Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Touring with Music in Hospitals

Hockings ice cream - sensational and my just desert I think (at Westward Ho, mid tour)
Many hours of driving, many winding lanes and breathtaking views, many friendly faces - these have all been part of a tour with the wonderful Music in Hospitals. If you've never heard of them check out their website. As it says on there, they aim to '...improve the quality of life, for adults and children with all kinds of illness and disability, through the joy and therapeutic benefits of professionally performed live music in hospitals, hospices, day care centres, special schools, nursing and residential homes.'
As part of the Ruskin Ensemble duo, with violinist Jane Gomm, I've been touring in the West Country for the last few days. There is no doubt about the joy. It sounds like a cliché but when you've seen it with your own eyes it is impossible not to feel moved. It is incredible that music has such an effect and makes me feel privileged that I can play in such settings and feel that it makes a difference. So think of all those people who can't get out to concerts or go to gigs. Visit the Music in Hospitals website and read about their work and maybe even hop to their donations page to donate a pound or two to help them keep up their great efforts in organising musicians to go out and spread the music to places and people it otherwise wouldn't reach.  

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Boogie Night at the Museum - Inspired Fringe Fun

Sound checking in the stately vault of Chamber's Street Museum for my slot on their main stage I was dwarfed by the immensity and splendour of it all and to hear the guitar booming out into the galleries beyond the atrium in such an enormous resounding way made me feel somewhat shy. I chose to do my 2 Sindo Garay Cuban bolero pieces followed by Choros No.1 and the Paco Pena 'Herencia Latina', to end on a rousing note. There was a quiet dressing room up on the top floor where I was honoured to meet the extraordinary Movin' Melvin Brown, who was also on the bill.
Performing in such a lively and glorious setting was a tremendous experience although with so many people all having fun I couldn't exactly hear what I was playing. But I enjoyed myself and I had lots of lovely people coming up to me afterwards, as I explored the exhibitions, to say how much they had enjoyed it. So it was very rewarding.
The National Museum of Scotland - Chambers Street

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Hahaha... would you go and see this?

Thank you, Broadway Baby, for the intelligently composed review and they give me 4 stars (so I'm pleased with that).
It would be interesting to talk to a reviewer. I'd love to ask why does he think it was brave to include 'Usher Waltz'. I have a rip-roaring amount of fun playing that. I don't think it was brave to include it, it was fun to include it. It is great when you see audiences members jumping in their seats! Not many pieces in any intrument's repertoire do that.
On to 'Love is a Cat Skin Rug' the new show from Headless Doctor Theatre Company
The cast of Headless Doctor Theatre Company perform 'Love is a Cat Skin Rug', their exuberant new show
This play uses lots of music and one of the pieces is my recording of 'Lipa Vekovaya' by Serge Rudnev - I am most flattered. The play is a delight and is currently playing to packed audiences as part of the free Fringe. It deserves to be more widely seen. I found it hilarious and also poignant. Very moving. Best of luck to them.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Edinburgh Fringe Here I Come...

I'm doing 11 - 24 August,  back at C Too, the Church - venue 4 and you'll find it at 14 Johnston Terrace, Edinburgh, EH1 2PW; the lovely church of St Columbas' by the Castle. My programme is available by clicking on on the programme tab above. This year I'm also bringing CDs for sale - of last year's programme I hasten to add. So to those who asked me for one last year, I say: come and get 'em! 
Book your tickets online here and while you are about it how about checking out another great guitarist, also appearing at C Too this year - the one and only Declan Zapala!
Declan is on at 5.30 pm so you could have a whole afternoon of guitar music by coming to       C Too

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Can Classical Guitar compete with the World Cup Final?

Today was the final day of the fantastic Toronto Fringe.  I was mighty relieved to find that, even though I was performing at the same time as the World Cup final kicked off, a very jolly and appreciative audience materialised to listen to me play - thank you to all of them and to each of my other audiences too. It was a pleasure to perform here. 
 The city is vibrant and friendly and I've enjoyed exploring. I like the vivid wall paintings and I like the music shops. I visited Steve's Music Shop at 415 Queen Street and got four sets of strings - much much cheaper than back in the UK I have to say. Actually music seems to be very important here. Examine the photo below right - (ignore the git with the camera) - what does it say above that shop? Yes. It says 'The Toronto Institute for the Enjoyment of Music'.  That seems like a very good thing to have in your city.

There were lots of amazing shows on at The Robert Gill Theatre but the wonderful thing about it, apart from it being a very comfortable auditorium and a cool haven after the blisteringly hot sun outside, was that it has a great team of technicians. Thank you to Vanita and Theo. Such a calming influence and so skilful and efficient.

I'm pretty exhausted now but  glad I came.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Reasons to Love Toronto

  • It has a Fringe
  • neighbourhoods with sidewalks inhabited by strolling people who greet each other and exchange pleasantries
  • people sitting out on their porches - porches themselves even - great feature
  • childrens' playgrounds full of toys that stay put (even increase, as people contribute them)
  • maple syrup
  • brilliant service in the shops and businesses. Here's an example.

AzureProduction - a little company who in no time flat copied me some CDs off my master and had them not only packaged but also shrink-wrapped in time for my first show - a two day turnaround.
Thank you, Caine and colleagues. I appreciate it.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Bemusement on the Toronto Fringe

I've had a review - and it was a nice one thank goodness. But I have a sneaking suspicion that due to a concatenation of historical circumstances, classical music on the Toronto Fringe is a bit unexpected.Consider the evidence:
  1.  Bemusement when you tell people what your show is
  2. Press and media discussion of the Fringe referring only to theatre
  3. Shows listed by venue in the Fringe Programme, rather than by art form
  4. The opening sentence of my review:- ‘Classical Guitar Concert, performed by Jonathan Prag, pretty much gives it all away in the title. The show is a 45-minute concert of classical acoustic guitar pieces...'
A parade passing as I'm on the way to my venue
No-one expects a music concert on The Toronto Fringe! Music IN shows, yes -  musicals themselves, of course - but not concerts of music. Hmm. Come on then, fellow musicians - there needs to be MORE OF US!! bring your shows and join in the fun. It is definitely fun to perform at Fringe festivals like The Toronto Fringe and The Adelaide Fringe and of course, The Edinburgh fringe, I can vouch for that. 
I'm very pleased with the review. The reviewer enjoyed my concert once he got over his surprise that such a thing existed (‘I admit that at first, I thought “classical guitar” would be a bit of an oxymoron, but the arrangements sounded fresh and soothing. Bach on guitar – who knew that could be done?’ he says, at one point). 
And all hail to the audiences who have come to hear me play -  I salute you. You have coped with the unexpected and given it a whirl and then stayed after to speak to me about what a nice time you've had. Thank you - you are all brilliant!