Vixen Of The Violin: The Anna Phoebe Column (No. 11)
This week, Anna Phoebe hangs out in Germany where she samples top beers and cycles through the Brandenburg Gate (but not at the same time). She also goes to see Kiss again, introduces her granny to an iPod and prepares to record an ELP cover. Click here to read all of Anna’s previous columns.
Just had a fantastic week in Germany! So great to see my little flat again and to be able to sit on the balcony eating breakfast whilst listening to the birds in the trees. Cycling through the Brandenburg Gate always makes you feel like you’re in a film, and the German beer is just sooo good! My two new favourites are Franziskaner and Paulaner – two wheat beers both brewed in Munich. Perfect for summer evenings sitting in the cafes in Schoenlein Strasse, or in the cafe at the Tiergarten Park watching the rowboats in the water. Beer in Germany is cheap – about the same price as a bottle of water. And you can drink beer and wine legally from the age of 16.
Germany is one of the heaviest alcohol-drinking nations in Europe, placed fifth after Luxembourg, Hungary, Czech Republic and Ireland. I never thought I would agree with Boris Johnson about anything – but I must admit after a week of travelling on Berlin’s subways and seeing so many people swigging from beer bottles (whether by themselves, in groups, or with their children) I have to say I agree with the ‘no drinking on public transport’ law. Which probably makes me sound like a Daily Mail columnist. So I shall move on.
Now it just so happened that Kiss were in town the same week – so, following the tradition, the same three people (my sister, a friend and I) went along for the fourth time in two years. Yes – I do feel like a groupie. Berlin’s security is far less stringent than London’s, so we got to dance right by the side of stage – and experience the pelvic thrusts of Gene Simmons up close and personal! He’s such an odd character – he kept stomping over to our side of stage, pointing down at us then sticking out his tongue like some weird kind of frog-like fly catcher. And I hate to say it, but it was rather exciting.
Now, I love the fact that so many people felt compelled to write in after last week’s column which questioned how much music is worth paying for. And yes, I think a main act you’ve paid good money to see should probably play for more than 75 minutes. With regard to paying for meeting the band, I actually met the guy who organises the meet’n'greets for Kiss and asked him who actually pays, and if it is worth it? Well, I can tell you lots of people are willing to pay! In Europe, it costs 1,000 euros. For this you get to spend proper time with the band who will sit with you, chat, take photos, and then they give you a whole load of specially made, one-of-a-kind merchandise. And he said that the band members do actually take their time and do make an effort. So there you go. I think I’d rather spend the money on a new guitar amp and a round trip flight to Berlin, but everyone has their own priorities!
I also spent the week going to see a couple of art exhibitions, including one by my neighbour – Sonja Puschmann. ou should check out her website: www.sonjapushmann.com. I then went to visit my 84-year-old grandmother in Hamburg, whom I only get to see a couple of times a year. Actually, the highlight of my week was introducing her to my cousin’s iPod. I don’t think she had ever experienced music literally in her ears. She sat for about half-an-hour experimenting with the volume button, giggling every time the sound disappeared, and then suddenly came back blasting her ears! She loved it!
Despite her very classical background and conservative tastes, I am pleased to report that she has fantastic taste in contemporary music! She was actually dancing in her seat while I played her Audioslave, and then when I switched to Jack Johnson she closed her eyes for a brief moment before opening them and saying: “I think this sort of music would send me to sleep.” Hehehe. She would now like an iPod for her 85th birthday in October.
The week was also spent practising violin for some recording I’m doing this week. Nick Holland (the fabulous cellist I mentioned a few columns earlier) and I have decided to start our collaboration by doing a cover of Emerson Lake & Palmer’s Infinite Space (Conclusion) from the Tarkus album.
We wanted to find a piece by a well-known band that we could cover just using violin and cello – and this track is amazing! It’s so strange when you hear the original and then play it on string instruments; it sounds totally classical and intricate, yet completely modern at the same time. You can really hear how Keith Emerson was influenced by the composers Bartók, Janáček and Bach. The time signatures and the urgency of the bass line, played by the left hand on the piano, sound like they were written for the cello. The right hand on the piano, which switches in places from the strict rhythms of the bass line to classical, almost Hungarian-sounding melodies, are so satisfying to play on the violin. I can’t wait for you to hear our version!
Right. Tonight (May 31) I’m playing with the Jurojin boys at the Purple Turtle in Camden, then I’ve got a solo gig on Tuesday (June 1) at The Bedford in Balham for anyone who’s in London! (Free entry!)
‘Til next week!
Inspiration Track For The Week:
Emerson, Lake & Palmer: Infinite Space (Conclusion)