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By trade I am a journalist with a background in current affairs, culture, health and fitness, travel and high profile interviews. I also own and run an outdoor fitness business aimed at people that hate gyms and bootcamps (www.spartanfitnesslondon.co.uk). Most importantly though, I am on Shared Parental Leave from May 31 to October 3. Everyday from 0730 to 1800 I will be in sole charge of a real and completely awesome baby girl.

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Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Day 50 – CLASSICAL CULTURE




WITH Baby Sensory done and both M'Lady and I managing to evade capture by The Leader we found ourselves at a loose end on a Thursday. To stay at home having some sort of one-on-one coffee/milk morning would have been odd so luckily we received a message from our very in-the-know friend, Rosie.

Rosie is in possession of a 19-month-old (basically a grown-up), so is a seasoned professional on the baby circuit, which is a kind of stock exchange that lives online, in word-of-mouth and on noticeboards at places you probably don't know about (because you're not in-the-know). It's where sales and events spring up every second of the day and will be snapped/booked up in a flash... so you need to be on your game, if you want the good stuff.

So, thanks to our lady with a finger on the pulse, we had a hot ticket the biggest gig in town at 1030 on a Thursday – Bach to Baby: Swooning Bassooning at St Mary's Church in Putney (www.bachtobaby.com). The church was merely the setting... nothing religious here. 

At the beginning there was a dramatic hand-waving from the main man (I assume he had an official title such as lead tenor but I didn't catch it) in an attempt to hush the audience. It didn't work. Babies were still gurgling, burbling and crying and parents were still whispering. I hasten to add that I was complete silence per the instructions. At his point I was thinking "Ok mate, you've got an audience of predominately babies... this is as quiet as it's going to get so just crack on" and then he insisted on giving his silencing wave, with arms outstretched, another shot. I'll give it to him, it worked and if he learnt nothing else at classical music school, it was worth it. With silence achieved the acclaimed Bassoonist, Christopher Rawley and pianist Dominic John got to work. 

The opening piece was Gabriel Pierne's Solo de Concert and from the first blow of the double-reeded instrument all of the kids' eyes were transfixed on the musicians. I had expected the youngsters to be interested but this was amazing, like a hypnotism. Of course, the spell only lasted about one minute before the business of crawling, dribbling and dropping sippy cups resumed. 

The expert musicians rattled through a few more pieces, including Godfrey's Lucy Long, Mozart's Bassoon Concerto (2nd Movement, Andante ma adagio) and Debussy's Pour Les Arpeges Composes. This was a cut above the CD of Twinkle Twinkle and the attempt at a Broadway version of Incey Wincey Spider that I had become accustomed to on a Thursday...

One pointer I might suggest though, as someone with zero accomplishment with any musical instrument (unless you're counting my voice of a husky angel), would be to shorten the arrangements in order to harness the attention spans of the very young audience. It seemed that at the beginning of each composition the children came to life, excited and engaged, but after a minute or so they were drawn elsewhere. A four-minute piece from a bassoon was asking a bit much of an eight-month-old. However, this was only my first time and the Back to Baby series seems to be doing okay for itself with sold-out bookings everyday all over London including Buckingham Palace, so they can probably take or leave my advice. 

As well as the music there were some educational snippets about classical music and how the instruments work dished out for the adults (and the super bright babies). My favourite fact of the day was that Bach didn't actually write any music for the bassoon after he found himself in an unsavoury punch-up with a bassoonist. 

For the last couple of minutes of the performance the musicians took Nursery Rhyme requests from the floor. My shout out for Ba Ba Black Sheep was snapped up with gusto and belted out by the trio of bassoonist, pianist and singer. What happened next left me baffled... the parents on the other side of the auditorium to me were asked to choose the next nursery rhyme and the response from every single one was "we can't think of any". Now, that is simply unacceptable. I thought it was the law for every parent in the land to have a catalogue of songs to sing on loop for their babies. Maybe Putney is too posh for nursery rhymes... "No darling we don't do Twinkle Twinkle, we do Dvorak's Song to the Moon". Never fear, Rosie stepped in to save the day with a request for the classic Grand Old Duke o York, which was brought to life by our woodwind leader.  

Overall, this was an excellent activity for both parents and babies! 

The inspiration from the music stayed with me for the rest of the day, so much so that when I was in Sainsbury's on a quick trip to buy four very specific items for the Milk Lady, I found myself singing (too loudly) in a Gnarl's Barkley kind of style:

Double Creeeeeam, Lemons,
Fresh Tarr-a-gooooon.  
And dooooonchooooo  forget that washin' up Li-quiiiiid. 

Then later, in the lift, I was singing my old favourite to A-bomb: 

She's a Stinkbomb Lady, 
Doin' Stinky plopsies. 
She's a Stinkbomb Lady, 
Doin' Stinky plopsies.

The shame was that while singing my bluesy verse with my head in the buggy a rather sweaty woman in ill-fitting leggings had walked through the lift doors. I looked up and knew that the crease-faced shopper had heard me. It was a long 10 seconds descending to the ground floor. Nothing was said but we both knew that although my song was not aimed at her, the woman could've done with a spray of deodorant. 

That wasn't being mean, it was just a fact of life.

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