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Best reads of the year

Best reads of the year

A reader has asked me to specify my favourite books of the year. I keep a note in my diary of the books I read, and this year I read 42 books in their entirety, plus a few more I didn't finish. Here are my top five favourites: 1. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth....

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Playing the piano to elephants

Playing the piano to elephants

On Saturday there was a lovely article in The Guardian about Paul Barton, a man who plays the piano to elephants at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. The elephants have often been overworked or mistreated before they come to the sanctuary, but it seems that they...

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Disappearing piano tuners

Disappearing piano tuners

There was an article in The Guardian this week about the dwindling number of highly-trained piano tuners in Australia. Not only is the pool of piano tuners getting smaller, it is in danger of not being replenished because there aren't enough training courses in this...

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Hyperion Records now available on streaming platforms

Hyperion Records now available on streaming platforms

Hyperion Records, which was recently bought by Universal, has decided to make its catalogue of recordings available on streaming platforms for the first time. The first batch of 200 Hyperion recordings has just gone up on Apple Music, Spotify, iTunes and so on. As the...

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Music at the Coronation

Music at the Coronation

The Coronation of King Charles III came in the same week that we heard the organisation Psappha, which promotes new music, had been forced to close because of funding problems. This in itself followed hard on the heels of threats to close the BBC Singers and reduce...

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Watching the Queen’s Coronation on TV in 1953

Watching the Queen’s Coronation on TV in 1953

Talk of how people are going to watch the King's Coronation next week has reminded me of my father's tale about Queen Elizabeth's Coronation in 1953. My father had recently moved to Scotland to marry my Scottish mother. Before coming to Edinburgh, my dad had been...

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My old friend Gerald

My old friend Gerald

This weekend I heard that my old friend Gerald Pointon had died. I felt like writing this little reminiscence. Gerald was a high-powered lawyer in Paris, specialising in arbitration. As a graduate student at Cambridge University he had sung in the famous choir of...

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Posing on the steps of the Opera

Posing on the steps of the Opera

Last week I was in Vienna for a few days of Easter holiday.  We managed to pack in lots of music-related things: a concert at the Musikverein, an evening at the State Opera, a visit to one of Mozart's apartments, a visit to Haydn's house in what was the village of...

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Channel 4’s ‘The Piano’

Channel 4’s ‘The Piano’

I've been watching Channel 4's new series, 'The Piano', in which amateur piano-playing members of the public put themselves forward to come and play an upright piano in the foyer of one of Britain's main railway stations. Unknown to them, watching behind the scenes...

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Christmas cake decorations

Christmas cake decorations

We generally try to make our own decorations for our home-made Christmas cake. We used to attempt traditional scenes of snowmen, sledging, fir trees, snowballs etc. In recent years, after icing the cake, we've switched to making animals out of the leftover icing. Each...

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The fieldfares are back

The fieldfares are back

Every winter at around this time, we see a kind of bird we never see at any other time of the year. Fieldfares, which are large thrushes, arrive from Scandinavia and eat the last of the berries on the rowan tree outside our kitchen window. First we notice that the...

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A reunion dinner and some old neighbours

A reunion dinner and some old neighbours

In our student days, those of us studying music (and in fact anyone who wanted to continue their piano studies) were allowed to hire upright pianos and put them in our rooms. Not infrequently there were two or more people on the staircase with pianos in their rooms -...

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Traditions of music-making can’t be allowed to fade away

Traditions of music-making can’t be allowed to fade away

I often tweet about music and related matters. Usually the response is small - I'm thrilled if my tweets reach a couple of hundred people. So my experience yesterday was exceptional. I was watching The Queen's funeral which, as you'll know, had a variety of music in...

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An old Scottish lullaby

An old Scottish lullaby

There's news today of an important new women's health strategy in England. 'Ministers have vowed to tackle decades of “systemic” and “entrenched” gender health inequality in England with plans to introduce compulsory women’s health training for doctors, more cancer...

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