Wednesday, 13 May 2009

How Did I Forget About Music?

I like music. Okay, so it's probable that most people, unless they are tone deaf, like music of some sort or other. I have quite wide-ranging, but specific, likes and dislikes.

Let's get the dislikes out of the way first. I hate jazz. All jazz. It does absolutely nothing for me. I also dislike most present-day pop music. I was growing up in the 60s and started working in 1972, so I had the luck to be listening to the best pop music that there has been in my formative years and this probably explains why I have little time for, or inclination to listen to, what passes for popular music today. Some of it is just poor versions of the songs that I grew up with and I find that much of the rest is just downright awful.

My taste in pop music, as I have said is predominantly from the period from the 60s to perhaps the mid-80s, but I do love some from both earlier and later than those dates. My particular favourites are The Beatles, Queen, Cat Stevens (both from the 60s and his more recent music as Yusuf Islam), Simon and Garfunkel (perhaps it is stretching the point a little to refer to their music as pop, but the Bridge Over Troubled Water Album was a phenomenal best-seller in its day), The Carpenters, Abba, Elton John, and not much at the time but they have grown on me over the years, David Bowie and The Rolling Stones.

I like music from the shows. Not all of them admittedly, but I do admit to enjoying listening to Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Chess, Evita, Mack and Mabel, Oliver (my preferred recording being that of the Original London Cast from the original 1960s production with Georgia Brown in the role of Nancy, because Lionel Bart wrote Nancy's songs with Georgia in mind and they are written for her voice range), and a number of others. When my husband was alive we often went to see a show in the West End, and some we went to a number of times because we enjoyed them so much.

I also like classical music. Again not all of it, and not necessarily all the work of particular composers. Elgar is perhaps my favourite composer, probably because I think that much of his music perfectly evokes a picture of the English countryside when you hear it. I also really enjoy listening to work by Handel, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn (especially his violin concerto), Chopin, Bizet, Verdi, and some Bach and Mozart. These are my favourites, but I have listened to works by many more, and enjoyed them.

And that is perhaps the point. I have realized that my enjoyment of music seems to be something from the past. I rarely listen to the radio these days (I'm not sure why other than not liking much of the music that seems to be played today), and I haven't bought myself a new CD for years. I always had music playing in the car when I was driving about, but since I gave up using the car because of the rising price of petrol, I seem to have stopped listening to music almost completely.

But two programmes last Saturday evening on BBC 2 changed that. The first programme that I watched was The Birth of British Music, the first in a series of programmes presented by Charles Hazlewood and which focused on the music of Henry Purcell. I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed Purcell's music and I sat and enjoyed an hour listening to the story of his life and to some of his greatest music. And then just 40 minutes later, again on BBC 2, we were treated to Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra. While not altogether a fan of Bill Bailey, I have to say that I truly enjoyed this programme, and perhaps the highlight for me was the 'Cockney Arrangement' (well I am London born and bred) of the Finale to Rossini's William Tell Overture.

(Lily has just reminded me of another brilliant item in this programme. Bailey's brilliant interpretation of the theme to Doctor Who in the style of Jacques Brell complete with French lyrics about Docteur Qui.)

BBC iPlayer is wonderful. My only regret is that so many programmes are only available for 7 days. For since watching these two programmes on Saturday night, I have used BBC iPlayer to watch the Bill Bailey programme twice more and the Purcell programme another three times. And I'm actually thinking of watching it again later this afternoon just for the joy of listening to the music.

Watching these two programmes has reminded me just how important music has been in my life and has encouraged me to listen to it a little more often. There wasn't much that I wanted to watch on television last night so I got out my iPod, put in the earplugs, and sat listening to Queen while I got on with my knitting. And on Saturday I shall be sitting in front of the television, ready for the second programme in The Birth of British Music series, for it is about Handel, who for all that he was born German, wrote music that is seen very much as being British. I can feel myself being rowed along the Thames to the Water Music, watching a display in the night-time sky to the Music for the Royal Fireworks, and thrilling to the Hallelujah Chorus as I sit here and write this. Imagine what I will be like when the programme is actually on and I am really listening to the music.


Lily said...

The Bill Bailey program was amazing! His Dr Who song in French still has me chuckling now when I think about it.

There and Back said...

I like musical music too. I have lots of CDs of musicals. Dad used to take me up to London to see shows as a child. Favourite I think had to be 'Starlight Express.' I loved all the roller skates!

cb said...

I'm another great fan of musicals. I will check that programme out on the iPlayer too - thanks for highlighting it. I love the iplayer as I'm always missing programmes..