Sunday, March 27, 2016

Spring Break

Slow News Day

Just like the crappy local rag in Brighton, "The Argus", I am having a slow news week as I'm on holiday so this is going to be a short post. It has to be said, the 'headline' above is a new low in their generally laughable headlines - one would be disappointed if the deacon didn't urge people to go to church.

Not Again...Mutant Rats

Four Letter Pasty Rant

Monday saw the ever-creative Birmingham Opera Company performance of one of my favourite pieces of music ever, Henry Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas". I went to see their performance of "The Waiter's Revenge" last Autumn and Stockhausen's "Mittwoch Aus Licht" several years ago, before I had even thought about moving to Birmingham. Given that "Dido" is so well-known and well-loved, any contemporary production runs the risk of upsetting and offending 'traditionalists'.

Setting it in a sleazy ballroom in an underpass off The Bullring was the first surprise.

Dido & Aeneas - Birmingham Opera - 4

Dido & Aeneas - Birmingham Opera - 5

For me, the excitement began when I heard that the piece was being performed on the original instruments. Purcell has become one of my favourite composers and although I wouldn't object to hearing performances on modern instruments, the original instruments give a life and vivacity to the music which cannot be conveyed otherwise.

Dido & Aeneas - Birmingham Opera - 7

Dido & Aeneas - Birmingham Opera - 8

The performances were blistering but the biggest surprise was the enormous chorus - perhaps equal in size to the audience - who were mixed in with the audience for a good part of the performance. If I hadn't been there, it would have been hard to imagine how this could work, but it was very effective.

Dido & Aeneas - Birmingham Opera - 12

The highlight for me was the role of the Sorceress being sung by a counter-tenor - Tai Oney - instead of the more usual mezzo-soprano.

Dido & Aeneas - Birmingham Opera - 10

The performances were all superb and very physical with Chrystal E Williams' Dido climbing about the place:

Dido & Aeneas - Birmingham Opera - 9

Or being thrown about by Eric Greene's robust Aeneas. I regretted not having bought a ticket for later in the week but it sold out some time ago.

Dido & Aeneas - Birmingham Opera - 13

Dido & Aeneas - Birmingham Opera - 14

Looking forward to what comes next!

Bad Dog Designs - Nixie Clocks - 4

Also this week, I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Parry of Bad Dog Designs. I commissioned a Nixie tube clock from Paul a month or so ago and went to collect it, having a look around his wonderful workshop and getting a preview of the clocks he's building. The clock he made for me was built around a electrical testing bridge.

Bad Dog Designs - Nixie Clocks - 1

Bad Dog Designs - Nixie Clocks - 2

I've wanted a Nixie clock for years - there is something immensely appealing about the colour of the light, the mystery of the mechanism and even the sound. When I was a kid, my dad had a calculator with Nixie tubes - no idea what happened to that - and there was something magical about the way it lit up, the "pinging" of the tubes if you bumped it (which I probably did a bit too often)...

Paul's clocks are remarkable constructions, made from found objects and electronic components.

Bad Dog Designs - Nixie Clocks - 5

Bad Dog Designs - Nixie Clocks - 8

Even a helium-neon laser-tube!

Bad Dog Designs - Nixie Clocks - 9

Here is a video of one of the clocks in operation: