Musical Discoveries in Lietuva……… Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis

I have been visiting Lithuania for the best part of eight years (part business and part pleasure) and have made over 30 visits to its wonderful capital city of Vilnius, but have also managed to take in visits to Kaunas and Siauliai, albeit in the latter case an encounter with a 40 ton truck curtailed our visit and required a lengthy visit to the local A&E.

 As an avid music fan I have tried to take in as much culture as possible by attending concerts by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra or LNSO (Lietuvos Nacionalinis Simfoninis Orkestras, LNSO) and operas at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre (LNOBT) which, is often considered to be the “jewel in the crown” as far as Lithuanian culture goes.

 I have seen excellent orchestral concerts and heard the music of Mahler, Richard Strauss, Lutoslawski and Elgar and saw the most magnificent performance of Madam Butterfly at the opera house. Visually, it was stunning and the musical performance was excellent.


What I have not managed to do on any visits is hear the music of native Lithuanian composers, possibly just bad timing of my visits.

 I have managed to acquire the odd CD from my visits and I can recommend the Requiem by Osvaldas Balakauskas which I have in my collection (available on Naxos records).

 I can also recommend a CD of piano music played by Sviese Cepliauskaite featuring music by Chopin and a variety of Lithuanian composers. However, the real discovery for me has been the compositions of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis which I discovered through the wonders of YouTube by accident.


He has been considered one of the pioneers of abstract in Europe . During his short life he composed about 400 pieces of music and created about 300 paintings, as well as many literary works and poems. The majority of his paintings are housed in the M.K Ciurlionis National Art Museum in Kaunas, Lithuania. His works have had a profound influence on modern Lithuanian culture. The asteroid 2420 Ciurlionis is named after him.

Possibly his best two compositions (and best known) are the tone poems “In the Forest” and “The Sea” both very atmospheric, beautiful melodies that should be much wider known and played.

So instead of churning out the same old warhorses every season, how about a bit of risk taking and programming one of these works (are you listening at the Halle?) and let the public enjoy this wonderful music.


And to make things even better how about inviting Juozas Domarkas, Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of the LNSO (pictured above) to conduct the concert. Now that I would pay good money to see!

Posted in Culture, Klaipeda, Lithuania, Music, Opera, Vilnius | Leave a comment

Southern softies……..half an inch of rain and it is front page news

‘The roads are now rivers of hail': Storm described as ‘zombie apocalypse’ brings chaos to morning rush-hour in British cities


The above was the front page of the Daily Mail today (18 July 2014) and reading it and looking at the images you would have thought armageddon had arrived. Instead after further reading you find that they had “lightning” “hailstones” and a bit of “local flooding”………….well, summer storms are quite natural (and normal).

I woiuld venture to suugest that if this had happened 10 miles north of the M25 you would have seen not a thing about it in the newspaper. But if anything happens in the south and particularly London then it suddenly becomes front page news.

No wonder “us lot up north” get a little cheesed off with the Londoncentric news…………

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Helmshore Textile Museum………reminders of my mother

My mother was born in 1918, was very bright and it was suggested she go to the Grammar School to continue her education. This was not possible because at the age of 8 her father was killed in a “pitfall” and her mother who was disabled, was unable to pay for the uniform and all other associated costs.


So at 13 years of age she left secondary school and started work in one of the local cotton mills in Leigh, J & J Hayes. She only got the job because she had been brought up a Methodist and the owners of the mill were leading lights in the Methodist church (a bit like having Masonic connections!).


She spent over 30 years working in the cotton mills and as a child I can remember her coming home from the evening shift covered in bits of cotton and extremely tired. I often heard her talk about the work in the mill but had no real understanding of what it was really like.


This changed when I was a teenager and once went to the mill to meet my mother and I was told to go inside as she was just finishing her shift. The noise was appalling and I couldn’t breath properly because of the cotton in the air (the only thing I have seen worse was in the old steel furnaces in Sheffield…….now that was “Hell on Earth”).


With all of this in mind a good friend and colleague invited me to go with him to visit the Helmshore Textile Museum at Rossendale in Lancashire (as a Yorkshire resident I had to get a permit to leave the county for a day) which, is a working museum. Unusually, the original works had two mills, one spinning cotton goods and the other weaving wool which, is normally associated with West Yorkshire.


The museum itself consists of two mills; the Higher Mill which is a woolen fulling mill built in 1789 and driven by a water wheel. Whitaker’s Mill was built in the mid 19th century and is a specialised cotton spinning mill, starting from waste recycled cotton and finishing with mule spun yarn. There are other significant exhibits including a full size Hargreaves Spinning Jenny and a portrait of Sir Richard Arkwright.  All exhibits are described by means of extensive video presentations and informative plaques.


There are demonstrations of the machinery working, accompanied by explanations of the background and history by very knowledgeable and helpful guides. Our guide was telling us that they get many visitors who actually worked in the old cotton mills in Lancashire and are able to give first hand accounts of the working conditions.DSC_0034

Health and safety was never a real priority in the mills (I know, as my mother lost the top of a finger of one hand when it was trapped in the machinery) and there are stories of women being “scalped” when their hair got caught in the moving rollers. You will note that in the photograph I have posted above all the women have their hair “up.”


Children as young as eight worked from 5.00am to 9.00pm at night and who, after nightfall had to be kept awake “by the overseers strap.” All employees had to abide by pedantic rules and would be fined (or dismissed) for any infringement. Rule 16 on the list I have posted states:-

“The masters would recommend that all their work people wash themselves every morning, but that they shall wash themselves at least twice every week, Monday morning and Thursday morning ,and any found not washed will be find 3d for each offence.”



For anyone interested in the industrial heritage of our country I would strongly recommend a visit. There is a nominal entrance fee and you can finish off your visit with an excellent pot of tea in the little café (a “gradely” cup of tea as we say in Lancashire, in a proper tea pot, none of this metal rubbish!)

So a big thank you to all the staff and guides who made us so welcome, I will be back.



Posted in Culture, Economy, Education, Equality, Health and Wellbeing, History, Industrial Heritage, West Yorkshire | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It’s your turn to get up and make the tea…………………..


© Kindadukish 2014

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White Working Class………..bottom of the heap!


 University admissions figures show white teenagers are the least likely ethnic group to apply for places. Figures from Ucas show that all ethnic groups have increased application rates – but white teenagers are less likely to apply than Asian or black pupils.

The 2014 figures for England show poorer pupils applying in record numbers, but still significantly less than their better-off peers. Female pupils remain much more likely than males to apply.

The figures from the Ucas admissions service provide an early analysis of young people applying to start university this autumn. It looks at applications from 18-year-olds in England’s state schools – and compares this year’s cohort with 2006.

The figures show a substantial increase in university applications among all groups – but with wide variations according to ethnicity and income. Almost 45% of Asian teenagers applied to university, compared with 39% of black teenagers and 31% of white teenagers.

This shows that since 2006 black teenagers have overtaken their white counterparts in the proportion applying to university. The proportion of white teenagers has risen from 25% to 31%, but not as quickly as black teenagers, whose application rates rose much more rapidly from 24% to 39%. The highest application rates of all are for the relatively small number of Chinese teenagers.

A study published this week by the London School of Economics, based on applications in 2008, claimed that ethnic minority candidates were less likely to be offered places than their similarly qualified white counterparts.

The snapshot from Ucas also shows the shifting demographics of the young population. There has been a decline in secondary age pupils, which is set to be reversed as the surge in numbers at primary level begins to reach secondary schools.

These latest figures show that the overall year group in 2014 is smaller than in 2006. This reflects that the fall in the number of white teenagers has been greater than the increase in ethnic minority pupils.

White pupils remain by far the biggest overall number, representing 82% of this year group.

The Ucas figures also show a substantial rise in applications from poorer teenagers, identified by being eligible for free school meals.

This year, 18% of free school meals pupils applied to university, up from 11% in 2006. But this is significantly below the 37% rate of applications from pupils not eligible for free meals. The size of the gap between these poorer children and the rest of the year group remains very similar to eight years ago.

Les Ebdon, director of Fair Access to Higher Education, said: “The upwards application trends are good news, but stark gaps remain between application rates from young people from different backgrounds.

“That means many talented, intelligent young people are missing out on the economic and social mobility that higher education helps to support, and the country is missing out on a pool of potentially excellent graduates who could be enriching our economy and society.”

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Allez Lietuva………………


Ramunas Navardauskas wins the 19th stage of the Tour de France in appalling conditions, after making a break and holding off the chasing pack to take victory.

He is the first Lithuanian to win a stage in the Tour and was a late replacement for the British rider David Miller who was surprisingly dropped from the Garmin team at the last-minute.

Navardauskas paid tribute to Miller and said he had received a very nice tweet from him congratulating him on his win.

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Social Media Explained


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