Friday, May 8, 2009

University of Sussex Concert

On Thursday, Emily and I performed at the University of Sussex. Our program was 20th Century American Flute Duets and Solos: Shulamit Ran's Sonatina for two flutes, Robert Dick's Lookout for solo flute, Katherine Hoover's Sound Bytes for two flutes, Katherine Hoover's Kokopeli for solo flute, and Robert Muczynski's Duos for Flutes. We played in a beautiful chapel on the campus and had a very attentive (if small) audience. Emily and I really enjoyed the program we put together and had fun playing together. Many thanks to Nick Collins, teacher/researcher/professor extraordinaire at Sussex, for helping us to put the concert on!

To get to England from France, I took the train through the chunnel, which run underneath the English Channel. It takes an incredibly short 20 minutes to cross the Channel! It was also fairly inexpensive and much easier that having to get to Charles de Gaulle airport, go through security, fly into Heathrow, pay an arm and a leg to get into London, then have to repeat the whole process going back to Paris. To take the train, I just had to take the metro to Gare de Nor, which is in the 18th arrondisement, go through security and passport control (which was much more rigorous getting into London than getting into Paris), then sit on a nice train for 2 hours and arrive in the heart of London. Nice and easy!

Once Emily and I arrived in London, we had 4 hours to kill before we had to take the train to Brighton. Our train from Paris arrived in St. Pancras station, which is in the northern part of London. Our train to Brighton left from Victoria station, in the south-west part of London. With our little bit of luggage, Emily and I walked from St. Pancras to Victoria, which led us past Picadilly Circus and Buckingham Palace. We watched the Palace guards (who were not wearing those funny furry hats... a little disappointing) do a funny little walking dance (probably to keep their feet from falling asleep) and saw a horse-drawn carriage drop someone off at the Palace (I guess the royal family doesn't know about motor vehicles yet, trapped as they are inside their monarchy bubble). I then tried to pick the Palace gate's lock with a credit card without being seen by the sans-funny hat guards. I didn't make it in, but I didn't get shot, either.

One area we walked through had a lot of tourist shops selling 'I Love London' bags and t-shirts, postcards, shortbread, and the most English of them all... bags with Barack Obama on them! As I took a photo of one of the Obama bags, the seller asked me, "Why does everyone love Obama so much?" I replied, "Because he's a hell of a lot better than George Bush."

Arriving at Victoria station, we boarded a train to take us to Brighton, one hour outside of London. Brighton is on the coast of England, facing France. A lovely sea-side town, it is 15 minutes away from the University of Sussex. Nick Collins, Bobby's and my friend whom we know through the conference world of computer music, greeted Emily and me at the station. He took us on a tour of the town, showing us 'the Lanes', an older part of town that has weaving, curving pedestrian roads, the Santa Monica-like pier, a walk along the pebbled beach, and ended at a fish and chips restaurant. We consumed the delicious fried fish and finished it off with three very English desserts: Treacle tart (tasted like honeyed corn bread floating in pudding), Rhubarb Crumble tart (this was a bit gross, with mushy green rhubarb in a muffin-like encasing, floating in pudding), and Spotted Dick (essentially a raisin muffin, again floating in pudding). Like a good English man, Nick then took us to a cozy pub, where we drank cider and local beer, and met Nick's partner, Clare. Clare is also a flutist, though she specializes in Renaissance and Baroque flute.

The next day Emily and I performed at the University. I was really excited to see the school, imagining Harry Potter-like buildings with students roaming about in gowns and attending classes in dungeon-like rooms. Alas, the University of Sussex was built in the 1960s (what, the 1960s? Not the 1760s?), so red brick buildings were the theme. As I mentioned above, we performed in a Chapel on campus, which had beautiful acoustics along with beautiful lighting.

After our concert, Emily and I headed back to London. We had another 4 hours to kill before I had to leave for Paris, so we again walked from Victoria station to St. Pancras. We took a different route this time, though, and saw Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Parliament building, and a few of the bridges crossing the Thames. After buying some Digestives (an oddly named cookie you eat with tea) and Polo mints for Bobby (ok, so I might eat a cookie or two...), I boarded my train for Paris. It's nice to be home again!

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