Friday Fun in a flash

The flash mob is a wonderful thing, as long as it’s done well. Fortunately, this week I have a couple that were done extremely well and are probably almost as fun to watch as they were to perform…

First up is one that was emailed to me by a friend’s mother who actually participated in it. Annoyingly, I could have experienced it in the flesh as it took place at St Pancras’ Eurostar terminal, but ironically, I had departed to vicar week from the very same terminal just a few days previously. I defy you not to do some air conducting as you watch it – it is quite literally a classic flash mob… (Though I imagine the orchestra was something of a give away.)

Because I like to show off my connections, I also know someone in the next flash mob – one that I believe went viral while I was in France. One of the singers is my sister’s best friend from uni (her partner in crime for many an inappropriate comedy routine – never go out in public with the two of them) and it’s quite honestly one of the most beautiful things ever to have happened on a train to Watford. [Plus, I am consistently amused that the acronym for the Adam Street Singers is ASS – did they think that through?]

On Wednesday I had an awesome evening with the Swingle Singers, a group who have become so famed for their involvement in flash mobs that they actually worked their set around them. (I am inordinately jealous of the woman who became the centre of attention during a flash mob rendition of Hello by the loveliest Swingle…) Although I know I’ve mentioned it a few times, I don’t think I’ve ever properly featured their original flash mob, so here it is:

And, while we’re on the subject of award winning a cappella vocal groups which involve people that I know, this is an appropriate moment to mention The Songmen, who won not one but two awards at the Tolosa International Choral Contest last week. [No, I hadn’t heard of it either, but this is apparently a big deal.] I highly recommend becoming their fan on Facebook and acquiring their forthcoming album – it has one of the most beautiful renditions of Bright Eyes on it and is generally rather lush*. There’s no video of that track yet, but here’s their interpretation of Mr Bojangles:

*In no way has my brother-in-law paid me to say this. It is purely my own opinion.

As far as I’m aware, The Songmen haven’t been in a flash mob, but it’s probably only a matter of time…

Finally, as we’re on the subject of interesting musical performances, how about a Lady Gaga fugue played on a 250 year old organ? I’m laying that one down as a challenge to church organists everywhere.

Friday Fun returns!

Morning! It’s been many, many weeks in absentium, but today Friday Fun returns. I’m already realising that a working life that does not involve being tethered to a desk 5 days out of 7 has a negative impact upon the amount of fun that one encounters online, but we’ll see how we progress…

Firstly, cunningly related to my new line of work, a video that’s been doing the Facebook rounds since its appearance at the end of last month. Entitled ‘Wrong Worship’, this is a truly excellent parody of how not to sing/write worship songs. The fact that even my High Church sister found it hilarious says a lot…

Of course, it really wouldn’t be Friday Fun without some brilliant TfL geekery. Firstly, some die-hard geekery: did you know that it’s possible to catch westbound Circle Line trains from the same platform as eastbound District Line trains at Tower Hill? [Well, you would if you followed me on Twitter last night…] Plus, as I was told in reply to aforementioned tweet, you can also get a northbound Victoria Line train from Euston to King’s Cross and a northbound Victoria Line train from King’s Cross to Euston. I’m convinced TfL’s sense of direction may be lacking…

But the true TfL geekery (for which I have the lovely Becki to thank) is a site which maps fictional tube stations. It’s basically geekery squared – it includes, for example Vauxhall Cross station from Die Another Day; Crouch End station from Shaun of the Dead [deleted scenes only!]; plus assorted old films, soap operas (Sun Hill and Walford East of course feature) – someone had a lot of time on their hands! But their effort is much appreciated and will be enjoyed by many a lover of TfL, spurious facts and useless trivia.

Oh, and in case you thought it couldn’t get much better, the same people have gathered together links to all the alternative tube maps they could lay their hands on – hours of geographical joy, right there! I particularly enjoyed their own ‘uncluttered’ version (below), one indicating how much of the network is underground (not much really) and the anagrammed version (which I may, or may not, have mentioned before). How very clever.

There, hopefully that’s enough fun to sate you for the weekend ahead. If not, I do apologise and will try harder next week – after all, none of this week’s content was derived from The Hairpin, which is quite an unusual occurrence.


How do you put music into categories?
Broad sweeping statements trying to group similar styles together? How can ‘vocal’ be a category – it could apply to anything with any singing in it!
It’s always bothered me slightly that iTunes classifies music in a slightly odd way. If I want to find all the Christian music in my library I have to search for Christian, Worship, Religious or Gospel. Texas, one of the least offensive and most mainstream of bands, is listed as Alternative.
Downloading iTunes 9 last night, I was immediately enraptured by the new genius mix feature – I like my eclectic musical taste to be played effortlessly – but noticed that its basis is in classifications. This is how I’ve ended up with four Soundtrack mixes (out of a total of 12).
Doing some comparing with a friend, who had no soundtrack mixes, we mused over the strangeness of classifications. I also felt a need to defend my soundtrack heavy library. My issue is that, despite my love of musicals, not everything classed as ‘soundtrack’ is that kind of soundtrack. There’s quite a large number of film scores that really, if you’re looking at genres could be classed as classical.
The Simpsons Movie? Largely classical by the wonderful Hans Zimmer.
Carrie? Mostly classical and hugely haunting, with beautiful flute solos.
O Brother Where Art Thou? Awesome vocal score.
Pleasantville? An inspired classical theme with classic tracks alongside it. (Plus, it contains the song I’ve decided will be the first dance at my hypothetical wedding.)
I could go on. Of course, being the good music student that I am, I also know that ‘classical’ can be sub-divided in any number of ways, and if applied strictly only applies to music composed between 1750 & 1825 (approximately), falling between the Baroque and Romantic periods…
You know what, I’m clearly just miffed that I had no classical mix amongst my 12 (my friend had a couple), which I think reflects badly on my music collection and supposed intelligence. I’ll get over it.
But, it means I can share a favourite clip from a favourite movie – The Holiday – in which Jack Black’s character highlights the best in movie scores. Love it, particularly the Dustin Hoffman (ok, I may have got it wrong first time…) cameo. A friend of mine has a similar passion, which is probably how I ended up with so many soundtracks in the first place.

Music: Questions & Lessons

This post started out last night entitled “Goosebumps”, but I didn’t quite like how it turned out, so I’m starting afresh. (An unusual bit of self-editing.)

Recently, I’ve been asking myself some questions:
1. Why am I so fond of repeating a piece of music over and over when I first discover it?
2. What is it that, for me, makes perfect music?
3. What happens when we team music with something else – like film?
4. Why (until 2 days ago) did I own no solo Michael Jackson music?
5. And why, oh why, is my iTunes top 25 most played dominated by the Mamma Mia soundtrack?
As well as thinking about the questions, I’ve been trying to establish some answerers. This is what I’ve got so far…
1. Repition.
This is probably just a saturation thing. When I discover a song/piece that I love, that overwhelms me, that makes me break out in goosebumps all over, I have to hear it again and again. I don’t think it’s uncommon, but I’ve recently (probably thanks to iTunes) noticed how often I do it. It’s also one of my earliest musical memories – trying to listen to Help over and over on my Dad’s old 8-reel (tricky). It was a wonderful moment when I acquired CDs back in the day and the ‘repeat song’ option became available. (Not sure my parents were as happy.)
The current song of the moment is Josh Groban’s Weeping. Yeah, it’s cheesy schmalz, but it’s schmalz with a political heart and its root are South African. I can listen to it over and over, which is exactly what I have been doing at work, thanks to this rather wonderful live version from last year’s Mandela concert:

2. Perfect Music.
Hmmmm, tricky. Critics of my music collection would say cheese, but I think it goes a little deeper than that. It’s about key changes, crescendos, beautiful voices, strings, cadenzas (you’ve got to love a good cadenza; the one in Rhapsody in Blue prompted my learning the clarinet!)….But I think the beauty is that you never know what is it that’s going to get you and pull at your heart strings.
3. Music and something else.
Ok, so the teaming of music with film is as old as well, film. But this last week I had my first experience of live music accompanying film and it produced one of the most powerful musical moments I’ve ever had.
Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace is written to be performed with a film. Like the work, the film covers the beginning of war through to peace: Picture men marching off to war; the building of arms; scenes of violence; dead bodies; nuclear bombs…then there’s a moment of sheer agony. As the famous images of 9/11 unfold before you, the Sopranos launch into hideous discordant sung screaming, then, just as the towers begin to crumble, everything goes silent.
Searching on YouTube there are a few clips – like this one of the Sanctus which includes some footage. But if you’re into that sort of thing, have a bit of a search. Maybe it was because I was sat in the middle of the percussion section, but it was an hour and a quarter of goosebump inducing music.
4. Michael Jackson.
I’m an 80’s baby. I wasn’t a music lover when his greatest solo work came out. Over the years, I’ve resisted the music thanks to the weirdness that went with the personality. (Plus, I was a indie chick Jarvis Cocker fan in 1996 when the Brit Awards controversy took place.) Whilst the Jackson 5 will always mark the true beginning of any party, I’d steered clear of actually owning any of the other stuff.
Then, last Friday morning, listening to the archive tracks being played in memorium I realised that it wasn’t about the man, it was about the music. I had goosebumps and a sudden urge to dance around like a woman possessed. So now, I admit to being one of the people who have contributed to Man in the Mirror being #1 on iTunes. (Though you know why that is? It’s practically the only decent track not on the Number Ones album.)
5. Mamma Mia.
Abba have a lot to answer for. This seems to have become the album I play when I can’t think of anything else to listen to, or just want something comforting. I was utterly dismayed to see that over half the album is now in my top 25 – there’s almost no space left for anything else! This is repitition on a large scale.
I’m never going to have a respectable top 25 again.
My life is no longer worth living.