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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space…


Pipe dreams: Celebrating the Caird Hall organ

September 10 2016

The organ in Dundee’s Caird Hall is one of the finest concert organs in the UK. Ahead of a performance on September 17, Gayle Ritchie took the opportunity to tinkle the ivories… The Caird Hall organ is a magnificent beast, as anyone lucky enough to have enjoyed listening to its lovely rich tone would know. Alas, I fear I may have sullied its wonder with an appalling rendition of Beethoven’s Fur Elise and a massacred improvised jazz piece. I’d been invited to play the iconic organ a week ago, and panicked. I hadn’t tinkled the ivories for years and, not possessing any form of keyboard, had to borrow one from a colleague. I picked a couple of tunes and began to practice. This was going well enough until I severed a finger while sailing two days ahead of my “performance”. © Kim CessfordA few bum notes from lapsed pianist Gayle Ritchie as she attempts a rendition of Fur Elise by Beethoven. Meeting up with City Organist Stuart Muir, I had my excuses prepared and, suitably flustered, proceeded to embarrass myself silly. Then Stuart started playing – and I was blown away. Hair stood up on the back of my neck, goose bumps formed on my arms, my spine tingled and I couldn’t stop smiling. Oh what a glorious sound! Watching him in action, with his hands playing the keys and pulling out various stops while his feet worked the pedals, I found it both daunting and mesmerising to say the least. While you can only see 75 organ pipes from the hall, there are actually more than 3,000 ranging from pencil sized to the biggest at 32ft, “like two double decker buses on top of each other”. And among them, there’s the legendary tuba pipe, which, says Stuart, “can be heard from Carnoustie”. Stuart gives me a run through of the organ, with its three tiers of keys, multiple pedals and 50 stops (which control the pipes), and then the biggest treat of all – his recital. Inside the organ. We then head inside the inner workings of the instrument, a rare and somewhat magical privilege. I feel I’ve entered Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory as I discover the leather bellows that pump the wind through the pipes, scale a ladder and wander past pipes of all shapes and sizes. It’s amazing to discover the organ, built by Harrison and Harrison of Durham in 1922 and installed in 1923, was designed by blind organist Alfred Hollins. How he did this beggars belief. “It’s a thrill to play,” says Stuart. “The organ is one of the best in the country and we’re keen for more people to get hear and enjoy it.” Stuart has been Dundee’s City Organist since 2002 and he also boasts the title of “pastoral musician” at St Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral. He started his musical career on the piano, aged seven, and fell in love with the organ after hearing it played at church. “It’s my job to look after the organ, liaise with the tuners and fix any niggles or faults, as well as playing the organ and organising concerts. “I’m very proud of the instrument and grateful to Friends of the Caird Hall Organ (FoCHO) for helping out with funding for extras, like the new humidifier we installed in 2012, costing £10,000. “Some of the organ pipes are made of wood and metal, and there’s also leather which needs a certain air humidity – that’s why the humidifier is vital.” © Kim CessfordPull out all the stops? FoCHO also assist Stuart in organising educational work with schools across Courier Country coming in to hear and play the instrument themselves. And in tandem with FoCHO, Stuart helps plan silent movie nights, where classic black and white films are accompanied by the organ. The hope is that more people will be encouraged to take up playing the instrument, which is almost becoming a dying art. There’s the perfect chance to hear the organ in action at FoCHO’s first Come and Sing event on September 17 at 7pm when Stuart will accompany world famous composer Paul Mealor and 160 singers from all over the country. Paul was launched into stardom when his motet Ubi Caritas was performed by the choirs of Westminster Abbey and Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal at the wedding of Prince William and Katherine Middleton in April 2011. On the wedding day, Paul’s music was heard by 2.5 billion people around the world – one of the largest audiences in broadcasting history. Last year, his music was performed for His Holiness himself when Pope Francis toured America. “It’s great we’ve got Paul on board for Come and Sing which is going to be a fun event for everyone. We’re really excited about it,” says Stuart. info To buy tickets for the “Come and Sing” event on September 17, see www.dundeebox.co.uk The next silent movie night is November 4 and features the 1911 film, Dundee Courier – The Production of a Great Daily Newspaper – and the famous Harold Lloyd comedy, Safety at Last. On February 25, there’s the FoCHO-run Organathon, when the organ will be played by 17 organists, some of them joined by local choirs or instrumentalists.


A Play, A Peh and A Pint at Dundee Rep

April 5 2011

It’s surprising the phenomenon of a play, a pie and a pint didn’t originate in Dundee given the city’s historic association with the crusty delicacy. Nevertheless, Glasgow’s Oran Mor cultural centre got there first in 2004, to be precise and the premise is simple: you get a short play, a pie and a drink all for the price of a theatre ticket. In a two-week collaboration with Oran Mor, Dundee Rep is presenting A Play, A Peh and A Pint, the first of which ran its course last week. What Love Is is a newly-commissioned work by Scottish playwright Linda McLean, focusing on the relationship between two ageing parents and their daughter. It is directed by Dundee Rep’s graduate trainee Emma Faulkner. Inspired by an article in the news about euthanasia, McLean’s short play sees Gene and Jean (Peter Kelly and Rep Ensemble member Irene Macdougall) attempting to make sense of the world inside their own four walls. After a playful beginning, when the pair appear to be enjoying themselves and staying young, a more serious and sinister plot involving ill-health begins to develop. Both Kelly and Macdougall portray the confused, paranoid and slightly maniacal characters with convincing ease, but the surprise arrival of their daughter (Lesley Hart) breaks their reminiscence and reverie. It is unclear how old, or mature, their daughter is, as she marches into the house in a bit of a tantrum wearing high wedge shoes. Hart presents the character as stressed and huffy, but her back story isn’t certain is she a young woman struggling to cope with this harrowing situation, or is she older, her life on hold as her parents’ mental health deteriorates? A powerful and thought-provoking piece, What Love Is transfers to Oran Mor in Glasgow’s Byres Road this week. The production swaps places with St Catherine’s Day, a delicate and humorous work written and narrated by Dundee’s Michael Marra, which runs from tonight through until Saturday.Visit www.dundeereptheatre.co.uk for more information.

UK & World

Bondage murderer admits Breaking Bad TV show inspired attempt to dispose of body in acid

November 14 2016

A Breaking Bad fan who strangled a police officer during a bondage sex session and tried to dispose of the body in an acid bath has been convicted of murder. Stefano Brizzi, 50, admitted he was inspired by his favourite TV series as he tried to get away with killing 59-year-old Pc Gordon Semple by dissolving his flesh. © SuppliedGordon Semple. Following an Old Bailey trial, the former Morgan Stanley IT developer was found guilty of murder by a majority of 10 to two after the jury had deliberated for more than 30 hours. Brizzi, who gave no reaction as the jury delivered its verdict, will be sentenced on Friday, December 9. The court heard how the defendant met his victim on gay dating app Grindr and arranged a “hot dirty sleazy session” at his flat near London’s Tate Modern gallery on April 1. © Elizabeth Cook/ PA WireA court sketch of Stefano Brizzi in the dock at the Old Bailey. According to Brizzi, Pc Semple died when a dog leash he had been wearing as part of a sex game slipped. But a pathologist concluded that while strangulation was a possible cause of death, it would have taken minutes rather than moments, as the defendant had claimed. In the days after the killing, crystal meth addict Brizzi was caught on CCTV buying buckets, a perforated metal sheet and cleaning products from a DIY store. He then set about dismembering the body and stripping the flesh. © SuppliedStefano Brizzi purchasing items at the Leyland Store in Southwark Street, London. Meanwhile, Pc Semple’s long-term partner Gary Meeks raised the alarm and reported him missing when he failed to return to their home in Dartford, in Kent. Neighbours complained about the stench coming from Brizzi’s flat and eventually called police who came across the grisly sight of “globules” of flesh floating in the bath, bags containing bones and a part of Pc Semple’s head, and pools of human fat in the oven. Brizzi, who was wearing pink underpants and sunglasses, was arrested as officers realised the enormity of what they had found. The court heard there was evidence in the kitchen that Brizzi had chopped up the Inverness-born officer with a variety of utensils and may have even used chopsticks to eat morsels of cooked meat. © SuppliedGordon Semple exiting Blackfriars station, London, before meeting Stefano Brizzi. Following his arrest, Brizzi admitted killing and trying to dissolve the body of a policeman because “Satan told me to”. During the killing, he said he had turned away a man on his doorstep who had arrived for a sex party organised on Grindr. Brizzi said: “I was right in the middle of strangling Gordon and I said to him ‘Look, this is not the right time now, people are falling ill and it’s a mess’.” The Italian also told police that he had “chucked” some of Pc Semple’s body into the Thames and thrown away his police badge and belongings. A human foot was later found by a member of Thames Mudlark Club near Bermondsey Wall. The court heard that Brizzi was addicted to crystal meth, which had cost him his job at financial giant Morgan Stanley. He had gone to Crystal Meth Anonymous meetings, but upset people by wearing a Breaking Bad T-shirt as the show “glorified” the drug. He told the group he believed in the Devil and liked satanic rituals and he bragged of his bondage sex encounters. In his home, police found a mask and dog leash with Pc Semple’s DNA on it as well as a copy of the Satanic Bible. Giving evidence, Brizzi, who has HIV, told jurors of the difficulties of being a gay man brought up in a religious Italian family. The youngest of three siblings, his Tuscan father was a civil servant and his uncle was a Catholic priest. He told jurors that Pc Semple died in a “state of erotic bliss”. his lawyer, Sallie Bennett-Jenkins QC, insisted he was no “monster” and could not have eaten Pc Semple’s flesh as it was covered in chemicals. Throughout his evidence, Brizzi wept and cried out “I’m sorry” as he was confronted with what he had done. He had earlier admitted a charge of obstructing a coroner by disposing of the body. Pc Semple’s brain and other internal organs have never been found.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km


Unwanted pipe organ saved from scrapheap by church in Kazakhstan

October 14 2014

A Dundee church organ facing the scrapheap has found a match made in Heaven 4,000 miles away in Kazakhstan. Craigiebank Church’s 114-year-old pipe organ had an uncertain future as the church is scheduled to be demolished before being redeveloped into a community project called the Circle. Moved to Dundee in 1949 and made up of 1,446 pipes, there was no space for the huge organ in the church’s redevelopment plans. A lifeline was provided in the form of Italian organ construction and restoration firm Alessandro Giacobazzi, who offered to dismantle the organ and find it a new home. The Italian company has sourced a church in need of a pipe organ in Kazakhstan, where the huge instrument will continue its use. Organ consultant Robert Lightband said: “The match between Italy could and might have been, made in Heaven. “The builders are fanatical about good British organs and regard the voicing of the Craigiebank instrument as quite outstanding. “They immediately fell in love with it and the rest is now in the bowels of history. The organ will eventually end up in a Catholic mission church in Kazakhstan. “It will have two consoles, the original one and a new one at floor level, which will be modern, though British, in style.” The organ came to Dundee from a London Baptist church bombed during the Blitz and is thought to date from around 1890, although the original maker is not known. The pipes were very fragile and each one needed to be carefully wrapped, except the larger ones. Robert added: “Many of us learned about the impending demolition of Craigiebank Church with something approaching horror due to the remarkably good organ. “Every effort has been made to discover the builder of this remarkable instrument but in vain, even after inspection by some of the most knowledgeable people in the land. The church and its congregation realised the value and enormous steps were taken to find it a new home.” The Italian firm plans to rebuild the organ in its workshops, replacing two missing stops with new pieces to be made and voiced in Britain. Robert added: “They are very highly skilled in their work and everybody who came into contact with them were mightily impressed. It is always good to work with experts from another country.”


Tayside projects shortlisted for Arts and Business Scotland annual awards

December 2 2016

A number of organisations with links to Tayside have been nominated for awards celebrating collaboration between businesses and arts initiatives. Arts and Business Scotland has this week announced the shortlist for its 30th annual awards, which includes the Dundee Royal Arch project and DC Thomson for their support of UNESCO City of Design’s Dundee Design Festival. BAM Construction is nominated for its support of creative producer Claire Dow and the Dundee Institute of Architects’ People’s Tower. A surprise visitor comes to inspect the final result of the Royal Arch People’s Tower project. Elsewhere, Perth Museum and Art Gallery is nominated for its collaboration with Player: Videogame Interaction from Atari to Toys to Life and the Black Watch Castle and Museum for its support of Poppies: Weeping Window by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper. © DC ThomsonStreams of visitors at the Weeping Window display. Friends of the Caird Hall Organ’s James McKellican has also been nominated in the fundraising category. A&BS chief executive David Watt said: “This year’s shortlist is a fantastic reflection of the innovation and creativity which exists between the cultural and business sectors, contributing to a thriving and vibrant cultural offering here in Scotland. “Throughout the judging process what was abundantly clear was the value that cultural organisations bring to both rural and urban communities though their social and economic impacts. “It is hugely encouraging therefore to see such a diverse range of businesses demonstrating a willingness to support this activity in Scotland.” A&BS says this year’s shortlist is one of the most diverse in recent years with a strong emphasis on cultural organisations delivering projects that enable social and economic benefits for rural and urban communities. The awards party will take place at Glasgow Royal Concert Halls on March 23 and will include an address from the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop.

Perth & Kinross

Red Hot Chilli Pipers fire into Perth

March 3 2017

When the Red Hot Chilli Pipers take to the stage at Perth Concert Hall on Friday March 3, it’ll be a particularly poignant occasion for former Strathallan School pupil Harry Richards. Several years ago he was part of the Strathallan School pipe band which performed on stage alongside the Chillis – going on to become a fully-fledged member of the iconic ‘bag-rock’ band himself. But as the current line-up of the Strathallan School band again prepares to join the Chillis on stage, don’t ever dare suggest that the sound of the bagpipes sounds like a strangled cat! “People often have a preconceived idea of what bagpipes sound like,” says Red Hot Chilli Pipers co-founder Willie Armstrong. “Some people think it sounds like a strangled cat. But pipes are one of the most emotive sounds there is if played properly.” As a former full-time fireman and watch commander with Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, Willie, 52, knows all about feeling the heat. But it was through the creation of the iconic Red Hot Chilli Pipers in 2002 that the lifelong piper and former Royal Navy man from Cumbernauld got into helping the band start musical fires with their mix of piping and pop. Having played since he was 11, making money from bag pipe playing started off as “having a laugh with his pals” through weddings and corporate work. Yet before long the Chillis, as they became known, were playing worldwide. The band was catapulted into the mainstream public eye after winning the BBC 1 television show, “When Will I be Famous,” in 2007. The band was named Live Act of the Year 2007 by the Scots Trad Music Awards, and its “Bagrock to the Masses” and “Blast Live” recordings reached platinum sales status in Scotland and a UK Silver disc, with combined sales of more than 130,000 copies. “People always ask if we thought it would get to the scale it has,” laughs Willie. “I remember playing at a stadium in France once. Jimme O’Neill from The Silencers was there.  I went up to him – I wasn’t wearing my piping garb – and said I was one of his biggest fans. He said he was there to see the Red Hot Chilli Pipers!” Willie says the success of the Chilli Pipers “just all happened – it was not planned”. “The only time I got nervous was in front of 80,000 people at Hyde Park or on the last night piping at T in the Park when the crowds stretched as far as the eye could see,” he adds. Yet most of the time, an “unconscious confidence that the fingers know what they are doing” carries them through on stage, where they put on “more of a show than a concert.” *Red Hot Chilli Pipers, Perth Concert Hall, March 3 www.horsecross.co.uk

Angus & The Mearns

Forfar church looks to the future after 10-month rebuild

March 13 2017

An Angus community marked a milestone in the 770-year history of a local church on Sunday. East and Old Parish Church in Forfar closed its doors for 10 months to remove its Foster & Andrews organ, dark wood pews and east balcony, and usher in a modern environment for praise and community use. The public were given their first look at the new sanctuary – further renovations are planned above – at a rededication service, welcomed by the Rev Barbara Ann Sweetin. The Rev Sweetin said the new-look building would house the community “we’re all part of”. © DC ThomsonThe Rev Barbara Ann Sweetin in the newly renovated sanctuary “God has given the kirk session of East & Old a vision, and the kirk session took that challenge and rose to it,” she said. “This sanctuary still holds in excess of 700 people, both downstairs and upstairs. “We have a new social area we’ve already seated 90 people in for lunch, and can be used for conferences. “And we’ve a new extension area that can hold 80 people also. “There’s still more to do.” The project was helped by donations from members and friends of the church, along with £20,000 from the Robertson Trust, £13,000 from All Church Trust Ltd, £12,500 from Angus Presbytery, £5,000 from the Beatrice Laing Trust, £1,000 from the Alexander Moncur Trust, and skills and goods from dozens of local firms. © DC ThomsonThe ribbon cutting For 10 months, the congregation met in the Chapel Street church hall while teams built walls and installed new heating along with an audio-visual system and lighting rig. A congregation of around 400 people were piped between the halls and Mrs Vina McLaren, 96, cut the ribbon. At the other end of the age range, Sophie Ann McIntosh was blessed in the sanctuary’s first christening. Invited guests included a deputy for the Lord Lieutenant of Angus, local councillors, the 2nd Forfar Boys’ Brigade, and the Groovy Gryphons Sunday school group. The East and Old site has been a place of worship since 1241, with the latest building built to replace the chapel in 1789. As part of the refurbishment, the church organ was taken to the John Paul II Church in Grajewo, Poland. © DC ThomsonOwen Woodcock pipes the congregation between the halls Since 1899 the instrument had served the church well and a succession of organists, including the late Willie Bernard. However the organ began to fail in recent years and the cost of repair was estimated at between £300,000 and £500,000.


Friends helping to preserve future of famous Caird Hall organ

January 20 2012

Important work is taking place to safeguard the internal workings of the Caird Hall organ, one of Dundee’s most prized cultural assets and acclaimed by experts as the finest concert organ in Scotland. The humidifier is being replaced at a cost of £10,000 in the first major project undertaken by the Friends of the Caird Hall Organ. The air temperature and humidity within the organ chamber is of vital importance to the instrument’s condition and performance. Dr Jim McKellican, chairman of the Friends, said the organ contains wood and leather, and it is important they do not dry out. ”The humidifier makes sure the air put through the pipes within the organ is at a certain percentage of humidity or you can damage the wood and dry it out,” he said. ”Some of the organ pipes are made of wood as well as of metal, and there is also leather which needs a certain air humidity, so that is why the humidifier is so important to the organ. ”We were having problems with the old humidifiers which had been in place for a considerable time, and their suppliers, Watkins and Watson from Poole in Dorset, advised that we should replace two of them with a larger one. This is happening and it is important work to safeguard the internal operation of the organ and to keep the instrument in the best condition.” The organ, containing 50 speaking stops, was designed by the famous blind organist Alfred Hollins of Edinburgh and was built by Harrison and Harrison of Durham in 1922, with the installation the next year. It was the Harrisons’ first concert organ and was constructed to match the grand scale of the venue. The exhaust pneumatic action has been restored and the original adjustable pistons now have an electronic memory. The long-term care of the organ is one of the main objectives of the Friends of the Caird Hall Organ and Dr McKellican is pleased that they are able to assist the city council and operating body Leisure and Culture Dundee at such an early stage in the set-up of the charity. The Caird Hall organ has attracted some of the world’s best players to Dundee to savour its character and unique sound. Recently there was a recital by American concert organist Carlo Curley and a silent movie night during which Nigel Ogden of BBC Radio 2 played an accompaniment to the 1925 film Phantom of the Opera. The support from the Friends and the public to events staged by the Friends has made the humidifier replacement possible.