Posted by & filed under Politics.

You may know a little boy like Vincent. Kept silent for most of the week, his parents only let him out to play on Sunday. He’s not allowed to go far – just to one playground, here in Westminster.

Vincent can be boisterous with his friends, and plays a bit rough. He thinks that as he’s the biggest boy in the playground, he should extend an occasional slap or bite in the direction of the other kids to keep them out of trouble. Vincent usually thinks he’s right and the other kids should listen to him more. Deprived of access to the real world by those who care for him, Vincent finds any change to his routine distressing, and his world has been cruelly upset in recent weeks. His friends have vanished, and he has no-one to play with. Vincent is lonely. He wants his friends to come back. Just read these desperate messages posted on the Internet. I warn you, you might find them upsetting.

    “@vincentmoss: Surely Boris Johnson, David Cameron, Theresa May, local MP David Lammy aren’t ALL on holiday? #tottenham”

“@vincentmoss: … Are statements and tweets good enough from D.Lammy, do you think?  Shouldn’t he be more visible?”

“@vincentmoss: Even London’s *deputy mayor* Kit Malthouse is on the phone to Sky re Tottenham riots, is there no one not on a sun     lounger?”

The truth is, the other kids think Vincent is a bit of a bully, and they’ve gone abroad for a few weeks to have a rest away from him. Vincent Moss is the Political Editor of the Sunday Mirror.

Just £1 will buy Vincent a picture of the Mayor of London, to help ease his pain. £3 will buy a life-sized portrait of David Cameron which Vincent can keep with him at all times. £10 will buy a David Lammy doll. Please, give today.

Vincent is just one of many youngsters left alone and frightened in corners of the Westminster playground this autumn. Have you seen Theresa? Sky’s Mark White is very upset by her sudden disappearance.  This morning Mark made a television appeal for Theresa to issue a statement in response to the Tottenham riots. Mark is frantic with worry, and could barely hide his frustration from the cameras. Mark knows, as surely we all know, that Tottenham will not be able to heal the wounds until Theresa May distributes a press release.

£60 will buy an Easyjet ticket to fly Theresa back to Westminster and get her a cab straight to 4 Millbank. Please, call now.

The howls of indignation from broadcasters and journalists finding the Whitehall Quote Machine a little slower than usual to pump out gobbets for their bulletins are bemusing. In every direction, lesser-spotted lobby hacks are calling for politicians to cut short their holidays and get back to their desks – or better still, the studios.  The same calls have not yet been extended to their senior lobby colleagues, but I feel sure Mark White will be opining the absence of Adam Boulton live on Sky any minute now.

Here’s some breaking news for what’s left of the lobby this August – we know our political masters are on holiday, and we don’t care. At all. If anything, it’s good that they’re having a break. Tired leaders make poor decisions. Do us all a favour, and stop testing whether they’re chained to their BlackBerries every minute of every day.

Boris Johnson cannot re-tarmac Tottenham High Road, but the people who can have already set about about it. David Cameron can’t restore America’s credit rating in the next two weeks. George Osborne can’t repair the Eurozone by next Tuesday, and Nick Clegg can’t… Well he just can’t.

Please, leave them alone. It’s August. Go find some impressions of the face of Jesus in toast. Find me a kitten that looks like Berlusconi. Play Solitaire for all I care, but for the love of it all stop trying to whip me in to moral outrage over Cameron’s fortnight in Tuscany.

Now I need a holiday too. Back in a week. Someone keep an eye on Vincent, will you? I’m worried he might be getting a bit obsessive. He keeps talking about posting pictures of his friends holiday whereabouts in the papers.

Posted by & filed under Communications, Online.

We hold a huge, global, annual competition each year at CIMA called the Global Business Challenge. There are several rounds of the competition, culminating in country finals, and then the global final. A lot of social content is created in a short period of time.

This year’s global final is in Chengdu, China. Our team on the ground have been providing a constant stream of social media updates, which my team in London have been gathering, editing, and adding to over the weekend in a Cover it Live embedded on our website and on Facebook. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Online.

Croydon Minster are a lovely community, and it’s always fun to work with those who are passionate about the organisation they belong to and support, so I was pleased to launch croydonminster.org with their support earlier this month.

Video

I particularly enjoyed filming the two-hour long Minster Making service, though condensing it down to a 15 minute highlights video was tricky! Here’s that video:

Technical gubbins

The site runs on a Drupal 7 core, and is a departure from the Parish Church’s site, which was more static. I’ve tried to take across the concise copy and really good navigation from the old site in to the new, while adding new features like online ticket sales, fundraising, and an integrated CRM (CiviCRM).

In its first two weeks the site raised £106 in event ticket sales, which is great for a small site, and has offset the hosting charges (£19 per month VPS from myhosting.com). For the first time the Minster has a Twitter feed, YouTube channel and Audioboo channel, and their established Facebook page is being used more actively. We’re also using Posterous to make things like uploading the weekly newsletter as easy as sending an email.

Moving to Drupal 7 has not been without some pain – important CiviCRM modules like GiftAid and the Theme switching module aren’t yet Drupal 7 compatible. But it’s good to be very future proof at the earliest stage.

Next steps

The Minster community have been involved in supplying ideas and content, and the next step is to hand it back to the community to own it and run it themselves.

All in all it’s been a great project to work on, and there’s one last challenge to overcome – because the VPS is based in the US, it’s natural SEO for UK searchers isn’t strong. So it’s no coincidence you find me blogging about Croydon Minster, yes, that’s Croydon Minster, at croydonminster.org.

Posted by & filed under Music.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, a CD and DVD is about to released by a group of singers called I Fagiolini - the little beans. It contains, among other things, two pieces of music for a phenomenal forty separate voices* (hence my attempt to get the #phenomenal40 hashtag off the ground – help!). One is called Spem in Alium (a well known piece to music boffs and people who generally don’t see enough sunlight), and the other is called the Missa Ecco sì beato giorno / ecce beatam lucem.

This is such a crazy, big, groundbreaking recording, I’ve gone out and bought a surround sound DVD system just to hear it at its best.

Composed around 450 years ago, there is a real connection through this music to an age long past, but which fascinates us still – the age of Tudor England, and our intoxication then and now with the elevated lives of royals and high society.

If you’ve seen the first of these two videos, you’ll know that last weekend I was lucky enough to grab a couple of hours with the man who has made this recording happen – Robert Hollingworth. In this video there’s a tantalising extract of the recording, you get a sense of what it is like to stand in the middle of these ethereal voices – choral and instrumental – and how it feels to be totally enveloped by Striggio’s mighty, long lost Mass.

If, like me, you learned a new word while watching the video. You’ll find the definition of “bifurcated” here. A day without learning, ey?

Because this recording is unlike anything so many people will have heard before, I really want to encourage you to share this video and blog post, to get news of the recording out there. If you’re excited by this recording I’d love you to share this blog post, Facebook ‘like’ it (up there at the top!) and if you tweet it, it’d be great if you could use the hashtag #phenomenal40.

Thanks!

More from me:

* It gets even better – at one point the ‘new’ Striggio piece goes up to sixty separate voice lines. Incredible.

Posted by & filed under Music.

Two weeks ago my car inched its way through the rain-soaked streets of a run down corner of Ipswich, to pick up a particularly special set of eBay winnings – a surround sound DVD system, won for £60.

One week tomorrow, a spectacular CD and DVD by the vocal group I Fagiolini will be released. It is the first recording of a complex, vast, and yet somehow intimate piece for forty – and then finally sixty – separate voices.  A huge choir. The piece is a mass entitled Ecco sì beato giorno (that blessed day), it was composed 445 years ago, but only very recently rediscovered – there is a Spectator article on the discovery here. I heard its first modern performance at the Proms a couple of years ago, and on the strength of that performance, I am filled with anticipation.

The piece was recorded in the round – with the listener completely surrounded by a circle of singers. That is why this lost jewel of a composition is worth buying a surround sound system for. In eight days from now, I will be able to be surrounded by this magnificent sound, hearing it travel the room around me. The only way, in my opinion, to listen to what should be a ground-breaking recording.

As an introduction to the piece, here is a video from the academic who rediscovered the score:

Posted by & filed under Froth and frippery.

If you are reading this on a computer, in a regular browser using a mouse or trackpad, the chances are that you – like me – are blessed with eight working fingers and two working thumbs. Chances are that like me, either naturally or with glasses or contact lenses, you can read the screen without too much trouble. The chances are you, like me, can play a YouTube video or Audioboo or any other piece of online rich content, and hear it fine.

You, like me, can see, hear, and touch. We’re in the majority, but we’re still the lucky ones.

I was born with a mild impediment to one of those senses – the hearing. Having no concept of what normal hearing sounds like, my mild sensorineural hearing loss, to give it its proper name, has never held me back. Interests and professions that you might think are not natural choices for someone with a hearing condition, have not been a problem. Music is one of the major passions of my life. I’ve worked, one way or another, in communications for over a decade. Read more »

Posted by & filed under Music.

NOTE: This post was originally posted as one of a daily series highlighting interesting singing from around the web

 

For the rest of this series I’ll be publishing an hour later, at 10am GMT on each day of Advent. I am posting a video each day of a piece which, in my opinion, celebrates the best of music made by the human voice – with the occasional quirky video thrown in for good measure! Today is the beginning of the third week, and you can catch up with the full Choral Christmas here.

 

Traditional Zulu chant, performed by I Fagiolini

Back on the first day of Advent, and the first day of this series, I promised a return visit from the quite magnificent I Fagiolini, and here it is. This is a recording from the 2002 Ambronay European Baroque Academy which takes place annualy in Ambronay Abbey. There are photos of what looks like a magnificent building, here (opens in new window/tab).

This performance makes me cry. Every, every time. Which is absurd when you think that it was only very recently that I listened carefully enough to realise there are passages of English to be heard. There are still sections where I have no idea what the words say, or what the intended sentiment is.

In the absence of a shared understanding, we are free create our own. This can be a wonderful thing, and I know exactly what this piece means to me. It’s thrilling that my meaning resonates closely with the words you may pick out from the one minute mark about ‘this winding road… no matter what it takes this road will take me home.’

There is no information on YouTube as to what this piece is, and I think I detected at least three languages in the performance.  Posting this entry up, I tried to find more information and I suspect a recording of this work can be found on the album Simunye, and that this is the cover blurb:

Trad. Zulu arr. Dlamini (b.1965) – Kwa Zulu senzeni? (Kwa Zulu, what’s our crime?)

When we were preparing for the exchange project, I Fagiolini asked whether the SDASA Chorale knew of any traditional African chant which could be compared with Gregorian chant. Mokale immediately thought of Zulu amahubo music, and played us an example which had been recorded by the revered Princess Magogo (mother of Chief Buthelezi) in the 1970s. I Fagiolini was fascinated by the recording and Bheka decided to make an arrangement of the chant that could be sung by both groups.

Bheka says: “That tape took me back home and reminded me of the olden days, those terrible days, which saw the destruction of the Zulu nation.” It is indeed about the destruction of Shaka’s nation that Princess Magogo was singing, and so I asked Bheka why he wanted to sing the song with a group of English men and women, descendents of an empire that played such an active role in that process. “They liked the song,” he replied, “and I thought that it would be nice to sing it together; it would show unity. We can all share our fruit of life.”

If that’s not a sentiment appropriate for Christmas and Advent, I don’t know what is.

Posted by & filed under Communications, Politics.

Last week I filmed a talk and Q&A by Professor Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey. Professor Jackson was the after-dinner speaker at a work dinner, so I probably should stress that the views expressed are his, and not those of my employers!

It was a very dark room so apologies if, like me, you’re not watching on the best screen on the market.

Professor Jackson’s talk was a fascinating look at how tomorrow’s companies should be run, the values they should embrace, and how they should measure success. Professor Jackson particularly tackles the weaknesses of GDP as a measure of success.

The moment that really stayed with me as I left the room was topical, however. Watch Tim Jackson’s view of the UK Government’s 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review below:

Posted by & filed under Media.

There was a veritable storm on Twitter when a new on screen graphic appeared on Sky News’s coverage of the Chile mine rescue this evening. I have read comments describing it as a “joke” or “spectacularly crass” or “insensitive.” I plumped for “sensationalist.”

On the face of it the graphic – a counter of miners rescued – is innocuous. Why the outrage?

I think the reasons for the Twitter disgust are pretty subtle, and can be summed up as:

  1. Bad timing. The counter appeared, and stayed on screen, for several hours in the run up to the rescue, even when it became apparent the rescue was some way off.
  2. Sky introduced a custom set of graphics for this story, which they do for many major stories. However in this case, the soil texture used in the graphics is unusually in-your-face in saying to the viewer “just in case you have the attention span of a flea, these men are underground.”
  3. The location – top left corner, flush with the  Sky News logo, along with the presentation of two numbers in that format has an unfortunate and trivialising echo of a sports score.
  4. The tally has at times been accompanied by an advert for Sky News HD – nothing says ‘we are willing to insensitively exploit the situation these men are in’ quite like inserting an ad just above the counter recording their fate.
  5. And of course, as with most Twitter storms plenty of the comments are unthinking re-tweets and mock outrage.

Sky should not draw too much comfort from my fifth point – their credibility has taken such a hit that more than one person genuinely believed a spoof that circulated showing a parallell “Miners Dead: 0 of 33″ counter.

And why not? To many it seems no more or less ridiculous.

The information itself is relevant and useful. If Sky had stuck to their regular graphics and included the tally on the ticker, or on a loop in the main graphics, no-one would have batted an eyelid.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that at the time of writing, with new criticism of Sky appearing on Twitter at a rate of one critical tweet every five seconds, they haven’t taken the simple steps necessary to fix it.

Posted by & filed under Music.

It’s a precious thing to hear a piece of music which never leaves you. To be absolutely confident that you know and may never forget every twist of the soundscape. For me there is only one work that has so comprehensively captured my soul, and burnt itself in to my memory. It goes by the title Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui Prater In Te Deus Israel – I have never placed my hope in any other but you God of Israel. More digestibly it is simply Spem in Alium.

Hearing that piece for the first time at the BBC Proms of 2005 ignited a musical love affair with the composer Thomas Tallis, that has stayed with me ever since. This coming week, BBC Radio 3 profile Thomas Tallis as their Composer Of The Week (thank you Scott). No doubt they will tell the story of Tallis’s masterpiece, Spem in Alium.

As direct historical records regarding Tallis are so sketchy, we often have to interpret and extrapolate from circumstantial evidence. Here, for what it’s worth, is my take on how Spem in Alium came in to being. My puny efforts at the British Library notwithstanding, Radio 3′s take will no doubt be better researched! Do have a listen.

The world around Tallis

The 16th century transformed the face of our planet, with repercussions still visible today.

As religious wars scorched continents, so too a fire of Renaissance arts and culture blazed out of Italy. Rome was devising a new “Gregorian” calendar – to all intents and purposes the calendar we use today. Time itself was changing, and the new calendar quickly spread its wings across Europe and beyond.

Burgeoning sea travel and the rapid expansion of trading markets saw many things spread faster and wider than they ever had before. Everything from the new calendar, to Smallpox. National boundaries were ever more hotly defended even as their lines, their power, and their meaning, were disintegrating.

Read more »