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

Saturday, 21 October 2017

Staircase Opera present "A Night at the Opera" Topsham: St Margaret's Church Friday 13 October Chagford: St Michael's Church Friday 17 November 2017

Staircase Opera
Paul McClure & Carolyn Harries

A year on from their very successful tour with Gian Carlo Menotti's "The Medium" in October and November last year, Staircase Opera now present "A Night at the Opera", an evening of arias to suit all tastes.

At Topsham, Paul McClure and Roger Stephenson brought their pianistic genius - along with Paul's impressive skills as master of ceremonies, and raconteur. The warm alto tones of Staircase founder and mezzosoprano Carolyn Harries opened the evening - as King Xerxes professing his affection for his beloved plane tree - the affecting opening to the opera of the same name.

During an evening of delights, we were entertained by other operatic stars. Gemma Santiago sang soprano with impressive passion in tragic opera duets with Carolyn Harries. Another soprano, Héloïse West, was also scheduled to join us, but was unable to make the Topsham performance. We can look forward to her singing when Staircase Opera return to the stage in Chagford in November.

[UPDATE: Héloïse cannot make Chagford either. This is a great pity, but soprano Judith Aarons is able to bring her delightful voice to the concert on 17 November. (See revised details below.)]

Héloïse will also share the bill with Michael Graham in Elgar's "Enigma Variations" at Exeter Cathedral at the EMG Symphony Orchestra Golden Jubilee Concert on Friday 3 November.

In addition to Carolyn Harries, mezzosoprano Rebecca Smith sang beautiful character pieces ranging from the flirtatious 'Carmen' to the distraught 'Dido'. A new tenor joined the ranks - Stuart Norman, who delighted us with Handel and joined the ensemble for some rousing Gilbert and Sullivan numbers, and baritone Tim Hunt who has specialised in Gilbert and Sullivan for many years. After a long tenure as leading actor with the St David's Players in their regular G&S productions at the Exeter Barnfield Theatre, Tim will take over as Chairman in 2018.

Tim introduced a classical note with his humorous portrayals of Mozart's Papageno and Don Ferrando. He also took part in an ensemble piece, and reprised his spectacularly entertaining performance as Jack Point which so impressed audiences at the St David's Players production of Yeomen of the Guard in 2011. Tim, like Paul, puts as much energy into his introductions as his performance, making for a very lively evening's entertainment.

One last singer still has to be mentioned, the awe-inspiring bass-baritone Roderick Hunt. His speaking voice is deep, and his singing voice is arrestingly bathyscaphic. One can only watch and listen in amazement at the effortless depth, resonance and stunning emotiveness of his delivery, which would easily reach the balcony of any opera house - and has!

Roderick, whose regular employment is as Professor of Biology at Exeter Univeristy, has performed with many professional opera companies in the South West, and beyond. Recently he fulfilled his ambition to play Modest Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov", and will soon be preparing for the part of the giant Fafner in "Das Reingold" by Richard Wagner with the newly formed 'Tarnhelm' opera company.

Tim, the G&S expert, surprised us all by introducing Roderick's performance of "When the Night Wind Howls" from "Ruddigore". This extraordinary exposition of an eerie moonlit scene by the ghost of Roderick's namesake, Sir Roderic Murgatroyd, has landed him first prize at the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival not once, but twice! A very special addition to the programme.

We mustn't forget our accompanists. Paul played flawlessly, and with great feeling and style, throughout the evening, occasionally relinquishing the keys to the equally talented Staircase stalwart Roger Stephenson. They also amused us hugely with their very clever four hand piano duet medleys (with some vocal accompaniment!) from Gilbert & Sullivan's "Mikado" and Jacques Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffman".

The final ensemble work was a prayer from "Nabucco", Verdi's story of the Hebrew exile under King Nebuchadnezzar, "Va, pensiero, sull'ali dorate" (Go, prayer, on wings of gold), which was the perfect close to a very enjoyable evening of music. All this and more can be enjoyed, all over again, at Chagford on Friday 17 November (details below). Many thanks to everyone for a lovely evening.

Staircase Opera sing "Va Pansiero":
Timothy HuntStuart NormanRoderick HuntRoger Stephenson
Carolyn HarriesRebecca Smith
Gemma Santiago

Topsham Programme:

Carolyn Harries......G F Handel..............."Xerxes"........................."Ombra mai fu" (Xerxes)

Stuart Norman........G F Handel..............."Semele"........................."Where e'er you walk" (Jupiter)
Rebecca Smith........Georges Bizet.........."Carmen"........................"Habanera" (with ensemble)
Rebecca Smith........Georges Bizet.........."Carmen"..........................The Card Scene (solo)
Roderick Hunt........Giuseppe Verdi........"Simon Boccanegra"....."Il lacerato spirito"
Gemma Santiago....Vincenzo Bellini......"Norma".........................."Mira o Norma"
......................................................................(Gemma Santiago is Adalgisa, Carolyn Harries is Norma)
Timothy Hunt.........W A Mozart............."The Magic Flute"...........The Bird-Catcher's Song (Papageno)
Roderick Hunt.......W A Mozart............."The Magic Flute".........."O hear us, Isis & Osiris" (Sarastro)
Paul McClure & Roger Stephenson.......Gilbert & Sullivan.........."Mikado" medley

Carolyn/Rebecca/Stuart/Tim...................Gilbert & Sullivan.........."The Mikado"..........Madrigal
Timothy Hunt........Gilbert & Sullivan...."The Mikado".................."There is beauty in the bellow of the blast"
Carolyn/Gemma....Vincenzo Bellini......."Norma"............................"Casta Diva" (with ensemble being Druids)
Tim/Carolyn/Gemma...W A Mozart......."Cosi fan Tutte".............."Soave si il vento"
.................................................................................................................(Don Ferrando, Fiordiligi & Dorabella)
Roderick Hunt.......Gilbert & Sullivan..."Ruddigore"....................."When the night wind howls"
Tim/Carolyn/Rebecca/Stuart.................. Gilbert & Sullivan..........."Yoemen of the Guard"....."Strange Adventure"
Timothy Hunt.........Gilbert & Sullivan.."Yeomen of the Guard"..."A private buffoon" (Jack Point)
Paul McClure & Roger Stephenson.......Jacques Offenbach........"Tales of Hoffman".....Barcarole
Rebecca Smith..Camille Saint-Saëns....."Samson & Delilah"........"Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix"
Roderick Hunt......Giuseppe Verdi........"Nabucco"........................"Tu sul labbro" (Nebuchadnezzar)
Ensemble................Giuseppe Verdi........"Nabucco"........................"Va pensiero" (as captive Israelites)

[UPDATE: Héloïse West cannot make the Chagford concert. This is a great pity, but soprano Judith Aarons is able to bring her delightful voice to the concert instead. (Details below.)]

Carolyn Harries

Staircase Opera
St Michael's Church Chagford
Friday 17 November 7.30pm
Piano: Paul McClure
..........Roger Stephonson
Gemma Santiago

...............Judith Aarons
Mezzo: Rebecca Smith
.............Carolyn Harries
Tenor: Stuart Noble

Bobby Jeffrey
Baritone: Timothy Hunt
Bass-Baritone: Roderick Hunt

with additional songs sung by
Chagford tenor Bobby Jeffrey

George Gershwin: "Porgy & Bess"
with drinks & canapés
Tickets: £12 (advance £10)
Sallys Newsagents
01647 432215

Thursday, 19 October 2017

EMG Symphony Orchestra Rehearsal for Golden Anniversary Concert (Fri 3 Nov) St Peter's School Thursday 19 October 2017 Coversations with the Conductors - Phonic FM 2pm Friday 20 October

Leo Geyer
conducts EMG Symphony Orchestra - "Preciso"
Leader: Clare Smith
Leo Geyer
conducts Elgar
"The Enigma Variations"
Alfie Pugh
an extensive percussion set-up
for "Exeter Cityscapes"
Alfie Pugh, Laura Hobbs, Tom Clemo
Ali Board
Tympani - "Enigma Variations"
John Bowden, Myles Taylor, Brian Moore (Principal)
The comical pink attire has a serious intent
- solidarity with Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Isobelle Woolcott 
Double Basses
French Horns
Mary Saunders, Trevor Ives,
Beth Osment, Sally Maya
Second Violins
Ellen Stratton, Anna Davis
A couple of 'Exeters'
(see Douglas Adams "The Meaning of Liff")
Tom Clemo


Susan Sherratt
Robert Stevenson - Alto Flute
Double Basses
Sarah Dean
Saxophone Solo - "Cityscapes"
Peter Dawson