Unknown Pleasures #12: Wendy West

Ah, Wendy. Wendy West.

What can I say about Wendy that won’t incur the Wrath of Khan.

You see, Wendy and I have an honest and frank relationship with one another.

Quite often she says Tomato, I say Potato.

But a healthy difference of opinion is a good thing. Right?

She often calls me “grippy” (adjective, grip·pi·er, grip·pi·est. Chiefly Scot. stingy; avaricious.) which I take as a term of endearment, but I fear my optimism is misplaced on that front.

She was referring to my handling of the financial management of Forth Children’s Theatre. Not to my speed of approach to the bar. Or perhaps she wasn’t?

But, the truth of the matter, regardless of our robust discussions that frequent our times together, is that she is an amazing human being, with an amazing family who I know just as well, and love just as much, as I do her.

We met at Forth Children’s Theatre.

She a parent, me the Chair.

I quickly spotted her potential for our board and managed to talk her into joining us and to exercise magnificent governance onto our historically fairly relaxed committee proceedings.

Her energy, enthusiasm, insight and good humour, laced with brilliant attention to detail, were to prove transformational for an organisation that always meant well but occasionally fell a little short on the difficult stuff.

But it’s beyond the boardroom table that Wendy and I grew our friendship. Rumbustious, hilarious and brilliantly honest.

She’s an amazing dancer, as I was to find out when Jeana and I joined her in a tap dancing class where she, the Margot Fonteyn of the room, contrasted amusingly with my Peter Boyle (The Monster in Young Frankenstein).

Anyone who knows Wendy knows she is a magnanimous supporter of the arts, and has recently worked with the excellent Lung Ha Theatre company. She is married to a Professor of Piping. THE Professor of Piping and her son and daughter have both inherited awesome musical and theatrical talents from her and Gary.

She’s just a really good egg, all round.

I’ve missed her during lockdown.

So, without further ado.

Wendy’s stuff.

My favourite author or book

The book that made a huge impact on me is The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson. The story of a contemporary Scottish minister who doubts the existence of God. Really thought provoking and truly beautiful writing.  It actually stopped me reading for a while because I just couldn’t quite get into another book for quite some time afterwards.

The Testament of Gideon Mack by James Robertson
I can testify to the excellence of this book. Ed.

The book I’m reading

Girl, Women, Other by Bernardine Evaristo I started it a while ago and put it down, this has reminded me to pick it up again!

The book I wish I had written

Winnie the Pooh – it has given pleasure to so many generations and it is timeless.

The book I couldn’t finish

I always thought I had to really finish a book – once you start and all that. Then one day, when I was really plodding through a book I had the sudden realisation that I could just close it and put it down. I did that and nothing terrible happened! Since then, I have become much more discerning. I couldn’t tell you what that book was – it was tosh, so I put it down!

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read

Well the fact that I have watched more of the classics as TV costume dramas rather than indulge myself in the words on the page doesn’t make me ashamed so much as determined to put right. I have a fine collection sitting in the bookcase waiting for just the right time.

My favourite film

Isn’t everyone’s The Sound of Music? Well, maybe not, but this is certainly a firm old favourite that never fails to endear! That aside though, I love so many films but to pick one, I would have to go for Cinema Paradiso as being a long standing favourite (director’s cut that is). The warmth, the angst and the beautiful scenery all set to Ennio Morricone’s simply sublime musical score. The beautiful friendship between Toto and Alfredo is heart warming right until the end. The Cinema Paradiso is the beating heart of the community – how nice! 

Cinema Paradiso Official 25th Anniversary trailer from Arrow Films - YouTube

My favourite play

This is hard, but I would have to go for Brian Cox and Bill Patterson in The Royal Lyceum Theatre’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. It made such a lasting impression on me – I couldn’t quite believe how thoroughly compelling it could be watching two guys waiting around and nothing much happening. It was both funny and really quite serious in equal measure. Strange how things just strike a chord and claim a wee piece of your heart.

Waiting for Godot, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh | The Arts Desk

My favourite podcast

I like the Guardian Today in Focus – after Mark recommended it, but have also enjoyed listening to Brene Brown, Unlocking Us – she has really interesting guests including Barack himself, but lots of others too.

The box set I’m hooked on

The box set that is a winner for me is The Handmaid’s Tale, so compelling and terrifying. Based on Margaret Atwood’s novel, the series travels through the horrors of the dystopian society of Gilead and plays out struggles of power and oppression. A bizarre survival of the fittest that sees misogyny played out in its truest form but also in the shape of women against women. Hard to watch and recently compared by some to the America that Trump was striving for?

My favourite TV series

Ooooh, I love Killing Eve – Villanelle is brilliant! I really enjoyed Italy Unpacked – Italian chef Georgio Locatelli and English art critic Andrew Graham-Dixon, a programme exploring Italy’s art, culture and cuisine. Just beautiful to sit and watch on a Friday evening after rehearsals with glass of red in hand! It makes me want to go there, it makes me realise I know nothing! 

I also enjoy the drama of Line of Duty, but I think the last series I watched that really hooked me was Greyzone, a Swedish/Danish thriller that was just so compelling. It is essentially about the events leading up to a terror attack and is tense stuff, in fact, it is ‘hold your breath’ tense stuff at times. Great strong female lead in Birgitte Hjort Sørensen as a gutsy and smart Danish engineer. Complex emotions though – clever how you end up liking the perpetrator… I do love watching tv in a foreign language with English subtitles – I rather fancy I’m getting the hang of a new language by the end of things…. alas, never quite happens!

A psychopath with a wardrobe to die for: Killing Eve's Villanelle is the  fashion influencer of now

My favourite piece of music

I am not sure I have one single piece of music. It’s very mood driven for me, although I never tire of Keengalee by The Chair – a cheery go to piece of music particularly on car journeys that I just never want to end – once more, once more!

My favourite dance performance

Ghost Dances choreographed by Christopher Bruce for Rambert. I saw it in the early 80s and was mesmerised. I saw the revival a few years ago and it mesmerised me again! Haunting and hopeful all at one time. The dance shows courage and determination in the face of oppression and although it represents the horrors of the Pinochet coup, it is sadly sorelevant today. I love how dance allows you to create your own meaning because you interpret the movement without the presence of any words to channel your reactions and emotions. Danced to traditional folk music, this piece never fails to move me. 

The Last film/music/book that made me cry

Lion

The lyric I wish I’d written

Ok, so swithered over admitting this… I realise I don’t really properly listen to lyrics…(I hear Mark scoff very loudly.  (No, not at all , neither do I.  Ed.)  In my defence, I tend to listen to the music and my mind wanders and I get a bit lost in my imagination…. So I don’t really have any that I could say I wish I’d written…confession over!

The song that saved me

Don’t think I have one…

The instrument I play

Well, being surrounded by awfully talented folk, I keep my minimal achievements with playing the clarsach quiet! Taken up as an adult, I enjoyed the beautiful sounds of the dancing strings – very hard to make a horrible noise unless it is terribly badly out of tune. These days, I enjoy doing a little accompaniment to traditional tunes in the parlour with a friendly nod on when to change chords! No public performances for sure!

The instrument I wish I’d learned

The piano. I also pictured myself dancing about playing the fiddle, but that didn’t quite transpire. Huge sighs of relief all round I am sure!

If I could own one painting it would be

Joan Eardley’s work. I love the Glasgow tenement children chalk drawings with their grubby wee faces, and her wild seascapes she painted whilst she lived in Catterline, Aberdeenshire. This self-portrait is just beautiful.

The music that cheers me up

Anything I can move to – The Penguin Café Orchestra, Abba. Duncan Chisholm on the fiddle for more reflective moods – he plays a mean slow air. Trad music and should also say, but actually mean it … I do love the stirring sound of a pipe band. Ok, so quite eclectic!

The place I feel happiest

I am happiest when the car is pointing north – I love getting to Ullapool and waiting on the ferry to the Isle of Lewis. Beautiful, remote, with big skies, huge oceans and great friends with whisky…

My guiltiest cultural pleasure

Musical theatre! Not that I feel guilty about liking it, but some people sniff at it! Come from Away is my very favourite for the moment, it is mood lifting, energy boosting and just a very human story. Properly funny lyrics and great music too! I get emotional at the thought of the sheer unquestioning kindness demonstrated by the Newfoundlanders – this is a tale of gratitude, friendship and humanity.

I’m having a fantasy dinner party, I’ll invite these artists and authors

Norman MacCaig – so I can hear him recite his poetry

Billy Connolly 

Whoopi Goldberg

Emma Thompson

Barack and Michelle Obama

Margaret Atwood

And I’ll put on this music

Hugh Laurie in the background playing the piano and singing then the Penguin Cafe Orchestra for dessert

If you liked this there are many more to read now.

Will Atkinson

Jon Stevenson

Ricky Bentley

Jeana Gorman

Lisl MacDonald

Murray Calder

David Reid

David Greig

Gus Harrower

Stephen Dunn

Mark Gorman

Unknown Pleasures #10: Jon Stevenson

Jon was my first boss back in 1985 at Hall Advertising. He hired a hot new secretary soon after, that I quickly winched and later married.

He, and his wife Chris, had a daughter, Ria, who we thought had such a cool name that we unashamedly nicked it for our daughter Amanda.

(Only joking, she’s also called Ria.)

But that master/servant relationship that began in the pre-internet days soon became a peer-to-peer and extremely good mates relationship, and it thrives to this day.

We even live quite close (only a few miles as the crow swims) he in Aberdour, I in South Queensferry.

We have both run Festivals.

His, The Aberdour Festival, has put him on first name terms with King Creosote (which I think is cool). Mine, the spectacularly unspectacular and now defunct Queensferry Arts Festival.

By the way King Creosote’s first name isn’t King, it’s Kenny.

One of the things that has cemented our relationship is our love of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra, whom we both saw, with Chris and my, not his, Ria at Glastonbury in 2011 (amongst other occasions).

The other is beer and food and wine and that.

And good advertising.

And good books.

Jon is cool but he doesn’t think so and you couldn’t tell it from the preposterously ham-fisted portrait he ‘knocked up’ in 30 seconds when I asked him to. Not for him a trip to Patrick Lichfield’s, oh no, he, like me, is a bit of a basher and what will do, will do.

I made it monochrome which spares some of the abject amateurism of it.

Anyway, Jon, you have great taste and I’m delighted to share your Unknown Pleasures with my readers.

My favourite author or book

Where do you start? When I was young, I read to impress – Iris Murdoch, Anthony Powell, CP Snow, JP Donleavy (although I really did like him). I then went through a phase of reading books in rotation – one to improve me, one to learn something technical, usually something to do with the Apollo space missions, and one to read without thinking. 

I’m much less rigorous now and over the years I’ve read everything by Len Deighton, John Le Carre, Christopher Brookmyre, David Lodge, Tom Sharpe, Iain Banks (but not Iain M. Banks) – even Jilly Cooper. At the moment I do like Hilary Mantel, Jonathan Coe, Ian McEwen and William Boyd. And Ian Rankin. 

I’ve just finished Barack Obama’s book which was uplifting and dispiriting in equal measure. How do we get from such a patently intelligent and humane man to Donald Trump in such a short space of time? Jon Sopel’s latest book Unpresidented is an entertaining romp through the last US election campaign.

I can say, as anyone that has ever worked with me will testify, I have yet to read any of the airport books like “How to be a winning manager by the time you get off the plane”

A Promised Land: Amazon.co.uk: Barack Obama: 9780241491515: Books

The book I’m reading

One Long and Beautiful Summer by Duncan Hamilton – a paean to county cricket as it used to be before the gel-haired marketing know-it-alls took over and turned cricket into a game for people with the attention span of a particularly dim goldfish.

The book I wish I had written

No real desire to write a book, not even the one that’s apparently inside me.

The book I couldn’t finish

Quite a lot but Lincoln in the Bardo was definitely one I couldn’t get into.

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read

Can’t think of any particular one, although I would like to have appreciated Dickens more instead of rejecting him because he was a set text at O-Level.

My favourite film

Toss-up between Apollo 13 and Local Hero.

Apollo 13 | DVD | Free shipping over £20 | HMV Store

My favourite play

I’ve seen a lot of stuff at the Traverse and it’s difficult to pick any one as a favourite but I did enjoy Under Milk Wood by the Aberdour Players in our local village hall. The writing is brilliant, and it prompted me to get the BBC Richard Burton narration as an audiobook. Which is probably better than The Aberdour Players’ version.

Richard Burton reads Under Milk Wood (plus bonus poetry) - Alto: ALN1502 -  2 CDs | Presto Classical

My favourite podcast

Like Stephen Dunn I thought 13 Minutes to the Moon was outstanding.

The box set I’m hooked on

When does a TV series become a box set? I can’t cope with TV binges so still watch one at a time. 

My favourite TV series

At the moment it’s Unforgotten

Watch Unforgotten, Season 1 | Prime Video

My favourite piece of music

Pretty much anything from my Jolly-Jon singalongaplaylist

My favourite dance performance

Every time I’ve seen NDT it’s been stunning, but I go to dance performances with Mrs S on the basis that if I have to sit through a dance show, she has to go for a curry afterwards…so the last dance performance she went to was with Mark Gorman as she doesn’t really like curry…. 

The Last film/music/book that made me cry

Oh What a Beautiful Morning from Oklahoma at my mother’s funeral. Although it was absolutely pissing down, so there was some laughter through the tears.

The lyric I wish I’d written

The Christmas one Hugh Grant’s father wrote in About A Boy that allowed Hugh to live quite happily without having to work.

The song that saved me

Not sure I’ve ever needed saving but California Girls by the Beach Boys reminds me of being a hormonal 13 year old, getting interested in girls and thinking the Californian ones sounded exciting – if only I had known what to do if I met one.

The instrument I play

I’ve tried and failed several – but one day I’m going to master the guitar and be transformed into the acoustic Bob Dylan

The instrument I wish I’d learned

Piano or clarinet

If I could own one painting it would be

Probably something by David Hockney

portrait of an artist: David Hockney's painting, which was auctioned for  $90.3 mn, was initially sold for $18,000 - The Economic Times

The music that cheers me up

Bean Fields by the Penguin Café Orchestra. With thanks to Mr Gorman who introduced me to the delights of the PCO. 

He’s also tried to introduce me to Nick Cave but I’d rather poke my eyes out with a burning stick, thank you very much. 

The place I feel happiest

Achiltibuie – thanks to Jim Downie. 

My guiltiest cultural pleasure

Death in Paradise

Death in Paradise (TV Series 2011– ) - IMDb

I’m having a fantasy dinner party, I’ll invite these artists and authors

David Mitchell (the comedian, not the author), Billy Connolly, Meryl Streep, David Attenborough and Danny Boyle

And I’ll put on this music

My Jolly-Jon mix tape obvs.

If you liked this you might like to read the others in this series.

Ricky Bentley

Jeana Gorman

Lisl MacDonald

Murray Calder

David Reid

David Greig

Gus Harrower

Stephen Dunn

Mark Gorman

Recent Listening: Penguin Cafe, The Imperfect Sea.

Penguin_Cafe_The_Imperfect_Sea__review_under_the_Radar.jpg

Not to be confused with The Penguin Cafe Orchestra that disbanded upon the untimely death of its leader Simon Jeffes in 2007, the Penguin Cafe is actually a different band, although it includes some of the previous members and is led by Simon Jeffes’ son, Arthur.

Live, The Penguin Cafe play many of The Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s favourite pieces and it has been my privilege to enjoy them live twice (Usher Hall, Edinburgh and Glastonbury) but they record in their own right and The Imperfect Sea is their third, and best, album.

I read that Arthur was concerned that this latest recording was taking them to new places and ran the risk of disaffecting long term PCO fans.  I can reassure you Arthur that you have done no such thing.

It’s a bobbydazzler.  It really is.

It’s far from imperfect.

The sound, as my good friend and long term PCO aficionado, Jon Stevenson, said to me the other day lacks some of the humour of the PCO and he is right. The Penguin Cafe are a more serious bunch of musicians and their output is perhaps more orchestral than the PCO which was more folky in totality, but this matters not a jot when the quality is so high.

I’ve listened to The Imperfect Sea 5 or 6 times in the last few days and there is nary an off note.  Sure, the first time I listened I was riding my bike and the constant ‘ping’ of cycle bell on Cantorum was a mite discombobulating, but it’s endearing also and hearkens back towards the PCO’s playfulness.  (It has a small debt to pay to the mighty Telephone and Rubber Band).

Ricecar, the opener, is a classic of sequenced music and is certainly of the PCO school.

Overall this is a mighty addition to the PC/PCO canon.

The seven day music challenge.

My pal, Peter Flockhart, challenged me to find seven songs that would sum up my musical taste, but I got a little carried away.  Thought you might like to see them all in the one place as we reach day 30.  They are in no particular order and, surprisingly, only one artist appears twice.  Tom Waits.

Day 30

Day 29

Day 28

Day 27

Day 26

Day 25

Day 24

Day 23

Day 22

Day 21

Day 20

Day 19

Day 18

Day 17

Day 16

Day 15

Day 14

Day 13

Day12

Day 11

Day 10

Day 9

Day 8

Day 7

Day 6

Day 5

Day 4

Day 3

Day 2

Day 1

Penguin Cafe. A deep appreciation.

penguin

On Sunday afternoon my good friend Jon Stevenson was round at the house and I asked him what Penguin Cafe Orchestra track he’d like me to play.  Quick as a flash he replied “Beanfields.”

So I was delighted when Arthur Jeffes announced that the next tune he was about to play at the Penguin Cafe gig at Edinburgh’s Queens Hall last night was the aforementioned Beanfields.

“That’s your favourite Jon.”  I whispered (this was a whispery occasion).

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that” he retorted, almost indignantly.

“Strange.” I thought.   But, on reflection, how can you choose a ‘favourite’ from PCO’s canon of work.

pc

Jon and I, and Jeana, first saw them together sometime around 1988 in Glasgow, not long after I had introduced Jon to the delights of ‘Telephone and Rubber band’.  Sadly we didn’t see them again before founder and composer Simon Jeffes’ death of a brain tumour in 1997.

So, imagine our delight when not only did Simon Jeffes’ son, Arthur, form a new band called Penguin Cafe (a 10 strong ensemble somewhat dwarfing the original 5) but that they were recording AND touring AND playing the old PCO work alongside their own compositions.

Jon and I, frankly, were made up.

As were our wives.

Since their formation in 2009 I have had the privilege of seeing them perform three times (The Usher Hall, Edinburgh, in 2012, Glastonbury, 2013, and last night.)

Each show was astounding in its own right.

The grandeur of The Usher Hall, the casual informality of Glastonbury and the intimacy of the Queens Hall each brought out different aspects of PC and PCO’s uniquely idiosyncratic style.

vince

What really made last night so fantastic though was the chance to meet them afterwards.

So Jeana came home with a thoroughly autographed copy of The Red Book (their new album which includes two NASA commissioned pieces).

We also both had a chance to chat with Violist and MD, Vince Greene and, at length, with violinist Darren Berry; resplendent in his Royal Stuart suit, surely worn specially for the occasion.

darren

I spoke to Arthur Jeffes and complimented him on the much changed rendition Harry Piers which he always dedicates to his dad.

Honestly, this was the best Christmas present Jeana could possibly have asked for because the whole show was truly brilliant with many old PCO favourites including Air a Dancer, Perpetuum Mobile, Telephone and Rubber Band and, of course, Music for a Found Harmonium, but it was perfectly complemented by PC’s own work including the aforementioned Harry Piers, the magnificent Landau and new work including the brilliant NASA commissioned, 1420 and Aurora.

All in all a truly memorable evening.

Thank you Arthur, Vince, Darren, Des, Andy, Rebecca, Neil, Tom, Cass and Pete (with guest appearance from the excellent support, Tom Baxter) .

We love you.

Penguin Cafe. A matter of Life

The reviews for this album have mostly been a little patronising and mildly dismissive as if it is some form of PCO lite offering.

I beg to differ.

I am, almost literally, a lifelong PCO fan and have every track they ever recorded, from the experimental Zopf days on the Obscure record label right through their “heydays’ of the 1980’s when their unique musical sound appeared on every second commercial or BBC/C4 soundtrack (most notably I have to say in the Independent’s launch advertising campaign).  So Simon Jeffes’ death in 1987 hit me like a hammer blow.  Ten years later his son, Arthur, began the slow but steady cryogenic rebirth, or perhaps more accurately the creation of a clone with ideas of its own.  This has culminated in the release of this instant classic album, a matter of life, which is, to all intent and purpose, PCO’s 5th studio album.

It has more piano than PCO but other than that it’s broadly the same thing, and certainly cut from the same cloth.

Track 2 (Landau) feature Jeffes and Kathry Tickell on her trademark Northumbrian pipes and its delicious.  Harry Piers, another piano only track was played at Jeffes Sr’s memorial concert and it bears every trademark PCO motif you could ever imagine which is what makes it both a great epitaph for Simon Jeffes but perhaps also a catharsis for Arthur.

The Fox and the Leopard is a carbon copy of a previous PCO song but for me the absolute standout is the minor key classic, From a Blue Temple.

In Penguin Cafe’s second album I’d expect the music to be slightly less of a tribute and to explore more of their own ideas, maybe more of a development from From a Blue Temple; and given that members of Suede and Gorillaz make up the 10 strong ensemble I’m pretty sure there will be new areas aplenty to explore.

For now though, this is a welcome and delightful discovery that I will treasure and hopefully wear out the grooves as much as its four forebears.

Ah, the Penguin Cafe (orchestra)

I don’t know if moving is the best word to describe the two and a half hours I spent with my wife in The Usher Hall; because I never cried.

But I’ll tell you what; it was emotional.

First up, The Portico Quartet; a jazz/modern classical “combo” who totally blew me away but were right on the cusp of Stuart Maconie’s Freakzone playlist (the sort of stuff that ordinarily Jeana would shriek across the house at me “turn that fucking shite off”).

She put up with them.

I adored them.

However, we were there for the Penguins, as we had been, 20 years ago, before we’d ever borne a child into this world. And I reckon it is the only “band” that Jeana has ever seen twice, albeit 20 years apart.

Before I comment on them I have to congratulate the sound engineers for both bands and probably the The Usher Hall itself – in forty years of listening to live music I have never been so aware of how good the acoustics were in a performance.

Now, The PC(O).

Simon Jeffes died in 1998. And we all thought the PCO had been snatched away with him; no posthumous recordings (although plenty of compilations).

And so it has been until his remarkable son, Arthur, decided to take up the reigns and form an entirely new ensemble with the name stripped down to the, perhaps more fashionable, Penguin Cafe.

Tonight they both reinterpreted his beloved father’s music with a Joi de vivre that even Simon could not muster and created new music, in the vein of the original PCO, that was jaw dropping.   In, particular the encore, a solo piano piece that Arthur performed at his father’s memorial service, Harry Piers, and Landau would have been career highs in Simon’s day.

All the favourites were there.

Particularly pleasing were Music for a Found Harmonium, Perpetuum Mobile and Telephone and Rubber Band, but what was most incredible was the quality of musicianship, the ownership they had taken over the material and the added zip that they injected to Jeffes original music.

It truly was on the verge of a religious experience.

After playing for over an hour and a half Jeana said to me ” I never stopped smiling from start to finish.”

I concur absolutely.

Meredith Monk. Songs of Ascension at The Royal Lyceum Theatre. Edinburgh Festival 2010

Well, it’s not every day you see a legend in the flesh.  When I say a legend, I don’t mean of Clooneyesque proportions.  I think we’re more in Daliesque territory because Meredith Monk (who records for ECM which might give you a clue) is not what you’d call mainstream.  Approaching 70, she led the line in her own production with grace and conviction.

Her and co writer, Ann Hamilton’s Songs of Ascension (which was commissioned by the wildly applauded Kronos Quartet) is never, ever going to trouble any sort of populist chart any day soon.  And the mass exodus from The theatre after about 15 minutes when it reached the height of “obscurity” was quite tell tale and amusing.

In the foyer beforehand I was told it was, to paraphrase, “pish”.

But it wasn’t.  It’s a devastatingly original smorgasbord of jungle noises, American Indian type language and a range of string and wind instrumentation that goes from dischordant noise to utter beauty in less than a minute.

There’s quite a lot of creepy hippy dancing and some blurry meaningful monochrome video in abundance too.

But.  It works.  I loved it.

Although I guess I’d be a little challenged to explain the plot – other than it’s about nature, getting back to one’s roots and rebirth.  Maybe.

Even Jeana loved it.  Mostly (sort of).

Moments of pure Penguin Cafe Orchestra magic, particularly when what sounded to me like a harmonium was to the fore, just blew me away and actually, if you put your mind to it, you could ignore the silly dances. (She’s famous for her dancing apparently.  But only in hippy circles.)

The choir (I assume put together locally) stole the show in the finale number and we all left happily.

Aah! Apart from the couple behind me who got a flea in their ear from me for chatting through the first 20 minutes.  “If you don’t like it you can leave.” I informed them.  “Some of us are trying to listen to this.”

Up they were shut!

Try this.  You’ll no doubt hate it.

The Penguin Cafe Orchestra

By now, dear reader you will have worked out that I like the odd song.  You’ll know that I am a music enthusiast and you’ll be aware that I do not hold back in the superlatives department.

It came to my attention however that I have never blogged and shared with you my love for Penguin Cafe Orchestra.  The prompt came from a member of the South Queensferry Arts Festival committee of which I am chairman.  (How esteemed I must be; you must think.)

Anyway, at home alone tonight and watching dull football I thought I’d trawl youtube for some PCO stuff.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Now, let me drool.

I love PCO.

Thinking about my relationship with them it may outstrip any other band or performer  I love:  The Clash,  The Cure, The Stranglers, Belle and Sebastian, New Order, Aimee Mann, Tom Waits – all have, at times, had profound effects on me and most are very long term – but for some reason PCO are more visceral, more important.

Perhaps it’s because their leader Simon Jeffes died so young (of a brain tumour before he was 50) and out of respect they were shelved (until recently).

Perhaps it is because they make the most beautiful music ever.  The aforementioned bands might not merit descriptors that could be widely aknowledged as beautiful.

I believe PCO can.

Yes, some people say to me “get that shite off”.

I pity them.

PCO is a profound and beautiful musical experience.  The PCO may be the greatest thing ever to happen to music.

But you can be the judge of that.

This particular tune (they only ever did one “song” on their first album) is called Music for a Lost Harmonium and features a harmonium.

Uncommon, lilting, infectious.  I may love the Harmonium as much as I love PCO.

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