Dispatches from the heart of Wessex

This will be much less portentous than the title might suggest, frankly I’ve just been to Winchester again.  This time I went by bus – well, there wan’t much choice it was either the bus or a rail-replacement bus.  I went with the always-a-bus, which whilst slightly more expensive does offer an almost door-to-door service – in addition to its greater authenticity.  The real bus offers a more scenic route (past the vast houses and estates of the über-rich) and provides free wifi and charging sockets for your gadgets – something which only the first class passenger lucky enough to catch a Class 444 unit could hope to experience on Southwest Trains.  In fact, bus companies generally seem to have stolen a march on their rail-based counterparts with much better facilities for the yoof market (of which I am obviously an outlying part) – and often more comfy seats and better legroom.

As you may have guessed, my return was to enjoy the final concert of the Winchester Chamber Music Festival.  The festival is organised around the London Bridge Trio and friends (and some very fine friends they were).  I know London likes to imagine itself as the cat’s pyjamas (or the dog’s nightie – well, this is a family blog and I like to imagine parents and children huddled around it squealing with delight) and a step above we mere provincials, but even in the capital I think playing Bridge with only three people is going to be a challenge.

Whilst the afternoon provided a further gem from the diadem of Antonín Leopold Dvořák, my primary reason for going was to see the last (in my personal timeline) of Schubert’s three great song cycles: Die schöne Müllerin.  This was an incredible piece of music and unusually, at least at the start, not swamped by sadness. However, I did have an ulterior motive in going which was to pick up tips for my own singing career – which could feature Die schöne Müllerin in the (very distant) future given that it is pitched at the baritone performer.  As a result, I was studying Ivan Ludlow like a hawk – mostly to improve my breathing, though as a bonus I also learned some more about German pronunciation (despite this, I fear I shall never be able to reproduce the language with the relaxed speed Ivan managed in a couple of the songs).  Ivan was wearing rather a loose suit jacket (for the avoidance of doubt, he was also wearing the trousers), so much of his breathing took place behind closed doors (as it were) – nevertheless, I could spot a major difference between his approach to breathing and mine.  In the run-up to a long phrase or a bunch of high notes, my chest heaves not unlike that of the youthful Barbara Windsor just before the explosive shedding of her brassière while that of Mr Ludlow hardly moves.  I am forced to deduce that he is breathing from his diaphragm (and below) as I have been taught, but largely fail to achieve.  When I rule the world (and it can’t be long now, I reckon in the chaos following Thursday’s election there could well be a golden opportunity for me to seize the reins of power), all singers will be required to wear clothing which is skin-tight from nipples to navel that I might study their technique.

As I took my unreserved seat at the concert (in the front row which offers harder seats, but  much better legroom), I noticed the seat next to mine was reserved in the name of “Mr and Mrs Woodd”.  Initially, I was disappointed and felt the name should have launched with a pair of Ws, but then I realised the name already worked perfectly: double-U, double-O, double-D.  How pleasing!  Knocks my own name’s feeble attempts with a doubled letter into a cocked hat.

The concert ran a little longer than expected so I had a 40 minute wait for the bus home.  As a result I was forced (forced, I tell you!) to seek succour in the Old Vine.  My succour took the form of a pint of Saxon Bronze from the local Alfred’s brewery (he seems to have abandoned the baking after a well-publicised failure).  You may think that bronze should be smelted or cast, but trust me the brewed version is much better (positively ambrosiac) – if this brew had been the eponym behind the Bronze Age, I don’t think the human race would have bothered with iron.

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