Happy Birthday Beyoncé Knowles

City Connect proudly celebrates the birthday of Beyoncé Knowles, the beautiful and talented singer, actress and fashionista who recently announced that she is pregnant with her first child by husband Jay-Z. Will this new revelation ruin her career or is this the beginning of an exciting new chapter in Beyoncé’s life? City Connect looks at her story so far…


Beyoncé Giselle Knowles born September 4, 1981, often known simply as Beyoncé, is an American R&B recording artist, actress and fashion designer. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, she enrolled in various performing arts schools and was first exposed to singing and dancing competitions as a child. Knowles rose to fame in the late 1990s as the lead singer of the R&B girl group Destiny’s Child, one of the world’s best-selling girl groups of all time.

During the hiatus of Destiny’s Child, Knowles released her debut solo album Dangerously in Love in 2003, which spawned the number-one hits “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy” and became one of the most successful albums of that year, earning her a then record-tying five Grammy Awards. Following the group’s disbandment in 2005, Knowles released her second solo album, B’Day in 2006. It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and included the hits “Irreplaceable” and “Beautiful Liar”. Her third solo album I Am… Sasha Fierce was released in 2008, and included the anthemic “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”. The album earned Knowles six Grammys at the 52nd Grammy Awards, breaking the record for most Grammy Awards won by a female artist in one night. In 2011, Knowles released her fourth studio album 4, which became her fourth consecutive solo number-one album on the Billboard 200. This made Knowles the second female artist and third artist overall, to have her first four studio albums debut atop the chart.

Apart from her work in music, Knowles has also launched a career in acting. In 2001, she made her debut in the musical film Carmen: A Hip Hopera, prior to appearing in major films, including Dreamgirls (2006), which earned her two Golden Globe nominations, and Cadillac Records (2008). In 2004, Knowles and her mother introduced their family’s fashion line, House of Deréon; Knowles has also endorsed brands such as Pepsi, Tommy Hilfiger, Armani and L’Oréal. In June 2010, Knowles was ranked second on Forbes list of the 100 Most Powerful and Influential celebrities in the world, and first on its list of the Most Powerful and Influential musicians in the world.

Knowles has earned numerous awards and accolades. She is one of the most honored artists by the Grammys, and third among female artists, with a total of 16 Grammy Awards—13 as a solo artist and 3 as a member of Destiny’s Child. At the 2011 Billboard Music Awards, Knowles was honored with the Billboard Millennium Award for recognizing her career achievements and influence in the music industry. She was ranked the 4th Artist of the 2000s decade by Billboard, and was listed the most successful female artist of the 2000s, as well as the top radio artist. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), also recognized Knowles as the top certified artist of the 2000s. As of May 2010, Knowles has sold more than 11.2 million albums and 25 million singles in the United States. As of September 2009, she has sold 75 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

Image reproduced from Wikipedia Commons / Adabow
Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

This week we will continue our music series on famous classical pieces with Beethoven’s masterpiece: Symphony No. 9 (Op. 125). This piece is one of the best known works in the Western classical repertoire and the European Anthem is based on the final movement, the Ode to Joy.

Most people in the Western World have probably heard the final movement at one stage or another in their lives.

The Symphony is the last complete symphony of Beethoven and he finished the masterpiece in 1824. It was the first symphony ever to use vocals and was thus the first choral symphony ever written. He kept that as a surprise at the premiere of the Symphony in Vienna where the choir was hiding behind a giant curtain until the final movement. The audience was ecstatic when the curtain fell and the vocals joined the 4th movement. Beethoven originally wanted to perform the premiere in Berlin, but his friends urged him to perform it first in Vienna.

The lyrics of the final movement were adapted from Friedrich Schiller’s Ode to Joy and Beethoven adapted them to the melody as early as 1803, but did not write the symphony for another 20 years.

The symphony is always a highlight and many musicians dream of participating in a performance of this masterpiece. It is also traditionally played for New Year’s Eve by many orchestra’s, for example the famous Leipzig Gewandhausorchester in Leipzig.

Here the complete recording of Beethoven’s Symphony No.9:

The piece always amazes me and I will lead you through the various movements:

1st movement - Allegro ma non troppo, un poco maestoso

The symphony starts very quietly and opening theme, played pianissimo over string tremolos, so much resembles the sound of an orchestra tuning and over about half a minute the movement builds up in a very powerful crescendo. The famous opening chords of the main motif really make the listener sit back in his/ her chair and listen in awe. The symphony starts in D minor but the movement is transposed back into D major, relieving the listener from the initial shudders.

2nd movement – Molto vivace – Presto

The second movement is a Scherzo and is also composed in D minor. The opening theme is similar to that of the first movement, but the change in tone and nature of the music makes the listener feel that there is a development, an evolution of the music. Beethoven did not adhere to the classical Scherzo form, but mutated it and it has different themes opposing each other. The dance style is very powerful and captivating. This music was also chosen for the film “A Clockwork Orange”, where the theme reoccurred various times.

3rd movement - Adagio molto e cantabile

The third movement is quiet and slow in nature and rather calming. Almost like the “stillness before the storm”. It is rather long and really prepares the listener for the final movement. Beethoven uses a clever change of rhythm between the two themes of the movement: 4/4 and 12/8. This contrast really keeps the listener alert and addicted. Even for the untrained ear the change is obvious and interesting.

4th movement 

The final movement is almost like a symphony in a symphony. It encompasses a complete symphonic composition in just one movement. The main theme is introduced with a powerful fanfare at the beginning. Slowly the famous melody of the Ode to Joy is introduced and builds up in volume and speed.

Then the same fanfare starts again, but a tenor sings the powerful introduction to the ode to joy.

O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern laßt uns angenehmere an stimmen,
und freudenvollere.
Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather, let us raise our voices in more pleasing
And more joyful sounds!
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische, dein Heiligtum!
Deine Zauber binden wieder
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brüder,
Wo dein sanfter Flügel weilt.
Joy, beautiful spark of divinity
Daughter from Elysium,
We enter, drunk with fire,
Into your sanctuary, heavenly (daughter)!
Your magic reunites
What custom strictly divided.
All men become brothers,
Where your gentle wing rests.

The chorus and the soloists then sing on the other parts of the adapted poem to give the message of brotherhood in a great musical fashion.

Wem der große Wurf gelungen,
Eines Freundes Freund zu sein;
Wer ein holdes Weib errungen,
Mische seinen Jubel ein!
Ja, wer auch nur eine Seele
Sein nennt auf dem Erdenrund!
Und wer’s nie gekonnt, der stehle
Weinend sich aus diesem Bund!
Whoever has had the great fortune
To be a friend’s friend,
Whoever has won a devoted wife,
Join in our jubilation!
Indeed, whoever can call even one soul,
His own on this earth!
And whoever was never able to, must creep
Tearfully away from this band!
Freude trinken alle Wesen
An den Brüsten der Natur;
Alle Guten, alle Bösen
Folgen ihrer Rosenspur.
Küsse gab sie uns und Reben,
Einen Freund, geprüft im Tod;
Wollust ward dem Wurm gegeben,
Und der Cherub steht vor Gott.
Vor Gott!
Joy all creatures drink
At the breasts of nature;
All good, all bad
Follow her trail of roses.
Kisses she gave us, and wine,
A friend, proved in death;
Pleasure was given to the worm,
And the cherub stands before God.
Before God!
Froh, wie seine Sonnen fliegen
Durch des Himmels prächt’gen Plan,
Laufet, Brüder, eure Bahn,
Freudig, wie ein Held zum Siegen.
Glad, as His suns fly
Through the Heaven’s glorious design,
Run, brothers, your path,
Joyful, as a hero to victory.
Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt
Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Ihr stürzt nieder, Millionen?
Ahnest du den Schöpfer, Welt?
Such’ ihn über’m Sternenzelt!
Ãœber Sternen muss er wohnen.
Be embraced, millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Do you bow down, millions?
Do you sense the Creator, world?
Seek Him beyond the starry canopy!
Beyond the stars must He dwell.

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, über’m Sternenzelt
Muss ein lieber Vater wohnen.
Seid umschlungen,
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Freude, schöner Götterfunken
Tochter aus Elysium,
Freude, schöner Götterfunken

Be embraced, you millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Be embraced,
This kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of divinity

In the middle of the movement there is a march alla turca.  It is still disputed why Beethoven chose to incorporate a Turkish March in the middle of this movement. It could however be a hint towards the victory of Western culture at the battles in the 17th century. However, all this is then overcome in brotherhood between the nations …
This symphony is a try jewel in the classical repertoire. Enjoy listening to it!

Image reproduced from www.futura-sciences.com
Video reproduced from YouTube / AnAmericanComposer



Requiem for My Friend – Zbigniew Preisner – Part 1

Music is a form of art that has always fascinated people. Some of the most stunning classical music pieces are masses in the setting of the Requiem, which is a musical form of art transcending life and death. Zbigniew Preisner, who is very famous for writing the score to the film trilogy “The Three Colours”, composed a musical endeavour that will capture your thoughts and feelings. I first heard of this wonderful work when the “Lacrymosa” was played in the “Tree of Life”, a film with Brad Pit starring, and I will try to describe to you this magnificent Requiem, which will take your breath away …

Requiem for My Friend is is composed of two parts. I will lead you through the first part today and in a few days through the second part.

The first part – Requiem – consists of nine movements and is scored for soprano, organ, two countertenors, tenor, bass, string quintet and percussion.

The first movement, Officium, is reminiscent of old orthodox church music and is written in largo, i.e. very slow moving. It has some beautiful harmonies and puts the listener into a state of awe and into a mode of reflection.

The second movement, Kyrie eleison, which translates from old Greek into English as “Lord have mercy”, starts with an organ introduction and has a crescendo that builds up slowly. It puts the listener almost into a state of hypnosis. When the organ introduction ceases, the prayer slowly transcends and helps the listener reflect. When I listened to it, it made me think about my impact on the world and the consequences.

The third movement, the Dies irae (The wrath of God) again starts with an organ introduction an slowly builds up to a powerful chant by a soprano and then a choir. It is not as daunting as the equivalent movements of Mozart’s or Verdi’s Requiems, but does chill the bones a bit.

The next movement, the Offertorium, is a bit more lamenting and has a beautiful string introduction. A beautiful soprano sings the offertorium and almost sounds divine.

The fifth movement is the Sanctus and has a short organ introduction until a soprano and tenor sing in an ongoing crescendo “Sanctus, sanctus, hosanna in excelsis”. The words are repeated over and over again and the movement reaches a wonderful climax and suddenly stops. The listener is kept in awe.

The Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) starts with a slow string introduction and the words are sung by a soprano which is dominating the movement. The movement is calming and makes the listener more relaxed after the preceding heavier movements. It is much shorter than the other parts.

The next movement captures the words Lux aeterna very well. One feels that this music could be a guide for perpetual light and rest. To my ears, Preisner describes this very well with this music.

The next movement is a very powerful piece of music. The Lacrimosa (tears) catches the sentiment of the words really well. This music makes me stun and for that reason it was chosen in the “creation” scene of the film “Tree of Life” with Brad Pitt. This music is not for weak nerves!

The last movement of the first part of this masterpiece is the Epitathium. It summarises the struggle of death and prepares the listener to the next part: “Life”. The organ sounds almost lamenting in this movement, as if it possesses a soul … no singing, just a long lasting organ play rounding up this first part of the Requiem for My Friend.

This music has made me reflect a lot and I hope you enjoyed the journey I described here. I will soon report on the second part of this musical piece. You can buy the album on Amazon.uk by clicking on the icon below:

Video reproduced from YouTube / 1rumovies and image reproduced from www.musiquedefilm.be

The Requiem by Camille Saint-Saëns

May 22 in 1878 in the Eglise Saint Sulpice in Paris/France. That was the date when Saint-Saëns’ masterpiece was performed for the first time. He dedicated this work to his benefactor Albert Libon. This event was preceded by some sad events in the composer’s private life. Both his sons had died within six weeks in the same year, one fell out of a window and the other died of an illness six weeks later. He blamed his wife for the death of his sons and they got seperated. It is said that these tragic events influenced the music in the requiem heavily and is the reason why the requiem ends with the Agnus Dei movement. Saint-Saëns did not compose a movement In Paradisum which is common in other requiems of French composers such as Fauré or Duruflé, which would have been like a “good ending”. This requiem finishes sad and unresolved. The requiem starts with a very powerful and moving movement, the Kyrie. The music in this movement really mirrors the words: Lord have mercy on us. The first words sung in this movements are “Requiem aeternam” – eternal rest – which is introduced by the soloists first and then accompanied by the choir. This music really gives me goose pimples but a kind of reflective joy at the same time.

This movement is followed by the Dies Irae, the “Wrath of God”. This again is powerful and fast moving and the choir is supported by trumpets and an organ, which give the movement a real feeling of “wrath”.

This movement is followed by a quieter part, the Rex Tremendae. It is more reflective but yet does not give the listener time to rest the mind.

The next movement Saint Saëns named Oro Supplex but it is equivalent to the Lacrymosa movement of other requiems. It has more of a lamenting style in line with the words that it is a movement about lamenting and resentment.

The next movement Hostias is very calming and this mood is supported by a calm choir and a harp.

The Sanctus movement is very serene and uplifting followed by the reflective Benedictus. Both movements are incredibly short but have beautiful melodies which really help the listener transcend to a different world. The listener thinks s/he is transformed to another world bringing piece but then …. the Agnus Dei. This movement starts with the same melodie as the first movement and has a very melancholic undertone. The Requiem finishes with this powerful movement and leaves a sadness behind in the listener. This sadness very much reflects what Saint-Saëns must have gone through after the death of his children. The Lamb of God – He who carried the sin of the world. The end of the piece is almost eerie but I think that it carries an innate beauty and the composer could not have found a better way to catch his feelings with music. The requiem ends with the word Amen and this marks the end of the prayer.

This piece is wonderful to reflect on where and who we are living on this planet. If you want to buy the CD, click on the picture


Videos reproduced from YouTube /LIRIKXIII, mariocaccioppoli, ComposerJMV and choralconductor1

Mozart’s Requiem

This week I continue my music series on City Connect, reporting on famous classical compositions. This time I will discuss Mozart’s Requiem, one of the most famous classical compositions of all times, which also happens to be my personal favourite of all music.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756 in the city of Salzburg which was part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. He was a child progeny and finished his first compositions at a very young age. After a life as a successful and renowned musician in the entirety of Europe, he died in 1791 at the young age of only 35. He started work on his Requiem in 1790 and he never finished it. This Requiem is one of the most enigmatic pieces of music that has ever been composed, mostly because of the myths and controversies surrounding it, especially around how much of the piece was completed by Wolfgang before his death.

The piece was finished by one of Mozart’s former students Franz Xaver Süssmayr. Until today it is still being disputed how much Mozart actually composed of the music. Other composers, such as Joseph von Eybler, have been suggested to having been involved. Furthermore, it is unclear if Mozart left some sketches or ideas about the movements after the Lacrimosa, which are believed to having been composed almost entirely by Süssmayr.

This piece of music is stunning and up to today one of the most played classical music pieces of all times.

The Requiem is divided into 14 parts:

1. Introitus Requiem

The opening movement of the requiem has a very slow crescendo building up to the choir singing Requiem, requiem aeternam, dona eis – Grant them eternal rest. The first notes of this music put me into a trance and into a complete bubble until the performance is finished. Mozart then continues the fugue style introduced by the choir and introduces the solo singers one after another: soprano, alto, tenor and bass.


Kyrie eleison! Lord have mercy upon us. This powerful movement starts with the choir in forte. The prayer is sung over and over and introduced by the male voices and then echoed by the female voices of the choir. Afterwards the roles are reversed, giving the entire movement a hectic character creating a feeling of awe in the listener. It ends in a heavy forte bridging over to the next movement.

3. Dies Irae

Dies Irae – The Day of Wrath. Again, the choir introduces the movement in a powerful forte. The string instruments accompany the music in a frantic style and one cannot but feel the words echo in the bones.

4. Tuba Mirum

A trumpet spreading a wondrous sound. Mozart really took the words literally and composed a slow movement carried by a single trumpet at the beginning of the movement until it builds up more powerfully.

5. Rex Tremendae

King of awful majesty. This movement is introduced by the choir and is a slower but heavy movement really captivating the listener and creating a sense of wondrous awe.

6. Recordare

Remember blessed Jesus. This movement is slow and delicate, building up expectations for the next movement. It is dominated by the solo singers.

7. Confutatis Maledictis

When the accursed have been confounded. This movement makes one really feel about the sinners that are accused here.

8. Lacrimosa

The Lacrimosa is the most famous of all the movements, in particular as it is thought to be the last music Mozart ever composed. Probably only the first few chords were composed my the maestro himself and the movement was finished by Süssmayr. It is my personal favourite and fully captivates me every single time I listen to it.

9. Domine Jesu

This movement has a more frantic style and almost seems simpler than the previous movements. The style is definitely different which may hint towards Süssmayr’s influence?

10. Hostias

We offer to you … This movement is slower again and makes the listener reflect. It has a powerful crescendo that “makes you sit firmly in your seats”

11. Sanctus

Holy, holy, holy! The choir introduces the movements with these words. It is a intense movement celebrating the holiness of god. The Hosanna in Excelsis is composed in the fugue style that hints towards Mozart’s education.

12. Benedictus

Blessed is the who cometh in the name of the Lord. The alto and soprano introduce this movement and it is slowly building up.

13. Agnus Dei

This movement is very powerful and is more reminiscent of the typical style of Mozart. Many believe that the maestro himself had composed part of this movement, as it is so typical for him.

14. Lux Aeterna

The Requiem finishes with the “eternal light”. It is almost calming to the listener and sounds like a more resolved version of the first movement. This bridges the Requiem well and gives an impression of all-roundedness and finishes the circle of Life and Death. The eternal light! Listen and be amazed!

Here some selected recordings on Youtube:

CM Giulini, 1979 – Philharmonia Orchestra

Vienna State Orchestra


You can also order a fantastic recording by the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester on Amazon UK:


Image reproduced from http://grumel.nicolas.free.fr
Video reproduced from YouTube / davidhertzberg and ComposerJMA

What is the Best Musical Instrument?

Recently I came across a question whilst browsing the internet which just would not leave my head for days. “What is the best musical instrument?”. Whilst challenging and obviously subjective in nature, this question somehow seemed legitimate and intriguing at the same time.

Music has been an integral part of human society ever since its beginnings many of thousands of years ago and initially being primitive in nature, instruments have been evolving ever since. Initially, simple drums and flutes were quite widespread and later more sophisticated instruments, such as string instruments and more sophisticate wind instruments, became technologically feasible and quickly very popular.

Early modern humans in Europe carved this flute from a vulture bone more than 35,000 years ago.

Now music is everywhere. Whether you go to big rock concerts, classical concerts, listen to radio in the car, watch adverts on the television, run around with your iPod on the bus to work or dine in a restaurant in the evening: music is everywhere. New styles appear all the time and the music industry is evolving faster than most people can possibly keep up.

But one big question remains, be it for personal satisfaction or a choice of an instrument for your son or daughter to pick up at a young age. “What is the best musical instrument?”

What drives us to listen to some instruments more than others? What draws us to play some instruments more than others? Is there a huge cultural divide or are some instruments universal and conquer every remote spot on this planet? These questions certainly go way beyond music and touch on the essence of identity, expression, aspiration, history and even politics. Does Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious play a role in this, too?

The dictionary of musical instruments now lists more than 20,000 and this number is growing steadily! Certainly, not many people will have the patience to peruse “The New Grove Dictionary” of musical instruments before choosing what instrument to learn. A standard orchestra only has about 15 instruments and seems like a bad corner shop compared to an American hypermarket.

In many cultures, certain types of instruments have certain roles an associations. Traditionally, instruments have been used for religious roles and an organ will indubitably always be associated with a church or a cathedral whereas a loud brass band and drums have more of a militaristic and oppressive undertone in many cultures. However, some instruments really stand out and could be considered the best choice when it comes to popularity, practicability or usefulness.

In summary, it is clear, that any list can only be subjective in nature, but here are my favourites with an explanation why they should rank high in any assessment as to what could be the “best musical instrument”:

The Guitar

The guitar seems to be almost omnipresent in the Western culture. It is the instrument of choice for many youngsters and enjoys almost iconic status as entertainers, folk heroes or balladeers. It is an instrument that is easily portable and can be used in many social settings, making it in particular a very social instrument. Additionally, it is indispensable for most Western pop songs. basic guitar playing is incredibly easy to learn and does not need a very sophisticated ear or huge prior musical skills. Of course, as with everything, classical guitar playing is just as sophisticated as any other instrument played well.

The Piano

The piano, in it’s basic design being a string instrument, can be considered as one of the most beautiful and versatile instrument. Unlike most instruments, the piano covers the entire human vocal range and is the perfect instrument for accompanying the human voice. It is also a wonderful solo instrument and ideal for anyone who wishes to entertain a group of people or even just him- or herself. Composers like Debussy and Ravel have shown how this instrument can conjure up mysterious tunes describing the sea (“La Lune”) or a dance (“Bolero”). Composers like J.S. Bach have created music of a completely different style, with mathematical perfection. And then there are compositions like those by Beethoven, which can probably be attributed to belong to the most passionate of musical pieces. And even lady Gaga uses the piano in may of her songs which have conquered many of the recent charts.

The Violin

Although the violin only covers mainly the vocal range of the soprano and alto voice, it is one of the most employed instruments in any Western orchestra and enjoys being featured in many instrumentalist solos, including violin concertos of Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky and many others. It is also indispensable in the orchestral music of almost any modern film. making your child learn the violin is certainly an intellectual and cultural challenge which most likely will have a positive effect in many other aspects of life.

The Voice

Clearly, the voice is not really an instrument, but it needs to be mentioned in this list. Although there are various musical pieces which do not include a voice, the majority of compositions actually uses instruments to accompany a or several voices. For most people singing is associated with pleasure and expressing oneself. Not to forget about the various songs that are on the radio, which feature powerful voices with mainly an instrumental background.

The French Horn

Although it might sound a bit odd to list this instrument, it actually is one of the hardest instruments to play. Countless hours of practice are needed until an attempt of playing an intelligible piece can be made. The sound of the French horn is divine and has in innate beauty. It the instrument that stands out the most in an orchestra and receives praise. It is also the most dangerous instrument, as a single wrong note will be heard by anyone listening to a musical piece played by this instrument. if you can overcome these challenges, the reward will be amazing.

The Violoncello

The cello has been ascribed by many to be the instrument the closes to the human voice and the human heart. When I listen to the cello, I get emotional instantly and loose myself in a world of dreams. It is not surprising that there are many cello “covers” of pop songs imitating the human voice. The cello is not an easy instrument to learn but highly rewarding and certainly has one of the most beautiful sounds. It is also a key instrument in most orchestras

What is your opinion? Write to us and let us know what you think is the “best musical instrument”.

Images reproduced from popsci.com, webvoice.blogspot.fr, modelcare2009.org, clipart.dk.co.uk, timtim.com, asia.ru and ak1.ostkcdn.com

Requiem for My Friend – Zbigniew Preisner – Part 2

Recently, I reported on the first part of a stunning musical piece by Zbigniew Preisner: Requiem for My Friend. Now I will cover the second half of this piece, which is called Life.

Just like the first part, Life, is also divided into nine movements, but the undertone of the music is different to the first part as the title suggest, although some movements are reminiscent of the Requiem part and one movement is even almost the same. The listener was guided through movements of the Requiem in the first part and is now guided through a different part in the circle of life and death, giving both parts a harmony and symbiosis.

The first movement, Preisner termed Meeting. It is meant to be a meeting point between the two worlds (life and death) and the music describes this rather well. It can almost be seen as a beginning, but the old question of the chicken and the egg obviously emerges once one thinks about this a little deeper.

The second movement is called Discovering the World and can be seen as the childhood. Do you remember when you were exploring the simplicities of life like colours, shapes, time, smells, seasons and so forth? Most of us do not remember but we have glimpses of what it was like to start to understand our surroundings. This is exactly what this music describes. Figuratively speaking, it a can also be transposed to adult life, when we get confronted with something entirely unknown …

The third movement of this part of the piece is called Love. A soprano starts humming and when I heard it for the first time I could really feel the word love through the music. More of a motherly love.

An extremely powerful movement, Kai kairos, follows suit. It has some incredibly powerful crescendi after a very slow start. Trumpets build up to a powerful movement that will make you tremble. The choir comes in slowly and very powerfully, interspersed by the alto. The movement really talks about time and can be seen as the period of living and working in life. Interestingly, the ancient Greeks had two words for the word time: chronos, which is a quantitative measure and kairos, which is a qualitative measure of time. The music asks the question of the quality of time, which has a connection to the metaphysics of quality discussed by Robert Pirsig.

Ascende huc is written in a march style and very different to the other movements. Again, Preisner uses a strong crescendo which builds up – faster than in the preceding movements. The piece creates a certain agitation and inquietude in the listener.

Veni et vidi is very similar to the preceding movement, again restless and effervescing. “He came and saw” – the words give a hint to the old Roman emperor Julius Ceasar, but without the victory (vici).

Who that was and who that is – Qui erat et qui est. Preisner spans the circle of life back to this question. Time becomes linear and obvioulsy we now find ourselves at a later stage of live. Who am I? That is the question I asked myself when I listened to this music.

Lacrimosa – Day of Tears. This beautiful movement is played again in this part of the piece; it was already present in the first part, the Requiem. The music is captivating and stunning and one cannot but wipe the tears from the eyes after listening to it.

Prayer is the last movement of this masterpiece and refelcts hope. A children’s voice chants and puts man’s destiny into the hands of a divine entity. Or maybe the child puts the hope into humanity and its powers? Interestingly, it is a child singing the prayer, showing how the circle of life is an endless and repeating scenario.

Kairos, and not Chronos – Time of quality and not time of quantity – that is the message that Preisner gave me with his Requiem for My Friend.

Video reproduced from YouTube / 1rumovies and image reproduced from www.musiquedefilm.be

Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem Op.45

This week I am continuing our music series on another very famous piece of romantic classical music: The Requiem of the German composer Johannes Brahms.

The requiem carries the obscure title “Ein Deutsches Requiem” (A German Requiem) and the lyrics are in German as opposed to Latin used in most other requiems. The piece is sacral but non-liturgical, it is a large-scale orchestral work with a chorus and a soprano and baritone soloist and it was composed between 1865 and 1868.

It is uncertain what prompted Brahms to write this piece, but the death of his mother in 1865 may have played a major role in his decision-making. The first three movements of the requiem were premiered before the entire work was finished and very poorly received due to a misunderstanding of how to play the score. Several performances of some of the movements followed suit and were better received. However, when the entire work was premiered with all the finished 7 movements in Leipzig by the Gewandhaus Orchestra in 1869, the audience were ecstatic.

Brahms assembled the text of the requiem himself and did not lean on the traditional Latin texts usually used for requiems. This gives a very personal and unique touch to the composition. The name was intended to give a human touch to the piece. Brahms actually contemplated to call the piece “En menschliches Requiem” (A human requiem). Whereas traditional requiems at the time concentrated on the dead, A German Requiem focusses on the living.

The composition is a very rounded piece, with both the first and last movement starting in the same fashion with the words “Blessed are those …”. The whole work has a symmetry around movement 4. Thus, to really catch the spirit, the requiem has to be listened to as a whole; partly explaining why it was received badly when only a few movements were performed.

The music always awakens an awe inside me and is perfect for reflection and meditation. Surely, understanding the German lyrics help, but the music is so rich and intense, that the feelings it creates are not dependent on the text.

Movement 1: Selig sind die da Leid tragen (Blessed are they that carry suffering)

The first movement starts very quietly and serene. It slowly builds up and draws the listener into a reflective mood. It really sets the scene for the following movements.

Movement 2: Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras (For all flesh it is as grass)

This movement is very famous. It starts slow and has some powerful crescendi building up throughout the almost 15 minutes in length. It is a sad movement and really moving. I first discovered it in a Christmas Album several years ago and had to listen to it for several days non-stop …

Movement 3: Herr, lehre doch mich (Lord teach me)

The baritone introduces these powerful words. “Lord teach me, that there is an end with me and that my life has a goal.” These are perfect words to reflect and meditate for we all look for a goal in our lives …

Movement 4: Wie lieblich sich deine Wohnungen (How lovely are thy dwellings)

“How lovely are thy dwellings in Zebaoth.” This movement is calmer then the three preceding movements and give the listener some time to relax. It is has a very lyrical flavour …

Movement 5: Ihr habt nun traurigkeit (You have now sadness)

This part of the requiem is introduced by the soprano. It is not as sad as its title suggests. The music builds up slowly and is very beautiful and the choir accompanies the soprano, giving it a serene undertone.

Movement 6: Denn wir haben hier keine bleibende Stadt (For we have here no lasting place)

These words show how life is dynamic and that nothing is really static. We may build the greatest cities and civilisations, be it Babylon or London, but at the end of the day, we all expect the same destiny: death. “Listen, I tell you a secret for we will all be changed.” What is life about? What will happen after life? Will our differences be the same after death?

This movement is heavy and a tremor builds up over a powerful crescendo carried by the baritone and the choir.

Movement 7: Selig sind die Toten (Blessed are the dead)

The last movement is very reminiscent of the introductory movement. It is calm in nature and resolves the requiem. It gives piece to the listener.

You can order the requiem on Amazon by clicking the link below:


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Happy Birthday Cher Lloyd

On 28 July, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Cher Lloyd who was born on this day in 1993. Cher Lloyd rose to fame when she finished fourth in the seventh series of The X Factor in 2010. Shortly afterwards, Cher Lloyd was signed by Simon Cowell to Sony Music subsidiary Syco Music. Cher Lloyd’s debut album Sticks + Stones peaked at number four in the UK Albums Chart and features the singles “Swagger Jagger“, “With Ur Love ft. Mike Posner“, “Want U Back” and “Beautiful People“.

Cher Lloyd in 2011


Cher Lloyd had previously auditioned for The X Factor twice before (when the minimum age was lower) singing ballads, but did not make it through. In 2010, she successfully passed the audition stages and got through Boot Camp, going on to judges’ houses. Cheryl Cole had been selected as mentor to the Girls. At judges’ houses she was unable to complete her song. She was given a second chance, but broke down sobbing and could not complete the song. Despite this, she was still picked as one of the final three girls by Cheryl Cole.

Cher Lloyd managed to reach the final of The X Factor being saved from the public vote by the judges along the way even though semi final voting statistics after the show revealed that Lloyd had the fewest votes. In the final she performed a mash-up of “The Clapping Song” and “Get Ur Freak On”, followed by a duet with will.i.am, which was a mashup of “Where Is the Love?” and “I Gotta Feeling”. Lloyd was then eliminated in fourth place, having received the fewest public votes.

After The X Factor final, it was announced that Cher Lloyd had been signed by Syco Music. Songwriter Autumn Rowe and producer RedOne worked on her debut album, released in November 2011. The debut single, “Swagger Jagger” was released on 31 July 2011 and peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart on 7 August 2011.

"Swagger Jagger" "X Factor" "Sticks + Stones" "Cheryl Cole"

Cher Lloyd in the video for Swagger Jagger

With Ur Love” featuring Mike Posner was Cher Lloyd’s second single and was released on 30 October 2011. The single sold 74,030 copies in its first week becoming the highest-selling number four single since Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World)“.

Cher Lloyd confirmed the album’s title “Sticks + Stones” on her Twitter. The album was released on 7 November 2011 and peaked at number four. It has sold 198,199 copies in the UK as of January 2012.

On 21 November 2011, Cher Lloyd announced her debut headlining UK tour, the Sticks + Stones Tour, set for March and April 2012. In December 2011, two more dates were added due to popular demand for tickets. Also in December 2011, Cher Lloyd signed a record deal with L.A. Reid to Epic Records in the United States. She released her debut album in the United States in April 2012.

Want U Back” was the third single from her debut album. The single version features vocals from American rapper Astro and was released in February 2012. The single peaked at number twenty-six on the UK Singles Chart, due to digital downloads from the album. Cher Lloyd confirmed via her official website that “Beautiful People” will be the fourth single from the album, but there is no official release date announced as of May 2012.

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Happy Birthday Vanessa-Mae

Today on City Connect, as part of our Born This Day series, we celebrate the birthday of Vanessa-Mae, the internationally known British violinist, who was born on 27 October 1978. Her music style is self-described as “violin techno-acoustic fusion”, as several of her albums prominently feature the techno style. A former child prodigy, she became a successful crossover violinist with album sales reaching several millions, having made her the wealthiest young entertainer in the United Kingdom in 2006.


Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson was born in Singapore to Vorapong Vanakorn, an English hotelier of Thai descent, and Pamela Soei Luang Tan, a Chinese lawyer and semi-professional concert pianist. After her parents separated, her mother married Graham Nicholson, a British attorney who adopted Vanessa-Mae, and the family moved to England when Vanessa-Mae was four years old. She grew up in London and holds British citizenship. She began playing piano at the age of three and violin at five.

At the age of eight she attended the Francis Holland School in central London, and at eleven, after her concert debut in 1988, she enrolled at the Royal College of Music in London.

Vanessa-Mae became famous in the United Kingdom throughout her childhood making regular appearances on television (for example on Blue Peter) mostly involving classical music and conservative style. She made her international professional debut at the age of ten in 1988 at the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival in Germany, and the same year made her concerto debut on stage with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London. At the age of thirteen, she was the youngest soloist to record both the Beethoven and Tchaikovsky violin concertos, according to Guinness World Records.

On entering adolescence Vanessa-Mae broke away from her traditional classical influences and became known for her flashy, sexy style appearing in music videos in stylish outfits. Her first pop-style album, The Violin Player, was released in 1995. She appeared on the 1997 Janet Jackson album The Velvet Rope playing a violin solo on the song “Velvet Rope”.

Vanessa-Mae was managed by her mother, who owns a private recording label and music agency, until 1999, when Vanessa-Mae sacked her as her manager.

In April 2006, Vanessa-Mae was ranked as the wealthiest young entertainer under 30 in the UK in the Sunday Times Rich List 2006 having an estimated fortune of about £32 million stemming from concerts and record sales of over an estimated 10 million copies worldwide, which is an unprecedented achievement for a young female violinist.

In 2009 Vanessa-Mae took up residence in the Swiss alpine resort Zermatt. A skier since the age of five, she plans to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics as a downhill skier, representing Thailand.

Vanessa-Mae most often uses one of two types of violins, a Guadagnini acoustic violin or a Zeta Jazz model electric violin. The Guadagnini was made in 1761, and was purchased by her parents at an auction for £250,000 when she was ten. It was stolen in January 1995, but was recovered by the police two months later. She once dropped and broke it, but had it repaired.

In addition, she uses one of two Zeta Jazz Model electric violins, one of which is white and the other one of which features decals of the US flag. She has also been using a silver-grey Zeta Jazz Model electric violin since 2001. She also owns three Ted Brewer Violins two of which she uses on stage (a Crossbow and a Vivo2 Clear) and in publicity material. In addition to these violins, she sometimes buys violins and resells them later, giving the proceeds to charity.

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Happy Birthday John Lennon

City Connect celebrates the anniversary of the birth of John Lennon who was born on this day in 1940. Lennon rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Along with fellow Beatle Paul McCartney, he formed one of the most successful songwriting partnerships of the 20th century.


Born and raised in Liverpool, Lennon became involved in the skiffle craze as a teenager, forming his first band, The Quarrymen evolving into The Beatles in 1960.

Lennon marriage to his first wife Cynthia Powell began just as Beatlemania took hold across the UK. He performed on the evening of his wedding day, and would continue to do so almost daily from then on. Their son Julian was born on 8 April 1963. Cynthia attributes the start of the marriage breakdown to LSD, and as a result, she felt that Lennon slowly lost interest in her. Following his affair with Yoko Ono, Lennon and Cynthia divorced with Lennon giving her £100,000 and custody of Julian.

As the Beatles disintegrated towards the end of the 60s, Lennon embarked on a solo career that produced the critically acclaimed albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, and iconic songs such as “Give Peace a Chance” and “Imagine”. Lennon revealed a rebellious nature and acerbic wit in his music, his writing, his drawings, on film, and in interviews, becoming controversial through his political and peace activism.

After his marriage to Yoko Ono in 1969, he changed his name to John Ono Lennon. He moved to New York City in 1971, where his criticism of the Vietnam War resulted in a lengthy attempt by Richard Nixon’s administration to deport him, while his songs were adopted as anthems by the anti-war movement. Lennon disengaged himself from the music business in 1975 on Ono’s request for him to become a househusband and he devoted the next five years to looking after his infant son Sean. Lennon re-emerged in 1980 with a new album, Double Fantasy.

Three weeks after the release of this album, Lennon was murdered. At around 10:50 pm on 8 December 1980, as Lennon and Ono returned to their New York apartment in The Dakota, Mark David Chapman shot Lennon in the back four times at the entrance to the building. Lennon was taken to the emergency room of nearby Roosevelt Hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:07 pm. Earlier that evening, Lennon had autographed a copy of Double Fantasy for Chapman.

Ono issued a statement the next day, saying “There is no funeral for John,” ending it with the words, “John loved and prayed for the human race. Please pray the same for him.” His body was cremated at Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Ono scattered his ashes in New York’s Central Park, where the Strawberry Fields memorial was later created. Chapman pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 20 years to life; as of 2011, he remains in prison, having been denied parole six times.

Music historians Schinder and Schwartz, writing of the transformation in popular music styles that took place between the 1950s and the 1960s, say that The Beatles’ influence cannot be overstated: having “revolutionized the sound, style, and attitude of popular music and opened rock and roll’s doors to a tidal wave of British rock acts”, the group then “spent the rest of the 1960s expanding rock’s stylistic frontiers”. Liam Gallagher, his group Oasis among the many who acknowledge the band’s influence, identifies Lennon as a hero; in 1999 he named his first child Lennon Gallagher in tribute. On National Poetry Day in 1999, after conducting a poll to identify the UK’s favourite song lyric, the BBC announced “Imagine” the winner.

In a 2006 Guardian article, Jon Wiener wrote: “For young people in 1972, it was thrilling to see Lennon’s courage in standing up to [US President] Nixon. That willingness to take risks with his career, and his life, is one reason why people still admire him today.” Whilst for music historians Urish and Bielen, Lennon’s most significant effort was “the self-portraits … in his songs [which] spoke to, for, and about, the human condition.”

Lennon continues to be mourned throughout the world and has been the subject of numerous memorials and tributes. In 2010, on what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday, the John Lennon Peace Monument was unveiled in Chavasse Park, Liverpool, by Cynthia and Julian Lennon. The sculpture entitled ‘Peace & Harmony’ exhibits peace symbols and carries the inscription “Peace on Earth for the Conservation of Life · In Honour of John Lennon 1940–1980”.

The Lennon/McCartney songwriting partnership is regarded as one of the most influential and successful of the 20th century. He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) with the other Beatles in 1965. Lennon was posthumously inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

In 2002, a BBC poll on the 100 Greatest Britons voted him eighth. Between 2003 and 2008, Rolling Stone recognised Lennon in several reviews of artists and music, ranking him fifth of “100 Greatest Singers of All Time” and 38th of “The Immortals: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time”, and his albums John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band and Imagine, 22nd and 76th respectively of “The RS 500 Greatest Albums of All Time”.

As of 2010, Lennon’s solo album sales in the United States exceed 14 million units, and as writer, co-writer or performer, he is responsible for 25 number-one singles on the US Hot 100 chart.

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Happy Birthday Cheryl Cole

On 30 June, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Cheryl Cole (née Tweedy) who was born on this day in 1983. Having divorced from her husband Ashley Cole, the singer has decided to be professionally known as Cheryl. She’s had a rough ride in the last couple of years so we wish Cheryl all the best at 29 and hope she finds commercial and critical success with her new solo album A Million Lights which was released earlier this month.

Cheryl in L'Oréal Elnett Advert


Cheryl rose to fame in late 2002 when she auditioned for the reality television show Popstars: The Rivals on ITV. The programme announced that Cole had won a place as a member of the girl group, Girls Aloud. The group’s debut single “Sound of the Underground” peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart, becoming the 2002 Christmas number one. Girls Aloud hold the record for the shortest time between formation and reaching number one.

Since 2003, Cheryl Cole has been part of Girls Aloud twenty consecutive top-ten singles, with all but one charting within the top ten, and 15 reaching top five positions in the UK. Their singles “I’ll Stand by You”, “Walk This Way”, and “The Promise” have charted at number one. All five of their studio albums have been certified platinum with their greatest hits album The Sound of Girls Aloud and 2008’s Out of Control, both of entering the UK Albums Chart at number one. Girls Aloud have earned five BRIT Award nominations from 2005 to 2010. In 2009, Girls Aloud won “Best British Single” at that year’s Brit Awards for “The Promise”.

Girls Aloud have become one of the few UK reality television acts to achieve continued success, and had amassed a fortune of £25 million by May 2009. The 2007 edition of Guinness World Records listed them as “Most Successful Reality TV Group”.

Cheryl began dating England and Chelsea footballer Ashley Cole in September 2004, announcing their engagement after he proposed in Dubai in June 2005 and the couple were married on 15 July 2006. The couple were hit with Kiss and Tell stories about Ashley’s infidelities but they reconciled and stayed together.

In June 2008, it was announced Cole would replace Sharon Osbourne as a judge for the fifth series of The X Factor alongside Dannii Minogue, Simon Cowell and Louis Walsh. Cole was given the girls category (made up of female contestants between 16 and 25) and subsequently ended up as the victorious judge when Alexandra Burke was crowned the fifth winner of The X Factor on 13 December 2008.

Cole returned for the sixth series of The X Factor in 2009 and was given the boys category (made up of male contestants aged 16 to 25). Cole emerged as the winning judge for a second consecutive year after Joe McElderry was crowned the sixth winner of The X Factor. Simon Cowell, the show’s creator, said, “I knew she was going to be good because she speaks like normal people speak. People can relate to that. And I think that is the best sign of a judge.” Cowell has referred to Cole as “one of the best I’ve ever worked with.”

In 2009, Girls Aloud announced their musical hiatus and Cheryl Cole went on to release two solo albums, which both went to number one in the UK: 3 Words (2009) and Messy Little Raindrops (2010). She achieved a number of hits, including two number one singles: “Fight for This Love” and “Promise This”.

In early February 2010, news broke that Cole’s husband had cheated on her with five more women. On 23 February, Cole announced she was separating from her husband and subsequently filed for divorce at London’s High Court citing “unreasonable behaviour” of estranged husband Ashley as the reason for their break-up. She was granted a decree nisi on 3 September 2010.

On 3 July 2010, Cole was admitted to hospital with suspected acute malaria after a visit to Tanzania.

Cole returned for the seventh series of The X Factor in 2010 to mentor the girls category once again. In this series, Cole faced intense scrutiny from the public and the media after she rejected popular contestant Gamu Nhengu to go through to the live shows in favour of Cher Lloyd and Katie Waissel, even though both had fluffed their performances at judges’ houses. Cole also receive more criticism after she refused to vote for an act in the fifth week, which resulted in claims that the show was fixed. This series would also mark the first that Cole was not the winning mentor, after a contestant in her category, Rebecca Ferguson, lost out to Matt Cardle, who was mentored by Dannii Minogue.

On 5 May 2011, it was officially announced after months of speculation that Cole would appear as a judge alongside Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, and Paula Abdul on the American version of The X Factor. However, after only three weeks as a judge and completing the auditions in Los Angeles and Chicago, Cole departed the show following rumours she had been sacked.

Cole is set to release her third solo album A Million Lights on the 18 June 2012, with lead single “Call My Name” released on May 18, 2012. The single was written and produced by Calvin Harris and the music video for the single was directed by Anthony Mandler and shot in Downtown Los Angeles.

Cole has become a recognised and photographed style icon; referred to as a fashionista by the press. She has been photographed for the covers of British Vogue, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar, while also becoming the new face of cosmetic company L’Oréal in late 2009. However, her recent advertising campaign promoting the L’Oréal Elvive shampoo and conditioner range attracted criticism amid claims that she had deliberately deceived persons wishing to buy the product, since it shows Cole with hair extensions.

Cheryl has been involved in a number of charitable activities. Most notable were in March 2009 when she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of Comic Relief with a group of other celebrities. The trek raised £3.4 million for the charity. Between 3 February and 23 March 2009, Cole raised money for Comic Relief by providing the voice for the BT Speaking Clock. In February 2011, Cole launched her own charitable foundation with The Prince’s Trust following a meeting with The Trust’s President, HRH Charles, Prince of Wales. The Cheryl Cole Foundation will provide vital funds for The Trust in the North East, helping disadvantaged young people from Cole’s region. On 13 June 2011, she auctioned 20 dresses with ASOS to raise funds for the foundation.

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Happy Birthday Joe McElderry

On 16 June, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Joe McElderry born on this day in 1991. Joe McElderry won the sixth series of the ITV show The X Factor in 2009. His first single “The Climb” reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and Irish Singles Charts. Joe McElderry was also crowned the winner of the second series of Popstar to Operastar, two years later in 2011. To date he has released three albums – two of them reaching the UK top three. He is currently working on his fourth studio album. On 30 July 2010, Joe McElderry announced on his official website that he is gay. The gay charity Stonewall has listed McElderry as a gay role model.

Joe McElderry


Joe McElderry won The X Factor in 2009, mentored by Cheryl Cole, beating runner up Olly Murs with his version of Miley Cyrus’s “The Climb”. He signed a recording contract with Simon Cowell’s Syco record label, whose parent company is Sony Music Entertainment. Joe McElderry’s debut single, “The Climb”, was released in December 2009 and had the fifth highest sales of all UK singles released in 2009 staying one week at number 1. It was also the top selling Irish single of 2009 where it remained at the top spot for four consecutive weeks.

In 2010, Joe McElderry recorded his debut album Wide Awake. The first single released from Wide Awake was “Ambitions”, a cover of a song by Norwegian band Donkeyboy. The song debuted at #6 on the UK Singles Chart and #4 on the Irish Chart. Wide Awake debuted at number 3 on the UK Albums Chart but fell to number 20 the following week, and to number 40 the week after that. “Someone Wake Me Up” was the second single taken from the album and it debuted and peaked at number 68 on the UK Singles Chart.

Joe McElderry was approached by Twentieth Century Fox to record the specially written track, “There’s A Place For Us”, written by American songstress Carrie Underwood, which features in the soundtrack to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and was also the B-side to “Someone Wake Me Up”. The song was nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 2011 for Best Original Song – Motion Picture.

After “Someone Wake Me Up,” Joe McElderry released no further singles or albums with Syco. On 15 April 2011, it was reported in the media that his contract with Syco would not be renewed. Joe McElderry has stated that his split with Syco was amicable.

In 2011, Joe McElderry appeared as a contestant on the second series of ITV’s Popstar to Operastar and won the show on 10 July 2011. After the show it was revealed that, in all of the episodes in which he competed, McElderry received more votes than all of the other contestants combined. He defeated Cheryl Baker in the final with 77.1% of the public vote.

He signed a new recording contract with Decca Records and his second studio album, Classic, was released in August 2011 and debuted on the official UK top 40 albums chart at number 2. The album was certified gold, within 10 days after the release.

Joe McElderry took part in the Great North Run half marathon on 19 September 2010 raising money for Teenage Cancer Trust, which he is also an ambassador for. He ran the Great North Run again in 2011, once again supporting the Teenage Cancer Trust, finishing in 1 hour and 42 minutes. Also in 2011, Joe McElderry was put up for auction on the shopping channel QVC in aid of Breast Cancer Care and eventually sold for £6,350. The top bidder received a unique concert from Joe in her living room.

Joe McElderry embarked on his debut solo tour, Classic Tour in November 2011 and released a Christmas album titled Classic Christmas later that month. The album debuted at number 15 on the UK Albums Chart. On 8 December, he performed at Durham Cathedral to an audience of 1,500, singing, “In the Bleak Midwinter” and “A Winter’s Tale”.

Joe McElderry started recording his fourth album in February 2012. It is due for release in September 2012 and is set to include collaborations with Marcella Detroit and Ludovico Einaudi.

On 3 June 2012, he performed at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Water Pageant, he sang for guests on board a Dunkirk ship, The Viscount.

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Happy Birthday Sir Edward Elgar

“My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require.”

Edward Elgar, Letters of a lifetime

Edward Elgar was born on June 2nd 1857 in Lower Broadheath, a small village just outside Worcester. He was the son of a piano tuner and thus exposed to music at an early age. His father was also an organist and violinist and taught his son music when Elgar was little. His mother supported his interest in arts, which he expressed at an early age. Elgar learned German in order to go to the Conservatory in Leipzig to study, but his father could not afford to send him. Instead, he embarked on an office career as a solicitor.

He later started touring through Europe, to places such as Paris and Leipzig and met many great German composers, such as Schumann, Wagner and Brahms. It was not until 1883 when his first piece for orchestra was performed in Birmingham. His reputation as a composer grew steadily and he was known in the whole Midlands by the 1890s. He was soon known internationally and in 1899 his Enigma Variations were performed in London and became a great success. More importantly, the variations were very well received on the continent in Germany, France and Italy, which finally gave him a rank amongst other great composers of the time.

Elgar was knighted in 1904 and was appointed a member of the Order of Merit in 1910.

Today, Elgar is probably known best for his Pomp and circumstance marches, and the first of the series is now the characteristic piece played every year at the famous Last Night of the Proms in Royal Albert Hall in London.

We celebrate the probably greatest and most known classical composer of England today. Happy Birthday, Sir Edward Elgar! Your music still lives as vividly these days as it did a hundred years ago. Your music still moves us as it did a hundred years ago.

A list of famous compositions by Elgar:

The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38 (1899–1900)

Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61 (1909–1910)

Falstaff, Op. 68 (1913)

Cello Concerto, Op. 85 (1918–1919)

Pomp and Circumstance five marches, Op. 39 (1901–1930)

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Happy Birthday Richard Wagner


The world-famous German composer Richard Wagner was born on May 22nd 1813 and City Connect remembers his music today, which has inspired millions of people around the world. He was born in the Saxon city of Leipzig and died in 1883 in Venice.

He is primarily known for his magnificent operas, some of them spanning over five hours. His music is particularly difficult to perform with some of his opera arias only being able to be performed by a small selection of singers. His compositions are very rich in texture and have rich harmonies and orchestrations. He strongly elaborated the use of the leitmotif (German: leiten = to lead), which describes a small musical fragment that re-occurs continuously throughout a composition. It is different to a theme, which is much longer and traditionally only repeated a few times within one movement or act of a musical composition.

His music was strongly influenced by his teacher Franz Liszt, who was a world-renowned piano virtuoso and composer at the time.

Wagner transformed operatic thinking by achieving a synthesis of music with poetic, dramatic and visual arts. He wrote down his new concept of operas in various essays in the middle of the 19th century. His musical style changed from the romantic era (early compositions) to more dramatic and nationalistic compositions towards the end of the 19th century. For his late operas he chose many traditionally Germanic themes, accumulating in his world-famous Ring der Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle) which is composed of four different operas (The Rhine Gold, The Valkyrie, Siegfried and Twilight of the Gods), which are usually performed over consecutive days. Wagner’s influence spread beyond music into philosophy, theatre and literature.

An opera house was built for him in Bayreuth (The Bayreuther Festspielhaus) by the Bavarian king Ludwig II in 1872, where until today, only operas by Wagner are performed. Even today, every year a great portion of the German government goes on a pilgrimage to watch the Ring Cycle there and celebrate one of the greatest composers of the nation and the world.

Wagner moved to the Saxon capital of Dresden in 1840, where some of his early operas were performed. He soon became politically involved and joined a socialist movement supporting the unification of the German states. When the revolution broke out in 1849, he had to flee the city and went to Paris and then settled in Zürich. In exile, he met the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, whose philosophy he later claimed to be central to his life. One passage of Schopenhauer’s philosophy that stuck with Wagner was:

“… we assume as necessary that this decision was preceded by something from which it ensued, and which we call the ground or reason, or more accurately the motive, of the resultant action. Choices are not made freely. Our actions are necessary and determined because every human being, even every animal, after the motive has appeared, must carry out the action which alone is in accordance with his inborn and immutable character…”

Wagner’s music was heavily abused by the Nazi Regime in Germany in the 20th century and used to promote German nationalism. Now, Wagner’s music symbolises one of the most complex and greatest musical styles ever written for opera. His music is certainly not easy-listening, but definitely a must to listen to, even if only for a phenomenal cultural experience.


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Happy Birthday Tchaikovsky – Honorary Doctor of Cambridge

The birthday of one of the greatest composers of the 19th century is coming up soon. Tchaikovsky was born on May 7th in 1840 in Russia. He was a Russian composer of the Romantic era known for various symphonies, operas, ballets and a selection of chamber music. His most famous compositions are Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, the 1812 overture, the 6th symphony, the 1st piano concerto and the world-famous violin concerto. He graduated from the school of Jurisprudence at the age of 19 and was destined to become a civil servant. He did not learn how to play the piano until the age of 21 and started attending classes in music theory. He soon abandoned his former career and became a musician.


At the instigation of Charles Villiers Stanford, Tchaikovsky was awarded an honorary doctorate by Cambridge University in 1893. He had an international reputation as a composer by then and was celebrated mainly for his 1st piano concerto and the 1812 overture. However, today his most acclaimed musical masterpiece is the 6th symphony. He composed this symphony during the last years of his life and it was performed in St. Petersburg on October 28th 1883. It is undeniably an expression of his life and the predicaments he had endured.

Tchaikovsky was attracted to his own sex and had to hide behind his own identity for his entire life. Sexuality was a topic mostly unspoken about in Victorian times and generally oppressed (for more information on the topic about sexuality in Victorian times: Michel Foucault, The Will to Knowledge: The History of Sexuality). Not until quite late in his life in 1878, he could reconcile himself with his own true nature after various failed relationships with men and women. He wrote in a letter to his brother Anatoly: “Nothing more futile than wanting to be anything other than what I am by nature.”

Tchaikovsky was incredibly tense and filled with emotion during the performance of the 6th Symphony, which was mal-received by the St. Petersburger audience. Nationalist feelings at the time determined musical styles and the audience demanded the performance of the 1812 overture after the performance of Tchaikovsky’s newest master piece. It is said that he stormed out of the concert hall in turmoil and disgust. He died in the same year.

The famous German author Thomas Mann wrote a novel based on Tchaikovsky’s life: Symphony Pathétique. It has a beautiful narrative and is based quite closely on the live of the Great Composer. It catches well the sentiment of the time.

Happy Birthday Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky! Your music will not be forgotten.

Photo reproduced from: http://img.incine.fr

Happy Birthday Ronan Keating

On 3rd March, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Ronan Keating, the Irish singer/songwriter who came to prominence in 1994 as the lead singer of Boyzone. His solo career started in 1999, and so far has resulted in 9 albums. Keating gained worldwide attention when his single “When You Say Nothing at All” was featured in the film Notting Hill and peaked at number one in several countries. As a solo artist, Keating has sold over 22 million records worldwide. Also a philanthropist, Keating has worked as a charity campaigner most notably for the Marie Keating Foundation, a foundation that raises awareness for breast cancer. It is named after his mother, who died of the disease in 1998. The biography below details the life and work of this international music celebrity who in 2010 was said to have a fortune of around £25 million.

Keating at the State Theatre Sydney in 2012


Ronan Keating was born on 3 March 1977 and grew up in Dublin. He joined the band Boyzone in 1993 alongside Keith Duffy, Shane Lynch, Stephen Gately and Mikey Graham. The group performed in various clubs and pubs before being signed by PolyGram in 1994 and released a cover version of “Love Me for a Reason” which peaked on several charts. In 1998, his mother died at the age of 54 from breast cancer, resulting in the establishment of the Marie Keating Foundation. Keating married Yvonne Connolly in April 1998 and together, the couple have three children: Jack, Marie and Ali.

From 1994-1999, Boyzone released 3 studio albums and 1 compilation album before disbanding in 2000.

In 1999, while still a member of Boyzone, Keating recorded a version of “When You Say Nothing At All” for the motion picture Notting Hill. The single peaked at number one in the UK charts, leading to a successful solo career. Keating released his debut solo album entitled Ronan in 2000, peaking at number one in the UK Albums Chart. The album produced four UK and Irish top-ten singles: “When You Say Nothing at All” (originally recorded for the soundtrack of the 1999 film Notting Hill), “Life Is a Rollercoaster“, “The Way You Make Me Feel“, and “Lovin’ Each Day“. Ronan was given several negative reviews, however, it sold over 750,000 copies and became one of the top selling albums of the year in the United Kingdom.

After the successful debut album Ronan, Keating continued on with his solo career and since has released four more studio albums: Destination (2002), Turn It On (2003), 10 Years of Hits (2004) and Bring You Home (2006). Keating collaborated with several major stars, including Elton John, Lulu, LeAnn Rimes and the Bee Gees, for these albums.

In 2003, Keating was named Rear of the Year – an award given to celebrities with a notable posterior. In October 2007, Keating was listed in the Guinness Book of Records for being the only artist ever to have 30 consecutive top 10 singles in the UK chart, beating the likes of Elvis Presley. Keating also embarked on two world tours, won the Ivor Novello and BMI songwriting awards, released an autobiography, had a role as ambassador for Christian Aid and earnt sales in excess of 22 million albums worldwide. In 2007 he released 2 fragrances,the range consists of a female fragrance, Hope By Ronan, which is based upon musk and amber scents and a male EDT, Believe by Ronan, based on Sicilian Lemon, Lavender and Clary Sage scents. All proceeds go to the Marie Keating Foundation.

Keating performed at the 2006 FIFA World Cup opening party at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany, in front of an audience of nearly 250,000 people, and posed nude for Cosmopolitan magazine’s 10 Years of Naked Centrefolds.

Ronan posing for Cosmopolitan Magazine

Boyzone reunited in 2007 for a special appearance on the BBC’s Children in Need and soon went on a 29-date tour. On 10 October 2009, Stephen Gately – close friend and bandmate of Keating – died at his home in Spain of a pulmonary oedema which left Keating devastated. However, the band continued on and released the album “”Brother” in March 2010 which went to number one in UK and Ireland. Ronan Keating also continues with his solo career and a new studio album and tour have been scheduled in 2012. Ronan has also hinted that he will be reuniting with his Boyzone bandmates Keith Duffy, Mikey Graham and Shane Lynch in 2013 to celebrate their 20th anniversary as a group.

In terms of charity work, Keating ran in the London Marathon on 13 April 2008 to raise money for Cancer Research, with a personal best time of 3hr 59min. He has also walked the length of Ireland twice, each time raising money for the Marie Keating Foundation, now linked to Cancer Research UK. In 2009, Keating was part of a group of celebrities who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for Comic Relief. In June 2009, Keating received a Special Achievement Award from Cancer Research UK – he was singled out for his work with them since 2006. He, along with the Marie Keating Foundation, has helped to raise over £1.7 million for the UK charity. In September 2011, he swam the Irish sea 90 km stretch from Dublin to Holyhead with a team of celebrities to raise money for cancer charities and set a new Guinness World Record for open water swimming with a 11-member celebrity team. They raised £1 million for Cancer Research Britain and the Marie Keating Foundation.

Ronan Keating has been quoted as saying he’d like to break into acting but does not intend to stop working as a recording artist. He unsuccessfully auditioned for a role in the The Hobbit. In 2013, Ronan Keating will make his screen debut in the Australian romantic musical comedy Goddess starring alongside Australian comedy actress Magda Szubanski and British actress Laura MIchelle Kelly. The multi-million dollar film will be directed by Mark Lamprell (Babe: Pig In The City) and is due for release in March 2013.

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Happy Birthday Gary Barlow

In this week’s Born This Day series, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Gary Barlow who was born on 20 January 1971.

Gary Barlow


Gary Barlow OBE is a British singer-songwriter, pianist and record producer. He is frontman and lead vocalist of British pop-group Take That and he serves as head judge on the The X Factor. Barlow is one of Britain’s most successful songwriters, having written twelve Number 1 singles. He has had three Number 1 singles and two Number 1 albums as a solo artist, and has had sixteen top 5 hits, eleven Number 1 singles and seven Number 1 albums with Take That. He is also a six-time recipient of the Ivor Novello Award and has sold over 50 million records worldwide. He was appointed OBE in 2012 for services to the music industry and charity.

Barlow, who wrote the majority of the group’s songs, is widely recognised as the musical talent behind Take That. The media have widely acknowledged Barlow’s talent and labelled him as the mastermind behind the unprecedented success of Take That’s comeback and the new musical direction they have taken. Barlow’s solo career was predicted to be very successful, being described as ‘the next George Michael’.

At the beginning of May 2010, it was announced that Queen Elizabeth II had asked Barlow to organise her 86th birthday and her Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012. Gary Barlow was named as the lead organiser and producer of a concert that took place outside of Buckingham Palace and featuring globally recognised superstar artists. On 4 June 2012 the Diamond Jubilee concert was held outside Buckingham Palace with it acting as a backdrop to a stage built upon the Victoria Memorial featuring artists from all across the world. The concert included music stemming from the 50’s to the 00’s with each decade of her reign reflected in the music performed. Barlow himself appeared alongside Andrew Lloyd Webber and his own Commonwealth Band to perform the self written official jubilee single “Sing” while also dueting with Cheryl Cole on the night which won praise from critics who called “the performance as [two of] the best of Britain [who] proved their pop credentials with a dazzling duet.” The reception from the concert was universal in praise for the efforts of Barlow with Prince Charles himself personally thanking him for putting together the concert.

On 7 May 2011, it was announced that Barlow was in advanced talks to replace Simon Cowell as a judge on The X Factor. He was officially confirmed as a judge on 30 May alongside the returning Louis Walsh and new judge Tulisa Contostavlos and fellow new judge Kelly Rowland, who replaced Dannii Minogue. Barlow was given the “Boys” category for the live shows and mentored Marcus Collins to the final of the X Factor where he became runner up.

After a successful debut as a judge on the The X Factor in 2011, it was announced that Barlow would return to The X Factor for a second year. He was later joined by returning Louis Walsh on the judging panel, alongside Tulisa Contostavlos. With Kelly Rowland being replaced by Nicole Scherzinger who later became the winning mentor with James Arthur. For his second year as a mentor, he was given the “Overs” category which featured both male and female artists over the age of 28. He became the only judge to have four acts in the finals after singer Christopher Maloney was voted into the show by the public and became the 13th finalist. Barlow guided Christopher Maloney to the final of the show, becoming Barlow’s second X Factor finalist in consecutive years.

Barlow revealed on 9 December 2012 that he may not return as a judge for a third series on The X Factor, stating that he doesn’t know “if there is room” in his diary for the programme.

After 20 years within the music industry in which Barlow has achieved phenomenal success across the world; coupled with his efforts to raise money and awareness for various charities he was honoured in the 2012 Queen’s Birthday Honours. He was appointed an OBE by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 June 2012, which he was awarded on the 21st of November for “services to the Entertainment Industry and to Charity”.

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Happy Birthday Ricky Martin

Today, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Latino pop star Ricky Martin who was born on 24 December 1971. Ricky Martin’s exuberant 1999 single “Livin’ la Vida Loca” made him a prominent figure of Latin dance-pop. In 2010 Martin announced that he was a “fortunate homosexual man”, ending years of speculation on the topic. Ricky Martin will be playing Ché in the Broadway revival of the show Evita, scheduled to begin previews on Broadway in March 2012, ahead of an opening in April 2012.


Ricky Martin is a Puerto Rican and Spanish pop singer and actor who achieved prominence, first as a member of the Latin boy band Menudo, then as a solo artist since 1991.

During his career he has sold more than 60 million album copies worldwide. He is the founder of Ricky Martin Foundation (in Spanish Fundación Ricky Martin), a non-profit charity organization. Ricky Martin’s exuberant 1999 single “Livin’ la Vida Loca” made him a prominent figure of Latin dance-pop. Ricky Martin got his start with the all-boy pop group Menudo; after five years with the group, he released his Spanish-language solo album, Ricky Martin, in 1991. He also acted on stage and on TV in Mexico, becoming a modest star there. In 1994 he starred on the American TV soap opera General Hospital, playing a Puerto Rican singer. In 1999, after several albums in Spanish, he released his first English-language album (also titled Ricky Martin), which included the salsa-style “Livin’ la Vida Loca”. The album sold 22 million copies and brought Ricky Martin international fame. His other studio albums include: Me Amarás (1993), A Medio Vivir (1995), Vuelve (1998), Sound Loaded (2000), Almas del Silencio (2003), Life (2005), and Música + Alma + Sexo (2011).

On the edge of the new millennium, Martin – almost by himself – gave Latino music an international face. An acclaimed performance at the 1999 Grammy Awards launched Martin into worldwide super-stardom. As Entertainment Weekly’s Andrew Essex reported, “his leather-pants, electro-pelvis version of ‘La Copa de la Vida’ single-handedly goosed a very dull [Grammy] telecast, earning him a standing ovation.”

Ricky Martin’s twin sons, Matteo and Valentino, were born via a surrogate mother in 2008. Ricky Martin also co-owns a Miami restaurant, Casa Salsa, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007.

On March 29, 2010, Ricky Martin publicly acknowledged his homosexuality in a post on his official web site by stating, “I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am.” Ricky Martin said that “these years in silence and reflection made me stronger and reminded me that acceptance has to come from within, and that this kind of truth gives me the power to conquer emotions I didn’t even know existed.”

Ricky Martin announced on The Oprah Winfrey Show that he is in a relationship. He has also expressed support for same-sex marriage in an interview on Larry King Live, and commented on his experience of being closeted and coming out. “Everything about saying that I am gay feels right…”, Ricky Martin stated, adding “if I’d known how good it was going to feel, I would have done it ten years ago.”

On November 2011, he acquired Spanish nationality in recognition of his artistic talents and for having roots in the country, Ricky Martin’s grandmother is Spanish, and he owns a residence in Madrid. As a Spanish citizen he can now marry his boyfriend in Spain. He said he could marry in some states of the United States, but he wanted to marry in Spain to recognize the efforts of Zapatero in defense of LGBT rights.

Ricky Martin is the founder of Fundación Ricky Martin (English: Ricky Martin Foundation), a non-profit organization. Among the events promoted by the foundation was a summer camp, which included Martin’s personal participation.

Ricky Martin has been honored with many accolades for his humanitarian efforts including: Leadership in the Arts Award, Billboard’s Spirit of Hope Award, ALMA Award, Vanguard Award, International Humanitarian Award by the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children, Hispanic Heritage Award for his humanitarian work through the Sabera Foundation in rescuing three orphan girls from the streets of Kolkata (September 2002).

Ricky Martin has also collaborated with the International Organization for Migration on the Llama y Vive (Call and Live), a campaign which is aimed to facilitate prevention of human trafficking, protection of the youngest victims of child trafficking, and prosecution of the traffickers. For his work against human trafficking, the United States Department of State named Ricky Martin one of its Heroes in Ending Modern-Day Slavery in 2005.

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Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License

December Sessions O2 Greenwhich

The festive season is well and truly in full swing, take a walk round London and you can’t resist feeling excited for Christmas. What better way to spend the time leading up to Christmas than going to free gig? The December Sessions are well under way at the O2 London. Through-out the month the venue and promoters have put on a series on nightly live music, seeing 100 bands play over 20 nights for free. What more can you ask for? There is no need to buy a ticket, you just pop along to the event and enjoy a night of free music. You will get to experience the up and coming acts of 2012 before most people will know who they are. It kicked off on the 3rd and will run until the 22nd, each night around five bands take to the stage, specially constructed for this event, within the London Piazza of the O2.

There will be many bands playing through-out the period, some include Tree Top Flyers who recently won the Glastonbury Emerging Talent competition and Planes who’s lead singer and guitarist is none other than the drummer Steve Forrest from the band Placebo. This is an excellent event for both the musicians playing and the audience experiencing, so make sure you get to at least one night of December Sessions. You won’t have much time but there are still a good few acts to be seen. The December Sessions not only have music, they also have the double decker bus for the British Music Experience, well worth a look. All you have to do to find out information is Like them on Facebook where there is a list of who is playing when.

You can make a day and night of it, the O2 is huge and full of entertainment to keep you amused through-out your experience there. With an abundance of food places to choose from you will not go hungry. Fancy a movie? Why not hop on up to Cineworld? Take your pick this festive season, if you and the family or friends like to have a good time, and then make sure you don’t miss out on a fabulous time at the O2 Greenwich. It has something for everyone from free music to delicious food and even a cinema you really cannot go wrong.

Let’s make this Christmas a little more special while taking advantage of this free music event and getting into the holiday spirit.

Hope you all have a very Happy Christmas and a Merry New Year.

Happy Birthday Tina Turner

Today, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Tina Turner - the American singer & actress - who was born on 26 November 1939. Her career has spanned more than 50 years and she has won numerous awards. Tina Turner’s achievements in the rock music genre has led many to call her the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Turner’s music continues to be a popular floor-filler to this day and was recently featured on X Factor 2011 when aspiring star Misha Bryan sang her version of “Proud Mary”.

Tina Turner performing on stage in 1985


Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock) started out her music career with husband Ike Turner as a member of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. Success followed with a string of hits including “River Deep, Mountain High” and the 1971 hit “Proud Mary”. With the publication of her autobiography I, Tina (1986), Turner revealed severe instances of spousal abuse against her by Ike Turner prior to their 1976 split and subsequent 1978 divorce.

After virtually disappearing from the music scene for several years following her divorce from Ike Turner, she rebuilt her career, launching a string of hits beginning in 1983 with the single “Let’s Stay Together” and the 1984 release of her fifth solo album Private Dancer.

Her musical career led to film roles, beginning with a prominent role as The Acid Queen in the 1975 film Tommy, and an appearance in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. She starred opposite Mel Gibson as Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome for which she received the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture, and her version of the film’s theme, “We Don’t Need Another Hero”, was a hit single. She appeared in the 1993 film Last Action Hero.

One of the world’s most popular entertainers, Turner has been called the most successful female rock artist and was named “one of the greatest singers of all time” by Rolling Stone. Her combined album and single sales total approximately 180 million copies worldwide. She has sold more concert tickets than any other solo music performer in history.

Tina Turner is known for her energetic stage presence, powerful vocals, career longevity, and widespread appeal. In 2008, Turner left semi-retirement to embark on her Tina!: 50th Anniversary Tour. Turner’s tour became one of the highest selling ticketed shows of 2008–2009.

Turner was born a Baptist, but converted to Buddhism and credits the spiritual chants with giving her the strength that she needed to get through the rough times. Rolling Stone ranked her at 63 on their 100 greatest artists of all time and considers her the “Queen of Rock and Roll”.

Biography text reproduced from Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
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Simply The Best Video reproduced from YouTube / emimusic
Buddhist Chant Video reproduced from YouTube / JazzClassics

Musical Review: The In-between

Young composer Laura Tisdall is the changing face of the West End. At only 24 she has already written her second musical, The In-between and now she is bringing it to the west end with little more than a concept album. such as Lauren Samuels and Hadley Fraser, stars of We will rock you and Les Miserables respectively. Now she is taking the internet by storm, promoting her play in hope to receive funding to turn it into a full scale production. With massive online support, interviews with the BBC and the successful West-end live, which showcased performances of her show, she is well on her way to attaining her goal.

The musical follows protagonist, Flix, an underachiever who lives with her older sister Alice. Since their parents death ten years ago the bond being the two has been strained due to Alice’s responsibility as a guardian preventing her from being a sister. Flix’s attitude to life is to expect nothing and give the same in return however her world is turned upside down when she steps through the wrong doorway and enters the In-between. In this world between worlds meets the guide Callicus and discovers problems on a far larger scale than her own. Its time for her grow up and become the hero she never believed she could be.

The album itself is beautifully constructed with Tisdall playing the entire score on her keyboard alone. The score is stunning and the variety of songs on the album showcase her skills as a composer which are complimented by the amazing range of talent singing on each track. “She’s my sister” is a upbeat opening to the show sung by Dianne Pilkington & Cassandra Compton. Its fast tempo and sarcastic lyrics illustrate wonderfully the tense relationship between Flix and Alice as well being impossible not to sing along to. “Someone to be proud of” is a stunning performance by the talented Lauren Samuels, with a breathtaking climax I can see it easily becoming the shows “Defying gravity”. However the song which stands out most for me is the heartbreaking “When I was nineteen” sung by Julie Atherton as the role of Alice. The melody is soft yet impacting and Atherton clearly delivers the raw emotions of her character, showing a girl who grew up to fast, desperate to still be there for her younger sister despite no longer having anything to give. It shows the depths of her personality and presents Tisdall’s ability to make you really connect with her characters.

In all the play is clearly a product of hard work and dedication on Tisdall’s part, the little of the story she has revealed is refreshing from the clichés which have crowded musicals for too long, and the fantasy element should prove an interesting production to watch. Though there are no confirmed performance as of yet, I am confident that her talent as a writer will get her funding soon and I’m sure we will be seeing the In-between on the West End by next year.

For more information about the play and to listen to the concept album visit : http://www.theinbetweenmusical.com/

Image reproduced from lornahannah.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/in-between-new-musical.html

Franka De Mille Q&A

Franka De Mille is a London singer, songwriter and composer. Her debut album ‘Bridge The Roads’  has already received critical acclaim and extensive airplay all over the world. Emotionally raw, original with sophisticated arrangements, Franka De Mille’s music has an elegant blend of Americana, chamber music and alternative folk. Franka’s focus on strong melodies underline the powerful emotional charge of her unique voice and deeply personal lyrics. She is the only independent artist to be selected for the British Phonographic Industry’s ‘Why Music Matters’ campaign.

Franka de Mille

Franka De Mille

Franka De Mille answered our questions ahead of her forthcoming Acoustic Routes performance in Cambridge at CB2.

Q: How would you describe your music?

A blend of Americana and Chamber music.

Q: What is your earliest memory related to music?

Being given a toy Telecaster Guitar for my 4th birthday. There is a picture on my website of me holding it, looking very proud, stood in front of the Xmas tree.

Q: What or who inspired you to become a singer?

I have always sung. Singing and making up songs has always came naturally to me. My parents were very busy and the need to be heard as a child was a major driving force. Music has played a vital role in my life as a protective force, a place of inspiration and solace.

Q: What are your musical influences?

I have a wide range of influences from world music to rock, pop, folk and classical music.
I listen to everything. Artists that have had the strongest influences are Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, Rickie Lee Jones, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Joe Jackson, Nick Cave, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Rene Aubry, Tori Amos, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, The Smith, The Cure, Dusty Springfield, The Police, Supertramp, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Hildegaard Von Bingen, Satie, Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Philip Glass to name quite a few from a much longer list.

Q: Describe the process you took when writing your debut album “Bridge The Roads”.

The songs came pretty much fully formed which was magical. I then went into the studio and made demos with all the different arrangements on midi with a keyboard and sampler and got the musicians to record the parts I laid out.

Bridge The Roads CDQ: Who would you most like to do a duet with and why?

My God!…there are so many artists! It is so difficult to choose one…I would say Sting, Kate Bush, Antony Hegarty, Dave Gilmour, Rickie Lee Jones, Tori Amos, Stevie Nicks…any one of them would be a dream come true. Why? because they are all such incredible songwriters and sensitive, truthful artists.

Q: Name your top three favourite songs?

Another hard choice…there are so many songs I adore: Tom Petty – Won’t back down; Rickie Lee Jones – Coolsville; Patti Smith – Dancing Barefoot.

Q: What did it mean to you being selected as the only independent artist for the “Why Music Matters” campaign by the British Phonographic Industry?

I felt privileged to be up there with so many fabulous artists. I feel very strongly about music piracy so it was important for me be part of the campaign. I feel a sense of duty to spread the message that the best way to support artists is by buying their music and not downloading it for free. It does damage to the music industry as a whole but I feel that independent artists suffer the most. It is very important that independent musicians are represented in this campaign.

Q: What is your biggest fear?

In general? To go blind or deaf or impeded physically in any way. On stage: To lose my voice

Q: What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Releasing my album, getting many beautiful reviews and lots of airplay all over the world.

Q: What is your most treasured possession?

Apart from my cats and the ring my dad gave me before he died…my sanity.

Q: What can the audience expect from your forthcoming gig at CB2/Acoustic Routes in Cambridge later this month?

An intimate emotional ride, embroidered in an intricate fabric of musical textures, with violin, cello, harmonica…I might even bring a piano.

Franka De Mille and Band will be performing on 28 September 2013 at CB2 – Acoustic Routes, 5 Norfolk St, Cambridge, CB1 2LD. Ticket price:£6.00. For more information go to www.acousticroutes.co.uk/program.html. For more on Franka, check out her website – www.frankademille.com

Festival Guide 2013: V Festival

V-FESTIVALIf there’s ever that one person that the world wants to see, then you will find them at this year’s V Festival. This independent woman took some time out last year to have a baby but she comes storming back this year to cities and festivals all over the world. Who am I talking about? Well it’s none other than Queen B herself, Mrs Carter, Beyoncé!

Tickets sold out within minutes to all of her tour dates, and if you were lucky enough you may just have caught yourself arguably the most wanted tour tickets ever. If you weren’t one of those lucky ones, then maybe you were when it came to getting tickets to V Festival this year. The organisers of the festival announced earlier this year that Beyoncé is to headline the Saturday night of the weekend festival so you can imagine the excitement that fans felt.

beyonce virginmediaV festival is a subsidiary of Richard Branson’s multi-million pound company Virgin. This year it is in popular demand due the fact Queen B is headling, but there also some other acts to tide you over while you wait for the performance of the weekend. Calvin Harris, Sterophonics, Rita Ora, Of Monsters and Men and The Fratellis are just some of the artists taking to the stage over the weekend with many more still to be announced. The festival runs from 17th to 18th August so is ideal to end your summer. The festival runs from two parks Hylands Park near Chelmsford and Westin Park near Westin-under Lizard over the weekend so you can chose where you would like to go for an amazing weekend with one of the biggest stars in the world. As with all festivals in the UK you have to prepare for any weather Mother Nature might throw at you. Make sure you get your willies ready and waterproof jacket in case the summer is a wash out but it shouldn’t dampen your spirit with the amazing Beyoncé taking to the stage.

We all know that, though it will be nice to see the other acts, the one who everyone wants to see is Beyonce. So if you can, then you should try hard to get tickets to this hugely popular musical event of the year.

Tickets are sold from reputable sources. You can find out more on http://www.vfestival.com/tickets/official-ticket-outlets

Tickets start from £89 for day ticket and £185 for a weekend camping ticket.

Album Review: Alex Day – Epigrams & Interludes

Image courtesy of dftba.comThree years since the release of his last album and now with three Top 40 singles under his belt, Youtuber & Musician Alex Day is back with a brand new collection, Epigrams & Interludes.

The album consists of a vast mixture of his older work, brand new tracks, chart toppers, collaborations, and songs he’s produced for other artists. All combined to create a incredibly addictive and complexly layered album.

Day’s style is distinctively different from other music of the moment, it’s lively, upbeat with a nod towards 90’s pop. Lyrics are not vague with hidden meaning but stories, telling us tales of love, friendship and bread. The majority of the album is heavily produced brimming with catchy drum beats most prominent in the dance anthem styled “Poison” sung by the talented Carrie Hope Fletcher. Though it also includes a few acoustic tracks, such as the beautifully mature “Losing a future” which showcases Day’s vocals at their very best.

What’s most remarkable about this album is the growth shown in Day’s work from “Holding on” to “I’ve got what it takes”. He’s become confident in the production of his songs, breaking away from the safety of his guitar to create new, more complicated sounds with a polished finish. It provides us with best of Alex Day and the perfect introduction to his music.

Tracks to skip straight to are “Bread” eerily reminiscence of “The nightmare before Christmas” with it’s Burton style of storytelling and insanely hyper “Lady Godiva” guaranteed to stay in your head for the rest of the day.

“Epigrams & Interludes” brings a breath of unique life into the monotone of the music industry and is certainly well worth a listen. Even better ten of the twenty tracks are available for free download at http://www.bittorrent.com/ so try a taste of Alex Day a musician you’ll be kicking yourself that you’ve never discovered before.

Image reproduced from dftba.com

Festival Guide 2013: Wireless

Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake

If you can’t get to T in the Park this summer perhaps Wireless festival could be the one you go to? Also running from 12th-14th July like T in the Park this is perfect for those in the South. With Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z headlining over the weekend and an additional day added this year it is sure to be one amazing weekend. This year the festival has took advantage of London 2012 and it will be based on the grounds of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. What a fantastic location to soak up the summer sun in the middle of London for a weekend you won’t forget.


Snoop Dogg

The headline acts that are considered legends in the music industry plus many more acts throughout the weekend including Rita Ora, Frank Ocean, Trey Songz, John Legend and Snoop Dogg.

This pop festival is perfect for all those who love themselves a bit of Justin Timberlake who makes his comeback this year. Not into camping? Then this is perfect for you, just arrange your coach or tube travel each day and you are sorted.

Wireless festival is great if you are not into the fuss of packing for the weekend and preparing not to get a decent wash until after the festival has finished.

Rita Ora

Rita Ora

You can buy tickets for each day you want to go or buy a 2-3 day package ticket to suit you. You can also hire a locker for any essentials you need for the day but don’t necessary need them on you whilst you are enjoying the music. If you fancy getting a little personal treatment, you can get VIP tickets, where you will be given first class treatment. You will receive complementary food and drink, fast track entry and exclusive areas that get you away from the crowds whilst you wait for your favourite act to hit the stage.

The location is fantastic, with many easy transport options to get you there each day and back again and a place full of memories and achievements that will be there forever. The Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is an amazing place to hold a festival. It isn’t held in the stadium but the grounds surrounding it, so with beautiful views of an important part of history for the UK and a stage full of musical acts that will have you singing and dancing the weekend away, what more can you ask for?

Tickets start from £83.50 plus booking fees and are available from selected ticket retailers which you can find on the festival website http://www.wirelessfestival.co.uk/tickets

You can find full details of the line-up so far at http://www.wirelessfestival.co.uk/line-up

Next time we’re talking about the legendary Glastonbury Festival which returns this year after taking a year out last year and what a festival it will be.

Images reproduced from wirelessfestival.co.uk