Monday, 23 June 2008

The Maidstone Music Festival Syllabus is now available

The Syllabus for our inaugural festival - mmf 08 - is now available.

In the week beginning 16 June we distributed over 200 copies to music teachers and schools in Maidstone and the surrounding area, and also to music directors and other interested people. Copies are also available to the public at selected locations, and from the Festival Secretary (ie. me).

The booklet contains a detachable Entry Form, and all entries for the Festival must be received by the Festival Secretary by 13 October.

The Syllabus and the Entry Form are also accessible via the Festival website.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

My ancestors include John of Gaunt, William the Conqueror, Alfred the Great and Charlemagne ... and the Norse Gods know who else!

How many of us have wondered how far back we might be able to trace our ancestry? Or whether we are descended from royalty? Or even from the gods?

An Alsatian acquaintance of mine has just died. In her touching, penultimate 'Poetic Sanctuary' Blog post, and knowing she had but a few weeks of life remaining, la douce Marie-Louise Schneider of Colmar explained her sadness at never having known any of her grandparents. Having not long lost my father at the time, Marie's words made me appreciate how fortunate I was that I at least knew my two grandmothers (both my grandfathers having died before I was born), and that my father had fostered my interest in family history.

Every genealogist, amateur or professional, will offer this initial piece of advice to beginners: Start by talking to your grandparents and learn all you can from their knowledge and thoughts, the implication being that these invaluable sources of knowledge will not be available indefinitely and, further, that they may not have troubled to write it all down.

Thank goodness my father did just that, and that I picked up from where he left off while he was still with us and able to guide me. Every advance that I was able to make, and every new related contact - even two 1st cousins of mine he knew nothing about! - was of great interest to him.

The big difference between undertaking family history research now, and when my father embarked on it, is, of course, that modern genealogists have the huge advantage of the Web at their fingertips. Data supplied by established professional sources, as well as by amateurs, is readily searchable to be either relied upon or adopted with caution. Making contact and sharing knowledge with previously unknown relatives, however distant and geographically remote, is now remarkably easy - provided they, too, are playing the same game.

My father's efforts by traditional methods, used periodically over about twenty years, produced sound results, ancestral trees for both himself and my mother comprising a few hundred names. My efforts by modern methods, used over eight years, to extend those trees has resulted (so far) in a tree of about 23,000 names. But whereas my father came to feel he knew each and every person on his trees, I certainly will never gain such intimate knowledge. The vast majority on mine are just names to me, and will remain so. I admit that my father probably gained more satisfaction from his painstaking work, often necessitating exploratory journeys and visits, than I ever will.

All the same, dangle enough bait, or cast the net wide enough and for long enough, and you never know what you might catch. As sometimes happens, a chance contact via Genes Reunited enabled me, very recently, to make an unexpected link with a line descending from royalty. I shall be seeking independent verification of the link.

I imagine that a large proportion of the UK population has a few drops of royal blood in them but, even so, actually finding a link with one of the 'houses' - in my case the Plantagenets - is quite exciting for an amateur genealogist. And from there the rest is easy because the royals have been well researched and documented. What a pity my father didn't live long enough to share my pleasure in making this discovery. All of a sudden the ascertainable number of one's ancestors extending from one particular line makes a giant leap, and any number of famous, and infamous, historical people may be added. But rather than incorporate the 'closest' ones, I set about trying to find the longest ancestral line through the tree. Would you believe 67 generations, back to Geat, "the son of a god", born in about 50 AD in Asgard?


Well, neither might I, because back there we seem to be more in the realms of Norse mythology than reality but, hey! who knows?

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Maidstone Music Festival logo: mmf 08

We have been using our mmf 80 logo for some weeks now - in black on white for correspondence, and in black on yellow for posters and flyers. The font Sue chose for this is Zapfino.

Colours may change according to use of the logo but there'll be no mistaking its stylish, elegant form. Here, for example, is how one side of our business cards looks:

The musicians among you will immediately notice that, unlike most fonts available these days, the appearance of this 'f' resembles the dynamics symbol for 'forte' in musical notation. This is, of course, the reason why Zapfino appealed to Sue.

For the benefit of those who are not musicians, 'forte' means 'loudly' or 'strong'.

NB 'mf' indicates 'mezzo-forte', meaning 'medium-loud' or 'moderately-strong', but I've never come across an 'mmf' symbol in music. For the next step down in loudness from 'mf' composers traditionally write 'mp' ('mezzo-piano', meaning 'medium-quiet' or 'moderately-quiet'). Maybe it's time someone introduced 'mmf' into musical notation, standing for 'hum loudly'! :-)

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Maidstone Music Festival is launched

In 2007 my wife decided to boldly go (oh, all right - she decided to go boldly) where no woman has gone before! After years of contemplation she finally embarked on setting up an educative music festival for Maidstone, the county town of Kent. Excited at the prospect I pledged Sue my support for this. A committee was set up, with Sue as chairman. I am the secretary.

Preparations for our new music festival for Maidstone are now hotting up. Last year we registered the name Maidstone Music Festival with the umbrella body for festivals of the performing arts in the UK and beyond, the British and International Federation of Festivals for Music, Dance and Speech .

We set up a bank account in this name, and also a website: The website is under development but, for now, it offers basic information including contact details.

Then, in November, with still just over a year to go until the inaugural festival, we started publicising the festival by writing to many music teachers in the Maidstone and Medway area. It is through music teachers that we hope to attract the majority of participants. This drew some keen interest, as expected, and some of those teachers are now 'on board' as volunteers.

Throughout the weekend festival five categories of music classes will run simultaneously in halls and rooms within the venue. These will be: Piano; Keyboards (electronic keyboards); Strings (excluding guitar); Wind (woodwind and brass); Voice (vocal and choral).

Here is Sue's initial November 2007 announcement:

Introducing Maidstone Music Festival 2008

I am writing to you to tell you about an exciting development in music-making in Maidstone.

I have taught piano in Maidstone for many years and I have always thought it ridiculous that the county town of Kent is one of the few large towns lacking its own educative festival for amateur musicians. Many other music teachers, I know, feel the same way. It is for this reason that I decided to organise one myself.

Preparations are well under way. I have booked the venue and secured the services of some highly regarded adjudicators. The syllabus is already drawn up.

This festival will be totally different from anything already occurring in Maidstone in that it will provide opportunities for amateur musicians of all ages and levels of ability to perform individually to an audience and to receive educative adjudication from highly qualified musicians. All entrants will be awarded a certificate, classified according to merit, and a personal written adjudication on their performance.

The element of competition will be kept to a minimum in order to encourage performers to learn from one another. Thus the festival will provide a friendly and supportive platform for musicians to share in the excitement of making music. Maidstone Music Festival, a non-profit organisation, aims to promote a prestigious annual event which gives pleasure and real value to performers and listeners alike.

The pioneering Maidstone Music Festival 2008 will be held at Invicta Grammar School on the weekend of 29/30 November, 2008, with a concert on the evening of Saturday 6 December. I ask you to note these dates, and I hope you will wish to encourage your pupils to participate in the festival. The syllabus will be available in June 2008.

Since making this original announcement, however, we were asked to make some changes in order to help prevent any confusion with other local music initiatives, in particular with the 'Maidstone International Festival of Music and Dance' which has been held annually, in the summer, for 15 years. While maintaining our official name of 'Maidstone Music Festival' we decided on an eye-catching logo which, for the first festival, states simply 'mmf 08'. This is supplemented with the explanatory words 'Maidstone's new festival of adjudicated musical performances', thus making a clear distinction between our educative festival and the other town festival which is essentially a month-long programme of varied performance entertainment in several locations.