Mission to MOLA

As I creep towards decrepitude (I'm nearly 56!) I look back at at fabulous 40 year professional life as a bass player, and I have seen some amazing places and met some incredible people, including being privileged to meet and shake hands with Ella Fitzgerald.

Since 2005 I have been in a "day job" as well, as Performance Librarian at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (formerly known as the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama) where I manage all performance material and advise on copyright and associated institutions (PRS, PPL) as well as doing lots of gigs at night.

Right now, I'm pretty excited as I've flown out to New Orleans for the MOLA (Major Orchestra Librarian's Association) Conference which is happening over the weekend of 11-14th May.

It is great to get the chance to meet people doing the same job as me, as there is normally only one in any institution, so one tends to be a bit "out on a limb"! At the conference there will be many interesting sessions, on new media licensing and Latin American orchestral music, to name but two. Also as part of the agenda, I have the chance to attend various concerts taking place in the city, and one that I dare not miss is the New Leviathan Oriental Foxtrot Orchestra - a name to be reckoned with!

I shall be doing a daily update to this blog whilst in the USA, and let you know all of the news and events as they happen. This will include any gigs I attend, especially if I get some good traditional Dixie Jazz.

The fun started when I flew into Louis Armstrong International Airport - as the great man himself said often, "and that's Jazz!"

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Day five (via platform nine and three quarters)

As one of my noble correspondents pointed out, I seemed to lose day five so here it is courtesy of the train now standing at platform 9 & 3/4s (soon leaving for Hogwarts!) - see what happens when you let me out amongst the Muggles?!? :-)

Ok, so my memory remembers(?), the night before day 5 was spent in a lovely hotel in the French Quarter, as previously reported. I had a bit of free time in the morning before heading off for the flight back, so decided to treat myself to a "proper" NOLA style breakfast, and popped into a place on Royal Street called Pere Antoines. It was pretty from the outside, and even better inside with a number of huge ceiling fans going full tilt to keep me cool. I started my gastronomic extravaganza with some lovely fresh orange juice and a "Big Easy" croissant (stuffed with scrambled egg, cheese and bacon and served with fried potatoes and the biggest bottle of tomato ketchup that I have seen in many a long day's march!) and then decided that I couldn't leave the city without sampling Beignets (at this point I didn't even know what they were!) so I ordered "a portion" and the waiter asked if I wanted Banana Fosters as well. As I struggled with such a weighty (sure was for the waistline) decision, the lady at the next table looked round at me and said, "Honey? You want Banana Foster!".

When the plate arrived, I can only describe it as like a bonfire of stick shaped deep-fried doughnuts, about the shape and size of fat Matchmaker chocolates - make sense? Will if you are old enough....
Well, this culinary conflagration was doused in a snowfall of icing sugar, and poured over that was a toffee sauce with chunks of fresh banana balanced in various strategic places. (See? I said it was healthy!!) Even though I was entered into that days "eating for Britain" competition, I had to give up half way through. Fab, but I shall never have them again..............

This doesn't mean that I won't return to NOLA, but the next trip will be holiday with much more time to sightsee. Thanks to all my new friends and colleagues for making me feel so very welcome, and I am thrilled to have a number of trans-atlantic penpals now.

Thus end the MOLA/NOLA shenanigans, but who knows - I may be let out occasionally in the years to come........... if you enjoyed my news, it may be worth a look now and again!

Au revoir!!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Day six and on the road again

Well my guess was a good 'un and there was no internet until I got back to the UK. this is a very swift report which I shall flesh out from sunny Pertyck later. Monday night's hotel was gorgeous and oh so different from the Marriott. The Royal is a series of building in the FQ which were renovated and turned into a hotel less than 12 months ago. Each room has been stripped back to the bare stone which is whitewashed and there is a black hardwood floor throughout. The (huge) bed is black, with white bedlinen. At the end of the bed is a (huger!) plasma TV and iPhone docking station. In the ensuite bathroom, there is a marble washbasin and ditto shower which is big enough for half of the Scottish rugby team!. The whole place is lit with really cool mood lighting - very trendy!! To boot, the view from the veranda looks down on a lovely courtyard with a wee tinkly fountain.......... aaaaaaaaaaah!

Thus far I have made it back as far as Heathrow but am in the throes of a 5 & a 1/2 hour sit before my Glasgow flight leaves. Harumph. It eventually came to an end and I finally got home around 2:30pm - again, almost exactly 22 hours after leaving New Orleans. Gosh, did I ever sleep well that night!!!

Monday, 14 May 2012

Day four and all that jazz

Last night's banquet in the Palace Cafe was great and interesting on many different levels. On entering the building we were given the choice of going upstairs either in a lift or by walking up a gorgeous curving staircase with a thick carpet underfoot on every tread. I'm quite amazed that of the people I arrived with, I was the only one to walk - and they were all younger than me! Upstairs, I was greeted with 2 tickets - one for a welcome drink (I had a cocktail called a Hurricane) and one to put at my place at table to show which main course I had selected (rib-eye steak..... more anon). Looking around the room, it was festooned with artworks and memorabilia dating back to the halcyon (or as Terry Wogan says halogen) days of jazz in the ciy - fabulous! For starter we had first a Caesar Salad (I only ate a very little as I don't like salad) then "Chicken Gumbo Ya-ya" which was an amazing spiced thick soup with rice and veg as well as the chicken, all in this lustrous thick spicy brown stock. Mmmmmmmmmm.........

As it was so piquant it made up my and my table neighbours minds that although there was house wine being poured we fancied both better and more! Rob (a US attourney specialising in music copyright law) allowed me to choose so I opted for a red called "Edna Valley" - my Mum would have been tickled pink (or rose?!?) that a wine bearing her name was available. The rib-eye main course was absolutely superb, and a hefty slab of beef, beautifully cooked. Again, Creole/ Cajun spices were in evidence but that beef was so tender and nicely pink in the middle. Yummy! The white chocolate bread pudding was for me a little bit of a let-down, but I did manage to force myself to eat it all ;-O - a hard job, but I won through.

So after that was a return to our hotel and a few social drinks with new friends before retiring to pack and get a good sleep before our final day of conference, which has just come to an end. All sessions today have been extremely interesting. They were:

1. Bruce Ridge (Chair of ISCOM - International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians) and Mary Plaine of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (my mentor and a lovely lady) talking about ISCOM and librarian advocacy. Bruce made the point about standing together and the orchestral/ performance librarian being such an important member of any ensemble who should be treated as a non playing member of the ensemble with which he/ she works. Mary offered thoughts on how to to make the librarian's role more high profile and said that members of the concert going audience are very interested to hear details of a performance librarians job.

2. Then we had a very informative chat from Bruce Boyd Raeburn, Curator of the Hogan Jazz Archive (Tulane University) which included showing slides of old photos of jazz musicians and bands almost dating back as far as the history of photography!
3. Our final session was entitled " Jazz and Symphonic Music" and the speakers included Irvin Mayfield (Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and Artistic Director of Jazz with the Minnesota Orchestra) and Jef Tyzik, a well known arranger and Principal Pops Conductor with the Rochester Philharmonic). Both gentlemen and their other colleagues were so interesting and informative, not to mention laid back, as one would truly expect from good jazzers......

So conference was wrapped up around an hour ago and I'm sitting thinking about all that I have learned, and the confidence in my own talents and abilities that have been reinforced by my new friends and colleagues. I know that so many of them are at the end of an email should I need them and that is a very good feeling! I have the rest of today to do some exploring on my own and hopefully catch some more jazz, and I will catch up with you all (y'all????) later and then it will be tales from 36,000 feet all over again on my route home. Have a nice day....... golly, it's catching........

Just returned to the NOLA Marriott after a lovely stroll down to the Mississippi (it's huuuuuuuge!) and I stopped to watch the departure of the Steamboat Natchez. Splendid is the word that springs to mind but also NOISY. I wondered why the workers had covered their ears but then the steam whistle went off. Aaaaah, say no more..... Soozie, not sure about which Rochester but pretty sure not Kent! I think NY but could be massive chew sets.......? I'm keeping back your full comment, expect you know why :-(. Anyhow thanks for what you said s'appreciated! Yes I had no idea that Edna's "powers" could reach so far ;-D Right - it's time to pick up my bag and walk to my hotel for the night. Depending upon wifi access, I may post later - otherwise it may have to wait until Cafe Nero at 'eef row! Tararanoo!!!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Day three and happy Mothers Day from the USA

Hello again - this may be my only post today as tonight we have our banquet at Dickie Brennan's Palace Cafe, which is just along from the hotel...... And I missed out on jazz last night as I was too tired (what? Not like me - I must be getting old!) so I hope to make up for it tonight. I did hear some good stuff earlier though (see below). Here's a round up of the day's goings on thus far........ I got an early start to the day after a good long sleep and was out walking in the French Quarter by just after 8:30 (I hope my sister and brother don't pass out with shock!). At that time of day, especially on a Sunday, all was very quiet and peaceful. St Louis Cathedral (in Jackson Square) was bathed in early morning light and there was quite a view across the Mississippi as well.

By the way, apologies for no pictures on Flickr yet, but I can't find a way to get the from camera to web, so will do that when I get home. I was back at the hotel in time for the first session of the day which was all about new (critical/ urtext etc) editions in printed music. The speakers were not only informative but quite amusing as well. That was followed by break out sessions and I opted on the Sibelius users group. I don't consider myself in any way shape or form much more than a competent novice, so all tricks of the trade are greatly appreciated.

Lunch followed that and I went back into the "FQ" (hey I have been here for 3 days!) and to my joy there was a band or act of some kind on almost every street corner ...... some wicked trombone playing!! I

had to drag myself back for the big session of the afternoon on Latin-American orchestral music, but it was well worth it, and gems were uncovered with more to come I hope, from new contacts made. After that, it was the taking of the group photograph, and the fellow taking the photo, well if his picture is as good as his humour, it'll be a good 'un!

The day's learning came towards an end with and overview of more than 200 years of opera in New Orleans. Very interesting and when the chap was talking about circa 1876, I resisted the temptation to say that was the year that Boris the Bass was "born" (okay, made.....). Then finally for the day was a session called "From scanner to stand" - amazing stuff to do with creating clean fresh parts after editing is completed. And SuzieCreemCheeze, my brain is "hinging oan" to all the new info just now, but I do have a fair dose of writers cramp........ So I'll say ta-ta for now, and cheers - I'll raise a glass later.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Day two and it's librarianly paradise

The morning kicked off with a MOLA members business meeting where all conference attendees stood up and introduced themselves. Embarrassment over, minutes and reports were scrutinised, election votes counted, pearls of wisdom passed on. I am really looking forward to seeing the new MOLA website which will have all the current info but in probably a more user friendly format, with a social forum aspect as well. Goody goody because I have loads of new friends that I want to keep in contact with.

Then after a short break, it was into a session called "our world according to copyright". Fabulous! So many nuggets of information and so much food for future thought. Some very interesting ideas on orchestral excerpts. As a conservatoire librarian, this was heaven, as will be the session at 4pm which is an educational break out. But before that it's one called "do we need a licence for that?" - as all performance and orchestral librarians know, the answer is almost certainly yes, otherwise the question woukdn't be asked in the first place! More anon - ta ta the noo (as we say in Glasgow!)

That was a great session with representatives from ASCAP (American Society of Composers and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.) these 2 prganistions are roughly equivalent to the PRS (Performing Rights Society) and the PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd) in the UK. In both cases the organisations deal respectively with music ( all creators - composers/ arrangers, lyricists)copyright and performance copyright.

Also in attendance was a lawyer specialising in music copyright and he said one thing about it in general, website use in particular was that in many cases folk think that short excerpt use is acceptable without licensing, but he said "if your prospective audience is starting to enjoy it, you have probably used too much"! Fabulous! Many of my colleagues made valid points in the Q and A part of the session and one over-riding opinion was that organisations should not only seek advice from the librarian in programme planning (advisory capacity) bu also allow adequate time to ensure all permissions are properly in place in adequate time before the event.

There was chat about the licensing of (mostly "pops") music where copyright is shared between different owners on a percentage basis. This can lead to a great traffic of emails between the different owners and the librarian as the scenario goes a bit like this: Owner 1 ( say 66%) sets fee of a reasonable amount but says if owner 2 asks for a (percentage) higher rate, we want twice what they are getting,,,,.. This can wander back and forth for a while!

The day's learning is now over and the educational session was a joy. It's only the second time I have had the pleasure of talking with colleagues who do the same job as me - it really was quite an education, to make a lousy parallel! Topics included the use if practice parts, issuing of hire (rental) material to students, library/ collection security to name but a few. It was decided that we would keep email contact going after New Orleans. Gosh, I now have a support network! My plan for tonight is to try and hear some jazz. Wish me luck!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Day one in the Big Easy

Like I said last time, my room is fab with a bed so huge one can actually sleep in a completely circular fashion without falling over an edge anywhere! I'm on the 28th floor, with an amazing view over the city, and in particular up Canal Street (anyone want to take a 12 bar chorus ?!?) As I slept like the proverbial log, I am having breakfast (caramel frappuchino & cookies - blow the diet!) in the hotel Starbucks and then I'm off out to explore. The weather forecast is warm, humid and a 20% chance of rain and/or thunderstorms. I have a Tilley hat, and I'm not afraid to wear it! Will update this later with news of the Crescent City and the first meetings of the conference. No, I hadn't forgotten that's why I'm here! Oh, and thanks to Susan and Karen for comments - very gratefully received.

Well it's now the end of the day here so it's the wee small hours at home. It has been a busy but fun one - this afternoon I was sight seeing on my own and had a great time. Within about 5 minutes of leaving the hotel I'd decided that this would not be my only visit to New Orleans - why? I went into a shop called Voodoo Market and the 'house muzak' was playing "Down by the Riverside" and then "Sweet Georgia Brown" both classic Dixie/ Trad charts. Wow - I was well impressed!

After recovering from that I set off on safari into the French Quarter where there seemed to be live music on every street corner, ranging from a 6 piece trad band to a fella with a guitar and a lass with a painted on moustache playing a saw with a cello bow. I resisted the temptation to tell her she would get a better sound with a bass bow!

The French Quarter is an area that reeks of local history as well as seeming to be a magnet for all things cultural, abounding in galleries, antiques, curios and of course the ubiquitous trinket shops with a fair sprinkling of tat amongst some good stuff. My afternoon snack(reward) was a visit to an ice cream/ gelato shop. I picked the one that sounded the most interesting (and yes, Stuart, it was the most expensive) called Afagato - it turned out to br a large ball of chocolate ice cream in a cup with a shot of freshly brewed espresso poured over it. Fabulous!

The 20% chance of rain really should have been about 85% as it "fair chucked it down" but unlike British rain it was warm and didn't hurt - a distinct plus. So I've now bought an umbrella - now it won't rain again!

This evening saw the first conference function with a reception held in the Historic New Orleans Collection, in a very elegant "chambre" lined with wonderful artwork mostly from the early to mid 1800s. It was also an opportunity to sample some local cuisine...... Oh yes, meet and chat with fellow performance librarians from as far aparts as Texas, Canada, Spain and discuss copyright, editions of operas, and many other librarianly delights.

I also spent time with a lovely young lady who works in the HNOC, named Ashley. She is considerably younger than I, but we seemed to strike up an instant kinship, enhanced by the fact we discovered that we both had the same odd shaped thumbs! Weird or what?!? Tomorrow brings many topics and for me a highlight may well be an educational break-out session where I shall spend time and swap thoughts and ideas with colleagues doing pretty much the same job as me. 'Twill be interesting to know their thoughts, feelings and practices. So I wind down the day with a bottle of Budweiser and then it's off to sleep. Bonne nuit!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The high life

At the time of writing, I still have around 3-4 hours flying time left before I reach Miami, but I have a wee story to tell...... Well, since the last wee note from Heathrow Airport, things looked very iffy when I boarded the Miami flight. I had a (paid for) pre booked seat (£25!)  but was sat between 2 folk whose personal hygiene was suspect, to say the least. Fortunately, shortly before take off, the Purser/head steward/ boss/ whatever came and asked them to go with him as there was a "seating conflict".  as they retreated towards the front of the plane, I asked the "boss" if anyone was coming to replace them and he said no. So in the words of folk near me, I "lucked out" as I had a 3 seat row to myself.

So thus far it has been a great flight, and I'm chasing the daylight, which is good, because the day gets younger as you head west. Lunch/ dinner, depending upon one's personal time clock, was good - buckwheat salad (yes WingCo I did eat it except for the tomato) followed by buttered chicken curry with rice (not too spicy), and a lemon posset for pudding, and that was lovely.  Now I have watched 2 films ( Iron Lady and Johnny English Reborn) and am keeping up with my blog courtesy of my lovely brother's iPad - thank you David! By the way that's just doing the typing and certainly not breaking aviation rules by posting..... I am not, contrary to some opinions, stupid!

All being well this may be posted from Miami, where you will all be asleep, and my Thursday will have another good 6 hours to run.

PS Miami did not live up to "'Eafrow" so this will have to keep til New Orleans, where I have just reached the hotel (the Marriott in Canal St) after almost exactly 22 hours travelling. I met up with a fellow UK librarian from ENO and we shared a cab in from the airport. It's a fine hotel and my room is gorgeous!