“My soul is in the sky.” ~ William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
It’s been a struggle to find time for my blog lately, what with end of term craziness, juggling my ‘working mum’ balls and looking after ginger tabby kittens Simba and Saffron; plus another exciting project I’m keeping under wraps for the time being.
I feel like a little poetry and an inconsequential natter about the weather might hit the spot. We need something to combat the frequent depressing news headlines about Brexit…
The ongoing searing temperatures in the UK have been reminiscent of the summer of 1976. I remember it quite clearly as a slip of a girl: splashing around in the paddling pool with my brother, who to our mum’s dismay, also took an unscheduled plunge into the murky garden pond.
Wow, it’s been a long time since us Brits have really had a decent summer! We always bemoan the drizzly, wet weather that mostly visits our shores, so I have been determined not to complain about the heat. I think we are slowly getting used to it…
A selection of recent tweets about #heatwaveuk
The extreme temperatures have been challenging at times, even my computer is whirring grumpily and refusing to operate at its normal speed. Oh well, school is out for summer as of lunchtime today, and my children are officially on manana time.
Summer is symbolic of life, love and abundance. The opening lyrics to Gershwin’s jazz aria ‘Summertime’ from his opera Porgy and Bess springs to mind.
Summertime, and the livin’ is easy… Well, at least it’s meant to be.
Mostly people are more relaxed and tend to be quite sociable; we spend more time enjoying nature and outdoor pursuits. And who doesn’t love alfresco dining on balmy evenings?
My brood have always loved the simple pleasure of picnics and barbecues with friends and family. It’s been so hot lately we’ve been able to take a few refreshing dips in the Wycombe Rye Lido.
I feel like celebrating with a light-hearted mix of music, art and poetry, and perhaps a sip or two of Pimms and lemonade, hic!
As a mum I also love that my never-ending laundry dries in a nanosecond at the moment!
But can we have too much of a good thing?
Not when it comes to music.
Rimsky Korsakov – Flight of the Bumblebee with the Russian National Orchestra and Mikhail Pletnev:
Mendelssohn – Scherzo from A Midsummer Night’s Dream for clarinet and piano with Alexey Gorokholinsky and Vassily Primakov:
In the summer of 1717 composer Georg Friedrich Händel was commissioned by King George I to write some suitably regal music to accompany his grand flotilla of royal boats as they set sail down the river Thames. The result was his Water Music Suite in F Major, HWV 348 performed by fifty musicians (a large number for the time period), on the banks of the river.
It must have been quite an occasion, one that’s easy to visualise when you listen to the English Baroque Soloists with Sir John Eliot Gardiner:
Intense heat: blasting, humid, relentless, baking the land,
Verdant, manicured lawns – turning the colour of sand
Butterflies dance and flit among hazy meadows,
Pollen seeking bees casually meander in hedgerows.
English roses, wild and cultivated, open then wilt,
The cadence of nature’s eternal rhythm and lilt
Soft, sweet flesh of fruits, hastens to ripe,
Even walking makes damp brows to wipe.
Hear the birds, chirping in a chorus of mirth,
Eager to pluck juicy worms from parched earth
Heady scent of honeysuckle hangs in the air,
Long, lethargic days, perfect for a summer fair.
Skin craves the cooling caress of a soft breeze,
Throw off layers, constraints; wander like Uylsses
Seeking adventure across kingdoms, never to yield,
Abundance thrives, opening up a flower filled field.
Torpid days fade away in vibrant, orangey balls,
Horizons bathed in luminous hues, as darkness falls
My thoughts drift like weightless dandelion seeds,
Scattered. Where they will land? Which will take heed?
Summer’s gifts are bountiful; but no rain drops!
Without swimming, drinking or bathing we flop;
Halted, by an unquenchable thirst, dehydrated pores,
Water, wine and crisp cider are liberally poured.
The last summer I remember as this, was seventy-six,
A young girl was I, unburdened by politics – polemics
Carefree in the garden, to dream of woodland sprites,
Tales by Barrie and Shakespeare create magical nights.
By Virginia Burges
The Adagio from Vivaldi’s Concerto for solo baroque violin and strings in G Minor, ‘Summer’ (L’Estate, RV 315), performed by Cynthia Miller Freivogel and the early music ensemble, Voices of Music beautifully captures the languor of a hot, humid day:
Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.
Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.
The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.
Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.
Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Frederick Delius composed ‘Summer Night on the River’ after being inspired by the sights and sounds of the River Loing, which he would sit and ponder during long evenings from the back of his villa in the village of Grez. The impressionist tone poem recreates the gentle lapping of the waves and boats bobbing in the summer breeze:
Staying on a nautical theme, Debussy’s En Bateau makes me want to be in and on the water, especially with Fritz Kreisler at the helm!
Anthony Hopkins reads The Lake Isle of Innisfree by W.B. Yeats:
Summer set lip to earth’s bosom bare;
And left the flushed print in a poppy there:
Like a yawn of fire from the grass it came,
And the fanning wind puffed it to flapping flame.
By Francis Thompson
Maurice Ravel’s iconic ballet Boléro, with its hypnotic drum beat and mesmerising flute melody, building up slowly and deliberately to a dramatic conclusion is perfect for sultry summer nights.
Ravel worked on Boléro over the Summer of 1927 at the behest of the Russian actress and dancer, Ida Rubinstein. Here is a wonderful ballet version choreographed by Maurice Bejart with Nicolas Le Riche and orchestre de Paris:
I can’t end without the bard’s immortal Sonnet No. 18 – Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Tom Hiddleston’s velvet voice was meant for Shakespeare:
Have a fabulous, sizzling summer!