Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Classical Journey 10 - 12 am Tuesday 10 April 2012 Elizabeth Jane Baldry: Harp!

A very exciting day for Phonic FM
Elizabeth Jane Baldry
plays 'Oberon' the concert grand
in the studio for the 'Classical Journey'

Usted Bhulam Mustafa Khan
Sitar and Voice
It was much cooler
in Chagford!
Following the 'Rabindranath Tagore' Festival at Dartington Hall at the weekend, we were very happy to start the show with Indian classical music again. Many thanks to Facebook pal, Denise Smith, for sending in a request.

We heard a Khamaj Raga on Sitar,
Deepchandi Taal on Tabla.
and Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan
singing 'Shyam Sunder Banwari'
- a love song to Lord Krishna.

A harp in the studio
- not a simple proposition
While we listened, Elizabeth Jane Baldry was in the Phonic FM studio preparing 'Oberon' the harp - a mighty concert grand. As the heat of the studio crept into the workings of Oberon, and Elizabeth wrestled with her tuning key we had time to hear some of her recordings, and she had time to tell us about her career as a harpist - which started early - when she heard the thrilling harp 'windows' theme on the BBC's 'Play School' - which deeply affected the two year old Elizabeth.

We did try to listen to Elizabeth's (re-recorded) CD of the music from last year's Chagford Filmmaking Group production: 'The Ballad of Mary Widdon'. What a pity that it wouldn't play out on the studio equipment - although Elizabeth had been able to listen at home. Instead we heard a different recording - five gorgeous miniatures composed and played by Elizabeth herself.

The sublime serenity of Elizabeth's playing was a delight. Such imaginative and varied compositions.

LOTS of green make-up.
Chagford children become fairies in
'The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heugh'

Elizabeth had plenty to say about the Chagford Filmmaking Group and their latest Fairytale Film, 'The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heugh'. The work of producing all the films (nine, and counting) is a source of great pleasure and excitement to all involved, especially the children who get to dress up and act in delightful traditional fairy tales. And we can join in the fun too, on Sunday 29th April, when 'Laidley Worm' will have its inaugural screening at the Exeter Picturehouse at 11am.

Elizabeth's next recording was by an unfamiliar, but very important, Belgian harpist, Albert Zabel -  who played
for the St Petersburg Orchestra and made it possible for Tchaikovsky to include all those wonderful harp parts in the orchestra's music - music like 'The Sugar Plum Fairy', for example.

Elizabeth's choice? -
'Marguerite Douloureuse au Rouet' ('Sad Marguerite at the Spinning Wheel'), a charming piece using many of the harps different moods.

A more modern image:
Elsie Wright's photograph
of cousin Frances Griffiths
- with fairies (Cottingley 1917)
Elizabeth was able to tell us a lot about how people perceived fairies in the nineteenth century. In addition to being feared, and revered, the fairies were suspected of being complicit in illness and natural disasters, and were also imagined to prey on human children. A far cry from the gentle image of fairies we have today.

All the talk of fairies led into a glorious piece of live harp playing - not related to fairies, nor from the nineteenth century - it was Johann Pachelbel's baroque wedding anthem (for the wedding of one of the Bach brothers), 'Canon in D'. All Elizabeth's careful tuning paid off, as we heard the full and gorgeous sound of Oberons strings in action.

More complicated than it looks
How the harp pedals operate
After playing the Canon, Elizabeth was able to demonstrate a very important feature of harp playing. The harp is not played by simply plucking the strings as one would on a large zither. It has seven pedals, each of which must be used to select the pitch of a particular note in the scale - across all six and half octaves of the harp's range. That's a lot to think about!

After playing Pachelbel, Elizabeth played a simpler tune ('Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star'). When she had finished she adjusted the pedals. (Luch selected the pedal positions, which means that they were effectively chosen at random!). The resulting version of 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' revealed just how much difference the pedals make. The scale was completely jumbled, just like something Les Dawson might play. Clearly, getting the pedal-work correct is vital, and must require a lot of skill and practice to perfect!

James Wong Howe - Cinematographer
for Herbert Brenon's 'Peter Pan'  (1924)
The conversation then came back to films - a subject very dear to Elizabeth's heart. In addition to producing Fairy Tale Films (and creating the music for them), Elizabeth also composes and plays live accompaniment for silent films from the 1920s. Her score for Herbert Brenon's 'Peter Pan' (1924) has been heard - played by Elizabeth herself, as live accompaniment for the film - at many wonderful venues, including The Barbican Centre in London and St George's, Brandon Hill, in Bristol.

Betty Bronson: Peter Pan
Elizabeth is clearly very excited by Brenon's movie - by the superb acting of Betty Bronson as Peter Pan, and the impressive cinematography of James Wong Howe. The complex themes and melodies she has composed reflect the complexity of the film. She gave us a very special live performance of music from the Peter Pan score, with wonderful descriptions of the corresponding characters - effectively providing us with a 'silent movie in sound'.

Douglas Fairbanks - Thief of Bagdad
Incredibly, in addition to preparing this year's fairy tale film, Elizabeth has found time to prepare a new harp score for another movie from 1924 - Douglas Fairbanks' 'The Thief of Bagdad'. (Previously misspelled on this blog!) Elizabeth is very moved by the creativity of Douglas Fairbanks - his writing, his acting - and his dancing! Her musical interpretation is equally thrilling - something not to be missed!

Elizabeth will give the premiere performance of the new score at a screening of 'The Thief of Bagdad' at the Jubilee Hall in Chagford on Friday 27th April at 7.30pm. That's
the same weekend as the premiere of 'Laidley Worm' - two amazing musical firsts within two days of each other!

While Elizabeth was talking, guitarist Clive Betts very kindly came into the studio to help get Oberon packed up and safely returned to Elizabeth's car. While Elizabeth reclothed Oberon in his protective jacket, we listened to more fairy music - Maurice Ravel's interpretation of 'Undine' (the water sprite). This time the music was played on the grand piano. The recording was made in the Ship Studio at Dartington, where the soloist was a student of the South West Music School, Benjamin Comeau. He was playing at last year's 'Young Musicians Showcase'.

(Lisa Tregale of the South West Music School will be on next Tuesday's programme, 17th April, to discuss the Summer Courses - and encourage prospective students to enrol before the deadline - 25th April!)

As Elizabeth and Oberon made their way out into the spring sunshine, we listened to more piano music. Oxfordshire pianist Anita D'Attellis (formerly resident in Somerset) has very kindly sent in a recording of herself playing the 'Fire Sermon' from Einojuhani Rautavaara's Second Piano Sonata (composed in Finland in 1970) which she played at the Somerset Chamber Choir's concert, 'Out of the East', at King's College Chapel in Taunton (19th February). Anita' husband John Downing recorded Anita on video. The sound from the video was specially edited for radio by Ian Fisher. You can see the video, with Ian's superbly edited soundtrack, on Luch's Facebook Page (or you can follow this link to jump straight to the video).

Tansy Bennett
There was just time to mention  that we can hear more sonatas on Saturday (14th April) at 1.15pm. Violinist Tansy Bennett will be playing a recital at the Exeter Cathedral Chapter House. Franz Schubert's Sonatina No 2, and Johann Sebastian Bach's Sonata No 3. Admission FREE! (details on the April Concert Run-Down and below)

To finish the 'journey' we had a recording of music by husband and wife, Chris Caldwell and Susie Hodder-Williams. Chris plays clarinets and saxophones and Susie plays flutes. Together they are 'Music on the Edge' - on the edge of Dartmoor, that is. Chris and Susie live in Throwleigh and regularly perform their music 'Live at the Long Room' at the Drewe Arms in Drewsteignton.

Susie Hodder-Williams (flute)
Chris Caldwell (bass clarin
On the programme, we heard 'Kirstvaens' from their album 'Mariner's Way'. A very sensitive piece, featuring not only extreme clarinet sound from Chris - but also Susie playing gamelan and Tibetan singing bowl - an extraordinary and unexpected combination!

The next 'Live at the Long Room' session will be at 8.30 next Tuesday (17th April). They will be offering a pre-audience of the music they will play at during the 'Two Days & Two Nights of New Music' at the 18th International Festival of Medern Art in Odessa (21st - 23rd April).

Chris and Susie are booked to play in Odessa at 2am next Sunday morning (22nd April), when they will play music by Stephen Goss, Chris Caldwell, Trevor Taylor, Oleksandr Shyniko, Susie Hodder-Williams and Alla Zagaykevych. (Full details below)

To hear the recital in advance - come to Drewsteignton!
Admission £8, but under-21s can enjoy the music FREE!




Tansy Bennett: Violin
Free Violin Recital
Exeter Cathedral Chapter House
Saturday 14 April 1.15pm
Violin Tansy Bennett
Franz Schubert
: Sonatina No 2
J S Bach: Sonata No 3
Admission FREE - retiring collection

Woodwind Duo
'Music on the Edge'
Susie Hodder-Williams
& Chris Caldwell
(flute & bass clarinet)
Photo: Chris Chapman
Music on the Edge
Spring Series 2012
The Drewe Arms, Drewsteignton
Tuesday 17 April 8.30pm
(NOT Monday 16 April)
Playing by the roaring fire in the 'Long Room'
(Catch them before they go to Odessa for
  the 18th International Festival of Modern Art)
Admission: £8 (U21 Free)
Information: The Drewe Arms - 01647 281224
(Hear Chris and Susie play their music on air
- 'Classical Journey', Phonic FM, 10-12, Tue 17 Apr)

Elizabeth Jane Baldry Jubilee Hall Chagford
Friday 27 April 7.30pm
A Douglas Fairbanks Silent Movie:
'The Thief of Baghdad' (1924)
with live harp accompaniment
composed and performed by
Elizabeth Jane Baldry
Admission £8
follow this link to book online

Elizabeth Jane Baldry
Exeter Picturehouse
Sunday 29 April 11am
A Chagford Filmmaking Group
Fairy Tale Movie:
'The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heugh'
with original score
composed and directed by
Elizabeth Jane Baldry
(recorded 1st April 2012 at Jubilee Hall)
Admission £7 (child £5)
follow this link to book online


The cast of Esther O'Toole's 'The Crossing'
in the Exeter Bikeshed Theatre
Kwaku Boateng is 'Adofo'
Michael Offei is 'Daddy'
Michael Kofi is 'Monday'
And - there was just time, before the Outcast took over, to mention this week's theatre production at the Exeter Bikeshed, by 'Tangle Plays': Esther O'Toole's 'The Crossing'. The play features three Ghanaian men crossing Africa from Accra to Tripoli and attempting to cross the mediterranean to Europe.

This play was extremely moving. The three Ghanaian actors gave a compelling accoung of the plight of refugees, having reluctantly left their home country, trying desperately to get to a place where they could find hope. The audience could feel the vulnerability and fear of the three men, reviled by local people wherever they went, hounded by local police and border patrols, and exploited and cheated by 'organisers' on whom they were forced to rely for 'crossings' (desert or sea).

There was some comfort for the men (and the audience) in their comradeship and support for each other. However, even three men working together faced a struggle against overwhelming odds as they tried to complete their terrifying journey.

Esther O'Toole's script, sensitively directed by Anna Coombs, allows us to feel the tension and the frustrations of these three characters - a sobering glimpse into the distressing lives of refugees wherever they are in the world.

'The Crossing' opened on Monday night and runs until Saturday night (14th April)
Tickets still available (£10/£7). (Jump to the post below for full details.)


Despite all the technical difficulties
- that perfect 5!


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