Monday, 2 July 2012

Classical Journey Tuesday 3 July

Idrissa Camara
Artistic Director of 'Ballet Nimba'
plays the Bolon Bata in Dartington Great Hall
Dartington HOME Festival
(background: Tetteh 'Amazing' Amatey & Yaw Coffie)

What a wealth of theatre, ballet, and choral music there has been since the last 'Classical Journey!

First, Chapterhouse Theatre Company were at Killerton House on Thursday to perform a dramatisation of 'Pride & Prejudice' in the gardens.

Elysium Theatre Company were in the open air too, on Friday and Saturday for daytime performances of Shakespeare. Henry IV and Richard III got very special treatment in the Forum Piazza at Exeter University.

Exeter Little Theatre Company brought their production of 'Taming of the Shrew' to Barnfield Theatre on Friday evening.

Ballet Cymru returned to the Northcott Theatre on Friday evening, to perform Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' (with the music of Jean Sibelius played by the Welsh Session Orchestra). On Saturday evening at the Northcott there was a Ballet Cymru version of Roald Dahl's 'Little Red Riding Hood' and 'Three Little Pigs'.

As always any reports or comments are always welcome on this blog. (Look right, and there's the contact email address under 'Luch the Mouse' - Many thanks to Val Howels who sent in a very enthusiastic report on 'The Tempest'!

While all this wonderful theatre was taking place not one - but three - festivals of music were taking place in Devon.

In Exeter Henry Dunn's Wonfest at Wonford House Hospital provided lots of gentle music and art and drama workshops, culminating in a cream tea with jazz recital on Sunday. Later Clive Betts gave a private recital for the staff and clients of the 'Cedars' ward at the hospital.

On Saturday night, in Babbacombe, Tina Guthrie was directing 'The Torbay Singers' in Ralph Vaughan Williams' 'Mass in G minor' and Sir Michael Tippett's 'A Child in our Time'.

Nearby, at Shaldon Festival there were four days of choral and orchestral music, starting on Thursday with a very special visit by the King's Singers from Cambridge. On Saturday Jonathan Watts was running a choral workshop at St Peter's Church Shaldon - developing ideas for Handel's 'Messiah' with pianist Peter Adcock and soprano Ruth Jenkins.

John Christian of 'Soundart Radio' (which transmits from Dartington Hall) was in Shaldon to record Jonathan's workshop for his programme 'Choral Insight' which goes out on Tuesdays at 2pm - repeated on Saturdays at 1pm.
To listen on line go to
To pick up the live radio broadcast in the Totnes area tune to102.5 FM
To find full details go to the Soundart website:

Harriet Riley & Molly Lopresti
At Dartington Hall itself there was quite simply a smorgasbord of sensational music, theatre and dance from around the world - the Dartington HOME Festival. With the loving blessing of the Tashi Lhunpo Buddhist monks from southern India, an endless stream of talented and entertaining performers shared their special skills with the delighted festival goers. Initially heralded for the special appearance of superb Totnes percussionist Molly Lopresti and Harriet Riley, with two marimbas - and a vibraphone - as 'Malleticious'. Listen in on Tuesday to hear some of their wonderful music.

the 'Nimba' fertility 'mask'
of Idrissa Camara's Baga tribe
literally 'head and shoulders'
above everyone else
When the dust settled one performance stood 'head and shoulders above the rest' - the ballet! Ballet Nimba, led by Idrissa Camara from Guinea-Conakry, brought all the fire of West African tribal dance to the impressive setting of the fourteenth century Great Hall. Idrissa had brought together astoudingly talented dancers from all over the world and a team of musicians from West Africa who had to be heard to be believed. You can hear them too! - on Tuesday's programme.

 You can find all about the festival by going to the HOME post on this blog.

The following week, Cygnet New Theatre Company were were in Poltimore House Gardens on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening. They were there to perform Shakespeare's 'As You Like It', which was such a hit at the Cygnet Theatre back in February. The atmosphere was quite different this time - in the open air, with the audience reclining in deckchairs enjoying a picnic, a light breeze - and that ever-present threat of rain.

Contending with that light breeze, the actors had to really speak up to be heard - which they did admirably. Also, without a 'backstage' area to enter and exit, other tricks had to be employed. Willow trees behind the performance area provided a good hiding place for a sudden entrance, but actors could also be seen hovering in the undergrowth, exiting on the run to the nearest cover and, most effective of all, simply entering and exiting through the audience.

Sam Burns declaims
the seven ages
in Poltimore Gardens
Corin (Tessa Carob Cook) and
(Matthew Neighbour)
aren't the only ones in deckchairs

No ice cream cornet for
Sir Oliver Mar-Text this time
- choc-ices all round
exit Sir Oliver
(Jason Phelps)

Celia (Lucy Theobald)
waits in the 'wings'
unrequited love - in wellies

the woodland chorus
exit stage centre

All these devices only added to the fun, and the leafy backdrop provided precisely the effect the set designer had been aiming at in the theatre. The 'woodland orchestra' tableau, which was so entertaining on stage, was even more endearing in a real woodland glade. What a pity that the beastly weather forced the performance indoors on Friday!

a pistol shot for William
(Joe Thurston)

Orlando's brother Oliver
(Jason Phelps)

listen to Rosalind's epilogue
(Tessa Gaukroger)
the woodland orchestra . . .

a quick curtain call - it looks like rain
- run for it!

Better luck at Dartington perhaps. On Friday and Saturday the 'Playgoers Society of Dartington Hall' put on their own version of 'The Taming of the Shrew' directed by Anthea Roberts. The 'Old Tennis Court' at Dartington Space was an inspired choice of outdoor stage - more picnics if the weather holds! (Dartington Space is just 100 yds down Dartington Lane towards Totnes from Dartington Hall, if anyone's wondering.)

That production continues its run this week, from Monday to Saturday.

An Saturday evening three choirs vied for attention.

At Exeter Cathedral, the Cathedral Choir performed their 'Summer Showcase', 'Gloria!' - including the versions by Antonio Vivaldi and John Rutter! Directors of Music, David Davies and Stephen Tanner.

At Buckfast Abbey, the Exeter Festival Chorus performed 'Summer Evening at the Abbey' - Vaughan Williams 'Mass in G minor'! - plus Brahms' 'Why light the afflicted?' (Job chapter 3) and Deruflé's 'Requiem'. Nigel Perrin conducted as always, but the organist? - Jonathan Watts!

In St Andrew's Church Colyton, Andrew Daldorph conducted the Exeter Chamber Choir in Willan's 'Song of Solomon' with special solo performances by talented local musical siblings Michael & Eleanor Dawson. (That's the same Michael who played the organ and the piano in Tiverton's St Peter's Church for the East Devon Choral Society's 'St Nicholas Mass' last Christmas - Andrew Daldorph conducted that as well!) We can hear 'Song of Solomon' again this Tuesday evening in Andrew's local church - the Church of St Cyr & Julitta in Newton St Cyres. Michael and Eleanor won't be able to make it, but Andrew will provide piano solos (while his wife Sally takes over the conducting!) and there will also be flute solos by Tina Guthrie, director of the 'Torbay Singers' and leader of the 'Champagne Flutes'!

More sacred music? - at Sunday morning's Cathedral service, David Davies and the Cathedral Choir were back after just twelve hours to sing - Haydn's 'St Nicholas Mass'! How do they do it?

As this week's 'Classical Journey' approaching, Exeter Ignite Festival gets under way with those 'Women of an Uncertain Age', Maggie Bourgein and Flip Webster, opening their run at the Bikeshed Theatre, immediately followed by Louis Ravensfield's 'Exeter Alternative Theatre' performing 'Grand Guignol' -  three fabulous tales of the macabre. On Tuesday Grand Guignol will move to the afternoon slot, immediately before the 'Women of an Uncertain Age'. Grand Guignol play the afternoon again on Wednesday, but Maggie Bourgein's third and last performance will be on Saturday. Louis is providing one last chance to see Grand Guignol next Friday (13th July) at Sidwell Street Methodist Church - with a bonus extra play, Henry Maltby's 'A Love Idyll'.


Compagnie Giulia
Julia Thomas, Howard Frey
Nicholas Millington
We shall hear mediaeval music by 'Compagnie Giulia' and, in particular, their Turkish music expert Simon Cassell who, I am very sad to say, died at the end of last year. We will have more of his music on subsequent shows and try to get the now happily reformed 'Compagnie Giulia' onto a programme eventually.

David Acres and Counterpoint
at Exeter Cathedral 19th May
Mozart Requiem in D minor
soprano Denise Kehoe
alto Juliet Curnow
tenor Edward Woodhouse
bass Julian Rippon
At 10.10, David Acres will be with us to talk about the 'Counterpoint' choral recital at Buckfast Abbey this Saturday evening. The title is 'The Journey from the Mediaeval to the Renaissance - part III'. How singularly appropriate. Full details of the concert are in this week's run-down, from which we can see that they will complete their journey in 1610 with Orlando Gibbons' 'Drop, Drop Slow Tears' - and we will hear a recording of a former 'Counterpoint' line-up singing just that song at Holy Trinity in Exmouth in 1994. Among the altos, Brian Northcott (conductor of the Exeter Symphony Orchestra), among the tenors, Tony Yates (Conductor of the Exeter Singers) and in the bass - Jonathan Watts!!

Hannah Willson
Exeter Bikeshed
At 10.20, we'll be ready for something baroque, Stay tuned for a sample of 'Brandenburg Concerto No 3' which we can hear in full at Broadclyst Parish Church on Saturday evening. John Scarfe will be on the phone to tell us about the concert. Rebecca Willsonand her sister Hannah, of 'Nonclassical' fame (++), will be joining two other string players to form the 'Broadclyst Ensemble'. John will also join them for the second half of the recital, on the newly refurbished Broadclyst organ. They will play a little Handel, the Bach Brandenburg Concerto, Mozart, Albinoni, and finally - back to Handel! 

 Lucy Elzik & Sebastian Pope
'Alas Poor Fred' 7th March
Theatre! - Sebastian Pope will join us after 10.30 to discuss his third 'Owlglass Theatre' production at the Hourglass pub in Melbourne Street, 'You See, The Thing is This' by Ken Campbell. Sebastian has two new actors, Georgie Fenwick and Tim Metcalfe-Wood, joining him for this riotous three-hander. The play runs from Wednesday until Saturday and looks like being both a sell-out and a theatrical tour de force if the previous productions, 'Alas Poor Fred' and 'Frenzy for Two', are anything to go by.

After that we should have time for a classical track or two
- and this week's run-down of concerts!

What's On:

Marion Wood talks Tuba
with Chris Armitage-Wells
at the May rehearsal
of Mahler's 8th
If only we could get Marion Wood to join us in the studio, like she used to. What fun that was! But Marion is very, very, busy these days. This weekend she will have the Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra and Choir at St Peter's School to rehearse Part II of Gustav Mahler's 'Symphony of a Thousand' (No 8). With extraordinary dedication Marion, and the whole choir and orchestra, worked in the St Peter's gym' for the whole weekend of 25-27 May (our one weekend of sunshine, some may remember) to hone 'Part I'. Now they will do it all again with 'Part II' on 6-8 July. What's the odds that the sun's going to come out again?

A couple of other mentions this week - David Davies will be at the organ console again on Wednesday at noon to celebrate 'Independence Day' with an organ recital entitled 'Fourth of July' (Wednesday is 4th July, by the way). It will be interesting to hear what he's chosen to play. (Don'tforget - it costs a fiver to get into the Cathedral these days!)

'Chris Gradwell and Friends' have found an excellent venue to continue their 'Le Jazz' series. This Sunday evening they will be at the Blue Ball in Sidford for the sax, piano and poetry version of their jazz evening - 'Words and Music' with Rowland Molony and John Torrence.

And - a very exciting piece of news, especially for all piano aficionados - Fred Gest (Concert Pianist from Lisse in the Netherlands) is returning to Devon, and he will be giving two concerts at interesting locations not far from Exeter. On Saturday evening (at 7.00pm!) he will be at St Mary's in Willand - which is between Cullompton and Uffculme. On Sunday (at 5.30pm!!) he will be at Shutes Farm - Sheldon sharing the bill with the Blackdown Union Band.
(Not in Shaldon - Sheldon! Sheldon is near Kentisbeare - EX14 4QX, if that helps!)


From 11 'till 12 we can look back at the amazing cultural event which is Dartington HOME Festival.

See the sights in the HOME post on this blog.

Hear the sounds on the 'Classical Journey' on Phonic FM

106.8FM in the Exeter area

live on line at, worldwide!

I hope you can join us!

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