Happy Birthday Wife!

Today is the 13th of May 2022 and is my wife’s birthday. It is also Friday the 13th, so I don’t know how I should be feeling, happy for my wife but slightly preoccupied by lady luck deciding to have fun at my expense. Strangely, in France, Friday the 13th is considered lucky. What a peculiar country!

But what a strange coincidence though? But little did I know that 30 years ago, almost to the day that we first met how many coincidences there actually were…

She is born on the 13th, and me on the 26th. 26 being the double of 13. As a Catholic, yes, it happens, I have have always felt close to the Virgin Mary. My mother is Anne, the mother of Mary, and my beloved Grandma was called Mary. My wife is called Virginie… But you could argue that a lot of Catholic women were called Mary or Anne. We also live in the Vendée which has the number 85 – 8+5=13.

Today is also the feast of Our Lady of Fatima who appeared to three children in Fatima in Portugal in 1917.

Can you see a pattern developing here?

Anyway, it doesn’t, in any form, detract from the fact that it is my wife’s birthday today. I used to be great at thinking of presents for everyone, be it Christmas or birthdays. I just knew exactly what to look for and where to find it. Now, as in a lot of things, I now know nothing. What do you get for the person who has everything, including Yours Truly? My dream solution, my daughter seems to have stolen my talent and also seems to be very good at spending my money, but this time it is for a good cause.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate in a dignified manner with friends and have a barbecue, with salads, meats, and sausagy things that have been drawn up on the famous shopping list. It is a long shopping list and in a sudden and surprisingly rare instant of genius, I dared to add, don’t forget the charcoal Darling. The charcoal had been forgotten? I had’t saved the day, but I think I scored at least one brownie point.

So now you know what awaits le this weekend. Last weekend was a little more musical. When I first arrived in Vendée just over 20 years ago I played the horn for the local wind band in Montaigu. It was local and it got me out of the house and introduced me to local people who would eventually become friends. After a certain amount of time I got bored and didn’t feel challenged which is not a good thing to happen. You find that resentment can build and boredom never helps. I eventually stopped playing the horn and felt I had had enough, and then in 2009 a friend from the band said that’s had started playing with the windband in Cholet and I played with them from then on, even getting to the point of trying to get my French teaching diploma, but with burnout, and a change of horn teachers, that idea fell by the wayside. I cut music right back to the basics.

Durning Covid, the old conductor from Montaigu died, and within the year his wife died too. At least they’re together now. The band in MOntaigu had wanted to have a concert to remember them by, and last Satudray, after a lot of work by the band committee, they managed it. As an old player, I was invited to join in, and it was a lovely experience.

During the rehearsals, I received news that my boss in Cholet was resigning at the end of the year. Certainly unexpected, but I think I know some of the reasons why. All of a sudden, choices opened up to me. The band in Montaigu found out, and I was told that if I wanted, they would be happy to have an extra horn player. Not an easy decision to make, and I will certainly think about it. It would certainly mean less driving, and with the price of petrol, that is one huge argument. I feel a certain loylaty for the boss at Cholet even more so than for the band itself. not only is he my musical director but has over the years, become a friend. I’ll keep you posted.

Sunday was going to be about rest and relaxation. I felt I couldn’t face Nantes, and would be going to mass there anyway later on. So I went to Clisson instead. We all have those pretty towns just near us. In Hull, it was Beverley, in Noisy le Sec, it was Paris, and in Saint Hilaire it’s Clisson. I’m not denigrating the places that I have lived, but they were also slightly cheaper places to live, but that’s by the by…

I seem to be getting back into using my Canon DSLR and loving it too. It’s the 16-35mm lens that does it. And as you can see in the photographs from that day, Clisson is very photogenic, almost more than Nantes, but let’s not tell everyone, or they’ll all want to go there…

Palm Sunday Photography

Last week I wrote about Palm Sunday and the importance that it has in the liturgical calendar.  Today I would like to talk more about photography.  In my article about the Canon 6D Mark II and the 16-35mm lens, I talked about how it seemed to be a less productive day, and it was indeed, and that next time would be possibly different.  New day, and different light, by definition.  Well, it was.

Spring has sprung, we have changed hours on the clock, and the weather seems to be a little less despicable with some nice sunlight, whilst still having some lovely light fluffy clouds to be amazed by.  Whenever that happens, I know how I want my camera.  I want it, firstly, with me, otherwise, photography becomes a more laborious pursuit.  Secondly, when doing my editing, I want to reproduce the effect of putting a red filter on my lens as if I were doing black and white film photography.  The blue skies become darker and the fluffiness of the clouds just seems to pop out.  Add a little contrast, and bob’s your Aunty, or Uncle depending on his or her pronouns…

It might seem slightly old fashioned to you, but I find very this type of image very pleasing, and it gives off a certain old-timer vibe, and as an old-timer, at least compared to the young timers, I’m more than happy.  Everything is relative anyway.  Maybe I am of the age where I no longer care about impressing people and just want to do things my way.  I’m not saying I don’t love a compliment either.  All men do.  Ladies, never underestimate the power of a compliment to a gentleman.  We may seem cool on the outside, but on the inside, this compliment will boost us for ages.  Try it.  I dare you!

I parked the car at the Feydeau underground car park, and just walked along towards the castle, and for me as an introvert, actually dared to ask somebody if I could take their picture, at least a picture of their shoes.  The young lady was most obliging and said yes.  Thank you.  One of my favourite photos of the day and in “colour!”  Then the famous Miroir d’eau, which is more subtle than Bordeaux’s water mirror, but in Nantes, you get the reflection of an enormous castle, which is where I went next.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to follow each and every pace.  You can do that by looking at the photos at the end of the article.

I parked the car at the Feydeau underground car park, and just walked along towards the castle, and surprisingly for me as an introvert, actually dared to ask somebody if I could take their picture, at least a picture of their shoes.  The young lady was most obliging and said yes.  Thank you.  One of my favourite photos of the day and in “colour!”  Then the famous Miroir d’eau, which is more subtle than Bordeaux’s water mirror, but in Nantes, you get the reflection of a huge castle, which is where I went next.  Don’t worry, you won’t have to follow each and every pace.  You can do that by looking at the photos at the end of the article.

To sum up, a very fruitful outing, with a break at the pub, so, even more reason to describe the day so worthwhile.  Thank you for following and feel free to share your impressions.  I promise not to bite!

COVID

COVID-19: I tried it so that you don’t have to!  As with most things, I always seem to be late getting “on trend” and with Covid, I was beginning to think that maybe, just maybe, I had got through it without catching it.  Little did I know that the next day, Covid would come along a smack me about the face!

It was a Tuesday.  A rough day at work.  The sort of day where you feel shitty all day, but are still vertical and not horizontal, and therefore not ill.  Serves you right for only 4 hours of sleep last night…  Wednesday.  A really rough day at work.  You slept a little better but are still tired.  Coughing a bit.  Must be just the sleep thing.  Exhausted and not hugely productive in the afternoon.  I’ll just check my temperature, you never know…  35.4°C.  Could be worse, I suppose, but wow, not felt this bad for a while.  Vive la “going home time.”  Yay; I got home in one piece, and let’s just go to bed.  An early night won’t do me any harm.  It’s freezing in bed and I can’t get warm.  I have the covers on, and my dog is next to me, but I’m absolutely freezing.  This is not good.

Day 1.  Thursday morning.  I get up at the usual time.  Not one for pulling a sickie, I seem to have the do I, or don’t I debate in my head.  Well, I didn’t.  My wife said to do a Covid test last night.  Didn’t feel up to it.  But this morning I plucked up the courage to stick something uncomfortably far up my nose.  Had great difficulty reading the tiny printing, but worked out how to do everything, and how to do the test. Two lines appeared and usually mean pregnancy, but it can’t be that. I’m just fat.  No, I was Covid positive and positive that I had Covid.   Out came my phone, first, to write the mail to my bosses informing them I will not be there today, and second, with blind optimism, phone the local nurse to get something else poked up my nose, but officially this time.  Could I come straight away?  She didn’t have any patients that morning.  Yes, I could.  Told my son where I was going and was asked if he could come too.  We were both in the car with our masks on, drove to the nurse’s office, and got poked right up the nose.  I was now officially positive, and my son was officially negative.  Did he realise how many points he had just lost in the favourite child competition?  No masculine solidarity at all.  He was actually looking quite smug!  The cheek of the boy!

Back home to work out how you do everything for the Social Security, and how you get your sick note.  It would appear that you have to grass up anyone with whom you were in contact for over 15 minutes without wearing a mask.  The only people were my daughter and wife.  And of course the dog.  A miracle happened.  To finish on a high note, I got all the French Covid admin done from my phone and could enjoy being ill at last.  I was still chilling and felt cold, and coughing, and put on Netflix and get back into bed.  It would appear that I have drifted off… Again…

My daughter was tested later that day and became my Covid Buddy.  She also gained points and won the coveted favourite child position.  The day was spent sleeping, and feeling awful.

Day 2.  Friday.  Much the same as Day 1, still with the coughing and feeling cold.  That beautiful doggy dog didn’t move one inch from my side. I tried taking paracetamol to see if it would do any good.  Who was I trying to kid?  It was about as useful as a bicycle for a non-cycling fish! Kept trying to drink lots of fluids.  I had a goodies parcel from the UK and was gradually working my way through glasses of orange and lemon barley water.  I still had good taste.  Which is something just not worth contemplating losing. If it were to make me pee during the night, then I could just sleep the next morning.

Day 3.  My wife became a Covid Buddy too.  She had vainly tried sleeping on the sofa downstairs last night, thinking that this would protect her.  Well, it didn’t.  She was quite worried about phoning her boss, but I reassured her saying that Covid is Covid and so is the week off you get as a consolation prize.  Full pay too!  Less coughing.

Day 4 and 5.  Much the same.  Bed.  Snoozing.  Feeling pretty crappy.  During the night, suffered from horrible muscular pains in my thighs of all places!  Stopped me from sleeping, but I knew I could snooze later.

Day 5.  If I were Covid negative, then I could go back to work.  But despite the mail from my boss asking how I was and possibly hoping that I would be back, it wasn’t going to happen.  Back to bed, and snoozing.

Day 6 and 7.  Much the same, but by the end of Day 7, I was starting to feel nearly human again!

Day 8.  Back to work, but not necessarily bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but definitely vertical again.  During the whole Covid experience, that dog never left my side for over 10 minutes at a time!  She got loads of brownie points.

Rating.  2 stars.  Nice to have a fully paid week off work, but not nice being too ill to get the most out of it.  Wouldn’t recommend it to a friend.

The FED 5

Back in 2009 I had a camera that died on me.  It might only be a camera to you but to me it was everything.  It was my first camera.  I was heartbroken.  To those of you mocking me, just think back to your first car and to your first accident in that car.  Alright, you may not be shedding a tear you unemotive bastard, but you might just have the smallest of inklings about my loss.  It was my fist camera that had taught me the basics of photography, and since 1987 had been a relatively constant companion, and part of me.  My son now has it on a shelf looking pretty damn cool on one of his shelves.

It was at that time that I had come back to film from digital.  Why bother using filters that would emulate film photography when you could get the same thing straight out of camera without going through the rigmaroles of messing around in Photoshop to get that result?  At that time, although digital gave me a lot, there was something missing.  Like most of us I was looking for something authentic. 

I went to the camera shop to see if anything could be done to repair my camera and bring it back to life.  With hope I entered the shop that would become a familiar haunt, and had to face the brutal truth.  My Praktica MTL3 was dead.  It had passed on, this camera was no more. It had ceased to be. It had expired and gone to meet its maker.  It was a stiff.  Bereft of photographic life.  It was resting in peace.  It was pushing up daisies.  Its metabolic processes were now history.  It was off the twig.  It had kicked the bucket.  It had shuffled off its mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bloody choir invisible. IT WAS AN EX Praktica MTL 3!  Any similarity to a Norwegian Blue parrot pining for the Fjords is a mere coincidence!  So I asked him if I could buy the one in the display cabinet and he said of course I could and that yes it was a little expensive, it came with a 6 month guarantee, and here was a film for it, and no mention of Bolton or Ipswitch.  Although not exactly the same it was a purchase that set me off on a series of events that lead me to “collecting” a certain quantity of cameras.  It was either that or becoming a lumberjack. 

Through YouTube, articles on the net, and my own research, I learnt about some of the iconic cameras that I never had, and at that stage, the hipsters hadn’t bought up everything on EBay and you could still get something very decent for un £50, which now of course might set you back between £150 to £200!  So I was very fortunate to start collecting when I did.

On the famous YouTube, and its infamous photography videos that I still seem to watch on a regular basis, I went down the rabbit hole of specialising in film cameras.  There was one guy, called Matt Day, who waxed lyrical about his Leica M6, and how much he loved using it to take images from his everyday life.  I started thinking, could this be my next acquisition.  And then I started looking at the prices that these things cost.  Megabucks, which is something that I don’t have and even if I did, such a purchase would be grounds for divorce.  It’s cheaper to keep her, as the classic Rhythm and Blues (before it became R’nB) so wisely reminded us. 

Therefore, what is the difference between my new old Praktica MTL3 and a Leica M6 I hear you say. Well, both are German.  One is a classic camera from a West German manufacturer, and was the gold standard of 35mm cameras from pre war times right up to the modern day, and was a rangefinder, the other one being a relatively cheap and yet very solid SLR from the old East Germany.

So both were made by the Boche, one further to the left that the other.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so a video  must be worth two thousand words! Earlier I talked about a certain Matt Day, well here is a video of his from last year talking about the differences.  I’ll let you watch it, and then we will be both on the same page!  I can tell you’re impressed.

Soooooo, I wanted to learn about a rangefinder and see how they worked out in real life.  But, as I said earlier it’s cheaper to keep her, so I was going to have to find another way of doing things.  As many photographers on a budget but wanting to get some half decent materiel, I looked East, towards Mother Russia.  Communism is messed up, but it did leave some rather solid cameras, and to the rangefinder aficionados, the names Zorky, and FED will be familiar.  The Zorky looks very vintage, rather sexy and exclusive with its Cyrillic writing on the top of the body, but I was not comfortable about using a camera without a light meter.  The Sunny 16 rule should be easy enough to follow, and with the latitude that black and white film photography gives you, you shouldn’t go too far wrong, but I was being stubborn, which is so out of character for me. 

I moved on to looking at the FED 5, especially since I had found one for only 15€ imported directly from the Ukraine, which at the time was not at war or hadn’t been annexed either by Mother Russia.  Oh you naughty boy Vladimir!!

Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first.  The FED 5 was produced in the Ukrainian city of Kharkov from 1977 until 1990.  It is a 35mm format rangefinder camera, with interchangeable lenses with a Leica M39 screw thread, (mine has a 35mm f2.8 lens, which is great for street photography).  It has a focal plane shutter, shutter speeds of 1 second to 1/500th of a second, bulb mode, and the flash sync speed is 1/30th of a second.  What more could you ask for.  The film loading is similar to the Leica where you remove the base of the camera, load your film etc. and then put that base back on.  Because you know that it’s about the bass, ‘bout that bass no treble…

To do the metering you have to put your faith in the selenium cell light meter, on the top right of the front of the camera.  This will give you a reading on an EV meter on top of the camera next to the “calculation wheel”.  One dial is for the speed of you your film.  Now don’t go looking for Din, ISO, or ASA, but look for GOCT, or GOST. 90 GOST is 100ASA, 180 being 200ASA etc.  For 400ASA I just turn the little dot to the S in GOCT.  It’s one of those Soviet things that is just a quirk of this camera. This will give me a reading on the outer dial with my shutter speeds and F Stops combinations to nail that exposure! 

As with other Soviet-era rangefinders, the shutter-speed selector rotates when the shutter is released, and this should not be changed “until after” the shutter has been cocked. If you change the shutter speed before you cock the shutter first, the setting pin can be broken when you advance the film and cock the shutter!  Don’t even bother trying.  I never have, and it still works today!

Focussing is easy which is always something that catches my eye, no zone focussing, and it’s slightly different to the SLR.  As you saw in the video, there is a ghost image in the middle of the viewfinder and as soon as that ghost image disappears, it means that you have focussed successfully. 

Anyway, I paid my 15 Euros and a Ukrainian camera arrived two weeks later in an original box which is still in a display cabinet in my hallway.  The leather case still smells of leather! So I tried the damn thing out.  Worked out how to load the film which as completely foreign to me but still doable and not too demanding even for me.  It is supposed to be the street photography camera par excellence for a few reasons.  Firstly it looks pretty sexy around my neck and the leather is top notch without necessarily having a leather fetish, but each to his own!  You can use zone focussing with the lens as you can see at such and such an F-stop, the part of your photo which will be in focus is shown on the lens.  There is no mirror that slaps up, and the camera is relatively silent, and can be used to close to your subject and get that trendy and yet timeless street portrait.  Shooting from the hip. 

I can hear you saying, well thank you Ian for all this information.  Really great, and almost useful.  But pray tell, is it any good?  What’s it like to shoot with?  Is it worth me looking into? Can I buy you a Leica M6 for your birthday? 

Well Dear Reader, let me address your interrogations.  Firstly is it any good?  It is definitely slightly sexy and certainly looks the part! I wasn’t used to the focussing of a rangefinder but found the focussing to be spot on.  I’ll let you have a look at the photos and let you judge!  What’s it like to shoot with?  Once you get used to the way a Soviet camera functions it’s actually pretty neat!  What I do like is being able to get my exposition without having to look through the viewfinder.  You know that you’re going to be spot on, and indeed I was.  That’s half the battle won, which is what we’re all about.  It works mate, it works!  You need to be able to get that sot that you want and I think that’s pretty simple to do.  Is it worth me looking into?  All depends on what you’re looking for.  If you can get one for a relatively cheap price then get one just to try out; you can always sell on.  I certainly have no regrets and it’s still in my collection which just goes to show you!  Can I buy you a Leica M6 for your birthday?  Who am I to refuse such generosity?

The photos in this article were taken in Montaigu, Vendée  in 2016 and feature my daughter.  The film is Illford XP, which is a black and white film that is developed with colour film chemicals and processes.  C41 for those in the know.  It’s always strange seeing photos from nearly 6 years ago and I remember that outing with my daughter as if it were yesterday.  It was one of the ways I used to cope with my depression.  I might not know what day it was but I remember taking each photo.  We all cope in our own individual ways I suppose…

Rest and Recuperation

Rest and recuperation, or R and R for those who know, is so underrated in these modern times where being busy is seen as being a virtue and shows how very productive you are, and yet it is vital and something we so badly need.  Yes, I’m talking to you burnt out millennials who are just seeking validation by being so into your careers to replace the love you didn’t get from your baby boomer parents.   You’re still not as screwed up as Generation X who are experts in coping with mental health. When we were kids, we just didn’t talk about it and it has led to a generation of very “interesting” people.

Anyway.  Rest and Recuperation. The clue is in the name.  For those who don’t know me, I’ll bring you up to date.  I suffer from Arthritis in my right knee and have been limping for what seems like forever, and it hurts like buggery.  I gradually have got into CBD oil in a big way and enjoy the relief it gives me, but it’s just enough to keep me vertical.  I know I’m rambling, but I want to give you a little context, or even a large context, for the rest of this article.  I also live in France and we enjoy quite a few public holidays, a majority of them being religious holidays, which I always found a tad strange for such a fiercely secular country where “laïcité” is the national religion!  So the 1st of November is All Saints’ Day, where the French will go to the cemeteries to put chrysanthemums on the gravesides of the dead, and remember what the people were like and reflect on their own personal histories.  Note to self, if I ever get flowers for my mother in law, it might be wise to get anything but Chysantemums…  I might be sending the wrong message otherwise.  In the UK, they’re a flower like any other but here they’re just for dead people.  Halloween isn’t as big over here as it is In Ireland, the UK, or the US, but Gen Z have worked out the trick or treat thing and are well into it!  So it might decide to stay after all.  In the John Mc Byrne pub, they had a right old knees up and were all dressed up!  I decided to decline.  I was resting.

Now we’re getting to the crux of this article.  As of Thursday, I have been suffering from a cold.  That’s bollocks, I’ve been dying of Man-Flu.   My nose turned into a water fountain, and for two days the tap was open and I felt awful.  Thank you brothers for your solidarity and good wishes.  But I was able to get into the car and get to work and therefore not dead, and able to work, even off my head.  Fortunately, I wasn’t working on Friday afternoon, so, was free.  My wife had left on Thursday morning to go and see her mother, minus the chrysanthemums, and would only be coming back on Sunday.  Feeling like death I thought the best thing was just to go to bed and stay there for as long as possible.  Fortune shone on me again, and there was no Friday night OHC rehearsal (insert plug here for our concert “the Planets” on the 14th of November, tickets still available here, and don’t forget the comfy seats…)  I had my dog sleeping next to me in her basket on my bedroom floor.  I would go down from time to let her do her two p’s.  Pees and poops. 

I had a call from my son asking if he could come home with a couple of friends for a soirée.  I agreed on the basis that there would be no noise and they would leave the living room (which was to become the drinking room) spotless the next day.  The friends would kip on the pull out sofa in the living room.  At least nobody would have to drive.  I drifted between sleep, going to the loo in the middle of the night, and then back to sleep.  I had a Vicks vapour stick, and by then my nose was leaking less and was staying relatively dry.  I took the dog down at 10 am to let her do her business and saw two of my son’s friends asleep on my sofa and I could not get into the kitchen.  The huge sofa bed takes up quite a lot of space.  It’s always delicate when people are staying over…

I went back down at 3pm feeling a little peckish, but they were still out for the count.  There was only one thing to do.  Get in the car, and go to MacDonalds to get my lunch.  I got back and saw my son coming out of his room looking somewhat delicate, he asked where I had been and explained why, and he just said, oh yeah and went back into his room.  I must have gone back to sleep because when I woke up they had taken the dog with them but the living room was spotless!  #DadGoals!

My wife and daughter arrived on Sunday at what seemed like mid-afternoon, and so it passed.  The house was no longer quiet.  I still rested though.  My daughter went out with some of her friends in the quest for sweets, and my wife filled up a whole bowl with sweets for children coming ringing at the door.  I was shouted at for eating some of those sweets but the return to childhood was immediate.  Emotion and food isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Monday came around and I was worried about going to work, and not feeling up to it.

Monday came and went, and on Monday evening that I wasn’t limping and hadn’t taken any CBD.  Maybe Rest and Recuperation go together

The Phenomenon that is Johan de Meij

For my many sins, I am a musician and not just a depressive dude with a camera.  I play the French horn.  Some might even say that I’m a French French horn player, without being corrected by my autocorrect.  So this music thing…  I play the horn in a Wind Band, in Cholet, in the Anjou region of France, with good food and wine.  I wonder what decided me to join them…  There are a series of concerts every year with each concert having a given theme.  This next concert’s theme is about the planets.  The programme will be The Planets, by Gustav Holst, and the third Symphony by Johan de Meij, Planet Earth.

If you want to read Wikipedia to tell you about the Planets by Holst, then you can click here.  I will now give you my version of events.  Gustav Holst, a man with Swedish, German, and Latvian origins but born in England, wrote a series of pieces that made up the Planets Suite.  His ancestors must have settled before Brexit!  This was ground-breaking stuff, akin to Stravinsky and his Rites of Spring.  However, this program is about the planets, so we’ll leave Spring to Igor, the composer and not Frankenstein’s whacky assistant.  As any trailblazer will tell, they just weren’t ready for it man, and that it was ahead of its time, which to be fair, it was.  He started writing the suite in 1914, and the first movement was “Mars, the bringer of War.”  Quite eerie when you think about what happened in 1914.  Composing finished in 1917 and the première took place at Queen’s Hall, on the 29th of September, in 1918.  There were seven movements, and when I was a child, I always wondered why the planet Pluto wasn’t included.  What did they have against Mickey Mouse’s dog???  Then I learnt Pluto was only discovered in 1930.  The poor planet was demoted in 2006 and is no longer considered a planet but is still a heavenly body…  Just like Yours Truly!

This music that first disturbed people, has, over time, and thanks to John Williams, become the music of space and the stars, wars or no wars.  Some have accused John Williams of nicking everything in the first movement, Mars the bringer of War, and using it to compose the music to Star Wars.  I’m not saying he nicked it, but… A nice American gentleman, Charles Cornell, has exposed his point of view in a YouTube video 

When you look at it like that you can get where those people are coming from.  But in a completely nonpartial way, I couldn’t give a flying fart.  Both composers’ music is wonderful, and I think one could call it more homage than pilfering. Mind you, there are certain similarities.

When you look at the Planets Suite, you notice the Earth isn’t mentioned.  One person that noticed this and who could do something about it, is a certain Johan de Meij, whose name is engraved on a plaque on our rehearsal room in the Cholet Conservatoire.  A Dutch trombonist, he moved into composition, arranging, and conducting.  In the Wind Band world, he is very well known and respected.  Nearly all of us will have played some of his music at one stage in our careers.

The third Symphony takes us from the beginning of our Lonely Planet, Planet Earth, ending with Mother Earth.  It isn’t as much a narrative, but a more auditory exposition of ideas in an abstract form.  A soundtrack with electronic sounds helps the symphony become one musical experience as opposed to the classical three separate movements.  Planet Earth really is a continuation of Holst’s Planets.

It’s a whopping significant piece and a joy to play despite a few difficulties to challenge the horn player.  We were very fortunate to have Johan come and visit us, not just to say Hallo, but to explain the piece to us, conduct us and rehearse us.  The poor lad was full of cold, but shared his wisdom and experience with us, which I’m sure will prove itself invaluable for our performance on the 14th of November in the Théâtre Saint Louis in Cholet.  We worked on aural skills listening to the chords and listening to them to adjust the tuning and seeing where we fit into those chords. It might be an insignificant detail to you, but the seats are very comfortable and the acoustics are pretty damned good too!.  Holst couldn’t make it. Must have had something else in his diary for that weekend!