Hello to everyone in Blog Land. I am Mike Gray and I play violin with the Scarborough Spa Orchestra. I was originally a member from 1996 to 2001 and then left to do other things. I now am a violinist with the BBC Concert Orchestra and have been very lucky that they have given me the time off to come back to the Spa for the last three seasons. Contemplating a season with the SSO is not something one does lightly. It is an exhausting/rewarding/difficult/uplifting/exasperating/joyous cavalcade of music, put together on very little rehearsal for an audience that are happy to tell you exactly what they think of it! It is, in short, WONDERFUL! It’s a job like no other and I always feel lucky that I’ve been a part of it. So here is my week…
Thursday nights Gala featured the works of Ivor Novello, my absolute favorite tunesmith of all time. A busy night for the Trio in particular, and quite tricky because although not the most difficult of music, perhaps, one wants to get it ‘just right’. Enough portamento but not too much, rubato that serves the melody but is not too romantic, restrained passion even. For me, violin playing is a largely instinctive affair, but when it comes to Novello, a little extra attention is required. I think it went well, and our soloists were wonderful. Alison Hudson sounded glorious in ‘Rose of England’, and I am happy to admit that Marilyn Hill-Smith made me cry with ‘Waking or Sleeping’. A trip to the Valley Bar was needed; they do a very nice Mango Floris beer. A slightly blurry Friday morning followed, I think I sang a couple of songs, and then I was free! This year the Schedule has changed so that for the first time we had a two and a half day weekend! For those of us who normally live out of town, this means we can either relax and enjoy the many delights of Scarborough, or get back home. This weekend I had planned a trip back home to London to go to Proms in the Park. So, I boarded the 6.48pm train from Scarborough on Friday and got to York in plenty of time for the 8pm train for London. When it arrived, my seat was already taken!
The dog was actually very well behaved compared to the man in front of me, but that’s quite enough of that. So off we set. Hurrah for East Coast Trains who wisely ignored the optimistic arrival time of 10pm and plopped us into kings cross at 1.15am. They did give us a free cup of something and the opportunity to buy a healthy snack. I was in coach B, and the buffet car was in coach J, so by the time I got there I was able to get a cup of tea and a limited edition Haribo Starmix. What a treat! I do hope that the lovely lady that had travelled from Aberdeen that day(!), had a wonderful time at the wedding of her good friend’s son on Saturday. I don’t really know her but you get chatting when your stood for half an hour on Retford platform don’t you? I’m told that the local river is called the Idle, mmm… East coast did get us all cabs home, so I eventually got to bed at 3am.
Saturday afternoon, one of my section was having a picnic at his place, near to Hyde Park, so I had a lovely time catching up and trying all the treats he had prepared, (Who knew I would like a vegetarian sausage?) and then on to the concert. It was a great night watching my colleagues at the BBC. Terry was great and Dame Edna was brilliant as always. Other than that, I got to sit on a blanket with 10 friends, quaff Champagne and eat quail scotch eggs (Delicious).
Proms In The Park
Got back quite late and so had a rather quiet Sunday. The journey back was uneventful, so arrived in Scarborough at 11pm. I was just getting back and ready for a good nights sleep when Chloë texted to say she was in the Lord Nelson pub on the seafront and did I fancy a nightcap and maybe a song as the Karaoke was still going? Well, what could set me up for the week better?
Most mornings I enjoy my walk down to the Spa with a cappuccino from Luca at La Piazza and my iPod playing some of my favorite music. On Monday it was the Carpenters so arrived in fine mood for the morning’s work. We have three fab deps on this week, Tony (Tromboney), Alex (Trumpet) and Lisa (Bass). I remember some discussion in the talk through about the Russian Rag by Cobb, as the Trombone has a prominent part with many glissandos. Well, Tony really went for it. I guarantee you have never heard anything quite like it, what a triumph! The rest of the programme was filled with Ancliffe, Holzman, Srauss, Ketelby (Hooray!), Gershwin, Berlin and others, finishing with ‘There’s no business like show business’. No indeed!
I won’t go through everything in all nine concerts, but to give you an idea of the week: –Tuesday morning included ‘Puffin’ Billy’ by White and ‘Down the Mall’ a great march by Belton. We seem to be forming a bit of a fish finger sandwich club at lunchtimes with Me, Chloë, Lisa, Tony and Alex, so off we went to Farrers. It seems to be a scones with jam and cream club as well. Time for a snooze, then back for the evening. Ruy Blas Overture, Danse Macabre (eek!), Deep River and Petite Suite de Concert by Coleridge-Taylor. All great.
Wednesday morning – Running off the rails by Richardson, Barwick Green (the Archer’s theme tune) and Everso Goosey, a novelty number sung by yours truly! Do you get the wind up when the organ plays? Of course you do!!! Spent a lovely afternoon with Chloë seeing the film ‘About time’ and having tea at the Oasis Café on the North Bay. The evening included ‘Adoration’ by Jack Byfield, a wonderful pieceoriginally written for the Max Jaffa Trio, Stranger on the shore and Schindler’s List. After the Wednesday night concert I try and support the Jazz club at the Cask pub. Tonight was Jim Birkett and the JM3. I couldn’t stay for long, but really enjoyed his guitar playing. Beautifully smooth. After that, how else to finish a night of high culture but to meet the guys down the Lord Nelson for Karaoke! Followed by a late stop at Chubbies!!
For our Thursday Gala, we teamed up with members from the Scarborough Area Youth Symphony Orchestra (SAYSO). They joined us for three numbers at the end of each half and did a fantastic job. They only had one rehearsal and some really tricky music but they sounded great! I hope they enjoyed themselves. On Friday morning we had more young people! We have been trying out a morning concert for Dancers since August, and I for one really like the atmosphere it creates as well as being able to watch some really good dancers in action. This morning we were visited by 29 children form St. Martin’s School. Their teacher, Alison Logue, had taught them the moves to the Cha Cha Cha and the Waltz only the day before, but they loved it. It was wonderful to see these 8-9 year olds concentrating on their steps and making it fit the music. Brilliant work Miss Logue! I often sing a number in these concerts and really loved singing ‘Always’. It’s about caring for someone and being there for them when things don’t go to plan. A nice sentiment for a child I think.
This year I have been selling CD’s in the concert intervals with our cellist, the generally wonderful Diane Stewart. Di recorded a lovely ‘Cello CD last year and we re-released a Trio recording from 1997. We have, therefore, had quite a bit of contact with the audience, some of whom will happily stand by you all break and tell you all about themselves. There are great stories like the couple who were childhood sweethearts in the fifties, he goes overseas for two years, she marries someone else, so he goes to Australia for thirty years, marries as well, but due to personal circumstances comes back to England, single, they meet up after all that time and are now together, or the gentleman who will be 102 next birthday (you know who you are!) who had been coming since the days of the great Max Jaffa and wanted to meet us because he thought it was all still so wonderful! Sometimes it’s lives in a nutshell, other times its a window through which you glimpse people going through difficult times. When you are chatting and people say “When I listen to the music, all my worries seem to fly away” you can see that these are real concerns and that music really provides some sort of escape for them. It also gives people access to emotions they may not normally feel, or memories that they havn’t explored for a long time. It’s a huge privilege to not only provide that for people, but also to have them share their experiences with you. They all come for the music, it helps.
I think I’ve prattled on quite enough for now. It’s Sunday night and we approach the final week of the Season!
Monday night is Melodies for you – The orchestra’s choice, so expect a real mixed bag but some wonderful pieces. Tuesday is the Top Ten Tune as voted for by the audience. Wednesday is Orchestra Solos Night (No pressure there then). Thursday of course is the Grand Finale. (There is no Friday concert). It will be a week of amazing music and that’s just the evenings! If you have read this far, thanks for sticking with it, and if it’s encouraged you to come to a concert, come and say hi, I’ll be the violinist in the loud tie. Bye for now.
Showtime! (Photo Michael Harper)