Where the hell have you been?

Where have I been?  What have I been up to?  Why haven't I kept up my blog?

You know what?  In the unforgettable words of Chris Thompson of Mannfred Man's Earth Band and War of the Worlds fame "It's reelly fuckun haard" (Chris is an Aussie - that's phonetic).  Running a decent website requires proper discipline and committment.  Which I seem to have failed to muster.

There is nothing like revisiting something to re-ignite the embers however, so having had a look through my past efforts, here goes.

Top of the list at the time of writing has to be the series of shows I am mixing for Shirley Collins, the queen of English folk.  Shirley and I are related through marriage (hers, not mine - she was married to my cousin Austin John Marshall, 60's producer, arts man and graphic designer), and meeting her after 50 years has been akin to an episode of 'Long Lost Family', without Davina McCall popping up all over the shop.  Instead we get my wonderful cousin Polly Marshall-Taplin and her husband Chris of Shooting Star Productions- infinitely preferable and with much better hats than Davina. You can read about the show elsewhere on the site, but suffice to say it's pretty special to be involved with the return of an artist of her stature to performance after some 40 years away.  And, in the true spirit of nepotism, Chris and Polly run the Other Stage at Glastonbury.  Small world society!

One of the things I get asked about most is 'How is the teaching going?'  Truth is, I don't do that much but I have recently finished the one module on the Live Sound FdA at DBS Music here in Plymouth - it's called 'Modern Concert Systems' and involves introducing students to the wonders of line arrays and beyond, including the stellar range of MLA systems from Martin Audio (see separate article).  I am deeply enthusiastic about education in the Live Sound business.  For too long, people have forged careers based on a combination of luck and aptitude, which is no bad thing and I myself am one of those, but in the modern sound industry is a complex and fast moving place and it is now essential to have a clue before you dive in.  There are exciting times ahead for Live Sound at DBS in Plymouth, so watch this space.

In November 2016, R G Jones Sound Engineering celebrated its 90th birthday.  That's 90 years.  In audio.  Incredible.  I started at RG's in 1979, and although I am freelance I have never really left and consequently I was asked to make a speech as the longest serving person around.  You can see a video of it here:

http://rgjones.co.uk/docs/latest-news/EuluZlklAlPIPAWhEp.shtml

I think they liked it!  It was a fine evening with a fantastic array of old faces, many of whom I have shared some defining career moments with.  Growing old with these people is a privilege, as is being responsible for upholding 90 years of audio history.  I came away from the party with a deep sense of pride at belonging to something very special indeed, but also with a feeling of slight trepidation of what the next 10 years might hold, and what would be said at the 100th birthday party!  In a climate of buyouts and mergers, RG Jones has managed to remain fiercely independent by establishing deeply loyal relationships with a jaw-dropping list of clients that most would kill for - I can't help but think that it will become harder with time however.

A couple of stand-out gigs from the last 12 months:

My brother-from-another-mother Chris Ekers asked me to cover him for a Max Richter show in Krakow.  I was flattered, as Max has created some of the most beautiful contemporary classical music of recent times, and to say I was excited about this would be gross understatement.  His gorgeous piece 'On the Nature of Daylight' can be heard at the end of the very beautiful and thought-provoking film 'Arrival', and his score for the BBC's fantastic drama 'Taboo' has been setting the scene for the dark, foreboding  and spooky world of James Delaney and his personal issues with authority every Saturday night for the past two months.  Max and his ensemble played "Recomposed' and 'The Blue Notebooks', two wildly different pieces with wildly different staging and orchestration.  Challenging?  yes, but ultimately thrilling, and I urge you to give them a listen.

The British Paraorchestra was formed by West Country based conductor and musical philanthropist Charles Hazlewood with a view to breaking down the barriers presented to disabled musicians.  It brings together excellent musicians with varying levels of disability who under normal circumstances might have had difficulty performing in such trifling arenas as the Olympic Stadium, where they performed for the 2012 Paralympic Ceremonies.  Charles' inspiration has created a platform for a range of instrumentalists, and in April 2016 they came together to perform Terry Reilly's extraordinary 'In C' at Bristol Colston Hall.  'In C' is one of the most exciting and unusual pieces of music I have ever encountered, having no rules other than 53 melodic patterns that can be played on any instrument, in strict tempo.  Players can choose when to play, and are encourage to overlap the patterns to create polyrhythmic and polyphonic interactions that are totally spontaneous.  There is no set time for a performance.

As a gig to mix, it was thrilling - I had completefreedom in how I went about it and Charles encouraged me to play with the piece as much as the musicians, who were all brilliant and embraced the sonic possibilities offered by careful reproduction and creative mixing.  What a privilege.

Stay tuned, there's more where this came from.

 

Lodestar - Shirley Collins in 2017
Shirley Collins in the early 70's
The BPO string section
Me and my brother from another mother Mr Ekers
Glaswegian off-licence
KJ at Birmingham Symphony Hall - I know, why wasn't I concentrating on mixing the show?
Lodestar in concert
Victoria, vocals for the British Paraorchestra's incredible performance of 'In C' at Bristol Colston Hall

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