Category Archives: Group News

Summer Concert

Here’s the promised poll to help decide whether or not the Summer Concert should proceed as scheduled in Ken’s on 11th June. You can only vote once, and the poll will close at the end of the month.

As mentioned in the circulated email, at least four members are definitely unable to attend on that date, so the audience could be sparse. We might get a better turnout if the Concert was scheduled for a different date. At this stage we just need to decide about 11th June: Concert or no Concert?


Please help with the website re-design

As you all know, the Presentations section of our web site is still languishing in a sort of no-man’s-land, waiting to be integrated into the recent re-design which launched in December.

This is to assure you all that I haven’t been idle since then. With a recent job safely out of the way a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been able to devote some time to this task, and have made good progress. I have reached a bit of a crossroads, though. I’ve succeeded with integration of the “view by date” part of the existing site Presentations page, but now feel that the ongoing process provides an ideal opportunity to look at things afresh rather than merely reproduce what’s there already.

Before proceeding down this path, I’m anxious to get some feedback from members about the merits and demerits of the existing setup — and what better way to go about this than with a Survey. Do please respond to this. As with our recent poll, the more members who respond, the better idea we get of how people feel and what they want.

The Survey is here.

Adding privacy to our web site

Here’s a poll to help decision-making. You can only vote once, and the poll will close in one week, on 22nd March at 11:59 pm.

Continue reading for the background
Following on from the nasty hacking experience towards the end of last year, some members wondered aloud about adding a login feature to our site, whereby access to either the entire site or to individual pages would be restricted and would require registration and subsequent login using username and password. The group reaction was mixed, and I undertook to investigate options and report back, which I’m now doing.

First, let me stress that registration and login would do nothing to protect us from another hacking attack: it would add a privacy layer to the site, but do nothing to improve security. That said, my instinctive reaction to the idea was that this could be done quite easily if the members so desire — but…

The ‘but’ is a technical one. As you know, the re-design which I introduced in December is still not fully implemented. This is because the web-design software I used does not support what are known as ‘dynamic’ web pages. This is why the Presentations page brings visitors back to the old site, which I hard-coded and which is hosted on a server which supports database querying and retrieval. Databases are at the heart of dynamic web pages, but the re-design software doesn’t support them. A registration and login implementation also depends on using the same web techniques, so cannot be developed with the re-design software.

I am fully aware of the need to apply the re-design across the entire web site, and am currently familiarising myself with more sophisticated software which will enable me to generate dynamic content such as the Presentations page. When I master the necessary techniques, I could then also apply them to a registration/login system. What would then remain would be the integration of elements from both software instances into a single site.

In summary, yes, we can add registration/login, but it will be a while before that could be up and running. More fundamental, though, is the question of whether or not the group wishes to go down this road. Dermot came up with an answer to one aspect which concerned me, which was that contributing to our weblog (even to leave a comment) currently requires registration and login, and it would be even more off-putting if visitors had to login once to enter the site and then again to interact with the weblog. Dermot’s compromise suggestion, which is to eliminate registration/login for the weblog, solves this neatly. So that leaves the fundamental question: do we want to go down this road?

Launch of new-look website

Members at today’s music session got a live preview of the re-designed web site I’ve been working on over the past few weeks. The original site design has served us well for several years, but had become rather tired and old and out-of-date. I’ve been thinking of a re-design for a while, and decided at the beginning of the month that it would be appropriate to have it up and running for the new year.

Front Page

The image above shows the new home (Schedule) page. It’s dramatically different in appearance, but there are also some refinements above and beyond what was there before. For starters, I’ve added a list of each month’s anniversary dates for ease of reference. Also, there’s a new What’s On section which pops up from the bottom of the page, as shown below.

What's On popup

The functionality of this page remains the same as members are accustomed to: mouse over the JAN, FEB, MAR … list to view the schedule for each month, now including that month’s anniversary dates. Also as before, the Schedule page will default to display the current month as the year progresses.

These changes are not merely cosmetic: The new implementation makes updating much easier and quicker than it has been, and it will even be possible for someone other than the webmaster to make changes online. This will be thanks to a shift away from our present hosting providers, who didn’t really cover themselves in glory during the recent hacking experience. The new-look site will be hosted by Adobe as part of my monthly subscription to their Creative Cloud. The annual collection will go towards offsetting part of this subscription rather than meeting our present-day hosting costs. There will be an overlap period during which the old site will continue to be hosted as before, and some of the new pages will link back to there. This is necessary because I still need to implement a tie-in between the Presentations database and the web-design software I’ve used for the new look, and it will take some time to sort out the technical problems involved. The link will be seamless however, and members will be presented in the interim with the Presentations information in the way they’ve been used to.

There will also be a cross-over period with regard to the photo galleries of the group trips abroad during the time it takes for me to change all the galleries to the new approach demonstrated on the pages for Paris 2001 and Berlin 2010.

I welcome feedback about the re-design. To be able to do that, though, you need to know where to find it. So here’s the link to the new web location.

Further progress with weblog rescue

Things are looking up on the weblog front. We will unfortunately have to do without images and photos and the like which were originally part of some entries (thanks to Mr Hacker and his deletion spree), but I’ve now managed to get the weblog system to talk to the existing database. That means that all our content is still available to view and search and comment on.

I’ll work through those entires which are showing ugly spaces where photos/images should be, and I’ll tidy these up. After that, I’ll see what I can do about sourcing a more interesting and colourful theme (hopefully one which will tie in with the rest of our web site).

Almost a rescue

Our nasty-minded hacking visitor made things extremely difficult for me when it came to rescuing our weblog.

He rather beat me to the punch and was busily deleting material while I was trying to copy it to my hard drive. So what survives is rather lacking in photos and other images, and I’ve had to use a different look to be able to make sense of the existing posts.

At any rate, there’s something back here now for you to turn to. I haven’t had time to go through all the posts to see which ones are affected by yer man’s antics. At this stage I was mainly concerned about having a tidy first page for you to ooh and aah over — and even at that there’s some basic functionality missing, for which I apologise.

Group Visit to Berlin 2014

By our Special Correspondent Dermot Kehoe

The 14th Music Group visit to the European mainland took place from June 5th to 11th. There were 7 participants. It was our third time in Berlin.

All 7 met for the Gala dinner on Saturday evening at the Greek Trilogie on Motz Strasse. Afterwards we moved on, but the full history of the night remains to be told.

However 5 survivors moved South the following day and took the Wannsee ferry to Kladow where many hours were spent in a shady Biergarten. Hits of the day were the Currywurst and the invasion of a fleet of old American amphibious  cars!

Mostly we split up for the musical events and with the huge variety available everyone was able to satisfy their own particular tastes. There were no duds reported and there was general agreement that standards were exceptionally high.

The operas seen were Rameau’s Castor et Pollux and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro at the Komische Oper and Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd at the Deutsche Oper.

Concerts were:

At the Philharmonie:

  • Berlin Philharmonic, Semyon Bychkov
    Richard Strauss Don Quixote, Schubert ‘Great’ C major Symphony
  • Deutsches Symphonie Orchester, Herbert Blomstedt, Richard Goode
    Mozart Piano Concerto no. 25 in C major K503, Bruckner Symphony no. 6

At the Konzerthaus:

  • Konzerthaus Orchestra, Michael Sanderling, Kim Da Sol (piano), Michael Erxleben, Sayako Kusaka (violins)
    Schnittke Concerto Grosso No. 1, Mozart Piano Concerto no. 9 in E flat major K271 (‘Jeunehomme’), Beethoven Symphony No. 1
  • Staatskapelle Berlin, Lahav Shani, Bernarda Fink
    Mahler: Rückert Lieder,  Symphony No. 1
  • Christoph Schoener (Organ recital)
    J. S. Bach Fantasia on Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott BWV 651, Nicolas de Grigny Hymnus Veni creator, J. S. Bach Chromatische Fantasie and Fugue in D minor BWV 903 (arranged for organ by Max Reger), Louis Vierne Symphony no. 3 in F sharp minor op. 28

Time to vote

Okay guys, with European and Local Elections coming up, how’s about getting in a bit of voting practice?

It’s been a while since we’ve run a poll here (so long, in fact, that I had to stop a while to remind myself how to include one). The poll closes at midnight on Friday 28th February. The result will be announced the following day.

As is only right and proper, you will only be able to vote once. You will not be able to see how voting is going until after you cast your vote.

10 Greatest Pianists

Limelight magazine in Australia has just published one of those dreaded Ten Best articles, but this time it’s of interest to us and the list has been arrived at not by the general public but by people who should know what they’re talking about.

The article in question is The 10 Greatest Pianists of All Time and has the tagline “The most influential legendary pianists, as voted by modern-day masters of the instrument”. The list of modern-day masters definitely gives added credibility: included are Jonathan Biss, Cyprien Katsaris, Paul Lewis, Pascal Rogé, Stephen Hough, Cédric Tiberghien, Roger Woodward (?), Barry Douglas, Ingold Wunder (again, ?) and Leslie Howard (also involved in the nomination process were András Schiff, Ronald Brautigam, Garrick Ohlsson, Michael Endres, David Fray, Eldar Nebolsin Steven Osborne, Imogen Cooper, Till Fellner, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Fazil Say, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Alfred Brendel, Benjamin Grosvenor, Stanislav Ioudenitch, Alice Sara Ott, Olli Mustonen, Lars Vogt, Simon Trpceski, Jayson Gillham, Margaret Fingerhut, Howard Shelley, Anna Goldsworthy, Piotr Anderszewski, Freddy Kempf, Gerard Willems, Konstantin Scherbakov, Stephen Kovacevich, Denis Matsuev and Alexey Yemtsov — so there can be no quibble with the credentials of the ‘panel’.

The 10 Greatest list is interesting, with few surprises. All I’ll say is that I am quite surprised at which pianist gets the top spot.

Anyone need a hint or two? How about some photos, would that help?

To whet our Parisian appetites

It’s an April morning on the Place de l’Opéra in Paris and Gilles Djeraouane, house manager of the Palais Garnier, perches on a roof ridge of the opera house’s majestic dome at a vertigo-inducing height above street level. A few paces further along the roof, lapped by sun-sparked clouds, stands the Garnier’s crowning decoration, a statue of Apollo with his golden lyre.

Planted limpet-like on the 19th-century metal stairway scaling the dome, I look down queasily at the flat-topped section of roof Mr. Djeraouane is now indicating. “Over there are five beehives,” he says. The bees are tended by a retired prop man, explains Mr. Djeraouane, and the floral honey is sold in the gift shop.

The photo shows the oh-so-grand (and, for me, rather desperately over-the-top) splendour of the grand foyer of Palais Garnier, the much-longer-established half of Opera National de Paris, and the text is the opening of an article in the Wall Street Journal which provides a fascinating insider’s view of some lesser-known aspects of the building. Worth a read, especially since it makes a nice advance introduction to next year’s trip.

Read the complete WSJ article here.