Mike Vickers' Blog

February 23, 2019

James MacMillan and Colin Currie – made in Scotland

Filed under: Cumnoch Tryst, economics, Education, Music, St Petersburg, World Class — derryvickers @ 7:32 am

Last night, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra (SCO) performed a 60th Birthday concert for James MacMillan: MacMillan conducting two of his pieces Veni, Veni, Emmanuel and Seven Last Words from the Cross.

There was also a short introductory piece by Part. The Seven Last Words from the Cross (1992) was a choral piece and was well done, the SCO Choir gave their best, but I’m not a fan of Choral Works.

But the Veni, Veni, Emmanuel was something out of this world. Colin Currie was stupendous on percussion. Playing everything from snare drums, foot drum, xylophone, vibraphone, dancing everywhere. Excellent backing from the SCO. MacMillan used every possible woodwind instrument and even the strings to provide a deep sound.

What MacMillan has done is to completely integrate modern / jazz with percussion into the classical symphony repertoire.

But in another way, in his Cumnock Tryst, he has brought classical music to the people of Scotland. He established his tryst in Cumnock, an old mining town in Ayrshire, some five years ago and brought a new life to it. OK, just four days a year in the Autumn but the local musicians practice the whole year for the event: He involves the whole town. Last year, the theme was the First World War and to me the centre piece was ‘All the hills and vales alone’ (https://www.thecumnocktryst.com/all-the-hills-and-vales-along) using a forgotten poem by a forgotten Scottish poet Charles Hamilton Sorley. MacMillan brought in singers such as Ian Bostridge, but the choir was local, and the orchestra was the Dalmellington Brass Band backed by the Scottish Ensemble. He was taking the piece on to London where they would use the London Symphony Orchestra.

If we want, in West Lothian, to see what Modern Classical Music can do for our Core Development Towns then we could persuade MacMillan and Currie to give Veni, Veni, Emmanuel in Livingston with the orchestra being one of its many brass bands: he has the skills to transpose the music to brass band as demonstrated with ‘All the hills and vales alone’. Sorry, I may sound pejorative but I’m not. One has only to think of perhaps the greatest symphony of all, Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 played first (almost) to a packed audience in bombed out and besieged Leningrad in 1942.

Free Music Tuition for Schools is a ‘hot potato’ in Scotland , butget’s are short and tuition fees are an easy target.  West Lothian has come to a reasonable compromise with the those that can pay do pay and those that can’t go free.  But people get a kick out of music, and Veni, Veni, Emmanuel is just one that could bring the whole community together, rather than ‘Them and Us’.  The Concert last night at the Queens Hall was filled with the ‘Usual Suspects’ but there were at least 20 children near the back.

 

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February 14, 2019

Babel – and addition

Filed under: Brexit, Europe, History in the making, Music, Politics — derryvickers @ 5:10 pm

I should have included in my last blog the display flashed up during the Babel piece

Brexit cannot be neutral

Not just Venezuela but equally true of Brexit

February 13, 2019

Babel – a piece by the Venezuelan Pianist and Composer Gabriela Montero

Filed under: Music, Politics, War — derryvickers @ 9:29 pm

 Babel

 We have just been to a concert given by the Scottish string orchestra, the Scottish Ensemble.

The programme was called Babel after a new composition by Gabriela Montero and focused on the interplay between Music and Politics.  The music covered the modern period from Shostakovich, Glass, Vasks, and finished with Messiaen ‘Quartet for the End of Time’.  Messiaen wrote it while a prisoner in a German war camp and played it at a camp ‘concert’; the piece this evening was transcribed just for violin and piano; the violin, played by Jonathan Morton leader, sang out piercingly above the piano, played by Montero and you could hear the proverbial pin drop.  Written I understand for cello, violin, piano and clarinet certainly didn’t suffer for the transcription.

The Shostakovich was his Chamber Symphony written after the death of Stalin and a lot freer because of it ;  while the Philip Glass featured two violins first in dissonance but finishing in harmony but backed by the full strings. The Vasks in contrast brought in the Environment and very much the personal.

 But the centre piece was written and played by Gabriela Montero called ‘Babel’ and the music centred around political unrest in Venezuela.  Montero is Venezuelan and present-day Venezuela hurts her, and this piece of music was written before the latest turbulent event. The piece is for piano with Montero playing piano and for strings, the Scottish Ensemble being a string orchestra made the most of it; hurt mixed with laughter.

The Scottish Ensemble wins hands down of all the orchestras we go to.  They act as one and clearly enjoy playing together, as they did this evening.  A lot of this night’s music was painful, the Messiaen in particular, while the Vasks piece had a serenity and the Glass had a rhythm and repetition that mirrors the modern world.   We were asked to hold off clapping till the end but when the end came the applause was overwhelming.  This was enhanced by Gabriela Montero pulling out of dress a Venezuelan Flag and bowing; the audience was cheered.

 Gabriela Montero talking on her new piece if you would like at

 https://scottishensemble.co.uk/magazine/venezuelan-pianist-gabriela-montero-discusses-her-new-piece-babel/

 

February 10, 2019

Elizabeth Warren runs for President of the US

Filed under: History in the making, Left Politics, USA — derryvickers @ 8:11 am

Here  she goes

If she achieves domination for the Democratic Ticket she will give Trump a run for his money

Lovely set of pictures

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/gallery/2019/feb/09/elizabeth-warren-launches-2020-presidential-campaign

February 8, 2019

Brexit – A Way Forward?

Filed under: Brexit, Politics — derryvickers @ 7:50 am

I’m against BREXIT if only because I can remember WW2 and to me the existence of EU is an insurance against another major war in Europe.

And we are part of Europe however much the UK government believes we are an island apart.

We gain by being in the EU and I travel often to Italy (which itself is going through a difficult period)

I note:

Mr Tusk said yesterday: “I’ve been wondering what a special place in hell looks like for people who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it out safely.”

I could follow this with the tweet by Mr Verhofstadt on the Brexiters:

“Well, I doubt Lucifer would welcome them, as after what they did to Britain, they would even manage to divide hell.”

Jeremy Corbyn’s five tests (tests look better than May’s red lines) in his letter to Theresa May:

  • A “permanent and comprehensive UK-wide customs union”, including a say in future trade deals.
  • Close alignment with the single market, underpinned by “shared institutions”.
  • “Dynamic alignment on rights and protections”, so that UK standards do not fall behind those of the EU.
  • Clear commitments on future UK participation in EU agencies and funding programmes.
  • Unambiguous agreements on future security arrangements, such as use of the European arrest warrant.

 

These are all good, but I regret that Corbyn says nothing on Migration even of EU citizens.  Not surprising given what I have written above; EU Migration is, to me, the most serious issue of Brexit.  Even where we are now we failed to join Schengen.

I do not agree that the UK will NOT recover from Brexit: of course it will, as indeed will Scotland; but why go through the depression.

I agree with the article in the Guardian by Gina Miller

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/06/theresa-may-plan-doomed-deal-work-donald-tusk

Gina Miller is the lady who took the Westminster Executive to the Supreme Court and won.   The UK parliament does have a vote in the Brexit Deal.

Anyway, Miller’s proposal in her ‘letter’ to May looks to have benefit.  Odd that she brings up Cameron’s agreed changes to the UK’s position in relation to the EU and those all look a sensible balance in hindsight.
She writes:

I implore you to seek to restart the constructive dialogue that your predecessor, David Cameron, began with Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, which showed real promise in terms of addressing the issues that were, just a few months later, to dominate the referendum debate.”

She agrees that the EU needs reforming and how better to do so than from the inside; a point made by Gordon Brown.

In my view:

  • Brexit will occur. A second referendum will come to the same conclusion as the first.
  • Exit Day needs putting back to the end of the year
  • The Tusk Package agree by Cameron could form the heart of the new deal
  • Corbyn’s five requirements need to be incorporated.
  • But they must be augmented by a sixth: the free movement of European citizens.  A Brexit meeting I went to last week Mike Russell stated that Scotland needs immigrants from Europe to fill vital jobs and pay taxes; and it’s not just the top ones.

Looking at the Cameron / Tusk Deal, On Immigration it stated

On in-work benefits: The Council would authorise that Member State to limit the access of newly arriving EU workers to non-contributory in-work benefits for a total period of up to four years from the commencement of employment. The limitation should be graduated, from an initial complete exclusion but gradually increasing access to such benefits to take account of the growing connection of the worker with the labour market of the host Member State. The authorisation would have a limited duration and apply to EU workers newly arriving during a period of 7 years.”

This looks to as a sensible balance and something that the Leavers might accept and would satisfy me as a Remainer.

You can find the BBC reporting of the Tusk Deal at:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-eu-referendum-35622105

The UK has lost its sense of Balance.

And, as one brought up South of the Border and drowning in ‘English’ history, Balance has been one of the good aspects of English Democracy as it has evolved since Magna Carta and even before.

November 12, 2018

Armistice Day and Brexit

Filed under: Anna Soubry, Brexit, History in the making, In Our Time, War — derryvickers @ 8:07 am

I feel I had to say something on this Armistice Day.

I went to no church service, I only looked at the pictures on the web, but I did stand two minutes quietly alone at 11am.

Armistice dictates that at least we must be part of the Common Market, and I believe we should provide open access to Europeans to this country.

I find it totally ironic that on the Day we remember the horrific First World War that we, at the same time, struggle to leave the Europeans in the lurch; at this moment in time they need us as much as we need them. It was Churchill after the Second World War who enunciated the need for a Unite Europe; not just Magnanimity in Victory but a necessity in the hope that we don’t enter into a third world war.

I am not a Tory, but I have now a great deal of sympathy for Theresa May. She was given an excruciating hand by Cameron; yes, she needn’t have picked it up but in retrospect there was no one else. I can only hope that May can create something out of the ashes. Yes, a second vote would be best, but I worry that the people would be given anything coherent to choose between.

October 27, 2018

The Second Coming – WB Yeats

Filed under: Anna Soubry, Brexit, Europe, History in the making, Italian, Poetry, Politics, Yeats — derryvickers @ 10:06 pm

La Seconda Venuta

Girando e girando in allargamento gyre

Il falco non può udire il falconiere;

Le cose cadono a pezzi; il centro non può reggere;

La mera anarchia è sciolta sul mondo,

Il sangue oscurato marea è sciolto, e ovunque

La cerimonia dell’innocenza è annegata;

La migliore mancanza di ogni convinzione, mentre il peggiore

Sono piene di intensità passionale.

 

Per leggere il resto  della poesia vedere poesia la Seconda Venuta da W B Yeats

It’s an uncomfortable Truth but many now believe Brexit can’t be delivered – by Anna Soubry

Filed under: Anna Soubry, Brexit, Europe, History in the making, Ireland, Italian, Politics — derryvickers @ 9:50 pm
Per i miei amici italiani

È una verità scomoda, ma molti ora credono che Brexit non può essere consegnato.

Non mi fa piacere osservare il caos e la confusione dei negoziati Brexit. Non dubito che il nostro primo ministro abbia fatto della sua meglio per fornire il risultato del referendum UE e lasciare l’Unione europea.

Ma come molti ora vedono, non è solo molto più complesso e difficile di quanto si creda o sia stato detto, cercando di trovare un Brexit che soddisfa la domanda di molti che vogliono lasciare, pur garantendo la pace in Irlanda del Nord, è quasi, ma impossibile. Comitato di selezione dell’Irlanda del nord in Parlamento, i cui membri sono quasi esclusivamente sostenitori del congedo duro, ha prodotto una lunga e ponderata relazione su come evitare una linea duro tra l’Irlanda del Nord e la Repubblica.

Hanno concluso che non vi è alcuna tecnologia per risolvere il problema e ha riconosciuto l’importanza di assicurarsi che il vecchio confine fisso non ritorni.

La libera circolazione delle persone e delle merci attraverso il confine è fondamentale per il mantenimento della pace. È anche molto utile per le imprese in tutto il Regno Unito.
Quando lasciamo l’Unione europea, siamo impostiamo a lasciare l’Unione doganale e il mercato unico che permette quello che chiamiamo commercio senza attrito-che permette la libera circolazione.

La nostra adesione continua al mercato unico e all’Unione doganale è anche ciò che gli imprese britannici vogliono poiché sono fondamentali per fornire prosperità e posti di lavoro.

Ma il primo ministro e molti sostenitori di Brexit, in particolare in Parlamento, insistono che dobbiamo lasciare entrambi e fare qualche nuovo accordo commerciale con l’Unione europea.

Basato su un Blog di Anna Soubry

Regno Unito Parlamento MP

October 19, 2018

It’s an uncomfortable truth but many now believe Brexit can’t be delivered

Filed under: Brexit, History in the making, Politics — derryvickers @ 9:56 am

I am not a Tory but Anna Soubry has it right.

_______________

It gives me no pleasure to observe the chaos and mess of the Brexit negotiations. I do not doubt our Prime Minister has done her best to deliver the result of the EU Referendum and leave the EU. But as many now see, it is not only considerably more complex and difficult than anyone believed or was told, trying to find a Brexit that meets the demand of many Leavers whilst securing peace in Northern Ireland is all but impossible. Parliament’s Northern Ireland Select Committee, whose members are almost exclusively fierce Leave supporters, produced a lengthy and considered report on how to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. They concluded there is no technology to solve the problem and recognised the importance of making sure the old fixed border did not return.
The free movement of people and goods across the border is critical to the maintenance of peace. It is also very good for business across the United Kingdom.
When we leave the EU we are set to leave the Customs Union and Single Market which allows what we call frictionless trade – that free movement. As you know I have argued and voted for both, notwithstanding the threats of de-selection, violence and considerable abuse.
Our continuing membership of the Single Market and the Customs Union is also what British business wants as they are critical to the delivery of prosperity and jobs. But the Prime Minister and many Leave supporters, notably in Parliament, insist we must leave both and strike some new trade arrangement with the EU.
You were promised such a deal would be sorted before we leave the EU next March. Those negotiations have barely begun and there will be no deal to implement in March. So, some “back stop” is needed to ensure there is no hard border in Northern Ireland until the technology is developed or some magical trade deal is agreed that confers the free movement of a soft border.
As we saw last weekend, the Cabinet and parts of my party can’t even agree on that back stop. The reason, I am sorry to say, is both stubbornness over “red lines” and ideology.
But there is also this, and it is an argument I admit is powerful. If we stay in some form of Customs Union and/or the Single Market, we have no say over the rules that would govern our trade – we would be a rule taker not a rule maker, even though we would be paying a lot of money in effect for membership of both. Many argue they voted leave to restore our country’s sovereignty (I don’t believe we ever lost it) but in any event, they make an important point.
We cannot walk away without any deal as the consequences would be profound and I do not see any prospect now of Parliament agreeing to any deal.
There was such a time but the Prime Minister failed to seize that opportunity and build a consensus which would unite our country.
The only solution to the mess and chaos in my opinion and amongst a growing number of colleagues, is a People’s Vote – to take this most important matter for decades back to you the people. That’s what I shall be marching for in London tomorrow. Let me know if you would like to join me.

I [Anna Soubry] asked the Prime Minister a question in the above terms on Monday and you can read it here and watch it here

October 14, 2018

Festival of Politics

Filed under: Edinburgh Festival, History in the making, Land Ownership, Politics, Scotland — derryvickers @ 8:29 pm

For the last 15 years The Scottish Parliament has been holding a Festival of Politics.  The festival typically provides 20 events: talks and panels on topics of political interest both current and from the past,  local and world wide.  I have attended for the last three years and below I provide very brief summaries as to what I picked up from the 5 events I attended this year.

Red Clydesiders

Panel: Maggie Craig (Writer on Scotland); Billy Kendrick (from Dundee and it showed); Prof Ian McClean (Oxford University) and Monica Lennon MSP Chair (Labour, Central Scotland).

Introductions by all on Red Clydeside but see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red Clydeside for more.

The speakers emphasised the role of women in the strikes and the movement as a whole; MC in particular considered that the role was / is almost wholly ignored.

Religious intolerance rife during the WW1 War Years.

Names of the persona were remembered. There should be a plaque in 2019 to recognise Red Clydeside.

The real start of the Labour Party (ILP) but the Communist association had been around for some time. Council Housing after WW1 was good quality but has got worse ever since (IM).

The current problem with the Labour Party is the lack of leaders.

What Glasgow did, Dundee did it too (BK).

People Parliaments Possibilities

Panel: Birgitta Jonsdottir (Iceland, mother and political activist: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birgitta_J%C3%B3nsd%C3%B3ttir); Brett Hennig (Sortition Foundation, Australian); Jamie Kelsey-Fry (professional panellist) and Shelagh Wright Chair (daughter of Canon Kenyon Wright).

BJ described drawing up the proposed constitution for Iceland; she was very proud of the work done. But constitution so far rejected by the parliament.

Current Elections ‘aristocratic’.

BK: Democracy by random selected committee (Sortition); applied in Ireland for change to Abortion Laws group assembled for a few weeks and then became the then current law.

JKF: throw out everything, economics is broken and start again even the laws; Taxation is politics. Remember the Occupation of St Pauls. All the good work being done in Madrid by new woman mayor; Frome is moving this way.

All agreed that the Young should lead the way.

 

In Conversation with Dame Margaret Hodge held in the main council chamber

Ken Macintosh (Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament)

Margaret Hodge one-time Chair of the UK Public Accounts Committee 2010-15

MH, a Jew, came out of Germany before WW2; Welcomed into the UK in London and became a Labour supporter immediately and still is; she is still an MP for Barking.

An economist by trade

She was Council Leader for Islington and remembers Jeremy Corbyn well (MP for Islington North). Corbyn is still quoting the same policies he said 20 years ago

Have never been close friends leading to Corbyn’s Anti-Semitism remarks direct at Hodge.

Not a practising Jew and critic of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians but still fell out with Corbyn

She managed the Public Accounts Committee through consensus. Her track record was 246 out of 247 successes. Lost the Royal Mail privatisation which she most regrets. Journalists can be on your side through good relations but its so easy to lose connections.

One needs to recognise the value of money

Auditors help Governments to set the rules then sell themselves to large companies to circumvent the rules. This is immoral.

She was persuaded to put one person under investigation under Oath but then couldn’t find a Bible. Since then she believes that putting people under Oath is correct. Money Laundering is rife.

The HMRC make tax deals but as the HMRC is not a ministerial organisation these deals remain undisclosed: this needs correction.

Governments are little better: the justification for the two aircraft carriers was not forthcoming by Gordon Brown.

Global Companies are not moral despite what they state. Needs to be one unified global set of accounts. Facebook has never been held to account.

Final words; Build Trust, Connect with People, still supports Labour values.

 

A Forgotten History: The Scottish Clearances

In Conversation with Tom Devine held in the main council chamber

Ken Macintosh (Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

Professor Tom Devine: historian of Scotland – excellent speaker

Professor Stana Nenadic in attendance

The Main debating chamber was full as well as the public gallery

The Clearances: forgotten – well not by the audience!

The subject was Tom Devine’s new book on the Scottish Clearances. He frequently emphasised that his book is totally underpinned by historical research over 30 years.

TD has given as much attention to the Lowland Clearances as to the Highlands. He doesn’t dismiss the Highland Clearances but considers they have been for the last 150 years romanticised. John Pebble’s book is a good read, sold over 25,000 copies, but has a lot to answer for; Victorianism has not helped.

Tartan Products are the best-known brand worldwide. TD considers the Lowland Clearances started first and Lowland Managers migrated with the lessons they learned to the Highlands. TD considers the Lowland clearances were much more subtle; a tenancy agreement came to an end and the tenant was out. In the Highlands durcus (correct word please) remained strong and new landlords with little interest in it just deposed the crofters.

SN believes a major driver of the clearances was the landlords’ need for money to support their elevated life style (conspicuous consumption); gentrification.  Typically, families would have ten or more sons who just couldn’t be supported on the land; joined the army and were with their tenants the backbone of the imperial regiments about, Waterloo. Their tartans help builds the brand.

 

Who Owns and Stewards Scotland

Panel: Andy Wightman (the Poor had no Lawyers); Bob MacIntosh (Land Commission); Ninian Stuart (Centre for Stewardship); David Johnson (Scottish Land and Estates Commission) and in the chair Deputy Presiding Officer – Name please.

There are few owners of land in Scotland; most small farmers are tenants. Agreed that the drive must be to get more young people under 30 on to the land.

Land value is very difficult to assess; AW land value near towns gets out of control once planning permission sort.

Land Value Tax brought up, but DJ said many reasons why difficult to quantify.

House prices fluctuate widely cf Germany where prices have been stable of years; the Germans heavy investment deposited in banks which is reinvested in new businesses.

Secure Tenancy is drying up as landlords unwilling to be unable to terminate at tenancy end. Nevertheless, Land is still a free market.

Brexit will make a difference in subsidies and margins which are already very small will reduce further.

Climate change will drive tree planting and NS is keen on huts but not holiday homes.

DJ expressed the need for much better understanding across the communities

Government needs to be more active in stewardship and technology is becoming very important.

The Land Register is improving. Common Good needs to be better document (AW).

AW is looking forward to a new Land Reform Bill hopefully next years

But surprising the meeting was low key with little acrimony.

If I could have remembered the Author I would have stood up and quoted Mark Twain

“Buy land. They ain’t making any more of the stuff.”

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