwards, and the energy and optimism of its inhabitants soared right along with them. Composers availed themselves of the edgy harmonies and catchy rhythms of jazz – the first musical art form that was truly and indigenously American. This was the world in which Aaron Copland penned his Music for the Theatre in 1925. This was not the Copland we revere today – the gentle poet of the American expanse – but the Copland of whom Walter Damrosch (who was about to conduct the premiere of Copland’s Organ Symphony in 1924) said, 'I’m sure you’ll all agree that if a young composer can write such a symphony, in five years he should be capable of murder!' John Alden Carpenter also made full use of this new and intensely American musical material in his 1921 ballet Krazy Kat, in which the iconic characters in this oh-so-Roaring Twenties comic strip come to life on stage. Leonard Bernstein was born in the waning months of the First World War, and his 1944 ballet Fancy Free evokes New York at the very top of its game.
BBCCO Maya Beiser Photo: ioulex
Our World To Come concert focuses on the progressive buoyancy, the youth, and the vigor of a young nation, a young city, and young artists in the years between the wars. Its title, though, derives from David Lang’s concerto for cello, which receives its UK premiere in this performance. The artist for whom the work was written is the extraordinary Maya Beiser, and I suppose what I like most about this concert is that it affords me the opportunity to introduce this amazing performer to our Concert Orchestra audience. Lang’s world to come was written in the shadow of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Its title reflects both fear – are the events of 9/11 a foreshadowing of the world that will be – and the consolation of religious faith that there is indeed a better world beyond this one. The World Trade Center was abbreviated 'WTC' by in-the-know New Yorkers, and it is no coincidence that the letters also outline world to come. In a way, Lang’s powerful music brings us full circle all the way back to where we started…in the aching void and uncertainty of a century ago. Composers and all creative artists have the power to ask, profoundly, the questions which gnaw at all of us. What have we lost, and what sort of world is yet to come?
American soprano Nicole Cabell: performing Knoxville - Summer of 1915. photo: Devon Cass
World Once KnownSome composers, like Arnold Schoenberg, resolutely left the past behind them and marched into the future, brandishing a musical language that would have been unrecognisable to nineteenth century ears. Others looked to the past for reassurance – Maurice Ravel based his Le Tombeau de Couperin on Baroque dance forms from the heyday of the French empire, but dedicated each individual movement to the memory of one of his friends lost in battle. George Butterworth was another casualty of the war, one of 'the flower of England’s youth', cut down in his prime, leaving us to speculate on how profound his influence over music in the 20th century would have been. Other composers, like Leoš Janácek and Béla Bartók, looked to their country’s folk tales and folk music of a simpler time, ironically echoing the surging nationalism of the late nineteenth century – which itself fanned the flames of the conflict to begin with. Perhaps my favorite music on this programme is Samuel Barber’s sublime Knoxville: Summer of 1915, a setting of James Agee’s words that evokes a simpler time, 'when old people sat on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently.' Although Barber’s and Agee’s world was one far removed from the European conflict, its sweet and sad nostalgia for a World Once Known is the thread of continuity through this entire programme, as composers stared into an uncertain future, and longed for a world that would never be again…and perhaps never was.
World To ComeMonday 24 February, 7.30pmSouthbank Centre: Queen Elizabeth HallBroadcast on BBC Radio 3 at 2pm on Tuesday 1 April
World Once KnownMonday 31 March, 7.30pmSouthbank Centre: Queen Elizabeth HallBroadcast live on BBC Radio 3
Anton Hunter - photo by Mark Whitaker © 2013
Spontaneity and improvisation are words close to any jazz musician's heart – but what happens when you take it one step further to improvise the whole line-up of a band? Well, our annual event, Adventures in Sound dares to do just that, as we invite musicians from all corners of the improvising world, stick them in ad-hoc groupings and throw them on stage before they've even had time to shake hands. If you think that sounds daunting, then you might be quite surprised by the results in this week's programme.
Mola Sylla at Adventures in Sound
Recorded at Cafe Oto during last year's London Jazz Festival, our first impromptu performance comes from Senegalese vocalist Mola Sylla, British bassist Sam Lasserson and Dutch saxophonist and flautist Ab Baars. Somehow the trio settle into a rhythm and mood almost immediately and Sylla – who also plays percussion – proves to be something of a secret weapon, bringing sounds far from the avant-jazz norm. In our second spontaneous collaboration, volatile textures are explored by a group including saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock and acoustic bass guitariist Luc Ex. They are joined by drummer Jeff Williams and electronics whizz Leafcutter John, whose rumblings and glitchy rhythms propel the music in unexpected directions. We also have a chance to hear a set from Luc Ex’s trio, as well as music from another threesome led by guitarist Anton Hunter – their warm, Americana-tinged sound is close to my heart, and if you heard the piece we broadcast from this performance before Christmas, you’ll know you’re in for a treat. This week also marks the 70th birthday of an extraordinary composer and bandleader, who's made many unforgettable sonic explorations of his own – Henry Threadgill. Speaking with his close colleagues drummer Pheeroan akLaff, composer George Lewis, and guitarist Liberty Ellman, we'll be getting the inside track on the man and his music.Join me on Monday 17 February at 11pm, or listen online for seven days after broadcast.
If you have comments about the show, or requests for music you’d like to hear, do get in touch at email@example.com or on twitter at @BBCJazzon3.
Learning patience under an African sun from a desk in rainy Glasgow
So there I was at home in Glasgow sitting in my dressing gown at 9am on Christmas Day waiting for two people in East Africa to get themselves in the same place at the same time so we could record an interview.
The recording had been postponed on several previous occasions but I was reassured by the wonderfully named Modestus Mbele from East Africa TV that this time it really would happen.
I waited. And I waited. I texted Modestus. No reply.
At 10:30am, an hour and a half later than scheduled, Modestus arrived at the Dar es Salaam home of Suleman Nyambui Mujaya, who won a silver medal for Tanzania in the 5000 metres at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Normally I would have been irritated. But by now I had been trying to carry out a series of interviews in East and West Africa for a couple of months and I realised the delay didn't bother me in the slightest. I didn't even care it was Christmas Day, it would happen that morning sometime and if it didn't it would happen another morning. Probably. Somehow, despite being thousands of miles away from my desk and my home in Glasgow, Africa had got under my skin.
Olympic judo quarter finalist Christianne Legentil
The process had begun a few months earlier with a commission for BBC Scotland from Radio 3 to interview athletes from around the Commonwealth and get them to choose a favourite piece of music. It was a wonderful journey, checking out highlife music from West Africa and sega from Mauritius, finding athletes and then trying to find ways of recording them.
One particular challenge was getting hold of Olympic judo quarter finalist Christianne Legentil. If you imagine East Africa, you are probably aware of the big island down the right hand side, well continue east from Madagascar into the Indian Ocean, and keep going. You go past Reunion Island, and eventually you arrive in Mauritius. But it turned out Chrisianne wasn't in Mauritius itself, she was on tiny Rodrigues Island four hundred kilometres east. Look it up on google maps. Zoom out, and you realise how lonely this 18 kilometre long island is.
The language there isn't English. Christianne speaks a form of French creole, and she'd be the first to admit her English isn't great. But eventually with the help of Radio Mauritius I was put in touch with the bureau on Rodrigues and we arranged to get the interview done and emailed to Glasgow as an MP3. But nothing happened so I rang Christianne to ask what was going on. When would I get my recording done? She told me there was no electricity, I asked what happened. She told me there had been a massive cyclone with hurricane winds and ten metre waves and it would be a few days before things got back to normal.
It made whingeing about the rain in Glasgow seem rather pathetic.
Gideon Mthembu from Swaziland
I didn't realise it but my journalistic journey into Swaziland was to touch me and others rather profoundly. Gideon Mthembu, who ran the Marathon at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games of 1986 chose an extraordinary piece of music by a singer called Bholoja. Gideon spoke eloquently and from the heart about Swazi's sense of home.
When the piece was edited it brought a tear to more than one eye and it was clear that this was the one to start the series with. Take a listen for yourself.
the fastest man in Lesotho, Mosito Lehata
And so the journey continued...
In Ghana weightlifter Alberta Ampomah is also training to be a police officer. When she was running late for her interview I rang her to see what was happening and there was a police siren blaring in the background. She said she was on her way. I didn't dare ask.
In Lesotho I was interviewing the fastest man in the country, Mosito King Lehata. He was an hour and a half late for his interview, which then arrived distorted. So we set another date and this time he was only forty five minutes late. If his personal best improves at this rate watch out for him in the 100m final.
Hafsatu Kamara, a sprinter from Sierra Leone, did her interview on an smartphone, recording her answers on the voice memo application and then sending the file as an attachment. It was crystal clear. Sometimes despite the distance it can be easy.
sprinter Hafsatu Kamara from Sierra Leone
So there I was at home on Boxing Day, in my dressing gown, at 9am waiting for events in Tanzania to fall into place. The interview had happened the previous day, but was covered in interference from a mobile phone. So Modestus had agreed to do it again. To show good faith I promised him I would authorise his money transfer (a modest fee) so he could pick it up after the interview.
I waited. And I waited. I texted Modestus. No reply, but I did get a text from Western Union to tell me the payment had been picked up.
I waited. Modestus would show up, wouldn't he?
And he did, eventually.
Under the African sun, all was well.
photo of David Allison credit Sean Purser
Tucked away in the Austrian Alps, Saalfelden Jazz Festival has been going strong for almost 35 years, playing host to local and international acts alike. Every year, thanks to the hard graft and solidarity of the European Broadcast Union, a package of highlights arrives at Jazz on 3 of new, experimental jazz from the festival – and this year didn't disappoint.
It’s tradition that a local Austrian artist is commissioned to open the show and this time it was the turn of young pianist David Helbock with his quartet Action Figures. David is from a small village called Koblach up on the Swiss border and as his bandname would suggest, takes a very playful approach to music. The quartet features the unusual backline of drums and tuba, giving it a powerful low end, whilst American tenor player Tony Malaby adds to the punch. Helbock is certainly one to watch, with a unique composition style – although influences do bubble to the surface on the brilliant 'Anonymous Monkaholics'.
Saalfelden is also a great place to encounter more established acts, but often found in new or unusual groupings. French guitarist Marc Ducret, previously heard on Jazz on 3 with his trio, appears here with his 12-piece Tower Bridge ensemble. Hefty brass sounds, two drummers and big riffling characterises an intense set, featuring Tim Berne on alto sax. We also hear again from John Medeski – who in contrast to last week's featured gig with Medeski Martin and Wood – plays a solo piano set of unusual and rather beautiful interpretations of spirituals like 'His Eye Is On The Sparrow' alongside Gershwin's classic 'Summertime'. The Uri Caine Ensemble also nod to Gershwin in a performance featuring vocalists Barbara Walker and Theo Bleckmann. Their playful deconstruction of the melody in 'They Can't Take That Away From Me' into a childlike, syllabic antiphony is followed by an impressionist, layered and rather beautiful 'But Not For Me'.
The real surprise though comes from Swedish improvising saxophonist Martin Küchen's Angles 10. In another brass-heavy line up, full-force rhythmic grooving meets Eastern tinged melodies – for a rapturous performance which at times reminded me of Sun Ra's Arkestra. Playing 'Every Woman Is A Tree', Küchen really delivers with some clever composing and stand out solo moments on alto.
Join me for these fantastic performances on Monday 10 February at 11pm, or listen online for seven days after broadcast.
2013 Saalfelden Jazz Festival in photos
If you have comments about the show, or requests for music you’d like to hear, do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at @BBCJazzon3.
Producing this feature has been an immense JOY and researching the music of the fascinating island of Newfoundland has been a truly illuminating experience for me. It's amazing to learn of how strong an impact Scottish, French and Irish music have had on the traditional music of Newfoundland and how their lasting influence can still be heard today.
I initially made contact with some musical friends, both Canadians, drummer Mattie Foulds and singer songwriter Michael Johnson in the hope of finding some leads and bizarrely enough it wasn't long before I found out that Mattie's mum is Artist Director of Canada's Celtic Colours Festival. Joella Foulds tipped me off and passed on contacts for some of Newfoundland's key players and my journey was now well underway. Working in different time zones had its challenges and after many attempts at trying to reach singer and collector of Newfoundland songs Jean Hewson (photographed above), I finally heard her warm tones at the end of my telephone line. She told me excitedly about a weekly jam session that she and friends participate in every Tuesday at a former hardware store and gathering place for the community, the kind of place that would parcel things up in sheets of brown paper and string.
Outside The Rocket coffee house
The location for the music sessions, now a coffee house, 'The Rocket', still retains a strong sense of community spirit and every Tuesday afternoon the room come alive with the hi-energy sounds of fiddles, accordions and guitars played at an incredibly fast pace entertaining the good folks of St Johns. Accordions feature heavily in the music of Newfoundland and it was through Jean I managed to track down local hero Frank Maher who has played accordion with almost every traditional band on the island at some point in his career. The programme captures his sense of mischief and humour and worth checking out the highly infectious 'Chasing Her Boy Round The Room'. During the war Frank would get on his small paddle boat and would entertain soldiers by straddling up close to the side of their ships in the hope that a few coppers would be thrown his way. He quickly found out that making music was never going to be a huge money spinner but at the top of the agenda for Frank was, and still is, a desire to share his passion for the music with the wider community and the new generation of players coming through. One of these players, Jean Hewson, gives an insight into island life and how the music of Newfoundland seems almost wedded to the sea with it's strong marine themes including songs and shanties about shipwrecks, fishing communities, and the magic and mystery of the wide open waters. As fiddler and academic Christina Smith puts it “the ocean was our road”. A road which has welcomed so many different music forms to travel to and from the island.
Special thanks of gratitude go out to Glen Tilley and Terry Windsor from CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) for assisting in the recording of the music which I am deeply grateful. I hope you enjoy the life affirming sounds, energy and passion from all the musicians involved, sent from St. Johns with love.
Commonwealth Connections is broadcast on BBC Radio 3 as part of World On 3 (Friday 11pm-1am) the series runs until the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July.
Frank Maher and Jean Hewson
inside The Rocket coffee house
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