Thursday, 28 May 2009

Some anniversaries missed

Twenty-five years ago last week (well almost, on 19 May actually) died Sir John Betjeman, Poet Laureate, and my own favourite poet. His death followed on within weeks of the deaths of Ansel Adams (22 April 1984), my favourite photographer, and Count Basie (on 26 April 1984), one of my favourite musicians (to this day), and a great influence in shaping my musical preferences.

I was introduced to Betjeman's poetry at school; we covered a book called Ten Twentieth Century Poets for 'O'-Level English, back in the early 1970s. Upper Lambourne was the first poem of his I read, and it resonated immediately, as did all his works, evocations of the Edwardian England where he was born. Fragments of his television poem Metro-land has been often quoted on this blog, it inspired me to make many journeys into rural Middlesex, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire as a youth. There's much spirit of place about his work, something that continues to be very important to me.

Count Basie's music I first heard at university. As Cultural Affairs Officer at Warwick I staged the university's first ever May Ball in 1980, which had a VE-Day theme. I booked the Ray Shields Orchestra, an excellent big band playing Glenn Miller dance tunes. Ray Shields also dipped into the Count Basie songbook for a number of tracks from the Atomic Mr Basie album, which I bought on music cassette and played to death over the years. It's currently Moni's Favourite Album of All Time Ever, as well serving for me as a gateway into the world of jazz.

Ansel Adams' black and white images of the American West had long had a powerful appeal on me, inspiring me to install a darkroom in my house in Perivale. My photography then was also predominantly landscape (as it is to this day); like Adams, I'm essentially seeking to capture the emotional effect a scene has upon my consciousness. My technical appreciation of photography comes from reading Adams' trilogy of technical books, The Camera, The Negative and The Print. I wonder what Adams would have made of digital photography.

This time last year:
Twilight in the garden

This time two years ago:
Marian shrines in our neighbourhood
Garden sprinklers in the spring heat
Late May reflections

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