Chairman of the Budleigh Festival
joins us this Tuesday
to discuss all the great music coming to Budleigh
Grand Guignol (Exeter Alternative Theatre Company)
Louis Ravensfield's 'Exeter Alternative Theatre' were at the Bikeshed to present their latest 'Grand Guignol', tales of the unexpected from Le Théâtre du Grand-Guignol which operated in Paris and then London at the beginning of the twentieth century. Three delicious farces, which roughly followed a theme of sexual immorality.
In 'I want to go Home' by Henry Maltby, our unglamorous leading lady is talked into upping her sex appeal, in order to keep her husband at home, with surprising results. Eliot Crayshaw-Williams 'Cupboard Love' features a man delivering his lines, and facial expressions, from behind a closed door - an extraordinary sight.
|The full cast of Grand Guignol|
squeeze onto the Bikeshed stage
What really made the show - and linked the three pieces - was the set changes. The audience couldn't leave. There wasn't enough time or space for that. Instead, the entire company of actors and crew joined in rearranging the set and props, with some moving around aimlessly to camouflage what was going on. Louis himself, already in pyjamas for his part as the dying Donati appeared from backstage at the end of the first changeover and walked to to back of the auditorium without a word - the explanation was not forthcoming until the final play.
A very very entertaining little set of pieces. Perfect for the Bikeshed Theatre. Audiences were thoroughly entertained. For anyone who missed it, wants to see it again, or wants to see more, the three plays will be repeated at Sidwell Street Methodist Church (another very interesting venue) this Friday evening - with an additional Play to start: 'A Love Idyll', also by Henry Maltby. Well worth investigating. (See press release on this blog or EAT website for details.)
Women of an Uncertain Age (Maggie Bourgein and Flip Webster)
|Flip Webster and Maggie Bourgein|
as outrageous ladies of a bygone era
|Women of an Uncertain Age|
plus stage hand
Paper Tom (Handheld Theatre)
works on a paper crane
before the show starts
The initial bravado is pathetically ironic. The transition from anxious camaraderie to stark powerless terror, agonising. The depiction of the psychological aftermath, carefully laid out in a series of domestic scenes and monologues - must have required an equally careful period of research. (The writers, in collaboration with the post-trauma charity 'Talking2Minds', sadly, have many victims' reports to guide them - and used the information in a thorough and sensitive way.)
|Ilana Winterstein, Steven Rodgers|
Sandy King, Sarah-Jane Wingrove
In their own way, Handheld Arts continued that work. The storks, which only appear in the post-1955 part of the play, rekindle the memory of the civilian victims of war and their desperate desire for a peaceful world. Just one example of the inventive and moving use of props and characters to reawaken a new awareness of a very familiar but unsolved problem.
Choral Revels (Exeter Chamber Choir)
|The conductor's arm|
& soprano Ann Draisey
Tina Guthrie & Henrietta Vercoe
|Tenor: Keith Wainwright|
The sixteenth century madrigals, which opened the second half of the programme, were performed in beautifully harmonious small groups, clustered in each corner of the church. As each began to sing, Tina would appear at their side adding flute accompaniment. Very cleverly conceived and brought about - and a delight to hear from the nave.
|flute: Tina Guthrie|
|Alto: Jacqueline Barnes|
And that 'Jazz Mass' is being performed again - this Saturday! East Devon Choral Society (also directed by Andrew Daldorph) will be 'shining on' at St George's Church in Tiverton. Details from Sue North 01884 253 494.
Many thanks to Mike Brett, who extracted these excellent stills of the chamber choir from his video footage - watch out for that (with top quality sound by Mike Gluyas) some time soon!
Fourth of July Organ Recital (David Davies)
The following day at noon - on The Fourth of July - another great organist, David Davies was at the Cathedral to entertain any and everyone who cared to visit drop in, to a 'Celebration of Independence Day'. Beautiful music to honour the creation of a new nation.
You See, The Thing is This (Owlglass Theatre)
|Veronica (Georgie Fenwick) can't take|
Walter (Sebastian Pope) seriously
Campbell's strange piece starts with the entrance of a very strange man - Walter Bardell, played by Sebastian himself. Walter is an irrepressibly childish character. He is fascinated by the toy trains, and various other objects in the room, including an iconic tennis-related poster from the seventies.
|The arrival of Harry|
|A fourth character - cub scout|
Four great actors, Four great characters. Phenomenal characterisation and irrepressible comedy. The 'select' audience of the tiny Hourglass theatre were treated to a condensed masterpiece. Chalk up another hit for 'Owlglass Theatre'.
The Real Thing (English Touring Theatre)
|Tom Stoppard's 'The Real Thing' at Exeter NorthcottTheatre|
Gerald Kyd and Marianne Oldham
(Photo: Northcott Publicity)
By a bizarre coincidence, this play also involves audio equipment of the time. The vinyl records are now played on the increasingly refined and expensive equipment of the eighties. Ten out of ten to the technical team and actors here. The equipment, with it's unreliable styli, couldn't possibly have worked on cue in the production. The sound must have been controlled backstage - but it was impossible not to think the actors were operating the equipment in front of them. Very very clever stuff.
The script and acting were very clever too. Stoppard writes about a playwright, which might seem somewhat insular, but he takes that writer on a switchback ride through ecstasy and despair. The familiar eighties theme of parental infidelity (among the middle class), shown as the consequence, and subsequently the cause, of 'permissiveness', leads the audience to consider very interesting - and often amusing - issues. The equally eighties theme of middle class campaigns for the rights of the working class - quickly forgotten in the face of personal interest - is woven into the plot very succinctly.
The acting? - absolutely superb! The audience really are transported back to the eighties - right to the time in question, 1982. The actors would only have been children at the time, younger even than the youngest character - daughter Debbie (Georgina Leonidas). However, they perform as if they lived through the decade as adults - rather selfish middle class adults, one must admit.
Gerald Kyd, as Henry, moves from smarmy selfishness to demoralised despair so convincingly that we actually start to feel sorry for him - but not for long. Marianne Oldham, as his lover Annie, is so single-mindedly selfish throughout, it is surprising she doesn't provoke angry heckling from the audience. Only Simon Scardifield's Max (Annie's husband) comes out as a blameless victim - an object of pity. Sarah Ball (Charlotte - Henry's wife) is a very subtle character - appearing the victim, she has quietly been more destructive than them all.
What of the 'working class victim', who has been the subject of middle-class fair-weather socialist concern? Brodie (Sandie Batchelor) finally appears and is quite unimpressed by his comfortable champions. Army and prison have made him indifferent to their intellectual moralising. However, Brodie's script is not as convincing as that of the other characters. We don't really feel the uncertainty of a man facing discrimination and poor or non-existent employment prospects (middle-class empathy notwithstanding). Perhaps it easier for successful playwrights to write about successful playwrights . . .
A very thought provoking play, perfectly performed. By everyone. The technical work dazzled, while the actors' performances amazed. Exeter Northcott Theatre continues its fine tradition - of attracting the very best in entertainment to its very special Exeter stage. (A stage that revolves between scenes, by the way. Go and see for yourself!)
And the Northcott Theatre is not just about theatre. The Northcott box office are also selling tickets for the Amadeus Orchestra will be at Exeter Cathedral next week - Thursday 19th July - for a perfromance of Modeste Musorgsky's 'Pictures at an Exhibition' (Remember EMG & Gnomus!), Anton Bruch's Violin Concerto No 1, Tolib Shakhidi's Symphonic Dances, and Peter Hope's Three American Sketches - an amazing combination!
(Who played the Bruch concerto recently? - Oh yes! Marie Langrishe, at Exeter Cathedral with the Exeter Symphony Orchestra! - who are at Southernhay United Reformed Church this Saturday to perform Richard Strauss's Horn Concerto No 1 - soloist Jonathan Harris. We truly are spoilt!)
New Devon Opera are at the Northcott Theatre itself on Sunday 22nd July with Puccini's 'Madam Butterfly', still fresh from the Budleigh Festival (the one Budleigh event perfromed at Exmouth, by the way).
Exeter Northcott are also selling tickets for the Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra's special performance of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No 8 'Symphony of a Thousand' - next door to the Northcott Theatre, at the Great Hall, on 16th September.
The English Touring Opera return to the Northcott Theatre on 24th October with three amazing modern operas - tune in to the 'Classical Journey' for details.
'Cellist, Julian Lloyd Webber, who amazed us with Elgar's 'Cello Concerto at Exeter Cathedral with the Orchestra of the Swan at last year's 'Two Moors Festival' will be at the Northcott on Sunday 25th November to perform a programme ranging from Bach to Britten, and including Camille Saint Saens' 'The Swan' and a Nocturne by William Lloyd Webber.
Long live the Northcott Theatre!
Journey from the Mediaeval to the Renaissance - Part III (Counterpoint Choir)
This concert really was the highlight of the week! A concert in the true 'Classical Journey' tradition.
Alto: Juliet Curnow
Each piece of glorious choral music succeeded the last by a few decades as we progressed from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries.
With the side aisles closed off for some kind of repair work, the audience were restricted to the central nave, while the choir could range freely in the transepts and the quire.
The opening 'Salve Regina' from c.1020 was delivered with captivating clarity by a very special alto singer - Juliet Curnow. Juliet is a very special member of Counterpoint Choir, well known throughout the South West for her solo singing.
|Alto Harry Castle|
Another alto, Colin Avery, beat a tambourine to accompany the beautiful 'Virgen santa Maria' by the great Castillian King 'El Sabio'. (It's now the thirteenth century.)
|Soprano Daisy Walford|
Fifteenth century and another alto performance - by Leofric pianist Frazier MacDiarmid. 'Quam Pulchra Est'. (Did I mention that there was a 'Virgin Mary' theme?)
|Tenor Edward Woodhouse|
Finally the choir polished off the fiftteenth and edged into the sixteenth century with Josquin des Prez' 'Ave Maria' and Taverner's 'O Christe Jesu, Pastor Bone'
No great interval entertainments take place at the Abbey. The audience are more than happy to chat amongst themselves while the choir take a short break . . .
Then . . . the great 'Ego Flos Campi' (I am the Flower of the Field) by Jacob
Clemens ('non Papa') for SIX voices - sopranos Josie Walledge and Mary O'Shea (it was definitely Mary this time!), alto Juliet Curnow, tenors Jason Bomford and Edward Woodhouse, and basses Matt Cann and Michael Vian Clarke. What a combination!
Baritone Andrew Henley
So many positive comments from audience members:
'We were sent to another (and better) place'.
'It was beautiful'.
'It flowed in waves that flowed and came back'.
'The waves flowed up and over and back'.
'The music rose and sank like a ship'.
'It was mesmeric'.
'It was all-absorbing and all-encompassing'
'It was so much more than we expected - more and more!'
Almost as a footnote - but quite up to the superlative standard we expect from Counterpoint - the last two pieces brought the audience gently back down to earth. Byrd's 'Ave Verum Corpus' and Gibbons' 'O Clap Your Hands'. After that gentle wind-down, David Acres closed the concert in his traditional way - bringing the Abbey back to its proper purspose. Jason Bomford's beautiful tenor voice rang out from the second row of the choir with another even more familiar song by Orlando Gibbons - 'Drop, Drop, Slow Tears'. What a beautiful end to a very special concert.
|Matthew Cann conducts|
Counterpoint will also be getting together in August to record a CD of carols for sale in the Christmas season - and for a live carol service at the Abbey on Saturday 15th December. Several more concerts are already planned for 2013 - all in the wonderfully aesthetic and acoustic Abbey at Buckfast. Full details on the Counterpoint website.
|Organist John Scarfe|
Visitors were amazed to see the ensemble, not at the front of the church, but perched on top of the newly built visitors area at the back of the church, which put them right next to the console of the newly refurbished organ - presided over by John Scarfe.
Initially the ensemble played without John. For aperfect opening they gave the audience 'The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba' from Handel's opera 'Solomon'. A very rousing start. Straight away, a very pleasant feature of the ensemble was very noticeable - Annabel Hope's amazing couble bass playing.
|and the Broadclyst Ensemble|
Flora Farquarson, Hannah Willson, Ayesha Ichsan
Rebecca Willson, Annabel Hope
Putting the 'meat in the sandwich', the ensemble then played the full four movements of Mozart's Serenade No 13 for Strings. ('Eine Kleine Nachtmusik'). Annabel's double bass added lots of punch here, and Rebecca's violin playing was incredibly sweet with endless delicious downslurs - each one anticipated with pleasure. In the romance the double bass was subtly muted, while the violins chattered together - under Rebecca's gentle control. After a short (but sweet) menuet the rondeau was held together extremely by the leader - Rebecca Willson!
|Performing on the 'roof' of the visitors' centre|
This sandwich must have been a club sandwich. Instead of more Bach we now had the Adagio in G minor by Tomaso Albinoni. Not dissimilar to Bach Orchestral Suite no 3 ('Air on a G String'), this piece again sounded strangely familiar. The opening of plucked double bass and organ was delightful. The double bass beat underpinned the whole piece, while John swelled and diminished the organ's sound against it. Rebecca's violin solo was backed by the incredibly steady sustain of John's now state-of-the-art organ. Ayesha's violin joined Rebecca's for a duet before the entire ensemble added their full weight, and the organ swelled again under John's command, before REbecca's superb ending on the lead violin.
|as worn at Mary Schlich's wedding|
|equally intricate ceramics|
|Hannah packs up her 'cello|
Hannah Willson will be at the Bikeshed this Sunday evening for 'Nonclassical'. Her solo 'cello recital will be followed by Peter Nickol playing piano (or possibly vice versa).
Words & Music (Le Jazz)
|Andrew Daldorph & Chris Gradwell|
Rowland Molony opened the proceedings with a lusty cry of 'Salli Banani' (Hello). Somewhere behind the audience John Torrence replied, 'Yebo Sanibonani' (Hello). 'Kunjani' (How are you?). 'Sikhona' (We are well!) These typical cries of greetings and salutation have always been common in West Africa, where everyone keeps in touch by 'hollering'. Abduction and transportation to the new world as slaves made this practice even more important to the people from West Africa. In the (eventually) United States this hollering allowed people to rediscover separated friends, and was later developed into a distinctive style of music. The Blues.
& John Torrence
After a very convivial interval (everyone was already sitting comfortably in groups at the tables in the Blue Ball dining room with drinks and bowls of complimentary snacks) Chris and Andrew indulged in their more familiar pastime - Jazz. The clarinet/sax and piano sang in 'Isfahan' by Billy Strayhorn, 'St Louis Blues' by William Handy and 'Apres Midi' by Andrew Daldorph (soprano sax). At this point it was mentioned (in passing) that Andrew himself gave an organ recital at the Cathedral (last Friday) - some people have just got the music!
Happily, there was also time to hear the balance of John's sonnets - an intriguing account of childhood - and the perils of adolescence. Rowland added three short gems on supernatural visitors, September spiders, and 'Leroy' who's 'finkin' his language is the new Shakespeare.
More jazz? - Stan Getz' 'Girl from Ipenema', Cole Porter's 'Love for Sale', a little more poetry (Kairen has some Dorothy Parker for us) and finally 'Crazy Rhythm' by Irving Caesar - to take us back to the 1920s one last time.
A gorgeous evening of jazz - even without sun. (With sun the fun could spread into the Blue Ball garden.) Anyone who wants to hear more jazz and poetry, the musicians and poets will be back at the Blue Ball on Sunday 29th July. Details from Glyn Holford 07538 796855 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tuesday's Classical Journey
After a little more West African music from Dartington - and a word about another famous West African musician, Joseph Emidy - eighteenth century slave, musician and musican director - character in a great new Cornish play, 'The Tin Violin', which will be performed at Tiverton College of Art and Technology this Friday.
A little baroque and classical music. Then, at 10.30, Nicky Marshall and Roger Bowen will join us to tell us all about the Budleigh Festival - and play us tracks of the music we can hear over the next two weeks.
Later we can hear a little music by local composer Adrienne Hesketh, and another snippet of Stockhausen's 'Helicopter String Quartet'. Topsham soprano, Lizzie Drury, will be in the full performance of Stockhausen's opera later in the year.
Also a little of Peter Nickol's piano music, in anticipation of this Sunday's 'Nonclassical' at the Bikeshed.