Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Exeter Symphony Orchestra, Marie Langrishe (violin) Anton Bruch Violin Concerto No 1 in G minor - Southernhay URC Saturday 10 March

Marie Langrishe
pictured after playing Mozart at Exeter Cathedral
Marie will play Bruch at Southernhay
and Bach and Mendelssohn at Honiton

Amongst Brenda Potts' violin section at the Exeter Chamber Choir performance of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto and Mass in C minor at Exeter Cathedral this Saturday (25th February), was a promising young violinist - Marie Langrishe.

Marie is a third year student at the Royal College of Music. (Another well known local musician at the same establishment is Edward Scull, fourth year student, from Dawlish - who played Tympani on Saturday. He played his marimba so brilliantly at Dawlish last year - 16th April).

Marie will be soloist at two big events in Devon in the near future.

Anton Bruch's First Violin Concerto will be performed by the Exeter Symphony Orchestra on Saturday 10th March atthe United Reformed Church in Southernhay.

Bruch completed the concerto in 1866 and conducted the first performance. The performance we hear is the version revised by Joseph Joachim the following year.

J S Bach's Concerto for Two Violins (in which Andrew Harvey will join Marie as second soloist) and Felix Mendelssohn's Concerto in D minor will be performed by the Euorpean Union Chamber Choir on Thursday 31st May at St Paul's Church in Honiton as the final concert of the Honiton Festival.

Bach wrote his 'Double in Leipzig in 1730, and it has since been 'jazzed up' by Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt in 1937. Mendelssohn's Concerto in D minor for Violin and Strings is from 1822 - when Felix was only 13 years old!

Lots of work for Marie - but she is more than capable, and we can expect great music at both events!

Exeter Symphony Orchestra
Southernhay United Reformed Church, Exeter
Saturday 10 March
W.A. Mozart: Symphony No. 40
Anton Bruch: Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor
William Walton: Symphony No. 1
Violin soloist: Marie Langrishe
Tickets: £10
Box Office: Exeter Phoenix 01392 667080

Honiton Festival

St Paul's Church Honiton
Thursday 31 May 7.30pm
Director & Violin: Hans-Peter Hofmann
Violin Soloists: Marie Langrishe & Andrew Harvey
J S Bach: Concerto for 2 Violins in Dm
W A Mozart: Divertimento K138
Felix Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin in Dm
Peter Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings
Tickets: £12-15 (£9 unreserved)
Noel Barrington Prowse: 01404 831837
Honiton Tourist Info: 01404 43716

Honiton Festival - a preview on Friday 16 March - English Touring Opera: arias from 'Eugene Onegin' (and details of five music events in May)

St Paul's Church, Honiton
main venue for Honiton Festival music events

(beautiful vertically corrected print by 'Doolallyally'
see more incredible local images at www.flickr.com)

Honiton are all geared up for this year's festival in May.

As always some stray events are taking place already.

Most interesting for opera fans will be a preview of Arias from Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin' (and another of his operas, 'Queen of Spades'). The full performance of Onegin will be at the Exeter Northcott Theatre the following week (Wed 21 March & Sat 24 March).

English Touring Opera will also be performing Gioachino Rossini's 'Barber of Seville' (Tue20 March, Thur 22 March & Fri 23 March.)

Full details below - plus five exciting musical events in the May festival in Honiton.

Don't miss Marie Langrishe and the European Union Chamber Orchestra on the 31st!

English Touring Opera
will perform extracts from
Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin'
St Paul's Church Honiton
(Full opera - Northcott Theatre
 Wed 21 & Sun 24 March
- see below) 
Honiton Festival
St Paul's Church Honiton
Friday 16 March 7.30pm
Tchaikovsky: 'Onegin's Aria'
                        Tatyana's 'Letter Aria'
                           and 'Lensky's Aria' ('Kuda Kuda')
                              ('How far away you seem now')
                         from 'Eugene Onegin'
             plus arias from 'Queen of Spades'
Tickets: £12-15 (£9 unreserved)
Noel Barrington Prowse: 01404 831837
Honiton Tourist Info: 01404 43716

English Touring Opera
Rossini's 'The Barber of Seville'
English Touring Opera
Exeter Northcott Theatre
(both sung in English translation)
Rossini: Tuesday 20 March
Tchaikovsky: Wednesday 21 March
Rossini: Thursday & Friday 22 & 23 March
Tchaikovsky: Saturday 24 March
All performances start at 7.30pm
Rossini: pre-show talk Thursday 22 March 6.30pm
English Touring Opera
Tchaikovsky's 'Eugene Onegin'
Dancers: Roland Wood
and Amanda Echalaz
Tchaikovsky: pre-show talk Saturday 24 March 6.30pm
Tickets: £18 - £31 (student standby £8)
Box Office: 01392 493493

The Callino String Quartet
r cailíní ó Chorcaigh
 ac un ferch o'r Rhyl)
Héloïse Geoghegan: Violin
Sarah McMahon: 'Cello
Rebecca Jones: Viola
Sarah Sexton: Violin
Honiton Festival
Cotleigh Parish Church
Thursday 10 May: Reception, 6.15pm - Concert, 7.30pm
Joseph Haydn: Quartet Opus 76 No 3 ('Emperor')
Maurice Ravel: String Quartet in F (1903)
Franz Schubert: Quartet in Dm (Death + Maiden)
: £17.50 (£12 concert only)
Noel Barrington Prowse: 01404 831837
Honiton Tourist Info: 01404 43716
('Callino' refers to Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 4 Scene IV
    Pistol's 'Franglais' response to a French Soldier:
      "Cality! Calen o custure me!"
         a parody of the Irish ballad,
            'Is Cailín ó Chois tSúire mé'
              'I am a girl from the banks of the Suir'
                i.e. from Tipperary
    Gàidhlig: 'Chailin òig as Stiùramaiche'
                      So, not at all obscure . . . )

Honiton Festival
St Paul's Church Honiton
Saturday 12 May 7.30pm
(Daughter of Dame Cleo Lane & Sir John Dankworth)
Tickets: £12-15 (£9 unreserved)
Noel Barrington Prowse: 01404 831837
Honiton Tourist Info: 01404 43716

"One of the classiest acts in British Jazz":
Jacqui Dankworth

Piano Recital:

Melvyn Tan
Honiton Festival
St Paul's Church Honiton
Saturday 19 May 7.30pm
W A Mozart: Piano Sonata in B flat K333
Robert Schumann: Fantasiestucke Opus 12
Frederic Chopin: Piano Sonata No 3 in Bm Opus 58
Tickets: £12-15 (£9 unreserved)
Noel Barrington Prowse: 01404 831837
Honiton Tourist Info: 01404 43716

'Cello & Piano

Tim Lowe

James Baillieu
Honiton Festival
St Paul's Church Honiton
Friday 25 May 1pm
Felix Mendelssohn: Variations Concertante Opus 17
Ludwig van Beethoven: Cello&Piano Sonata in C 102/1
Antonin Dvořák: Romance
Camille Saint-Saëns: 'C
ello Sonata No 1 in C minor
Tickets: £12-15 (£9 unreserved)
Noel Barrington Prowse: 01404 831837
Honiton Tourist Info: 01404 43716

Marie Langrishe
Honiton Festival
St Paul's Church Honiton
Thursday 31 May 7.30pm
Director & Violin: Hans-Peter Hofmann
Violin Soloists: Marie Langrishe & Andrew Harvey
J S Bach: Concerto for 2 Violins in Dm
W A Mozart: Divertimento K138
Felix Mendelssohn: Concerto for Violin in Dm
Peter Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings
Tickets: £12-15 (£9 unreserved)
Noel Barrington Prowse: 01404 831837
Honiton Tourist Info: 01404 43716

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Shotgun Theatre Company present Reefer Madness Kay House Lower Argyll Road, University Campus Wednesday - Saturday 22 - 25 February

A picture of innocence - in peril
Hollie Morgan is Mary Lane
Soprano soloist in an amazing new role
Anya Williams is Sally DeBanis
Last Tuesday (14th February) Freya Joseph was in the Phonic FM studio to discuss the latest production by Shotgun Theatre Company, "Reefer Madness". Freya (the Assistant Director) was joined at the microphone by leading actress Hollie Morgan, who is Mary Lane in the play. There was a lot of interesting talk about songs, dance numbers, and a contentious plot. There were also warnings - the play would not be suitable for children. Also the venue itself might be hard to find . .

It certainly is not obvious how to get in. The instructions given on Tuesday are correct:

Going north on Cowley Bridge Road, the turning into Argyle Road is on the right, just past the Esso service station. The entrance to Kay House is the first left.
However, this is a narrow driveway through the grounds of Jessie Mongomery House. Things look very unpromising until you reach the narrow gateway through into Kay House Duryard.

In a car it is better to climb the hill of Lower Argyll Road and take the left turning much higher up - to Duryard House. That will take you around to the same place - a reasonably sized car-park which can be used free of charge after 6pm. The way into the building is on the south side of Kay House - in the courtyard, tickets can be bought on the door. Trying to open any of the other doors after dark might lead to misunderstanding . . .

The remote location, and complicated route to get there, are strangely appropriate to the play that is taking place inside Kay House this week. "Reefer Madness" is a stage musical about young college students lured to a secret 'pot-house' where they are introduced to marijuana - and become involved in an intoxicating and dangerous world.

The den, and the way people find their way there is very reminiscent of the illegal 'speakeasy' drinking dens of the prohibition years. The original script was written in 1936, only three years after the repeal of the Volstead Act which banned the sale of alcohol in the United States - and which had made illegal trading profitable.

In addition to the fear of the narcotic effects of marijuana, parents were also afraid of grim underground culture of illegal drug trading that had reached terrifying proportions in the previous decade.

Church groups financed a movie intended to dissuade children from approaching drug dealers. Originally called 'Tell Your Children', the film depicts the scenario of a young boy causing a fatal road collision because he is driving under the influence of marijuana - and implicating the dealer who provided the drug, with potentially fatal consequences for himself.

The intentions of the film makers were somewhat undermined when Dwain Esper bought the rights and edited the film to make it more outrageous - and appealing to teenagers for a very different reason from the one originally intended. The more provocative title, 'Reefer Madness' was his idea.

In 1971 The National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws bought the rights and presented the film for completely the opposite reason to the one originally intended. College students were encouraged to enjoy the film as a comedy, ridiculing the fears of American parents in the 1930's.

A luridly colour-enhanced DVD version was released in 2004 on 20th April, the day often chosen for NORML political rallies. (In the USA 20th April is written 4/20, and was chosen because 4.20pm was meeting time and code word of a seventies pro-marijuana group in California.)

The serious subject of "Reefer Madness" is one that has divided opinion for a century at least. The film itself is also a warning against well-intentioned but ill-considered propaganda - which can be turned against its creators to comic effect.

Cue Kevin Murphy's 1998 stage musical version of "Reefer Madness". Using outrageous characters and slick dance numbers - to the great band music of Dan Studney. A serious morality tale you can laugh at is transformed into an evening of fast-paced entertainment. For this week's production special credit must go to Shotgun's choreographer, Caitlin McNerny, who worked so hard on all the dance routines.

The play starts with an engaging opening homily by our narrator, George Bradley. George's comic timing is spot-on and Murphy's words perfectly send up the original film script. But the satire on self-righteousness very soon gives way to uninhibited self indulgence. With a gesture from George the dancers stream onto the stage for a beautifully choreographed and perfectly executed opening number. The song, "Reefer Madness", sung and danced in such an over the top way immediately fills the hall a sense of well-being and hilarity.

The troupe is led by the incredibly arch Mr Poppy (Louis Williams) who throws himself into the action with incredible theatrical style. While George's links are great fun, Louis makes sure the audience have fun. The dancing and singing throughout the play are stunning. Such a large ensemble all working perfectly together, and used in such inventive ways. Sometimes sub-groups enter from the back of the auditorium, singing and dancing their way through the audience.

Sometimes they get invoved in the action, storming the 'pot-den' and accosting the main characters. The paranoia of marijuana psychosis is represented in dance, of course. White faced, the dancers slither onto the stage, like zombies in George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" - terrifying, but strangely comic.

Our two leading characters are the victims, Jimmy Harper and Mary Lane. Marcus Beard as Jimmy is a very convincing straight-A student complete with cardigan and cheesy grin. However, his uncanny resemblance to a young Anthony Perkins makes his slide into addiction and psychosis less of a surprise. Hollie Morgan is such a picture of innocence it's seems impossible that the same fate could befall her. But when it comes, the transformation - from Judy Garland to Judy Tenuta - takes only minutes.

Much of the action plays out in the den. Alex Worsfield is Jack Stone, a very ruthless character with no compunction about corrupting the young for profit - or the power it gives him over others. Alex's fits of barely controlled rage are partly tongue-in-cheek, but also terrifyingly convincing.

Stephanie Lysé is Mae Coleman, the gangster's moll with a conscience. She doesn't want children drawn into their way of life, but she has to do what Jack demands - or risk losing her supply of the 'stuff'. Stephanie's face is endlessly expressive and gives enormous punch to every comic device.

Against Mae is the totally dissolute Sally DeBanis, played by Anya Williams. Anya already features on these pages. She sang "Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit" ("Ye now are sorrowful") as soprano soloist at Marion Wood's performance of Brahms' Requiem with the Scholars' Ensemble in the University Great Hall on World Aids Day last year (1st December). What a transformation to the wantonly debauched Sally. Sally cares about nothing but the 'stuff' and, irresponsibly, has had a baby who is terribly neglected.

Sam Sayce is billed as 'Baby' - how does that work? You have to see the play to find out. Suffice to say, the baby is one of the high points of the evening - Sam steals the show with his cameo appearance - perfectly stage managed and lit. A little gem.

In classic theatrical overkill, another character pops up from time to time - Jesus, played by Jack Newton. Jesus, for some reason is naked except for the kilt of an Egyptian pharoah. Taken in conjunction with his avaiator shades the complete effect is confusing and intriguing. Jack, however, carries it off with style. A ridiculously vain Elvis-like character, he still carries the serious message of the original story - in a way that the original writers never dreamed of.

The Christian Church could offer Jimmy a way back to sanity and the world he left behind. Does Jimmy take the Messiah's advice? That you will have to find out for yourself.

With so many students wanting to join in the fun, it has been possible to include several extra, extraordinary characters - every one played beautifully. Katie Garrett is Joan of Arc (find out for yourself). Emma Ollis and Matt Nixon are Jimmy's appalled parents. George Simpson is the arresting officer. Ellie Bookham is the executioner. (I'm not saying whether anyone gets executed or not!). Who does Jimmy drive into, precipitating disaster? Matt Lövett performs the play's briefest rôle with style!

One character not mentioned yet is the mysterious background figure of Ralf Wiley (played by Tom Stanley). He appears to be a college fraternity scholar, whose mental faculties have been seriously compromised by cannabis. He appears in many scenes but often does little more than jabber incomprehensibly. When he does speak he can't even remember the name of his fraternity.

Where Marcus (as Jimmy) reminds us of Anthony Perkins, Tom Stanley's performance is a dead ringer for Dennis Weaver's pre-Bates-motel night manager in Orson Wells' 1958 'Touch of Evil' (showing at Exeter Picturhouse). There is more to this character than meets the eye, and Tom remains mysterious and unpredictable throughout.

In addition to great singing and dancing, the show is full of great acting. The direction, by Laura Doble and Freya Joseph, is constantly fresh and imaginative. Frozen action and clever lighting are used skilfully for dramatic and comic effect. On opening night, by a terrible mis-chance a prop (the vital cigarette lighter) dropped out of reach. The actors were forced to negotiate a way out - under the collective stare of the whole audience. They recovered well, and the minor glitch just highlighted the otherwise seamless performance by the whole cast and crew.

Some of the props are deliberately simple, made of papier-mâché and poster paint. A saving in production costs, but also great comic potential. One of the props most often seen is a small placard bearing a stern warning about marijuana. Each warning relates to the preceding action, and is presented in exaggerated parody of the original films sermonising. Wielding the placards to maximum effect is an important job in itself, with rich potential. One student gets to have sole responsibility for the placards - Danie Megranahan.

The make-up is incredible. Anya Williams transformation, in particular, is astounding. The costumes are very clever. Some of the characters are very skimpily dressed (Jesus in particular) or are undressed as part of the action. This may explain why the production team decided to give their play a '15 certificate'. However, it is quite apparent that all are quite adequately clothed under their costumes in leotards and tights!

And the Music? Rob Emmett conducts a small band on stage. Tim Cook plays piano, Dan Younger guiter, Mikey East clarinets and sax, Phil De Iongh Bass, and Laura Grist drums. It is wonderful to have live music - and played so well. The guitars are electric and the main singers and actors have mini-microphones. This is a lot of sound to control, but it is perfectly balanced by the technical team, allowing everyone to be heard. (Well done tech manager Mark Bowers.)

This is a wonderful play, and well worth the trouble of finding the entrance to Kay House to see it. Once you do find the way in, the students at the box office are extremely welcoming and will direct you to a table or a seat in the audience - it's all very informal. This run ends on Saturday with two performances.

Shotgun Theatre Company
Kay House, Exeter University Campus
Wednesday 22 February - Saturday 25 February
7.30pm with additional 2pm matinée on Sat 25
A musical theatre production
Tickets: £7 - book by email:

Next week there is more gangster action with Exeter University Theatre Company's 'The Resitable Rise of Arturo Ui' at the Northcott Theatre. My, but these students are busy!

Exeter University Theatre Company
Exeter Northcott Theatre
Wednesday 29 February - Saturday 3 March 7.30pm
(Hitler's rise to power is reflected in 30's Chicago . . . )
Tickets £12 (Concessions £8 Students £5))
Box Office: 01392 493493
Online: Wed  Thu  Fri  Sat
Information: Laura Pringle - 07792 008 744

Exeter Contemporary Sounds are rehearsing for "Back there on Earth" - first concert planned for the Exeter Phoenix in May

      While we were away . . .
A new quartet have been preparing music for us
Devon Baroque will be at Dartington for their English Baroque weekend next Friday, 23rd February. As always Margaret Faultless' lead violin will be complemented by the violin playing of Exeter violinist Julie Hill.

Another violinist, Emma Welton, recently joined clarinettist Chris Caldwell and flautist Hodder-Williams (with 'cellist Rick Bolton) for 'Music on The Edge' in Drewsteignton last Thursday (16th February) and will be with them again on Tuesday 27th March (postponed from the day before - Emma takes her choir on Monday nights!)

Violist Andrew Gillett was at Exeter Cathedral Chapter House with Vicky Evans 'Divertimento' quartet on Wednesday 8th February (details) - only shortly after appearing with the Divertimento Ensemble at Exmouth for Laurence Blyth's 'St John Passion' with the Exmouth Choral Society. Andrew and the quartet repeated their concert at Kingskerswell this Sunday (19th February) and will give two more performances at Totnes (Friday 2nd March) and Kingskerswell (Sunday 29 April).

'Cellist Jane Pirie is performing in the Exeter Central Library Music Room next Monday (27th February) with fellow 'cellist Hilary Boxer for 'Cello Chaconne' as part of Hilary's 'Tasty Music' season.

What is the connection between these four musicians?

They are the four members of an exciting new string quartet, 'Exeter Contemporary Sounds'. They are preparing for a concert entitled 'Back there on Earth'. A first performance is planned for the Exeter Phoenix in May.

They are already rehearsing an interesting selection of modern music - including works by Steve Reich.

They have also started a blog - www.exetercontemporarysounds.blogspot.com - where you can follow their progress. (You can also find the same link, titled 'Back there on Earth', in the list on the right hand side of this blog-screen.)

On the new blog there is already a slideshow of photos of the group at work, taken by Julie's husband, Simon Belshaw.

Simon may be persuaded to come in to the Phonic FM studios and tell us more about the project before too long . . .

Monday, 20 February 2012

Classical Journey Tuesday 21 February

Counterpoint Director of Music, David Acres
in the PHonic FM studio
(Photo: Cecil Hatfield)
This week's programme will begin with a visit by David Acres to talk about the 'Antiphon' choir. They will be at Buckfast on Saturday 3rd March to perform music for lent. A wonderful sound - sixteen of the best singers from around the country - four each of sopranos, altos, tenors and basses.

Antiphon Choir
Buckfast Abbey
Saturday 3 March 7.15pm
Lenten Prose - Plainsong Men Only
Lamentations of Jeremiah I - Thomas Tallis
Crucifixus for 8 voices - Antonio Lotti
Miserere mei - Allegri
Lamentations - Men's voices by Osbert Parsley
O vos omnes - Pablo Casals
The Reproaches - John Sanders
When I survey the wondrous cross - Edgar Day
Te lucis ante terminum - Thomas Tallis
Musical Director: Matthew Cann
Tickets: £15 (£10 in advance)
from Buckfast Abbey Shop
Matthew Cann: antiphonvox@gmail.com
or SAE to: 38 Miller Way, Exminster EX6 8TH
David Acres: 01392 490398 

Catherine Cartwright 
 'Al Mutanabbi  Street Coalition'

(photo: Cecil Hatfield)
Catherine Cartwright of the Al Mutanabbi Street Coalition will come in at to talk about the memorial poetry reading on 5 March for the terrible terrorist attack in Baghdad which happened five years ago. Catherine will recite some suitable Iraqi poetry.

Michael Willmott of the Exeter Charal Society will come in to tell us more about workshop and concert at the University next weekend. He will be joined by Beca Pennar, President of the Exeter University Symphony Orchestra and Kit Fotheringham, lead violin. (See Kit with Marion Wood when they performed the Brahms Requiem last year - 1st December)

Al Mutanabbi Street Coalition
Double Elephant Print Workshop, Exeter Phoenix
Monday 5 March 8pm
Catherine Cartwright will hold
an informal session of readings
of Iraqi poetry - in memory of
The terrible terrorist attrocity in
Al Mutanabbi Street booksellers quarter
in Baghdad on 5 March 2007
Admission: £5 (space extremely limited!)
contact: catherine@doubleelephant.org.uk

Tessa Gaukroger
is Rosalind
Finally, the very welcome return of the Cygnet New Theatre students. The familiar voice of Tessa Gaukroger will be joined by Matthew Neighbour and Louisa Wilde. All have become well known through their performances in Cygnet productions. Now they are reaching the end of their training and are taking part in their 'Third Year Showcase'. This year the showcase play is Shakespeare's 'As You Like It'. All three appear. Matthew and Louisa (as Touchstone and Audrey) even end up getting married in the play!

The play has been running since Thursday this week. The run continues Tuesday to Saturday next week. Then the production moves to London - to showcase the students to a wider audience. Catch them while they're still here!

Cygnet New Theatre

Friars Gate Exeter
William Shakespeare: 'As You Like It'
Cygnet New Theatre, Friars' Gate, Exeter
Thur-Sat 16-18 Feb & Tue-Sat 21-25 Feb
Director: Amanda Knott
(previous Cygnet productions:
Noël Coward: 'Blythe Spirit'
Bess Wohl: 'Touch(ed)' )
Tickets: £10 (£8, £6)
Box Office: 01392 277189

Alex Knight & Chris Glassfield
Topsham Art Room Sun 19 Feb
We have plenty of music to choose from - including some wonderful new music by local guitarist and composer, Chris Glassfield from Totnes - recorded in duet with fellow guitarist, Alex Knight. A wonderful sound!

Somerset Chamber Choir and Pianist Anita D'Attellis 'Out of the East' - Eastern European masterpieces King's College Chapel Taunton Sunday 19 February

 Two great Somerset musicians
Musical Director of the Somerset Chamber Choir: Graham Caldbeck
Concert Pianist and former resident (now living in Oxfordshire): Anita D'Attellis
Russian music is always popular with British audiences. The intense passion and emotion of Russian composers excites the ear unmistakeably. In Crediton last May the great hymn, "Dear Lord, strengthen the holy orthodox church!" ("Уважаемые Господа, укрепления святой православной церкви!") rang out when Lady Mayoress Natalia Letch invited the St Petersburg 'Ensemble Hermitage' Male Voice Choir to visit the Congregational Church (see Tuesday 17th).

This Sunday afternoon (19th February) a local choir polished up their best Russian (and Finnish and Polish) to sing choral music 'Out of the East'. To add to the Eastern European flavour, pianist Anita D'Attellis played fiery music by Russian, Finnish and Polish composers.

The Choir sang throughout in the original languages. All carefully transliterated by bass Ian Bromelow, in an extemely accessible and informative programme (notes by Graham Caldbeck) compiled and designed by Tenor (and marketing officer) Andrew Coombs. The songs were endlessly fascinating and painted a vivid picture of 'Eastern' culture.

First, Tchaikovsky! From his 'Nine Sacred Pieces' (1885) we heard number seven, "Blessed are those whom thou hast chosen" ("Блаженны те, кого Ты избрал"). Immediately the different voices of the Somerset choir stood out distinctly. The final words, "И Память их в род и род" ("Their rememberance is from generation to generation") rang out in the chapel "род и род!" before the final 'Alleluia' pronounced in a very Russain style, with a final drawn out ooh-eeh-aah. A very impressive sound.

Throughout the concert, the quality never faultered. Musical Director, Graham Caldbeck, kept everything very firmly under control, and the singers, in four ranks - sopranos, altos, tenors and basses - gave every song superp energy and precision.

There was more Tchaikovsky ('The Liturgy of St John Chrisostom' and ''Crown of Roses') ending with the 'Cherubic Hymn' for 'Chrisostom' - a low brooding piece with that trademark Russian bass. "житейское отложим попечение
" ("Lay aside everyday cares") repeated perfectly time after time before the "аминь" (Amen), which is not the end. After more rejoicing in the prospect of a life to come the song ends with those long deep-felt Alleluias.

Then Graham left the stage, and his rostrum was removed too, to make way for the afternoon's soloist - Anita D'Attellis.

 Anita D'Attellis plays the King's College Yamaha:
Chopin, Rachmaninov, Rautavaara & Łukaszewski!

Anita started with a well known Polish composer, who worked in exile in Paris in the nineteenth century, Fredyryc Chopin. Everything Anita did was light, gentle and fluid. In the Waltz in C the headlong rushes up the scale were soft as down, ending in the subtlest top note. Every accented note was precise, but gentle.

Rachmaninov's Prelude in G was full of rippling quavers like the story of Undine. There was a lot more power, but still that gentle touch. The forays into the top range of the instrument were magical.

Then, to Finland, for Einojuhani Rautavaara's Sonata No 2, and "The Fire Sermon". From predictable classical progression, Anita switched to crashing chaos. Still that magical precision - now in the bass - interspersed with more watery ripples. Fairy footsteps gave way to the thunderous trampling of great ogres - ending in a mighty crunch as Anita held down all the bass keys with both hands. Somehow, each time Anita raised that silver styletto and released the sustain pedal, the sound continued to ring out like a cry from another world. Terrifying, mesmerising - and always elegantly controlled. Perfect.

With Graham and his rostrum reinstated, the choir sang the Cherubic Hymn from another 'Liturgy of St John Chrisostom' - this time by another Russian Composer, Alexander Gretchaninov. From a soft bass murmer the music was lovingly built. Cares having been laid aside (again) there was a long relaxed pause before 'Amen', very very low. The benediction was brief before building again to a great controlled "All el OOH - EEH - YAH!".

Stravinsky's "Отец наш" (The Lord's Prayer - "Father of us") was familiar in its intonation and rhythm, with the same sincerity, but strangely alien. Surprisingly the last word was missing - no "Amen"! His "Ave Marie" was in Latin, sliding gracefully up and down the scale before ending with an insistent request for Mary to pray for us "in hora mortis nostri" - in the hour of our death. Then after a plaintive pause - "Amen"!

Then, suddenly, we were in the Ukraine. From Kiev we heard the traditional "Kontakion" (and "Ikos") For the Departed. This piece of Orthodox liturgy is familiar to us in Devon - we heard it in all its glory at Buckfast Abbey at the end of last year (15th October). Equally beautiful in the King's College Chapel, the grief and hope of the Kontakion build directly to the Funeral Ikos. Strangely, instead of dust returning to dust we had "деньги" - meaning "money". Intriguing. The graceful lament ended with increasingly firm Alleluias of course!

And to finish the first half, a piece expounding one word - "Amen". The Polish composer, Henryk Górecki, starts the piece with the simple word, short and precise. Then the choir swells the sound to an alien wail, crying in desolation. A word with a wealth of meaning, imporing and demanding . . . commanding . . . angry. Then - silence, broken after an almost unbearable pause by the choir resuming softly and descending to perfect peace, before suddenly swelling to another loud repeat which tails off in a high ethereal note. What an ending!

Anita D'Attellis and Graham Caldbeck
with the Somerset Chamber Choir
in King's College Chapel, Taunton
During the interval one thing struck the eye - the pelicans. (The college emblem, no doubt). In a, now unfamiliar, but once popular myth the pelican pierces her own breast with her bill to feed her young on blood, in a parallel of the passion. As the blood of the pelican sustains its chicks, in Christian belief the blood of Jesus sustains mankind:

"O loving Pelican! O Jesu Lord!

Unclean I am but cleanse me in thy Blood of which a single drop,
for sinners spilt,
can purge the entire world from all its guilt."   (Thomas Aquinas)

Underneath the image Paul's exhortation to the Christians of Corinth:

"Vigilante state in fide viriliter agite et confortamini"
("Be on your guard, stand firm in faith; be courageous; be strong")

is paraphrased:

"Fortis et Fidelis" - "Strength and Faith"

An emotive image, and there was more emotive music to come.

For Rachmaninov's version of "Cherubic Hymn" from "St John Chrisostom", a sea of yellow music books appeared. The singers voices descend stepwise to the exhaltation of the "life-creating trinity", and then descend further to "Amen". The final Alleluias are soft and light, not drawn out at all. A low bass sustain continues beneath.

"Блажен муж" ("Blessed is the Man") from Rachmaninov's "1915 Vespers". Each line is linked to the next by that haunting "Alliluia", but each time it is different. Sometimes soft, sometimes strident, in a strange repeating pattern. There is one more after the final "Amen", followed by "слава Тебе, Боже!" - "Glory be to Thee, O god!".

Alfred Schnittke's "Concerto for Mixed Chorus" prays that the singing may become healing. Above the words a high soprano voice maintains a single note. There was a soloist listed for this song - Rebecca Elderton - but it was not clear whether this was her. Each "Amen" at the end split into a deep bass rumble and high soprano, lovely every time.

Pawel Lukaszewski's "Stadium" was fired at the audience in hectic bursts. The rhythm initially seemed harsh, but became increasingly pleasing. A softer more conventional passage gave way to wild gambolling around the scale. A bass rumble like Mussorgsky's 'Gnomus' finally gave way to one last triumphant chord.

Anita D'Attellis returned to the Yamaha grand piano for one more Chopin piece, "Polonaise in A flat". This too was a gallop, but in a more classical style. The 'heroic' theme was very familiar. Every phrase was polished, and played as Chopin intended - with fire! The big chords were very definite, like marching soldiers, with a war-like song slowly overlaid. Peace intervenes, but in the end a very Russian career up the keyboard ended in intense descending chords. Perfect again.

Anita agreed to play an encore - a very gentle piece with the softest highest trills yet. Familiar sounding, but not a commonly heard piece, this was Chopin's posthumously published "Nocturne in C sharp minor".

Graham Caldbeck then took us to Estonia and Arvo Pärt's "Ave Maria", now in Russian - "богородице дево,
радуйся". High and playful with an insistant rhythm and sudden fanfares of sound, this ended with the increasingly familiar repeated words "Яко Спаса родила еси душ наших", "Thou hast borne the Saviour of our Souls" fading away to the final " - shick" of "душ наших".

Now we moved to even more unfamiliar territory. Einojuhani Rautavaara's Finnish "Ehtoohymni" ("Evening Hymn"). Slightly more understandable to English speakers, this starts with a soprano chorus of "Jeesus Kristus", before the basses take things down step by step in Suomi to the deep, deep "Isää, Poikaa ja Pyhää Henkeä" ("Father, Son and Holy Ghost"). The basses really gave it everything.

Suddenly we were in the slightly more familiar territory of Latin again and the Advent antiphon for 20th December - "O Oriens" addressing Jesus as the morning star ("Out of the East"). (We heard all eight antiphons in Latin at Buckfast Abbey on 3rd December last year.) Each syllable was fragmented and infinitely subdivided into different notes, becoming incresingly serious as it implores the morning star to shine on those "in umbra mortis" ("in the shadow of death"). Each repeat was more complex, concluding with the opening words "O Oriens".

Finally the most obscure piece of the concert - and the most restful. "Angelis suis Deus mandavit de te" ("God will give his angels charge over you"), by the Lithuanian composer Vytautas Miškinis, opens with an impassioned cry which leads into the jazz rhythm of a spiritual. The voices get softer and croon as in a lullaby - Farewell!

      Time for just one encore . . .
Богородице Дево, радуйся!

After the applause of the audience died down, Graham explained that the last was not so obscure after all. On Sunday 12 February the BBC's 'Choral Evensong', at St Alban's Church in Holborn, had included Miškinis' 'Time is Endless'. Fired by the challenge Graham and the Somerset Chamber Choir had to try his music too - to wonderful effect!

As an encore we had a now familiar theme one more time, "
Богородице Дево, радуйся" ("Ave Maria"). This time it was taken from Rachmaninov's "1915 Vespers". In Graham's own words "It's the same, but it takes longer." This version was certainly slower, whispered and leisurely. The basses and sopranos have a chance to weave in and out of each other's sound before the last searing cry of "Яко Спаса родила еси душ наших" ("Thou hast borne the Saviour of our Souls").

Musical Director Graham Caldbeck 
after his glorious concert "Out of the East"
Relaxing with friends 
- and a bottle of tanglefoot!
Lin Winstone 
Chairman of Somerset Chamber Choir
and Friends Scheme Manager
toasts the days achievements 
and reminds us all of the next big event
J S Bach's "Nun danket alle Gott"
 C P E Bach's "Magnificat"
and Mozart's "Mass in C minor"
 at Wells Cathedral
Saturday 28 July 7pm

Many thanks to all involved. A glorious concert of exotic and unfamiliar music, sung gloriously. Well done to Musical Director Graham Caldbeck, and to all the singers. Special thanks to Anita D'Attellis for coming from Henley on Thames to play the piano so beautifully. With a little persuasion, she might come to Devon some day . . .

Somerset Chamber Choir are already preparing for their next concert which will be at Wells Cathedral.

Somerset Chamber Choir

Wells Cathedral Somerset
Saturday 28 July 7pm
J S Bach: Nun danket alle Gott
CPE Bach: Magnificat
W A Mozart: Mass in C Minor
Box Office: Taunton Tourist Info
01823 336344

Here in Devon the Antiphon Choir will be reconvened

for more choral music at Buckfast Abbey at the beginning of March

Antiphon Choir
Buckfast Abbey
Saturday 3 March 7.15pm
Lenten Prose - Plainsong Men Only
Lamentations of Jeremiah I - Thomas Tallis
Crucifixus for 8 voices - Antonio Lotti
Miserere mei - Allegri
Lamentations - Men's voices by Osbert Parsley
O vos omnes - Pablo Casals
The Reproaches - John Sanders
When I survey the wondrous cross - Edgar Day
Te lucis ante terminum - Thomas Tallis
Musical Director: Matthew Cann
Tickets: £15 (£10 in advance)
from Buckfast Abbey Shop
Matthew Cann: antiphonvox@gmail.com
or SAE to: 38 Miller Way, Exminster EX6 8TH
David Acres: 01392 490398

In Somerset, Laurence Blyth will direct the Wellington Choral Society in the St John Passion (previously performed with the Exmouth Choral Society Saturday 4th february) In St John's Church 24th March.

Music Director:
Laurence Blyth

Wellington Choral Society
Church of St John the Baptist Wellington
Saturday 24 March 7.30pm
Music Director: Laurence Blyth
Tickets: £10 (child/student £3)
Box Office  01823 400964 (from mid-Feb)

Villages in Action Press Release: Next Concert - Dimitris Dekavallas (Classical Guitar) joins Samantha Pearce (Flute) at Hockworthy Village Hall Saturday 24 March

Dimitris Dekavallas & Samantha Pearce

An imaginative and varied programme of classical guitar and flute.

Saturday 24 March 2012

Hockworthy Village Hall

Dimitris Dekavallas is considered one of the most talented guitarists of his generation. He has won many international and national competitions. Since graduating from the Royal Academy of Music he has given recitals and master-classes throughout the world.

Most recently Dimitris gave a private recital for the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury.
He has appeared as a soloist with the HCMC Orchestra in Oxford and the Hertfordshire
Philharmonic as well as the Staatsorchester Rheinische Philharmonic Orchestra in
Germany and the Romanian Philharmonic.

He has been described by Julian Bream as a 'very exciting performer' and commands an almost unlimited repertoire.

Samantha Pearce won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music where she is currently a 3rd year student. She has performed in St Paul’s Cathedral as part of the
BBC Proms.

Samantha is currently the principal flute of the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland playing regularly in Scotland’s premier concert halls, as well as those around Europe.
She is principal flute of the University of London Symphony Orchestra and principal piccolo of the Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra, recently playing principal in their tour of Italy. Samantha has been selected to perform in several master classes whilst at the Academy.

All tickets in advance, just £7.50
from Val 01823 673268
or Louise 01823 673025
or email louise@red-elephant.co.uk

Doors and bar open at 6:45 for 7:30 performance
Do come and join us for this wonderful night
Please bring a torch as our car park is unlit

Dimitris Dekavallas
Villages in Action
Hockworthy Village Hall
Saturday 24 March 7.30pm
(drinks and snacks available from 6.45pm
  - come and grab a table
  - but remember to book in advance!)
Guitar: Dimitris Dekavallas
(protégé of Julian Bream)
Flute: Samantha Pearce

Tickets: £5 (please book in advance)
Samantha Pearce
                 Val Cole 01823 673268
                    Louise Webber 01823 673025
Where? - M5, Junction 27, A361,
1/2 mile, Minnows Touring Park, turn right,
3 miles, Holcombe Rogus, turn left (Black Lane),
1 mile, Hockworthy! (auto-navigation: TA21 0NW)

Saturday, 18 February 2012

The Life of Dorothy Wordsworth ('All for William') Sonia Woolley, Stewart Clapp and Richard Skinner St Mary Arches Church Exeter Wednesday 15 February

A step back in time . . .
Actress Sonia Woolley from the Salisbury Playhouse
is Dorothy Wordsworth
composing letters to friends and relatives
(St Mary Arches Church Wed 15 Feb)

Caroline Cornish exhorts us all 
to continue our efforts to preserve
Exeter's St Stephen's Church
Shout Hurrah! The St Stephen's Project - to restore the ancient Church of St Stephen in Exeter High Street - has reached a watershed. The interior is still a construction site, but work in on schedule for the building to reopen to the public on Thursday 19th July. A monumental success!

Many thanks to everyone who has responded to the appeal and given generously. Special thanks are in order for the tireless work of Caroline Cornish and Bridget Davis. With a team of helpers, they have put on a series of benefit concerts in aid of the project. Until renovation work began in earnest, concerts and shows (including the wonderful Circus Berzercus, 12 Nov 2010) were staged in St Stephen's Church itself. More recently the venue has generally been nearby St Mary Arches Church. A series of wonderful performers have entertained us, and helped raise money to keep the restoration on track.

As the builders continue their work, the fundraising and concerts also continue. On Wednesday evening the actress and voice tutor Sonia Woolley came to St Mary Arches. Sonia is from the Salisbury Playhouse, and also directs opera at Salisbury Cathedral. She teaches as 'Visiting Scholar in Voice and Word' at Sarum College - and she founded, and runs, the Salisbury Talking Newspaper - an invaluable service providing recorded readings of each week's news for 200 print disabled listeners in the city. A very talented and generous performer!

Stewart Clapp 
recites the poetry of
William Wordsworth
Richard Skinner 
narrates and recites poetry by
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
On Wednesday Sonia gave an extremely moving monologue tracing the life of the author Dorothy Wordsworth. Dorothy lived from 1771 to 1855, and spent a large part of her 84 years with her brother William, the poet and colleague of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Sonia, as Dorothy, sat at her escritoire - itself of antique provenance. She wrote with an impressive quill and thought, or read, aloud. Additional narration was provided by Richard Skinner, who also quoted Coleridge's poetry. Stewart Clapp recited the selected work by William Wordsworth.

This simple but perfect presentation of Dorothy's diaries took us into her world, starting with her experiences as a young girl.

Dorothy's mother (Anne Cookson) died when she was very young, and she and her three brothers - Richard, William and the youngest, John - were brought up by their father, John, Agent to Sir James Lowther in Cockermouth. The family lived rent-free in the former home of Joshua Lucock, High Sheriff of Cumberland - which was, by then, the property of Sir James.

The house was, and is, very grand (you can visit, courtesy of the National Trust) and the children had a grand childhood. But their father died in 1783 when Dorothy was only twelve. Dorothy then lived with her aunt, Elizabeth Threlkeld, in Yorkshire, separated from her beloved brothers.

The tone of the first letters and diary entries from that time is surprisingly cheerful. Dorothy adores her Aunt Elizabeth and her new life in Halifax. Her relationship with her father had been distant and it is her brothers she misses - but she has hope that they will be reunited.

As the century draws to a close, Dorothy, now twenty four, joins William in Dorset where they live in (relative) poverty, but Dorothy is overjoyed to be with her brother again. From Dorset they move to Somerset for a couple of years in the late nineties.

Using Dorothy's original writings, Sonia wove in the important story of William's time in France following the Revolution. In the early days William enthusiastically supported the Republic. He fell in love with a French girl called Annette Vallon and they had a daughter, Caroline, born in 1792.

William's reunion with Dorothy was partly due to his lack of funds and inability to continue living in France. The subsequent 'Reign of Terror' in France meant that William was then unable to return to France for many years. Eventually he went to see Annette in 1802 and arranged for the care of her and Caroline. He was, by then, engaged to marry Dorothy's close friend Mary Hutchinson.

Seeing his daughter for the first time in nearly ten years, but in such circumstances, must have caused William confused emotions. Perhaps the poem he wrote that night sums up his feelings -

It is a beauteous evening, calm and free,
The holy time is quiet as a Nun,
Breathless with adoration: the broad sun,
Is sinking down in its tranquility . . .

The kind and gentle tone of Dorothy's reminiscences of her brother's impetuous affair and its disastrous consequences are strangely moving. Such tenderness for her brother, and her ability to forgive his mistakes, must have drawn them closer together.

Once married, William, with Mary - and Dorothy, moved back to the Lake District, to Grasmere. Their new home, Dove Cottage, was a long way short of the grandeur of their childhood home in Cockermouth, but it was very cosy, and the three friends lived happily there. As time passed they were joined by William and Mary's five children. The youngest, Willy, was born in 1810.

Their life was particularly comfortable because Sir James had died owing their father's estate £4,000. James' son William, First Earl of Lonsdale, repaid the debt in 1802.

Decorating and gardening, making the house beautiful inside and out, enjoying the stimulating company of friends like Samual Coleridge, or sitting quietly by the fire - everything sounds idyllic. Sonia's choice of passages and delivery makes you want to be there. (And you can! - Dove cottage is preserved and kept open to the public by the Wordsworth Trust (www.wordsworth.org.uk) - not the National Trust as previously mentioned here!)

But the idyll was to be shattered abruptly. After a sudden and protracted pause, Sonia uttered the terrible words, "My brother, John, is drowned."

Dorothy Wordsworth (Sonia Woolley)
 recalls the terrible news of John Wordsworth's death.
Richard Skinner narrates from the shadows
William and Dorothy's younger brother had taken a career as a naval officer and was captain of the East Indiaman 'Earl of Abergavenny' which he took to China twice. On the third and fourth voyages the captain was John Wordsworth Jnr, the son of Dorothy's eldest brother Richard. On the fourth return journey the 'Earl of Abergavenny' was involved in the battle of Pulo Aura where a strong French squadron was driven off by a fleet of British East Indiamen. John senior took over for the fifth voyage but met disaster at the outset. The ship sank, killing most of the crew as she left Weymouth Bay.

It was 1805.

Napoleon had amassed nearly a quarter of a million troops at Boulogne for the invasion of England. The UK and Russia were forming the 'Third Coalition' to resist French expansion. Bonaparte's troops occupied Vienna, and the premiere of Beethoven's 'Fidelio' played to an empty Theater an der Wien.

(The British Fleets under Nelson and Collingwood had been keeping the French and Spanish fleets engaged, and the English Channel under British control, preventing the French invasion barges from crossing. The decisive engagement at Cadiz (The Battle of Trafalgar), where half the ships of the French and Spanish fleets were captured along with Admirals Villeneuve and Gravina, was to take place later the same year.)

Dorothy, now thirty four, had given up any ideas of getting married herself. She continued to live with William and his growing family in Grasmere, their comfort and companionship now marred by the sadness of bereavement.

William continued work on his great autobiographical work 'The Recluse'. He planned to write three volumes. The initial collection, entitled 'Poem to Coleridge', had been completed just before John died. In 1807 an extension of this was published as his, now famous, 'Poems in Two Volumes'.

In 1812, Coleridge became increasingly addicted to opium. William and he were increasingly estranged. Disaster struck again. Two of William and Mary's children, Thomas and Catherine, died aged six and four. In 1813 William moved the family to Rydal Mount near Ambleside on his new salary as 'Distributor of Stamps for Westmorland'. The following year he published 'The Excursion' as the second instalment of 'The Recluse'.

Critical acclaim for William's work declined over the next two decades. In 1829 Wordsworth and Coleridge were reconciled, but by then Dorothy was seriously ill, and never fully recovered. In 1843 the Prime Minister, Robert Peel, convinced William to accept the post of Poet Laureate, a post for which he would write no poetry. After the death of a third daughter, Dora, in 1847, he gave up writing completly. William died in 1850, aged eighty, and Dorothy died five years later.

Nearly half a century later Dorothy's diaries were discovered by Edinburgh University Literature Professor, William Angus Knight. Knight was in the process of writing 'Wordsworth's Works and Life' which would eventually extend to eleven volumes. He edited Dorothy's work and published it as the 'The Grasmere Journal' in 1897. Before his death in 1916 (also aged eighty) he donated all the works by Wordsworth that he had collected to the Dove Cottage Trust.

And so we find ourselves, two hundred years after that happy time came to an end, hearing the voice of Dorothy describing the minutiae of life at Dove Cottage as if it were yesterday. Through the power of the written word, and Sonia's impressive ability to bring those words to life, we are transported across centuries to the classical period, a very different world, but strangely similar to the one in which we now live.

An all-star cast:
 Richard Skinner, Sonia Wooley, Stewart Clapp
'All for William'
Bridget Davis 
clutching her Wordsworth poems
expresses our thanks to Sonia Woolley
'All for William' was one of those gems of theatre which we enjoy so much here in Devon. Simple but incredibly moving. Many thanks to Sonia Woolley and the two Exeter poets, Richard Skinner and Stewart Clapp, who brought the story to life so vividly. And thanks to the St Stephen's Project, to Caroline Cornish and to Bridget Davis, for bringing such talent to Exeter, and for coordinating the rescue mission for our thousand year old church - a project which is now, quite rightly, fast approaching its successful completion!

First class work!

After standing for nine centuries
 St Stephen's Church narrowly escapes destruction
by the German Luftwaffe in May 1942

Surrounded by its new neighbours 
St Stephen's Church attracts visitors
- and donations towards its restoration

Want to know more? - www.stephenproject.org.uk