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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

The truth about bishops and priests,
with classical music agony aunt ALICE McVEIGH

? 'Dear Alice,

I am sixteen, and I feel I don't have many friends.

I'm also jealous towards my older sister for having loads of friends and boys fancying her. I feel really guilty about this because I love her.

I also don't understand my feelings. It seems like I'm happy one moment and hysterically crying the next. Am I bipolar?

Any help would be very welcome!

Ask Alice

Alice Hi violist,

I'm full of sympathy. I felt just the same at sixteen.

First, believe me, everything you mention is completely normal for a sensitive and thoughtful sixteen-year-old. Your sensitivity makes you worry that you're not normal, but everything you describe is normal (for the kind of person you are, at the age you're at.)

Secondly, you probably don't have many friends because you are naturally more introspective than most people of your own age. This will pass. I know it sounds strange, but being thoughtful and introspective in your twenties (a disaster in one's teens) later counts as a major bonus, in relationships with people of both sexes.

Thirdly, you are not weird. As you're already aware: you're happy one moment and 'hysterical' (according to whom?) the next. This is caused by hormones, along with a too trustful temperament. You'll still feel all this, but your life will be easier if you hide your moods from all except your closest friends (which may not, at least temporarily, include your sister). Books have been written on this, all of them by people miles cleverer than me.

You're having a hard time, but it will pass.

Your friend,

Ask Alice

? 'Hi Alice,

I know you're a fan of Angela East, but have you heard their Four Seasons? It is wild and crazy. Vivaldi would have loved it!
Ellen B

Ask Alice

Alice Hi Ellen,

I agree absolutely. It's manic and exciting and virtuosic (whoever heard a recorder sound like that??) For people who don't know Red Priest (a nickname for Vivaldi himself, of course) their Vivaldi's Four Seasons is a hugely affectionate and vibrantly imaginative version for recorder (Piers Adams, here brilliantly impersonating birds when not extemporising wonderfully, violin (Julia Bishop, beautifully secure of tone), cello (Angela East, a wonderfully barking dog) and Howard Beach (harpsichord). There's even a fantastic wind-up to the last movement of Spring that sounds like an old-fashioned record-player getting into gear.

Red Priest -- Vivaldi: The 4 Seasons. A colourful reinvention of a baroque masterpiece. © 2003, 2008 Red Priest Recordings

Listen -- Vivaldi, arranged Red Priest: final Allegro (Spring RV269)
(track 3, 0:00-0:44) © 2003, 2008 Red Priest Recordings

As far as Summer is concerned, it starts off lazily enough, until the harpsichord and the recorder get weaving, with pizzicato and ponticello cello, in another exuberance. The recorder gets back into bird mode, emphasising the fabulous ensemble between the others. A bizarre waltz-feel, complete with rubato wheels us briefly into near-Straussian mode before the tempest takes over again.

Autumn slouches in with a folksy bent, especially in what must here be called a fiddle, with a deliberately nutty cadenza. They all sound as if they've deliberately overdone it on the dry cider in the farmhouse near the end of the first movement (great writing). They sober up for the slow movement, but flirt wildly with the last, including an accelerating blast of lunacy from Piers Adams, assisted by percussion from the cello, while the musicians trip off into the distance as if they have a dance to get to.

Listen -- Vivaldi, arranged Red Priest: The Hunt (Autumn RV293)
(track 9, 3:39-2:40) © 2003, 2008 Red Priest Recordings

Winter is show-off time for the recorder, as if Pan is picking his way through the ice, and splattering the music with snowballs. The cello kicks off the next movement like a tango and Julia Bishop swings over the top like Grappelli.

Listen -- Vivaldi, arranged Red Priest: Largo (Winter RV297)
(track 11, 0:00-0:54) © 2003, 2008 Red Priest Recordings

The next movement -- which I always find 'bitty' -- features some inspired rhythmic condensation and a tempo fit to whisk your socks off.

Here Vivaldi isn't messed about with (see Nigel Kennedy): it is realised in a spikily, outrageously irreverent way. Had he ever heard them, Vivaldi would indeed have had a blast. If it sometimes seems over the top at times, how refreshing is that? -- this is not a well-groomed Vivaldi. My near-teen remarked, 'Hey, that sounds cool. You don't listen to cool things. You listen to Bach cantatas.'

And this is true. But hey, at least I have here one very cool cello-playing friend.


Copyright © 9 October 2009 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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