Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yehudi Menuhin

I started reading Yehudi Menuhin's autobiography Unfinished Journey several years ago. Actually, I first found it in a library in Manchester in June 2003! I spent an hour or so browsing it there. But Manchester was a depressing place—it drizzled constantly, and there were basically no trees. So within days we had decided to hire a car and find someplace else to live.

But a few months later I found a second hand copy for sale for £2.50, and grabbed it. Yet I didn't get around to reading it until we'd been back in Australia for some time.

Two years ago, here's the brief review I wrote of what I'd read so far:

In accordance with the book's title, I have only got half-way through this book, and now it must be packed for our move to Mackay. Sigh. Worth reading, although I'm skipping quickly through some of it that I don't find interesting. I'd rather know more about his attitude to the violin (but he says he talks more about that in the latter half, which I haven't got to). I share his opinions of San Francisco (positive) and New York (negative).

Fortunately, he did talk more about violin playing, and music in general, in the latter part of the book. Technique-wise he puts great emphasis on flexibility. He gets a little carried away when he compares the violin to the piano! (“Who could lavish affection on a piano? Or cuddle it, or carry it in his arms, or put it to bed in silk and velvet?”) He also discusses the school he set up in England. He even mentions Suzuki, by whose method I first learnt to play the violin.

His cultural commentary makes very interesting reading. As a travelling performer he has been to many, many different countries around the world, in peace-time and in war. He makes remarkable cultural comparisons based on his experience, for instance in regard to individual performers vs team and chamber players, and the corresponding differences in sight-reading ability.

I especially enjoyed Yehudi Menuhin's stories about his music because in some ways my own musical journey has been quite similar. I also began with violin (though not as early), and later added viola. I also am careful with my diet and (as I get older) with stretching before I play. And I also was an ugly violinist who married a beautiful wife!

The prose is easy to read, although being topically- rather than temporally-organised the story jumps around a little in place and time. My edition includes an index, of mostly names of people and places.

Recommendation: Worth reading if you like biographies or music, especially if you play strings—but beware if your favourite instrument is the piano!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

First, how am I going with last year's? Okay, I think. Viola practice didn't happen quite as often as I'd like, and there is nowhere in Mackay for me to do any rock climbing, but otherwise I think I made some progress.

Some personal goals for this year:

  • Continue working on my drum playing
  • Waste less time (and spend it on worthwhile pursuits instead)
  • Lift my level of prayer, care and giving for missionaries

On a related note, as you may know, a long-time goal of mine has been to put on some weight. I'm pleased to report that my gym program (and carefully-planned diet) is working well, and I am now over 65kg! (That's more than ever before in my life!)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

CMS Summer School '09

CMS Summer School on Mt Tamborine was, as usual, excellent! Mike Raiter led us in some very challenging bible studies through Luke 9–19. We enjoyed fellowship with many old friends and made some new ones. The weather was fabulous, cool and mostly fine—way more pleasant than last year's pouring rain. The music was wonderful: congregational singing led by a few very talented musos, with a good variety of song styles. It is always uplifting to sing praises to God in a 500-strong choir!

This time around, QCCC refused to cater for us. So instead we self-catered in the Prezzy Palace (that's Camp Tamborine officially) kitchen.

And this year, we restrained ourselves somewhat in the bookshop. We only bought half a dozen books (some to be gifts) and four CDs.

Oh, and also: The old Chocolate Kingdom shop on Long St at the Gallery Walk has been sold. It's now selling the same chocolates at double or triple the price! But it turns out the other shop is still there (thanks Rachel!) and still selling Queensland's most delicious chocolates at the same old prices. You'll find it in the little shopping centre at the top of Henri Robert Drive (the Nerang road).

Next year, same place, Friday 1st to Thursday 7th January. See you there!

Friday, January 2, 2009

A red-headed Canadian girl

I finally did it. I finally got around to reading a book that certain friends have been encouraging me to read since … oh, high school if not before. Which was a long time ago. But I'm rambling now.

Anne of Green Gables is an L M Montgomery classic. Anne is an orphan with bright red hair and freckles. The story begins with her adoption by an older pair, a brother and sister living in a small homestead in a provincial village (for want of a better word) on Prince Edward Island. Of course, they were expecting to be adopting a boy, to help out on the farm…

Of course you, dear reader, have probably read the book before, so I won't waste any more time outlining the plot. (Besides, you can go read it yourself anyway.)

I actually think it am better off for having read Anne now, later in life. I would not have understood it to nearly the same depth when I was a teenager (being a boy, and a socially inept one at that). And I certainly would not have coped with the sheer level of detail in the descriptive passages—which Laetitia insisted I read and appreciate when I suggested I might just skim lightly over the first couple. Having now had some exposure to teenage girls as a mature observer, in my role as a high school teacher, I can better understand the stories and characters than I would have back then.

So: An enjoyable book. Definitely a must-read. I cried at the end.