Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

This article on my other blog might be of interest to anyone who likes (or hates) group portrait sessions!

Unfortunately I screwed up the reblog so click here to see the post.

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No lights during the night which was probably good as it was a rough sea, honestly it was rough, my iPhone even fell off the table during the night and got lost somewhere under my bunk not to be found till the morning. Most inconvenient as I use it as a torch when I go to the loo during the night so that I won’t wake Steph up, yes I know I’m just so considerate!

The first port of call where we docked for long enough for us to get off the ship was Hammerfest at 11:15. The town is described as the worlds northernmost and has about 10,000 inhabitants. In the short time that we were there we managed to visit a couple of shops, a gallery where Steph managed rot find a nice Norwegian jumper that she took rather a licking to and is now being worn around the ship.


On our way to the church we passed some roadworks, not unusual in themselves but when you consider that the roads are currently packed with ice and snow and the temperature was well below zero, it’s not bad going. Maybe I just find these things interesting because of the way that everything back home seems just grind to a halt at the merest hint of snow.



We eventually reached the church at the top of the hill from where we had a superb view across the harbour, having said that from where we were we certainly couldn’t see the ship.

On entering the church we were created by a stunning triangular stained glass window in an otherwise quite simple and low key environment.



After a few minutes inside it was time to make our way backdown the hill to rejoin the ship prior to it’s departure at 12:45. Just before boarding we popped into the ‘Polar Bear Society‘ museum, which is right on the quayside and worth a short visit.



As we left the building I was able to get some photos of a rather iced up truck which was making deliveries on the quayside, I just wish that I could have got some shots of the snowplough that we had seen earlier as it had almost as much snow on it as there was on the road! Just goes to show that these trucks just manage to carry on their normal daily functions even in these harsh conditions.



Once on board it was another change of clothing and off for a quick bite to eat before the restaurant closed.


I spent the afternoon going up and down between decks 6 and nine, weighed down with camera bag on my back, the Canon 5D with the 100-400 lens mounted on it. This was really the first day that I felt like wandering around taking photos, probably due to the absolutely superb quality of the light. It was an almost crystal clear day with just a smattering of cloud in the otherwise azure blue sky. The light just shimmered off the snow covered mountains on both sides of the fjords.



Towards three fifteen in the afternoon we were greeted to the sun slowly sinking behind the mountains ahead of us, a super sunset that was a fitting end to another very beautiful day.



At about five we decided to put on our thermals and go for a wander on to the upper deck hoping that the clear conditions might just bring out the all too elusive lights. As we made our way to the rear of the ship we could see a few people, not more than half a dozen or so, looking up, conferring:

“….. is that it?”
“No that’s just a cloud, or smoke from the stack”
“I’m almost sure that’s it, but then again….”

We looked up, through the light smoke rising from the stack, and sure enough there it was, the Aurora was back! It certainly wasn’t the brightly coloured light that we had last seen two days ago but nonetheless it was there. Smaller, then larger, here, there and all around.


First on the starboard side, then on the port, from one side across the ship right over to the other side. Then it was behind us. Where was it now, had it gone? We were looking all round but couldn’t see it. Minutes pasted and then again just a mere speck, and then a bit more, growing ever larger as we watched. Strangely, the deck was almost empty, where was everyone, in the bar maybe having a drink? We hadn’t actually heard any announcement we had just decided to go out and see for ourselves, so maybe no one else knew. “Should I go and tell the entertainments guy” asked Steph. Good idea, so off she went but unfortunately there was none to be seen at the excursion desk so the deck stayed pretty empty for the duration.


We lost sight of the Aurora about quarter to seven before we docked at Skjervoy. We went back to our cabin just after we left Skjervoy at seven fifteen to get ready to go and have dinner.


On the way back from dinner I thought that I would just wander out onto deck 6 to see if I could see anything. When I got to the stern of the ship I looked up and there it was, a bit faint again but it was there. As I was rushing back to the cabin to fetch Steph, well the camera really, the announcement came over the tannoy so by the time we got up to the top deck it was getting a bit crowded.


This wasn’t to be the spectacular show that we had a couple of days ago unfortunately, nevertheless I manage to get some reasonable shots, even one which distinctly shows the plough bushing it’s way through the Aurora. For this session I had decided to whack the ISO unto 6,400 and use my 24-70mm zoom on the basis that it had somewhat larger aperture that the 17-40. This meant that I could take the exposure length down to between 1 and 3 seconds thereby significantly improving the stability of the shots. But as with everything there is a price to pay and in this case it’s noise, no not the shouting type just the thing that causes digital photos not to look nice, we old buggers used to call it ‘grain’ back in the days of film!


By around ten it had all but gone, we were getting cold, wanted the loo yet again (note to self, don’t drink a pint of beer, a litre of water and then go and stand out in sub zero temperatures), so we decided to go in and sit in the bar for a while.

Around midnight we docked in Tromso where we disembarked to catch a coach to the Tromsdalen Kirke (also known as the Arctic Cathedral) for a midnight concert. There was lots of snow on the ground and the climb from the car park up to the church entrance was, shall we say, interesting. Once all of the coaches had deposited their passengers the concert, which consisted of a soprano, a pianist and a frugal horn player, started. It was a strange startup as there was no one to be seen anywhere, the front of the church was lit but devoid of any performers.


The first piece was the frugal horn which resonated magnificently from the arctic style of the church walls, but still no visible sign of a performer. This was closely followed by the fine voice of the soprano, still no sign of a performer, were we really listening to a live performance? I turned round and saw her standing on the balcony behind us, an unusual start to a performance but nonetheless nice and rather peaceful. A little while later the soprano processed down the central isle to the front of the church while singing a wonderful solo piece.


All too soon we rejoined the ship to continue our journey south. As the ship sets sail it is 1.30 in the morning, the cloud is forming, it is starting to snow and the likelihood of another sighting is highly unlikely.


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I had been hearing about the various rehearsals that Steph has been doing for the show for ages now. Then last Wednesday after the final combined rehearsal she arrived home with my ticket thanks to Dor for arranging that. So at last I would be able to see what all the fuss had been about.

Well, Saturday duly arrived, and around two thirty Steph & Ro set off for the final technical rehearsal and the show in the evening. I was left with a map and instructions on how to get to TASIS (The American School in England), which is where the show was taking place, “… and don’t forget the camera…”. as if I would!

I left early so that I would have plenty of time to ‘stake out the joint’, you know the sort of thing, find a good location to hide and take photos from. I’m always conscious when I do a show that the firing of the shutter may disturb the people around me, so I always warn anyone that sits next to me that there may be a little bit of noise. As it turns out I wasn’t the only one that would be taking photos during the performance, Graham had been asked by one of the Royal Harmonics (his flat mate) to come along and take some stills, while Beth (Pete Powells’ wife) was taking a video. Anyway I positioned myself on the first row of the balcony for the first half of the show, sort of over to the left. For the second half I stayed in the balcony but went and sat on some stairs in the middle just under the control box. Needn’t have bothered with the ticket after all then!


Unusually for a barbershop/acappella show this was not going to be just a concert but a show of West End proportions, OK maybe not quite that grand, but never the less a show. So instead of one group coming on and then going off and the next ones coming on, for the most part all the performers would be on stage throughout.


Let me try and set the scene for you, it’s the reception and bar of the Royal Windsor Hotel, the receptionist introduces us to the hotel pianist and tells us about some of the guests that will be staying in the hotel. There’s the bridal party, the grandparents who have come to see their grandchild, a ‘hen’ party, and I almost forgot a BARBERSHOP chorus! I think that was about it, unfortunately when I concentrate on taking a picture I don’t always hear what’s going on (or maybe it’s just an age and memory thing).

Unfortunately shortly after the start of the show the lady taking the part of the hotel receptionist was taken ill and collapsed over the reception desk. She was quickly surrounded by some of the ladies from Signature and the show continued as if nothing had happened, a fantastic achievement considering that she was the lynchpin of the overall show, I don’t think many people noticed.


While Signature opened the show the Royal Harmonics took their places on the risers behind them with an air of professionalism often only found in major stage productions, they’ll be going on tour next!


No sooner had the girls moved to the side that the Royal Harmonics started up.


Next we saw the grand parents meeting their new grandchild ably assisted by one of the quartets from the Royal Harmonics (come on keep up with the story).


Looks like the groom has now turned up as well.


And so the baton passes onto Signature again, this time to serenade one very lonely looking chap (can’t quite remember who he was in the scheme of thinks).


We move onto the combined voices of both the choruses for some superb harmonies.


Then Enigma stepped up to perform the latest addition to their repertoire, ‘Sway Medley’, which is a combination of a number of popular dance songs.


I’ve got to include a black & white shot of the bride and groom, not sure if this was a dry run for Leigh or not!


As the interval drew to a close we were once again serenaded by the wonderful sound of the piano and what can only be described a great pianist. This certainly helped to keep the ‘hotel’ ambiance going.


The show continued with the Royal Harmonics and a change of costume (so I guess you hadn’t all gone to the bar).


It wasn’t long before Enigma were back on to do their version of the Ronan Keatings’ When You Say Nothing At All.


As Signature also managed to get changed during the interval I’m guessing they didn’t get to the bar either!


The finale once more saw both choruses performing together, and what a performance it was!


That just about left one thing, the BAR!


Well done one and all it was a great show. If you want to see all the images of the night just click here.

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