Shiverpool – Ghost Bus

This weekend we made use of the competition prize I had won during the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic‘s most recent prize draw on Facebook. So David and I wrapped up warmly and made our way to the Suitcase Monument in Hope Street to embark on the Shiverpool Ghost Bus.

Shiverpool bus tour

Shiverpool bus tour

It was a clear, yet windy night, perfect for haunting stories and ghostly apparitions.

When we got to the monument there were already lots of people waiting for the bus which arrived a little late, (typical of the buses in Liverpool!) :p However it was nice to listen to the harmonious bells of both cathedrals, at opposite ends of Hope Street ringing into the dark evening as we stood waiting.

In hindsight perhaps I should have booked a tour on a weekday as town on Saturday became busy with revellers and the roads chocked with traffic.

When the bus finally arrived it was a red double decker and looked impressive.

Shiverpool Ghost Bus

Shiverpool Ghost Bus

Our tour guides for the evening were a duo of ‘brother and ‘sister,’ both lightly joked with the passengers who were all asked to go upstairs on the bus. This was by no mean feat with heels and an ankle length dress which I wore. The staircase was narrow and the steps uneven and in darkness was a bit of a safety hazard! The deck below was commandeered for a hen party from Ireland who held the tour up by 10 minutes!

While the bus waited for the late comers, the tour guides bantered with the passengers, asking where everyone lived. David and I had been the last to go upstairs and ended up seated at the back! We were, on more than one occasion singled out as a couple on a date. Apparently ‘I had made an effort’ on my toilette. Why thank you! 🙂

David and I have been on many ghost tours while holidaying in Edinburgh so the Shiverpool Ghost Bus had a lot to live up to!

The tour took us around the beautiful Georgian Quarter of Liverpool, visiting Rodney and Huskisson Street. The guides spoke of George Huskisson who was the first person to be killed by a steam engine at the Edge Hill trials and unknown to me Huskisson Street was also the home of Florence Maybrick who was charged with the death of James Maybrick, A.K.A. of Jack the Ripper fame.

The 90 minutes or so of the tour flew by and unfortunately the stories the guides narrated were rattled out at such a lightening speed that come to recap the experience, I am finding it hard to recall some of the tales. One such story, as we pulled alongside the leafy Falkner Square was about child murders and witches.

The tour was punctuated by the appearance of ‘ghosts’ who seemingly had come to life as the stories were recounted. The first appeared while we were parked outside St Bride’s Church, off Catherine Street. It was of a young bride to be, who was buried alive in the grave yard. The actor was dressed in white with a veil covering her face. She silently walked around the bus before being scared away by the tour guides. The creepy part of these ‘apparitions’ was looking out of the back window to see them just standing on the pavement silently watching as the bus drove off!

There was however a downside to having other actors joining us along the journey. This was, that while they were terrorising the passengers, as in the case of an angry drunkard tearing through the bus, you didn’t get to hear the story. So I missed a lot of the narrative due to this.

One good thing that came from the tour was a greater appreciation of the city and it’s architecture. Liverpool is indeed beautiful! The bus drove past the Anglican Cathedral, the biggest in the UK, and took us along the waterfront to see the Albert Dock and the Three Graces all lit up!

At one point in the tour we had to get off the bus. We all stood huddled together outside the iconic Royal Liver Building whose clock face is bigger than the Elizabeth Tower clock, ‘Big Ben‘. Here, outside the old insurance building, the guides told us a tale of poison and fraud. The silliest part of the night was when one of the guides got a gentleman to re-enact the symptoms of arsenic poisoning! Chronic diarrhoea and all!!

However let’s not forget that the tour tickets were free and it was something different to do from the usual humdrum routine of a Saturday night. It’s just sad that the stories were really not that engaging, nor scary enough! We have been on better ghost tours!

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Catch-up!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, so here’s a little catch-up!

Being Lucky!

In July to mark their new season, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra held a week long competition on their Facebook page! I was lucky enough to be chosen for their Thursday competition!! The prize was for two tickets to see Psycho with music performed by the Philharmonic, (ideally on my birthday!), and also two tickets on-board the Ghost Bus run by Shiverpool tours! I have done many ghost walks while holidaying in Edinburgh but not in my own city. So I am very excited to see what the bus tour has to offer! 😀

Culture and Sightseeing!

During one Saturday, David and I took a short visit to Birmingham to see their street art of Owls. The Big Hoot it was called! In total we spotted 33 of the 89 owls on the streets, not bad for a few hours on the trail!

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While walking around the city, we enjoyed the many different types of architecture to be found!

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Last Thursday came the news I had been hoping for, for so long! The Tower of London Poppies were finally embarking on their UK tour! It was beyond my wildest dreams that Liverpool could be one of the first few to be chosen for this unique art installation but that is what exactly happened!

The instillation of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by Paul Cummins Ceramics Limited, that was first seen at the Tower of London in 2014, captured the imagination of the nation! The Weeping Window will be coming to Liverpool’s St George’s Hall in November 2015 to January 2016 and the second part of the installation, The Wave will be housed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park this coming September to January 2016! I hope to get the opportunity to photograph both! You cannot imagine how excited I am at seeing them! 😀

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Wildlife:

Last week, our house was a B&B for a poorly pigeon whom we called Jack! David noticed the lethargic bird last Monday and after debate we made a box up for him (and later a cage) and brought him in of a night. He seemed generally fit, apart from green runny poop! The worrying thing was that he could not fly and even though he attempted too, he could not get any height! So for seven days we would leave him out in the garden for the day (Artie was not allowed to go outside!), and of a night he resided in our back bedroom!

Jack the pigeon

Jack the pigeon

We were going to take him to a vets to get checked out but over the weekend he seemed to be getting more strength and confidence.

This Monday while filling up the bird feeders, (we have many Goldfinch and House Sparrow fledglings visiting), Jack took to the air and landed on a nearby shed roof. He was not to be seen come the evening and we hoped that he had found his strength and flown off with some newly made friends!

On Tuesday morning we saw Jack back in the garden, this time eating seed that had fallen from the feeders and integrating with a small flock of fellow pigeons! We hope he continues to visit the garden and hopefully Jack’s story has a happy ending.

The Garden:

At the weekend David and I spent six hours in the garden cleaning, re-potting and planting. I bought a Dahlia from Grosvenor Garden Centre, Chester. I fell in love with the black foliage and the flower heads attract bees! I also bought an Anemone to replace my blighted Michaelmas Daisy and some wall art!

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And finally I’ll end with one last picture. After two months growing from seed, my Borage has finally flowered!

Borage flower

Borage flower

What events are you looking forward to seeing?

Christine x

The ‘New’ Liverpool Philharmonic Hall.

On Sunday David and I went to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic to hear a recital of Rachmaninov’s 3rd Piano Concerto, performed by Nobuyuki Tsujii, and conducted by Vasily Petrenko.

The hall has just had a major facelift. It has been some 20 years since the last overhaul and everything looks fresh and newly painted. The reception is of an aquatic blue and the auditorium painted brilliant white, with new lighting and a new stage.

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

However it’s quite noticeable, the new against the old. I would have preferred new upholstered chairs, or at least carpets for the audience, the seating areas look a little dated in comparison.

From Thursday’s performance called ‘Winter Daydreams,’ where Nobuyuki Tsuji played Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No.3, people noted that the acoustics in the hall were different than previously. I noticed the same today. The strings, especially the cellos/bases during the Rachmaninov seemed rather muted. Whether this has anything to do with the pale wood that comprises the stage is debatable. However the sound from the Tchaikovsky (1st symphony) seemed to dispel any previous issues.

The concert opened with Nobuyuki Tsuji‘s performance of the 3rd Piano Concerto of Rachmaninov, touted as one of the most technically challenging to play. Tsuji’s performance was virtuosic and touching. The lyricism in this piece is breathtaking, but for me it doesn’t touch the emotion carried by it’s predecessor. Personally I would have loved Tsuji to have performed the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto no.2 which he played triumphantly at the BBC Proms in 2013. However I did enjoy the Rachmaninov 3, the finale was exhilarating.

It was lovely to see Petrenko guide Tsuji on and off the stage to the appreciative applause. There was even a hug between them after they left the stage for the final time.

The afternoon was filled with encores as Tsuji came back to the stage to perform Rachmaninov’s Variation 18 of a Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini which was beautiful. I could have listened to a whole concert with Tsuji playing, so I hope he comes back to the UK and Liverpool again soon! The only complaint I had which has also been reiterated by other reviewers was that at times the orchestra seemed to overpower the virtuosity of the soloist. Perhaps it is something the Liverpool Phil can rectify for future concerts?

The second half of the concert was Tchaikovsky’s 1st Symphony, ‘Winter Daydreams.’ It is a symphony I am not familiar with. I know a lot about Tchaikovsky’s most popular works and his later symphonies but not his earlier ones. It was a neat performance by the Liverpool Philharmonic, but for me it was just not my ‘cup of tea,’ even David nodded off at one point!

With the hall still having major reconstructions, the side entrances were closed, meaning that everyone from the circle and rear circle had to filter out via one exit. People stated ‘what would happen in a fire?’ but I am sure the hall’s evacuation plans would cover this. I can’t see them opening for the public with no emergency contingencies in place.

The concert was a ‘sell out’ and the audience seemed happy with what they were offered. I know David and I went home feeling satisfied. I can’t wait to visit the hall again for the Valentine’s concert and in April for Mahler’s ‘Resurrection’ Symphony (No2). That performance will definitely test out the new acoustics of the hall and we’ll also see where the choir will be situated on the new stage!

They are lots of exciting events to look forward to and the Liverpool Philharmonic looks like it is embarking on an enthralling 175th anniversary season.

Liverpool International Music Festival 2013

Below find more footage I took of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and Vasily Petrenko, opening the International Music Festival in Sefton Park.

I am not a big festival goer nor a big fan of bands but on discovering that the Philharmonic were performing at Sefton Park only 15 minutes drive from me, I knew I just had to go! On the Friday I was so very excited, I was like a child waiting for Father Christmas to visit! The rain stayed off and the music and setting was enthralling! I hope you think so too. 🙂

RLPO playing John Barry’s James Bond Theme.

RLPO playing Klaus Badelt’s Pirates of the Caribbean theme.

RLPO playing Holst’s Mars from the Planets.

Mourning the Loss of Summer…

Is it just me or has this week been extra long….??

On the great British subject of the weather, it has been rather changeable this week.

My day off last Friday was a blur, as I was rather incapacitated with a migraine. Whether it was through hormones or alcohol who knows?

I have done a full 30 hour week at work this week and with this Friday being my day off (as I only work four days) I accompanied my mum to my brother’s house to visit his family. I loved playing with my two nephews Nathan and Aaron. I conversed with them as they played on the computer and for lunch I shared my tomato soup with Aaron who in turn shared his strawberry yoghurt with me. It was fun! 😀

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I have been going through 50 fat balls a week recently as lots of Starling families have been visiting. There were at one count 15 Goldfinches. I am wondering whether this winter we will break the record of 20 Goldfinches visiting the feeders??

There were at least four House Sparrows in the yard the other day and walking to work on Monday I walked down a road and there were about 20 Sparrows all in the road foraging for food…

I know the seasons have changed as the afternoon sunlight through my bedroom window has changed direction. I just hope we get a breeze of an ‘Indian summer’ come the end of August just in time for the Liverpool Philharmonic to perform in Sefton Park, next Friday!

The concert includes:

Bizet Prelude to Carmen
John Williams Jurassic Park Theme
Klaus Badelt Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Wagner The Ride of the Valkyries
Holst Mars from The Planets
Verdi Triumphal March from Aida
Prokofiev Montagues and Capulets from Romeo and Juliet
Tchaikovsky 1812 Overture
and much more great music…

Vasily Petrenko conductor 
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra
Hosted by Jamie Crick, presenter of the weekday afternoon show Classic FM Requests. 

I simply can’t wait!!

This weekend I have nothing planned. David will probably want to complete the bathroom floorboards, while I, probably will enjoy a nice Costa coffee from my Tassimo machine 😀

Inspiration or Insanity? You Decide!

Recently I was listening to an audio recording of Jonathan Firth in William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. In it he plays Orsino the duke of Illyria. The play opens with his most famous soliloquy ‘if music be the food of love, play on.’ This got me thinking! The first composer that came to my mind was Gustav Mahler. Then a ‘flash’ hit me! An idea was born! Why not try and blend Jonathan’s wonderful readings with Mahler’s 10th Symphony?

I had not long since been given a download of the audio mixer ‘Audacity’, so I attempted to weave some magic into Mahler’s 10th. Where I think it really worked was when I used a clip from Daphne du Maurier’s I’ll Never be Young Again. I think the recording is one of Jonathan’s finest audio work and the clip I intersected with Mahler seems (or so it seems to me) to be a wonderful pairing, very emotional!

Where I didn’t feel so confident is near the end, where I used a clip from William Woodruff’s Shadows of Glory. Though not a bad narrative, I don’t think it portrays the emotion that Du Maurier’s work does. I shall let you all decide.

A word on the cover photo. I was listening to a recording of  Mahler’s 6th Symphony on YouTube, it was by the Vienna Philharmonic/Bernstein. I loved the cover artwork so I print screened and pasted it into Paint Shop. I changed the picture of Mahler and added a recent one of Jonathan. I am really proud of myself as I think it looks lush! I am not renowned for my artistic prowess. 🙂

I hope you enjoy the music! 🙂

I Did Not Cry…

Not a tear fell while I listened to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic under the guidance of Vasily Petrenko as they performed for the first time in the Philharmonic’s history the entire 10th Symphony by Gustav Mahler. There were moments when I was overcome with emotion but I managed to hold it together and not embarrass myself or David.

Vasily Petrenko(1)

I was saddened to see that on both performances of Mahler’s 10th, the hall wasn’t full to capacity! I wonder what made the organisers put on two shows rather than one? I wish they had done the same for Mahler’s 8th last year, then I may not have been stuck at the back of the Anglican Cathedral and upsettingly witness someone in the audience keel over! However, as there were no heads in front of me, I had a great view of the orchestra and of Vasily in this special performance.

I listened to the broadcast of the first show on BBC Radio Three on Thursday and I, with a nice glass of Pinot Grigio succumbed to the wonderful orchestration of Mahler’s unfinished symphony, completed by Deryck Cooke. The Philharmonic’s command of the Adagio (1st movement) was simply breath-taking. I believe I had not heard it played with so much depth of emotion before. The sound was so clear even streaming through broadband!

And so for Saturday’s performance. David and I, wrapped up from the chilling wind that brought with it Spring snow the day before, made our way to the Philharmonic Hall. We gingerly watched for ice underfoot as we caught the 86 bus and was transported smoothly for our date with Mahler!

Gustav-Mahler-Kohut_1892

I have been attending the Philharmonic in Liverpool for nearly 20 years now and have listened to Mahler being performed countless times. It was my first on hearing his 10th being played though. With excited butterflies in my tummy, the lights in the auditorium fell and the brilliant (almost too bright) spotlight lit up the orchestra as Vasily walked on stage with baton in hand. There was a collected intake of breath from the audience as the first bars of the Adagio were played. I love watching the sections of an orchestra as they come together and it’s only with Mahler symphonies that the percussion section seem to entertain most of all. David said he liked the soaring strings in the romantic Adagio the best. I noticed how Vasily would raise his hands to the heavens almost as if beseeching Mahler’s spirit to come amongst us as his music drifted into the ether. Norman Lebrecht in his blog post describes a conductor approaching a performance of Mahler’s 10th Symphony as ‘the maestro, for that hour-plus,’ has ‘to be Mahler.’ Therefore perhaps Vasily was indeed channelling the spirit of Mahler? During the two Scherzo’s Vasily seemed to take on the persona of a demented fiend, jerking about like a man possessed. He would raise his fist to the orchestra who in turn would challenge him in their playful audacity. As the drum of fate boomed around the auditorium the conductor seemed to shiver as if in fear. The only comic relief to be had was during the ländler where the orchestra played light-heartedly and Vasily shook his booty on the podium!

Then the soul tormenting Finale came. It’s a piece of music that usually renders me in tears. Thankfully this evening it wasn’t the case, though the screeching strings and then the soft sighing of the woodwind tugged at the heart. Catherine Jones of the Liverpool Echo in her review said there were some tonality issues, but none that could detract from the poignancy of the music being performed. Vasily seemed to have tightened up the brass section since the first performance and they played with unparalleled confidence. As the final note of Mahler’s 10th faded, Vasily paused while the rawness of the performance was absorbed by the audience. The young conductor fell back upon the rail of his podium as if overcome with emotion and sheer exhaustion of the piece. With baton lowered he invited the audience to show their appreciation, a few rose to their feet. Vasily came onto the podium twice more to accept praise where it was due. He also seemed subdued, placing his hand to his heart in gratitude. The applause was understated, perhaps due to the fact that Mahler’s 10th is a symphony largely forgotten or maybe the powerful emotions performed for over an hour subdued the audience? Either way they milled out of the hall silently, thoughtfully.

I really wish that the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic would release a recording of their rendition of Mahler’s 10th Symphony. I believe it was one of the best, if not the best I have heard it performed! Norman Lebrecht also mentioned in his blog that Vasily would be repeating his version of Mahler’s 10th ‘next year with the Philharmonia in London and the radio orchestra in Berlin,’ something to look forward to then.