2014 is the 250th Anniversary year of this fabulous French composer, and this is a rare and great chance to hear the beautiful motets: ‘In Convertendo’, ‘Quam Dilecta’ and ‘Deus Nost Refugium’. These three works are based on the Psalms and are performed by some of the world’s leading Early Music Performers.
You can hear them preview their work on BBC 3’s In Tune with Sean Rafferty on Tuesday 18th. It will be available to hear, here.
Pete Lee’s Narcissus opened to a rammed house on this cold January evening at The Vortex, bringing fire and frenzy to East London.
Opening with a recent composition which was still ‘unnamed‘ Pete Lee (piano) started the tune with solo piano. A structurally complex work which integrated solo, heavy groove and ballad vibes, it really showed how many influences this ensemble has. Next up was Mirror Stage which brought tenor player Nadim Teimoori to the stage (we have previously heard Narcissus with Josh Arcoleo). Mirror Stage was a frenzy of sound with beautiful unison lines between Teimoori and Huw Foster (bass) moving on to what can only be described as a meditation of groove. (Pairing of unison lines across different instrument combinations is a delicious Narcissus hallmark). Lee’s solo here was a history of music for the piano, Brahmsian flourishes juxtaposed with contemporary ‘jazz’ harmony, alongside ‘piano basics’ of octaves and fourths. You never knew what was coming next. Tom Varrall on guitar demanded attention with a frenetic solo which inspired energy from the rest of the band. With sax returning with the head, guitar continuing soloing and the rest of the band playing a rhythmically displaced groove it was insane controlled mayhem. The colour of the guitar and sax voices blended so well that sounds were interlaced, lost and beautifully fused.
Third tune of the night, Criss Cross, moved sound worlds effortlessly, starting with solo bass which we mistook for guitar soloing, such was the lyricism. North African sounding filmic modes then segued into Sci-fi Blake’s 7-esque sounds from synth (a Dave Smith Prophet 12) with further sounds reminiscent of something you’d hear from the early days of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.Ali Thynne, ever the master at the drums, changed the vibe completely, playing with hands on snare and toms. The tune went everywhere, a tango, sci-fi, romantic piano and then a phenomenal blow by Teimoori which brought the first full audience applause mid-tune. It was fantastic to see how much the band were loving Teimoori’s playing – Varrall especially. We wish we’d taken a photo of his face. Last tune of the night was the familiar Writer’s Block (vimeo below), a great tune which is forceful, angry, melodic with in your face groove. It’s our favourite actually.
Lee has a great band: five strong musical characters, each vibrant and individualistic, which he has nurtured to create a phenomenal sound. It’s chaotic, energetic, wild, they’re influenced by jazz, pop, disco, Rachmaninov and Debussy, modes, tangos, electronica – and remarkably it has a beautiful cohesion. Narcissus is sublime chaos, a great schizophrenic identity crisis of genre which against all odds makes sense.
Can’t wait to hear them again – (though we want more of the Dave Smith synth)! ~BF
As regular readers will know, we love intimate venues. We’ll take a smokily lit pub over a 3,500 seat theatre any day. This evening the scene opened at the King’s Head Theatre, a theatre pub since 1970, with Verdi’s La Traviataset in the opulent and glamourous inter-war 1920s USA.
Produced by Opera Up Close, the five-strong cast (full cast list below) did a fantastic job enveloping us in the tragedy of a dying woman who gives up everything she treasures for her love. And love is the theme. In writing this we found that many of our adjectives describe the heart, so do forgive our repetitiveness.
Louisa Tee in the lead role of Violetta has us hearing her every heartbeat and she sung with heart-wrenching passion the words of a woman who has lost and sacrificed all. Lawrence Olsworth-Peter as Alfredo was heartbreaking. Olsworth-Peter’s Alfredo, a somewhat shy and love-smitten man at the start manages despite this to shine beyond the sparkles of a lavish party and profess his true love for Violetta. His duets with Tee were beautiful and sensitive, with the voices matching and intertwining seamlessly.
With the perceived betrayal of Violetta, Alfredo responds the only way he can think how, ‘becoming’ an angry revenge seeking hedonist. The deeply sad bitterness that came across in this was a frightening contrast to the naive love filled Alfredo we had seen. When Alfredo realised that Violetta does still love him it was a weight lifted off his shoulders and he returned to the pure and honest heart he truly has. Tee and Olsworth-Peter were the bright lights of the opera, effortlessly absorbing us into their world.
Flora McIntosh as Flora (!) brought fabulous comic relief with great timing and a relatable reality, which had the whole theatre chuckling (what lady after all, doesn’t fiddle around with her necklace and pretend it’s a moustache?). McIntosh’s strong and rich voice rang out, especially alongside Dario Dugandzic and Christopher Jacklin (the Baron and German respectively). Jacklin showed us the over-bearing, controlling though ultimately repentant father with flair and control, whilst Dugandzic brought a much darker, yet beautiful flavour to the complex narrative.
The orchestration (a new one, by Harry Blake) was very much appreciated by this listener. Reduced to piano, cello and clarinet, the music was realised with lyricism, character and astute attention to detail. Verdi’s beautiful dovetailing lines between orchestra and voices was picked up by the clarinet (Sarah Douglas) and Douglas did a fine job playing with delicacy, precision and warmth.
And to those behind the scenes – we applaud you too. The costume design was sublime: flappers, fur, watches, waistcoats, heels and bling. The staging and lighting simple yet detailed: deco drinks cabinet, gramophone, chaise long with a beautiful striped throw, large windows and curtains.
Thank-you Opera Up Close – we cried and went through it with you. A great evening and a humble reminder of why we really do love music so much.
The Con Cellar Bar is one of our favourite venues; we’ve been regular visitors since its early days. It’s a rare and special space where you hear the music in all its purity: no need to mic up horns or the kick, just play as you are. It’s a secret you have to know about to get to, it’s slightly out of the way; you always bump into somebody you know, it’s always rammed, and the music is always, and I mean always, great. We’ve never heard a bad gig there.
So much is due to the faithful work of the late Rich Turner – whose dedication and passion for live music spread through a community of young jazz musicians, to make the Con a favourite of musicians and audiences of all generations. Now George Crowley, Dan Nicholls, Sam Jesson & Tom Challenger run the monthly Friday night. Remarkably, they’ve managed to get a double bill of the best jazz musicians in the country, for only a fiver each month. They do a great job. Perhaps this really IS London’s best kept secret. And we’ve just blogged it. Oh well, don’t tell too many people. It’s OURS!
So we’ll keep this brief. First off was Joe Wright’s Nightjar (see below for musicians/links/set). Set alight by Alice Zawadzki’s hauntingly beautiful vocals, the folk influences in harmony and rhythms were evident in Spencer’s writing before he told us one of his tunes was based on the 15th Century folk song, the Bonnie Banks of Fordie. The writing really is exquisite. The dovetailing of the vocal and sax lines was aurally mesmerising, and there is just so much space! Jeff Spencer on bass was a great example of the old cliché ‘less is more’. Grounding the group effortlessly, yet giving the sound time to breath was Spencer’s gift to the group. Playing around with tempos appears to be a Nightjar speciality. Several times they pulled back the tempo like a steam train, gradually grinding to a perfect halt. On the other end of the spectrum we really enjoyed Laura Stands Tall with the repeated firey opening line ‘A total lack of respect’ crying out throughout the song. Spencer’s electronic effects with tenor sax brought an other-worldness to the already dreamlike folk vibe, and James Maddren on drums brought spacious complexity to the mix. We were excited to find out that you can watch Nightjar’s Strange Placeshere.
After the traditional raffle (who could resist the chance of winning Sainsbury’s wine, a firework, or top prize, a toffee apple?) Freddie Gavita’s Quartet emerged (again see below for musicians/links/sets). A group of friends who clearly play together often (much laughing, conversation & in-jokes whilst playing) this was a night where Gavita pulled out many of his old well-loved tunes. Our favourite was the more groove based Turnaround featuring a storming piano solo by Tom Cawley, with fierce playing from James Maddren to finish it off. Maddren’s playing so captured performers and audiences alike – that Gavita immediately commented ‘Thanks James – that’s fabulous mate’. Last up was The Buffalo Trace – which holds a very special connection to us. Fred toured with us to Kentucky, and this song is named after a beautiful whiskey produced at a distillery we visited. Fred played beautifully over this tune, the lilting melody reflecting the southern-American state. Mick Coady on bass brought out some stellar sounds to the chilled out last song. It was a great second set. Fred’s natural charm and humility had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
A shot from Achante et Cephise, extracts of which will be performed on November 22nd. (Anna-Louise Costello, Katherine Blumenthal & Lawrence Olsworth-Peter. Photo: Chris Cowell)
Tell us a little bit about this new project, the International Rameau Ensemble. Where did the idea come from?
I like getting people together for projects and I am also passionate about theatre. Creating the International Rameau Ensemble was as much about building relationships and creating opportunities, as it was about the music itself.
Having said that, I also started this project to share how extraordinary Rameau’s music is and to spread it outside the ‘informed musical elite’. His music is still relatively unknown in the UK although over the last couple of years major opera companies have been trying their hand at it. With the 250th anniversary of his death next year this is the perfect opportunity.
So do you think today’s modern audiences will respond to a rather unknown old French composer?
The thing that drew me to Rameau’s music when I was first introduced to it at music college was its flamboyant risk taking and sense of pageantry as well as the ability to pull on your heart strings so tenderly with gorgeous scrunchy harmonies. It is the capacity to move the human spirit which makes it appealing to any audience!
Give us a teaser for the concert on November 22nd…
Our inaugural concert will follow the theme of ‘Amour’ which is so prevalent in Rameau’s work and will include interwoven scenes from some of his most wonderful characters such as a cynical fairy, a jealous tyrant, gods and separated lovers. All the players and singers play at the highest level around the world and have kindly agreed to donate their time for the love of this music. There will also be a drinks reception afterwards.
Thanks Lawrence! We’re looking forward to it, and you’ll see a review up here shortly afterwards… ~BF
Two things stood out. Firstly: whilst we went to listen to the music of the films we may have seen, in listening the result was mirrored: it inspired us to see the films (again). It is a great thing that the visual and aural complement each other so well.
Secondly: despite the first point, the music still stands in its own right without any need for the visual: Psycho and Tom & Jerry are case in point.
The perfomance was fantastic. The 1950s Hollywood sound was generated with full horn, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and rhythm sections, alongside the great sweeping and warm tones of the strings.
Herrmann’s Psycho invoked one of the most bizarre responses we have ever seen in a live music audience. As soon as the repeated violin lines with full harmonics emerged – there was a physical lurch and bizarre involuntary murmur. The question really is whether the ‘screeching’ violin timbre invoked the response, or whether the association with the film is so vivid that it is that which raises the hackles. Either way – the JW strings played this wonderfully. It was also interesting to watch the orchestra ‘breathe’ during the ‘stabbing’ patterns. They literally lent in and out of their instruments with their bow movements giving us a visual stab pattern.
Tom and Jerry was hilarious. The audience were laughing and cheering. The orchestra itself plays cat and mouse. The muted trombone had his line stolen by the flute; the clarinet came and surprised us then stole the melody again; the trumpets and cymbals argued with one another as to who could play the shortest and loudest. Then of course we had the literal humour: water splashing around, bubble wrap being crinkled, snoring. It’s so refreshing to listen to this without seeing the cartoon: the quality of the music is high, and it was so well performed. It was clear the JW orchestra were enjoying themselves and therefore so did we.
The audience adored Venera Gimadieva with her rendition of Citizen Kane and Howard McGill’s sax playing in A Place in the Sun was wonderful. His pure tone resonated beautifully. Playing alone in the great Royal Albert Hall he had the audience in the palm of his hand. Too rarely does the RAH hear solo sax fill that great space. Jane Monheit and Matthew Ford did a fine job with the Movie Medley and it was great to hear the orchestra come alive and burst into full on Big Band sounds. Mike Lovatt did a top job on trumpet.
The night finished with Ben-Hur, a tale of a man whose life changes when he sees Christ’s crucifiction and the forgiveness that brings. It was a genius way to end a great night. What more could you want than that great RAH organ on full whack – with 15 of the best brass players going full blow.
Great programming, great spectacle, spectacular playing. Don’t miss it on BBC Four – August 30th.
Alfred Newman: 20th Century Fox Fanfare
Alfred Newman: How to Marry a Millionaire / Street Scene
Bronislau Kaper: Forever, Darling / Confetti
David Raksin: Laura / Suite
Bernard Herrmann: Psycho / Suite for Strings
Bernard Herrmann: Citizen Kane / Salammbô’s Aria
Erich Wolfgang Korngold: The Adventures of Robin Hood / Suite
Jerome Moross: The Big Country / Main Title
Max Steiner: Casablanca / Suite
Move Theme Song Medley: An Affair to Remember / Something’s Gotta Give / Young at Heart / It’s Magic / The Tender Trap / My Foolish Heart / Three Coins in the Fountain / Love is a Many-Splendoured Thing / That’s Amore / Que Sera, Sera / All the Way
Water may be one of the last things on your mind, but you will end up feeling lethargic and cranky if you become dehydrated and in the midday heat that can happen quickly. Have bottles of water everywhere – at the Church, at the venue, in your wedding car and in the bags of all of your bridesmaids and ushers. Your guests will thank you too as they are unlikely to head straight for the champagne on a hot day and are more likely to prefer some refreshing h2o.
Apply sunscreen to all areas that will be exposed, at least 15 minutes before putting on your dress. This will ensure it doesn’t mark your outfit but will also mean you aren’t left looking like a tomato after your perfect day. The honeymoon does not want to start on a firey foot!
Choose music so good that people will want to be near it
If your venue is on the warm side, your guests are likely to head outdoors at the first polite opportunity. Choosing great music is essential to keeping the party vibe going even if guests disperse around the venue. With great grooves, they’re sure to return after a quick breather and you can dance your night away to your favourite tunes.
Take photographs in the shade and not in the heat of the day
The details of a white wedding dress will be blown in photographs if taken in direct sunlight, so choose a photographer who knows how to make the best use of shade and natural light to capture you and your new husband un-flustered and at ease. If you can, take some of your photos later in the evening when the temperature drops a few degrees. You’ll have much better light and your guests will thank you too!
Keep the cake cool
The wedding cake is easily forgotten until the time comes to cut it, so make sure you remember to keep it away from direct light and in a cool shady spot, so that you don’t find a melted mess when it comes to its moment of glory.
Umbrellas are fun to keep cool as well as dry
Autumn, winter and spring brides almost always remember to buy some funky or wedding white umbrellas to make photos in the rain more fun and a lot drier. What you may not realise is that umbrellas can make photographs in the sunshine fun and beautiful too as the sunlight will diffuse through them to make for some perfect couple shoot lighting. They’ll keep you cool too if you choose to have your couple shoot where shade is hard to find.
Keeping your blood sugar up as you chat to your guests is as important as keeping hydrated on a sunny day. Have a few snacks to hand with members of your wedding party to keep sugar and energy levels up. I promise you that you’ll still have room for that delicious wedding breakfast you’ve planned.
Put your feet up
Don’t believe for a second that just because it’s your wedding day, you are obliged to remain on your feet the whole time on the false belief that if you stop for a moment, then you aren’t making the most of the one day where all your loved ones are in one place. Take a couple of minutes out every now and then to sit down with some of your guests, put your feet up and cool down. As well as your feet thanking you, you’ll be energised to get back up with joy rather than dread.
If your band are able to play outdoors and the venue is happy with that – let them. If you need to pay for a few more drinks to keep people cool and hydrated – do it. If you need to rearrange your timetable so that people eat sooner – rearrange it (or ask the best man to). If one of your wedding party needs a break in the shade – encourage it. If you need to stop for a few moments – stop. Go with the flow and don’t let adhering to all of your perfectly laid plans mean that the sunshine spoils some of your experience.
Your walk down the aisle should be cherished whether it’s snowing outside or scorchingly hot. Make the most of every footstep as you approach the man you love and see the joy on his face. The same applies the rest of the day. Avoid rushing around like a breathless bride as you won’t remember any of it. Take it easy. Walk slowly. Don’t allow others to rush you. Above all, take the time to enjoy the moments – the big ones, as well as the small ones.