Category Archives: History

Ann Cruickshank

This Friday sees the retirement of Ann Cruickshank after 33 years of service to Musselburgh Grammar School’s Music Department. As this coincides with the beginning of the October holiday, Ann decided to throw a retirement ceilidh/party last night in Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange. It was a fantastic occasion and Ann was clearly over the moon to be sharing the evening with so many friends and colleagues, past and present.

The ceilidh music was provided by Laurie Crump and friends. Laurie is the husband of MGS’s universally popular, and boundlessly talented Woodwind Instructor, Juliet Aspley. Between ceilidh sets, there were sessions of lovely solo jazz guitar by Robin Robertson.

Lifelong friend and guitar predecessor at MGS, Mike McGeary and I also performed a short, affectionate send-off to Ann. Between us, Mike and I represent 26 years of collegiality with Ann and it’s always nice when a send-off takes the form of the activity that brought us together.

Always one of the first in the building each morning and with barely a day’s absence since 1975, Ann will be a much missed member of staff.

Thanks for everything, Ann, and don’t be a stranger now.

In The Beginning Was The Song

If there’s one thing I like to see it’s the BBC spending my hard-earned cash on repeats – when they are as interesting as one I wrote about last December. You still have 6 days to Listen Again to Ivan Hewitt exploring the origins of music. This subject, still in its infancy, arouses as much controversy as it does interest.

It’s music, Jim, but not as we know it

I’m not really sure what musical dreams are being sold in this video by John Q. Walker – particularly from 9′ 55” to 11′ 18” – but it’s certainly interesting. Without giving the game away, it sounds like a comprehensive, cross-referenced database of musical nuance and human emotion would be required. Perhaps it’s entirely natural to be incredulous of possibilities which lie far in advance of your own lifespan – although in this video interview he concurrs with the estimation of 10 -20 years.

However, there is some great footage of a young Glenn Gould playing some of Bach’s Goldberg Variations (his first of two recordings, separated by 26 years) and some lovely photographs.

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This Youtube video shows the Aria and Variations 1 – 7 from the later recording of 1981. May I recommend the elegant, lyrical fireworks from 7′ 14” to 7′ 50”

Getting in the weekend’s Chopin

An intensive Chopin weekend is underway on Radio 3 – details of programmes here. Interesting programmes include Discovering Music, which takes an analytical look at Chopin’s Four Ballades, and World Routes, which explores the folk music of Chopin’s native Poland.

The dedicated website contains tutorials, a profile and timeline of the composers life, video footage of performances, many external links and, for the interactively minded, an audio quiz. There is also a gallery of photographs relating to Chopin’s fraught holiday in Mallorca in 1838 with George Sand and her children. Sarah Walker‘s programme about this goes out at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon.

One of the tutorials, given by David Owen Norris, outlines the difference between the type of piano for which Chopin wrote and present day pianos. Those familiar with the music will not be surprised to discover that the touch of pianos back then was lighter and shallower, light and rapid playing. Classical guitarists will be familiar with a similar situation. The music of Fernando Sor, Mauro Giuliani, Dionisio Aguado etc. was written for a guitar which was not only smaller than the modern version but had a much lighter action (less tension in the strings). There is an impressive collection of such guitar in the Anne Macaulay Collection of Plucked String Instruments which is housed (alongside other impressive collections) in Edinburgh’s St Cecilia’s Hall.