Serendipities; and introducing my ‘killer’ 45 track compilation flamenco album on Nascente label – The Beginner’s Guide to Flamenco
Good karma is around me in a huge way: I am sticking images in books that I have gleaned over the years and that merely seem to present themselves to the pritt stick and it is giving me such a buzz I can’t tell you. All my review tickets from 2000 plus cinema and other rrips all in art books now and another book of fave cards and photos and lttile letters and things. And I have boxed up all the letters I wrote to my parents from Chile in 1971-3… (argh very emotional and so intense…line after tight line of typing must have been crazy to try and read them).
Two amazing things have happened which are serendipitous that have made my soul sing: for each of my children I did a birth book of all the cards, telegrams (yes back in the day), messages, letters and drawings their siblings made at the time (not for Rachel she was the first) and other such stuff, and the newspaper Guardian delivered on the day of their birth. I have masses of photograph albums I stuck photos into for years I am that way inclined. Anyway for my third child Frances Amy born September 16th 1982 in the bedroom downstairs I mislaid all her memorabilia and it has dogged me as a sadness that she has no such book.
Then the other morning I went downstairs to search for a book in the archive boxes in my cellar, and it was silly to do it alone, and my legs were trembling, and I sat down to take my breath and I spied a box with a clutch of brown envelopes from my Ph.D feedback from audience research on which songs they remembered most in the performance (never published that either but it was the songs the group wanted them most ot rmember…). And I saw this folded newspaper behind it and hey presto there was Fran’s borth day memorabilia, safe and sound, just completely in the wrong place. Such a fantastic treasure trove and thing to happen. Fran and I sat on the couch last night and read it all through: last letters from my Great Uncle Jim, aged 78, and my Great Aunt Agnes aged similar, both in Birkenhead (although Jim a train driver was born in Leith Walk Edinburgh, like most of my Grandad’s family (his father lost his job in the depression and taking the family down to Southampton to find work stopped in Birkenhead on the way, where family story has it he broke his leg, and ended up working for Cammell Laird’s Shipyards like my Grandad Arthur did after him). The cards include other voices of the family; and the medical cards of the the midwives who delivered Fran: I was only covered for home birth ten days each side of my due date, and it was eleven days when I went into labour. So the midwives, when we rang them, joked and said, ‘cross your legs for 24 hours’. Fran was born in the bedroom downstairs and the only doctor I could get them to agree do a home birth at that time (my own Dr Johnston would do it like Tom as hospital delivery and then cover me at home, which indeed he did for Fran i.e came afterwards) .Anyway the Dr who did it told me to have her in the middle of the night as he would be able to get across town in tim eas he was based Blackhall which is good 40 mins away … so I obliged! and Fran was born by an early breakfast (I remember wholemeal toast, raspberrry jam and tea) and then Tom and Rachel woke up to a baby in the bedroom!
The other serendipity is that I was cleaning and organising papers and photographs on shelf outside living room where I keep such things and re-organising art books, and I came across a thick brown envelope marked Platt family (which is my ex husband family) and there was note from his Dad for him on his birthday must have been just as he left here in 1989 around his birthday in the February or similar. And it has all the photos of the Platt family who fled pogroms in Poland and ended up in Salford owning factories: so another amazing treasure trove find for the family.
Musician Nuala Kennedy just sent me the most gorgeous piece of music called Camino by her mate Oliver in which she achieves the most sonorous beauty I can imagine, the arch of the violin soars. I walked the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in 2007 and the names of the music evokes those days on the road in Galicia and other parts and meeting old people in hamlets and villages out for their daily constitutional stroll often with sticks – we had snow then sunshine all the way. I took a photo diary of the journey and will try and get some of the photos up on my Facebook pages. – I organised my own photographic exhibition called ‘Old Women and some Old Men’, last December in my house – it is hanging on my stairs today – and it has many of these photos there. My mate Nick Bowry is walking the Camino at the moment on his own: he will meet many folk it is his second time and he is hoping to mend his broken heart – sure he will and have adventures too hopefully.
Oh God glorious music Nuala makes me weep it touches the sky and deep into the earth
henny pennies has wings clipped to stop the flying around garden but one is still managing – such spirit!
Killer flamenco album: Finally I did this thrilling 45 track flamenco compilation for Nascent which has just come out called The Beginner’s Guide to Flamenco. I did one for them about ten yeasr ago same name (but did not like some of the tracks the guy in charge inveigled in); and have done 2 in between for World Music Network. The notes are always good and the choice excellent even if I say it myself. This last one is stunning- I was ill when asked so I just went for it in a different way and have pulled together a selection that is i think attractive and maybe unbeatable . I think as it has much material never available really, save via Internet Spain before and mixes young and cutting edge with family Jerez flamenco and older pieces and all in all I am very happy with it. Mary Anne Kennedy has been playing it on her BC Radio Scot,and and radio 3 programmes and now Lucy Duran will review it with a group of pundits in the studio for World Routes this Sunday evening: Jane Cornwell, Robin dense low and Lucy. I am so pleased about that. I am giving copies to firens as they come ( got a box or too thank you Lewis Robinson of Nacsnete a wonderful man to work with) and if you fancy it why not ! buy it on line or pop by and if I have one I will give you one!! it is distributed through major shops and supermarkets I believe. It is dedicated to four key flamenco people who died in recent years: pioneering Nuevos Medios record company boss and friend Mario Pacheco; singers Enrique Morente and El Terremoto and guitarist Moraíto.
I have been dancing flamenco (rather basically but how I adore my black suede flamenco shoes with their tiny metal nails on toe and heel) since the 1990s: first with Tracey then with María ‘Tote’ Conte then latterly with Saliha at El Alba / El Bar in Edinburgh. And I went to Seville Bienal and to Jerez festivals for various years, latterly Jerez 2008 2009 2010 2011 (indeed was taken off plane to hosoital there ill in 2011, which when I got back home was colon cancer operation time, yet I still managed to dance at clasess and go to flamenco every night for a good week!). Jerez is the crucible of flamenco today, where it all happens and where the Santiago neighbourhood is still very gypsy. And I met many flamencos over the years (thank you Manuel Macías for taking me on the Andaluz Flamenco Routes). And I interviewed many of them, even Enrique Morente whose home I visited in Granada having met him at WOMAD – and including man of the moment Miguel Poveda; and wrote about them for Songlines and fRoots and The Guardian (thank you Imogen Tilden even if I had to fight to get it on the website for all sorts of silly reasons); also the programme notes for the Sadler’s Wells Flamenco festival one year (although the girl in charge of programme notes rather young hated the fact that I took a feminist slant as all the new choreographers and women in charge of encouraging flamenco in Spain where women!).
I have to thank Mark Ellingham and Simon Broughton of the Rough Guides for asking me to write about flamenco for the Rough Guide to World Music, the world music bible back in the 90s and 2000+, as they made me get to grips with flamenco through reading everything I could find and I got better and more knowledge as time passed and like to think I am a bit of an expert now. Thanks to everyone at the Villamarta Theatre Festival de Jerez; to Estela Zatania; and to all the flamencos I have met! Viva! What a lucky woman I have been! Wahta thrilling life I have had what amzing people I have met what extraordinary music I have experienced- ayeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee