Monday, 9 July 2012

Classical Journey Tuesday 10 July 2012

Roger Bowen
Chairman of the Budleigh Festival
joins us this Tuesday
to discuss all the great music coming to Budleigh

This week Exeter was gripped by theatre fever - the 'Ignite' festival featured an overwhelming selection of theatre events. For over a week, the Cygnet, Phoenix, Oddfellows, Barnfield, Northcott, Rusty Bike, and Bikeshed Theatres were hosting up to six shows a day. Many repeated on subsequent days. Other events were also happening at Exeter Central Library. There was even an open air performance of Don Quixote - on bicycles, travelling along the Exeter Cycle Route from Piazza Terracina - with the audience in hot pursuit. (Find out about the repeat performances on 13-15 July from the Bikeshed.)

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
'E. & O. E.' (Errors & Ommissions Excepted) is, as any solicitor would know, about a man making his will. That man is Louis Ravensfield himself. A very clever pastiche of Puccini's 'Gianni Schicchi', this play opens with our modern day Buoso Donati very much alive, and in the mood to explain his very complex arrangements for his estate to his wife and mother-in-law. Puccini fans know what's coming next, but will be surprised by the wonderful way it's acted out. Just four actors - and no singing!

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.

and circulate
During set changes, a rather 'progressive' female character from the first play kept us informed by holding up chalk-boards with 'Please bear with us . . . ' written on them.

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
Initially coming on before Grand Guignol, 'Women of an Uncertain Age' moved to the early evening slot  on subsequent days. During their telephone appearance on Phonic FM Maggie Bourgein and Flip Webster promised a varied programme of sketches and monologues. This week they certainly delivered. Flip as an uninhibited elderly mother was hilarious. Maggie's reactions as the daughter, perfectly delivered.

Women of an Uncertain Age
plus stage hand
As two, somewhat younger, crime-scene detectives they delivered an inventive dialogue which sparkled with wit. After many more superb little scenes, the final sketch, with a 'prosthetically enhanced' flip joining Maggie at the dance studio was the icing on the cake. Superb script and superb acting. Lots of great music and - just when it seemed things couldn't get any better - a dance routine which had the audience eating out of their hands. A thoroughly entertaining show.

Paper Tom (Handheld Theatre)

Steven Rodgers
works on a paper crane
before the show starts
On a more serious note, Handheld Arts brought their new production 'Paper Tom', fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Sandy King and Steven Rodgers play two soldiers on the front line, while Sarah-Jane Wingrove and Ilana Winterstein are the women left at home. Two equivalent storylines directly compare the experience of France 1916 with Afghanistan 2012.

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
Throughout the play, there was a recurring theme of making origami storks - which is inspired by Sadako Sasaki who contracted cancer at the age of twelve, ten years after the US Air Force's 'Little Boy' attack on her home town of Hiroshima. She died three years later while trying to complete 1,000 paper storks in order to earn one wish - the wish for world peace. Her friends completed the work.

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
The above is just a small sample from the smorgasbord of theatre which had been going on since 25th June. By Tuesday more music was also vying for attention. Andrew Daldorph and the Exeter Chamber Choir repeated Saturday's Colyton concert, at Newton St Cyres - 'Choral Revels'. Saturday's vocal soloists Michael and Eleanor Dawson did not cross parish boundaries for Tuesday's concert. Instead there were piano and flute duets played by Andrew Daldorph & Tina Guthrie, 'Chansons' (de nuit & de matin) by Edward Elgar. Very lovely in that small church.

Tenor: Keith Wainwright
Andrew added his skilled piano accompaniment of the choir, and there were opportunities for several choir members to shine. Henrietta Vercoe's voice was heard in isolation in Rene Clausen's 'Tonight Eternity Alone'. Ann Draisey's moment came during the haunting high sections of Michael Tippett's 'A Child of our Time'. A new voice - alto Jacqueline Barnes - made her solo debut in Andrew's own composition of the African American spiritual, 'Deep River' - from the musical 'Show Boat', but also used by Tippett at the end of 'A Child of our Time'.

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
The final glorious piece of the evening, for full choir, piano and flute, was also the piece that closed last year's performance of Andrew Daldorph's 'Mass for Life', which was also repeated - at Newton St Cyres. 'O Lord, your love, let it shine on me' - 'Let It Shine'! No double bass, drums or saxophone this time, but that meant even more chance to hear all those wonderful voices - Sally Daldorph, Ann Draisey, Henrietta Vercoe, Jacqueline Barnes, Val Howels, Keith Wainwright, Norman Waldron - not to mention Tina Guthrie, and Andrew Daldorph himself, playing flute and piano. A sensational end to a sensational evening.

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
By Wednesday evening an independent theatre production was muscling in on the 'Ignite' scene. Right on cue, Sebastian Pope's 'Owlglass' theatre company opened the third of their bi-monthly 'quadrilogy' of nonsense plays at the Hourglass Inn, Ken Campbell's 'You See the Thing is This'. (Their previous two productions had been James Saunders' 'Alas Poor Fred' and Eugene Ionesco's 'Frenzy for Two'.)

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
(Tim Metcalfe-Woode)
spells trouble
Georgie Fenwick enters as Veronica Brace (also in tennis gear to Walter's consternation). The toys, and the tennis gear are explained to the background sound of Walter's vinyl record of Scottish songs which has got stuck at a certain phrase . . . hilarious! (and very clever backstage control of the sound). It also becomes apparent that Walter has a rival, called Harry Milner, who has usurped his place in the tennis doubles tournament.

Next on the scene is Harry himself (played by Tim Metcalfe-Woode). What an amazing character - also in tennis gear, the tight, short, shorts of the seventies, the owlish look of Bjorn Borg - plus the trademark headband. (Effective, but not likely to be Campbell's original idea. When Ken was writing, John Newcombe beat Ken Rosewall in the Wimbledon finals - Borg didn't hit the headlines, and affect tennis fashion, for another six years.)

Anachronisms aside (that poster has also been back-dated six years), Tim's 'Harry' is a spectacular character full of energy and enthusiasm, which spills over into more belligerent bonhomie when he finds he has a rival. Confronted by this interloper, Walter argues his corner, with boyish determination. Veronica watches the exchange with bemused interest, her eyes following the action - like a tennis match.

and match
Short, but sweet, Ken Campbell's first play is a one act stroke of genius. By way of epilogue it ends with the appearance of a fourth character - a young cub scout - and a complete change of mood. In an act of consideration to his audience, Campbell gently brings them and Walter back to earth with the banalities of his everyday life - as a scoutmaster.

A fourth character - cub scout
Two boys took turns to play the scout on successive nights, and very nearly stole the show. Perhaps Seb will let us know who these unsung heroes were!

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)
As part of Ignite (and also part of their own usual selection of great theatre) Exeter Northcott Theatre was host to the English Touring Theatre Company. ETT's play, Tom Stoppard's 'The Real Thing', was first staged twelve years later than Campbell's 'You See the Thing is This', but has strange parallels. Relationships are broken up by interlopers and ineffectual characters try to fight back.

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
Next another alto, Harry Castle, sang the 'Beata Viscera Marie Virginis'. (Imagine for yourself.) Harry has recently risen to prominence - a founder member of our new Exeter choir 'Leofric'.

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
Then came three 'York Mystery Plays' from the fourteenth century. Josie Walledge's voice - familiar from her many concerts with Laurence Blyth - was joined by another soprano. Mary O'Shea? - Not this time. The second voice was established 'Counterpoint' favourite, Daisy Walford (now an established 'Leofric' favourite!)

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
Almost the whole Leofric ensemble - alto Harry Castle, tenor Edward Woodhouse and baritone Andrew Henley, joined forces for Gillaume Dufay's great 'Alma Redemptoris Mater'.

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
Having fully justified the price of admission, David Acres and Counterpoint proceeding go give the audience more that they could possibly expect or hope for. After a gentle rendition of Thomas Tallis's 'O Sacrum Convivium', the choir launched into a twenty minute expedition into John Sheppard's 'Media Vita' (In the Midst of Life).
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!'

Mary O'Shea
What made it so special was the combination of not four or six, but EIGHT different voices. The altos were constrained to sing abnormally low at times - while the tenors reached to their highest notes. This piece is rarely attempted (because of its complexity), but David Acres and the Counterpoint Choir were the ones to attempt it - a soaring success!

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
More wonderful choral music at the Abbey? - Not long to wait! Matthew Cann has been preparing another glorious celebration of the Virgin Mary, to be performed by sixteen superlative vocalists, including Lay Vicars from around the country, in four voices - with the addition of one new soprano voice - Mary O'Shea! What could be better? The music will include the renaissance music of Domenico Gabrielli, and also the contemporary compositions of John Tavener, Arvo Part - and Matthew Cann himself. Include Daisy Walford, David Acres, Rachel Mitchell, Michael Vian Clarke - it will be fabulous! 'Antiphon' Choir, Saturday 4th August 7.15pm at Buckfast Abbey. Not to be missed! See the Antiphon facebook page or 'Classical Journey Concerts' for details.

James Bowman
Counterpoint will be at the Abbey again on Saturday 13th October with the the Divertimento String Ensemble for a celebration of the music of George Frederick Handel - with the priceless counter-tenor singing of 72 year old solo counter-tenor James Bowman. It gets better and better!

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.

Broadclyst Ensemble

Organist John Scarfe
Even as the Counterpoint choir were enrapturing the audience at Buckfast Abbey, Mary O'Shea's former (and current) mentor, John Scarfe, was introducing a new musical force, 'The Broadclyst Ensemble', at the Church of St John the Baptist in Broadclyst. Two former members of the 'Obligato Quartet' Rebecca and Hannah Willson (violin and 'cello) are joined by violinist Ayesha Ichsan, violist Flora Farquarson and double bass player Annabel Hope.

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
Bach's 'Brandenburg Concerto No 3' was just as beautiful as the Sudwest-Studioorchester version we enjoyed on Tuesday's programme - leisurely and precise, with soft bowing on the double bass in the basso-continuo. We heard the full wjork - a marathon for the players, and pure joy for the listeners. After the second, adagio, movement the return to allegro went a little awry, but Rebecca Willson is a very accomplished musician (a first-class graduate from Dartington, by the way!) and deftly led the group back to safety. A lovely experience for the audience throughout.

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
After a short interval (here too the audience sat tight, while the musicians prepared) John Scarfe joined the ensemble at the organ. As a second slice of meat in the sandwich they started with more Mozart. The Epistle Sonata - intended to introduce the reading from the Epistles in a church service. The Organ was clearly in good shape, the pipes singing out clearly and responsive to John's touch. John played gently and very deftly, in just the right register to fit in with the ensemble. The music was unfamiliar, but quite obviously Mozart!

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.

intricate lace
Finally the outer slice - more Handel. The Organ Concerto in B flat 'a tempo ordinario e staccato', a jolly dance leading into an organ cadenza. Repeated. John was at his most dextrous, seen in the distance flipping over the manuscript pages and playing away merrily. After the allegro, the Adagio e staccato was a masterpiece of coordination. John's organ phrases were punctuated by chords in the strings. After a pause they would all begin again together, using the full power of the organ, slinky glissandi leading to a return to powerful chords.

as worn at Mary Schlich's wedding
All very lovely, but then it was suddenly over. Too soon! - but it had been a full two hours of glorious music, and the audience were thrilled. Afterwards everyone, musicians included, mustered in that visitors centre (while some of the musicians were still packing up on the 'roof', and enjoyed food and wine - what a treat. Also they were able to have a closer look at the exhibition taking up nearly the whole church - Mother's Lace. The Festival of Mother's Lace was running all last week and features the, almost certainly unique, lace collection of Constance Senior - mother of parishioners Miriam Gent and Mary Schlich.

equally intricate ceramics
Constance began collecting seriously in 1955, and never let a choice piece of lace get away from her. When her husband moved to Broadclyst as a National Trust agent, the collection really took off. The couple retired to Cornwall, where Constance took up pottery making and firing, and soon became an expert. Returning to Broadclyst as a widow, Constance combined her passions to create a fabulous collection of ceramic art and beautiful lace. The huge collection of pieces displayed in the church were, incredibly, less than 5% of the whole collection. Everything was incredibly intricate and impressive, from christening caps to bridal veils.

Hannah packs up her 'cello
For all this entertainment - music, food, drink and that glorious display of ceramics and lace - what price? In typical Broadclyst fashion, there was no charge at all for admission, but many felt a natural inclination to dig deep into their pockets to contribute to the church collection plate - for the 'fabric of the building' - no doubt with a special thought for the upkeep of the splendid organ.

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
On Sunday evening, as Exeter music lovers enjoyed another organ recital in the Cathedral, there was another kind of music taking place at Sidford - Le Jazz. Clarinettist (and saxophonist) Chris Gradwell was joined by Andrew Daldorph at the 'Blue Ball' for an evening of music, and poetry.

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.

Kairen Hooker
Cue a glorious hour of Blues music by jazz virtuosi, Chris Gradwell and Andrew Daldorph. Chris alternated between tenor sax, clarinet and soprano sax, while Andrew's piano improvisations (or rather semi-improvisations - he had something on paper) continued in endless invention. In between pieces, John Torrence and rowland Molony - and Kairen Hooker - added gorgeous extracts of appropriate poetry. Constant Lambert, Brian Chappell, Count Basie, and Sidney Bechet were interspersed with poetry by E. E. Cummings, W. H. Auden, Philip Larkin - even some lyrics by Billy Holiday (contributed by Kairen). Finally we enjoyed some original poetry by John and Rowland themselves, about war, birdwatching, Dorset views, the terrifying bridge at Clifton and John's series of sonnets about life as a child in a village near Bath after being 'bombed out' during the war.
Rowland Molony
& 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 (

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.

Stay tuned!

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