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!

REVIEW: Waitress (Adelphi Theatre, West End)

Quick Summary: Sugar, butter, flour – the perfect ingredients for a feel-good musical
Rating: ★★★★

If you’re looking for a show to fill you up with laughter, good singing and great looking pies, then Waitress the Musical is the one for you. Based on the 2007 film of the same name, we follow waitress Jenna through her unhappy marriage, her pregnancy, her affair with her doctor, Dr. Pomatter, and all of the lessons she learns along the way. Alongside her two best friends, the feisty, opinionated Becky and ditsy, American Revolution re-enactment enthusiast Dawn, Jenna takes us through a show that explores the ups and downs of relationships, both with other people and with yourself.

Lucie Jones as Jenna is a complete triumph. Her performance is in both parts vocally excellent, and theatrically interesting. She combines Jenna’s strength and vulnerability, as well as the desire to feel something again, in a powerful way so that you are left feeling incredibly sympathetic. She is balanced well by the hilarious David Hunter as Dr. Pomatter. Hunter is, again, brilliant at creating a nuanced, balanced character who is funny but also reveals traits beyond his comedic facade.

Other highlights include the pairing of Laura Baldwin and Joe Sugg as Dawn and Ogie respectively. The pair bounce off each other very well with quips and facial expressions, leaving the audience laughing when they say almost anything. Baldwin’s ‘When He Sees Me’ was both hilarious and sincere, and Sugg’s ‘Never Ever Getting Rid Of Me’ had the perfect level of dorky-ness.

Overall, nothing about this show is particularly extraordinary or revolutionary; the songs are generally written in a typical pop-theatre style, and the story is reasonably predictable. However, what makes the show enjoyable and successful is the fact that it takes its relative simplicity and executes it perfectly. The comedic timing and structure of the story all land very well with the audience. Every song is nice to listen to, and the harmony is divine. There are touches of crude humour, sincere love and real-life problems, all of which combine to make a lovely, all-rounded show.

Sweet, sugary and delicious, you leave Waitress feeling as if you could watch it all over again.

 


 

Have you seen Waitress? Leave a comment or join the conversation on Twitter!