Hello readers. It is your pal Ian again. I recently went to London for the weekend. Now I will tell you about some things I saw there.
On a Saturday afternoon we made our way to the Royal Festival Hall in the South Bank Centre to see Richard Thompson do his One Thousand Years of Popular Music show as part of the Meltdown Festival. This had been our consolation prize for not making it to the sold-out concert he was doing with Loudon Wainwright that evening. In retrospect, though, I think we must have won, as it is hard to think of anything that could have topped this. The format of the concert allows Thompson (and his two lady companions) to play a fascinating range of tunes from the European musical past, then with a couple of interesting interpretations of numbers from more recent decades.
There were two highlights for me. Firstly, what Thompson introduced as a "bad mother" tune, a Scottish ditty called 'Bonnie St. Johnston', about a woman giving birth in the woods and then killing her children. In structure, it was like grim Irish traditional tune 'The well below the valley', but it differs in offering no explanation whatsoever for why the woman is killing her progeny; the listeners draw their own conclusions. The other highlight was Thompson's folk-rock version of Britney Spears' Max Martin composed classic 'Ooops, I did it again'. It bops along amazingly, reminding me of how I could really do with a Britney best-of compilation in my life but cannot really face buying a record with Britney in her underwear on the cover.
Thompson asserts that 'Ooops' is musically similar to Italian renaissance dance music. To ram the point home, his version breaks in the middle and is then performed in just such a style. It was all very forsooth.
Later that afternoon we nipped out to Spitalfields where, in the market venue, there was a variety of funny musical stuff going on. We would have stayed for a free concert of music by that Greek musician (Zemackis? Zenakis? I am not great with names), but the pie shop was closed and we had to go elsewhere in search of sustenance.
EDIT: My glamourous assisant asserts that the Greek composer was none other than Iannis Xenakis.