Wednesday, 3 October 2012

change of email address

Dear friends, Please note that in future I'm using and and phasing out this address. I apologise if you have received this message already.

Sarah Johnson

Friday, 18 June 2010


Lately I've been to Jerusalem with Edith, The Real Thing with Edith, Wicked with Aggie.
Tickets booked for Penn and Teller - whole family, Proms - a whole weekend Prom Pass, and applied for tickets to WOS for All My Sons.
Wicked was quite an experience as I am not used to going out with Aggie on my own. She is such great company and I am not surprised that she is so popular - she is so much fun to be with. We queued for 2 hours for £25 same-day tickets and were about 5th in the queue, having arrived at 8am. Sat right in the middle of the front row. A very good view of Lee Mead's tight-fitting riding breeches from my POV.
It is an amazing evening, the costumes alone would make the outing. The songs are memorable, I find myself humming a couple of them constantly, but there is a bit too much emotional belting. I thought the cast was pretty high calibre, though I realise I'm not much of a judge. The two leads were really impressive. Lee Mead hadn't been in the show long and it turns out he is not approved of by the hard core of completely obsessed Wicked fans. We sat next to a young woman who had been to see it 166 times, all over the world, but she declared she liked Lee Mead, and he was "a lovely person", so clearly the Wicked fans are not unanimous.
The story does not really quite make sense - especially the strange ending concerning the male love interest, Fiyero. I found this a bit disturbing. In order to save him from torture, Elphaba, the green girl who loves him, casts a spell which turns him into a scarecrow - so he can "feel no pain, his bones will never break, he will never die". A man of straw, a floppy man! It's so Freudian, even Freud would wriggle in his seat and feel it was a bit obvious. To protect her lover from this powerful woman effectively castrates him, emasculates him. Is this meant to be the inevitable fate of men who love strong women?
And anyway, in the movie I seem to remember the Witch set fire to the scarecrow at one point!
But besides that, the portrayal of girls jockeying for position at school rings extremely true for Aggie.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

This is our last week at this primary school where Tycho started school back in January 1995 followed by Edith in 1997, Leo joining the nursery in 1998 and Agatha in 2001. Agatha sent us off in good style by taking the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

We are feeling very proud of all our children:

Thursday, 2 July 2009

lotsa op'ra

Suddenly lots of opera. First I take Edith to the Gate Cinema to see the live relay of La Traviata from Covent Garden. Renee Fleming glorious, Richard Eyre's production just amazing.
Then it's off to Garsington yesterday...on a madly hot day, to see a sparky and witty modern setting of Rossini's La Cenerentola.
What a pity the average age of opera audiences is so high.

Monday, 6 April 2009

St Matthew Passion; The Barbican Hall Palm Sunday 2009

This was the big one, the one I had really been looking forward to.

Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra cond Riccardo Chailly
St Thomas's Boys Choir
Toelz Boys Choir

Sybill Rubens soprano replacing Christina Landshamer
Marie-Claude Chappuis mezzo soprano
Johannes Chum tenor - Evangelist
Maximilian Schmitt tenor
Thomas Quasthoff bass-bar
Hanno Mueller-Brachman bass-bar Christ
Kaus Haeger bass Pilate/Peter/Judas

After much to-ing and fro-ing we gave our 2 spare tickets to the daughters, who didn't mind so much in the end as they did not have to sit with us and risk being embarrassed by our enthusiastic clapping. Everyone we contacted to offer the tickets were either going already or were away.

Note to self: remember it takes about an hour and ten minutes to get to Barbican by car if you want to allow for the ring road nightmare. Not fifty minutes. The car journey was awful, there was actually a bit of violence and it wasn't Dan dishing it out...and we got there just in time...settling down just in time to spot Mr and Mrs H and Mr and Mrs F in the audience.
Fashion note: Mrs H in flowing purple, very elegant. Audience unusually well-dressed, probably because a large proportion may have been (a) German or (b) parents of the choirboys or (c) both.

First impressions: The St Thomas's choir are so sweet in their little sailor collar jackets. Since they have no standard haircut but some have quite long hair a la 1973, the effect is very Little Lord Fauntleroy.

The Leipzig Gewandhaus band is high on women and has lots of young faces.
Further fashion note: you know, I'm not sure the white tie and tail coat thing is going to last much longer. TQ has ditched it completely, going for the Andre Previn/trendy vicar white-rollneck effect instead. As a result the other guys look fussed, hot and fat.
Anyway...oh heck, it was sublime. I don't really know how to start writing about this piece so I will have to stick with thinking about what people were wearing, because just starting to think about the whole emotional and musical experience is too much. Dan was almost in tears in the first half and I was nearly in tears in the second, at "Mache dich, mein Herze, rein" which TQ took exactly as I would have wanted, with passion and conviction. Now I can die. I do not understand the Catholic Herald critic Michael White who thinks TQ's singing "lacks something".
The mezzo was marvellous. A bit quiet from where we were because of the sizeable conductor blocking the sound but the girls, who were on the other side, found her wonderful to watch as well as to hear.
During her last aria however I noticed two little boys in the St Thomas's Choir who suddenly, as little boys often do after 2 hours of sitting very still and being very, very good, found something - I don't know what - irresistibly funny and got the giggles. For the rest of the piece these two - a small blond one and a taller brown-haired one - kept stealing glances at each other and trying not to laugh (unsuccessfully). I think it's a sign of the beauty of the whole evening that I really, really didn't mind, even though the snickering carried on through Mache Dich.., which I'd been waiting for all my life, because in a way these two little rascals simply reminded me of the joy of God's love and how precious children are. In fact, hearing TQ singing that song of sorrow, hope and determination with these two giggly cherubs in the chorus behind him actually made me feel extraordinary happy.
I was quite a bit older than them when I found myself moved to tears by the story of the Passion of Christ and already an adult when I first heard this piece live. I have been afraid that it would lose its impact as I get older and as the atheists get louder and louder, but in fact, the more you focus on it as a story, the more impact it gets year after year. Suddenly these words of passion (literally) and faith become as true as ever they were.

I remember one Palm Sunday going to hear it at the Royal Festival Hall with Robert Tear leading; I remember him doing a fair amount of swaying and emoting to the music - since TQ did a lot of that last night I wonder if perhaps it is a privilege of the most distinguished singer of the evening. TQ also sings along with the chorales.

Final fashion note: thank you to the violinist near the front of the stage whose gorgeous georgette sleeves simply added to the beauty of the moment!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Impassioned speech by Mark Elder

There is a theme developing at the moment, first Tom Service's article now this speech by Mark Elder for which I am indebted to Jessica Duchen.