Saturday, 4 November 2017

EMG Symphony Orchestra Golden Jubilee Concert Exeter Cathedral Friday 3 November 2017

EMG Symphony Orchestra & Singers
Sir Edward Elgar: "The Enigma Variations"
Conductor: Leo Geyer
Soloists: Héloïse West & Michael Graham

(Photograph: Paula Fernley Photography)

First Violinist Jackie Baldwin
tunes up the orchestra
EMG Symphony Orchestra was formed in 1967 with Peter O'Brian as Conductor. Since then, Ronald Smith, Roger Hendy, Marion Wood, Tony Hindley and Leo Geyer have conducted the orchestra. Last night Ronald and Roger (but sadly not Marion) were at the Cathedral with a capacity audience to hear Tony and Leo conduct the Orchestra's official Golden Jubilee Concert.

Leo conducted in the first half, starting with a piece which is also enjoying an anniversary. In 1917 the 33 year old Arnold Bax (later Sir Arnold) was inspired by Tintagel Castle in Cornwall to compose the symphonic poem "Tintagel".

Leader: Clare Smith  Conductor: Leo Geyer
With the singers' staging empty the orchestra launched into a gentle but passionate story of the sea. A soothing sea breeze combines with crashing waves and a heroic theme to evoke the feelings the young Arnold experienced on those high cliffs at the height of a devastating war.

How sweetly the strings wove his soulful tale. Clare Smith, as always, leading the way with her exemplary playing. In the background Catherine Clements' flutes, Kate Osbourne's oboes and Richard de la Rue's clarinets combined colourfully with the French horns, led by Sally Maya.

Tintagel 1917
On the one hand, watery sunshine was delightfully figured by Susan Sheratt on her concert harp, and Laura Hobbs on glockenspiel while, as the storm intensified, Brian Moore's trumpets and Colin Parker's trombones echoed the boom of surf, augmented by the tuba and timpani of Rob O'Byrne and Ali Board, with additional bass drum thunder from Tom Clemo (and/or Gary Evans).

Imagining oneself on the cliffs, or struggling against the elements at sea, or just observing the scene from a comfortable fireside, the picture was equally thrilling - a classic EMG production.

Alfie Pugh: Composer
Percussionist, Contrabassoonist
"Exeter Cityscapes"
From a tone-poem a century old, the orchestra turned to the world première of a brand new composition. Exeter composer Alfie Pugh was in the audience to hear the very first performance of his symphonic suite "Exeter Cityscapes", commissioned especially for the Fiftieth Anniversary of the EMG Symphony Orchestra.

Fellow percussionists Tom Clemo, Steve Douglas, Gary Evans & Laura Hobbs were on their mettle for this unique opportunity to showcase the creative work of their illustrious colleague. From wind-chimes to bass drum, every telling note was perfectly delivered, with Tom Clemo taking charge of the biggest challenge of all - the clash cymbals.

The first of the four movement was the "Festival on the Quay", childhood memories of musicians and performers half-seen and half-heard through the forest of adult legs. The mysterious thud of the dragon-boat drum is provided by Ali Board - a frisson of terror in an atmosphere of light gaiety and holiday spirit. Every instrument joins the carnival, including Susan Sheratt's harp and Laura Hobbs' ride cymbals. A riot of colour.

"Estuary at Sunset"
(Photograph: Nigel Albright 1999)

"Estuary at Sunset" started where the festival left off, with strident drums, but soon mellowed into a combination of soothing woodwind: flutes giving way to French horns, delicate harp, and corruscating windchimes - courtesy of the faultless Tom Clemo, and a sweet oboe solo for Kate Osbourne. The last post went, quite naturally, to Brian Moore's muted trumpet, echoed by the tuba and trombones. In all, the sunset was a soft and reassuring experience washing over the senses like the light swell on the waters of the estuary. The most telling passage went to Clare Smith, whose sublime violin solo, lightly underscored by Ali Board's timpani, guided the golden evening sun under the horizon - with the very final farewell coming from Susan Sherratt on her harp.

the ancient workings of the
Astronomical Clock
- depicted in music

Almost immediately the measured tones of "Cathedral" took our feelings in a new, and more immediate, direction. A very slow and loving reflection of the familiar surroundings we were all enjoying. Peace and tranquility were overlaid by a sense of contentment and joy. Every section was played with subdued measure, a moving demonstration of the marvellous control that the whole orchestra exercise over their sound. Congratulations to the percussion section for their very convincing imitation of the chiming of the Cathedral's astronomical clock, and its whirring mechanism. Sadly, and ironically, on this occasion there was no competition from the real thing.

Earthworks in Cathedral Close 1971
The suite ended with the most creative and expansive movement of all, "Construction". An ominous opening was embellished with various sounds of building work and machinary, including hammering on the 'anvil' (a heavy steel rod).

The theme extended beyond physical labour to a sense of general hustle and bustle in a busy city. Sarah Dean's saxophone solo made a lively link between percussive interludes, while the mild-mannered harp and flutes provided an even greater contrast.

Jennifer Campbell
Contra-Alto Clarinet
A very special soloist for this performance was Jennifer Campbell (the Jennifer Campbell who is one third of Ruth Molins' 'Flute Cake' flute trio - and also played harp in the EMG's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" three years ago). This time Jennifer had a very unusual instrument to play, the contra-alto clarinet. It's profound tone brought new depth to Alfie's music, adding its stentorian sound to John Welton's bass clarinet, Prue Tasman and Gail Hicks' bassoons, and the bass rasp of Paul Jones' contrabassoon.

Harp and double bass were pleasingly combined, with Isabelle Woollcott and the bass section rising to the occasion in style. Gary Evans, who recently joined the EMG for Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story" at the April Concert, could be heard, together with Laura Hobbs and Steve Douglas adding some extra crash and rumble to the proceedings on the snare drums, bongos and other mysterious instruments hidden somewhere behind the pulpit.

The construction of each movement, and of the whole suite, was fascinating to follow and a joyously immersive experience throughout. Top notch!

Conductor Leo Geyer and the EMG Orchestra
applaud the composer of "Exeter Cityscapes"
Alfie Pugh

Farewell to the harp
Susan Sherratt
and welcome to Associate Conductor
Tony Hindley

Tony Hindley
EMG Orchestra & Singers
Sir Hubert Parry: "I Was Glad"
Trumpets: Brian Moore, Myles Taylor, John Bowden
The second half opened to applause as the EMG's spectacular trumpeter and Associate Conductor, Tony Hindley, mounted the rostrum.

To a mighty orchestral introduction, with organ accompaniment (by Exeter Cathedral Assistant Organist Stephen Tanner), a full choir launched into Sir Hubert Parry's triumphant anthem "I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord", his 1902 setting of Psalm 122. From behind the pulpit came the sweetly cherubic solo voice of soprano Héloïse West. Sadly missed at recent events owing to illness, Héloïse had saved herself for the night, and sang beautifully. The excitement was augmented by Gary Evans' snare, and also the extravagant fanfares of Brian Moore and the trumpet section - who received special praise from their colleague Tony Hindley at the end of the performance. A skilfull and masterful interpretation of Parry's prayer by conductor and orchestra - and a magnificent vocal ensemble of nearly seventy singers from local choirs and choral societies.

EMG Chairman
Rachel Wieck
Before proceeding to the final item of the evening, there was time for two addresses. First, Volunteer Dementia Friends Champion Gina Awad described the work of Exeter Dementia Action Alliance. In particular she recommended the 'Virtual Dementia Experience', which members of the public can experience at their local headquarters. Through this, participants have gained very useful (and often distressing) insights into the daily experience of dementia sufferers. Audience members were invited to give generously to EDAA, and to try the virtual dementia experience themselves. Details can be found on the EDAA Website.

EMG Chairman, violist Rachel Wieck, also gave a presentation on the history of the Orchestra, from its humble beginnings to the present day, becoming, through many projects and collaborations, the high-calibre ensemble it now is. Rachel expressed her gratitude for all the work by so many amazing musicians over the years - and encouraged the continued support of this august organisation.

Sir Edward Elgar: "Enigma Variations"
Soprano & Tenor Soloists

Héloïse West & Michael Graham
Leo Geyer returned to the conductor's rostrum one last time to present his own extraordinary interpretation of Sir Edward Elgar's "Enigma Variations". To the music of the original suite, the EMG Singers sang the ode "We are the Music Makers" by Arthur O'Shaughnessy, written in 1874, fifteen years before Elgar composed his 'Variations', and itself set to music by Elgar thirteen years afterwards.

This setting, however, was specially created for the Jubilee Concert by Leo himself. In addition to the orchestra and choir, Héloïse West & Michael Graham sang solo parts. Héloïse opened the account as Elgar's wife Caroline Alice (Variation I C.A.E.) and later Michael was very impressive as Elgar's friend Augustus Jaeger (Variation IX 'Nimrod').

Each variation was beautifully orchestrated. Tony Hindley had rejoined the trumpet section, and the percussion players were up one man - joined by the evening's star, Alfie Pugh. The solo voices and choir injected new excitement into a beloved classic - and there were some special  instrumental solos as well.

Lots of Percussion
Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations
Ali Board (Timpani)
Tom Clemo, Alfie Pugh, Gary Evans
Richard de la Rue's clarinet sounded out brightly during Variation VIII (W.N. - i.e. Wilfred Norbury, Secretary of the Worcester Philharmonic Society). Richard Wood, the leader of the violas deftly demonstrated the musical stammer of Dora Penny (Variation X 'Dorabella'), joined by Richard de la Rue's clarinets. Ali Board's timpani came in handy to illustrate the excited paddling and barking of George Robertson Sinclair's bulldog in the River Wye (Variation XI G.R.S.) Amye Farrell, leading the 'cellos, was the natural choice to represent the 'cellist Basil George Nevinson (Variation XII B.G.N) Variation XIII (* * *), depicting the emigration of Elgar's former love gave a lot of scope to the percussion section to mimic the ship's engines, and the big concluding cymbal clash went to - Alfie Pugh.

Elgar's 'Enigma' Variations
Leader & Conductor
Clare Smith & Leo Geyer
The evening was a splendid celebration of the first half-century of the Orchestra's existence, and a fitting tribute to monumental achievements over many years. Leo Geyer has entered into the spirit of EMG with gusto and maintained the incredible momentum created by his predecessor Marion Wood. The continuity provided by Tony Hindley's work as Associate Conductor has ensured that the magic is still very much alive in Exeter's premier orchestra. Alfie Pugh's innovative new work keeps them at the cutting edge of music, and the contributions of everyone involved is invaluable to the development of the whole. The Orchestra seems set to move on to even greater heights for the foreseeable future and - why not? - see another Jubilee in 2042!

A rare vintage
gifts of wine for the 2017 Conductor and Associate Conductor
Leo Geyer & Tony Hindley

and a posie for the ever-popular Leader
Clare Smith

Monday, 30 October 2017

Hot Rock Productions "Sweeney Todd" Barnfield Theatre Monday 30 October - Saturday 4 November 2017

Sweeney Todd
The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Beggar Woman: Cathie Poole - Johanna: Josie Tapp            
 Beadle Bamford: James Billington - Adolfo Pirelli: Daniel McLoughlin
  Nellie Lovett: Emma Williams - Sweeney Todd: Mike Hamilton
Tobias Ragg: Laurie Walker - Anthony Hope: Matt Colson
   Judge Turpin: Nigel Broome - Ensemble: Judyth Aarons et al

Halloween horror started a day early at the Barnfield Theatre in Exeter tonight. Rob Luke & Lewis Law's 'Hot Rock Productions' presented their new performance of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd", Directed by David Finlay with Music, and Movement, Direction by Tom Arnold Mai-Lin Hagiwara. A host of local singing and acting stars, and some relatively new faces took part in this breath-taking tale of terror.

In Hugh Wheeler's version of the story, Todd returns from transportation to Australia rather like Magwitch in Dickens' "Great Expetations". In this case, however, the intention is not to reward a young benefactor - but to exact revenge on a sworn enemy. As a plan to murder turns to a career of mass-murder, the story starts to resemble a compelling argument in favour of transportation for life.

An extensive ensemble of chorus singers introduce and narrate the action with elaborate set routines. The shaving competition is outstanding - as is the public reception of Nellie's new line in pies. The central characters are all played by local actors of impressive pedigree, who each carry their rôle with impressive style, both acting and singing spectacularly.

Rising head and shoulders above this already stellar cast are Mike Hamilton and Emma Williams as the barber Benjamin Barker (aka Sweeney Todd) and his pie-making partner in crime Nellie Lovett. The steely determination and unbending devotion to violence of Todd is countered by Nellie's (almost) unquenchable optimism and sense of humour.

Matt Colson and Josie Tapp, as the young lovers Anthony and Johanna, are superb, and their clean-cut virtue stands in stark contrast to the amoral decadence of the other characters. Nigel Broome as Judge Turpin is a particularly sordid and lustful caricature of Mozart's Bartolo in "The Barber of Seville" - determined to exploit his power in order to control or destroy his ward Johanna. His henchman Bamford is played by the outstanding James Billington, a pompous Beadle that Dickens would recognise, with a side line in fabulous comic songs.

For all-out comedy Daniel McLoughlin, as competing coiffeur Adolfo Pirelli, gives a magical performance with some very special special effects. His long-suffering apprentice Tobias Ragg is very engagingly portrayed by a young student, Laurie Walker. (Josie and Laurie are both students of Emma Williams - who is Head of Performing Arts at Clyst Vale Community College.) Throughout the play, a very wretched and terrifying beggar woman provides additional narration like a prescient harpy. Cathy Poole is that beggar woman - having started her acting career as Johanna in Hot Rock's previous production of Sweeney Todd. Don't forget John Nash and Steve Vernon. After modelling a perfect shave and tooth extraction for Todd, they each reappear with parts of their own, Steve playing Johanna's abusive captor Jonas Fogg in the closing scenes.

Musically, this is a fabulously complex production. Tom Arnold's orchestra includes trumpet (Alex Pace), French horn (Catherine Edington), clarinet (Beatrice Wyles) - and baritone saxophone (James McGregor). Percussion (Louis Brown) and piano (Tom Arnold) augment the on-stage sound effects, and the plaintive violin of Kate Smethurst overlays many emotional and terrifying scenes. Continuo is provided by Alex Soul ('cello) and Callum Heighton (electric bass). The singing is excellent - although the unamplified ensemble members sometimes struggle a little in the Barnfield's acoustic. Movement Director Mai-Lin Hagiwara has worked in some very neat movement work and dance routines, which the chorus perform with gusto. Several of the ensemble, including Judyth Aarons, John Nash, and Rebecca Willson, sing very impressive solo parts as well.

As the action progresses, Sondheim's complex canons and counterpoints increase in complexity, challenging the cast and audience to keep pace. Now that all their hard work has come to fruition, with this week's show at the Barnfield, we can see for ourselves just how comprehensively and exquisitely the whole cast has risen to that challenge.

This show runs until Saturday, every evening with a matinée on the last day. Full details below.

Hot Rock Productions
Exeter Barnfield Theatre
Exeter Barnfield Theatre
Sweeney Todd
Judyth AaronsLizzie Bialyk,
Laura CrookCarrie Dyer
Mon 30 Oct - Sat 4 Nov 7.30pm
Saturday Matinée: 4 Nov 2.30pm
(The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
Director: David Finlay
Musical Director: Tom Arnold
Movement Director: Mai-Lin Hagiwara
Original Story: Hugh Wheeler
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Stage Adaptation: Christopher Bond
Orchestrations: Jonathan Tunic
Tickets: £16.50 (U17 £14.50)
Monday Matinée: All £14.50
Box Office: 01392 271808
..........Weekdays 10am - 4pm
...........Saturdays 10am - 2pm

Online BookingTicketSolve

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Flute Cake "Make Room" Glorious Art House Café Sunday 22 October & Sunday 5 November 2017

Glorious Art House Café
Rosy Tydeman Flute Cake Trio
Jennifer Campbell, Ruth Molins, Sophie Brewer

Three Flutes
On 22 September Ruth Molins was in the Phonic FM studio at Exeter Phoenix to discuss her new creation for three flutes and any building, "Make Room", on the "Classical Journey".

Delicious Eats
"Make Room" is Ruth's composition which includes scored and improvised sections to complement and represent the rooms, corridors and stairwells of any building.

The audience determine their own experience by experimenting with listening from different locations, following the musicians, or sitting tight where they feel most comfortable, and letting the distant music come to them.

Plus Music
The première performance, on 7 October, was at Waterstones Bookshop in Cathedral Close (a unique experience, as Waterstones is now closing). Carpets, soft furnishings and books set the tone for the evening's music. 
At a Glorious Venue

On 22 November "Make Room" reappeared at Rosy Tydeman's "Glorious Art House Café.

Lively Artworks
Acoustically, the venue is quite different. Bright colours are everywhere, and the bare boards of the floors contrast with Rosy's artworks throughout the building.

A Chronometric Theme
Everywhere Rosy's creations delight the eye. Under the title of "La Vie en Rose Makery" she constructs exquisite felt sculptures and montages in every hue. Clocks feature extensively, with their intriguing contrast between rigid mechanics and the gentle flexibility of fabric.

Rosy Serves Coffees
As guests arrived Rosy was on hand to serve coffees from her hi-tech percolators - and had many different cakes and treats on offer too. Rosy kindly kept serving throughout the evening, creating a continual traffic of cups, plates, and flutes around the building.

Migrating Upstairs
As the audience sat or paced, attended or chatted, the music started. Gently, imperceptibly, the melodies developed, before the migration began. One by one the flautists disappeared up the stairs until the sound faded in the distance.

Music on Many Levels
After varying degrees of indecision and delay, the listeners followed. On the upper storeys they found comfortable places to continue their participation. Comfortable chairs were on the stairs and landings among potted plants, and Rosy's extensive art collection.
Among Potted Plants

In every conceivable place, on walls and tables, even in the upstairs lavatory, Ruth had positioned the musical scores relevant to the different parts of the building.

As well as relating to the general lay-out, the music also reflected the structural materials and their effect on the acoustics.

In Nooks and Corners
Soft fabrics inspired gentle bass notes, while hard wooden floors gave rise to a more staccato approach. Where footsteps and rattling crockery created a percussive background sound, the players responded with their own percussion on the keys of their flutes.
Music & Sculpture

Flute Cake and the Glorious Art House Café seemed made for each other. While the sculptures provided the perfect setting for the music, the music itself drew attention to the many wonderful things to see and feel in that intriguing building.

As the evening traffic, and late-night revellers, passed outside the windows a completely different world existed inside. Passers-by were fascinated by the strange experience separated from them by only a pane of glass.

Playing to Fore Street
At the very top of the building was a very different and stark environment.

Bare Boards
Here in the middle of a bare wooden floor, surrounded by whitewashed walls displaying paintings by visiting exhibitors, a single music stand stood inviting the musicians to stand in isolation and play to the dark and the moon.

With Appropriate Music
This remote and spartan environment had a special mood of its own, a perfect foil to the indulgent opulence of the other rooms. Standing on the stairs one could enjoy a perfect counterpoint between two contrasting spaces debating in which direction to move, which experience to sample.

Bathroom Bagatelle
Mid-way, and not ignored, was the marvellously sign-posted "Glorious Toilet", a small but beautifully appointed room which had perhaps the most fascinating acoustic of all. One by on the trio members squeezed into the small space and played a special sharp-edged piece to suit the hard reverberant walls of their restrictive enclosure.

Staircase Trio
As the beautiful music drew to a close, to the accompaniment of high pressure steam being released from Rosy's coffee-making apparatus, the trio naturally congregated together in their favourite spaces. The loo, of course, and also the many staircases that sported three manuscripts for just this purpose

Coffee for the Troops
At the perfect moment the music drew to a gentle conclusion, and slowly everyone made their way back down to the ground floor. Here it was possible to discuss the performance with the musicians - and post messages of appreciation and encouragement on postcards to be deposited in a convenient orange post-box - all provided by Ruth for the evening.

Many Thanks
Flute Cake Trio

This was a very special evening indeed. Many thanks to Ruth, Sophie and Jennifer, who have worked so hard on this splendid creation. And extra special thanks to Rosy for not only creating the very wonderful "Glorious Art House Café", but also collaborating with the Trio on this excellent project.

If you missed this treat or, like many attending, you would like to hear another performance in another equally fascinating venue, there is not long to wait. On the afternoon of Sunday 5 November "Flute Cake" will perform "Make Room" again at Veronica Gosling's "Studio 36" gallery in Denmark Road.

This is another hidden delight in the heart of Exeter, filled with Veronica's spectacular ceramic works - and more gallery space for visiting artists. Full details of that concert are below.

But first, here are more images of the many different and delightful experiences that were shared at the Glorious Art House.

Sophie Top Floor
Playing to the Gallery
Joined by Ruth

Ruth Readers' Corner
Jennifer Dining Room
Music in Motion
On the Stairs
Harmony of Colour
Distant Sounds
Under the Velux
Duet on the Landing
Ruth Clocks
Sophie Climbing the Stairs
Resonant Woodwork
Enjoying Music and Artworks
Jennifer Campbell
, Patrick Hughes
One Last Cuppa


Flute Cake
Studio 36 Denmark Road
Sunday 5 November 3pm
        "MAKE ROOM"  
"A musical space in which
    to reimagine oneself
      and one's surroundings"
Composer: Ruth Molins
Flutes: Ruth Molins
            Sophie Brewer
              Jennifer Campbell
Tickets: £10 (£9 in advance)
Advance Booking: 07507 568174