1. We love it
BF MD Leah is a musicologist by training and loves music and reviewing. It’s a way to express the joy that music brings.
2. We support live music
The Brits (say, in comparison with the Europeans) are not great at going out and getting involved in culture, whether that be dance, art, theatre or music. So we want you to encourage people to get out there and get involved in the rich culture that’s going on!
3. We support musicians
Sometimes the musicians we review are involved in some of our projects, so we want to support them in their other creative endeavours. It’s just being a good human really.
4. We respect music
By taking the time to write reviews it shows that we respect what people are working hard for and saying ‘this deserves to be written about’.
You can also read some of our reviews if you like: Riot Ensemble, International Rameau Ensemble, Metamorphic & Røyst Trio, Stoop Quintet, London Philharmonic Orchestra.
It was great to hear one of London’s finest Orchestras, the London Philharmonic, play on Saturday night and to see Vladimir Jurowski conduct. Jurowski conducted the Russian composers with flair, his physicality demonstrating the shape of the sound he intended.
Yefim Bronfman did a fine job with the UK premiere of Magnus Lindberg‘s Piano Concerto No.2. It fit nicely with the programme, the Debussy and Russian influences clear to hear with great ranges in textures and relationship between piano and orchestra. Bronfman brought the work to life with ease – singing, stomping and dancing all over the piano.
The Prokofiev excerpts were dynamic, and the Stravinsky was played with a warm rich sound. Stravinsky’s animal sounds were played fabulously – you could feel the bear walking across the stage with his thudding steps. Beautiful.
Great evening all round. Full details below.
London Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Festival Hall, 19:30, 21.03.2015
Vladimir Jurowski – Conductor, Yefim Bronfman – Piano
Prokofiev – Chout (Excerpts)
Magnus Lindberg – Piano Concerto No. 2 (UK premiere)
Stravinksy – Petrushka (1911 version)
This Friday sees Pete Lee’s Narcissus return to the live stage in London, at The Pheasantry (PizzaExpress, Chelsea). As one of our favourite live bands, we can’t recommend them highly enough. Why not read our Review of their Vortex gig, or the interview we did with Pete.
As well as their regular line up (see below) sax supremo George Crowley and singing sensation Alice Zawadzki will be joining them on stage.
Narcissus in Chelsea on a Friday night in September. What more could London Town want?
Tickets can be bought here and check out the Facebook event.
The Pheasantry, PizzaExpress Live, 152 Kings Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4UT
£15.00 | doors 18:30 | set 20:30
Line Up Pete Lee: Piano, Tom Varrall: Guitar, Huw Foster: Bass Guitar, Ali Thynne: Drums
The Old Vic Press Release describes The Crucible as ‘the story of one man’s fight to save his identity in a repressive Puritan community where intolerance collides with lust and superstition, fuelling widespread hysteria with tragic results.’
Quite. Get ready to have that for 3hrs45 mins. But Yaël Farber‘s production is a great success. Beautifully set in the round, there is a full five minute dramatic overture before a word is heard. With subtle incidental music (not going to lie – definite hints of the dwarves song a la The Hobbit) great lighting and good use of ‘mist’ the first act opened onto the distraught Reverend Parris at the bedside of his ‘sick’ daughter Betty.
The fairly large cast (24) is lead by Richard Armitage as the tortured John Proctor – who despite previous ‘sins’ seeks redemption and what is right, to the bitter end. Of particular note were Samantha Colley (Abigail Williams) and Sarah Niles (Tituba). Colley’s passion as the manipulative Abigail highlighted the destructive and twisted culture of accusation and Niles as Tituba had us entranced with her weary ‘dance’ around the space. Whilst the moment Richard Armitage removed his shirt did not appear to have a direct dramatic merit, we’re not going to complain. The ensemble cast of ‘witches’ were also strong – moving with unity when under the ‘spirits spell’ and creating a very dark presence on stage.
We’re keeping this brief – but a clear highlight from the show was the moment in court when Elizabeth Proctor (Anna Madeley) is asked if she suspected her husband of infidelity. Of course, set in the round, the audience is naturally part of the court observers. Such was the tension of awaiting her response – the entire audience gasped at her (we won’t give spoilers) response. That’s a great success. When the audience forgets they are watching a play.
A great and dark production, Faber’s Crucible explores the confusion of identity, belief, persecution and prosecution, family, state, individuality, love, infidelity and truth.
The Crucible runs until September 13th 2014. Get tickets here. Full cast list below.
Disclaimer: we saw the pre-press previews – so it can only get better! ~BF
The Crucible, Wednesday June 25th 2014, Old Vic Theatre London
Richard Armitage – John Proctor
Harry Attwell – Thomas Putnam
Samantha Colley – Abigail Williams
Marama Corlett – Betty Parris
Jack Ellis – Deputy Governor Danforth
Ann Firband – Rebecca Nurse
William Gaunt – Giles Corey
Natalie Gavin – Mary Warren
Christopher Godwin – Judge Hathorne
Catherine Hammond – Voice of Martha Corey
Hannah Hutch – Ensemble
Lauren Lyle – Ensemble
Anna Madeley – Elizabeth Proctor
Paddy Navin – Sarah Good
Sarah Niles – Tituba
Tom Peters – Marshall Herrick
Neil Salvage – Francis Nurse
Rebecca Saire – Mrs Ann Putnam
Adrian Schiller – Reverend John Hale
Michael Thomas – Reverent Parris
Alan Vicary – Ezekiel Cheever
Daisy Waterstone – Susanna Walcott
Matt Weyland – Hopkins
Zara White – Ensemble
Director – Yaël Farber
Designer – Soutra Gilmour
Lighting – Tim Lutkin
Music & Sound – Richard Hammarton
Movement – Imogen Knight
Casting – Maggie Lunn & Camilla Evans
Pete Lee is a London based jazz pianist, currently leading contemporary group Narcissus. Blue Flamingo conducted this interview via email in March 2013. We were lucky enough to see his RAM performance at The Vortex with Narcissus, so now we’re touching base again!
Tell us about what inspires ‘Pete Lee’s Narcissus’
Over the last few years, I seem to have been torn in two very different musical directions, which futilely compete for my full attention. While I was studying at RAM, taught by the UK’s most prolific contemporary jazz composers & instrumentalists, I was gigging a few times a week with the most killing band of pop musicians of 12-piece group “The White Keys”. Forming “Narcissus” was my way of bridging the gap between two things which appeared worlds apart. I identified the two contrasting elements of life and fused them together. I wanted to compose something with the sense of depth and maturity that you find in Gwilym Simcock’s or Kenny Wheeler’s music, with the sense of conviction, clarity, drive and sheer volume of an electronic pop band. So that’s the musical background of the project.
I’ve been writing with a specific theme in mind too. I wanted to tie everything together with an idea that an audience could relate to, and that would be a catalyst for the creation of more music. I chose the topic of the human mind. This includes human perception, attitude and behaviour. It’s quite a personal theme really – I’ve had my own difficulties with mental health, and recently lost a family member, who had had a long history with mental illness. So forming Narcissus was a bit of an emotional outpour. Emotional potency is always a plus in music. The intangibility of the human thought process, and the fact that it is a universal entity, encouraged me to write something honest and truly from my own experience. It can really interesting to become aware of your state of mind when you’re being most creative. What’s happening in your mind when you’re lost in music, and how do you ensure that you achieve that state regularly?
Do you think it makes a difference that it grew up outside the ‘London Bubble’?
All band members in “Narcissus” have some rooting in Leeds. We met in Leeds College of Music, but I didn’t form the band until we had relocated to London. It’s important to me that we’ve got a long history of playing together. You don’t really realise how much you trust and rely upon one-another, until you play with other musicians who have a different approach altogether. It’s easy to forget how much you’ve become accustomed to each others’ playing, but this relationship is the basis for a group that sounds unique and well balanced. To be honest, we’ve probably spent even more time together driving up and down the M1 in an overcrowded & precarious Transit van, sharing near-death experiences. It’s really important that we’re able to hang out together; it’s never even an effort anymore. Our activities as a group are more influential to the music than the location we came to meet.
This project is especially different for me musically. Stylistically, it marks a bit of a paradigm shift, a tectonic shift even! I used to swear by the acoustic sound of double bass and delicate brushes at the kit. I used to think that less was more. This band is much punchier and more direct. Now I think that more is more. We chose to memorise all the material we play, so that when we’re on stage we are free to communicate rather than read.
What did you learn during the time you studied in London?
I learnt that I’ve got a lot of work to do – a lifetime of work in fact. I guess I was already aware that with music, there’s always more to learn. But while studying at the Academy, this really hit home. I was surrounded by prolific musicians, and I had one-to-ones with Nikki Iles, Gwilym Simcock, Tom Cawley and Django Bates. It’s an amazing environment to be in – very humbling indeed.
I learnt a lot from Barak Schmool about groove writing – knowledge that I hope to utilise when writing for Narcissus. Pete Churchill’s composition and arranging lessons were great too – I learnt how to arrange my music for octet – which was really challenging. We’d have a weekly session where we’d have an octet set up, and we’d bring in our compositions and arrangements. Mine would often sound quite rough at first – but I’d use the time between the sessions to tweak my arrangements until they I achieved what I’d first envisaged.
As well as being a humbling experience, the Academy taught me to have some self-belief and motivation. I learned that if I really worked hard, I could achieve an awful lot. The main product has been my group Narcissus with whom I played my final recital. I’m really proud of this group and I’m excited about its future.
“Writer’s Block” is a great tune….inspired, by, Writer’s Block? How did you break that Block?
While in my first year at academy, I had a bit of composing crisis! I didn’t write anything new for a whole year. To pass my composition module, I wrote new arrangements of 3 year old compositions (shhhh!). But seeing as I was arranging for octet for the first time, it made sense to practice the arranging side of things without worrying about the composition itself. But once that was over, with my final recital approaching, I accepted that new material was long overdue. I knew how highly original material was valued in the final recital, and I wanted to leave RAM with something of my own.
Over Christmas of 2011, I fulfilled a short-term cruise contract to help out with rent. I was there for 6 weeks, and we revisited a lot of the same ports each time that we’d have new passengers. When we pulled up at port, all the old folks would amble off to the beach, leaving the room with the grand piano free. I forced myself to write something, dusting off the creative compartments in my brain, ignoring my self-doubt. It took around 6 weeks to write “Writer’s Block” complete with an arrangement for octet. My idea with this piece was to unite my pop and jazz ties. It’s really similar to Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” – a really similar structure. It’s got “verses” and “choruses”, keyboard riffs that keep coming back with a horn line that sits on top – swiped almost directly from “Ain’t Nobody”! But I used harmonic ideas that I’d found in John Taylor’s “Autumn”, and the kind of unison bass and left hand piano runs that you find in Gwilym Simcock’s “1981”. So it’s a piece that consists of contemporary jazz content, organised into a pop structure.
To be brutally honest, I found it really fun to write something that entirely lacked tact or subtlety. It felt like a bit of a rebel statement in an increasingly pretentious and airy-fairy jazz scene. The enjoyment I found encouraged me to write the rest of the Narcissus repertoire without the self-doubt. I began to believe that I was creating was valid and worthwhile.
Do you know what might inspire your next tunes?
I want to use more elements of live dance music, including more modern technology and sounds. Perhaps some really subby bass and synth solos. There’s still lots more mileage to be had from my theme too. There’s been some really pressing political & personal issues recently that I’d like to express with music. I’ve been brainstorming – and have a list of tune themes as long as my arm!
What do you do to chill out when not music-ing?
Music is always on my mind, even if I’m playing Playstation! I read an interesting article recently that suggested that time spent procrastinating can be a time where many people subconsciously order their thoughts, and make grand plans. Perhaps it’s not as beneficial as playing your scales, but I think a good balance of socialising, relaxing, practicing and composing is key to living a life of successes, happiness and sound mental health.
~Thanks Pete! BF