I’m an Englishman who became an Australian before moving back to the UK, in Nottingham, at the tail-end of the 2010s. I have no serious, formal music education, but was fortunate enough to be taught by Harold Vafeas, who loved music and who thought well enough of my tenor voice to give me the solo parts in Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb and Hymn to St. Cecilia (which were pretty adventurous choices for state school choral singing in those days, I think!)
From that relatively-early introduction to Britten and Vivaldi came a love of choral singing (and a desire to be in the tenor spotlight!) that propelled me to the dizzy heights of singing in a Cambridge college choir, singing in Lugano and Adelaide cathedral choirs and, finally, reaching the zenith of my singing career in the gloriously Baroque High Anglo-Catholicism that was Christ Church St. Laurence, Sydney, with quite possibly the finest parish choir on the planet. I found out one day that I had made an American tourist cry with my rendition of the St. John Passion on Easter Sunday (in a good way, not because I was singing horribly flat or something! 🙂 ). I suspect that’s my personal claim to fame, anyway: it’s certainly the memory I treasure above all others. It happens that I am also an author in the Library of Congress Catalogue (for database theory, not racy bodice-rippers, I fear!), but that has never meant as much to me as that personally-attested Easter-singing compliment.
In my mid-fifties, I’m fortunate enough to have been able to retire early, thanks to a judicious land-buy in early 2000s Sydney’s outback (the city sadly grew to the point where my bush property was going to become a suburb of it once more, which wasn’t the original plan at all!). I was aware of advancing years, time running out, and never having visited Rome or Venice or Prague or… basically anywhere, really. Clearly, the southern hemisphere life was not one I was entirely comfortable with, from a cultural perspective: and thus, with my house-price boom windfall profits and a desire to explore Europe before I karked it for good, I decided to move back to the UK -though I soon found out that an Australian land boom produced profits that would only buy you something north of the Watford Gap! Thus, I ended up buying an art deco property in Nottingham (of which there are a bazillion hereabouts, so it’s not quite the spectacular discovery it might sound like!) But buoyed with my Australian land-deal profits, and my natural aversion to actually having to work for a living, I’ve been fortunate to spend most of my days in the last half-dozen years indulging my passion for ‘classical’ (or ‘serious’ or ‘art’) music. I like pretty much anything from Arensky to Zemlinsky, though I have a somewhat curious aversion to most of the music written in the 19th century, unless it’s opera! I probably need to do something about that… 🙂
My main musical ‘loves’ are Benjamin Britten, Johann Sebastian Bach and Ralph Vaughan Williams …though not necessarily in that order! Thanks to the likes of David Hurwitz, I’ve been introduced to a lot of new music during the pandemic: my music library now contains music from 573 different composers, covering everything from the 11th to the 21st centuries. Its contents can be inspected (along with how much of it I’ve played and how often) by viewing the Music Collection pages, which are organised by Composer’s first names (so Beethoven is filed under the Ls, just as I like it!). Currently, it consists of approximately 5,400 CDs-worth of music, but as all my CDs are played once (for ripping purposes) and their contents transferred to a set of hard disks, I can’t be too specific about the CD numbers. I just know that if played it all for 24 hours a day, there’s be 263 days of play-time in total. Divide that by the 70-ish minutes of music on a ‘standard’ CD, and that’s how I get my 5,400+ CD figure from. Chances are, it’s nearer 6000 or even 7000, given that a lot of my CDs contained less than 50 minutes of music on them! Anyway: the collection is of ‘reasonable size’, I think… though not quite as bonkers as some I’m aware of. At least it is all carefully catalogued, tagged and physically arranged (as much as digital bits can ever be physically organised!) in a highly-accessible manner.
This website will attempt to document my interaction with things musical, but with a hefty dose of the technical (and any other!) means by which I achieve that. So, there are assorted bits of software available for Linux users, and some ‘how-to’ type articles too.
I believe that ‘the composer is king‘ -and that conductors, orchestras, singers and instrumental soloists are merely interpreters. Bernstein’s Beethoven’s 5th might be a very different beast from Solti’s recording of the same work… but it’s Beethoven’s work above all else. So, this website will reflect that emphasis on the composer and the composition above all other things. If you are a mad-keen fan of Abbado or Toscanini or Szell or Callas or Sutherland… well, my approach may not be entirely to your tastes, shall we say?!
Unfortunately, no matter how you approach it, the musical world is largely run by people who couldn’t spot a piece of classical music if it came up and punched them in the face, leapt onto their piano, and sang ‘Classical Music is Here Again!’ whilst doing the can-can in a purple tutu. Music playing software for computers, therefore, is always focussed on ‘the artist’ and ‘the album’, and never on the composer or his or her compositions. My own software seeks to remedy that situation, so as I say: I’ve made that available in these pages too.
I am told that to be ‘barking mad’ is to exhibit a ‘likeable eccentricity’. My allegedly-eccentric enthusiasm for a particular type of music is the reason for this site’s choice of name. I trust that none of the alternative connotations of the term (such as ‘apoplectic’, ‘besides oneself with rage’ or ‘unhinged’) will be made manifest on these pages, but you can never be too sure!! Elgar can do that to a man, you know…
The website is a perennial work-in-progress: one day, there’ll be thoughtful articles on all 500+ composers in my personal music collection, but I may be using a zimmer frame (if I’m lucky) before that day actually arrives! In the meantime, make use of whatever I’ve managed to put together in whichever way makes sense for you. Though (junk-filtered!) comments are available for any and all articles and posts, I can also and always be contacted at [email protected] and would happily welcome thoughtful, constructive feedback.