Trombone Humour…

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The next Chat Brass Concert…

Four Chat Brass members including our new Honorary President John Suchet, star of Classic fm, who plays trombone with the band.

Four Chat Brass members including our new Honorary President John Suchet, star of Classic fm, who plays trombone with the band.

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The RLPO 2014/2015 Concert Season Closes

The RLPO closed the 2014/2015 concert season yesterday evening with The Dream Of Gerontius by Elgar. The Royal Liverpool Choir, Orchestra, soloists and Chief Conductor Vasily Petrenko were treated to a standing ovation by the sell out audience.unnamed-6

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First Strawberry Of The Season…

Well, the arrival of the grass court tennis season has coincided with our first strawberry being nearly ready. This Summer looks like being a bumper strawberry crop too…unnamed-3

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I’ve been pickling again…

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I really enjoy homemade pickles and I also get a lot of pleasure out of making them too. This afternoon I washed out five ‘pickling jars’ (mainly redundant pickled egg jars from my local pub!) and made two jars of pickled onions, one jar of pickled chillies, a jar of pickled eggs and a jar of mainly pickled onions, from the onions I had left over , topped up with mushrooms.

Champion!

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Click here to see how it’s done!

Pickled Red Cabbage

Pickled Red Cabbage

How to grow onions in the comfort of your own kitchen…

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More Musical Humour…

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The Katzenklavier11390123_10152890629581127_289520431725475205_n

Here is the explanation from The Guardian…

What is it? The Katzenklavier is, erm, a piano made out of cats. No, we’re not making this up.

Who uses it? Despite the initial design having some vague specifications about ordering pitch, the Katzenklavier was never intended, really, for musical use. It was actually invented for psychiatrists. Wait, it gets weirder.

How does it work? The existing drawings, based on historical descriptions of the Katzenklavier, suggested that the instrument consisted of a keyboard, with seven to nine cats held in cages corresponding to the approximate pitch of their mewling. Each of the cats’ tails is stretched out and held down. Above each tail is a nail. Depressing a key assigned to a specific cat causes a mechanism to drive the nail into the tail resulting in a shriek from the poor animal. Pretty horrible, eh?

Where does it come from? Well you can console yourself with the knowledge (as far as we know) that the contraption was never built. It was invented sometime in the 17th century by Athanasius Kircher, a German Jesuit renaissance man operating in the fields of medicine, oriental studies and geology. The Katzenklavier was one of several wacky machines Kircher claimed to have invented – the others included an automaton statue which could listen and talk, a perpetual motion machine, and the Aeolian harp.

Why is it classic? Because it’s just too horrible to contemplate! An 18th-century German physician named Johann Christian Reil wrote that the device was intended to shake mental patients who had lost the ability to focus out of a “fixed state” and into “conscious awareness”. The patient must be placed so that they are sitting in direct view of the cats’ expressions when the psychiatrist plays a fugue on the infernal instrument. In these modern enlightened times, there are several “cat pianos” available for the iPhone, and none of them involve the torture of felines – they’re just a bit twee. The Katzenklavier also inspired the excellent Nick Cave-narrated animation, The Cat Piano.

What’s the best ever song to feature a cat? Opposites Attract by Paula Abdul feat MC Skat Kat. After reading all that unpleasantness, treat yourself to a Spotify playlist of nice songs about cats.

Five facts and things

A bizarre 16th-century anecdote concerning an extravagant procession in Brussels thrown in honour of King Philip II of Spain describes a bear riding a chariot and playing an organ where the tails of 20 howling cats were bound to the keys. Somewhat spurious, but the first-ever description of a working Katzenklavier, and a century before it was invented by Kircher!

French historian Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin writes of finding records alluding to similar “cat organs” operational in Saint-Germain in 1753 and Prague in 1773, as well as uncovering an engraving depicting a torturous musical instrument designed to create a cacophony by abusing a choir of dogs, monkeys, donkeys and cows.

Also in Saint-Germain during the 17th century was said to have been a fairground attraction called “Miaulique”, where several cats seated in front of a musical score would be conducted through a cat opera by a monkey. Yep. A MONKEY.

Several composers have been deeply inspired by cats. Works by Adriano Banchieri, Adam Krieger, Carlo Farina, Gioachino Rossini and Robert Lucas de Pearsall all feature “miaowing” arrangements for voice and other instruments.

Domenico Scarlatti’s The Cat’s Fugue was legendarily co-authored by the composer’s cat! The moggy had a little run about on the keys which suggested the first three measures of the piece, leaving Scarlatti to finish up the rest. These days we have Nora, and of course, Keyboard Cat.

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Urban Farm – June 8th – 2015

Well, I have been away  from my garden for getting on for a week as I have been on tour with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to the Czech Republic. We had a great time there but some doubts had crossed my mind about leaving the vegetables, fruit and flowers in the hands of my wife. She has absolutely no experience of growing anything! I needn’t have worried, however, as far from getting back to a desert my garden is blooming. It just goes to show that anyone is capable of growing their own food and a reasonable chance of success is almost guaranteed.

Well done Mrs Ball!unnamed-8

A new project of mine last Summer, were the introduction of a lemon tree and a lime tree into my new greenhouse. The are doing just fine and are producing fruit now.unnamed-6

Citrus trees fruit and flower simultaneously. It is a real pleasure to see the pretty blossom and the new foliage.unnamed-3

Lemons are quite green on the tree but will yellow if left to mature for long enough. Continue reading

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Musical Humour…

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RLPO – Czech Tour 2015 Day Five – The Return Journey

The weather on this trip has been absolutely fabulous. Once again, there was not a cloud in sight outside my hotel window. Well, it is time to go home after a really enjoyable tour. It is always good to get home but I think the RLPO is entitled to feel a modicum of sadness on leaving this great country with a populace that really likes classical music, almost like nowhere else on earth.unnamed-15

We got up early for breakfast as we had to leave the Imperial Hotel in Ostrava at 8.30am. The coaches arrived to take us to the station for the three and a half hour journey back to Prague, from where we would be catching our plane back to Manchester in the UK. Our coaches in Manchester would then deliver us back home to Liverpool in the early evening. Such has been the success of the tour that discussions are already underway for another tour of the Czech Republic.

Bring it on I say!

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Chris Morley (horn) and Simon Cowen (trombone) are keen brass bandsmen. Chris (on the left), although French Horn in the RLPO, plays tenor horn in Greenalls Brass Band, whilst Simon conducts Besses o’th Barn Band, the oldest brass band in the world. Here they are, pictured proudly wearing their respective band shirts. There is a keen but friendly rivalry in the banding world!unnamed-13

This grand piano in Ostrava train station looks like it has taken a good hiding over the years. Either that or Paul Lewis arrived to catch an earlier train and gave it the Brahms D minor treatment!!! Continue reading

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RLPO – Czech Republic 2015 Day Four – OSTRAVA – Janacek International Music Festival

unnamed-3Breakfast was early today, and very busy as the coaches to Prague railway station needed to leave at 8.15 am. unnamed-4

We took a last look at Prague as the RLPO coaches headed off. I can’t think of anything negative to say about this wonderful city and must admit to missing it already. There is talk of us going back soon.

Bring it on I say!

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This is the church of St Cyril and St Methodius. The pictures are taken as the RLPO bus passed by on the way to Prague station. It is a National Monument to Czech war heroes. A group of Czech Nationalists were trained in England to assassinate the Nazi Governor, Heydrich. They parachuted in to Prague had a shoot-up and threw a bomb at Heidrich’s car. It missed but blew the door off causing Heidrich to die of septicaemia. The long and short of it is that that Nazis went on the warpath, chased the Czech Nationalist into the church. The Nazis had to withdraw due to the gun fire from the Czechs and the Czechs holed up in the crypt. The Nazis tried everything , including throwing bombs into the crypt and even forcing the fire brigade to flood out the crypt through the little window below! You can still see the bullet holes around the window. The Nationalists eventually committed suicide rather than get caught…

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This country has lots of secrets! An RLPO contingent had visited the church on the previous day, too. The interior of the church is stunning…unnamed-2

Here is the hatch, through which the Nazis attempted to bomb the Czech Nationalists, drown them etc. The bravery of these guys is really quite inspiring and humbling.unnamed-4We need not have rushed to get to the train station, as it happened, because the train itself, meant to be a Pendolino, was cancelled and we got a much older model 45 minutes later instead!IMG_0083

The old fashioned small compartments in the carriages were quite nice however and we sat back for a pleasant ride through the Czech countryside for the next three and a half hours to Ostrava. Continue reading

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