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.