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Our cover photo, appropriately named 'Sprung!' is by Lesley Gracie who lives in Edinburgh. You can view more of her photos at www.lgphoto.co.uk.' 

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http://www.wordle.net

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gold, saffron, lemon, mustard, titanium, mikado, citrine, naples, daffodil, cadmium, indian, jonquil, honey & canary

ellow says happy, sunshiney, fresh, hopeful, clean and mellow. But as well as symbolising happiness, yellow has historically also represented cowardice and betrayal. In medieval art, Judas is often shown wearing yellow and the infamous yellow star which branded Jews was revived by the Nazis. In Egypt, yellow was the colour of mourning, while in Buddist cultures, the saffron robes of monks signify humility and renunciation of wordly matters.

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Nutritionists urge us to eat yellow fruit and vegetables containing vital anti-oxidants to boost our immune systems. Yellow is also found in many spring flowers, heartening us after a long dark winter.

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Crockery looks great in yellow

as do birds

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frocks and cars

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and vintage bookcovers

Also the Big Yellow Taxi, a certain Yellow Submarine and of course that famous yellow family from Springfield!

Photos by: ~Dezz~; Wonderlane; Tim Waters; Laura Mary; fibroblast; SwanDiamondRose; pdjsphotos; andthenpatterns

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So I land in Nairobi Strange city Third world Dusty and broken You can’t slow down at the roundabouts at night, and the first evening, where I’m staying the guy shows me a safe full of guns and says ‘Just keep shooting if anything happens. It scares them off.’ And I think ‘Shit this time I’ve gone too far.’ Thousands of miles too far Hundreds of years back in time This place is like nothing I’ve ever seen And there are guns. But nothing happens in the night And not content with no brush with danger I end up the next day in the slums. Third world slums. Kids on the streets selling oranges. Tin huts with Snooker Club written outside. An old man with no legs. And everyone’s eyes are yellow. And everyone’s sick. And some kids don’t have shoes. Some kids don’t have clothes. And I’m in a forty thousand quid four by four With two big guys on the back seat Who are armed Just in case. And one guy says ‘Last year I saw a bloke stabbed over there. Just where the open sewer dips. 11


He died on the spot.’ And I ask about the police, but he says he didn’t go to the police. The police don’t come down here much. And to be honest, The smell of it turns my stomach It’s July and we pass a hut with a whole side of a cow inside. A butcher. Maybe. The sign says Merry Xmas. One bare bulb above it. Flies everywhere. And as it gets dark I realize that’s the only light on the whole block. But the kids aren’t deterred As the light fades They’re still selling oranges You can’t see them. We buy fourteen oranges for ten pence. But ten pence is a lot of money here We assure ourselves. That night, after dinner in the Muthaiga Club, The golden glow of candles Lighting up our white faces, I don’t sleep well. I can still smell it. On my hands. And then it’s the markets in Mombasa The tang of spices, pungent The reds and greens So vibrant that they stick to your teeth. I never saw sunshine like it. The Indian Ocean all balmy. It feels different. The country’s main road, potholed Red arsed baboons Eating fruit And we see ostrich, zebra, dykdyk, giraffes. Even an elephant. 12 !

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I stand on the back seat of the jeep Holding the roll bar And I laugh. At this abundant, amazing place And then, after the potholes have nearly bounced us away, It’s Mombasa town. Down a sidestreet a boy says he’ll look after the car. For fivepence. We tell him we’ll give him the money when we get back And we move off Into the crowds. It’s almost unbearable here To see the blind. I take off my shirt And I give it away. These people have nothing. Two little boys by the side of the road Pester me for my socks. I hand them over. These people have nothing. I give an old woman my pinkie ring. £3 in Camden Market. She treats it like some ancient treasure. With royal reverence. And when we get back to the car The food on the back seat is gone And the boy is gone too. But these people have nothing. And we’ve bought cloth and saffron and Three handmade baskets, lined with linen. Down the road the Masai live in wooden shacks. Red robes, almost holy. Thin chickens run across the tracks. I have nothing left to give them. When we ask for directions Two men with yellow eyes Speak some strange language. 13


No-one understands. Wearily, we buy some beads. Beautiful colours. Red like the setting sun, orange like the earth here I lie on the back seat and watch the sky And the tips of the mountains Rattle past. And in Diani Beach they’re selling carved wooden hippos. They beat on the windows. They pull at my clothes. And I say, ‘I’m sorry.’ But it doesn’t stop. Every day. Every moment. A rap on the window. A tug at your sleeve. And I don’t have many clothes left now. I’ve given them away. Shirts from Anthropologie Shorts I bought second hand I have a kikoi Native cloth Wrapped around me And a pair of sandals I bought on the beach It’s beginning to tell Some of us won’t leave the house and garden At all now And then, in the evening, three boys Climb over the fence and start begging. We’ve had enough. Won’t the fuckers ever stop with their relentless poverty?

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Someone chases them away And we get drunk. Giggle helplessly. Cartwheel into the sea. Except I can’t even cartwheel sober ! ! theLintie


And the next day I have a bruise so yellow that you have to touch it. Everyone does.

Photo by khym54 from his flickr set ‘Kenya Fall of 2005’. ‘Kibera in Nairobi’ . Used here under the terms of a Creative Commons License.

And I’m sweating. I’m shaking. I’m dizzy. I begin to think I could float out to the sandbank. I say ‘This is the worst hangover I’ve ever had.’ And the doctor says ‘You’ve got malaria, you idiot’. And I wished I had more gin and tonic, not less The more quinine the better. But instead I’m in hospital in Kilifi And it is leafy Which is an improvement It’s good to have at least one And I think Why did I come here? I liked that shirt from Anthropologie And they don’t make them any more I’ve bought more baskets and beads than I’ll ever need And it’s hot. And I cry Quietly Crisp sheets and the smell of antiseptic Two million people die every year from malaria And it feels like it And as the fever breaks Days later I wonder about Some story I might write Because this is an amazing place A beautiful and terrible place Harsh and abundant I have never seen such things before. And I don’t know what will happen because I’ve been bitten now. Black magic. Total darkness. Tribal factions. I have Kenya in my blood. 15


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In the course of a few years Twitter has evolved from a silly-sounding social networking fad to an Internet phenomenon used and appreciated by millions. Today, you’re just as likely to find some of the world’s top publishers, politicians and businesses online, as you are to find the stereotypical ‘boring idiot’ tweeting about eating toast. Stephen Fry may have been derided for his championing of the Twits, but his profile has never been higher, nor his opinion more highly sought. During the American elections last year, Barack Obama profited by his team’s dexterous handling of social media [@barackobama, 3.5 million followers], even if it’s highly unlikely that he tweets himself. But to non-twitters the Twitter phenomenon still seems inexplicable, and slightly weird. After all, how can you communicate effectively using 140 characters, which is the maximum limit on Twitter? Well, Twitter messages (or ‘tweets’) are very much like Post-It notes and it's really up to you to decide how you fill them. You can say very little in 140 characters or you can make quite a decent shopping list. Or, to pinch a Tweet from Obama’s Twit-in-residence, you can brief people about something that’s really quite important: ‘Today, after almost a century of effort, health insurance reform has become law.’ That isn’t even 140 characters. In fact, the more you use Twitter the more interesting fewer words can be. Faced with egotistical blogs the size of War and Peace, not to mention Facebook updates that dribble down the page like baby food, their very shortness can be refreshing: like reading a haiku after tackling a novel by Henry James. In fact, Hemingway is said to have considered his finest piece of work to be a six word story: ‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’ I’m not sure if this is apocryphal or not, but the terrible brevity of the story remains. To take another example, this time from a friend, tweets can also be succinctly amusing: One day the bookshop door swings open. A traffic warden strides up to the desk and asks, “Do you have a copy of Mein Kampf?” - @EdinburghBooks Twitter resounds with these kind of witty one-liners. A lot of comedians are on Twitter, and if you follow the likes of @MitchBenn or @serafinowicz you will likely be exposed to a constant stream of invention. Sites such as favstar.fm gather favourited tweets together for your edification and amusement. These tweets often have the charm of novelty, but there is really nothing new about constraints in literature. Haikus are the obvious example of constrained literature, 17


but whoever has studied a sonnet or indeed almost any literature at all, knows that the apparent freedom of a blank page is an illusion. Writers are never free to burble on at any length, unless they wish to confuse their readers and alienate their publisher. Literature – and language – is full of rules. So too is Twitter. Yes, its 140character rule can seem horribly arbitrary, but is probably no more so than some English spelling. Of course, ‘great literature’ is unlikely to be produced in 140 characters – or in multiples of 140 characters – but expectations were never high of a networking site that coins words such as, ‘twestival’ and ‘twitterati’ and expects grown adults to use them. There is rather more wit on Twitter than wisdom, but that’s not to condemn the medium as ‘trite’ out of hand. There’s a lot to be said for linguistic playfulness that is communal, succinct, and enjoyable: you can send out an idea or a lyrical few sentences and see what people say; or begin a conversation; or bash out a few words to get over writer’s block. Or you can use the constraints and quirks of Twitter to have some fun. One of the cultural curiosities that has grown out of Twitter is the notion of the ‘hashtag’. You can ‘tag’ your tweets by theme just by preceding a word with the hash symbol, for example: #lintie. Twitter automatically converts these ‘hashtags’ into a link to the search results page for that word, where you can view all of the most recent tweets using that hashtag. This in turn has given birth to an entire sub-genre of wit. Hashtags are often used to squash together two disparate concepts. The results can be hilarious. At the time of writing this piece, one of the popular ‘mashtags’ is #middleclasssongs, which takes pop song titles and modifies them to reflect middle class values. Some fine examples include: ‘The Echinacea don’t work’, ‘Born to be Mild’ and ‘Ziggy Starbucks’. Whereas the ‘mashtag’ tends to be a flash in the pan - or indeed a flashtag - there are other battle-hardened hashtags that have stood the test of time. The challenge to compose a very-short-story (#vss) in a single tweet continues to stimulate writers. Examples such as I held her pretty hand, intertwining my fingers with hers. Enjoying the moment, then putting it with the rest, in the freezer. - @VeryShortStory and

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“My day is better than yours,” Kevin taunted, in his Facebook status update, unaware the others had already been evacuated from Earth. @VeryShortStory #vss give some sense as to what people – all kinds of people – write. Many authors have followed this model, composing their own six word stories. On Twitter, you can watch these flowing from writers all around the world, in real time. In this world of words, it is only natural that literary games should emerge. You can find dedicated Twitter accounts that allow you to play hangman, unscramble an anagram, play a quiz and so on. But in my opinion, the best games are those that embrace the Twitter spirit: encouraging copious submissions, then using favourites or retweets to lift the gems out of the muck. A couple of noteworthy examples are Artwiculate - the daily word game, and my own All-Sorts - which encourages people to submit novel collective nouns. Have you ever played the game where you are challenged to invent a sentence that uses a specified obscure word? Artwiculate brings that game on to Twitter. Each day, they pick a word and you have to compose a clever tweet using that word before your 24 hours are up. All submissions are collected on their site, where you can upvote your favourites. The entry with the highest number of votes at the end of the period is called the winner. Points are awarded, and these can be worn as badges of honour. A recent winner was: I double dairy you to perform vaccimulgence on a mad cow. - @amanuel187 To put you out of your misery, this just means ‘cow milking,’ and is unlikely to be very useful, but you never know. At least, this Twitter game is broadening people’s vocabulary and causing merriment around the globe. Another joy of the English language, aside from perplexing polysyllables, is the fact that we have a distinct term to describe a group of individuals. You’ve no doubt heard of ‘a murder of crows’ and ‘a troupe of acrobats,’ and but what do you call a group of geeks, or particle physicists, or traffic wardens? I’m sure that you can think of a few ideas of your own (a wunch of bankers, anyone?). And if you get started, it can be hard to stop. I created All-Sorts.org to allow people on Twitter to participate in this game of invention. If this sounds like your kind of game then simply visit http://all-sorts.org/what_is_this to find out more. These few examples of ‘literary twitterings’ are only the tip of the iceberg, as 19


Twitterers continue to offer their own take on traditional literary projects. Project Twutenberg, tipping its jaunty hat to Project Gutenberg, ‘translates’ novels into 140 character tweets. Last year, the West Port Book Festival, tipping its hat to itself, hosted the world’s first Literary Twestival, encouraging people to get their brains and fingers loosened and start twittering, twutenberging, vss-ing etc. Meanwhile, other twitters around the globe continue to coin, use, and abuse as many words as they can get away with – and some they really shouldn’t. It can be a mad world, where fact and fiction are virtually indistinguishable, where some people pretend to be someone they’re not, and where language is stripped down to its marrow, and shoved into a virtual world as part of a networking project that seems to tap at the very boundary of reality. If the end result is not Proust, then there’s no need to write it off as piffle. Twitter is only as good as the people who tweet and there are plenty of wits, wags, and writers tapping away, eschewing the novel for a novel form of communication that races round the world in less than a heartbeat.

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Photo by miss mass


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09 e 20 i n r e a Bruc arc M John right M y Cop

It was a cold year, 1982. In Braemar, the temperature dropped to a record minus 27.2C and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher took the country to war to regain the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, which had been invaded by Argentina. The IRA continued their merciless bombing campaign on mainland Britain. Meanwhile, 30,000 women from a Peace Camp formed a human chain around the perimeter of RAF Greenham Common to protest the presence of Cruise missiles in Britain. And in New York's Central Park, 750,000 gathered at an anti-nuclear weapons rally.

But 1982 was also the year that a Scottish band called Blues 'n' Trouble was born. A band that BB King would later call “the best white blues band in the world".

In the music industry, the first CDs made their appearance - a totally new recording medium. But there were losses too. The sensational Scottish rock star Alex Harvey died tragically just before his 47th birthday and the volatile actor and musician John Belushi, whose love for blues and soul music inspired the movie The Blues Brothers in which he co-starred, was found dead in his hotel room from a drug overdose. His tombstone read 'I may be gone, but Rock and Roll lives on.' 23


John Bruce, one of the founder members of Blues 'n' Trouble, made a casual remark one day. “I wouldn't mind talking about touring and the old days” he said. It sounds unremarkable, but anyone who knows the man will tell you that talking about himself is not what John usually does. He prefers to let his extraordinary guitar playing do that for him. I began writing some questions, only too aware that as a classical musician, I knew precious little about the world of rock & roll and blues. My phrasing was often embarrassingly naive and caused not a little merriment. For instance, I asked how he composed the songs that he's been writing for most of his life. Did he write in manuscript or guitar tabs? Back came the reply “I don't do tab and what's manuscript? I just like to noodle about with guitar chords or a riff, then take it from there.” Well, that was me told! John Bruce was born and grew up in Edinburgh. Playing in a folk band at school was the beginning of a serious interest in music and by the 1970s he was playing on his Gibson 335 copy in various bands around the city's many venues. So how did Blues 'n' Trouble come to be formed? John explained “Tim [Elliott] and I were in different bands then. He called me up one day and asked if my band could play Chambers Street Union because his band had broken up. I said yes, but only if Tim came along and sat in. This worked so well that we joined forces permanently and became B'n'T.” This early Blues 'n' Trouble line-up - Tim Elliot on vocals & harmonica, Jim Brown on rhythm guitar & vocals, John Bruce on lead guitar, Willie Pettigrew on bass, Lesley Dick on keyboards and Calumn Mackay on drums - became one of the most popular bands around Scotland. With their rock/ blues mix of original material and covers, they played to enthusiastic

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audiences at colleges and clubs as well as at pubs like Nicky Tam's, the Burke and Hare, Satchmo's in Bonnyrigg and The Cross Keys in Peebles. “We played anywhere and everywhere in the early days. Big and small places. I think we could adapt to any size of venue really, although a small intimate one was

always fun! For instance, the Traverse Theatre (when it was down in the Grassmarket) only held around 60 people but it was always a fantastic gig. Where we really built up our local following though was at Preservation Hall. We had some amazing audiences there, especially at New Year.” I asked what made for a good audience. John said “Enthusiastic, a bit rowdy even but above all appreciative.”

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The band's large and devoted Scottish following and their first single Mystery Train meant that they were soon established as a real force on the R & B circuits. They turned professional in 1985 and released their debut album Blues 'n' Trouble (First Trouble). The next eleven or so years were to be spent almost constantly on the road. It was said that it was a quiet week if they only played four or five gigs. John said “Sometimes we notched up more than 250 gigs a year, it really was neverending.” Neverending or not, when I asked if he would go back and do it all again, he replied “Definitely! Nowadays I can't lug amps back and forth like I used to, though!” The band played support for many of the blues greats including BB King, 26 !

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Robert Cray, John Mayall, Jack Bruce, Bo Diddley, Pinetop Perkins, Charlie Musselwhite, The Blues Brothers Band, Canned Heat and Van Morrison, covering thousands of miles across Europe and Scandinavia in their Ford Transit van which was “divided in the back for the equipment and the humans”. Courtesy of an enterprising West German promoter, they even played behind an Iron Curtain whose gates were still locked tight shut. “There were absolutely brilliant crowds and really interesting venues (mostly basic brick huts!) although hotels, food and PA systems were rather sub standard.” When you're on the road, food and accommodation matter and John described “a restaurant in Norway which had phenomenal seafood and steaks - a kebab house in Stoke-on-Trent which had the most outrageous chilli sauce with fantastic pickled green chilli peppers - and the early balti houses of Birmingham which were amazing.” At the other end of the scale came Finland “Grey watery mince of God knows what origin, cold lumpy potatoes and raw carrots mmmm...” Then there was the night in an unnamed hotel in Middlesex (let's hope it's not still open!) “It had dirty bath water in the bath, dirty sheets on the bed and someone's false teeth in a glass next to the bed! I kid you not!” Living virtually in each other's pockets for all those years can't have been easy. How did he and his fellow band members get along? “You know, I think we were unique because I remember very little squabbling. We all got on really well which, given the nature of our 'never ending tour', was an absolute must. There was always some great crack. I found that most folk in the rock/blues scene were generally decent and weren't the assholes with huge egos that you hear so much about.” 27


And what about that legendary rock 'n roll lifestyle? “On days off I looked for things like second hand record shops and flea markets and all of us actually did quite a bit of historic sight seeing”. I pushed him - was it all a myth then? “Well, it was there if you wanted it - and I'm not going to say any more!” Very wise, John, very wise. As well as the usual venues, B 'n' T also played many European festivals. “I think the Peer Festival in Belgium was one of the biggest - around 10,000 of a crowd. But the biggest I would say was Cropreddy just outside Banbury, Oxfordshire which is the annual Fairport Convention reunion gig. It's mostly folk artists, but Dave Pegg, Fairport's bass player, liked us and asked us to play there in 1991.

There were 16,000 people there. I remember it was quite funny because it had all been fairly acoustic and quiet before we took the stage, then suddenly we plugged in and literally woke up half the audience! There were people like Richard Thompson and Clem Clempson watching us from the side of the stage with their 'thumbs up' brilliant!” I asked him what guitar he played back then. “I've owned lots of guitars over the years, including some vintage ones, but I've never really been obsessed with collecting them. My main guitar through B'n'T was a vintage early Red Fender Stratocaster, quite bashed up, but a beauty. Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top now owns it. 28 !

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Vintage guitars don't make you play any better though. Some I regret selling, but that's the way it goes! These days I play a 1996 Japanese Fender Stratocaster - cheap and cheerful, but I love it. My mate Andrew has a nice collection which I'm lucky enough to get to use his Gibson 335 is especially nice.” And if he had a million in the bank, what guitar would he buy? “There's nothing that I'm desperate for, but I'd probably buy another Strat and maybe a Gibson Les Paul.”

Talking of guitars, in the Rum Boogie Cafe in Memphis, Tennessee hangs a guitar signed by the members of Blues 'n' Trouble. The Cafe, established in 1985, has over 200 autographed guitars from some of the greatest performers in the music industry. John explained “We played there supporting Albert King during the Memphis Blues Festival and got a great reception. The manager came out with this old guitar and asked if we would sign it - I think it's number 38”. I asked John about his experience of managers. Like so many bands before and since, the relationship between band and manager was a difficult one. “Yes we had a manager for a while - a chap called Steve Parker. Although there were some advantageous things to it and to be fair, Steve did get us into The Marquee Club on a regular basis, overall it was a total waste of time and money.”

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A happier experience was at Ronnie Scott's famous jazz club in London's Soho. “There was a record launch for an album with sessions from Paul Jones Radio 2's Blues Programme and I found myself on stage with various members of The Blues Band. I even managed to coax Rory Gallagher on stage - that was a blast! Dr Feelgood, The Groundhogs, The Big Town Playboys, Paul Lamb were also there. That session's on a BBC LP somewhere.” After the success of their first album, they went into the studio again. It was usual for the band to have guest musicians appear on their albums (guitar star Robert Cray, with whom Blues 'n' Trouble had toured, appeared on this one) but this time there was also something special. “One night we were playing The Half Moon in Putney. Ian 'Stu' Stewart (the 'sixth' Rolling Stone) and Keith Altham (one of the 60s main PR men) were there and during our break they came over and began chatting. Ian said 'If you ever need a keyboard player, give me a call' Wow but I thought, you know, he was just being polite. But then he wrote down his number and gave it to me. We were recording our second LP around this time and during the sessions I gave him a call. I asked if he would be interested in playing some keyboards on it. He said 'No problem, when can I come?' I said 'How about tomorrow?' He said 'I'll be there at 9.' He was absolutely fantastic, completely professional and to top it all, a really great geezer. He used to take us to the pub 'The Pillars Of Hercules' just off the Tottenham Court Road and he was so open about talking about his ‘Boys’. He 30 ! ! ! ! ! ! ! theLintie


also said he'd be keen to play live gigs with us. Jeez, it was so great! I remember fondly that we did play one gig with Ian at the 100 Club in Oxford Street, then we finished off the album the next week. There were plans for Ian to play with us again on our next Scottish gigs (Ian was originally from Pittenweem in Fife). On the day we were due to meet him and travel to Scotland, we were waiting in a friend's house for Ian to turn up and he was already an hour late. Suddenly Boo Oldfield (our friend) received a phone call and she burst into tears and said 'Ian's dead!' We all sat in complete silence and were gobsmacked beyond belief. It was a grim day. Ian had gone to the doctor complaining of pains in his chest and had been given an ECG. He was literally waiting on the results when he suffered a massive heart attack and died right there in the waiting room. Cruel. Obviously, this really affected us for some time, but in homage to and out of respect for Ian, we named our second LP No Minor Keys. We'd asked him 'Will you play anything Ian?' and he replied 'no minor keys'. In February of 1986, we were invited to a special 'wake' for Ian at the 100 Club. Everybody was there, it was one of the most memorable nights I've ever had. The Rolling Stones played for the first time in years, joined by such legends as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jack Bruce, Pete Townshend, Simon Kirke, Bill Graham (the legendary US promoter) and many others. It was a moving night and I'll always remember our brief but amazing friendship. He's sadly missed.� Mike Vernon, the famous record producer from the 60s, played a big part in the band's career and I asked John if he could tell me something about that. “It was at The Half Moon again. One night we heard that Mike Vernon was coming to 'check us out'. Mike was a particular hero of mine, as he started the UK's only really successful blues label, Blue Horizon. He was the first man to ever record Eric Clapton, he discovered Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac and produced John Mayall's 31


early LPs so I was a bit nervous to say the least! I thought he would probably stay ten minutes and vanish, thinking 'Oh no, I've heard this all before'. But to my astonishment, he came up to us and was really enthusiastic. He even expressed great interest in recording us! After the show, he stuck around and empty dates in our diaries were fixed for meetings and possible recordings. Well, it didn't seem possible that things could get any better, but they did. We actually recorded our third LP Hat Trick with Mike and he was simply one of the nicest guys you could ever possibly meet. He told us of his plans to relaunch his Blue Horizon label and said that we would be the label's first release. Ace Records were a successful independent label dealing mainly in 50s rock n' roll reissues and Mike had done a deal with them. When Hat Trick was released, it got favourable reviews and even made the top 20 of the Indie charts. Sadly, Ace Records suddenly acquired the rights to the US Fantasy label and all their effort and cash went into that. This might have been brilliant for them, but it meant that the band - and Mike - kind of got pushed to the very back of the queue. Although a bit despondent, Mike still carried on and issued several other signings he had secured over the months on his label. This included Lazy Lester Rides Again on which we were the back-up band, having once toured with Lester (that's another

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story!). The biggest accolade we received for this particular LP, one we were really proud of, was that it was given a WC Handy award for Best 'Comeback' Album. Things began to get tough for Mike and eventually he 'quit' & went to live in Spain. But over the past few years, he's been reissuing his first Blue Horizon label recordings for Sony Records who bought the entire CBS catalogue. I'm still in touch with him and he's still one of the most lovely and genuine chaps in the whole of the industry. The Lazy Lester LP will soon be reissued for the first time on CD.� 1988 brought another album from Blues 'n' Trouble - Slim Tab Hunters, a great selection of 50s and 60s pop material. There was also an electrifying live album recorded by Radio Bremen in Germany - this would later be included on the B 'n' T DVD Lost Deposit. Mike Vernon again produced the band in 1989 in With Friends Like These. Altogether, the band would make nine albums (not including reissues or compilations). They were still in high demand across Europe when their seventh album, Down to the Shuffle, was voted Top British Album of the Year by the British Blues Connection in 1991. But the band were considering taking things into their own hands and forming their own company. “We'd previously been with various small independent labels, who couldn't afford to push the product. Very often they never even bothered to re-press after the initial amount had sold out! And we never made any money from the sales which did happen. By doing our own thing and forming our own label - Barkin' Mad - we had control and we actually made some money from our music! Unfortunately, we had stupidly sold all the rights to our back catalogue to Famous Music - a division of Paramount Pictures - for a very low sum. Years later, we learned that the middle man in the deal had got $1000s more than he actually told us - and no, we never saw him again! 33


Their first offering on the Barkin' Mad label was Poor Moon. This album captured the raw energy of Blues 'n' Trouble well and John's idiosyncratic cover notes added the final touch. There was to be another album - Bagful of Boogie (consisting mainly of live Scottish shows) - in 1994, but John didn't play on this.

Blues 'n' Trouble had many changes in lineup through the years and this would eventually include one of their founder members, Jivin' Johnny Bruce.

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Some much-acclaimed albums by Blues 'n' Trouble were later reissued on CD by Road Goes On Forever Records under the titles First Trouble/No Minor Keys and Blues Graffiti/Live And/Or Rare - The Hat Trick Era. These compilations are much appreciated by blues fans who recognise the value of the band then and now.

“These early songs from this five-piece Scottish act represent the cream of the British blues scene” “Blues'n'Trouble were the biggest secret in blues in the mid-80's and sadly they're still the biggest secret in blues today. Absolute fantastic albums - if you have even a passing interest in blues then you won't be let down” John now plays with Safehouse. The band says 'Safehouse was formed after Andrew Stirling put together a scratch band to perform in December 2000.The next six months were spent trying to find the correct blend of musicians. The direction of the band was given a real push when the veteran blues lead guitar player John Bruce joined up in September 2001. Besides being an original member of Blues'n' Trouble, John was also a lifelong school friend of Andrew they played their first ever gig together at a fifth year party in 1973! The band's set now includes many original classics written by John along with some tasty covers. The most recent addition to the band has been Lox (Lachlan Cameron Lovell) on drums (another veteran from Blues 'n' Trouble and arguably one of the best blues drummers in Scotland.) Highlights to date have included eight tours of Holland and Germany, gigs at the Renfrew Ferry, Edinburgh Jam House, Ven Blues Festival, Tagelen Blues Festival, Gairloch, Dundee Blues 35


Bonanza and a regular monthly spot at the band's favourite bar, Whistle Binkies in Edinburgh.' John told me “Safehouse is my way of keeping my hand in and thoroughly enjoying myself. Although we play purely for fun, it's very nice to get compliments and feel that you've done a really good gig. This year we got Gary Martin (vocals & harp) & Lox (drums) to join, and now it's a pretty good band. We'll continue to play monthly at Whistle Binkies and it looks like there will be a few European Festival dates for us in 2010, which will be great.” With his enduring love for classic vinyl, John also buys and sells a wide range of LPs at Backroom Vinyl in The Gramophone Emporium in St Stephen Street, Edinburgh (Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays). “I'm always looking for new, interesting collections.” I asked if John had any new musical projects going. “Yes, lately I've been rehearsing a new outfit which is me, my brother on drums, plus Andrew and Roger from Safehouse. And my old mate Jimmy Brown. Jimmy and me go way back to the early 70s when we used to write songs and jam in his Dad's garage. He was also in the very early Blues n' Trouble line up. Jim and I wrote a lot of stuff together years ago which we're currently revamping . We'd hopefully like to record some of this because the songs still sound good after all these years. A few gigs might also be possible! The material isn't blues, and it's very melodic. It has strong influences from Rod & The Faces, Little Feat, Ry Cooder, Tom Petty - and of course some good old Rock 'n Roll!”

I'm indebted not only to John Bruce for answering all my questions with such unfailing patience and good humour, but also to Marc Marnie who graciously allowed me to use his iconic photographs of the band. My thanks also to Jim Brown. All Blues 'n' Trouble photos © Marc Marnie Safehouse photo © Eric Wilson

RBC

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Jim Brown 1955 - 2010 “Tragically, a few days after this article first went online, Jimmy Brown, one of my closest and dearest friends, died suddenly of a heart attack. Jimmy and I had written music together as far back as the late 1970s. This year we had assembled a band with the intention of recording a lot of our old material. We'd been rehearsing solidly for a few months, and were ready to pick out the best dozen or so numbers to record them later this month. Sadly, this will not now be possible. Jimmy was a character and a half. In the close to forty years I knew him, I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He was a very funny, generous, creative and decent man, always willing to help out in any way he could. And his relationship with Jean seemed to make him as happy as I'd seen him in a very long time. Everyone I have been in contact with in the advertising and music business has been deeply saddened to hear the news of Jimmy's death. The world was a better place with Jimmy around.” John Bruce

The Jimmy Brown Memorial gig will take place on Saturday May 29 at the Voodoo Rooms, 19a West Register Street, Edinburgh. There will be a set of Jim’s original songs and another set of covers which he particularly liked.

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007? Q will see you now How else to begin? Q has always had a certain cachet, a quirkiness unmatched by humbler members of the alphabet. Not least because it’s rarely seen without U. Technically, that’s called a digraph and although in English the two letters have separate identities, in Czech they are conjoined twins - and Turkish simply has no digraphs at all. (Incidentally, my favourite Q in the Bond films has to be Desmond Llewelyn.) The concise OED (you remember - I can’t afford the shelf space for the Complete) has 9½ pages of quintessential Q words. And a good number of those I regard as cheats - words and phrases borrowed from other languages. Personally, I think those people at Oxford get away with murder - they are the keepers of our beautiful mother tongue but really, is anyone keeping tabs on them? They could be Johnny Foreigner infiltrators for all we know.

[Ed: Thank you Colonel Barrett-Plympton, we’ll

take that under advisement, now if you’ll go with Nurse, I think she has some nice warm milk for you.] Before I go on, I’m going to get something out the way. I feel I have to mention it and yet I’m reluctant. But not to do so would be boorish. It would also unmask me as a person who has never read any of the books and indeed has no intention of doing so. I am unrepentant. The Q in question is Quidditch, a fictional game from the pen of JK Rowling. I caught a glimpse of a scene in one of the films when they were playing this game. It appeared to be a kind of airborne polo match minus the quaffing of Bolly or long legged girls in pretty frocks ruining their shoes on Smith’s

[Ed: You’re going to alienate a lot of our readers with this paragraph, you do know that, don’t you? I mean, how can you NOT have read Harry Potter?] Lawn. Couldn’t see the point myself.

Talking of Her Majesty the Queen, have you ever considered how many things will have to be changed upon her demise? We’re not just talking about the carpets at Sandringham and the thorny question of what title Camilla will hold. All those pumped up lawyers will cease to be QCs and become KCs and royal warrants by the 41


thousand must be revised. All in all quite the printing nightmare - although I imagine printers will do very nicely out of it, thank you. [Ed: I’m going to ignore the fact

that you leapt straight from fiction to monarchy but I am going to remind you that Mrs E Windsor is generally held in a great deal of regard in this country and it would behove you to be more respectful.] I’m longing to use quod erat demonstrandum but nil desperandum... I thought when I began researching this article (yes, I do research things, is that so hard to believe? No, don’t answer that) that most words beginning with Q would concern questions, hence the title of this piece. But that’s simply not the case. How much do I love the letter Q? Well, I’m glad you asked, because I could just as well have asked ‘Quantum do I love the letter Q?’ because the Latin for ‘how much’ is quantum. And if there’s anyone out there who can explain to me what quantum physics and quantum mechanics are all about without me having to attend night classes for six months, I’d be glad to include those subjects here. Suffice to say that my understanding of quantum physics and mechanics is heavily influenced by years of Star Trek viewing. All I need to know is that when Jean-Luc says ‘make it so’, I get a tingle. [Ed: Rambling - rambling, rambling and rambling.] I’ve picked eight toothsome words beginning with Q so let’s begin the beguine with Quark. Putting aside the Quite Interesting fact that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine has a marvellous barkeep named Quark, here’s some science. A quark is an elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter. Quarks combine to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable of which are protons and neutrons, the components of atomic nucleii. There are six types of quarks (known as flavours) and they are up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom. Quarks were only really discovered in the 1960s, but they’ve stood the test of time, so it can’t all have been magic ‘shrooms in the physics lab. Trouble is, I imagine the different flavours of quarks as ice cream cones - “Can I have two scoops of strange please with charm sprinkles please”. But instead of ice-cream, it turns out (actually I knew this one from back in the days when I was a health food freak) that quark is also a cheese. A curdy creamy

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Photo by dee

The Quince (Cydonia oblonga) is an orchard fruit native to southwest Asia. Although rather out of favour nowadays (only quince jelly is widely made), the fruit was as popular in 17th and 18th century cookery as apple and pear are today. This recipe would surely delight even modern cooks.

Photo by prb

Photo by Vickiʼs Nature

cheese which originated in Eastern Europe. The echt version is like a weighty fromage frais. In Germany, it’s the equivalent of yogurt, packed with fruit (and preservatives, no doubt) but it can also be enjoyed on bagels. It contains no salt and has a low fat content, but that don’t let you put you off - actually, it’s delish.

Sir Hugh Platt’s Quidini of Quinces: London 1600 Take the kernells out of eight great Quinces, and boile them in a quart of spring water, till it come to a pinte, then put into it a quarter of a pinte of Rosewater, and one pound of fine Sugar, and so let it boile till you see it come to bee of a deepe colour: then take a drop, and drop it on the bottome of a sawcer, then let it run through a gelly bagge into a bason, then set it in your bason upon a chafing dish of coles to keep it warm, then take a spoone, and fill your boxes as full as you please, and when they be colde cover them: and if you please to printe it in moldes, you must have moldes made to the bigness of your boxe, and wet your moldes with Rosewater, and so let it run into your mold, and when it is colde turne it off into your boxes. If you wette your moldes with water, your gelly will fall out of them. 43


There are two very different meanings of quire. First is the archaic name for a choir. In non-conformist country churches of the Georgian era, groups of musicians, both singers and instrumentalists, would play for services, often seated in the wooden gallery above the congregation. The London Gallery Quire (below) carries on that tradition to this day. The composer Edward Harper (who died last year) wrote an opera The Mellstock Quire based on Hardy’s Under the Greenwood Tree in which I played the character of Fancy Day.

The second meaning of quire is of course to do with paper. A quire is 24 sheets of paper comprise a twentieth of a ream or a collection of leaves of paper, folded one within the other. The word has come down from the Latin quaterni (four each) through the Old French quaier to the word we use today. A quire is also an old word for a quiver of arrows and, bizzarely, the collective noun for a group of cobras (see, I find it hard to visualize cobras in a group: they just don’t strike me as especially companionable animals?). And I can’t leave quire without mentioning something I found on the wilder edges of my research. Quentin Quire, also known as Kid Omega, is a Marvel Comics character created by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely!

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[Ed:


There is one word where U does not follow the letter Q and some might say it’s not a real word at all. But it is in the dictionary - honestly. It’s Qwerty.

Photo by this is your brain on lithium

As far as the keyboard layout we all love to hate, we have C.L. Sholes of Milwaukee to thank. Although his first machines were arranged alphabetically in two rows, they were prone to jamming during typing. Sholes knew that to solve this problem, the typebars had to hang at safe distances. The QWERTY keyboard was determined by the existing mechanical linkages of the typebars inside the machine to the keys on the outside. Now, did you understand all that? Personally, I struggle with the technicalities, despite having learned to type on a 1920s typewriter which looked not unlike Mr Sholes’ machines of the 1870s. Mr Sholes and his financial backer James Densmore went to Remington (at that time an arms manufacture) and in 1874 the first Type-Writer appeared on the market, offering, incidentally, only capital letters. In 1878, Sholes secured the patent for his QWERTY keyboard and the Remington No 2 was released complete with a shift key enabling upper and lower case type. There have been many attempts to improve on the QWERTY layout but none have shaken its place in the market. If you feel your typing could do with some improvement, could I just recommend a dazzling little web game called Qwerty Warriors. It combines the pace of an arcade game with improving your keyboard skills. Try it - it’s compulsive! [Ed: Do I even need

to say that this paragraph deteriorated as it went on? No wonder your writing skills are going downhill if you’re spending all your time playing stupid arcade games!] 45


My next word isn’t an object, it isn’t a place, it’s - well, it’s a quiddity. The dictionary gives three definitions. The first is that quiddity is the essence or nature of a thing. Second that it’s a quibble, a trifling point. And third that it’s an eccentricity or odd feature. Putting those definitions aside for a moment though, isn’t it just the most marvellous word? The kind of word that might inspire a verse or two, the kind of word that Proust could turn into an entire chapter. Saul Bellow deals with the word in his characteristically full-bodied way “I began to give some thought to the memoir I had promised to write and wondered how I would go about it - his freaks, quiddities, oddities, his eating, drinking, shaving, dressing and playfully savaging his students.” The origin is from Medieval Latin quidditas meaning essence and from that deceptively simple word what (or quid).

Photo by 10b travelling

There is no rational explanation for choosing quipu as the next Q word. I saw the word and thought ‘oh yes, isn’t that the rather lovely South American forest bird I saw on a David Attenborough documentary?’ Well, I was right about South America but quipu is definitely not a bird. It’s altogether more fascinating. As used by the ancient Inca civilisation of Peru, Quipu is the use of knots in strings to record numerical information. The Inca had no written records so the quipu played a major role in the administration of the Inca empire. As an example of how a basic quipu worked, if the number 586 was to be recorded on the string, then six touching knots were placed near the free end of

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the string, a space was left, then eight touching knots for the 10s, another space, and finally 5 touching knots for the 100s. The strings were made of the wool of the alpaca or llama and dyed in various colours to represent different information. Those responsible for creating and deciphering the quipu knots were known as Quipucamayocs.

[Ed: Did you make that word up? Quipucamayocs? Sounds a bit Tex-Mex to me.] And now for a dance. A quadrille in fact - a dance favoured by the ghastly Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice. It is a square dance of French origin in 6/8 or 2/4 time first introduced to England in 1808 and is performed by four couples. It comprises five parts (or figures) which are called Le Pantalon, L’Été, La Poule, La Pastourelle and Finale.

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As can be seen in this cartoon of 1817, the complexities of the dance sometimes gave rise to mishaps!

The quadrille must be one of the few dances to be performed not only by humans but also by horses. In fact, the equine quadrille preceded the dance by a couple of centuries. It began as a highly effective military manoeuvre and evolved into a display of skilled horsemanship for four horses and riders. In 18th century French society, paired dancers replaced paired horses and the quadrille de contredanses was born. [Ed: There’s a suspiciously large number of French words in this article - are you taking too

many trips on Le Eurostar?]

Photo by christophe dayer

Nowadays, equine quadrille is a choreographed dressage ride usually performed to music. A minimum of four horses are used but the number can be many more. There is also a version which includes the use of carriages. 48 !

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Photo by gonzalo pastor cauna

And lastly from quadrille to Quadrivium. Meaning the ‘meeting of four roads’ (from the Latin), the Quadrivium was the higher division of the seven liberal arts taught in medieval universities. These studies were based on those pursued in the Classical world. The Liberal Arts divided into the Trivium (the lower division) consisting of Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic; and the Quadrivium (the higher division) which consisted of Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy.

But to finish on a less erudite note, Quadrivium is also a font (what, you thought I’d get through a whole article without finding a related font?). Then there’s Quadrivium software for iPhone and Mac which includes the wonderfully named applications Khronos and Lapetus. [Ed: Have you got a deal going with some software

developer I should know about? I thought we had a contract here. Call me.]

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Bobby Bell and my dad were friends since they were boys. Bobby kept a doo loft but my dad never persuaded my mother to let him have one. Although her objection was ‘I don’t want all that mess’, I think the fact that pigeon racing was a working class sport in Scotland was a factor. Our family was climbing ‘up’ out of our working class roots if she had anything to do with it.

saft, sleepy cooin' frae above the clock - set at first light afore ah wiz up low voices so the wean didnae hear - grand day - ah hear there's rain ower the Campsies - this wind'll blaw them back - first time this year ah've been oot in mah sleeves an' galluses - aye another cup'd be grand, thanks Helen straps o' sun on the claithespoles - mind mah maw complainin' boot her washin' thae bluidy birds! wi' her wee fist shakin' - aye Bobby keeps a guid loft - ken he payeed twenty smackeroonies fir his lead bird - naw! - aye that sun's warm eh -

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dad's snorin' in his deckchair - Tam, yir tea'll gang cauld bees buzzin' on Louie's roses sun creepin' ower the greens - ah hear Archie McCrindle pits oot his wife's bakin' fir tae get them in - that wid mak them turn aroon' an' gang awa! - a' ye need's a good lassie doo - they'll come hame fir that - want tae hold her? mind now, hold her wings like this heather 'n slate 'n moss glintin' in the sun an' her hairt beatin' hard against ma haund bright ee regards me - you're no' the wan - aye, see her lookin'? she kens he's close - nearly five - no long noo - whit's that? ower there - I cannae see - whaur? gees the clock - gees the clock quick it's him - ahm shair it's him c'moan my wee lad, c'moan droppin' oot the sky feathers flurryin' landin' feet perfect only the mesh separatin' him frae his beloved noo

- aye just a meenit, laddie let's git this ring aff first then she's a' yours -

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ding! - aye that's it - by bit that's a good time - aye no bad - first wan hame again then Bobby - aye

All photos are from a flickr set named Skinnerburn Road Pigeon Lofts Photographer Community Photography 'now & then' and are used here under a Creative Commons License.

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I

In 1607, the city of Amsterdam gave the redundant church in the Begijnhof to the English-speaking protestant community. I often wonder if, as a result of that decision, Sweelinck (1562-1621), organist of the Oude Kerk, might have visited the building and wondered what would become of it and its music. In the 18th century, the church drew close to the Church of Scotland and has, since that time, always appointed a Minister from Scotland; the church is a member both of the Church of Scotland’s Presbytery of Europe and of the Dutch Reformed Church. The church, the oldest English-speaking church outwith the UK, is always known as the “English Reformed Church” (ERC) and, in Dutch, “De Engelse Kerk.” Visitors today are left in no doubt that both the church community and its musical life are flourishing (see www.ercadam.nl).

Photo by Sacred Destinations

t seems to me strange that organists in Scotland rarely reach out to their colleagues in the Netherlands, where the influence of Calvinism was, and still is, particularly strong. It must be acknowledged, however, that the musical traditions are very different; organs survived in many Dutch churches after the Reformation because they (the organs) were owned by the municipalities and used for public music-making rather than for church music. The tradition of organ-playing and improvisation is, therefore, more deeply rooted in Dutch culture than in Scottish; over the years, protestant Dutch composers have provided a large repertoire of organ-music, much of it based upon metrical psalm tunes and chorales.

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Here is as complete a list as possible of the Organists and Choirmasters: 1753-1760 1760-1762 1762-1780 1781-1790 1790-1826 1826-1831 1831-1842 1842- ? ? -1876 1890-1897 1897-1898 1898-1903 1903-1906 1906-1909

Johannes Hendrick Bruijninghuijsen Jodocus Groeneman Hendrik Blavier Daniel Jan Markordt Willem Meijer W.H. Brachthuizer Johannes Daniel Brachthuizer J. Verkuyl jr. Mrs. Verkuyl Mr. Sobering W. Manikus P.J. van Heeteren van der Hoogt F. Molenaar

1909-1927 1927-1941

Evert Cornelis Dr. Anthon van der Horst (1899-1965), recitalist, composer, conductor, musicologist, and teacher [he taught Piet Kee] Jan Pouwels [assistant since 1928] Gerardus Cornelis Weggelaar Jos van der Kooy [a pupil of Piet Kee] Roderick Shaw Hilary Guter-Dickenson David Adams Olja Bučo [a pupil of Jos van der Kooy].

1941-1947 1945-1973 1973-1980 1981-1985 1985-1989 1989-1997 1997-

I met Olja Bučo in 2002. A Croatian, she had found herself – a foreigner in the Netherlands – fascinated by and drawn into the organ culture of what has become her adopted homeland. She regularly gives organ and piano recitals, and has formed a violin/piano duo with a German violinist in Amsterdam. Her enthusiasm and gregarious personality attract many professional musicians to the ERC. In addition to her recitals and concerts in the Netherlands – including two of the prestigious municipal organ recitals in St Bavo’s Church (the Grote Kerk) in Haarlem – she has played in Antwerp (Belgium), Prague (Czech Republic) and Odense (Denmark). In Scotland she has played recitals in Haddington, Dunblane and Edinburgh, and conducted a master-class for the Edinburgh Society of Organists; in May 2008 she played the organ for a friend’s wedding in Dornoch.

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PS

What are your duties at the ERC?

OB

Each Sunday there is a service at 10.30, before and after which I play organ music. The size of the church and the directness of the organ leads me to play rather quiet and reflective music before services; I play ‘big’ pieces afterwards. We have two organs, both by Flentrop, and a good grand piano. The large organ is in the west gallery, the smaller organ and the grand piano in the chancel. During the service, either between or after the two readings, I provide what we call ‘Music in Worship’; this is almost always classical (although a very good jazz singer is a member of the church!) in a wide range of styles and provided, for 99% of the time, by professional musicians, some of whom are members of the congregation. In addition to ‘Music in Worship’ there is also an opportunity for music during the Offertory. I have to be honest and say that some members of the congregation come to the ERC because the music is good! The church choir rehearses each Tuesday evening from September to June; the agerange is from 20 to 87. Some members of the choir read music fairly fluently, others need some help; some do not read music at all. One of our tenors has recently bought a music software package into which he enters the tenor parts of pieces that we sing so that he is able to hear – and to share with others – an accurate version of what he is learning. The choir sings on: the second Sunday each month; the first Sunday in Advent; the Tuesday evening of the second or third week of December (a candle-lit carol service); the Saturday afternoon of the same week (a carol service for the English-speaking congregations of Amsterdam); Christmas Eve; Good Friday evening; Easter Day. 57


PS

What are your conditions of employment at the ERC?

OB

I am employed by the Consistory (ie the Session), which consists of 12 people. My contract specifies my duties, about which we have just spoken, and that I must give 3 organ recitals each year; these recitals are used to promote the ERC, its organs and me. I am encouraged by the Consistory to work with the musicians who are members of the church; the congregation is always most appreciative of what we do. I am allowed to use the church not only for my own organ and piano practice, but also to teach my piano pupils. The church is open for visitors, and is kept warm, so I have a heated practice and teaching studio in the centre of one of the great capital cities of Europe! When I was appointed to the ERC, the Ingram organ was still in position in the west gallery. In order to save money, ten of us, including the Minister, demolished it in preparation for the arrival of the new Flentrop organ. We kept the 18th-century façade (by Müller) and some old pipes by the Dutch builder Pieter Flaes; these pipes are stored in the Flentrop factory, awaiting sale to, and re-use in, a suitable restoration project. We discovered that the wiring of the blower in the Ingram organ had become dangerous, and that we had been lucky to avoid a fire. The Flentrop organ is used for recitals – in addition to the three that I am contracted to give – on certain Saturday afternoons during the spring and summer. The church is used for services by two Dutch-speaking congregations; the organ is used by them too.

PS

How does communication work between you and the Minister on one hand, and between you and the Consistory on the other?

OB

I activate any meetings with the Minister in order to discuss important issues and take certain decisions. Each year, usually in the autumn, I am allowed 15 minutes to meet the Consistory; the Church Officer and Concert-Manager are also each allowed 15 minutes. This can be useful, but I find that an annual meeting that lasts for 15 minutes is not enough to discuss a year’s work.. I have, for some time now, been asking for quarterly meetings of the ‘paid’ staff (Minister, Church Officer, Concert-Manager and me, with a member of the Consistory in attendance) because the church has become so busy; such meetings 58 !

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would have been very useful during the restoration of the church, particularly had someone concerned with property and fabric been invited too.

PS

How busy is the church?

OB

Photo by Terretta

In addition to what we have already discussed, there are frequent weddings and concerts. Concerts, both those arranged by/ for the ERC and those arranged by other organizations, normally take place on Friday and Saturday evenings, and on Sunday afternoons. There is at least one concert each week; our ConcertManager monitors the quality. This activity is obviously good for the church’s finances!

PS

Did you have any experience of church music before you were appointed to the ERC?

OB

I had played services in Dutch Reformed churches, but had absolutely no choir experience.

PS

Was there a language problem when you took up this appointment?

OB

Not really; my English was already good, partly because I had studied it for two years at primary school. From the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad (Serbia), where I became a student of piano in 1984/5, I attended an early music course in Bellinzona, Switzerland. There I met people who could speak three or four languages fluently; I decided therefore to learn Italian (for which there were personal reasons!) and English (which seemed to me the most necessary language to master). In the Netherlands, I first improved my English before undertaking private Dutch lessons for 18 months. 59


My whole life in Amsterdam is lived in Dutch and English. I miss my own language, so it is always nice to go back to Croatia twice each year to visit my mother and friends.

PS

So you use Dutch and English for work and relaxation in northern Europe, and Croatian at home in the sun.

OB

Exactly!

PS

Olja, what brought you to the Netherlands?

Photo by mooste

OB

I was born in Split, in what was part of Yugoslavia but is now Croatia; my native language is Serbo-Croatian. I was, therefore, born in a country that was officially communist, although we had rather more freedom than people in some other communist countries; we were, for example, allowed to own property and to travel abroad. My first experience of the north European organ was during a visit to Belgium in, I think, 1986, while I was still at the Academy of Arts in Novi Sad. As a result of my visit to Belgium, I looked for an organ in Novi Sad, and found one in the Roman Catholic Church; it was electronic and made me realize that this was not an instrument on which to make music, so I took things no further, particularly after my appointment as teaching assistant to my piano teacher, Arbo Valdma, in 1988.

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I saw a video-recording of Marie-Claire Alain playing the Müller organ of St Bavo’s church in Haarlem, remembered my visit to Belgium, and went to visit Haarlem, where I arrived in time to hear one of the Tuesday evening organ recitals. I asked for information about studying the organ in the Netherlands, and was introduced to Els Hendrikse, who was both in charge of the municipal organ recitals in Haarlem and administrator of the Haarlem Organ Month. She gave me a list of possible places and teachers; from this list I chose Jos van der Kooy, who at that time was teaching organ at the conservatoire in Alkmaar.

Photo by Terretta

Jos told me to go back to Novi Sad, to practise some organ music and to return to the Netherlands for an audition. I practised hard – on an electronic organ in the Novi Sad conservatoire! – and learned the Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV565, of which the manual parts caused me no problems, and the pedal part is relatively easy. I passed the audition at the end of August 1991, and had to make some important decisions. I discussed the matter with my father, who encouraged me to follow my instincts; he pointed out that the worst that could happen was a return to Split (I would have to resign from Novi Sad) and a search for another job! I gave away to friends most of what I owned, including my car; I kept only my printed music and spinet. My parents gave me all of the money that they had saved; I feel bad about this now, because when the war began it became obvious that they should have kept this. Their money added to that raised by the sale of my piano produced a sum of 5000 Deutschmarks, 2000 of which would be needed to pay the fees in the Netherlands. 61


PS

How did you find money and accommodation?

OB

Through a series of extraordinary meetings and co-incidences, I managed to acquire a scholarship that covered the fees for the whole undergraduate organ course (beginning in Alkmaar, and moving to den Haag when Jos was appointed to the Royal Conservatory). In addition I found good accommodation in Amsterdam, the city in which I have lived ever since. I must place on record my grateful thanks to many friends in Amsterdam who have, at various times and for a variety of reasons, provided me with a bicycle, furniture and much encouragement! I have come to believe in miracles!

PS

How did you respond to the Dutch organs once you had to start working with them?

OB

Photo by Vonns

Jos taught me always in the Westerkerk, in Amsterdam, where he is organist and where the organ (restored by Flentrop) is wonderful. However, it is difficult for the organist hear the balance between the manuals, and between the manuals and the pedal. I found myself challenged by this kind of situation. How could I control such an instrument in a way that would enable me to make music? Co-ordination seemed to be such hard work! Sounds seemed to come from everywhere. When playing a trio-sonata in the Westerkerk, the organist hears the Rugwerk very clearly, the pedal less clearly and the Bovenwerk hardly at all! And every organ is different!

PS OB

You are now completely used to the Dutch organ culture.

Yes, and I enjoy it very much. I frequently attend the municipal organ recitals in Haarlem, and help with registration at the International Improvisation 62 ! ! ! ! ! ! ! theLintie


Competition which takes place every other year.

PS

Any thoughts about your life in a communist country?

OB

I was born in 1966; communism ended in 1991-92 when the war began, so my whole life before I moved to the Netherlands in 1991 was spent under Yugoslavian communism. My father – a university lecturer in mathematics – was for some years a member of the communist party, but he eventually left it; my mother, brother and I were never members. Higher education was free to students. General/President Tito had protected Yugoslavia from domination by the USSR. One major attraction was that our particular brand of communism attracted top soviet musicians to work in our conservatoires; they used our country as a route to the ‘west’. My piano teacher was from Estonia; he now lives and teaches in Germany.

PS

What of your own feeling of nationality?

OB

My father was a Bosnian-born Croatian; my mother is Croatian; I was born in Dalmatia (coastal Croatia). So, you see, I have three different mentalities! At the age of 6 I was already playing piano in different parts of Yugoslavia and learning to adapt to new situations and people, so I am really quite a cosmopolitan person.

PS

When did you decide to be confirmed into the Christian church?

OB

Religion was not part of my background, although I have always had a strong spiritual sense, and was aware of the RC church in Croatia and the Orthodox church in Serbia. I ‘met’ Christianity when I began organ lessons with Jos in the Westerkerk, and realized that the Dutch Reformed Church was very different from the RC church back in Yugoslavia. At the ERC I discovered a lively and supportive Christian community, and was confirmed there in 2000.

PS

Has the main organ in the ERC been recorded?

OB

Yes, twice. The first of the two CD recordings (DVH 1400 11) was made in January 2003; I play music by Sweelinck, Buxtehude, Böhm, JS Bach, Boyce, Samuel Wesley and Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

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2003 happened to be the centenary of the founding of the Flentrop Orgelbouw, so the firm commissioned a series of ten mini-CDs recorded on ten of their instruments. At the ERC I recorded music by JS Bach, an anonymous 18th-century English composer, and Piet Kee.

Olja and I held our conversation at her home in Amsterdam at the end of November 2008. I am grateful to her for her kind and generous hospitality, for giving up so much of her time, and for so much laughter! Philip Sawyer

Cover photo of this article by Terretta

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Photo by Leonrw

That day was the day the cat made his bid for freedom, unaware of the dangers that lay in wait. Cat-like, he was gone, where fancy led. Fast, like a streak of light he was home free, or so he thought. Not home at all of course, and I followed, frantic, calling faint and high (due to panic and that milk-sop voice that we use, in our foolishness, when addressing cats, infants and the infirm.) Our progress was erratic – sudden bursts of speed followed by teasing two- steps considered on his part to be par for the course. Suddenly he veered, out of sight, up the garden path. In the nick of time I caught a glimpse of black fur, swishing tail and white paws. Pursuing, breathing hard, and no match for this boy racer in cat skin, I ploughed through unknown chambers in a stranger’s house and found the cat, purring, on the patio. Captured by his expectant gaze I crouched, softly, not to shock or startle him. I produced wheedling seductive sounds and succeeded in gathering him in close to me. He surrendered to my touch and cautiously I lowered my gaze, determined to return us both to the safe haven of our home. I moved on, grateful that danger had been averted and that the cat had relaxed in my grasp, which I loosened, just a little. Rushing now, I was eager to be home and anxious lest the cat should escape me again. I was unable to comprehend the cat’s desire to roam, his ungrateful tricks and desperate measures, his lust for far places. Surely he would, must, come to rest and reward my love and regard. I cast a glance in the direction of perpetual vigilance. Finally, sanctuary regained, I allowed the cat to slide from my arms. He measured the room in steady, stealthy steps. Weary, breathing hard, I sank into welcoming, soft upholstery , only to glimpse, from the corner of my eye, the cat slinking towards the back door. 67


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Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me very great pleasure to address you today. It would give me even greater pleasure if I were certain that you would not be disappointed not so much at what I am going to say, but the way in which I am going to say it. For I have to tell you straightaway that I am regarded as the most boring public speaker anyone has ever had to endure. I have worked at establishing this reputation for over thirty years now and I should warn you I do not intend to relinquish it without a fight. I am capable of disregarding any signs of incipient boredom in my listeners. Yawning will have absolutely no effect upon me. Indeed, I am impervious even to loud snoring. It is also a waste of time to frequently check your watch in a rather pointed manner. But I do become a little tetchy if you actually remove the watch from your wrist and shake it. Why, you may ask, do I do it? Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it is a matter of destiny. But if you will bear with me for a moment, I will explain.

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I was once misguided enough to apply for a position as a public speaker. As you may know, our nation’s speakers are not only to be found in such places as the Houses of Parliament, but also on flourishing public speaking circuits. Here, good money is paid to anyone who can stand up and speak spontaneously on any subject. I wanted to be part of that circuit. Securing such a position is not easy, so you will understand that my interview was no mere formality. Quite the contrary. Each candidate for the position, including myself, was asked to improvise a five minute speech on a topic chosen by the interview panel. The first candidate said he could not possibly undertake such a task without further research. The second delivered an oration of such intense obscurity that nobody had the slightest idea what he was talking about. (I believe that he subsequently gained employment with one of the political parties.) When it was my turn to speak, I approached the chairman of the panel and asked "What would you like me to say?" I got the job! Early in my career I discovered that my natural talent for being a ‘mere mouthpiece’ admirably suited the purposes of those who organise events at which a public speaker is required. Thus, when people come up to me after a speech and say "That was the most boring speech I have ever heard”, I am never offended but rather flattered. I remind them that I am only voicing the words of the evening’s organiser. If my speech feels to them like torture, it is perhaps only a reflection of the regard (or otherwise) in which they are held by that organiser. I find that usually goes down pretty well.

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theLintie Back Cover photo by markkilner


The Lintie Spring 2010  

Spring 2010 edition of The Lintie magazine, a Scottish magazine in love with language, images & the arts.

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