Thursday, May 1, 2008

The North Wind Doth Blow - other proof of human greatness

I think Nilpferd will know what I mean when I say that the air doesn't move much in our part of the world. We're both kind of stuck in a hollow flanked, on one side, by the Vosges and on the other by the Black Forest. As a result, the air doesn't actually move that much and particularly in summer it can be rather stifling. We do get gusts of wind, but not like the real, grown-up, in your face wind you get in the North East of England or Yorkshire. Whenever I get off the plane at Newcastle airport I feel the cold North air hit my dormant lungs like an intake of ice. It's a feeling I love - I'm breathing again! I miss the wind and the way it tugs at your hair, making you feel alive. This picture is, as Scary and Tempus will tell you, St. Mary's Lighthouse at Whitley Bay and I think it must actually serve as a navigational point for planes landing in Newcastle as you virtually turn inland just over this lighthouse having flown up the coast.
What with meditation on human evil and greatness, represented by old J.S.B. this week, you've made me think of another composer who makes me feel glad to be alive - the marvellous Ralph Vaughan Williams. His music is forever England for me, and indeed a lot of his composition was inspired by or made direct use of English folk songs. I'm posting Leonard Bernstein's version of The Fantasia on a Theme from Thomas Tallis. Whenever I miss the North wind, this is my substitute. Listen to how the strings billow, well up and subside...


free music

18 comments:

Abahachi said...

Truly lovely; one of my favourite composers too. I do prefer the more austere version by Iona Brown and the Academy of St Martins in the Fields, which also has a fabulous rendition of 'The Lark Ascending' - another quintessentially English piece, the perfect evocation of a sunny afternoon in early summer in Somerset.

nilpferd said...

Very true. Benztown in particular is a haven for zephyr wimps. Mind you, I spent 4 years in the windiest city in the world, sand might fly in the Sahara but in Wellington the gravel quite often takes flight. I do sometimes miss the odd howling gale, though.

FP said...

Nice one guys. The Lark ascending brings on awful homesickness. You can just hear the dull thud of the cricket ball on willow and the tea being poured. Ridiculous stereotypical idea of England that all ex pats cherish!!! Nilpferd I really hope you didn't wear contact lenses at the time... I studied in Edinburgh which can get pretty windy and I often staggered along Princes Street with my hands over my eyes blinking helplessly...

goneforeign said...

I intended to post a comment here but somehow it wound up on Mnemonic's Bach piece, for what it's worth, here 'tis:
fp: I lived in Suffolk prior to leaving UK: once over here I discovered Vaughn Williams 'Lark Ascending'; that piece of music has an ability like no other, it creates for me in an instant the reality of the Suffolk countryside, I can close my eyes and the music carries me from one rural location to another always on a beautiful summer day.

FP said...

Cheers GF, I reckon between them, Elgar and Vaughan Williams have pretty much got 'the Sound of England' sewn up.... With a word for John Rutter and his Christmas carols as well. I have to be feeling really chipper about living in France to be able to listen to that lot. Which is, admittedly, most of the time. I'm over in June so home sickness won't really have time to set in and we're off on a wine buying spree on Saturday. Yippee!!

Abahachi said...

I wonder what non-anglo ex-pats listen to when they're feeling homesick. A lot of great music seems to aspire to universality, so that Mozart, say, isn't likely to evoke thoughts of Austria because it isn't obviously Austrian. I have a couple of cds of traditional Blasmusik for when I'm missing Bavaria - but that's not a longing for my native land but simply an inclination for somewhere that frequently feels more amenable than the UK.

FP said...

Oh are you German Abahachi?

Abahachi said...

No, not in the least, I just spend a fair amount of time there and rather like it - I'm a sucker for trains that run on time from platforms that have been fixed six months in advance, plus cheap beer and Schweinshaxen. So my liking for a bit of oom-pah now and again isn't genuine homesickness; hence my musing about what a real German might play to remind them of home.

CaroleBristol said...

version by Iona Brown and the Academy of St Martins in the Fields

Yes, I love that version of the Tallis Fantasia, in fact I love RVW's music immensely.

He does do essence of England very well, and in a non-nationalistic, not flag waving way too.

The symphonies are great music too and deserve to be better known, as are Job, Flos Campi and the Greensleeves setting.

nilpferd said...

I'm a long way from the land of my birth and I occasionally miss things like the ocean, the mountains, smells, the taste of wine, and birdsong, but I wouldn't play a particular piece of music to remind me of it. I'd say music reminds me more of a particular time than a place, although I'll certainly get different things out of music depending on where I am when I hear it.

EffPee said...

@ Abahachi: I agree with all of that. I just have to cross a bridge and I'm in Germany and I worked for 8 years there while living in France. I like their often very cheap and good hotels. You can eat well there too for slightly less than over here. The beer's great and I love the fact that it's pure. I'm a sucker for good Tafelspitz.
@ Carole: I'll check out Job and Flos Campi. The Fantasia on Greenseleeves is fab too. In fact I nearly posted that one.
@ Nilpferd: The Ocean's the big one isn't it? We feel such a long way away! Stuck right in the middle of a land mass... I'm down in Cannes for the festival and am looking forward just to seeing the sea and smelling the salt air. Oh and some decent seafood too...

ToffeeBoy said...

ToffeeGirl is half German (on her mum's side) and until very recently we had access to a flat in a beautiful town near the French border - I long to return there - hopefully sometime soon.
Anyway, it was fp mentioning her proximity to the French/German border that made me think about this.

The inhabitants of the town we stayed in are the most courteous road users I've ever known. As a pedestrian, you just have to approach a crossing and any drivers within about half a mile will start to slow down to let you cross. Now, ethnically the inhabitants of the small French town just across the border in Alsace must be pretty near identical but when we popped over for a day a few years ago, I was almost mown down buy a driver who clearly saw me from some distance away, stepping onto the crossing.

Oh dear, I've gone off topic again...

ToffeeBoy said...

...and of course, I meant to say 'by a driver' not 'buy a driver' = a thing I would never do.

Mr DNA said...

FrogPrincess,
I lived in Whitley Bay for a while – it's one of those places where no matter which direction you turn to walk, that wind batters you straight in the face; that may be refreshing when you first get off a plane, but you can have enough of it.
I have to say I was more miserable living in Whitley Bay than anywhere else in my whole life and I can't think of a single thing to recommend going there even for an hour (with the possible exception of the Rendezvous Café: http://tinyurl.com/4nb235). Perhaps next time you make that left turn over the lighthouse you could imagine one of Mr Betjeman's (or Morrissey's) bombs for me…

Mr DNA said...

(Let's try to make that link work)

… with the possible exception of the Rendezvous Café.

goneforeign said...

how did Mr DNA do that?

FP said...

Oh for SHAME Mr DNA!!! I totally understand actually. I rather suspect that Whitley Bay is marvellous place to visit - I always visit when I'm up there, but slightly less fun to live there. Now Old Tynemouth on the other hand - different story. And the Rendez-Vous café is my idea of heaven, provided I have time for a 99 (remember?) and a cuppa. I had my first real snog at Whitley Bay. Lordy - there's going back a few years. Without checking up on your link (another Rick Roll?) Do you know Emma Holiday's work? She's a N/E painter and actually taught me Mam to paint. She's done a brilliant oil (I think) of the café which I shall post anon. I have a pizza to make. Ma n Pa bought some of her stuff before she became famous which, with hindsight, was a smart move. Toffee I do apologize. That driver was probably me. So sorry. Won't do it again. There wasn't Chic songs blaring out of the car at the time? If so, then it was Definately me. Road etiquette is a little different on each side of the Rhine. On average the French are less likely to let you over a crossing than their German counterparts. Fact of life. BUT I reckon your average Alsacian is probably MORE likely to let you across than your average Marseillais who will be so busy gassing with whoever is in the back seat and gesticulating that he won't even SEE you on the crossing. Ah the cultural richness of this fine land...!!!

FP said...

Not a Rick Roll in sight. You're a gentleman, sir!