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Clare's Café highlights w/c 18 June

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Clare English Clare English | 16:30 UK time, Thursday, 21 June 2012

Luckily for us Café staffers, Scotland is very well stocked when it comes to talented folk to interview. Sometimes I think we've got more than our fair share of creative, clever people. Proof positive of that came on Tuesday on The Culture Café when a trio of terrific interviewees came in to our little studio in Pacific Quay. Former Bishop, Richard Holloway was home alone in Edinburgh sadly but I was sitting opposite BBC colleague Jamie MacDougall, classical music presenter and singer and a much praised writer/director Cora Bisset. Finally, there was Emma Clifford, a young woman who'd played a part in inspiring Cora to stage a musical about an unusual human rights campaign seven years ago that she was involved in.

Have you ever seen someone jiggle with glee? Well, Jamie Mac D does that when he hears music that strikes a chord with him - we were discussing the Raploch BIG NOISE concert, featuring local kids and a fantastic Venezuelan orchestra, led by the charismatic mop head conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. Richard Holloway wasn't in front of me at the time but I suspect as we played some of the music, his head and feet were tapping along. Jamie, though, undulates! It's such a joyful wobble that Cora, Emma and I couldn't keep our eyes off him.It brings a smile to the lips because you can't fake that kind of enthusiasm. Cora Bisset was a class act too; all rockabilly glamour with her blond barnet and ruby red lips - she's working on two stage shows at the moment, and, like Jamie, she radiates enthusiasm. Glasgow Girls, one of those shows, is all about a schoolgirl campaign to stop asylum seekers from being deported. To me, that doesn't shout " jazz hands" so how do you make it into a musical? Cora explained this was no ordinary musical.. (she confessed that she hated the things!) and the story was so uplifting that it suited this kind of treatment. Emma Clifford, now working at the BBC, was eloquent and engaging as she explained her role in the campaign that propelled the girls on to the front pages of the press and secured a meeting with the then First Minister, Jack McConnell. Cora's second show is more difficult to describe.. multi disciplinary...and the music for WHATEVER GETS YOU THROUGH THE NIGHT will end up in a compilation album. (It features music from Ricky Ross and Swimmer One for starters). Judging from the snippets we played, featuring a track that Cora sings on (is there anything she can't do?) it's going to be a beautiful record.

Musical appreciation nudged its way on to the Book Café on Monday. Tom Service is a music writer and Radio 3 presenter who obviously knows his stuff. But even he struggles to fathom the alchemy involved in an orchestral performance led by a mighty conductor. Tom's written about his mission to find out more in MUSIC AS ALCHEMY. It's a journey that took him inside some of the world's most inspirational rehearsal rooms where he observes all-powerful conductors like Sir Simon Rattle, Marris Janson, Claudio Abbado as they work with their players. For most civilians sitting in the audience of a classical concert, it looks as if the conductor is there to beat time and keep everyone on track... but those silent gestures mean so much more and represent the tip of an iceberg. Each orchestral performance is underpinned by weeks, months, of prep, including bitching, carping and cajoling - and it isn't one way traffic. The notion of the all-powerful conductor dissolves when you read this account of the creative dynamic. Musicians are professionals, they know how to play their instruments, read the music, but they also know their own worth. It was fascinating to read about how egos aren't confined to conductors. If you're a classical music fan, or better yet, someone who likes listening to the music but is freaked out or turned off by the prospect of attending a concert, I urge you to pick up this book. Decoding the conductor's powers will not only give you the inside track, it will mesmerize you and you'll think very differently of that formally-dressed array of musicians who look for all the world as if they are firmly under the baton-wielding conductor's control.

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