April 19th - Day 1

On the corner of Nunhead Green in South London is the Old Nun's Head pub. And in a sunny corner of the Old Nun's Head pub were a couple of proficient young musicians playing jazzy music that managed to sound upbeat and laidback at the same time. Their audience were an attentive silver-haired beardy man and slightly further away, a handful of chatty Sunday lunchers who happened to be in the same room.

The musicians both seemed to be having a great time. One was a double bassist and the other was a guitarist who looked a bit like Frank Zappa wearing a Mike Nesmith hat. I originally thought they were improvising, but noticed that they were actually paying close attention to a music stand, and the sheet music thereon. The double bassist was concentrating particularly hard and I was impressed by the way he managed to smile and frown at the same time (not easy).

They had a break, returned to their instruments and for all I know played exactly the same set again. This time however their efforts earned deserved applause after every piece from the diners who by now didn't have to go the effort of putting down their knives and forks to show their appreciation. I wondered whether the musicians were enjoying themselves as much as they appeared to be. The easist way to find this out would have been to ask them, but I didn't. Maybe I'll go back next week and ask them then.

theoldnunshead.co.uk

2011 update - Old Nun's Head not doing jazz on a Sunday anymore, but still thriving. I haven't yet found out who the two musicians are.

2014 - five years later - pub still there, jazz still not there, folk music is there, still don't know who the musicians were.

An old nun's head

April 20th - Day 2

At lunchtime I walked up eight large stone steps and into the entrance of St Martin-In-The-Fields, the large, bright church that has overseen Trafalgar Square and before then the King's Mews from the square's north-east corner for nearly three hundred years. I stopped in front of two closed doors, one of which had a sign on it saying "Concert in progress - no entry".

I stood in the porch area and marvelled at how clear the music coming from the main part of the church was - how it managed to fill up every inch of this small adjacent place despite being performed a hundred yards away in a different room and on the other side of two large wooden doors, probably made of something thick and sturdy like oak. Then I noticed, perched above me on either side, two audio speakers.

I was allowed in during a break between pieces of music and sat on a pew about half way up the nave, near the sides. The audience was at least a hundred strong. Many of them were quite elderly and some were tourists. We listened to flautist Eimear McGeown play a selection of reels on traditional Irish flute before she was joined by pianist Aleksander Szram to perform a lovely, drifty short piece of music called "Home from the Storm" by David Heath. It was written in 1984, but wasn't orchestrated for a cd recording until 2003. As I leant back in my pew, gazed at St Martin's fine ceiling and watched the music swirl sleepily above me, I realised that unexpectedly stumbling across wonderful music played by renowned musicians was something I'd like to do more often.

The concert finished. The musicians left the altar, momentarily disappeared behind a side door, reappeared for an encore of applause and disappeared once again into the vestry, or something similar, where they probably worried if they could have played that note a little bit better. Then the audience also left. Apart from one man who was asleep in the furthest corner of the furthest pew. He wore khaki shorts and his legs sported large scabs. I went back in five minutes later and he was still asleep. I wondered at what time they usually kicked him out.


eimearmcgeown.com


2011 update. This May Elmear has been invited by the Queen, I think to perform, to a reception at Buckingham Palace for Young People in the Performing Arts.

April 21st - Day 3

The original plan this lovely, sunny day was to amble along the Thames from London Bridge and appreciate the first riverside musician I encountered. Southwark Cathedral, however, was in the way and so I found myself inside a house of God for the second time in as many days, something I hadn't done since last year when I went back to the church the day after my father's funeral to get my coat. The occasion in the cathedral today was a music recital, featuring Mezzo soprano Sara Gourlay and pianist Richard Shaw.

The audience was sparser than yesterday's at St Martin's (if a vicar had rocked up next to the pulpit instead of the performers, would the audience have become a congregation?). I boldly sat twelve rows from the front, where the elegant Sara boldly stood and sang twelve songs by Brahms, Gurney, Hahn and Saint Saens - the latter from an opera. I have to admit here that I don't know a lot about this kind of music. Before today I had not heard of three of these composers. I even wondered whether Camille Saint Saens might be a woman (he's not) . And from there, as I noticed that the chair in front of me was donated by 3i Group PLC, why I could think of no female composers at all. It turns out the reason is because I am ignorant - according to wikipidea there were four hundred and fifty female composers born before 1900.

All of which hardly qualifies me to offer some kind of cod review here - that is not the point of this. To me, Sara Gourlay sounded fine and fantastic. And Richard Shaw must have been great too, seeing as, like a good football referee, I hardly noticed him throughout the performance. Neither, I suspect, did the two men sitting near the front who spent most of the recital looking at their respective knees. These were the only two people between me and the singer, but this didn't appear to put her off. She sang serene and confident as if every seat, donated or not, were occupied. Had a very large stone effigy fallen from the roof and taken out half the audience, I doubt she would have batted an eyelid.

So what is the point of this?

saragourlay.com

2011 update. Sara is scheduled to perform at The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich on June 3rd.

2014 - five years on - next two scheduled performances are weddings - one in Sussex and one in Italy. As well as being a professional singer, Sara is a speech and language therapist.

April 22nd - Day 4

I probably need to define my set of rules. Every day I must experience a musical performance of any sort by at least one artist/performer I have not previously seen during the year. So if I see an artist one week and a month later they're on the bill of another show, that's okay as long as I see, and concentrate on, somebody else. Basically, a new performer every day. Anywhere. Any capability. Buskers. Someone at a party. School choirs. Every kind of concert, recital or festival. I can't keep going to the same place, but I've yet to decide what restriction to put on the amount of times I visit one venue. Once a month perhaps.

So this evening I broke that rule and then bent it. I was back at The Old Nun's Head, but in the room above the pub and so a completely different venue. The occasion was the weekly Easycome Acoustic night which has been running (according to Easycome Myspace) for 17 years, first at the Ivy House on the other side of Nunhead Cemetery, and for the last two or three years, here. I've been a few times before and have always been impressed with the quality on offer. The term "acoustic" may imply "folk" to some, but frankly any style goes, as long as it's good.

When I arrived, the cosy wood pannelled room was lit, as always, by tealight candles in lanterns. Two blokes were watching a five piece group called Rum Shebeen sound checking, although this wasn't completely apparent until they'd finished a nifty latino-indie number and asked whether the vocals were okay and could we hear the keyboards. We said yes.

And so I thought, well, I've had my musical experience. I could just go. But I liked what I saw so would like to save Rum Shebeen for another time. And as I dithered the MC, Andy Hankdog (sometimes Hank Dog) - that's he with the hat - came in and asked if I was staying, then he recognised me and we briefly discussed personal affairs, before I found myself handing him four pounds. I watched football downstairs for a bit and came back. The smell of insence now wafted down the staircase.

In the room the audience had swelled ten-fold. On stage, just about to be announced, were two women. One with a banjo and a sore throat (Ruth) and one with a guitar (Emily). The Lorcas. The Lorcas were rather fab. They played and sang sweet, dark folk. I expect most the songs were about people dying in pits or children falling down wells, but I didn't follow the narratives that closely and instead just drifted along with the kind of excellent music that makes one feel melancholy and cheery at the same time. I know one or two high-minded musical friends of mine who would have scoffed something ponsy about an occasional lack of polish in the performance and I would have told them to go and stick a tin of Mr Sheen up their arse. All five or six of these great songs appeared to be original compositions. When they finished I asked Ruth if they were (and managed to sound quite patronising with it). She said yes, and her voice was fucked.

2011 update. The Easycome night is still going strong. I'm not sure the same can be said of The Lorcas - can't yet find any news beyond 2009...

2014 - 5 years on - Easycome, after returning briefly to its spiritual home The Ivy House, upon the latter's temporary closure in 2012, moved to The White Horse in Peckham, where it still is. The Lorcas remain unaccounted for.

April 23rd - Day 5

You'd have thought it would be quite easy to find a 100-strong choir at a train station - even one as vast as St Pancras International. But I couldn't find one anywhere. "1-2pm", Time Out said. "The Full English...St George's Day performance features a 100-strong choir on the main St Pancras concourse performing a new anthem for England, composed and conducted by Sam Dunkley". I'd stuck close to a promising looking concourse beyond one o'clock, keeping an eye out for one hundred stout men and women, and saw none.

But something anticipatory was in the air. Important looking decks of sound equipment were stacked near the top of escalators. Men with cameras (probably photographers) and men with film cameras lurked. Sound mics were attached to rails and partitions. Young women wearing strange dresses hung about in front of a large screen showing St George's day related snippets of film. There were even some musicians playing kind of rhythm musak on a loop, in an alcove opposite the champagne bar. A bloke and four kids (I was told they were the same family), three of whom had mohican haircuts - the young drummer cutting a particularly fine postcard punk figure.

And so I could have left, but I'd come here to find a hundred strong choir. And I found them hidden away right in a corner (I was sure I'd already looked there). They were a lot smaller than I'd expected, because they were children (from Morden School).

This, as it turned out, was the "gig": (from BBC website) "On 23 April 2009, people in Beds, Herts and Bucks will be able to take part in a unique production to mark St George's Day, as it makes its way from the Milton Keynes Theatre to St Pancras station in London. 'The Full English' will be performed by renowned theatre company Hoipolloi and is designed to be a celebration of all things English, from tea and crumpets to tennis rackets and cakes. Hoipolloi will start the production at the Milton Keynes Theatre, before boarding a double decker bus to Luton station where they will catch a specially decorated train to St Pancras, performing all the way! On arrival at St Pancras International Station, they will be greeted by a 100 strong choir on the concourse, singing a new anthem for England, composed and conducted by young English composer Sam Dunkley."

And that's what happened.




Sam Dunkley with the choir

2011 update - Having trouble finding out much about Sam Dunkley's subsequent music exploits. School still teaching children though.

2014 update - five years on - Sam's twitter describes him as a "freelance community musician with a penchant for singing projects".

April 24th - Day 6

I was very clear.

"Will there be songs?" I asked my daughter, Daisy, who is three, on the way to her Friday morning toddler session.

"Yes," she said, "I need a wee."

We'd been there half an hour, but despite there still being a full ninety minutes to go, I was already getting itchy. The couple of times I'd been to these kind of events before, I'd rather dreaded the musical interlude, but today I was on the edge of my seat at any movement by Yvonne the helper towards any cupboards that may contain any tamberines, marraccas and triangles. About an hour in, I again asked Daisy if they sang songs.

"I want a chocolate biscuit," she said.

With half an hour remaining and hope fading fast I pumped Daisy for answers one last time.

"Do they have songs?"

"Yes."

"At the end?"

"Yes. I want to go home."

But we stayed to the bitter end. As the last of the mess was swept away I thanked Yvonne - although I wanted to say "Why didn't you sing any bloody songs?!" She said goodbye to me and Daisy, then added, "It's nice that Daisy stayed to the end this week, because she doesn't usually".

So penance for Daisy for stringing me a web of lies was to get the train to London and scour the South Bank for a musician. I had to buy some cheese in Borough Market first and then, Daisy on my shoulders, we wandered along the hot, busy walkway alongside the river, past The Golden Hind, The Clink, The Anchor Pub...The Globe.

We were approaching The Tate Modern and The Millenium Bridge, and I was beginning to wonder whether Boris Johnson had banned buskers, when I heard a steelpan and saw this guy half way up the Millenium Bridge ramp. We watched him until Daisy asked to walk across the bridge. She put some money in his case and we left.

An original intention of mine was to interact in some way (is it called talking?) with the musicians I come across on my journey. I'm yet to be that courageous, though my cause isn't helped by the fact that these musicians tend to be occupied with playing music when I encounter them. I'd like to find out more about this guy. Maybe he'll be there another day.

(He was. Lots of other days. He's called Gavin and has been busking around here since 1985)

2011 update - I've seen Gavin in his usual spot over the past two years though haven't passed that way for a few months so not sure if he's definitely still there

April 25th - Day 7

Yee-ha!!! Peruvian musicians on Peckham Rye Common at one o'clock!!

"Quite a bit of rythym, like they mean it," said Howard, who I'd bumped into. "365 days of live music? That's the sort of thing that could change your life," said Clare, who was with him.

I noted the name on the blackboard of events - Sophia (sic...should have been Sofia) Buchuck - and looked her up later on Google. Turns out she's renowned and I wish I'd stayed longer, but I had to get Oliver, my nine year old, to his musical drama dancey class thing.

sofiabuchuck.co.uk

2014 - 5 years on - currently preparing for a forthcoming performance at The Poetry Cafe on May 12th.

https://twitter.com/SofiaBuchuck

April 26th - Day 8

My third day in a row of working my new musical adventure around full-time childcare coincided with The London Marathon, which was a good thing. The route was lined with live musical entertainment of many sorts.

I chose to take the kids to the Rotherhithe Roundabout to see the South London Jazz Orchestra. We got there just before the leading men dashed through, but within half an hour the road was chocked full of people who weren't running quite as first and we could hardly see the Orchestra at all, so we watched the runners instead.

We were there for an hour and the SLJO played Glenn Miller and other numbers from the swing era the whole time and I guess they played more of the same for several hours after. According to their website they are a "group of dedicated musicians from many different backgrounds and of a wide range of ages. The principal aim of SLJO is to promote jazz music in the community and have as much fun as possible while doing so."

2014 - 5 years on - SLJO were back at the London Marathon (albeit a couple of weeks earlier).

April 27th - Day 9

"I'm not feeling very well," said Oliver on the morning of my first child-free music-hunting day since Thursday, "I don't think I should go to school." He looked alright to me and I demanded proof, which he duely provided whilst bent in various positions over the toilet.

But all was not lost; I had already been audience to a musical performance before Oliver's unhelpful revelation. Completely out of the blue, Daisy asked me if she could sing me a song. She sang me four in the end (Cheeky Monkeys, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Once I Caught A Fish Alive). I had intended to use The Daisy Wild Card at some point, but not this early. However, the performance's complete spontaneity and its serendipitous timing persuaded me that the card had to be played now.

April 28th - Day 10

This whole idea is feeling a bit bananas today. First test of nerve ten days in. The boy's ill again so daytime music is out. However I should have time to catch a band called Mescal Circus tonight, who intriguingly incorporate live painting into their shows, but tomorrow's going to be a squash. I could hang around town till after midnight tonight and hope to catch tomorrow's act then. Or is that cheating? Friday's looking tough too.

I ended up going to Hootananny in Brixton and listening to the mellow blues of Nelson King, and the sound check of Benjamin Thomas, and was back home by ten.

2015 update - Nelson King still gigging - down by the sea at St Leonards last night (August 2nd). Benjamin Folke Thomas's star has risen since 2009 - he's about to set off on tour, mainly Germany and England, London's venue being The Union Chapel. He also has three acclaimed albums under his belt.

http://www.nelsonking.net

http://www.benfolkethomas.com

April 29th - Day 11

Blasts of music and crowd-calling voices rolled around the pillars of Covent Garden Market like fog around trees - seemingly within ones grasp, but always a little further away from where one actually is.

After a short period of being enticed by the misleading sounds of acrobats with loud backing music, crowd-pulling magicians and diabolo-sellers, I found an enthusiastic string (and flute) quintet performing in the basin courtyard outside the Crusting Pipe wine bar. Above them people watched, leaning over the railings that lined the four sides of yard.

I went down the staircase, sat on a stone step and for half an hour was entertained by the familiar music of Mozart, Strauss, Bach, Offenbach and Europe. There was witty banter and some nifty dance moves that dangerously bordered on the gymnastic - the second violinist was nearly a faller at the Can-Can.

They were called Lotus (or was it Locus?). It was fortunate for them that they put on a good show, because, according to their flautist and spokeswoman, they were in fact playing for their supper - "we will wither away" - and would be doing so again at four o'clock.

2015 update. Lotus (it's not Locus) according to their website still seem to have a connection with The Crusting Pipe and are also available for weddings and corporate events!

http://www.lotusclassics.co.uk

April 30th - Day 12

Anita Maj is a Rock Chick. I thought so when I saw her, and her website (Anita Maj - Singer Songwriter and Rock Chick) thinks so too.

Tonight she and her band were rocking at The New Cross Inn, one of a number of music pub venues on the clogged up stretch of the A2 that wheezes and splutters through New Cross.

May 1st - Day 13

It's a race against time this morning. I've got from ten till eleven thirty to find live music somewhere in the West End...can't be hard surely...

10.25 Hungerford footbridge (downstream)

May 2nd - Day 14

My girlfriend, Claire, and I saw this guy performing underneath the arches of Southwark Bridge. He was being watched by a young woman, maybe his girlfriend, sitting against the opposite wall and smoking a cigarette. He sang 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up" and a distinctive punk-yodel version of Eddie Cochran's "C'mon Everybody" that had more in common with the Sid Vicious version.

He was the first of four buskers that we saw along the South Bank that evening. Add to that the fleeting experience of singer Georgia Mancio when we wandered into the foyer of the wrong theatre, and live music accompanying the play "Dido, Queen of Carthage" (about which I should one day write a few words) when we were sitting in the seats of the right theatre, and, erm...well... a lot of music was had.

May 3rd - Day 15

"Been past it many times, but never been inside," is a remark I recently overheard. The man was responding to a friend's glowing report of The Plough in Walthamstow and the live music therein. I have been neither past nor inside The Plough. Could I go inside without going past? Probably not unless I went inside every single time I went past...or didn't go past.

Anyway, a pub that I have been past many times, and never been inside, is The Pyrotechnists Arms on Nunhead Green ("The Pyro"). A poster on their window advertised "Theresa Rodgers and Wild Flowers" performing at 6.30 this evening. I got there at seven and walked out of Nunhead and into Donegal.

Theresa Rodgers, it turned out, is an Irish country music performer, and I think songwriter, of some reknown. The Mayo News reported thus on her performance in front of 2,000 people at last May's emotional closing night of The Galtymore Ballroom in Cricklewood, "Singers of the calibre of Theresa Rodgers from Arranmore island off the Donegal coast are rare, and the now London-based entertainer, along with her brother John, delivered a lovely set for the early arrivals. She is a superb singer and a charming lady as well."

The Galtymore opened in 1952 at a time of high Irish emigration to Britain and became a main, perhaps the main social headquarters for Irish Londoners. Not all the events there were necessarily for an Irish audience. I went there once, two years ago, to see The Fall. And I would have liked to have gone there again. Oh well.

Today Theresa played keyboard and sang. She was accompanied by John on guitar. And on the tight patch of wooden floor in front of them people danced. Not because they were drunk, but because they liked dancing. At the end of the first song I heard, Theresa said, "Thank you for dancing", which I took to be indication that this was the first song featuring dancers, but it turned out she says that after every song. Though probably not when no-one dances - that would be rude and sarcastic. This evening, however, there were dancers for every song. Lots of them, teens through to seventies. Couples smiling, twirling and interchanging. By the time I left about an hour later, I'd had to retreat several yards from my original vantage point to avoid being swept along by the dancing hoards.

2015 update - latest gig news of Theresa and John on the net I can find was January 2014 at a pub in Ealing. The Pyro still gong strong with live music to the fore.

May 4th - Day 16

"What defines a live music experience?" This was the question I asked myself on the top deck of the 63 bus as I listened to a couple of seven year-old girls begin the second verse of their version of Taylor Swift's song Love Story.

When they had finished, the adult with them (could have been a granny) asked how many times they'd had to listen to the song to get the words right. "Eight times," said one of the girls. "She got the words wrong," said the other one.

Well, yes, it wasn't word perfect, but it was close enough for me to note some of the lyrics and find out what the song was by googling them. And the performance adhered close enough to important song-like features such as verses, chorus and tune to consider it a live music experience.

May 5th - Day 17

In the subway underneath Westminster Bridge I saw two men wearing hats play Oasis and Rolling Stones with guitar, drumsticks and voice. The fourth bridge-related peformance out of seventeen. I have started to write a thesis on this phenomenon that I will post shortly. (That turned out to be a lie)

I'd crossed Westminster Bridge from Parliament Square where UK-based Tamils were demonstrating, urging the British government to act on behalf of Tamils in Sri Lanka.

To consider their chants of protest as a live musical experience felt wrong on two counts. Firstly it was questionable whether spoken chanting can be classified as music - had it been backed by drumming (as I momentarily thought it was, but it turned out to be music from a passing car) would it then have been music?

More importantly, though, to shoehorn these demonstrators as my "tick" for the day gave me the uncomfortable feeling that I was trivialising their serious cause.

May 6th - Day 18

Being weary (I) turned into St Dunstan's Church, where I hear an able sermon from the minister of the place. And stood by a pretty, modest maid whom I did labour to take by the hand and the body, but she would not, but got further and further from me, and at last I could perceive her to take pins out of her pocket to prick me if I should touch her again; which seeing I did forbear, and was glad I did espy her design. And then I fell to gaze upon another pretty maid in a pew close to me and she on me; and I did go about to take her by the hand, which she suffered a little and then withdrew. So the sermon ended and the church broke up, and my amours ended also.

So wrote Samuel Pepys in 1667. And in 2009, being knackered, I turned into St Dunstan's Church (now St Dunstan-In-The-West), where I hear an able lunchtime piano recital from Simon Callaghan. And I fell to gaze upon an elderly lady in a pew close to me, but she not on me for her eyes were closed and she smiled and slowly rocked her head to the music of Chopin.

May 7th - Day 19

I went to a bar stroke club on Shoreditch High Street called Last Days Of Decadence tonight to have another go at watching Mescal Circus (see Day 10). There were supposed to be first on, but they weren't, so I'll have to find them another time.

Instead I and twenty or thirty others politely stood and watched the fantastic Sunlight Service Group, who played music so up my street it was banging on my front door and screaming "I want to move in now!" through my letterbox.

I was only two years old when Pink Floyd first played at the trailblazing psychedelic club UFO, and I had more important things to do with my life, like not swallow marbles, than be bothered with the embryonic light and sound twiddlings of a future supergroup. But for a short few moments this evening, as SSG grooved through one particularly spaced out track that would have fitted cosily on Pink Floyd's first album, "The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" - and despite no oil slide light show - I felt I had my own belated little UFO experience.

May 8th - Day 20

Three days ago Oliver brought home his script for this morning's assembly - a short play about Vikings.

There were some lines highlighted in green - I think they were Oliver's - but more crucially at the bottom of page one were the words "SONG Viking Warriors" and on page two "SONG Viking Boats".

"Hey," I said, "There's songs."

"I'm the Chief Viking," said Oliver.

"And there's songs," I said.

"No," he said.

"It says songs."

"No, we're not doing the songs."

"Why not?"

"Because we didn't want to do them."

I suggested to Oliver that he and his classmates may like to re-consider this decision. When he proved unwilling to heed my suggestion, I demanded to know who was in charge and he told me it was his teacher.

And so the assembly has passed off without music and what with Daisy's toddler group also, yet again, failing to deliver, I now need to pick Oliver up from his choir practice ten minutes early...

Choir did good - soaring version of Bill Withers' "Lovely Day"

May 9th - Day 21

London Big Bang Drum Circle - part of World Fair Trade Day. At The Scoop, next to City Hall.

May 10th - Day 22

East Dulwich Goose Green Fair, 11-4.

Live Music (and other things). Hurray.

Under 9s football kick off, 12.30. Bollocks.

In Bexleyheath. Bollocks.

Get to the fair at 2.30, two children and their Grandma in my slipstream.

Music on a PA. Hurray.

The green cluttered with people and trestle tables laden with the wares of East Dulwich (olives, ethnic cushions...that kind of thing). Pushing through. Daisy on my shoulders. Oliver wants to go on the bouncy castle.

An empty stage with nobody on it. A dj. Bollocks. "Live music's finished".

Daisy wants to go on the bollocks bouncy castle. There's a massive queue. Oliver wants a bastard ice cream. Grandma wants a spinach tart. Daisy wants to go on a donkey.

Are they singing donkeys? No. They just walk up and down don't they. And children sit on them. They can neither sing nor play a musical instrument. Daisy queues for a donkey with Grandma.

Oliver and I eat free cheese. We walk back to the talentless donkey queue. Past a white tent.

I hear singing...or chanting..."Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo...Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo"...

That'll do.

May 11th - Day 23

"Rawhide" sung by a boy who may have been called Colin in London E20.

May 12th - Day 24

One doesn't so much go to The Bedford pub in Balham as travel through it with a "Let's Go The Bedford" guide book. I didn't have the book and subsequently spent ten minutes stumbling through outlying areas of The Bedford before discovering the live music. I was expecting to see someone called Sarah Russell, but she wasn't there. Instead I saw Tony Moore, a passionate singer/songwriter/guitarist/person who rather improbably used to be in Iron Maiden (in the pre-fame days), and even more improbably, given their music style, was their keyboardist (though not for long). In the eighties he was in Cutting Crew. And in the nineties he added club management to his cv, including running the music side of this place since 2003.

May 13th - Day 25

Today I watched the back of Benjamin Horden's head in the Temple Church. In front of him was a very big organ. He is an organist. Organists - the rowers of the musical world. I took a photo, but it's rubbish, so here's a photo of Temple gargoyles. The guy on the right is saying, "Are you awake?....ARE YOU AWAKE?!"

May 14th - Day 26

Heartless Bastards at Pure Groove opposite Smithfield Market - the first recipients of my new business cards created to make me braver. I'd not heard of Pure Groove before, but think this will not be the last time I visit the place. They are, in their own words, "a record shop/gallery space in central London, hosting regular instore performances from the best bands in the world on our specially constructed stage, and serving a wide range of soft and alcoholic drinks". Neither had I heard of Heartless Bastards, though it could be the last time I see them for a while, not because they weren't any good - they were fab and gave the thirty or so audience a rocking good time (incidentally, apologies to lovers of damning critques, but all musicians featured in this blog are fab) - but because they're from Cincinnati.

May 15th - Day 27

An out-of-focus photo of Adi (don't know if I've spelt that right) mellowing walkers with guitar and song as they pass under Blackfriars Bridge. And the first busker I've been brave enough to talk to - thank you Adi! I got so excited at this breakthru that, after chatting, I forgot to stay and listen. As I waited for a bus on the bridge overhead, I stretched out an ear to hear him and wonder how to describe his music. Bluesy feels like a rather lazy and overly broad term...bluesy with a dash of Africa perhaps. And a generous slug of drill provided by the adjacent building works, the competing presence of which, Adi told me, didn't help make for a great pitch. The name of a South African band called Juluka popped into my head. Then the bus came. And I forgot to ask Adi whether he was singing his own songs.

May 16th - Day 28

This guy was doing good business in the modern walkway outside the Cutty Sark tube entrance. I added a couple of quid and my mysterious calling card to his pot and took his photo as he stormed passionately through "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye". He nodded goodbye to me when I turned to leave and I wondered guiltily that, not yet having had a chance to closely inspect my card, he may have been under the unfortunate impression that I could have a positive influence on the progress of his musical career, so I ran away before he discovered the truth.

May 17th - Day 29

A trip to Wembley Stadium today to see Cambridge United take on Torquay United in a battle to secure a place in the Football League and surely, I thought, a shoe-in regarding songs and chants. Maybe the tension of the high-stakes situation got to the fans, but when, following their opening goal just after the half hour, the Torquay fans tormented their Cambridge counterparts with "You're not singing any more", so little attempts to burst into song had either fans made up to this point, it seemed to be delivered with a commendable sense of collective irony. By the way, according to Wikipedia, the words to "You're not singing any more." are "You're not singing, You're not singing, You're not singing any more, You're not sinnnngggginggg any more." Sung to the tune of "Bread of Heaven". The photo shows Cambridge United fans not singing any more.

May 18th - Day 30

I went to Nunhead Library this morning to return an overdue dvd. My disgruntlement at being told that I owed Southwark Council three pounds was tempered by the realisation that a toddlers' group was in full swing in the children part of the library. I'd been to this group in the past (with my daughter), recalled that songs were a feature and spotted an opportunity to avoid a trip uptown this afternoon and with it give myself an extra couple of hours to write in the blog. As I waited, not wishing to appear sinister, I flicked through a book about London social history. Before long I heard the happy sound of a maraca. And then a tamberine and various other instruments to bash, shake or blow. "He's trying to escape," said a mum as she caught up with one little fellow who, in mid-flee, had bumped his head on the electronic swing gate. Perhaps he'd been given the tuba. The songs were a mixture of old and new - Head Shoulders Knees and Toes, Wheels on the Bus, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Here We Go Round the Mulbury Bush, Ring a Ring a Roses. Three hundred and fifty years of song history (if one believes the Ring a Roses plague connection) peformed inside ten frantic musical minutes.

May 19th - Day 31

A jamming evening of Gypsy swing Djangology at Le fantastic QuecumBar in Battersea High Street. And a regret that my love of music is not matched by a talent to perform it. Seven musicians were piled at various heights into a leafy corner of the bar. Three guitarists, a violinist, an accordianist, a clarinetist (I think - it was busy and I didn't have a clear view) and on double bass and cool beard, Viktor Obsust. I only got into Django Reinhardt last year, but already his written name leaps warmingly off the page as much as any other favourite musician or band. The "walk into a little corner of this city or that country" line can be glib, but I don't know this area and what with approaching the bar undercover of dark, I did get a distinctly satisfactory different time and place experience (how glib).
This is the blurb on the Le QuecumBar site (I've only just got it...cucumber!):
"A unique wine bar from a bygone era: pre-war France, with Hot Club gypsy jazz, invented by Django Reinhardt. Based in London, UK, we offer the best in live music and gypsy jazz. We add a twist to the traditional jazz club by pairing our Parisian charm with a love and knowledge of fine wines, all wrapped up in the spirit of Django. We offer all you'd expect from a great wine bar, plus mouthwatering food and an unequalled atmosphere worthy of the best jazz clubs around. A must for all jazz fans in London, the South East, and all live music fans nationwide."

May 20th - Day 32

This blue man was playing Spanish guitar near The London Eye. I asked him why he was blue. He said, "I'm playing for you blue music". And the woman in the red coat - is she singing along or talking to a video camera?



Serene accordian from Italia under Westminster Bridge

May 21st - Day 33


Ivydale Primary School International Evening, featuring steel pans, samba band, African percussion, choirs, dancing and good food.






May 22nd - Day 34

Flute, voice, triangle and dragon in Candlelit Matinee in front of The Tate Modern. Zut alors - I've only just noticed how much the dragon likes the singer!

Side effects of carrying out this project

Number one: Seeing someone walking down the street carrying a guitar case and having an urge to follow them.

Number two: Saying, "Will there be music?" when I'm invited anywhere. Conversations can run something like this:
"Would you like to come over for a coffee tomorrow morning?"
"Will there be music?"
"No."
"Do you live next to a pub that opens at ten a.m. and puts on daily live music from a quarter past ten?"
"No".
"...Do you own a piano/guitar/mouth organ...?"
etc, etc, etc

May 23rd - Day 35

Syd Arthur (three-quarters of whom appear in this murky photo -they're a band, not a person) and The Boot Lagoon at The Gladstone in Borough. The Glad, as the pub is known to its friends, was a joyous discovery. Tonight was Glastonbury circa 1972 in your front room (if your front room was bohemian and candle-lit and sold real ale in glasses with handles). We (Claire and I) had come to see Syd Arthur - because Time Out said it was free, and it was local-ish - but first we saw Syd Arthur's younger teenage brother, The Boot Lagoon. Both bands come from Canterbury and The Boot Lagoon especially showed reverance to their sixties and seventies musical heritage. The influences of Caravan and Soft Machine shone throughout their set. Oops, this is starting to sound like a review now, and I don't do reviews. No matter. Syd Arthur were cosmic purveyors of groovy, funky, psychedelic rock and, to quote the sign outside, instrumental freak-outs. And astoundingly good. I say astounding, because I just don't expect this quality of music - from two bands - for free in a small, out-of-the-way pub. Maybe these kind of places have always been around and I haven't noticed - or at least I'd forgotten.

May 24th - Day 36

The Herne Brass Band keeping noise to a reasonable level (tuba player obscured by tree. Bottom picture is of tuba player unobscured by tree).


May 25th - Day 37

An enticing cacophony of multi-instrument scales and rehearsals spilling out of the open windows of The Trinity College of Music in the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich.

May 26th - Day 38

I really wasn't up for this today. I drove to New Cross with a vague notion of finding Karaoke at The Goldsmiths Tavern, but nothing was going on and I couldn't be bothered to hang around and find out if something was supposed to be going on. I was walking back to the car, resigned to driving to The Hootenanny or The Bedford for one of their regular live nights (nothing wrong with them, but I'd be treading trodden ground), when I saw this poster and I entered the fantastical, underworld sea of The Montague Arms...(to be continued)

May 27th - Day 39

Jeff Lang (and Grant Cummerford) at Green Note, Camden

May 28th - Day 40

Two drummers, accordianist and trumpeteer busking under Hungerford Bridge. (I'm moving house at the moment and throughout next week, so blogs may be quite brief during this time - though they, and other unfinished ones, will be updated eventually. Frankly, if I successfully make it through to Day 50 on June 7th, the next 315 days will be a breeze).

May 29th - Day 41

The Beat at Hootananny, Brixton (more to come some time very soon)

May 30th - Day 42

"Happy birthday" sung by fifteen sugar caned nine year-olds in Bromley.................