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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

From The Ridiculous To The Sublime

A chance of pace and scene today.

Having completed the sleevenotes for the Hatfield and the North reissues, and prepared for some other archive-related notes, I went into Newcastle to meet up with me old mucker, John Sargent. We were due to meet up at the newly opened library now renamed the Charles Avison Building.

One way to get to the library is via Northumberland Place...

and here is (almost the same scene taken in the mid-60s)....

You can't help but notice the "beauty and beast" contrast between the Amos Atkinson building on the left (with plaster work applied by way of celebrating the Queen's coronation in 1953) and the thrusting modernity of the Pearl Assurance building which was, ahem, erected in the late 60s...


Entering Northumberland Place, the site now occupied by the amusement arcade/coffee shop on the left here, used to house the palatial Queen's Theatre where I first saw 2001: A Space Odyssey in Cinemascope circa 1969.

In October 1972 I saw ELP at the Queens cinema.

Or rather I didn't. The augeries for this gig were not good.

After queuing out overnight to buy tickets the moment they went on sale, I promptly lost mine on the bus coming home. After pleading to the cinema manager I was issued with a pass for the gig but should someone come to claim the seat I would have to leave.

I needn't have worried.

The gig was cancelled after two hours of a packed house waiting for the band to come on. They couldn't get the rig to work. A sheepish Keith Emerson made the announcement to a hugely disappointed crowd, who had to wait for a couple of weeks for a rescheduled appearance at the Odeon cinema just around the corner on Pilgrim Street.

The brutality of the Pearl building was astonishing when it went up. The intervening 40 years has done little to diminsh that impact.

And so to the new library...

It would be heard to imagine a public square more depressing than this one...


Inside however, it's all rather light and airy...

with some fine views of the city available...




"Heeerrrreees Johneeeee!"

We tried out the cafe in the library. John was on the ginger beer and I opted for dandelion and burdock.

Hey, that's the way we guys roll.

And so to the bottom of Westgate Road and Newcastle's Literary and Philosophical Society...



I was here a while ago with Debra to listen to a talk by Ian Rankin and Val McDermid. Tonight John had tempted me to hear a talk given by Gail-Nina Anderson talk about depictions of music and musical instruments, including their symbolic and iconographical significance, in 18th century art and painting.

But before that, I joined up and became a member of the Lit & Phil - something I wanted to do when I first entered this fabulous building back in the early 1980s.

Lack of cash had always prevented me from doing this. However, after chatting with John last week and discovering he'd recently joined himself at a special rate to be deducted quarterly it seemed like a good idea to join in the fun at last!

Up the stairs...


and into the main library itself...


After completing the form-filling it was back downstairs...

and into a rather functional room to listen to Gail-Nina Anderson

During her engaging talk she showed a slide of this painting by Vermeer called A Young Woman standing at a Virginal
I'd not seen this before but my breath was taken away by it. Whatever the symbolism in it may be, you can almost hear the bright acoustics of that room.

The evening was organised by the Avison Ensemble as part of their Tercentenary Events programme celebrating the 300th anniversary of Avison's birth.

Up until today I had absolutely no idea who Charles Avison was. So at the end of the talk I picked up this book about Avison and music-making in 18th Century Newcastle.

As John put it..."a splendid evening!"

Homeward bound!

4 comments:

Chris W said...

Welcome back my friends to the show that never starts! (-;

Although I was invited to the opening of the new library I was so busy at that point that I couldn't justify taking the time off, so good to finally see it. Must pop over properly at some point and take a look. Curiously the external views of the library itself still look like architect's drawings to me....

Been meaning to check out the Lit & Phil for years. Didn't realise the size of the place inside until a friend showed me some pictures a few years ago.... Was a bit taken aback....

Ben said...

Hi Sid
Are you at liberty to say who will be rereleasing the Hatfields CDs
Esoteric? Burning Shed?...
thanks
ben

Sid Smith said...

The Lit & Phil is an oasis of calm Chris - a beautiful place which as you indicate is huge. I'm thinking of trying to work there at least one day a week as a means of trying to shift into another mindset: as you know yourself as a writer, one gets stuck in habits and routines. I see the Lit & Phil as a way of breaking my usual habits.

Hi there Ben,
the Hatfield reiusses (debut and Rotters' Club) are out on Estoteric in July.

Chris W said...

Know exactly what you mean. It can get rather stale sitting at the same old computer in the same old chair with the same old view. I've definitely been chomping at the bit for a change of scenery lately after so many weekends in our spare room. Sunny days only add to that restlessness.....

Well: Isotope's 'Illusion' has now arrived and I'm enjoying. Rangoon Creeper.... What a track! Both sections are killer. Wow!!

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