Saturday 31 December 2011

The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum

On Friday 30th December 2011 I made the traditional Christmas journey to London to attend a performance of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. My festive destination was the London Coliseum for the English National Ballet's production of this timeless classic. This production was premiered last year, the creation of which was captured on the BBC documentary Agony and Ecstasy: a year at English National Ballet.

A combination of Wayne Eagling's choreography and Peter Farmer's designs brought us the magic of Christmas while showing a darker version with the threatening presence of the Mouse King being felt throughout the ballet until finally good triumphs over evil. The Orchestra of English National Ballet played beautifully at this historic London Theatre while Anais Chalendard was outstanding in the role of Clara.

The audience at the London Coliseum were taken on a journey back in time with the English National Ballet to a frost-covered, gas lit world with Clara, her Nutcracker doll and the mysterious Drosselmeyer in this traditional, festive tale full of Edwardian elegance. On Christmas Eve under the candlelit tree Clara battles with the Mouse King and falls in love with a handsome Prince. As the snowflakes begin to fall Clara and her Nutcracker take a balloon ride across the frosty skyline to the Land of Snow where her adventure really begins.

This was a magical and memorable treat not to be missed and showed us all the magic of Christmas combined with wonderful ballet and music. The setting was perfect as we were all enchanted by this perfect festive story. Christmas is not complete without The Nutcracker. 

Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas celebrated at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich

On Tuesday 20th December 2011 I attended the Norwich Philharmonic Family Christmas Concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich featuring the Norwich Philharmonic Chorus, Norfolk Brass and Norwich Lower School Chamber Choir. This concert which was fundraising in support of Help for Heroes also featured conductor David Dunnett and organist Timothy Patient.

St. Andrew's Hall was filled with Christmas spirit as the choir and audience sang a number of Christmas carols. The sound of O Come All Ye Faithful, Good King Wenceslas, While Shepherds Watched and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing echoed around the venue as we all got into a festive mood.

Norfolk Brass gave a wonderful performance which included White Christmas while the Norwich Lower School Chamber Choir delighted us with Little Donkey. The Norwich Philharmonic Chorus were in fine voice all night. Timothy Patient gave an organ solo of Mr Mozart Takes a Sleigh Ride on a night to celebrate Christmas.

La traviata at The Royal Opera House

I was back at The Royal Opera House for La traviata in the evening with The Royal Opera performing Verdi's classic opera. This was another opportunity to experience the magical atmosphere at this historic Covent Garden venue.

La traviata is is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave based on Alexandre Dumas Fils's play La dame aux Camelias. The title means The Fallen Woman and was originally entitled Violetta.

In Act I Violetta Valery greets party guests at her Paris salon which include Flora with her escort the Marquis d'Obigny. Gastone introduces Alfredo Germont to Violetta and tells her that Alfredo called on her anxiously each day during her recent illness. Everyone joins in a song in praise of wine and pleasure called Libiamo ne' lieti calici.

Music is heard from another room and Violetta invites her guests to dance. Suddenly she feels unsteady and tells the others to go on without her. Alfredo stays behind and confesses his love for Violetta who protests that love means nothing to her. While alone Violetta reflects on Alfredo's unexpected declaration of love but recalls that she is destined for a life of pleasure.

Act 2 begins with Alfredo reflecting on three idyllic months he has now spent with Violetta at a country house near Paris. Annina arrives to tell Alfredo that she was sent to Paris by Violetta who has been selling her belongings to pay for their life together. Alfredo's father Germont arrives and accuses Violetta of ruining his son. He is shocked to find out that she is supporting the couple. Germont begs Violetta to leave Alfredo as their liaison is putting his daughter's forthcoming marriage into jeopardy and eventually she agrees.

Violetta scibbles a note and gives it to Annina and begins another to Alfredo but is interrupted by his return. Violetta wants reassurance of Alfredo's love for her before she runs away. Alfredo is comforted by his Father but he is inconsolable and goes to Flora's party and swears to avenge himself. At the party Flora and her new lover discuss the seperation of Alfredo and Violetta while a group of guests dressed as gypsies sing and some real gypsies dance.

Alfredo challenged Baron Douphol to a game of cards which the Baron loses and swears revenge. Violetta begs Alfredo to escape from the Baron's wrath and he agrees if she follows him. She tells Alfredo that she cannot go with him because she now loves the Baron. In anger he flings his winnings at Violetta and tells everyone he has paid back for their time together. The Baron swears to avenge the insult to Violetta.

In Act III Violetta is desperately ill and has only a few hours to live. She reads a letter from Germont explaining that Alfredo who fled the country after wounding the Baron in a duel and is coming to beg her to pardon him. Alfredo arrives and falls into Violetta's arms asking her to forgive him and his father. Violetta rallies briefly and gives Alfredo a locket containing her portrait telling him that if he marries he must give it to his bride she then collapses and dies.

The whole cast gave a splendid performance especially Ailyn Perez who played Violetta Valery. Piotr Beczala was outstanding as Alfredo which gave the magic of Verdi something special to make this an evening to remember. A night of laughter and tears that moved everyone at The Royal Opera House.

Thursday 22 December 2011

The Sleeping Beauty at The Royal Opera House

I made my way on an early morning train to London on Saturday 17th December 2011 eagerly looking forward to my visit to The Royal Opera House. It was a 12 noon start for the matinee performance of The Sleeping Beauty by The Royal Ballet so as soon as I arrived at Liverpool Street I made my way to Covent Garden.

The Sleeping Beauty was first performed at the Mariinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg in 1890.This was the ballet where Marius Petipa and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky expressed their genius to perfection. Today it is a cornerstone of The Royal Ballet's repertory. It was an afternoon to be taken to a world of fairytales full of splendour and colour with wonderful dancing.

King Florestan XXIV and his Queen have invited all the fairies to be godmothers at the christening of Princess Aurora. In her anger at not being invited Carabosse the Wicked Fairy gives Aurora a spindle saying that one day the Princess will prick her finger and die. The Lilac Fairy promises that Aurora will not die but fall into a deep sleep and will be woken by a prince's kiss.

At Princess Aurora's 16th birthday four princes vie for her hand in marriage. As Aurora dances she is given a spindle by an old woman which she pricks her finger with and falls into a dead faint. The old women reveals herself as Carabosse. The Lilac Fairy appears to fulfil her promise and casts a spell of sleep over everyone causing a thick forest to grow over the palace.

One hundred years later Prince Florimund is hunting in the forest when the Lilac Fairy appears and shows him a vision of Princess Aurora. Outside the palace gates the Lilac Fairy repells Carabosse and at last Prince Florimund awakens Princess Aurora with a kiss. Fairytale characters come to the wedding of Prince Florimund and Princess Aurora. They all join in the celebrations and the Lilac Fairy blesses the marriage.

This was a magical afternoon to be at the Royal Opera House. It was an amazing experience to see The Royal Ballet perform live especially as The Sleeping Beauty is such a wonderful story and spectacle to watch. Tchaikovsky's music was performed brilliantly by the Orchestra of The Royal Opera House. A special mention needs to go out to Marianela Nunez who danced the role of Princess Aurora splendidly and completely delighted the audience. The Royal Ballet brought amazing movement and colour to this enchanting fairytale.

Friday 16 December 2011

Elgar back home at Norwich's St. Andrew's Hall

I was back at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich on Saturday 10th December 2011 for the latest Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra concert which always means a large audience at this historic venue. This was a special night due to the links between Sir Edward Elgar and concert sponsors Hansells. The composer become good friends with Norwich solicitor Walter Hansell when he came to Norwich in 1905 to rehearse for the triennial Norwich Music Festival. The night's concert featured Elgar's Cello Concerto.

On the evening the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra were conducted by Matthew Andrews with Philadelphia born Bartholomew LaFollette as cello soloist. the full programme consisted of Helios Overture - Nielsen, Cello Concerto in E minor - Elgar, Egdon Heath - Holst and Symphony No.5 in E flat - Sibelius.

The opening piece of the evening Helios Overture was composed by Nielsen in 1903 while in Athens and inspired by the sight of the sun rising over the Aegean Sea. This was followed by Elgar's Cello Concerto in E minor which included an incredible performance from soloist Bartholomew LaFollette who along with his cello made St. Andrew's Hall his own which resulted in loud and warm applause from the enthusiastic audience.

After the interval we were given a splendid performance of Egdon Heath, Holst's portrait of a landscape which was inspired by Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native. This was followed by my highlight of the night with music by one of my favourite composers. Sibelius composed his Symphony No.5 in E flat as part of the celebrations for his fiftieth birthday in 1915 though the definitive score was not released until 1919.

This was a mighty way to finish the concert and how better to conclude then with the six massive majestic strokes at the end of the Symphony. This was a night of triumph for the Norwich Philharmonic Society who for 171 years has it's main object to promote and perform orchestral and choral music. Tonight they performed orchestral music that they can be very proud of.

Thursday 15 December 2011

The UEA Symphony Orchestra bring us Christmas Joy

On Friday 9th December 2011 I made my way to St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich for the UEA Symphony Orchestra and Choir Christmas Concert. This was their first concert since it was announced that the UEA School of Music would close. During the evening Sharon Andrea Choa reassured us that these concerts would continue in the future with support from the UEA.

The programme consisted of Violin Concerto in F minor, Winter - Vivaldi, Gloria RV 589 - Vivaldi, God is With Us - Tavener, What Sweeter Music - Rutter, Sir Christemas from 'Ave Rex' - Mathias and Fantasia on Christmas Carols - Williams.

The conductors for this festive celebration were Sharon Andrea Choa and Tom Primrose. Soloists were Simon Smith - violin, Dhilan Gnadadurai - baritone, Billie Robson and Verity Ransom - soprano, Matthew O'Keeffe - countertenor and Kris Tomsett - organist.

Vivaldi's Winter evokes the cold icy wind while sitting next to the fireside before venturing outside to walk on the ice. After some slips and falls the ice cracks and breaks up and back indoors we hear all the winds battling it out. Simon Smith brought us all the joys of Winter with his fine violin playing.

Oh the glory of Vivaldi's glory, yes Antonio Vivaldi again this time bringing us Gloria in excelsis. This was a glorious performance from the Orchestra and Choir that lifted the spirits of everyone in attendance at St. Andrew's Hall. Glory to God in the highest and on Earth peace to men of goodwill.

After the interval we were treated with Sir John Tavener's God is With Us which is a work commissioned in 1987 for the Choir of Winchester Cathedral. This was followed by John Rutter's What Sweeter Music which sets words adapted from a poem by Robert Herrick.

Next to be performed was Sir Christemas from Ave Rex composed by William Mathias. Ave Rex is a setting of four medieval carol texts composed in 1969. In this piece the choir shout a final Nowell. The concert finished with Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Christmas Carols written in 1912. This was a wonderful way to finish this splendid and heart warming concert. I'm sure everyone in attendance were put into the Christmas spirit and left St. Andrew's Hall with smile on their faces.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Macbeth tragedy at UEA

I was back at the UEA Drama Studio on Thursday 8th December 2011 for William Shakespeare's Macbeth another production from the University's final year Drama students. This is Shakespeare's tragedy of power, corruption and bloodshed.

The play is set in the bleak landscape of medieval Scotland. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth with the prophecy of the three witches are tempted into a ruthless hunt for glory. Dark and full of horror, Macbeth is not for the faint hearted.

The setting created on the night was spot on as we were taken back to the 11th Century. This was another triumph from the UEA Third Year Production Team. I enjoyed both my visits to the UEA Drama Studio where I experienced a warm and friendly atmosphere.

All-Female Twelfth Night at UEA

I made my way to the UEA Drama Studio on Wednesday 7th December 2011 for an all-female production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night by the University's final year Drama students. It was a night that put a new perspective on this funny and moving comedy as it is normally performed by an all-male cast.

Shipwrecked and separated from her twin brother, Viola disguises herself as a boy in order to serve the Duke of Illyria. While wooing a countess on his behalf she finds herself the object of his beloved's affections.

Viola's brother Sebastian arrives and a trick is played upon the countess' steward Malvolio. Confusion reigns in this romantic comedy of mistaken identity.

A fun time was had by all with lots of laughter filling the UEA Drama Studio. There were splendid performances from all the cast who brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm to this play that is full of shifts and surprises.

Monday 12 December 2011

Anoushka Shankar live at Queen Elizabeth Hall

On Monday 5th December 2011 I attended Anoushka Shankar's concert at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London on her Traveller UK Tour. A night where Indian music and flamenco met with thrilling results. These two forms of music have a link through the Roma Gypsies who originated in Northern India.

On her latest album Traveller Anoushka Shankar has created a fusion of flamenco and Indian classical music with Spanish producer and guitarist Javier Limon. The centrepiece of the album is Boy Meets Girl which is a wonderful duet of flamenco guitar and sitar featuring Pepe Habichuela.

Anoushka Shankar was taught to play the sitar by her father Ravi Shankar and at Queen Elizabeth Hall she created a magical sound in front of a sellout crowd down by the South Bank. It was wonderful to see her play live alongside the Spanish musicians bringing the amazing Traveller album to a live audience. A brilliant evening which highlighted one of World Music's brightest stars.

Friday 9 December 2011

Dexterity Trio Delight

On Sunday 4th December 2011 I took the afternoon walk to St. Andrew's Church, Eaton, Norwich for the latest concert in the Eaton Concert Series with the Dexterity Trio featuring Anna Hopkins - flute, Maja Passchier - cello and David Morgan - piano.

The programme consisted of Trio no 30 in F major - Haydn, Trio Miniaturen - Juon, Trio - Steel, Sonata in G minor - Telemann, Sonate en Concert - Damase and Kleines Trio on Irish Themes - Rowley. A varied programme that made for an interesting afternoon of music.

All members of this Norfolk-based trio are highly respected musicians with successful careers devoted to teaching and performing. They provided a delightful concert for the enthusiastic audience which included informative commentary on the pieces from David Morgan.

A night of Winter Songs

On Saturday 3rd December 2011 I made my way to St. John the Baptist Catholic Cathedral, Norwich for the Winter Songs - Songs of light and dark concert featuring The Voice Project Choir, Human Music, Big Sky and Andy Sheppard on saxophone.

This was an evening of contemporary vocal music which included a wide range of original material all taking place at this beautiful building with it's wonderful acoustics. Special guest Andy Sheppard is one of Britain's top saxophonists who truly made this a splendid night.

The music was full of contrasts which combined light and dark making for an interesting performance. From Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind to Darest Thou Now O Soul we were taken on an amazing vocal journey. This was a very memorable concert that was warmly received by the audience and enjoyed by everyone including The Voice Project Choir who applauded us all at the end.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Preparing for Christmas

On Saturday 3rd December 2011 I attended the Mancroft Music Preparing for Christmas Autumn Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich which was the last in the series. This recital was given by The Girls' Choir, Choral Scholars and Organ Scholars of St. Peter Mancroft.

The programme consisted of  In dulci jubilo BWV 729 - Bach, Adam lay ybounden - Ledger, Lift up your heads, O ye gates - Mathias, A round of carols - Kelly, Gottes Sohn ist Kommen - Bach, I saw three ships - Traditional carol arr. Anne MacDearmid, Vom Himmel hoch, da komm'ich her - Zachau and A Ceremony of Carols - Britten.

 This was a wonderful way to celebrate the arrival of Christmas and a delightful way to finish the current series of Autumn Recitals. A large crowd was in attendance who enjoyed splendid and enthusiastic performances from everyone that turned all our thoughts to Christmas.

Monday 5 December 2011

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors

On Wednesday 30th November 2011 I made my way to Norwich Arts Centre for the showing of Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors with A Hawk And A Hacksaw playing a rescore of the soundtrack. This was a special show only being played at this beautiful Norwich venue along with The Barbican and All Tomorrow's Parties Festival.

Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is the first major work by the legendary Russian filmmaker Sergei Parajadnov. Hailed as a genius by the likes of Fellini, Antonioni and Tarkovsky, his films are as allegorical and mysterious as Byzantine frescos, each a beautiful riot of small movements within his almost always static frames.

For us lucky enough to be at Norwich Arts Centre it was a night to be taken to another world. The film is the story of a young Ukrainian peasant who marries the daughter of his father’s killer, loses her, falls into a long spiral of sadness and then remarries again, with tragic results. Paradjanov enriches the tale with occult imagery, swooping camerawork and a wide tableaux of breathtaking landscapes.

A Hawk And A Hacksaw the folk duo from New Mexico were brilliant on the night with their wonderful music making the perfect complement for this epic story. This was a unique evening that will be long remembered by the audience who showed their appreciation at the end with warm and loud applause.

Friday 2 December 2011

Dusk is falling at The John Innes Centre

On Sunday afternoon I made my way to The John Innes Centre at Colney for the latest Norfolk and Norwich Chamber Music concert featuring the Royal String Quartet and Alessandro Taverna. It was a 5.30pm start at the Norwich Research Park's Conference Centre. This is a wonderful building for Classical Music with about 300 seats.

The Royal String Quartet are from Warsaw, Poland and consist of Izabella Szalaj-Zimak - violin, Elwira Przybylowska - violin, Marek Czech - viola and Michal Pepol - cello. Pianist Alessandro Taverna was born in Venice, Italy.

The programme for the concert was String Quartet No.1 Op.62 Already It Is Dusk - Gorecki, Valse in C sharp minor Op.64/2 - Chopin, Introduction and Rondo in E flat major Op.16 - Chopin, String Quartet No.2 Op.56 - Szymanowski and Piano Concerto No.1 in E minor Op.11 - Chopin.

The Royal String Quartet were a member of BBC Radio 3's New Generation Artists from 2004-2006. Since 2004 they have run their own chamber music festival in Warsaw under the title of Kwartesencja. Alessandro Taverna has won many piano competitions and travels extensively appearing in most of the international concert halls.

This was a concert completely devoted to music from Poland. With the traditional and romantic world of Chopin to the 20th Century world of Szymanowski to Gorecki. Dusk is falling at The John Innes Centre but we're not scared of the wicked devils as we have put ourselves in the hands of The Royal String Quartet and Alessandro Taverna to entertain us.

A wonderful time was had by all as we were taken to the avant-garde world of Gorecki and the folk melodies of Szymanowski's music as well as beautiful works from Chopin. This was a high quality concert at The John Innes Centre with a brilliant line up and a splendid programme of music.  

Thursday 1 December 2011

Music of the Spirit

On the evening of Saturday 26th November 2011 I made my way back to St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich for The Jay Singers Music of the Spirit concert directed by Neil MacKenzie who is their new conductor and is a graduate of Clare College, Cambridge. He was a founder member of The Sixteen and later joined the BBC Singers.

The programme consisted of Der Geist Hilft - Bach, Looquebantur - Tallis, Justorum Animae - Byrd, Justorum Animae - Stanford, Never Weather Beaten Sail - Campian, Five Folksongs - Williams, My Spirit Sang All Day - Finzi, Deep In My Soul - Elgar, Ave Maris Stella - Grieg, The Gallant Weaver - MacMillan and Five Negro Spirituals - Tippert.

The Jay Singers have been in existence for more than 15 years as one of the foremost choirs in East Anglia and what a joy it was to be at St. Peter Mancroft Church on Saturday evening with singing of the highest quality. Byrd's Justorum Animae was out of this world. A wonderful time was had by all as we celebrated the music of the spirit.

Monday 28 November 2011

Ian Tindale Organ Recital

Ian Tindale the Organ Scholar at St. Bride's Church, Fleet Street in London gave an Organ Recital on Saturday 26th November 2011 at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich as part of the Mancroft Music Autumn Recitals 2011 Series. I made my way to the church very much looking forward to some wonderful music.

The programe consisted of Sonata in F major, Wq.70/3 - C.P.E. Bach, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659 - J.S. Bach, Trio Sonata in E minor, BWV 528 - J.S. Bach, Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele, Op.122 No.11 - Brahms and Sonata in F minor, Op.65 No.1 - Mendelssohn.

Ian Tindale is studying for a Master of Performance in Piano Accompaniment at the Royal College of Music. He put on a wonderful performance at St. Peter Mancroft that merited the large round of applause at the end of the recital.

Piano and Horn Concert at Norwich Assembly House

On Friday 25th November 2011 I attended the UEA Music at One series concert at The Assembly House, Norwich which featured Perez Kwong on piano and Steven Musk on horn. These are two of the UEA School of Music's most promising talents.

The programe consisted of Polonaise - Chopin, Reverie - Glazunov, Les Adieux, Romance - F Strauss, Aufschwung - Schumann, Nocturne - Gilere, Nocturno - F Strauss and Impromptu - Chopin. Both players gave excellent performances and provided the audience with a wonderful lunchtime treat of Classical Music.

Today the UEA Council announced that the School of Music would close which is very sad news. The Save UEA Music Campaign have vowed to fight on trying to save the School of Music.

Sunday 27 November 2011

Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony full of colour and life

On Thursday 24th November 2011 I made the journey to the City of London for the London Symphony Orchestra's concert at The Barbican. The concert was part of the complete cycle of Tchaikovsky symphonies that the orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev commenced last season.

The programme for the evening consisted of Symphony No.1 (Classical) - Prokofiev, Fachwerk - Gubaidulina and Symphony No.5 - Tchaikovsky. The orchestra were conducted by their principal conductor Valery Gergiev with Geir Draugsvoll as soloist on the bayan for Sofia Gubaidulina's Fachwerk.

Prokofiev's Classical Symphony from 1917 was written in the style of Haydn and Mozart. This was a delightful way to start the concert at a sold out Barbican Hall. Sofia Gubaidulina's Fachwerk is a concerto for bayan, percussion and strings composed in 2009. The bayan is a Russian form of the piano accordion played brilliantly by soloist Geir Draugsvoll who gave us a large range of sounds from this adventurous piece.

After the interval it was time for the next part of the London Symphony Orchestra's Tchaikovsky cycle with his Symphony No. 5 from 1888. The orchestra and Valery Gergiev took us on an extraordinary journey full of colour and life. This is Tchaikovsky's idea of fate holding the possibility of happiness. At the finale there is all the fury of Cossack dancing that had us all tapping our feet at The Barbican.

This was a wonderful evening that I enjoyed greatly and by the reaction from the audience at the end by many others as well. This was the London Symphony Orchestra on top form making the finest music available and showing why they are rated as one of the top orchestras in the world.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Viva Voce Singers 20th Anniversary Concert

On Saturday 19th November 2011 I attended the Viva Voce Singers 20th Anniversary Concert at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich that provided an evening to celebrate the joy of choral singing. The BBC Radio Norfolk Choir of the Year 2011 were directed by Jody Butler as they celebrated this special anniversary.

The programme consisted of Jubilate Deo - Gabrieli, Sicut cervus - da Palestrina, Adoramus te, Christe - de Lassus, O quam gloriosum - Victoria, Hymn to St. Cecilia - Britten, Sing joyfully - Byrd, Justorum animae - Byrd, Ave verum Corpus - Byrd and Songs of Farewell, My soul there is a country, I know my soul hath power to know all things, Never weather-beaten sail, There is an old belief, At the round earth's imagined corners, Lord let me know mine end - Parry.

This was a wonderful evening of choral singing from this small and friendly Norwich based chamber choir who help to raise money for local charities. With a splendid set of 16th century European sacred music pieces to open the concert we were then treated to Benjamin Britten's Hymn to St. Cecilia which is a setting of poetry by Britten's friend W.H. Auden.

Before the interval there was sacred music by William Byrd including Ave verum Corpus which is one of his best known pieces. Fully refreshed by a delicious apple juice during the interval I looked forward to Hubert Parry's Songs of Farewell. The choir were on top form as they performed this set of anthems which contain some of the most moving passages in Romantic a cappella music. 

Tuesday 22 November 2011

La Boheme at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Friday 18th November 2011 I attended the Glyndebourne Opera's performance of Giacomo Puccini's La Boheme at Norwich Theatre Royal. This was a wonderful opportunity for everyone in Norwich to witness world class Opera locally, this being one night of a five night residency which included performances of Don Pasquale and Rinaldo.

The writer Rodolfo and painter Marcello complain about their cold flat and burn Rodolfo's latest script. The philosopher Colline and the musician Schaunard return with supplies and money and after Benoit their landlord comes for his rent but gets plied with drink and is thrown out the friends go out to Cafe Momus leaving Rodolfo to stay and finish an article.

Rodolfo is interrupted by a neighbour, Mimi, whose candle has gone out. Mimi faints and when she revives he relights her candle but she has lost her key and her candle goes out for a second time. Rodolfo puts his candle out and tells Mimi about his life and dreams while Mimi tells of her life of sewing. They declare their love and leave for Cafe Momus. On the way Rodolfo buys Mimi a hat before joining his friends for dinner.

Marcello's ex-lover Musetta and her wealthy benefactor Alcindoro turn up and Marcello is unable to ignore Musetta as she sings about her own beauty and allure. Musetta sends Alcindoro to buy her a new pairs of shoes and Musetta and Marcello are reconciled. The friends join a street parade leaving Alcindoro to pay the bill.

A few months later Mimi searches for Marcello who has moved in with Musetta. Overcome with coughing she arrives to tell Marcello that Rodolfo walked out and is consumed by jealousy. When Rodolfo appears she hides and overhears he wants to leave her because he can't cope with her illness. He thinks her condition is due to his poverty. Rodolfo hears Mimi cry and rushes to her and they agree to part until spring.

The friends making the best of a bad situation make their own entertainment when Musetta bursts in with Mimi who is dying. Mimi has left her rich lover as she wanted to be brought back to die. Musetta, Marcello and Colline go to sell their things to buy medicine while Mimi and Rodolfo reaffirm their love and reminisce. The friends return and Musetta gives Mimi something to keep her warm and prays. Mimi dies peacefully leaving Roldolfo grief-stricken.

Complete with a rotating centre stage the story is now set in modern day Paris. With amazing performances from all the cast and brilliance from the Glyndebourne Orchestra this was a very special night at Norwich Theatre Royal. The sad ending emotionally moved us but throughhout the performance there were many times when the theatre was full of laughter.  

Monday 21 November 2011

Bruch at lunch at Norwich Assembly House

It was Britten Sinfonia at lunch on Friday at The Assembly House, Norwich as we were once again treated to a wonderful varied concert at this historic building in the Fine City. The line up on 18th November 2011 was Thomas Gould - violin, Miranda Dale - violin, Caroline Dearley - cello, Stephen Williams - double bass, Joy Farrall - clarinet, Andrea de Flammineis - bassoon and Stephen Stirling - horn.

The programme consisted of Till Eulenspiegel einmal anders - R. Strauss arr. Hasenohrl, Borderland - Charlie Piper and Septet in E flat, Op. posth - Bruch. The opening piece was made by Franz Hasenohrl in 1954 when he turned R. Strauss' fifteen minute tone poem for an orchestra into an eight minute piece for a quintet.

Borderland composed by Charlie Piper was on it's World premiere tour and was co-commissioned by Britten Sinfonia and Wigmore Hall. The piece is based on the transitional state between wakefulness and sleep. The programme was completed by Bruch's Septet in E flat, Op. posth that was composed in 1849 when the composer was eleven years old. It was only discovered in 1981.

This was another high quality performance from Britten Sinfonia when even the Sun tried to get in on the action as Thomas Gould had to ask for the blinds to be drawn during the closing piece. Maybe it will be sunglasses at lunch next time.

Saturday 19 November 2011

Pachelbel and Bach at The Octagon Chapel

On Thursday 17th November 2011 I attended The Bach Players Pachelbel and Bach concert at The Octagon Chapel, Norwich where there was a large crowd for their third concert of the year at this venue even though they were competing against Handel at Theatre Royal.

The programme for this concert was Cantata Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan - Pachelbel, Cantata Ich bin vergnugt mit meinem Glucke BWV 84, Sacred concerto Christ ist erstanden - Pachelbel, Canons from the Musical Offering BWV 1079 - Bach and Cantatta Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan BWV 99 - Bach.

The Bach Players are a group of musicians who share a passion for the music of Bach. They play on original instruments and all the vocal music is sung in its original language. Their programmes focus on music from the Baroque period with tonights showing Pachelbel as a predecessor of Bach. With Rachel Elliott - soprano, Sally Bruce-Payne - alto, James Gilchrist - tenor and Matthew Brooke - bass on vocals along with The Bach Players this was always going to be a very interesting evening that I had been looking forward too eagerly.

The music was of the highest quality as you would expect from The Bach Players as they delighted the audience with a programme that they will be releasing on a double CD early next year. Norwich appreciates The Bach Players regular concerts in Norwich as was shown by the support for them on Thursday evening at this beautiful historic venue. This was an intimate night of  music where the audience always felt part of the occasion and the performance.

Monday 14 November 2011

St. Gregory's Orchestra's 25th Anniversary

The St. Gregory's Orchestra celebrated it's 25th Anniversary with a Remembrance Sunday concert at Princes Street United Reformed Church, Norwich on Sunday afternoon in aid of UNICEF for their East Africa Children's Crisis Appeal. I joined a large crowd who experienced a splendid performance from the St. Gregory's Orchestra.

The Orchestra were founded by Martin Wyatt as an Orchestra for the local community. The programme for the afternoon was The Warsaw Concerto - Addinsell, The Whistle of Sandy McGraw - Robert Service, They Didn't Believe Me - Jerome Kern, Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream - Ed McCurdy, Requiem - Faure and Symphony No.7 - Beethoven. The concert featured Alison Mills - Leader, Martin Wyatt - Conductor, Kevin O'Regan - Piano and The Oriole Singers.

The programme was appropriate for Remembrance Sunday opening with The Warsaw Concerto that was written for the 1941 film Dangerous Moonlight. Reg Andrews a member of the Oriole Singers read the poem The Whistle of Sandy McGraw by Robert Service from the 1916 Rhymes of a Red-Cross Man. Martin Wyatt then sang Jerome Kern's They Didn't Believe Me a song from the 1914 musical The Girl from Utah before Win Forster read the poem Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream by Ed McCurdy.

Before the interval The Oriole Singers joined the St. Gregory's Orchestra in performing Gabriel Faure's Requiem. This was a moving performance  of this ethereal  work that Faure saw death as a happy deliverance rather than as a painful experience.

Refreshments were served during the interval before the St. Gregory's Orchestra conducted by founder Martin Wyatt performed Beethoven's Symphony No. 7, a piece of music that has the ability to lift the spirits of everyone that was first performed in 1813 at a charity concert for soldiers wounded in the Battle of Hanau. At the end of the concert the Lord Mayor of Norwich Councillor Jenny Lay gave an address praising Martin Wyatt and his work with the orchestra.

Music for oboe and guitar Autumn Recital

It's 1pm on Saturday 12th November 2011 as I walk into a packed St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich for the Juliet Rickard and Ian Cooper's Music for oboe and guitar Autumn Recital.

Another Mancroft Music Recital where the people of Norwich can experience wonderful music in this historic City Centre Church. The programme consisted of Oboe Concerto - Cimarosa, Pan (from Six Metamorphoses) Op. 49 - Britten, Consolazione, Romance sans paroles Op. 25 - Coste, Les Regrets, Cantilene Op. 36 - Coste, La Montagnard, Divertissement Pastoral Op. 34 - Coste, Aaturias (from Suite Espanola Op. 47 - Albeniz, Psalm 23 (from Chichester Psalms) - Bernstein, Maria (from West Side Story) - Bernstein and Libertango - Piazzolla.

Juliet Rickard and Ian Cooper are both part of the Norfolk Music Service and were a delightful choice to play in this season's Autumn Recitals. This was Juliet Rickard's first public performance for two years while Ian Cooper performs regularly both with guitar and voice. I'm sure everyone present enjoyed their performance which took us from Domenico Cimarosa to West Side Story.

UEA Symphony Orchestra and all that Jazz!

On Friday 11th November 2011 I attended the UEA Symphony Orchestra's From The New World To Jazz David Potter Memorial Concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich which also featured the UEA Duke Ellington Orchestra.

The programme for the evening was La Revue de Cuisine - Martinu, Piano Concerto in F - Gershwin, The Early Years - Duke Ellington and Symphony No.9 in E minor, Op 95, From the New World - Dvorak. Conductor for the evening was Sharon Andrea Choa while Alison Lincoln was soloist on Gershwin's Piano Concerto.

David Potter was an artist who loved to paint pictures of the Orchestra who passed away earlier this year. The programme was chosen from music that he enjoyed. The Save UEA Music campaign were handing out leaflets and asking the audience to sign their petition.

The concert opened with the fun of Martinu's La Revue de Cuisine complete with chef and saucepan headwear. The Kitchen Revue is strongly influenced by Jazz and is based on a tale of love and jealousy among a group of kitchen utensils.

George Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F was a triumph for the Orchestra and Alison Lincoln on piano as we were given a taste of the Twenties full of Broadway influences. The sound of New York that will remain timeless forever.

After the interval Vic Hobson led the UEA Duke Ellington Orchestra in a wonderful set of early works from Duke Ellington. We were treated to Black and Tan Fantasy, Rockin' in Rhythm and Mood Indigo that are all transcriptions of Ellington recordings made for the Lincoln Center by David Berger.

The evening ended on a high with Dvorak's Symphony No.9, Op 95 New World. The music reflects his experiences of America and was first performed in 1893. A mix of sounds that always thrills from the Czech composer.  The night was a great example of the UEA School of Music providing music for the community in Norwich.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Xenia Horne's musical journey

After the Adie Oboe and Harp Duo cancelled it was harpist Xenia Horne who stepped in to make sure that the show went on for the latest in the Eaton Concert Series at St. Andrew's Church, Eaton, Norwich on Sunday 6th November 2011. With a varied programme she delighted the large audience with help from flautist Lucy Marks.

With music from Vivaldi, Prokofiev and Debussy to Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan on to modern work from Stewart Green this was truly a very varied programme that thrilled us all. Flautist Lucy Marks joined Xenia for Fantasia on a Theme of Greensleeves, My Love is Like a Red Red Rose and Scarborough Fair.

From The Burning of the Piper's Hut to Gershwin's Summertime Xenia Horne took us on a fantastic journey through several centuries of music. The Eaton Concert Series is always full of wonderful surprises and a delightful place to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Norwich Philharmonic with Haydn Glory!

On Saturday 5th November 2011 it was Norwich Philharmonic Society's first concert of the 2011/12 season at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich. I made my way to this historic venue with great expectations and was not disappointed as the Orchestra and Chorus put on a wonderful performance.

The programme for the evening was The Noonday Witch - Dvorak, Suite from Der Rosenkavalier - Richard Strauss  and Mass in B flat Harmoniemesse - Haydn. Conductors for the evening were Matthew Andrews and David Dunnett with Cecilia Osmond - soprano, Clare McCaldin - mezzo-soprano, Simon Wall - tenor and Brian Bannatyne-Scott - bass.

The Noonday Witch is one of the five symphonic poems composed by Dvorak from 1896-97 that tells the story of a mother who threatens her child with the witch. Richard Strauss wrote Der Rosenkavaler in 1909-10 from which he later extracted two waltz sequences. Mass in B flat, Harmoniemesse was the last of six masses that Haydn wrote for Prince Nicolaus II's wife Marie Hermenegild.

In the first half of the programme we had the dramatic piece from Dvorak followed by Richard Strauss' splendid works from Der Rosenkavaler but the highlight of the evening had to be Haydn's Harmoniemesse complete with chorus in full voice. Harmonie is German for wind-band as the mass is in B flat making it suitable for a large wind section. Glory be to God on high and on earth peace to men of goodwill.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Ben Miller Organ Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church

On Saturday 5th November 2011 I attended the latest Mancroft Music Autumn Recitals at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich featuring Organist Ben Miller who is currently Senior Organ Scholar at the church.

The programme for this lunchtime organ recital was Fantasia in G major BWV 572 (Piece d'orgue) - Bach, Three Plainsongs Preludes - Clucas, Concerto in A minor BWV 593 - Vivaldi, Qui Lux Es - Clucas, Toccata - Clucas and Prelude and Fugue in C major BWV 547 - Bach.

Another wonderful time was had by all as the contrast between the Baroque and Modern pieces made for an interesting programme. Well done to Ben Miller on his splendid performance who I'm sure will bee delighting us again in the future.

Sunday 6 November 2011

Dancing at Norwich Playhouse

On Friday night I attended an evening of intriguing, amusing and beautiful dance presented by Norfolk Dance at Norwich Playhouse. There were three works performed that were created by artists based in the region with whom Norfolk Dance has strong links.

Palimpsest explores the body as an instrument to be written on leaving a code to be deciphered. 30 Cecil Street is based on The Limerick Athenaeum that closed to the public 13 years ago and now lies empty and closed. Chairs is where a couple are preparing for visitors uncertain of who will join them.

A night to admire and appreciate the works and dancing on show at this delightful Norwich venue which made us think as well as putting smiles on our faces. Let's dance put on your red shoes and dance the blues. Let's dance to the song they're playin' on the radio.

Friday 4 November 2011

Music for All Souls at UEA Chaplaincy

On Thursday evening I caught the number 27 bus on Castle Meadow and after a journey around the houses I made it to the UEA Chaplaincy in time for the UEA Chamber Choir's Music for All Souls concert. With the UEA School of Music being threatened with closure this is a time to show your support and attend events like these.

The programme for the evening was Officium Defunctorum (Requiem) in six parts - Victoria, Usquequo Domine - Guerrero and Versa est in Luctum (funeral motet for Philip II of Spain) - Lobo. A wonderful selection of music from the Renaissance period.

This event was a live event not a recording and proved that music is a miracle. Please save the UEA School of Music. The singing throughout the concert was of the highest quality in the splendid setting of the UEA Chaplaincy and with the added bonus of being given the history and background of the music between pieces. Please show your support and attend future events as well as signing the petition to save the UEA School of Music.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

A night of Baroque at Norwich Cathedral

I made my way to Norwich Cathedral on Saturday evening greatly anticipating the latest Norwich Baroque concert featuring Elizabeth Watts and Michael Chance. There was a large audience in attendance setting the scene for a brilliant night.

With Elizabeth Watts being described as a lyric soprano as ravishing as one could possibly want and Michael Chance as a musician of impeccable taste and expressive vibrancy this was always going to be a performance of the highest quality.

The programme consisted of Concerto Grosso Op.1 No.5 in D major - Locatelli, Nisi Dominus RV. 608 - Vivaldi, Arias - Scarlatti, Sinfonia for strings in B minor Al Santo Sepolcro RV 169 - Vivaldi, Concerto for strings in C major RV.114 - Vivaldi and Stabat Mater - Pergolesi.

Countertenor Michael Chance with Vivaldi's Nisi Dominus and Soprano Elizabeth Watts with an Alessandro Scarlatti opera arias both thrilled us but when they joined forces on Pergolesi's Stabat Mater it was a joy and truly made this a night to remember. A setting of the Feast of Seven Dolours of the Blessed Virgin Mary Pergolesi wrote it during the last months of his life. When my body dies, grant that to my soul is given the glory of paradise. Amen.

With great enthusiasm from the audience the two stars of the evening gave us an encore of Scherzano sul tuo Volto from Handel's Rinaldo that made for the perfect ending to the evening. A great homecoming for Elizabeth Watts and with Michael Chance showing his support as Norwich Baroque's patron this turned into one big Baroque party.

Matthew Pitts Organ Recital

On Saturday 29th October 2011 I attended the latest Mancroft Music Autumn Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich featuring Organist Matthew Pitts from Yorkshire who between 2006 and 2009 was Organist at this church making it a kind of homecoming.

The programme consisted of Praeludium in E minor BuxWV 142 - Buxtehude, Trio Sonata No.1 in E flat major BWV 525 - Bach, Vom Himmel hoch da komm'ich her BWV 700 - Bach, Vater unser im Himmelreich BWV 7377 - Bach, Praembulum in E major - Lubeck, Prelude and Fugue - Succo, Pastorale on 'Nun danket alle Gott' from op.46 - Herzogenberg and Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 538 - Bach.

This was another great example of music being provided for the people of Norwich by Mancroft Music, giving everyone an opportunity to experience these splendid pieces in such a wonderful setting. Matthew Pitts didn't let us down as he played brilliantly for about a hour.

Friday 28 October 2011

Songs of Freedom at Norwich Assembly House

On Saturday 22nd October 2011 I attended the A Candle, Songs of Freedom concert at Norwich Assembly House celebrating 50 years of Amnesty International. This event was a collaboration between Big Sky and Norwich Amnesty who invited Helen Chadwick, Sianed Jones, Karen Wimhurst and Katherine Zeserson to compose new pieces based on poems on the theme of freedom.

The first half of the programme was Songs of Freedom with songs composed by Helen Chadwick and Katherine Zeserson while after the interval the newly composed pieces were performed as A Candle. The cycle of 8 songs were Travel Tickets, Boris Vilde, Listen, For John Harris, Star, Bird and Autumn, Words, As The Heart Beats and The Poet's Voice.

Norwich community choir Big Sky were conducted by Sian Croose in a moving performance of this thought provoking music with this being the first of a series in which choirs and Amnesty groups from around the country will perform these new works. I don't want freedom gram by gram, grain by grain. I have to break this steel chain with my teeth! I don't want freedom as a drug, as a medicine, I want it as the sun, as the earth, as the heavens.

Monday 24 October 2011

Laura Marling sings when the bell tolls

On Wednesday 19th October 2011 Laura Marling's When The Bell Tolls Tour arrived at Norwich Cathedral with support from The Leisure Society. Her former band Noah And The Whale were playing at Norwich UEA on the same night but I choose to be at the Cathedral along with a sell out audience at this nine hundred year old building.

The Leisure Society warmed us up with a great show full of folk pop led by Nick Hemming. They maybe murky water but it was definately holy water at Norwich Cathedral as we experienced a night of folk heaven. This is what you would expect from of a tour of Britain's oldest, sometimes eeriest and most beautiful buildings which definately include this amazing Cathedral in the Fine City.

Laura Marling put on a magical show of her timeless folk with her set concentrating mostly on material from her new album A Creature I Don't Know but with also tracks from her first two albums including splendid performaces of Rambling Man and Goodbye England. The night would have been perfect if snow had started falling during the set.

We were treated to a new song, Laura Marling playing solo and numerous facts about Norwich Cathedral from her band. A night to remember from a truly talentered artist who with her latest album has shown how far she has progressed since her debut album Alas I Cannot Swim.

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Steve Reich at 75

On Saturday 15th October 2011 I attended the London Symphony Orchestra's Steve Reich 75th Birthday concert at The Barbican with Kristjan Jarvi as conductor and the Synergy Vocals providing the voices on The Desert Music. Steve Reich took part in the concert on Clapping Music.

The programme for Steve Reich at 75 was Clapping Music, The Four Sections, Three Movements and The Desert Music. A night to celebrate the life of one of our lifetimes greatest composers. Musical Minimalism in all it's glory with loads of clapping.

Steve Reich in his trademark baseball cap was joined by London Symphony Orchestra's percussionist Neil Percy for Clapping Music which reflects the composer's desire to create a piece of music that needed no instruments beyond the human body. How wonderful it was to see Steve Reich in person who was clearly enjoying the evening.

The London Symphony Orchestra treated us to splendid performances of The Four Sections and Three Movements before the interval which showed off Steve Reich's music to full effect. These pieces from the Eighties were commissioned by the San Francisco and St. Louis Symphonies.

The Desert Music complete with the voices of the Synergy Voices filled The Barbican Hall with a glorious sound. The music is a setting of poems by William Carlos Williams. A brilliant end to the concert that gave us another opportunity to applaud Steve Reich along with everyone else who helped make this such a special evening.

Sunday 16 October 2011

Cleopatra Queen of the Nile

I made my way to Norwich Theatre Royal on Thursday evening to attend the Northern Ballet's performance of Cleopatra with great excitement. Created by David Nixon with music composed by Claude-Michel Schonberg the ballet is inspired by the Queen of the Nile.

The Ballet is a historical retelling of Cleopatra's life from her chanting to the God Wadjet who reveals a golden throne that is the throne of the Egyptian Pharaohs.

In Act 1 it is Cleopatra's wedding to Ptolemy. It is clear there will be no sharing of power and with the help of her handmaidens Cleopatra drowns Ptolemy while he bathes and sits on the throne alone. The Romans arrive in Egypt and Caesar embarks on a long Nile cruise with the Queen and ultimately the child Caesarion is born. Caesar returns to Rome with Cleopatra and Caesarion but in time the political situation changes and Caesar is killed and Cleopatra returns to Egypt.

In Act 11 The Romans return led by Mark Antony who cannot resist Cleopatra. Octavian and Mark Antony's wife Octavia watch his actions and Octavia is sent to Egypt to bring her husband but she returns home empty handed. Octavian rushes to Egypt with his army which leads to Mark Antony dying in Cleopatra's arms. In the final scene Cleopatra is face to face with Wadjet pulling a snake closer to herself but he pulls back. Unable to resist he plunges venom into her and as she dies the gods extend their arms and Cleopatra ascends to her destiny.

The Ballet had great choreography and is a visual triumph. I greatly enjoyed the music that gave a great atmosphere for the dancers to perform this epic story. Dramatic and stunning Cleopatra is a brilliant production that the Northern Ballet can be very proud of. It was splendid to be able to witness this all at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Monday 10 October 2011

Sounds of Splendour fill St. Peter Mancroft with joy

On Saturday 8th October 2011 it was the first of the Autumn 2011 Recitals at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich  with the Sounds of Splendour featuring music for trumpet and organ. John Coulton and David Dunnett were back by popular demand to have our ears jumping for joy.

John Coulton has worldwide experience recording and performing live with some of the world's best musicians. He has performed the Shostakovich Concerto for Piano and Trumpet at the Proms and is a regular on the East of England music scene.

David Dunnett is the Organist and Master of Music at Norwich Cathedral as well as choral conductor of the Norwich Philharmonic Society. Along with John Coulton he has recorded Sounds of Splendour and Sounds of Grandeur featuring music for trumpet and organ.

The programme consisted of Prelude to the Te Deum - Charpentier, La Rejouissance - Telemann, Suite in D major for Trumpet and Strings - Handel, Trois Prieres Sans Paroles - Damase, The Prayer of Saint Gregory - Hovhaness, Marche Triomphale - Guilmant, Shenandoah - Traditional and Tico Tico - Abreu.

We had the extremes of the pair playing in front of us to them playing in the heavens of the church which made for an exciting and varied recital. This was a wonderful and splendid way to start the new series of Autumn Recitals presented by Mancroft Music.

Atongo Zimba bringing the Afrobeat!

On Thursday 6th October 2011 I made my way to Norwich Arts Centre for the Atongo Zimba gig. The World Music star from Ghana complete with his band brought us an evening of Afrobeat which had everyone at the St. Benedict's Street venue dancing and smiling throughout the night.

Atongo Zimba was taught to play the koliko or molo a two stringed calabash lute by his Grandfather at an early age in the savannahs of Northern Ghana. His family are cowherders and he would compose his own songs while minding the family's herd.

A wonderful night was had by all as Atongo Zimba made it his mission for the evening to make us all happy. His latest album is Sankuune the name of a dance which has him returning to his acoustic roots.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Death and the Maiden at Norwich Theatre Royal

After my afternoon trip to Eaton I made my way to Norwich Theatre Royal on Sunday 2nd October 2011 for the Britten Sinfonia concert featuring Norwegian violinist Henning Kraggerud.

The programme for the evening consisted of Violin Concerto No.4 in D major K218 - Mozart, Kreisler, l'entre deux guerres - Tattersall, Duets for two violins - Berio and String Quartet in D minor, D.810 (Death and the Maiden) - Schubert arr. Mahler.

Mozart's fourth of his five concertos that he wrote in 1775 was thought to have been modelled on a work written 10 years earlier by Luigi Boccherini showing the same lightness of touch and elegant charm. This is typical early style Mozart that captures the grace of the eighteenth century court.

This was the World Premiere Tour of Piers Tattersall's Kreisler, l'entre deux guerres with Norwich being the first date. The piece is written informed by elements of the life and music of Fritz Kreisler, Violinist and composer of Austrian birth who became an American citizen in 1943.

Luciano Berio had a very uncategorised style. His Duets for two violins from 1979-1983 were written as 34 pieces for teaching his students and were named after renowned musicians and close friends. On Sunday five of these varied pieces were performed.

Franz Schubert composed Death and the Maiden for string quartet in 1824 while suffering from anaemia and a severe nervous disorder. The piece was arranged by Mahler for string orchestra in 1894 but was not published until 1984 by Mahler's daughter. The title is from the main theme of the second movement which originally appeared in a song by Schubert of the same name.

This was a truly brilliant performance from Henning Kraggerud and Britten Sinfonia from start to finish showing how classical music can be played in the 21st Century with a forward looking philosophy but always showing respect for the past. There was never a dull moment as we were thrilled with exciting music both old and new.

Jocelyn Freeman at the Eaton Concert Series

On Sunday 2nd October 2011 I took an afternoon stroll down to St. Andrew's Church, Eaton, Norwich for the second of this season's Eaton Concert Series featuring London based Welsh pianist Jocelyn Freeman.

The programme consisted of Drei Klavierstucke D946 - Schubert, Lieder Transcriptions - Liszt, Consolation No.3 in D flat major - Liszt, Minute Waltz - Chopin, Nocturne Opus 36 No.4 in E flat major, Novelettes - Poulenc and La fille aux cheveux de lin - Debussy.

With wonderful descriptions of the music and the Composers between playing together with a brilliant performance that thrilled us all, Jocelyn Freeman showed us why she is in demand as an accompanist and duo partner.

She wants us to explore the music of Faure and showed great enthusiasm for all the pieces she played, which helped make this a very enjoyable concert as an alternative to the beach on a sunny Sunday afternoon. I'm sure we will be hearing a lot more of Jocelyn Freeman in the future.

Monday 3 October 2011

The Mozart Orchestra take us to the New World

On Saturday 1st October 2011 I attended The Mozart Orchestra's concert in support of the Big C at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich. With Chrisopher Hopkins - Piano, Fiona Hutchins - Leader and Colin Dowdeswell - Conductor the programme for the evening was An Outdoor Overture - Copland, Piano Concerto in F - Gershwin and Symphony No. 9 From the New World - Dvorak.

All profits from the concert went to The Big C, Norfolk and Waveney's independent charity which helps local people and families through their cancer diagnosis, treatment, life and sometimes death.

Copland's Outdoor Overture came from his involvement in a moment called American Music for American Youth and was first performed in December 1938. This was a time when he turned his back on his earlier avant-garde phase to use folk themes.

Gershwin's Piano Concerto in F was composed in 1925 after musical educator Frank Damrosch heard the young Gershwin play the solo piano part in Rhapsody in Blue and contacted him with a commission for a full scale concerto.

Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 From the New World is from 1893 and was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and incorporates both Native and African American themes with the folk music of Dvorak's native Bohemia.

The Mozart Orchestra put on a wonderful performance especially after the interval with Dvorak's Symphony No. 9  From the New World. I had a splendid view from my seat in the West Gallery as we were transported to an American landscape which had us all giving great applause at the end of the concert.

Thursday 29 September 2011

The Fire of the Prometheus Legend

After my afternoon visit to The Barbican on Saturday 24th September 2011 I made my way to the Royal Festival Hall via the Central and Bakerloo lines for the London Philharmonic Orchestra's concert of The Prometheus Legend.

The programme consisted of The Creatures of Prometheus (excerpts) = Beethoven, Mar'eh for Violin and Orchestra - Pintscher, Prometheus (Symphonic Poem No.5) - Liszt and Prometheus, Poem of Fire - Scriabin.

The London Philharmonic Orchestra performed with Vladimir Jurowski - Conductor, Julia Fischer - Violin, Igor Levit - Piano, London Philharmonic Choir and Lucy Carter - Lighting Designer. The evening gave us three views of Prometheus and a new violin concerto.

In Greek mythology Prometheus was a Titan who stole fire from the gods, by capturing the sparks from their chariot wheels, and gave it to mankind. He was punished by being chained to a rock and having his liver eaten by an eagle until he was eventually rescued by Heracles.

The concert began with a brilliant performance of excerpts from Beethoven's early ballet The Creatures of Prometheus with Vladimir Jurowski and the Orchestra on top form. We were then treated to the UK premiere of Matthias Pintscher's Mar'eh for Violin and Orchestra as Julia Fischer and her violin mastered this difficult piece in triumphant style. Mar'eh is a Hebrew word that means face or sign. The composer says that it can also mean the aura of a face, a beautiful vision.

After the interval with the Orchestra now all dressed in white shirts and tops there was Liszt's Symphonic Poem No.5 before the dramatic finale of Scriabin's Poem of Fire complete with light show designed by Lucy Carter. With great support from the London Philharmonic Choir and Igor Levit on piano this was a very spectacular show with the constant changing colours of the lights which finished in white brilliance.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

South Pacific at The Barbican

On Saturday 24th September 2011 I made my way to London by train eagerly looking forward to my visit to The Barbican to attend the matinee performance of The Lincoln Center Theater production of South Pacific. After a lunch of spinach gnocchi garlic and sage cream, parmesan crust, tomato and basil salad and crusty bread at The Barbican Food Hall I was ready for all the excitement and drama of this Rodgers and Hammerstein classic.

With a brilliant cast including Paulo Szot as Emile De Becque, Samantha Womack as Ensign Nellie Forbush, Alex Ferns as Luther Billis, Daniel Koek as Lieutenant Cable, Loretta Ables Sayre as Bloody Mary and Elizabeth Chong as Liat this was always going to be a splendid afternoon's entertainment.

The story of the American navy trying to find a breakthrough against the Japanese in the Pacific during the Second World War complete with romance, comedy, suspense and classic songs like There Is Nothin' Like A Dame, I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair and Happy Talk this is a musical that moves your heart and gets your feet tapping.

Paulo Szot singing Some Enchanted Evening was amazing while Samantha Womack was very convincing as the nurse from Little Rock, Arkansas. The issues of race and social issues are part of South Pacific as both Nellie Forbush with Emile De Becque and Lieutenant Cable with Liat try to come to terms of how their relationships can fit into their worlds.

I must admit I had some enchanted afternoon at The Barbican Theatre and I very much enjoyed my journey to the world of Rodgers and Hammerstein. A revival well worth making taking us back to the golden era of Broadway musicals.

Thursday 22 September 2011

The Madness of George III at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Monday 19th September 2011 I attended The Madness of George III by Alan Bennett at Norwich Theatre Royal. The King was played by David Haig as we were taken back to London,Winsdor and Kew in 1788-89.

King George III was struck down by a series of physical and psychiatric symptoms which meant he couldn't carry on his duties as sovereign and an Act of Regency loomed. Doctors were summoned to give a diagnosis of the King's illness including Dr Francis Willis who would recommend fresh air, regular exercise and farm work in the Lincolnshire countryside.

With wonderful costumes and great use of the stage scenery we were treated to an amazing evening's entertainment. Complete with the music of Handel there were many laughs throughout the play which resulted in a standing ovation at the end. You would be mad to miss it!

Sunday 18 September 2011

Come and Sing at St. Peter Mancroft Church

On Saturday 17th September 2011 Norwich based Viva Voce Singers put on a wonderful concert of music at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich complete with a Come and Sing Choir.

Directed by Jody Butler the programme for the evening was Ave Maria, O vos omnes, Jesu dulcis memoria, O quam gloriosum - de Victoria. The Gipsy's Wedding Day, Dalvisa (Swedish Folk Song Melody), Country Gardens - Grainger. Zadok the Priest - Handel and Gloria in D RV589 - Vivaldi.

It was brilliant to hear the Viva Voce Singers perform the Tomas Luis de Victoria works in this historic Norwich church. O how glorious is the kingdom in which all the saints rejoice with Christ. Clad in robes of white, they follow the Lamb wherever he goes.

When it came to Percy Grainger we all had smiles on our faces and great fun was had by all. Country Gardens being a big crowd pleaser.

It was then time for the Come and Sing Choir to join the Viva Voce Singers to create a big wall of sound which filled the whole church. Everyone was singing with great enthusiasm first with Handel's Zadok the Priest followed by Vivaldi's Gloria.  We all rejoiced in the moment on another very enjoyable night of glorious music at St. Peter Mancroft Church. 

Saturday 10 September 2011

Sounds of Norwich Cathedral

I can hear the violin being played at Norwich Cathedral. Faster and faster the sounds go around my head. Handel and Bach with notes from long ago that still excite. My hearts starts to beat in rhythm to the music, full of thrills complete with sonatas and concertos.

Oh Mr Piano man play some Franz Liszt maybe a Hungarian Rhapsody that will fill the nave with pretty notes that will have my fingers tapping. A musical poem on the keyboards that gets my brain thinking.

For a thousand years beautiful noises have echoed around this splendid building, from the time of The Normans to the present day. Take a bow to the loud applause as the crowd asks for an encore of Dvorak's Three Slavonic Dances.

Friday 9 September 2011

The Brook Street Band at the Eaton Concert Series

On Sunday 4th September 2011 I made my way to St. Andrew's Church, Eaton, Norwich for the first of the Sunday afternoon concerts in the Eaton Concert Series for the 2011/12 season. The opening date saw a performance from The Brook Street Band performing a splendid programme of Baroque Music including works from Handel, Bach and Vivaldi.

The programme for the concert was Violin sonata in D major Op 5 No 1 - Corelli, Cello sonata in C major Op 3 No 10 - Jacchini, Lascia ch'io pianga - Handel, Cello sonata in B flat major No 1 RV 47 - Vivaldi, Violin sonata in F major HWV 370 - Handel, Allemande from Partita No 4 in D major BWV 828 - Bach, Cello sonata in D Major - Telemann and Violin sonata in D minor Op 5 No 12 La Follia - Corelli.

Farran Scott on Baroque violin, Tatty Theo on Baroque cello and Carolyn Gibley on Harpsichord provided us with wonderful performances of the highest quality which were greatly enjoyed by the audience. With great enthusiasm and expert commentary between works The Brook Street Band was an inspired choice to open this season's Eaton Concert Series.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

An Autumnal Affair!

On Saturday 3rd September 2011 it was An Autumnal Affair at Norwich Arts Centre with Clutter City complete with DIY craft fair with stalls, workshops, live music and food.

I had a delicious veggie burger for lunch before enjoying the music of the Tiger MC's and Chad Mason. This beautiful Norwich venue is always full of life on Clutter City Saturdays complete with fun and laughter.

Chad Mason wanted us to all stand up when we are happy and to sit down when we are sad. He may have been a long way from home but he always knows that he will be welcome at the Norwich Arts Centre Cafe Bar.

The Tiger MC's put us all in a happy clappy mood with their folk pop that had us floating on air across the Cafe Bar. A brilliant afternoon was had by all at Norwich's number one DIY Craft Fair.

Thursday 1 September 2011

The Hot Seats having fun!

On Monday night I attended The Hot Seats gig at Norwich Arts Centre. The band from Richmond, Virginia are a mixture of Bluegrass, Old-Time, Skiffle and Jug Band. Country Music with a smile and lots of fun!

With fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar, double bass, drums and washboard we were all entertained with old fashioned sounds with songs like River Stay Away From My Door and Sam Stone. It was great to witness a washboard being played on stage.

A night for beards and checked shirts at Norwich Arts Centre when we all celebrated a Bluegrass Party and nobody cared if there were rats in the kitchen!

Friday 26 August 2011

Brilliant Brahms at Prom 49

On Saturday evening it was back to The Royal Albert Hall for a celebration of Brahms at BBC Prom 49 with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Bernard Haitink - conductor and Emanuel Ax - piano. With a programme of Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat major and Symphony No.4 in E minor this was definitely a night to enjoy the beautiful sounds of Johannes Brahms.

The previous night I watched the Chamber Orchestra of Europe's first Brahms concert on BBC4 but for the second I'm at The Royal Albert Hall to experience all the excitement live. How wonderful was Emanuel Ax playing the piano in perfect harmony with the Orchestra. It seems that along with Bernard Haitink they are the perfect combination for Brahms.

After the interval we were treated to a brilliant performance of Brahms' Symphony No.4 in E minor which delighted the large audience. Clever and challenging this is a mighty piece of music made even better when played to this high standard. Nights like this make the BBC Proms the best Classical Music Festival in the World.