Musical Chats with Carl Anka

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! Uploads Thursdays at 12pm.


Carl Anka is a London-born journalist and broadcaster, and is currently writing for The Athletic. He has written for BBC, the Guardian, VICE, NME, GQ and BuzzFeed among other publications online and in print and specialises in writing about pop culture, video games, films and football. We chatted about his listening habits, what inspires him and being a black man in journalism in the UK. Enjoy!

RS: What does a week of music listening look like for you? What role does music play in your life?

CA:  I’d say I listen to 2-3 hours of music every single day, minimum! I’m born and bred in London, and in that London-type world you wouldn’t be caught dead without a pair of headphones! On the commute – Spotify playlist, headphones in. Walking around town – headphones in. I normally go back and forth through 6 or 7 playlists, and listen to my Discover Weekly every single Monday. I now make a secondary playlist which I name after the year where I take the songs I like from my Discover Weekly and just feed that into the playlist – that’s a good tip for adapting the algorithm to your needs, because it means Spotify will keep making you better playlists for your Discover Weekly!

As far as gigs go, when I was in London I’d go to a gig probably once every 3 months – that is the thing I miss living in Southampton now. It took me a really long time to appreciate that in London every major musician came to see me, whereas now I have to travel to see them more. Though my last gig before lockdown was Craig David in Southampton – that was great!

RS: London is definitely the place to go for that variety, but Southampton does have some pretty good live venues! Do you use music for writing inspiration, or mainly for enjoyment?

I’ve reviewed music for FACT Magazine and NME, so I actually write about music a bit. I do write to music; I have a writing playlist, an editing playlist, a sports playlist. I would say, the one time people would expect me to listen to music and I don’t is in the gym! Though I do have a gym playlist, which I listen to on the way into and out of the gym…!

RS: Oh, of course! At the moment you’re working as a writer for The Athletic. What about cultural journalism inspires you, and why did you choose to do that as a career?

I truly did kind of fall into it! I went to university to be a screenwriter, and then partway through 3rd year I got in contact with someone who made nature documentaries for the BBC, and when I sent him my CV. Then, he phones me up on a Wednesday night and says: “Why have you sent me your CV? This is the CV of a journalist, not a filmmaker. Go be a journalist!” And I pretty much just went from there.

At the time I didn’t know I was chasing to be a ‘culture writer’. In my case, if I find something interesting, I will try and write about it. Sometimes I write about football, sometimes I write about dance, and sometimes film or computer games. I don’t have a guiding ‘I want to be… this’; it’s always been what interests me. It does mean I’ve written for quite an interesting batch of places!

RS: On a similar note, you’ve written a real variety of articles. There’s some on music listening styles, mental health and the representation of black youth in the media. Do you feel some responsibility as a writer to tackle some of those more difficult topics, or is it a case of it just being a topic of interest for you?

CA: It’s six of one, half a dozen of the other. I am black man who is a full-time journalist in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, that makes me rare. You can imagine how busy I was when Black Panther came out, for example! There was 2 or 3 times where I said: “Are you just ringing me up because I’m the only black person you know, and you need someone to write about Black Panther?!” And one of them actually said yes!

The thing is, I want to write about Black Panther – I grew up loving Marvel, and I’ve been reading Black Panther comic books since I was 15. So yeah, I will happily write about Black Panther and get paid to do it. But there was also a sense of people wanting me to write lofty, high-brow ideas about it, and sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes an incident around race will happen, and I’ll know that clearly I need to write about it because it’s in my wheelhouse. If an example of racism happens in rugby, I can probably write about it – I’m a black man, and I played rugby for 10 years. I have knowledge in that area. But on the other hand, there have been times I have passed on work because people have got in contact asking me to talk about grime music, or explain racism. I’m not the best person to write about that, I’m just clearly the only black person you know. Then it falls on me to help that person find the best person to talk to.

RS: Do you have a favourite thing to write about? Is it these challenging topics, sport, or music?

CA: It comes and goes in cycles. When I was a freelancer, I’d spend the first half of the year writing about movies, then I’d write about videogames and then it’d be movies again, a little bit about news and culture.

Now 85% of my time is writing about football, which is interesting. It’s a fun challenge! You have to teach yourself ways to keep it interesting and fresh, and try not to become formulaic. Before, if I got bored of writing about a particular topic, I’d go off and write something different. Now, I have to find all the different ways I can talk about football – it could be the statistics, sport psychology, sports and humanity. And you have to learn how to hold the attention of the fan-base! It is fun having multiple strings to your bow, but it’s been really fun just running around with one hammer for a bit.

RS: And to close up, what is your dream day off?

CA: Tomorrow is my day off actually, and I am going to sleep! I’m going to sleep, do a puzzle, drink red wine and do Duolingo Spanish on my balcony. That’s a day off in lockdown!

RS: Sounds like fun to me! Thank you so much for your time, Carl!  

FIND CARL HERE

REVIEW: One of Us Is Lying

Quick summary: Who knew teenagers could be so psychotic?!
Rating★★★★★

Try this if you like: Agatha Christie, Riverdale & true-crime documentaries.


In this YA crime thriller we follow the lives of 4 teens whose lives are completely changed when their classmate dies in detention. Through the book we follow Cooper, Addy, Bronwyn and Nate as they try to clear their names of Simon Kelleher’s murder. As the case evolves and relationships deepen, one thing is clear – they all have something to hide, and one of them is definitely lying. But who did it?

The reason this book is stellar is because of the way McManus constructs characters. We switch between the POV’s of the four teenagers throughout, and the secrets they keep run so deep that they don’t even let the reader know them. The fact that you can’t trust everything the narrator is saying really adds a fantastic dimension to the book – the reader is as much a participant in solving the crime as the characters are!

McManus’ fantastic writing doesn’t stop here. The way she slowly builds the lives and personalities of the characters is also highly impressive. At first, the characters cling to the stereotypes in which they belong in a painfully one-dimensional manner. Cooper is the jock, Addy is the princess, Nate is the criminal and Bronwyn is the nerd. Then, suddenly you’re halfway through the book and realising that Cooper is struggling with his identity, Addy is being emotionally abused, Nate is a young carer and Bronwyn is cracking under pressure and systemic racism. As we watch all of these characters struggle, and learn more about Simon’s dark activities, we are poignantly reminded of the flaws in the pastoral support of the education system.

As far as the murder mystery aspect of this book goes – if you are a murder-mystery aficionado, you may well figure out ‘whodunnit’ reasonably early on. The clues are there. However, having not read loads and loads of murder mysteries, I was kept on tenterhooks until the big AHA reveal moment. The way in which McManus constructs the plot, and dripfeeds small secrets and pieces of information is ingenious, and really keeps you guessing the whole way through.


Musical Chats with Olcay Bayır

During my time as Concert Promotions and Marketing intern at Turner Sims (if you’re in the Southampton area, make sure to check out their concert series!) I got to interview a lot of great artists. You can check out my interviews and reviews on the Turner Sims blog, as well as here on The Rosie Word. 

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! 


I got the chance to interview Anatolian singer Olcay Bayır earlier this year, before her appearance at Turner Sims was unfortunately cancelled due to Coronavirus. Olcay’s fantastic album ‘Rüya: Dream for Anatolia’ was released last year – make sure to check it out here.

We chatted about the story of her album, traditional influences and how performances change from country to country. Enjoy!

RS: Your recent album Rüya (Dream) has many references to journeys in it. What story are you hoping to tell on this album?

OB: In Rüya (Dream) I am telling the stories of my personal experience from the last 4 years, my musical journeys, what I have learnt, feelings I’ve gone through. My original songs reflect this and I also re-interpret some traditional songs with the way I feel and see.

RS: Would you say that your nationality and homeland is a primary influence in your music? Is your writing often inspired by traditional songs?

OB: My main influence is where I grew up and the melodies I hear in my head from my childhood. But one thing I’d like to mention is I believe that culture – more than religion or nationality – provides identity. I’d rather talk about traditions and regions than specific religions and nations. You are you, whatever religion or country you’re from. My main influences are my culture and roots, but every music I hear, every emotion I feel too.

RS: Do you find that playing for audiences in Turkey is very different to playing for audiences in England and Western Europe?

OB: Very different. How people hear and appreciate music is quite different, and that’s normal. One song is loved by Turkish audiences, and they may sing along to a well-known song, but it may not find the same response from another audience. It’s something to keep in mind when delivering a performance. And of course I need to explain the background to songs to an English-speaking audience. 

RS: You have a fantastic group of musicians accompanying you for this concert. How did these collaborations come about?

OB: Many thanks! I met all these beautiful musicians through music making. Some of them I’ve been working with since my first album. Some of them joined more recently.

RS: Does this kind of collaborative process feature in your writing as well as your performances?

OB: I start my songs alone until the song feels complete to me. To build it from there and give it a final shape is always a collaborative process.

RS: And finally, what would your dream day off be?

OB: Being in a cottage in a valley where there is no sound apart from nature itself, away from technology.

RS: Thank you so much for your time, Olcay!


CHECK OLCAY OUT HERE:

Recommended Reads: Murder Mystery

Murder mysteries have long been a popular genre. Names such as Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes have made waves in popular culture, and the ‘who-dun-it’ is a well versed trope. This popularity ultimately means it’s increasingly difficult to write an original and exciting murder mystery.

Whether as a result of an original plot, well developed characters or shocking plot twists, these murder mysteries all have something going for them. Maybe you could pick one of these up if you’re looking to give your brain a bit of a challenge.

I am quite new to the murder mystery genre, so this is just a few of the ones I have read and loved so far!


The Seven deaths of evelyn hardcastle

By: Stuart Turton
Quick summary: A whodunnit murder mystery on steroids
Rating: ★★★★☆

I previously reviewed this book (check it out here) after I got it at one of Mr B’s Emporium’s Reading Spas.

Throughout the book you follow the main character Aiden Bishop through 8 bodies over 8 days as he tries to uncover who murdered a woman called Evelyn Hardcastle at a party in her family home. Every day he wakes up and at the end of every day the same thing happens: Evelyn Hardcastle dies. The only way to end this fatal cycle is for Aiden to figure out who killed her.

The reason this book is so exciting is that the protagonist has no idea what’s going on, and so you uncover secrets and have realisations at the same time that he does. The structure, undeniably, is confusing at first, but stick with it – the beauty of the book is being confused until the end when everything comes together in a wonderful ‘lightbulb’ moment.

If you’re into Agatha Christie, this is one for you.

one of us is lying

By: Karen McManus
Quick summary: Who knew the psychotic inner workings of a teen mind ran so deep.
Rating: ★★★★★

I read this book as part of a buddy-read with Hanne, and I raced through it way quicker than intended because it really was a can’t-put-down book.

In this YA murder mystery, five students go into detention and only four walk out alive. The four remaining students, Cooper, Addy, Bronwyn and Nate, are catapulted into the limelight as prime suspects in the murder of their fellow student. We follow all four of them throughout the school year as secrets are revealed, and the circumstances of the murder grow murkier and murkier.

The thing I love about this book is that you can’t trust the narrator. We switch between the POV’s of the four teenagers throughout, and the secrets they keep run so deep that they don’t even let the reader know them. This really adds a fantastic dimension to the book, because it means the reader is a participant in the murder mystery as much as the characters are.

This book was such an easy one to get into, and the writing is incredibly easy to read, so if you’re in a reading slump or don’t read much then this one is for you.

A study in charlotte

By: Brittany Cavallaro
Quick summary: The refresh the Holmes legacy needed
Rating: ★★★★☆

Jamie Watson has just received a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. He hates his father, and hates Sherringford. However, it gets more complicated when he meets Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight a Sherlock Holmes story, Jamie and Charlotte can’t afford to keep their distance from each other. They are being framed for murder.

I love a story in which the protagonist is being framed (one of the reasons why I loved One of Us is Lying so much.) This book is full of high stakes, confused teen feelings and real-life legal consequences (something that is sometimes missing in murder mysteries.)

If you love the Holmes stories, or are new to murder mystery, then this is the one for you!

and more…

If you particularly enjoy YA murder mystery, then check these out…

Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson

Shortly after Ellingham Academy opened, the wife and daughter of the founder were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. But then Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder. 

S.T.A.G.S – M.A Bennett

Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S.
To her surprise Greer receives a mysterious invitation to spend the half-term weekend at a country manor with the wealthiest students. Over the three days, they all go hunting, shooting and fishing – but things become increasingly dark and twisted. Soon, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school.

Some lockdown reading

As some semblance of lockdown continues to reign over the planet, a lot of people are still looking to spice up their lockdown activities. While you have absolutely no obligation to be sprucing up your life and having a lockdown soul-makeover, it is a good time to maybe read that book you’ve been putting off for months.

Allow me to recommend something for you!

As inspired by Leena Norms, I have taken the liberty of sorting you all into potential reader categories, so you can happily skip to the genre you think will fit you best.

First we have…

The Non-Reader Readers.

You are the readers who only read for uni assignments. You don’t particularly like reading for enjoyment, but you are looking for something to do while the rest of the world is shut down. Perhaps you’re looking for some easy, lighthearted reads? 

Isla and the Happily Ever After

This is the third book in a companion series by Stephanie Perkins. You don’t have to read the other two first (and this is by far my favourite of the three), but if you have the time on your hands then I do recommend reading them all. 

This lighthearted romance is set in Paris and Barcelona, and follows Isla and Josh while they study at the American School in Paris. Josh’s father is a US Senator, and Isla is the daughter of a French-American family from New York. You follow this pair through the trials and tribulations of falling in love, politics, and the pros and pitfalls of private education. 

Although it covers some interesting topics, this book really is a fun, romantic travel book. You go to Paris, Barcelona and New York, and who wouldn’t love a little glimpse into something other than the walls of our house at this time? 

The Escapism Hunters 

All you want right now is to disappear into some other world and time, and not hear the daily death tolls and political blunders. 

Daisy Jones and the Six (audiobook)

This novel follows a rock band in the 70’s as they rise to fame in rock and roll LA. The story chronicles the hedonistic partying, the friendships and the fall-outs, and a sudden earth-rocking split that was never quite explained. The story-telling in this novel is so visceral that it feels very real, and it truly transports you. 

I would definitely recommend listening to the audiobook for this one, because it is read by a cast of narrators. This makes it feel like a podcast more than a novel, which makes it very easy to listen to and even more of an escapist novel. 

Also, this is getting made into an Amazon series – and so, this is your chance to get in and actually read the book first. Just imagine, when the series comes out you will have that haughty ‘I-read-the-book-first’ status! 

The Artsy Types 

Netflix new releases aren’t quite cutting the mustard. You go crazy for the artsy, aesthetic shots in Normal People. You are desperate for some real high-brow, artsy stuff. Poetry and the like. 

The Essential Neruda

If you’re an Artsy Type then you may have already heard of Pablo Neruda and his work. Whether you have or haven’t, now is the perfect time to read his poignant and steamy poetry. 

Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is known for his political discourse and romantic poetry about love and death. The Essential Neruda takes you through some of Neruda’s most famous works. There are poems about the pains of love, the beauty of love, the tumult of death, accepting our fates, our relationships with family… Neruda digs deep into human relationship with itself. 

This poetry was originally written in Spanish, and so it is very interesting to think what has been lost in translation here, and what these political snippets mean against the backdrop of Chile’s tumultuous political history. 

Romance Novel and Chill 

Maybe you love a good old romance novel where you can sit and dream about your ideal gal/guy. Maybe you’re a sucker for a slow-burn. Maybe you’re missing your S.O and want to read about the good old times where you could go on dates and stuff. Maybe you don’t have a S.O and you want to read about the good old times where you could go on dates and stuff.

You get the gist.

The Kiss Quotient 

This is the first book in a series by Helen Hoang which explores neurodiversity in relationships. It is hilarious, unconventional, steamy, and so incredibly readable.

The main character, thirty-year-old Stella works in algorithms, has Asperger’s and has very little dating experience. The premise of this feels like a painfully dated representation of women with autism, but once I got reading I realised it was almost the opposite. In order to become more comfortable dating, Stella hires escort Michael Phan, and so the romantic drama begins.

This is a wonderful exploration of the sensuality of people with autism and of millennial relationships in general. With a no-nonsense female lead, and a probing look at intimacy and why it’s important, you absolutely have to read this book. 

The Book-stagrammers 

You’re into Young Adult fiction, and love a can’t-put-down YA Fantasy. Well… 

Throne of Glass 

At this point, it can’t come as a shock that I am recommending Sarah J Maas. 

This seven book series will keep you going for a while. Full of discovery, bad-assery and heart-wrenching romance, Maas’ epic really does have everything you need from YA Fantasy. The series revolves around the infamous assassin Celaena Sardothian, who has just spent time as a slave in a labour camp, having been arrested by the tyrant King of Adarlan. We join her as she enters into a high-stake competition for her freedom, and (as always) chaos and romance ensues. 

And if you’ve read it before? Re-read! I promise you’ll find little snippets and quotes that you didn’t notice before – the foreshadowing in this is something else!


So there we have some recommendations. If you love or hate these books, let me know! If you are in another category of reader and you feel left out… let me know!


Musical Chats with Mathias Eick

During my time as Concert Promotions and Marketing intern at Turner Sims (if you’re in the Southampton area, make sure to check out their concert series!) I got to interview a lot of great artists. You can check out my interviews and reviews on the Turner Sims blog, as well as here on The Rosie Word. 

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! 


I got the chance to interview Norwegian jazz trumpeter Mathias Eick ahead of his appearance at Turner Sims back in October. Mathias and his fantastic quintet performed music from his recent ECM release Ravensburg – make sure to check it out here.

We chatted about his signature sound, Norwegian Jazz and his writing process. Enjoy!

RS: How would you describe your sound to an audience member who has never heard you before?

ME: It’s an airy emotional sound with a lot of personality in it. The music is lyrical, energetic and speaks to you in a new way. That’s at least our goal!

RS: The Guardian says that Norwegian jazz is some of the world’s ‘most animated and productive’. That kind of links in with how you’ve described your own sound. Do you think Norwegian traditions have an influence on your music? Or are there other key influences on your musical life?

ME: To me, life itself has the biggest influence on my music. Becoming a father, growing into adulthood, experiencing many facets of life is the emotions I’m trying to communicate through my music. That said, on Midwest, our album from 2015, I dug into the folk music scene in Norway to find inspiration, and it worked. To this day, I still have a violin player in the band thanks to that.

RS: How did your most recent album, Ravensburg, come about?

ME: The music on Ravensburg is all about the close relationships in life, family, children and friends. It all started with a poem I was asked to write some music to, and it became the first song I composed for the album, For my Grandmothers. One of my grandmothers lived for many years in Ravensburg in south Germany, and I always got these large jigsaw puzzles when I was a kid. After that song, I started composing music out of an emotional perspective, bringing the theme of the album home in a way.

RS: When making an album, do you always have this kind of specific narrative in mind that you want to explore, or is it more of a collection of lots of different ideas?

ME: I really try having concepts for each album I make. It’s kind of easier to create in that way, when I have a direction emotionally. So I tend to use a lot of time figuring out narratives, I’m there right now actually!

RS: And finally, what is your dream day off?

ME: I guess a hotel close to Nürbürgring in Germany, so that I could go racing cars for a few hours. I’m going to make it happen!

RS: Hopefully sooner rather than later! Thanks for your time Mathias!

Why NCAA Women’s Gymnastics should be your Lockdown viewing.

Thanks to the coronavirus, our worlds have all been shrunk to the size of our houses. All forms of entertainment have been confined to our TV screens and book pages, and sport has vanished from the social sphere. Saturday morning muddy football matches, browsing independent bookstores, queues outside theatres and laughs over almond lattes with friends have all been brought to a resounding close.

Despite this social standstill, there are loads of ways to stay culturally engaged thanks to the phenomenon that is the internet. The National Theatre, The Globe, and Andrew Lloyd Webber are among hundreds of institutes that are live-streaming their shows for free. All over the world, musicians and artists are collaborating to provide glimpses of creativity through Zoom boxes on screens. We can’t go to the theatres, and so the theatres have come to us.

And yet sport does not seem to have the same online appeal.

Usually, sport is a season-long investment. You may love football or basketball, but there’s something about the personalities in a team and the dramatics from the fans that elevates it into a social spectacle. You are not just a basketball fan – you love the skills, the theatre of a game. You are not just a football fan – you are an ardent follower of Manchester United, or Real Madrid. And you are not just a fan of them because they’re from your hometown – you’re a fan because you’re truly devoted to the narrative of that team; their wins, their losses, their joys, their heartbreaks. This is what keeps fans invested season after season.

So why hasn’t this translated into the corona-online sphere?

Because sport, unlike the arts, doesn’t have the complete story in a one-time watch. While you go to the theatre and see an entire show in around 2 hours, fans follow their teams’ stories throughout a whole season. Each match is tense and exciting precisely because you have no idea what the outcome will be. Re-run matches hold some nostalgia, but don’t have anywhere near the same grip as watching it live.

And so, here we all are. Two months into a deep re-acquaintance with the four walls of our homes. Boredom has probably kicked in. You are probably desperately in need for some new entertainment that doesn’t involve mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. Maybe you’re missing live sport. I present to you… US College Gymnastics.

College gymnastics has received a lot of big press recently, thanks to the fun viral floor routines that have come out of UCLA Gymnastics. These routines showcase twenty-something year old girls, spreading body-positivity and joy through 90 second flip-filled dance numbers. But fun floor routines are not all there is to college gymnastics. It is full of tragedy, hope, drama, excitement and all-consuming team spirit.

Much like Olympic gymnastics, a meet takes us through four rounds; the vault, the uneven bars, the balance beam and the floor routines. Each apparatus requires a unique set of skills, poise and rhythmic ability, and only the best of the best compete at college. Throughout each routine, gymnasts are aspiring for the coveted ‘Perfect-10’ – a perfect score. The search for this perfect routine is career-long for most athletes, and college is their last opportunity before retirement, so the stakes are high.

Over a 4-5 month long season, colleges compete against each other in weekly meets that test the gymnasts endurance, strength, skill and, most importantly, ability to entertain. Think dance party meets The Rock. If you need any further convincing, then search ‘Katelyn Ohashi Floor Routine’ into YouTube.

The gymnasts all have individual routines, custom-tailored to show their personalities. This only makes it all the more entertaining, as you get a sense of humanity behind the insane displays of skill and strength. These girls have struggled, these girls know perseverance. It requires absolutely no knowledge of gymnastics whatsoever to enjoy these meets, but you pick it up very quickly and soon enough you’ll be critiquing the toe points and the split jumps right alongside the commentators.

But the reason why this should be your lockdown viewing, even if you don’t give two hoots about sport, is because college gymnastics transcends a sporting event.

A large proportion of the female gymnasts competing at college right now were a part of the USA Gymnastics programme that saw the largest, prolonged case of sexual assault in sporting history, under Team Doctor Larry Nassar. Nassar assaulted and groomed hundreds of young female athletes, some as young as 9 years old, under the pretense of giving them physiotherapy and sporting treatment. The staff at USA Gymnastics turned a blind eye, even after complaints were filed. Furthermore, the emotional abuse from the coaches at USA Gymnastic was so systemic and severe, that many girls refused to eat or talk while at camps, for fear of being rejected for the Olympic team. Over the past 3 years, scores and scores of survivors of this horrific abuse have testified against Nassar and USA gymnastics, exhibiting tremendous bravery and strength. A large proportion of these survivors now compete, week in, week out, in college.

And so, watching these brave, powerful women stand up on the podium and showcase their talent, perseverance, and love for their team is not just a sport. It is a massive middle finger in the face of emotional and physical abuse. These women are shining lights that life after abuse can be difficult and draining… but a fulfilled, joyful life is possible. As for its relevance in the times of ‘Rona? It shows that strength comes from adversity. It asks us to find light and happiness from within ourselves, and not our extenuating circumstances.

Many of these gymnastics meets are on YouTube, and so it’s completely free to watch. May I recommend starting with UCLA and LSU Gymnastics. Just search into YouTube, and choose any meet to get started!

Joyful, uplifting and a celebration of female strength. You have to watch.

Musical Chats with Mark Lockheart

During my time as Concert Promotions and Marketing intern at Turner Sims (if you’re in the Southampton area, make sure to check out their concert series!) I got to interview a lot of great artists. You can check out my interviews and reviews on the Turner Sims blog, as well as here on The Rosie Word. 

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats with…”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! 


I got the chance to interview jazz saxophonist and composer Mark Lockheart ahead of his appearance at Turner Sims back in October. Mark and his band performed a reduced version of his new major jazz/orchestral work titled Days On Earth for jazz sextet and 30-piece orchestra. Make sure to check it out here.

I chatted to Mark about his inspirations and influences, as well as his composition style!

RS: How would you describe Days on Earth for audience members who haven’t heard it before?

ML: Days On Earth is a suite of music combining jazz and classical techniques. This performance is a very different version of the music recorded on the CD which came out in Jan 2019. The 36 -piece line-up on the recording is reduced here to 8 instrumentalists and although keeping the essence of the recording is probably more fluid and open musically.

RS: It definitely comes across as very fluid – there are many eclectic influences brought together. What were some of your main influences and inspiration for this work in particular?

ML: I wanted to follow my instinct when writing this music and not worry what style or genre it was heading. As a result I think there’s lots of varied inspirations from all kinds of places from composers like Gil Evans, Stravinsky and Bacharach to the music I played in Polar Bear and Perfect Houseplants for so many years. Obviously it’s jazz but also there are many contemporary classical techniques in there along with folk and world influences too.

RS: The Times commented that it is the ‘strength of melodies that marks [Days on Earth] out from the mass of Brit Jazz.’ Do you tend to gravitate towards melody first when you are writing your music?

ML: I probably do gravitate towards melody quite strongly with this project but the grooves and rhythms that Seb and Tom provide are really important. I also spent along time experimenting with orchestration to get the most effective combinations of textures and moods with the instruments I had at my disposal , that was really fun and a big learning curve for me.

RS: You’re collaborating with a fantastic group of musicians for this project. How did these collaborations come about?

ML: All the musicians involved in this project are special collaborators on many projects not just mine over the years. Seb and Tom were my partners in Polar Bear and throughout the 13 years together we got used to each other’s playing and approaches. I worked also with Liam Noble a lot on my own music in the last 10 years and it feels like he has a great understanding for the way I approach things. The front line instruments too are either old or new friends and they all have their own very distinct voices which is important to me.

RS: And finally, what would your dream day off be?

ML: Probably to not have to think about either practising or composing for a day or two, maybe a trip and walk in the country somewhere nice with a curry at the end!

RS: Sounds perfect! Thank you very much for your time, Mark.

Musical Chats with David Owen Norris

During my time as Concert Promotions and Marketing intern at Turner Sims (if you’re in the Southampton area, make sure to check out their concert series!) I got to interview a lot of great artists. You can check out my interviews and reviews on the Turner Sims blog, as well as here on The Rosie Word. 

I will be uploading interviews in a series called “Musical Chats with…”, so stay tuned for more interviews with great artists! 

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David Owen Norris is a world-renowned pianist, educator, Professor and broadcaster. I had the pleasure of interviewing David before he delved into Mozart’s Jupiter symphony with orchestra SÓN at Turner Sims on Saturday 14 March 2020. This concert included Jupiter, and Debussy’s Clair de lune arranged for piano and orchestra.

Rosie Sewell (RS): How would you describe Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony to an audience member who has never heard it before?
David Owen Norris (DON): A sparkling diamond of a symphony that thoroughly deserves its nickname. Jupiter was King of the Gods, and nothing is more commandingly brilliant than this, Mozart’s last symphony. The themes perform that difficult trick of being both catchy and distinct, each with its own character, and rich in possibilities, as Mozart shows as he develops his ideas through each of the four movements. Unusually luxuriant harmonies, even for Mozart, and a dazzling tour de force of counterpoint in the Finale, where a whole world is conjured up from just the four notes we hear at the beginning. One of the great summits of music, up there with Beethoven’s Fifth and The Rite of Spring – and Clair de lune!

RS: Mozart and Debussy were alive and composing just over 100 years apart from each other, and were living in very different Europes to each other. Do you find that these composers’ works particularly complement each other? Or are they really quite distinct from each other?
DON: What Mozart and Debussy have in common is an exquisitely sensitive aural imagination – a fine ear, you could say. Putting just one note into a different octave, for instance, would completely change the effect. One of my favourite moments in Clair de lune is where the opening tune comes back at the end. It’s almost the same, but Debussy adds just one new note, a C flat, and the effect is heart-breaking. Or listen to how Mozart uses his single flute, like a painter touching in a dab of white to bring light into his picture.

RS: You are the Professor of Classical Performance at the University of Southampton, and are working on this project with SÓN, who place an emphasis on education and outreach. You also often make presentations alongside performances. Is music education and outreach a key point of interest for you when you undertake projects?
DON: Music is more than a warm aural bath for us to wallow in. Great music makes its emotional effects by intellectual means, and the better we understand its intellectual aspect, the more emotionally satisfying the music becomes. So, Bach can sound like a sewing-machine, or like a wonderful tapestry of interlocking threads of different colours. Beethoven can sound like an old, over-familiar, library book, or like one of art’s greatest revolutionaries. The difference lies in the intellectual comprehension of both performer and listener. Education and Outreach are tick-box words, but the activities that they imperfectly describe – Listening closely, Explaining simply, Knowing that everyone can enjoy music – are very important ones.

RS: On a similar theme, do you find that working alongside young musicians and students has influenced and impacted you as a performer?
DON: It’s good to see the effect that a by-now familiar piece of music has, upon someone who’s hearing it or playing it for the first time. And very satisfying to observe processes of discovery. Above all, it’s stimulating to hear the new interpretations of a generation with different formative experiences, different memories, and different emotional expectations. And a lesson on a piece, for both teacher and student, is a wonderful way of exploring it outside real time, as you try things in different ways.

RS: And finally, if you could host a dinner party and invite three composers, who would they be?
DON: Haydn, Poulenc and Constant Lambert. People who couldn’t be dull if they tried.

RS: Thank you very much for your time, David!

REVIEW: Joglaresa at Turner Sims

The Coronavirus pandemic has got us all locked inside, and I’m on my laptop significantly more than normal! All of that screen time got me reminiscing about better times when we could go to concerts and shows… and so here is a review of optimal jollity from those better times!

Joglaresa’s ‘Teatime Special’ at Turner Sims was full of life, energy, beauty and fantastic musicianship. The group ‘continues to delight and surprise’ (Classical Music Magazine) from the first strum of their period instruments, until the last chord of the concert.

Led by Belinda Sykes, the renowned early music group took us through Middle Eastern, Celtic, European and Medieval music in a new and exciting way. In both the haunting love songs and the uplifting, satirical dances, Joglaresa’s early music was completely different to anything I had heard before. Instead of simply reproducing old music on old instruments, the group brought a vivacity and life to the early music that made it feel both steeped in tradition and completely new.

The singers took on the role of bards, who delivered and reinterpreted age-old stories for this new audience. Their story-telling was without fault, and every humorous line landed perfectly with the audience. This was assisted by Sykes’ hilarious interjections between each song, explaining a little more about the climate in which the songs had been written and performed. A particular highlight was a mournful love ballad, performed by Jeremy Avis, which left the audience in hushed awe.

The musicianship of the group was also incredible, with each song seeming almost improvised. Every groovy medieval tune seemed more complex and interesting than the last, and their joy and energy was relentless and contagious.

Hilarious, exciting, surprising and musically ingenious, Joglaresa was one of the best concerts I have seen at Turner Sims. Once this god-awful lockdown and disease is over and done with, get yourself to a Joglaresa gig!