Sunday 29 May 2011

The Christian Year in Music

A celebration of music at St. Peter
Mancroft Church, Norwich
On Saturday 28th May 2011 it was the second of this year's Mancroft Music Summer Recitals, this time celebrating the Christian Year in Music. A programme of sacred choral music and organ solos were performed by the young musicians of St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich.

This was a delightful way to spend a Saturday afternoon as we were treated to music that covered the whole Christian Year. From Advent being represented by Rejoice in the Lord to Trinity with As truly as God is our Father all the events of the Christian calendar were covered.

I'm sure everyone in attendance enjoyed this Summer Recital which was performed with great enthusiasm. St. Peter Mancroft Church is a splendid place to experience music as well as somewhere in Norwich City Centre for peace and quiet reflection.

Monday 23 May 2011

Ballet Nacional de Espana Ole!

Hot Spanish Dancing at Norwich Theatre Royal
On the final night of this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival I attended the Ballet Nacional de Espana performance of Dualia and La Leyenda at Norwich Theatre Royal. This was a splendid way to finish this year's highly successful festival.

Dualia explores the sensuality of looks and caresses through movement and music. Full of colour and the rasping of castanets the Theatre Royal audience were treated to a performance that exuberated with the feelings of Spring and the freshness of youth.

After the interval La Leyenda was performed to the delight of an enthusiastic festival crowd. This the story of famous flamenco star Carmen Amaya who was a true legend. From the slums of Barcelona to the glamour of the American stage in the Thirties and Forties her life was lived out on the stage by the Spanish dance company. Flamenco singing and guitars filled the air as the dancers gave a visual display full of energy.

I'm sure everyone who attended the three performances given by Ballet Nacional de Espana had a brilliant time and were greatly impressed. It's good-bye to this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival which has left me with lots of fond memories.

Organ Music at St. Peter Mancroft Church

St. Peter Macroft Church Organ
On Saturday afternoon it was the first Mancroft Music Summer Recital of 2011 at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich. This featured Kris Thomsett who is Organ Scholar at Chelmsford Cathedral.

He has recently been appointed as Organ Scholar at Norwich Cathedral a post he will hold for three years whilst studying for a degree in Music at the University of East Anglia.

The afternoon's programme consisted of Praeludium in D BuxWV 139 - Buxtehude, Fantasia 'Ut re mi so fa' - Byrd, Praeludium et Fuga in C BWV 545 - Bach, Fugue in C BuxWV 174 - Buxtehude, Praeludium in A minor BWV 543 - Bach, O Lamm Gottes, unshulgid BWV 618 - Bach, O Mensch, bewein dein Sunde gross BWV 622 - Bach, Canzon detta 'La Spiritata - Gabrieli and Praeludium in C BuxWV 137 - Buxtehude.

Kris Thomsett will be a face we will see on the Norwich music scene in the future. He turned up on Saturday in a suit and matching socks to say hello and introduce himself to us. it was a wonderful experience listening to this early music that will always inspire. He played the church organ with great enthusiasm that was greatly enjoyed by the audience.

Deep South journey at St. Andrew's Hall

Britten Sinfonia taking us to the Deep South
There's no rest when the Norfolk and Norwich Festival is on as I was back at St. Andrew's Hall on Friday evening for the Britten Sinfonia concert which featured Joanna MacGregor on piano and Arve Henriksen on trumpet.

The programme for this delightful performance was Fratres - Arvo Part, Lost Highway: Gospel and Blues from the Deep South - Joanna MacGregor, Pieces from Cartography - Arve Henriksen and Piano Concerto no. 2 - James MacMillan.

Fratres composed by Estonian composer Arvo Part highlights the tintinnabular style. With it use of mathematical rules this piece had an relaxing effect on the audience that put us in a chilled out mood for the rest of the concert. 

Lost Highway: Gospel and Blues from the Deep South features Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child, Everybody Help the Boys Come Home, Deep River, Lowside Blues, Georgia Lee, The Mercy Seat and What a Friend We Have in Jesus. With amazing emotional performances from Joanna MacGregor on piano and Arve Henriksen on trumpet St. Andrew's Hall was turned into Highway 61. Gospel Blues and Dark Country this piece of music had me completely spellbound.

After the interval we were further thrilled by Arve Henriksen's Pieces from Cartography which highlighted his brilliant trumpet playing and Joanna MacGregor's very expressive keyboard skills on James MacMillan's Piano Concerto no. 2. The joy on the faces of both the soloists and the orchestra spread joy across the venue and led to loud applause at the end of the concert.

A truly magical evening of wonderful music from Britten Sinfonia that further enhanced the reputation of both the orchestra and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Sunday 22 May 2011

Kate Symonds-Joy at Norwich Assembly House

Kate Symonds-Joy delights the Norfolk
and Norwich Festival at lunch
On Friday I attended the Royal Academy of Music lunchtime concert at Norwich Assembly House featuring Kate Symonds-Joy and William Vann as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. This event took place in the splendid Music Room.

The programme portrayed women who displayed the qualities of being sad, mad or bad. This consisted of Mad Bess - Henry Purcell, Disprezzata regina - Claudio Monteverdi, Arianna a Naxos - Joseph Haydn, Kdyz mne stara matka zpivat - Antonin Dvorak, Songs my mother taught me - Charles Ives, Sequenza III - Luciano Berio, Je ne t'aime pas - Kurt Weill and Imagine the Duchess's feelings! - Noel Coward.

Kate Symonds-Joy has an amazing powerful voice that truly delightful the audience with the support of pianist William Vann. She sang in Czech for Dvorak's Kdyz mne stara matka zpivat (Songs my mother taught me) while on Berio's Sequenza III she had to express forty four different emotions unaccompanied.

I'm sure we will hear lots more from this mezzo-soprano in the future. Another very enjoyable lunchtime concert at The Assembly House.

Explosions in the Sky triumphant in Camden!

I was in London on Thursday which included a visit to London Zoo in the afternoon. In the evening I made my way to London Roundhouse, Camden for the Explosions in the Sky gig with support from Lichens.

Lichens is Robert Lowe who plays progressive electronic rock that droned out across the Roundhouse which was more like an art statement then a three minute hit single.

As soon as the clock hit nine o'clock Explosions in the Sky started their set which comprised of Last Known Surroundings, Yasmin The Light, Postcard From 1952, Catastrophe And The Cure, The Only Moment We Were Alone, Your Hand In Mine, The Birth And Death Of The Day, Let Me Back In and Greet Death. 

The Post Rock brilliance of the Texan band filled the venue with a massive noise that let us all in and made us want it to go on forever, well at least until the last train home. Loud and beautiful while being quiet and harsh, Explosions in the Sky can be all these things without any lyrics. The gig finished without an encore after an hour and twenty minutes of awesome music.

I first saw the band at Norwich Arts Centre seven years ago. The venues may have got bigger but the sound remains the same. Another triumphant night for Explosions in the Sky.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Noriko Ogawa delights Norwich

Noriko Ogawa put on a splendid performance at
St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich
Noriko Ogawa put on a splendid performance of the highest quality at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich on Wednesday evening as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. I was sitting in the third row from the front as the Japanese pianist put on a faultless show to a delighted audience.

The programme on the night was Piano Sonata in D K311 - Mozart, Piano Sonata in A K310 - Mozart, A Particle of Water for piano and Myochin Hibashi chopsticks - Yoshihiro Kanno and Piano Sonata in B minor S178 - Liszt.

She had us spellbound with her playing of the Mozart sonatas from his middle period. The Sonata in A minor K310 is the darkest of Mozart's piano sonatas as it was written around the time of his Mother's death. A very intense performance from the pianist who's honours include the Art Prize of the Japanese Ministry of Education and the Okura Prize for her contribution to music in Japan.

After the interval she played Yoshihiri Kanno's A Particle of Water for piano and Myochin Hibashi chopsticks. The chopsticks are made from the same pure steel used to cast samurai swords. Noriko said that they cost £4000 and are much too heavy to eat with. They do make a beautiful sound. This piece created a unique sound that filled the Church which has excellent acoustics.

The concert finished with Liszt's Sonata in B minor which the composer dedicated to Robert Schumann. This has to be one of the highlights of Liszt's works and was a triumphant way to finish the concert. This was an evening of high quality music with a world class artist, it doesn't get much better then this. Thanks to the organisers of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Kronos Quartet's worldwide musical journey

Kronos Quartet brought their diverse repertoire to
Norwich Theatre Royal
On Tuesday 17th May 2011 I was back at Norwich Theatre Royal for the Kronos Quartet concert. The programme for the night was Aheym (Homeward) - Bryce Dessner, Clouded Yellow - Michael Gordon, Flow - Laurie Anderson (arr. Jacob Garchik), Untitled - Damon Albarn, Death is the Road to Awe from The Fountain - Clint Mansell (arr. Kronos Quartet), hold me neighbor, in the storm... (Aleksandra Vrebalov) and WTC 9/11 (Steve Reich).

The Kronos Quartet are David Harrington - violin, John Sherba - violin, Hank Dutt - viola and Jeffrey Zeigler - cello. Formed in 1973 by David Harrington, the Kronos Quartet have built up a diverse repertoire of music that have pushed the boundaries of Classical Music. They put a lot of innovation and experimentation into their work and performances which made for a very interesting evening.

Clouded Yellow was particularly wonderful, that was inspired by the clouded yellow butterfly that takes part in mass migrations that are known as clouded yellow years. Aleksandra Vrebalov's piece hold me, neighbor, in this storm... featured ethnic Balkan instruments, the gusle and tapan. It connects different sounds from folk and religious music connected to Serbia.

Steve Reich's WTC 9/11 was a dramatic way to finish the concert. This piece includes pre-recorded voices starting with recordings by the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the New York City Fire Department, and then from interviews with residents who lived or worked in lower Manhattan.

After this diverse programme of music we were then treated to a encore of music from Iceland, Greece and Egypt. This has to be one of the highlights of this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival with the diverse and thought provoking music. The Kronos Quartet left the stage with the sound of loud applause ringing in their ears.

Friday 20 May 2011

Latin beats at Norwich Theatre Royal

Mayra Andrade bringing Cape Verde
to Norwich Theatre Royal
There was big disappointment at Norwich Theatre Royal on Sunday when Mariza had to cancel her concert at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival due to poor health. Instead of leaving the Theatre empty for the night Mayra Andrade and Claudia Aurora were booked to play in her place.

All the ticket holders who chose to attend this concert instead of getting a refund on their ticket made the right decision as we were treated to a splendid night of World Music. There was always going to be a bit of sadness about not seeing world diva icon Mariza but the show has to go on.

First on stage was Portuguese Fado singer Claudia Aurora who's debut album Silencio is the first collection of original fado songs to be recorded in the United Kingdom. Songs of sadness maybe, but they give a true realism of how it is to live and the feelings associated with that. Life, destiny, longing and despair.

Mayra Andrade was headlining on the night. She's Cuban born who first appeared on stage in Cape Verde ten years ago. Her music explores the link between the rhythmic heritages of Cape Verde and the latin sounds of Brazil and Cuba. She brings a young fresh feel to the music while adding her own unique style.

Well done to the organisers of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival for putting on this concert at such sort notice. A very enjoyable evening when World Music took centre stage and we were all moving our feet to a latin beat well into the night.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

The tower glowed in clear light of the sun

The Voice Project Choir perform The Proportions of
the Temple at Norwich Cathedral
On Saturday evening I was at Norwich Cathedral for The Voice Project Choir with Nick Bartsch and Trio Zephyr concert for their performance of The Proportions of the Temple as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Composed by Nik Bartsch and Jonathan Baker with Jason Dixon, from a libretto by George Szirtes, Agnes Lehoczky and Andrew McDonnell. This piece is based on Norwich Cathedral. Exploring the history, architecture and stories associated with the building.

It was a pleasure and delight to be present on this special evening as the music and building were able to complement each other perfectly to truly inspire us. Once I saw from the air a tower rising below us. The tower glowed in clear light of the sun. The plane has places to go to. We flew on.

The world premiere of this Norfolk and Norwich Festival commission has to be one of the highlights of this year's festival. From the Caen limes stones shipped from France to the present day, Norwich Cathedral is an iconic building that portrays history over the ages.

Monday 16 May 2011

The Handsome Family turning on the dark!

Handsome Family making it a dark Americana Friday
the 13th at Norwich Arts Centre
Friday the 13th at Norwich Arts Centre was celebrated in dark Americana style by the Handsome Family and Daniel Knox. This is the third time I've seen Brett and Rennie Sparks at the St. Benedict's Street venue. They are always good value for money.

Daniel Knox was claiming that it was everyman for himself as he scared everyone in the audience with his dark lyrics. This definitely put us in the mood for the headliners the Handsome Family.

Brett and Rennie with their married couple banter between songs put smiles on our faces. It seems that they had good value at their hotel with the all you can eat menu. Brett's cover was blown by his hat as one of his fellow guests commented that he was not a local boy. Let's hope that the hotel was still standing after Rennie showed concern that it was a mistake for Brett to leave his shirt on a radiator.

If the world comes to an end it will be the Handsome Family who will soundtrack it. If it's the loneliness of magnets that you are at or an apartment in Chicago their country tingled songs will put you in a reflective mood as you try to work out the meaning of life. Another wonderful performance from the married duo in the Fine City.

Sunday 15 May 2011

The Iron Man saves the world!

The Iron Man making friends outside
The Forum, Norwich
Once upon a time, the unexpected arrival of the Iron Man cast a shadow of fear across our community... But when an enormous dragon from outer space threatened to annihilate our planet, it was the Iron Man who valiantly came to our rescue.

These dramatic events from Ted Hughes' modern-day fairytale were acted out at Millennium Plain, Norwich by the Graeae Theatre Company which is an organisation composed of artists and managers with physical and sensory disabilities. This production was adapted by Paul Sirett.

On Friday evening we were all enchanted by this magical show as the Iron Man travelled to Australia to challenge the Dragon from outer space to a test of strength to save the world. Another magical event at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

The Iron Man towered above Millennium Plain and became a superhero in the process. The deaf and disabled ensemble put on a brilliant show which stirred all the emotions of both young and old. The dragon from outer space is now singing songs of peace across the Universe.

Neptune lands in Chapelfield Gardens!

Late night at the Festival Spiegeltent with Eliza Carthy
The Festival Spiegeltent was back in Chapelfield Gardens for this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival. It was like a spaceship had landed lighting up the Norwich park with the Spiegeltent and the Spiegel Garden.

On Thursday night I was there for the late night performance of Folk music star Eliza Carthy. With brilliant singing and fiddle playing she put on a wonderful show this being the first night of her tour for new album Neptune.

Northern songs full of sadness and life. Eliza Carthy and her band made sure we had a good time under the magnificent Spiegeltent.

Saturday 14 May 2011

The Hippodrome turns into the Kingdom of Sweets

The Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra join the circus
After experiencing the delights of the Gramoulinophone and visiting the Time and Tide Museum in the afternoon I made my way to The Hippodrome for the Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra concert as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

The wind was blowing off the North Sea on Great Yarmouth Sea Front as I made my way into The Hippodrome which is normally home to the circus. The programme for the night was The Tale of Tsar Saltan Suite Op. 57 - Rimsky-Korsakov, Piano Concerto no. 1 in F sharp minor Op. 1 - Rachmaninov and The Nutcracker Act II - Tchaikovsky.

With Alexei Stepanov as conductor and Ivan Rudin as pianist this was a very enjoyable concert showcasing three Russian masterpieces. The opening piece is based on the Pushkin fairy-tale with the addition of some characters. A wonderful way to open the concert.

Rachmaninov wrote his first piano concerto at the age of 18 while a student at the Moscow Conservatoire. How splendid to hear this vibrant and lively music. A perfect choice for a day at the seaside.

After the interval we were treated to Tchaikovsky's Act II from The Nutcracker. This was truly magical as The Hippodrome was turned into the Kingdom of Sweets. Act II is when the Sugar Plum Fairy and the people of the Kingdom perform several dances for Clara and the Prince. At the end Clara wakes up under the Christmas tree with the Nutcracker toy in her arms.

The Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra reached another level on The Nutcracker which resulted in a standing ovation at the end of their performance. This was a brilliant night at The Hippodrome that will live long in the memories of the audience.

The secret of the Gramoulinophone

2 Rien Merci bringing the delights of
the Gramoulinophone to Great Yarmouth
Great Yarmouth Market Place was treated to the delights of the Gramoulinophone by 2 Rien Merci on Wedensday. This is the fascinating world where the strange meets the marvellous.

The Norfolk & Norwich Festival went east as I made the train journey from Norwich to Great Yarmouth making in to the Market Place just in time to take my seat in the curious little circus tent. We had to swap our token for a walnut before going into the world of 2 Rien Merci.

What goes on inside is a closely guarded secret but I can say that their mix of street arts and circus brought smiles to all our faces. Bring on the clowns with the speedy tortoise. At the end of the performance they shook all our hands as we left the Gramoulinophone. Great Yarmouth Market Place will never be the same again.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Navarra Quartet delight Festival crowd

Navarra Quartet put on a brilliant performance
at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich
It was another brilliant concert at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival as the Navarra Quartet delighted us at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich. With a programme of String Quartet in G minor Op. 20 no.3 - Haydn and String Quartet in B flat no. 5 Op. 92 - Shostakovich.

After the interval they were due to play Brahms string quartet in A minor Op. 51 no. 2 but due to illness they had not had enough time to practise the piece therefore they replaced this with Ravel's string quartet.

There was a wonderful atmosphere in the venue as the sound of Haydn's string quartet floated across the air at St. Peter Mancroft with it's excellent acoustics. The performance of Shostakovich was world class and breathtaking.

After the interval Ravel's string quartet with it's strict four movement classical structure was a typically lively way to finish the concert on a high.  We all applauded loudly in great appreciation of a marvellous evening from Magnus Johnston, Marije Ploemacher, Simone van der Giessen and Nathaniel Boyd at this historic Norwich venue.

Monday 9 May 2011

The Wolves put on a spectacular show

The Wolves making their way down Gentleman's
Walk thrilling us with a spectacular show 
After the concert at St. Andrew's Hall on Saturday I made the short walk up to Millennium Plain to experience the excitement of Deabru Beltzak's The Wolves. Street Theatre at it's best on the streets of The Fine City for the Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2011.

This is a reworking of the Pied Piper of Hamelin featuring huge mechanical puppets with amazing special effects. This time it's a pianist who with their music rids a town of wolves. When the town forgets it's obligations the pianist takes revenge on the town by returning the wolves spreading chaos and ruin.

This was a spectacular show that thrilled the large crowd that followed the wolves from The Forum down Gentleman's Walk and back again. I must admit it was scary but very enjoyable. There was an adrenaline rush as we chased after the pianist and the wolves. A night that Norwich city centre will never forget.

Little Ceremonial going around St. Andrew's Hall

The English Chamber Orchestra delighting us at
St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich
On Saturday 7th May 2011 I was fortunate enough to be present at the Festival Chorus with the English Chamber Orchestra concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich. This was the opening Classical Music event at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2011.

The programme on the night consisted of Egmont Overture Op. 84 - Beethoven, Little Ceremonial - John Tavener, Col sorriso d'innocenza and final scene from II pirata - Bellini and Stabat mater - Rossini.

Conductor on the evening was David Parry. Also performing were Carmen Giannattasio - soprano, Ann-Marie Owens - mezzo-soprano, Colin Lee - tenor and Andrew Foster-Williams - bass-baritone. Terry Edwards is the Chorus Master of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival Chorus.

The evening began with a lively performance of Beethoven's Egmont Overture Op. 84 that was very well received by the festival audience. We were then treated by the European premiere of John Tavener's Little Ceremonial which was made more special with the composer present on the evening. The idea of this piece is of a procession apparently going nowhere.

Carmen Giannattasio gave a magnificent performance on Bellini's Col sorriso d'innocenza. Her voice was amazing and I'm sure everyone at the concert were thrilled to hear her amazing vocals.  The Norfolk & Norwich Festival has truly arrived.

After the interval Rossini's Stabat mater gave us more delights from the Orchestra, Festival Chorus and Soloists that filled the hall. This was a very enjoyable evening that has set up two weeks of wonderful events to look forward too at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2011.

Friday 6 May 2011

Saxophone Massive Festival Launch!

Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2011 launched by
Andy Sheppard's Saxophone Massive
The Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2011 is finally here with the Festival launch from Andy Sheppard's Saxophone Massive. Millennium Plain outside The Forum was packed with hundreds of people to witness this extraordinary event.

More then two hundred saxophonists from across Norfolk led by Andy Sheppard gave an amazing performance that thrilled us all in the packed crowd. It was very loud as Norwich city centre danced to the sounds of Jazz.

There was a a great atmosphere and a party vibe in the air. What a brilliant sight, with the saxophonists playing in the shadow of the St. Peter Mancroft Church. A fantastic start to the Festival with another two weeks of amazing events to look forward to. The Norfolk and Norwich Festival is up and running in great style.