If music be the food of love – play on

The Torni Hotel in Tampere is a work of art, outside and in. It is rather conspicuous: a black tower standing on its own like a lighthouse, but our eyes have now got used to it, whatever we may have thought of it at first.
The former railway buildings at its feet try to assert themselves with the “we were here first” look quite successfully. The formidable metal doors to the hotel made us wonder if some kind of password or a spell was required because they obviously wouldn’t open with a light push, but the puzzlement turned to relief when the two sides opened up without a touch; it made you feel like a VIP.
The metallic depiction of Ukko Pekka locomotive on the wall of the first lobby stopped me in my tracks, a train fan as I am, and I stood there listening to the accompanying train sounds that all small boys find so fascinating. When I managed to break the spell and stepped into the reception area, the first sight was the bar dedicated to the rock stars of Tampere whom I only know by name and reputation, having lived my rock years in London. They seem to live very strongly in the local people’s minds and their music forms the bedrock on which the more recent bands have sprung up from.
This is beginning to sound like a commercial for the hotel! My excuse is that I haven’t had much experience of Tampere hotels; you tend not to stay at the hotels near your home and this exception came about because of a special offer at the right time. Been there, done that but didn’t buy the T-shirt because the one Popeda-shirt I really fancied only had a couple of small sizes left! My wife probably breathed a quiet sigh of relief; she’s always reminded me of a pile of T-shirts already in the cupboard.
I think I am fairly musical but not a musician. I don’t remember much about my days singing in church choirs but I do have a photo, dressed up in a white ruffled tunic, but obviously it didn’t lead to fame and fortune. At school I played a recorder and later, as the tallest lad, a tuba in the school band; which I remember with fondness and always look out for the tuba players at concerts. Our Band Master was a Sergeant Phillips – at the time still a serving soldier at the nearby Woolwich Barracks. He often conducted us in his soldier’s uniform. My later attempt to join the renowned Royal Marines Band may have been inspired by that man but my poor eye sight failed to meet the military standard and I never found out if my musical skills would have been sufficient to get me in.
In the sixties and seventies everybody seemed to play a guitar and I’ve had one most of my life; still have one on the top of the wardrobe. The poor thing hasn’t been out of its case for years because the time I should devote to re-learning the chords is spent listening to music played by others.
I love all kinds of music and am prepared to listen to anything before deciding whether it is my kind or not. Finnish classical music has long been my favourite; Sibelius naturally the earliest acquaintance but gradually I have found out about other fine composers and the many Finnish musical artists from the magnificent Martti Talvela onwards. We actually saw on television Karita Mattila’s great success as the winner of the Cardiff Singer of the Year competition and have been very proud of her career ever since.
My enthusiasm for the cinema includes the musical scores of the films and quite often I forget the film but remember the music. My greatest favourite of the cinema composers is Ennio Morricone. The first film my wife and I saw together was Once upon a time in the West, the sweeping photography and the breathtaking music of which have stayed in our minds ever since. Morricone has composed countless fine film scores and he should have had an Oscar decades ago. He was finally awarded one, for The Hateful Eight; although I think he is remembered for many others before that one! Morricone conducted a concert of his film music at Hartwall Areena a few years ago and naturally we had to go to it because, considering his age and health, the opportunity is unlikely to come again.
This winter the Ylöjärvi cultural team has again done an excellent job in providing a good series of Sunday afternoon concerts at the Town Hall. The quality of performers is always high and you get an opportunity for hearing several shorter pieces you may not be so familiar with. The latest concert was, for me at any rate, a case in point: the pieces by Pablo de Sarasate and Moritz Moszkowski were new to me and were played with skill and energy that fully deserved the following applause.