Five star revue for Mirga at the “Proms”


Prom 55: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the CBSO ★★★★★

“London debuts are seldom such a baptism of fire” – John Allison

Perhaps the most newsworthy of all the 2016 Proms, this concert went into the schedule initially tagged “Conductor TBC”. No ordinary artistic loose end, it signalled something of a scoop for the Proms, since the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was then on the point of announcing its successor to Andris Nelsons. Anticipation increased when the CBSO revealed that its new music director would indeed be Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla, and the early opportunity of hearing this 30-year-old Lithuanian conductor make nothing less than her London debut was not lost on the capacity crowd here in the Albert Hall.

London debuts are seldom such a baptism of fire, and rarely bring out the TV cameras, but much was riding on their first programme together (previewed the night before in Birmingham) since that announcement. Quite some celebration, this concert made it clear that the CBSO has not lost its winning streak in finding young conductors destined for great things – her predecessors include not only Nelsons but Sakari Oramo and Simon Rattle.

Gražinytė-Tyla chose to open with Mozart, a good calling card since she is already music director of the Salzburg Landestheater. Her baton style – outstretched arms perhaps reflecting her initial training as a choral conductor – is almost balletic, with graceful sweeping gestures punctuated by sharp stabs, and the latter might have made for a potentially jerky start to the Magic Flute overture. Yet the obvious rapport between her and the orchestra translated instead into sunny playing that was precise and elegant.

Contemporary music will be a vital part of her CBSO work, and it featured here in the form of the London premiere of Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you. Better late than never: such is the phenomenal success of this piece that is has received a couple of dozen performances since its world premiere in 2013. A setting of Ophelia’s words filtered through the oulipian imagination of the writer Paul Griffiths, the work was composed for Barbara Hannigan, who completely inhabits the music with self-contained fragility.

After an uneasy start, due to some disruption in the hall, soprano and conductor both took possession of the piece. Hannigan’s voice may be on the small side for this venue, and more words would have been welcome, yet her tone became part the glistening, wintry soundscape. Gražinytė-Tyla maintained fastidious control right up to Ophelia’s ethereal benediction.

The toughest test here was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, a well-known warhorse full of pitfalls when it comes to pacing. It was no mean achievement that Gražinytė-Tyla, conducting from memory, shaped such a fresh-sounding performance. The opening fanfares poured out generously and the full orchestral punches were sharply etched before this conductor got down to the business of a naturally flowing performance. The symphonic argument in her unhurried first movement was keenly detailed, and the succeeding movements had lyrical warmth and crisp articulation. A compelling force on the podium, Gražinytė-Tyla clearly signals exciting times ahead for the CBSO.

Reprinted from the Daily Telegraph, London.

Posted in BBC, Cklassical music. Female Conductors, Classical Music, Conductors, Culture, Equality, Lithuania, Music, Vilnius | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Road to Hebden Bridge………6 miles, 16 bridges and a lot of water



As part of my on going project to try and walk as many of the canals as possible in the north of England, today I set off to Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire to walk the 6 miles to Hebden Bridge.


Start of the walk at Sowerby Bridge

This is my third journey having previously walked the stretch of the Calder & Hebble canal from Brighouse to Elland, and then from Elland to Sowerby Bridge.


One of the sixteen bridges

I parked up in the town centre and made my way to the canal where I passed the deepest lock in England, my journey had begun


A leisurely morning on the boat

The walk itself is along the old towpath, very flat and incredibly scenic at times as you traverse the Calder valley bottom. This stretch of canal is known for its abundance of bridges, in fact there are sixteen in the six-mile stretch.

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Sunlight on leaf and water

One of the more noticeable things was the conversion of old buildings into apartments alongside the canal as well as “newbuild” town houses and apartments. This area has obviously become quite a desirable place to live and the property prices reflect this (although no where near the prices of southern England).


Storage building of some kind

After about two hours walking, and numerous stops to take photographs, I arrived in Hebden Bridge and was pleasantly surprised at the recovery the town had made from the last floods. Many businesses seemed to have reopened and the town was full of visitors with every coffee and teahouse seemingly doing very good business on such a lovely day.


Happy travellers

I would recommend the Watergate Tea Rooms in the centre, by the side of the river. Food was excellent, cappuccino good and strong and delightful customer service. The young lady who took my order greeted me with such a warm and welcoming smile that I immediately felt positive about the place. It was also very nice to sit outside by the river on such a lovely day.


“Can you close the gate love………….”

I caught the train back to Sowerby Bridge, well I didn’t feel up to a twelve mile round trip and the weather was getting very hot. Hebden Bridge station must be one of the loveliest in the country and gives the locals access to both sides of the Pennines.


This is goose leader, thirty seconds to landing chaps……………..

So I would strongly recommend the walk from Sowerby Bridge to Hebden Bridge, it is easy going, extremely picturesque and with remnants of old factories from the industrial revolution dotted alongside the canal. Allow two to two and a half hours for the walk and unless you are feeling extremely vigorous, hop on the train back.









Posted in Birds, Canal, Culture, Floods 2015, Flora and fauna, Hebden Bridge, Nature / Flowers, Tourism, toursit destination, Yorkshire | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Basketball, the Olympics and the Grateful Dead Forever Changed Lithuania

Lost Postcards

The Other Dream Team is a 2012 documentary that illustrates the importance basketball has played in Lithuania’s history and culminates in their participating in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona.

Last week the Lithuanian Men’s basketball team was knocked out of the group round at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. They wouldn’t continue to the semi-finals and had lost out on a shot at a 2016 Olympic medal. I watched my husband come home from work looking absolutely defeated at the news. I knew most other Lithuanians, which had undoubtedly watched the match, were experiencing a similar feeling. While other countries might just be disappointed in the loss, basketball is the pride and joy of Lithuania. So much so that it is called the “second religion” of the small country and there is nothing bigger than competing in the sport at the Olympics.

Basketball became popular in Lithuania during…

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A little bit of Lietuva comes to the Proms




Over the last 18 months or so I have highlighted the developing career of Mirga Grazynte-Tyla, the young Lithuanian conductor who has built quite a reputation for herself in both Europe and the USA. A few months ago she was appointed as the new Music Director of The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to the delight of many in the music world.

She has to walk in the steps of such incumbents of the post as  Sir Simon Rattle, Sakari Oramo and Andris Nelsons……….thats quite a line up to follow.


Barbara Hannigan

The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will present its new music director, Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, at the BBC Proms on Saturday 27 August 2016, the CBSO will perform a programme of Mozart’s The Magic Flute Overture, followed in the first half by Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen’s RPS Award-winning let me tell you (soloist Barbara Hannigan) – of which the orchestra gave the first UK performance in 2014.

The second half of this Royal Albert Hall concert will see Mirga and the CBSO take on Tchaikovsky’s passionate Fourth Symphony.

So for any music fans out there, tune in to BBC Radio 3 on Saturday evening to catch the broadcast of the whole of the concert

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Grand Pianola Music by John Adams

A good number of years ago I was driving home from work listening to BBC Radio3 the classical music station, when I heard a piece of music that grabbed my attention.

It was scored for two pianos, a chamber orchestra of mixed wind / brass, voices and percussion and it was one of those moments when you find somewhere to park your car so that you can concentrate on the music. At the end of the piece I discovered it was by John Adams, an American composer I was unfamiliar with.


John Adams is one of the best known and most often performed of America’s composers. As Andrew Porter wrote in The New Yorker, Adams is the creator of a “flexible new language capable of producing large-scale works that are both attractive and strongly fashioned. His is a music whose highly polished resonant sound is wonderful.” Le Monde says that his music “…gives the impression of a rediscovered liberty, of an open door which lets in the fresh air in great gusts.”

His creative output spans a wide range of media: works for orchestra, opera, video, film, and dance, as well as electronic and instrumental music. Such pieces as Harmonium, Harmonielehre, Shaker Loops, and The Chairman Dances are among the best known and most frequently performed of contemporary American music. In these works he has taken minimalism into a new and fresh terrain characterised by luminous sonorities and a powerful and dramatic approach to form.

Adams’s operas have been among the more controversial and widely seen stage events in recent history. His opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” was boycotted by many Jews who felt he portrayed the Palestinian murderers in a too sanitised light. “Nixon in China” has become his best known opera and has been performed world wide to critical acclaim.

As a starting point for anyone interested in exploring Adams music, I would recommend Grand Pianola Music as it contains driving rhythms, some wonderful melodies and is a piece of music that is difficult to categorise. Neither symphony nor concerto, but contains elements of both, and the use of voices as an integral part of the orchestra. I have posted the second, shorter part or the work………..give it a try!

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Oh, the irony…………


At the recent match between Celtic and Israeli football team Hapoel Beer-Sheva one set of sectarian bigots demonstrated in favour of another group of sectarian bigots in the Gaza strip. Someone should point out to these catholics that the muslims do not have a good record in the treatment of infidels i.e non muslims and particularly christians!

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Ultra-Orthodox Jewish sect ban women from going to university (someone please introduce them to the 21st century!)

Ultra-Orthodox Jewish rabbis have banned women from going to university, The Independent newspaper has learned.


The strict Satmar sect issued the decree, seen by The Independent, warning that university education for women is “dangerous”. Written in Yiddish, the decree warns: “It has lately become the new trend that girls and married women are pursuing degrees in special education. Some attend classes and others online. And so we’d like to let their parents know that it is against the Torah.


“We will be very strict about this. No girls attending our school are allowed to study and get a degree. It is dangerous. Girls who will not abide will be forced to leave our school. Also, we will not give any jobs or teaching position in the school to girls who’ve been to college or have a degree. “We have to keep our school safe and we can’t allow any secular influences in our holy environment. It is against the base upon which our Mosed was built.”

The decree was issued from the sect’s base in New York and will apply to followers of the faith group around the world.

Ultra-Orthodox Jews follow a pre-enlightenment interpretation of traditional Judaism and discourage interaction with the modern or secular world. Men wear 19th century Eastern European dress including long black coats and black hats, while married women must dress modestly and cover their hair.

Last year, it emerged that some ultra-Orthodox Jews in north London had banned women from driving, citing concerns that it was immodest for them to do so.

It was condemned by Dr Sharon Weiss-Greenberg, Executive Director of the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, who told The Independent the decree would “force” people to stay in their communities. “The Satmar community chooses to live in an isolationist enclave. They believe that the secular elements of the world would tarnish the lives and beliefs of those who consider themselves to be religious.”

There are probably other factors at play, but, ultimately, the results are devastating. Because people from similar communities are not provided with a foundational primary education, they cannot pursue higher education nor careers. When one does not have access to education, career opportunities are out of reach. It forces one to stay within the community as everyone’s personal lives are tied up with their professional lives as well.”

Dr Jonathan Romain, Rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue and chair of the Accord Coalition which links religious and secular groups to promote inclusive education, told The Independent: “There is much to admired about the ultra-Orthodox, including the Satmar group, who are a very law-abiding community. However, their choice to separate themselves from much of the world around them is not a view shared by many other Jews, who see no problem with being both rooted in Jewish identity and integrated into wider society.”

“Going to university is an experience to be valued, for both men and women, whom we regard as fully equal and who should have the same opportunities in education and the workplace. Limiting such abilities is a cause for regret.”


What is is about the various relgions that  they seek to allocate women to a second class role in society, deny them the opportunity to be educated, seek to separate themselves from society and demand that women dress modestly…………hmmmmm, does this begin to remind you of another religious sect that is often in the news these days! They should get all of these lunatics into a very large room and then subject them to an intensive one week “Equality and Diversity” course, what wouldnt you give to be a fly on the wall at such a gathering.

Original article “Independentonline/August 2016



Posted in 21st century, Abuse of power, abuse of women, Church, Culture, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment