Tate Liverpool's Magritte, The Walker's Art in Revolution, Southport Bach Choir and the RLPC, Lady Caroline Gray-Hill
IT'S been a big week for the visual arts in Liverpool with two exhibitions opening at Tate Liverpool and another at the Walker Art Gallery. You can read my features on Magritte: The Pleasure Principle, Art In Revolution: Liverpool 1911 and Robert Therrien: Smoke Signals by clicking on the links.
I spent yesterday between both galleries gorging myself on beautiful art works, including Paul Gauguin's Sister of Charity, Vincent Van Gogh's Hayricks and Paul Sérusier's Breton Women in the Rain. But it was in front of Liverpool artist James Hamilton Hay's Falling Star that I, for a moment or two, considered a Thomas Crowne Affair style heist. My favourite Magritte's included The Night Owl, which I later found out inspired the poster for film The Exorcist, and The Key To The Fields - a broken window where the shattered panes of glass have retained the image that would have been behind it when it was whole.
I was looking at the first of these when LDP photographer Jason Roberts spied a national art critic's baby sitting in front of the rather violent painting The Menaced Assassin and took this wonderful picture that was on the front of today's Daily Post - with parental permission of course.
Ironically, the Walker's private view of Art in Revolution - which sets the Sandon Studio's controversial Post-Impressionist exhibition of 1911 against a backdrop of mass social unrest and strike action has been cancelled due to gallery staff members being on strike.
A COUPLE more arty things before I move on to other subjects. . .
Hidden Paintings of the North West on BBC1, at 10.25pm on Sunday with Paul McGann is well worth a watch. I went to a preview screening of it on Monday and was thrilled to see more of the work of Albert Richards, Britain's youngest war artist who died in action shortly before the end of the Second World War. He was born in Liverpool but has been almost forgotten. It was actually this feature here that sparked the interest of documentary maker Ged Clarke - great to think something I wrote was the start of such an interesting piece.
I couldn't resist the opportunity to share this stunning painting by Victorian artist Lady Caroline Gray-Hill, who created it during one of her annual visits to the Middle East made with her husband, John Gray-Hill, solicitor with Liverpool law firm Hill Dickinson. They built a home there with a panoramic view of the Dead Sea in 1889, and lived for several months a year for three decades. An exhibition of her work is currently at the Victoria Gallery & Museum.
DAILY Post reader Ian Beck sent this review of a concert by Souhport Bach Choir and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir on June 11. If you have any reviews you want to share with readers of this blog, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll include them. I can link out to your own blog/website too.
Saturday June 11 saw a unique combining of the talents of the Southport Bach Choir with their renowned guests, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir, in a well attended concert forming part of this year's Trinity Festival staged at Holy Trinity Church, Southport.
The audience was treated to a varied and contrasting programme of four choral works under the respective direction of Professor Ian Tracey, Chorus Master of the Phil. and Ian Wells, Conductor of the Bach Choir.
After a spirited and uplifting first half comprising Pergolesi's Magnificat and Bach's joyous Motet No.2, BWV 226, music was skilfully augmented by narration from Chris Barnes with a rare performance of Vaughan Williams' nostalgic Oxford Elegy, when the choirs successfully provided a haunting and moving atmosphere to accompany the lyrical poetry of Matthew Arnold.
The climax of the evening was a challenging double choir work from Gustav Holst, The Hymn of Jesus, which utilised to the full the power and rhythmic sense of all voices. Congratulations to all performers for this feast of musical prowess which was warmly received.
AND finally, I was sent this article by Dr James McGrath from the School of Cultural Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University who writes that Paul McCartney's "new" releases mark troubles and changes in music consumption. What do you think?
On 13 June, Sir Paul McCartney will release various deluxe CD and vinyl editions of two of his solo albums: the enduringly popular McCartney (1970) and the more uneven, eccentric McCartney II (1980). McCartney's catalogue is being repackaged by HearMusic/Concord: an indie label affiliated with a café called 'Starbucks'.
After leaving EMI in 2007, McCartney deleted his solo CDs. Before the reissues were announced, second-hand 1990s editions of these CDs sold online for over £40. McCartney's solo work, despite critical derision, continues to intrigue.
McCartney and McCartney II both offer engaging blends of moods and styles. Each was recorded largely at the musician's home, and features McCartney on all instruments, with backing vocals from his late wife Linda. The albums have been newly remastered, and the packages offer widely-advertised bonus material. Regular-priced editions feature an extra disc of songs. For six times that price, the albums come with extra extras: a few more songs, plus DVDs and books.
Why are some fans disappointed?
McCartney's re-releases have been preceded by intriguing, and for some fans, ultimately disappointing suggestions from 'insiders' of what previously unheard recordings would be included.
As McCartney issued remastered editions of his solo albums in 1993, the 'bonus' material in this campaign is its main selling point. The extra discs on McCartney as initially reported would have included unreleased songs from the period, plus rougher, longer versions of the album's emotional climax: the uncharacteristically stark 'Maybe I'm Amazed'. The song was recorded by McCartney alone in 1970 during what he later called a 'nervous breakdown' (after the Beatles' split), and preceded John Lennon's 1970 'primal scream' album (Plastic Ono Band) by six months.
Yet the reportedly 'wilder' versions of McCartney's best-loved solo song, plus the range of other private recordings initially suggested, are mostly absent from the packages to be released next week. Perhaps this is appropriate. Despite intense media attention, McCartney continues to maintain a dignified privacy where his personal life is concerned. In terms of musical content, however, fans of McCartney's early solo work will be given the very opposite of gems from his archive of works in private progress: the 'bonus' tracks are mainly live recordings from later tours, on which, McCartney played most songs identically to the finished versions for massive audiences.
This yields timely questions about what it is that we want from new packages of old music.
A chance to hear a genuinely different version of an enduring song implies a chance to hear it once again as if it's new. However, fans posting on McCartney forums (including his own website) are disappointed by the 'bonus' material on the reissues, complaining that it is unadventurous in content and slight in proportion.
Whatever agendas may have shaped mysterious rumours from 'insiders' about what McCartney could release from his archive this time round, the effect is convenient. It has drawn attention to how much of his work remains to be heard, and how novel some of it may be.
The encouraging of fans' speculation about McCartney's unreleased recordings is timely, because he has recently announced his joint venture with HP in uploading his entire post-Beatles archive in instantly accessible digital 'cloud' library.
McCartney, Pink Floyd and new musical formats
Although not yet accessible to fans, the McCartney cloud could be made digitally available online worldwide. The cloud format looks set to differ from established download stores in offering the chance to hear further unreleased recordings, as well as viewing photos and films - including material not featured on reissued CDs.
McCartney's reissues follow those of the Beatles' CDs in 2009 and of Lennon's solo albums in 2010. This September, Pink Floyd, too, begin re-releasing their back catalogue - for the first time since 1994. Although, like the Beatles and McCartney, Pink Floyd will provide for downloads, the main emphasis, again, is on deluxe CDs.
Perhaps artists of a certain generation are taking advantage of the CD before it goes the way of vinyl (the Beatles' remastered CDs appeared a year before their catalogue became available on iTunes). But when it comes to 'bonus' material - and Pink Floyd are offering a 5-disc version of Wish You Were Here - what goes on a deluxe CD package might have less to do with fulfilling fans' collections than with pointing to what more there may be to buy one day in the digital clouds.
An ancient musical format
Like others, I was disappointed that McCartney's reissue of his 1970 album does not seem to take us much closer to whatever mysterious things made it so compelling. But such hopes are perhaps unhealthily unrealistic (as well as expensive). If I want to listen to something that will return the pleasure I felt when first hearing McCartney, why don't I just listen to my original, taped recording of a friend's copy? Its sound has a dusty charm, after which, remastered tracks might feel clinical.
But here's another thought to consider before purchasing a deluxe CD or a downloaded remaster: can anything, other than an inspired cover version, or more often now, an inventive mash-up, really make a great song new again?
Even (perhaps especially) with the songs we love the most, there can sometimes come a point where we know so well the note and word that's coming next that actually, listening to it becomes less reassuring than naggingly disappointing. Perhaps this can remind us that it's always good to seek out something genuinely new.
So at this time, music can be stored and accessed, for a price, on CDs, deluxe vinyl editions, downloads, and in online clouds. But while we consider changing musical formats, we shouldn't forget another place where songs can be stored and accessed more cheaply, and where they may sound best of all: in our heads.
Thanks for reading...