Monday, 30 January 2012

Belgian weekend

Stayed in a hotel for two nights opposite a rather grand building in Leuven.... subsequently found that this was the prison...
Luckily got no closer...

As the lovely Eurostar people are striking today, we had driven over via the Chunnel...
Two life-enhancing evenings in (slightly parky) Belgium... in two more picaresque Belgian towns... of which we realise, there is a neverending supply...

Firstly we provided the final event of an a cappella day in Ternat... lots of groups performed before we did, in various venues... sadly we missed them, as we were sound-checking/travelling... but then we provided the closing concert at 10pm... great atmosphere; lots of singers, and a cappella lovers in evidence... wonderful.

Then in Tienen today [well, yesterday] joined by Paul Plummer at the piano; we had a masterclass with three groups of singers at the local music academy... and then they joined us on stage tonight, during our Best of British show... wonderful... they each sang a song of their own [also accompanied by Paul]... Remember Me, Oh Happy Day & Rutter's  All things Bright & Beautiful; as well as joining three of us in accompanying Steve's solo in The LUMBERJACK SONG... totally fantastic.... along with mountie hats and red and black costumes... a splendid thing in a lovely evening... Those young people may never be  the same again!

Great to have the entire of the Weerts clan from The Netherlands at the gig... terrific to see them all together... and now, all as tall as each other!

Three Westmalle trappist beers (dark) - and some takeaway food -  have helped the evening to a gentle close...

Monday, 23 January 2012

What a fine Blog!

Apologies for showing off... but when someone is this kind...

Nice blog here

Thanks, Fearn

Itzehoe, DE

Yes, we managed to get to Itzehoe (nr. Hamburg), and once more B.o.B. triumphed!
Beautiful theatre - especially on the inside... great lighting & sound.

Flag-waving as keen as ever.... We think this show is motoring now; we must do it some more!

We got back to the airport [Paul Plummer went off early for his train... he has an audition in Germany somewhere! Good luck!]... and now we are home.
Next it is the Belgian incarnation of B.o.B.... once more with PP.

Friday, 20 January 2012


Well would you believe it? We come to Rottweil & see not one dog... but lots of cats!  All very friendly... Mike not especially happy as he is allergic to them, but they seemed to know to leave him alone. Three cats at the venue (er... only one in the restaurant!) and one at the hotel!
Bijou venue... the Badhaus... a wonderful restaurant (we had two super meals there) as well as a performing space... and B.o.B. was alive and well again!   More flag-waving honorary Britons were created!
Up early as we take an early am flight to Hamburg and Itzehoe - tonight's crowd were most amused that this was our next stop!


Hang on, what country are we in?
Ah yes.... it's Germany.
Great evening at The Capitol, Mannheim... we have another three-date B.o.B. {Best of British} tour... Rottweil & Itzehoe after tonight...
Everyone dutifully waved their Union Flags and sang along to our Land of Hope and Glory [only with parodic words by the great Anglo-German powerhouse partnership, Julian and Maggie Forsyth].
I haven't mentioned yet that on this blog that we owe a lot with this B.o.B. show to the Forsyths, who created most of the verbiage between the songs and wrote the new parodies... a brilliant team - we worked with them in Spoliansky's Send for Mr Plim at Battersea Arts Centre a few years ago (wonderful show)... they have helped us create a show which sends us up as a nation, but also asks questions of the Germans too... mainly... Why do you think we are like this... and are we truly so - and you like all this pomp and circumstance stuff, don't you? ...and other such rhetoric.  Lovely stuff... dead clever (and going down well with people)...
Thanks, Julian and Maggie!

We tried out the theme tune to Morse tonight... no-one had heard of it... hmmm... we'll try a bit more before chucking it...

We are accompanied by our old friend, Paul Plummer for this tour, and for next weekend too... great to see him.
Oh, and  late-night kebabs were had...

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Estonia/Russia tour end

Wonderful tour.
Lovely reception at the Janni Church here in St Petersburg.... just in the airport, waiting to get a flight home.

Receptive to all, the audience were great - left in stunned silence at the end of one of my Russian introductions (probably awe)... but they laughed in all the right places at everything else, so something must have been right!

They liked our rendition of the only Borodin male quartet piece (he was born here too) - four guys serenading the same woman!
The Estonians enjoyed our Estonian folk encore too... last week.

Very fine tour up north... and the mild winter helped!  Coming in summer would also be fantastic!
We were looked after splendidly...

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Blood Church, St Petersburg

Fantastic trip to the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood - amazing walls... absolutely icon/mosaic-covered; into every nook, cranny and dome another picture is crammed.
Phenomenal history - somewhat like the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour rebuilt in Moscow in the 1990s (Stalin had got rid of it cos it spoiled his view!) - it had an interesting 20th century... Looted after the Revolution in 1917, closed in the 30s, used as a refuge when Leningrad was under siege by the Nazis in1943-4, then used as a vegetable store!
After 27 years of refurbishment, it was open to the public again in 1997.  It never was a consecrated public-worship church, and thus it is now as it ever was, a monument to the assassinated Tsar Alexander II, and a Museum of wonderful Mosaics.

So... a concert tonight!

Monday, 16 January 2012

St Petersburg

There will be more... but here are a couple of pics.... The Winter Palace, at least the symbolic starting point of the October revolution... so many fabulous buildings here!

...and our names in Cyrillic - we've seen it before in Moscow a few years back, but it still fascinates...

Old Bobby

Richard [or Bob as his parents know him] found his very own tipple in the 24-hour "Supermarket" - which sold only chocolate, crisps and drink!

It's... Old Bobby with Old Bobby!!

Mike got a taste for vodka in the restaurant... and will be resting more all evening...

Tartu, Estonia

...was, of course, as cool as the other Estonian stops... Tartu is another University city [one of the oldest Universities in Europe - 370+ years old], and the second city of Estonia, with another splendid concert hall.

We had such a splendid time here in Estonia, and hope to come back... perhaps in the Summer!
Tiiu, Enno & Liis looked after us wonderfully.

Our luxury (ooooooh!) bus at 6am (uuuuuurgh!) got us to St Petersburg Baltic station in time for lunch and to be shown to the Eesti Kontsert HQ at the Janni church here.
Then we were helped through our Russian intros... the Estonian has gone so well, now we must learn to swallow... our tongues! [Pride's gone already...]

Now let's explore...

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Beautiful pictures

Whilst trying to find out why a picture of another group of four appeared on TV screens advertising our concert in the concert hall in Tartu, Estonia this afternoon, we happened upon something much better!
The wrong group were referred to London Quartet in an article, as they are four people who live in London... they are The Official Secrets Act - however amongst google imagery we found these pictures from a concert in Canada at Pointe Claire last summer, which are splendid for us to see... we need an artist at all our gigs!

Paula Becker is she...

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Snowy Tallinn

Gateway to The Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral, and the church itself... & of course that famous scene from many a Mediaeval City, the old gatehouse with snow-plough & McDonalds behind...
Wonderful [if cold] day in Tallinn Old Town.

Pärnu, Estonia

We are being spoilt out here... another fine hall in which to sing - this time in Pärnu...
Still understanding our Estonian (!) - and especially tickled tonight by ribald comment on Richard's hormonal imbalance... what larks!
...and we experienced an Estonian supermarket [another genius ida of Enno's] for snackage on the trip home... very economical, and good too; tho' Mike is not sure he will try the dried croaker fish again...

On to the second city of Estonia [population: 100,000] on Sunday...
We have Saturday to explore Tallinn (where we have been staying all the while)...

Friday, 13 January 2012

Jõhvi, Estonia

Wonderful concert hall in Jõhvi with fantastic acoustic - it is very new; only in its 7th year.
We were very near Russia... where of course we will be in a few days' time
Another warm audience, laughing at our jokes in Estonian!
All wonderful....
After the concert Enno, who is driving us about here, took us to a 24-hour Georgian restaurant {Artur} which was splendid - my son thought the food would be off by now, as he was thinking of historical period rather than geography! - I had a sparkling water on Mike's recommendation which others felt seemed a bit like a trip to the dentist... but I enjoyed it!
On to Pärnu tonight...

Aitäh! (for reading this)

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Tallinn concert

Splendid concert hall here in Tallinn; wonderful to sing in, and with a full house appreciating our Estonian - and understanding it! - hooray... & our Estonian folk song went well too...
We performed our show, from Madrigal to McCartney... indeed, Madrigalist McCartney'ni

The overnight snow turned to slush, which was a shame, but everyone still turned up... 
Hope to explore Tallinn & Estonia a bit more, now the concerts have started... (we do have a day off)... However, on to Jõhvi tomorrow.... which only has a population of 11,500 {Tallinn by far the largest Estonian city with 400,000; the country as a whole - 1.3m.}

Best of British (German) reviews

Bad Kreuznach  newspaper review

Bad Kreuznach radio review too - (scroll down a bit and you'll find it!)

B.o.B. flourishes...

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Baltic Times

We have arrived in Estonia, and we had a stop-off at Riga, Latvia, thus we have already sampled two Baltic States...
Not too cold here in Tallinn, delightfully... tho' a reassuring amount of snow is on the ground; they had thier first snow here right at New Year, instead of the normal November [last winter there was heavy snow all through October to April]...
We saw our concert hall for tomorrow night looking splendid, and with a huge poster of us on one side... & we met in the restaurant the guy who played there tonight [sadly we arrived too late to see him perform], Ukrainian guitarist Enver Izmaylov.
So all systems go for our first Estonian tour... just got to get those introductions in the mind yet...
But for now...

head ööd

Monday, 9 January 2012

Haus der Springmaus, Bonn

B.o.B. tour #1 in January now finished...
As ever a joyful reception at the Haus der Springmaus in Bonn
Die suppe was as good as ever...

We were only here last in March 2011, but another full-haus enjoyed B.o.B....
Especially their opportunity to join in clapping, stamping and 'banging the big bass drum' in Flash, Bang, Wallop...
Chris and Sian's wee boy sat through the whole gig... only having a solo moment when Richard said rhetorically, 'But what about me?' ... Curtis duly laughed! And he cooed amiably during our Lullabye!

At airport early to try to get a fullish day at home...
All systems go for first trip ever to Estonia... tomorrow

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Bad Kreuznach, DE

Hoorah - another great B.o.B. night...
Richard had a splendid moment, introducing our pianist as being the MD of Billy Hatt, which was nice... He is of course the MD of Chris Elliot.
Germany is being good to us - another packed house, and more jollity... they were especially delighted with our selection of British TV themes.
The theatre is in the midst of the rather glorious Sympathie Hotel Fürstenhof - the panoramic view on the site does it justice... I even walked up high and saw it all from above this afternoon.
Sadly we do not have lots of time to spend in their Wellness Centre - all looks great!
Had a good later evening in the hotel bar with Carole, her (and our) friend Birgit and, of course, Billy Hatt and family too...
On to Haus der Springmaus, Bonn to see more old friends...

Friday, 6 January 2012

Hoechst, DE

Our second outing of our Best of British show [for Germany] went off very well.  A sold-out theatre at Hoechst provided a very supportive audience.
Chris Hatt was with us on piano, and he has brought his wife and son with him on the trip.  Sadly the boy is nocturnal at the moment, but Chris and Sian both look good on it... and he is a happy little chap, as well as gorgeous, natch.

Carole is with us too for two days, visiting old friends in Germany, as well as seeing new songs from us!
CDs were flying away... Cricket included!
Two more nights, Bad Kreuznach and Bonn [Haus der Springmaus!] - next two days... then three more dates after our Estonia/Russia trip.

The B.o.B. show is on the road! 

PS: all together now, one last time.... I'll have a pee please, Bob
      R.I.P. Bob Holness

Monday, 2 January 2012

Frankfurt (Oder) with orchestra

A delightful repeat of last night, only this time at the orchestra's home here in Frankfurt (Oder) - formerly Frankfurt an der Oder - once, we realised tonight, a Hanseatic League City of much greater import than nearby Berlin... sadly the Nazis (in choosing this as their last stronghold pre-Berlin) and the Russians clubbed together to destroy 97% of the place in WWII.... only a very few Middle Age buildings are left.

We will see more Hanseatic League wonder when we take our first trip to Estonia, next week!

Our concert was followed by a splendid time in Fratelli's - one of the few restaurants which the Maestro recommends, which tonight was full of musicians.

Now we have a date for our return - August 2014; how splendid... and we might record together too... fantastic.

Quick drive to Berlin, then we fly home.... but then - back in Germany on Friday...

Auf wiederseh'n...

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Potsdam with orchestra

Excellent and highly enjoyable concert with the Brandenburgischen Staatsorchesters Frankfurt, and maestro Howard Griffiths MBE.
Full crowd once again - must find out what is in the German water! - all set for a jolly New Year's concert - the 1st of 2012.

Lovely to sing the chorus parts for the joyful Blue Danube, as well as Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffman and our own Hush Macushla with orchestra (we are used to doing them with piano). 

Great to exercise our orchestrations of the Comedian Harmonists favourites, Mein kleiner, grüner Kaktus & Schöne Isabella von Kastilien, and to expand our string-quartet-accompanied version of Stevie Wonder's I Just Called to Say I Love You (arranged by the great Gordon Langford) to full strings.  We also sang our a cappella faves, Caravan, Strangers in the Night, The Lambeth Walk and The History of Western Music.
The orchestra also had their own flourishes with more Strauss plus José Pablo de Moncayo, Gordon Jacob, Geronimo Gimenez and Arturo Márquez  - all fantastic.

Howard seems to think we should do all this again sometime; well, let's start with tomorrow... and then think of more opportunities!