Sunday 30 December 2012

The Nutcracker at the London Coliseum

On the evening of Saturday 29th December 2012 I attended a traditional London Christmas performance of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. My festive destination was the London Coliseum for the English National Ballet's production of this timeless classic.

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 Tamara Rojo as Clara and Esteban Berlanga as the Nephew were outstanding. Tamara Rojo is in her first season as Artistic Director of English National Ballet.

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.

The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre

On Saturday 29th December 2012 I attended the matinee performance of The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre in London's West End. This incredible musical from Richard Stilgoe and Andrew Lloyd Webber is based on the novel Le Fantome de l'Opera by Gaston Leroux.

The Phantom of the Opera opens in Paris in 1911 at an auctioning of the contents of the Paris Opera House. The contents include a fabulous chandelier in which the auctioneer proceeds to tell the story of the legend of the Phantom of the Opera. Suddenly you are transported back a time when the Paris Opera House was at the height of its powers.

At that time, the opera house is, claimed by many, to be inhabited by a ghost. If this ghost is in anyway offended or annoyed then he will cause mayhem in the opera house. The ghost or phantom then decides to help a lowly chorus girl, Christine Daae by giving her music lessons through the wall of her dressing room. He pretends to be the spirit of her dead father and as a result of this she becomes a talented singer who is then thrust into the limelight.

This phantom worships Christine and is determined to make her a star. He demands that the opera house management cast her in a starring role in the new opera Il Muto but the manager, Raoul refuses to do so. As a result of this the phantom, angered by this refusal decides to cause chaos in the opera house. He is chased but manages to evade capture by causing a fabulous chandelier to crash to the ground.

Later on, we see the Grand Masquerade Ball. Six months have passed since the Phantom’s last appearance and people have started to think that he has gone forever. In that time, Raoul and Christine have become engaged which causes the Phantom to return in a fit of jealous rage.

He makes new demands of the management and tries to win back the affection of Christine but she is committed to Raoul who she loves deeply. In a confrontation, the Phantom demands that Christine comes back to him or Raoul will die.

There were brilliant performances from Marcus Lovett as The Phantom, Sofia Escobar as Christine Daae and Simon Thomas as Raoul as a packed Her Majesty's Theatre enjoyed a Christmas treat in London's West End. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mesmerising score along with the fantastic scenery and breathtaking special effects, magically combined to bring this tragic love story to life.

Wednesday 26 December 2012

Red Balloon Christmas Carol Concert

On Tuesday 18th December 2012 I attended the Norwich Red Balloon Learner Centre Christmas Carol Concert at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich. The concert featured a number of traditional Christmas carols interspersed with readings from Norwich based poet Pete Goodrum, Ejike Ndaji of Overbury's Solicitors, local television personality Julie Reinger, Red Balloon founder and chief executive Dr. Carrie Herbert MBE and Norwich Red Balloon students.

The programme of Christmas carols consisted of Once in Royal David's City, O come all ye faithful, See amid the winter's snow, Away in a manger, While shepherd's watched, Unto us is born a son, Silent night, In the bleak mid winter, O little town of Bethlehem, Hark! the herald angels sing and Chorale Prelude In Dulce Jubilo Fantasia - Bach.

The ethos of Red Balloon is to provide a safe environment for young people who are not able to attend mainstream school as a result of the severe bullying they have experienced. This was a wonderful and moving concert at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich with inspiring readings and splendid singing to mark the festive season. While shepherds watched their flocks by night, all seated on the ground. The angel of the Lord came down and glory shone around.

UEA Christmas concert at St. John's Cathedral

On Thursday 13th December 2012 I went to the St. John The Baptist RC Cathedral, Norwich for the UEA Christmas concert which featured a 140 strong choir singing well loved community carols with opportunities for audience participation. The choir were conducted by Tom Primrose with William Fergusson on piano and Kris Thomsett on organ.

In the first half of the concert the choir sang Joy to the world, Quem pastores laudavere, Coventry carol, Past three o clock, I wonder as I wander and Sussex carol. There was also audience participation with O come all ye faithful, While shepherds watched their flocks and See amid the winter's snow.

After an interval of wonderful refreshments in the Norfolk Room the choir sang Ding dong merrily on high, The shepherds' farewell, In the bleak mid-winter, Sans Day carol, The twelve days of Christmas and Sir Christemas. There was also audience participation with O little town of Bethlehem, We three kings of Orient are, Away in a manger and Hark the herald-angels sing.

There was a brilliant festive atmosphere at St. John's Cathedral as the UEA Choir thrilled us with a feast of Christmas favourites. Hark! the herald-angels sing. Glory to the new-born King. This was a night which really raised the roof.

Monday 24 December 2012

St. Gregory's Orchestra's Christmas Concert

On the afternoon of Sunday 9th December 2012 I attended the St. Gregory's Orchestra's Christmas Concert in aid of Nelson's Journey which featured Wensum Valley Brass at the United Reformed Church, Princes Street, Norwich. The St. Gregory's Orchestra were conducted by Martin Wyatt with Alison Mills as Leader. Eric Franklin was Co-ordinator of Wensum Valley Brass.

The programme consisted of Orchestral Suite, Iolanthe - Arthur Sullivan and Concerto in B flat for Bassoon - Mozart from the St. Gregory's Orchestra. After an interval of coffee and chocolate biscuits Wensum Valley Brass performed Sarabande - Grieg, Wedding Day - Grieg, Cantate Domino - Pitoni, Pilgrim's Chorus - Wagner, Earl of Salisbury's Pavane - Byrd, Canzona 13 - Gabrieli, O Holy Night - Adam, Just a Closer Walk - Arr. by Don Gillis, Amazing Grace - Arr. Luther Henderson, Coventry Carol O leave your sheep - arr. Patrick Rivers and March for a Pageant - Cook.

This was time for the St. Gregory's Orchestra to have some Christmas fun as they thrilled and entertained us with Arthur Sullivan's Iolanthe but some of the orchestra found Gilbert's words irresistible and felt obliged to burst into song. Eleanor Skeate was soloist for Mozart's Concerto in B flat for Bassoon which was his first concerto for a wind instrument.

Wensum Valley Brass were originally a small group formed by members of the brass section of the Norwich City Concert Band. The group have been part of the evening street entertainment for the Lord Mayor's weekend. This was the first time they had appeared in formal concert format.

This was a wonderful afternoon of music at the United Reformed Church, Princes Street, Norwich which helped to raise money for Nelson's Charity which is for children and young people who need help and support to deal with losing a loved one. Well done to both the St. Gregory's Orchestra and Wensum Valley Brass.

Sunday 23 December 2012

Four Sea Interludes at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich

On the evening of Saturday 8th December 2012 I attended the Norwich Philharmonic Orchestra's concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich which featured conductor Matthew Andrews and pianist Richard Uttley. The programme consisted of Four Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes - Britten, Piano Concerto No.2 - Rachmaninov and Symphony No.7 - Dvorak.

Benjamin Britten's Four Sea Interludes composed in 1945 is from his opera, Peter Grimes, which captures the unique spirit of the composer's beloved East Coast. This performance formed part of Familiar Fields a celebration across Norfolk and Suffolk of Britten's life and music in his centenary year. The Sea Interludes were developed from the six orchestral pieces that introduce the acts and link scenes in the opera. Besides being evocative portraits of the sea at different times of day and in different weather conditions, they are also psychological studies that chronicle the dramatic confrontation between Grimes and the townspeople of Aldeburgh, where the drama is set.

Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No.2 is one of the most popular pieces in the classical repertoire. Brilliant young pianist Richard Uttley took on the epic challenge of this great romantic masterpiece, which film fans will recognise as the emotional soundtrack to Brief Encounter. This piece was composed in 1900 after the composer recovered from a period of depression.

Dvorak's Symphony No.7 was written for the London Philharmonic Society in 1884 and was a wild success at its premiere with its showcase of sweet melodies and dramatic orchestral flourishes. This piece fulfilled his apparent aim to prove himself more then a purely nationalist composer.

This was a wonderful concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich which included the performance of Four Sea Interludes as a tribute to Benjamin Britten in his centenary year. Richard Uttley played a splendid Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2 while Dvorak's Symphony No.7 was a brilliant finish to the concert.

Saturday 22 December 2012

One Man, Two Guvnors at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Saturday 8th December 2012 I attended the matinee performance at Norwich Theatre Royal of the National Theatre on Tour's One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean which is based on The Servant of Two Masters by Carlo Golgoni. This comedy with songs by Grant Olding was a complete sell out at Norwich Theatre Royal as the audience had an afternoon of laugh out louds.

Fired from his skiffle band, Francis Henshall becomes minder to Roscoe Crabbe but Roscoe is really Rachel, posing as her own dead brother who's been killed by her boyfriend Stanley Stubbers. Francis spots the chance of an extra meal ticket and takes a second job with one Stanley Stubbers. To prevent discovery Francis must keep his two guvnors apart. It's that simple or that's what it seems.

One Man, Two Guvnors is a glorious celebration of British comedy with a unique mix of satire, songs, slapstick and glittering one-liners. Rufus Hound was brilliant and funny in his role as Francis Henshall as he tried to carry out the instructions from both his Guvnors on the south coast in Brighton. The Craze played songs between scenes including The Brighton Line which added to a fine afternoon's entertainment at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Friday 21 December 2012

Jane Eyre Volume II at the UEA Drama Studio

On Friday 7th December 2012 I was back at the UEA Drama Studio for Jane Eyre Volume II. After attending Volume I on Tuesday evening I was eagerly looking forward to the second part of the UEA third year drama students unique adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel.

Volume II is the story of a traumatised Jane found homeless and vagrant, wandering across the moors and trying to run away from her troubled past. Heartbroken and alone, she stumbles across the Rivers’ house where she attempts to forget the love she has lost and the pain she has suffered. But what is it that happened at Thornfield? Who is this character, St John, who appears to have such an interest in Jane? And will she ever find a way to be reunited with her true love?

This was another wonderful evening to be in attendance at the UEA Drama Studio as yet again the audience were taken to the harsh world that Jane Eyre would have had to face. Dark and funny with added original music, the play incorporated dreams, flashbacks and delusions which made for a very interesting performance. "I am not an angel," I asserted; "and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself."

Jane Eyre Volume I at the UEA Drama Studio

On Tuesday 4th December 2012 I attended the UEA's third year Drama students adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre Volume I at the UEA Drama Studio in Norwich. This was the first part of a two part adaptation which reinvented the traditional period drama with a large ensemble cast bringing together original music, dance and a brand new script.

Volume I follows Jane Eyre, a young girl who comes from nothing but wants to seize all that life can offer. Surviving her bleak childhood through strength, determination and a keen spirit, Jane begins working as a Governess at the mysterious Thornfield Hall. Here she finds the love and comfort she has always longed for in the shape of her master, Mr Rochester. But Thornfield hides a dark secret and Jane is forced to choose between her beliefs and her chance of happiness.

I found the play very enjoyable and experimental. This is a dark adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's classic novel. We were taken to the world of Jane Eyre and were able to sense the harsh reality that she would have had to face. I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas at St. Peter Mancroft

On Saturday 1st December 2012 I attended the Mancroft Music Autumn Recital Preparing for Christmas at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich. This event was part of Familiar Fields, celebrating Benjamin Britten's life and music in Norfolk and Suffolk. Performing were Julian Haggett - organ, Rhian Hanson - harp, Jody Butler - director. The Girls' Choir, Choral Scholars and Organ Scholars.

The programme consisted of Nun bitten wir den heiligen Geist BuxWV 209 - Buxtehude, Creator of the stars of night - Mode iv melody arr. John Scott, Long ago prophets knew - Piae Cantiones arr. Malcolm Archer, How beautiful upon the mountains - John Stainer, Lift up your heads, O ye gates - William Mathias, Chancon dans la Nuit - Salzedo, Corpus Christi Carol - Britten, King Herod and the Cock - Britten, Praeludium in F - Lubeck, Nocturne from Suite for Organ - Clucas and A Ceremony of Carols - Britten.

This was a splendid concert at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich which took place the day before Advent Sunday, the beginning of the season of Advent, when we prepare for the coming of the Lord at Christmas, and ultimately the 'end of time'. The highlight was Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols which has become a tradition to be performed at St. Peter Mancroft to mark the start of Advent.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Labyrinth of Love at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Friday 30th November 2012 I attended the Rambert Dance Company's performance of the Labyrinth of Love at Norwich Theatre Royal. This is a brand new work by Irish choreographer Marguerite Donlon which is both heart-breaking and humorous. Her Rambert debut is a collaboration with one of America's most performed contemporary composers, Grammy award-winning Michael Daugherty, and includes designs from the visual artist Mat Collishaw, and set and costume designer Conor Murphy.

Rambert Dance Company also performed Monolith, L'Apres-midi d'un faune and What Wild Ecstasy at Norwich Theatre Royal on a night of brilliant dance which celebrated Mark Baldwin's ten years at the helm. Sarah Gabriel was soprano for the Labyrinth of Love which is inspired by love poetry and prose written by or about women spanning over two thousand years from Sappho to Elizabeth Taylor.

The Rambert Dance Company perform without boundaries which both challenges and entertains the audience. This was an evening of world class contemporary dance full of technique and artistry. The Rambert Orchestra provided the soundtrack to the wonderful diverse and beautiful dancing on stage.

Monday 17 December 2012

LSO and Kavakos at The Barbican

After an afternoon in London's West End on Sunday 25th November 2012 I made my way to The Barbican to attend the London Symphony Orchestra's UBS Soundscapes concert featuring violinist Leonidas Kavakos. Semyon Bychkov conducted the orchestra in a programme that consisted of Violin Concerto - Berg and Symphony No.1 Titan - Mahler.

Berg's Violin Concerto was written in 1935. It is probably his best-known and most frequently performed instrumental piece. The concerto is structured in two movements, each further divided into two sections. The Concerto was written as a memorial "to an angel" upon the premature death of Alma Mahler's daughter Manon Gropius.

Mahler began his First Symphony in his late twenties. Incorporating themes from his earlier song cycles, this monumental score charts a young hero’s coming of age. It retains a youthful energy, but explores suffering and sorrow, and ends by defying the mundane and insisting on life’s joy. This piece reached it's definitive four movement form in 1896.

This was a concert full of energy with the LSO and Leonidas Kavakos playing Berg's Violin Concerto with lots of enthusiasm and emotion. After the interval Semyon Bychkov led the LSO in an absolute brilliant performance of Mahler's Symphony No.1. There was a great atmosphere with lots of applause at the end on another memorable night at The Barbican.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Matilda The Musical brings fun to the West End

I was back in London's West End on Sunday 25th November 2012 when I attended the matinee performance of Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre. This musical was written by Dennis Kelly with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. There was a wonderful atmosphere at a sold out theatre to see this winner of a record-breaking seven Olivier Awards in 2012, the show has also won five Best Musical awards since its opening when it received 5-star reviews across the board.

Roald Dahl's much-loved story of Matilda bursts into life on stage in this brand new musical version where children and adults alike will be thrilled and delighted by the story of the special little girl with an extraordinary imagination. Matilda's parents think she is a nuisance and she thinks, quite rightly, they are only interested in watching telly. Life is not much better at school, where the monstrous headmistress Miss Trunchbull terrifies both students and teachers alike. Then one day Matilda discovers she has a very special power and decides it's time the grown-ups were taught a lesson. Be warned, the children are revolting...

This is a fun musical with lots of catchy songs like Naughty, When I Grow Up, The Smell of Rebellion and Revolting Children. There was lots of action on stage as the magic of Roald Dahl was brought to life. This is a story of standing up to bullying by rebellion and protest. Everyone in the audience and on stage had a great time with included lots of laughs for all ages.

Saturday 15 December 2012

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty Magic!

Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty arrived at Norwich Theatre Royal in November as New Adventures' 25th Anniversary celebrations in 2012 culminated in the world premiere of Matthew Bourne's latest re-imagining of an iconic and beloved ballet classic. Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty sees the choreographer return to the music of Tchaikovsky to complete the trio of the composer's ballet masterworks.

I attended the matinee performance on Saturday 24th November 2012 as Matthew Bourne's gothic fairy tale brought the magic of Tchaikovsky to Norwich Theatre Royal. Perrault's timeless fairy tale about a young girl cursed to sleep for one hundred years, was turned into a ballet by Marius Petipa in 1890. Matthew Bourne takes this as his starting point, setting the christening of Aurora in the year of the ballet's first performance. This was a period when fairies, vampires and decadent opulence fed the gothic imagination.

As Aurora grows into a young woman we move forward to a mythical golden age of long summer afternoons, cricket and new dance crazes. Years later, awakening from her century long slumber, Aurora finds herself in the modern day. This haunting new scenario creates a supernatural love story across the decades, that even the passage of time itself cannot hinder.

This was a magical afternoon at Norwich Theatre Royal as once again Matthew Bourne has done something different and unique to a traditional classic ballet. There was lots of fun in this tale of good versus evil as Sleeping Beauty was turned into a gothic tales for all ages.

UEA Symphony Orchestra celebrate Britten


On Friday 23rd November 2012 I attended the UEA Symphony Orchestra's Britten Centenary Celebration Concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich with two unfinished masterpieces being performed. The orchestra were conducted by Sharon Andrea Choa. Soloists were Simon Smith - violin and Paul Silverthorne - viola. The programme consisted of Double Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in B minor - Britten and Symphony No.3 - Elgar/Payne.

Britten wrote the Double Concerto at the age of 18 but never realised the orchestral parts, nor sought to have it performed. The work only received its premiere in 1997, after completion by Colin Matthews. Anthony Payne (UEA’s Composer in Residence) had a great deal less material to work with – no score, but 130 pages of sketches – when he set out to complete Elgar’s unfinished 3rd Symphony, which also received its first performance in 1997, to great acclaim, at the BBC Proms.

This was a wonderful evening at St. Andrew's Hall to celebrate the centenary of Benjamin Britten which included a brilliant performance of his Double Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra. Anthony Payne was in attendance with Elgar's Symphony No.3 being performed. This piece finishes on a fade out ending, with a ghostly echo of the symphony's opening in the very last bars. Payne took this cue from The Waggons Passes, from Elgar's 1930 Nursery Suite.

Tuesday 11 December 2012

Netsky at Norwich Waterfront

On the evening of Monday 19th November 2012 I attended the Netsky Live! gig at Norwich Waterfront with support from Ayah Marar. There was a great atmosphere at this sold out event as Belgian Boris Daenen brought his trademark liquid drum’n’bass euphoria to Norwich putting us all in a happy mood. This was a night to throw your arms into the air and just enjoy the music.

The name Netsky is based on the computer virus of the same name which we all got infected with at Norwich Waterfront. He played lots from his new album, 2 which was well appreciated at this brilliant gig. The highlight of his set was Everyday which capped an amazing night.

Sunday 9 December 2012

Kidsuke at Norwich Arts Centre

Kidsuke brought us a night of electro treats along with Jealousguy, Maersk and The Boy With Two Heads on Saturday 17th November 2012 at Norwich Arts Centre. This was another Spectro event to get us moving on the dance floor.

Kidsuke is a collaborative project between the UK’s Kidkanevil and Japan’s Daisuke Tanabe. DJ/Producer Kidkanevil first came to prominence with the release of his critically acclaimed debut album ‘Problems and Solutions’ back in 2007, and has since gone from strength to strength.

Described by Bonobo as “like the best moments of RJD2 and Timbaland combined…incredible!” and “a sonic visionary” by iDJ, the kid has earned the praise and respect of numerous peers and journalists, counting the likes of DJ Shadow and Wire Magazine amongst his fans, and progressives Tokimonsta, Blue Daisy and Illum Sphere amongst his contemporaries.

Now three albums deep his latest offering ‘Basho Basho’ “deserves to put Kidkanevil right up there with Flying Lotus” (Knowledge Magazine) and sees him riding into town like a hi-tec hunter-gatherer, spearing, chopping and mixing beats in his own unique style.

This was a fun night at Norwich Arts Centre with Kidsuke bringing us DJ Shadow influenced beats. There was a brilliant atmosphere created at the venue as Kidsuke took us on an amazing electronica journey. This was progressive music at it's best. Well done Spectro on another successful event.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Big Screen Recital at St. Peter Mancroft

On Saturday 17th November 2012 I attended the Julian Haggett Big Screen Organ Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich as part of the Mancroft Music Recital Series. The Big Screen was sponsored by Merge Bar and Restaurant.

The programme consisted of Praeludium in g BuxWV 149 - Buxtehude, Nun komm der Heiland BWV 599, Gottes Sohn ist kommen BWV 600, Herr Christ der ein'ge Gottes-Sohn BWV 601, Lob sei dem allmachitigen Gott BWV 602 - Bach, Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott BuxWV 199 - Buxtehude, Nun komm der Heiden Heiland BWV 659, Wachet Auf! BWV 645 - Bach, Motet coloration: Dixit maria and angelum - Scheidemann and Prelude and Fugue BWV 543 - Bach.

Julian Haggett became a star of the big screen at St. Peter Mancroft Church as we were entertained with a recital of splendid organ music. Mancroft Music's Recitals are always a wonderful way for the people of Norwich to experience this historic city centre church along with beautiful music.

Monday 3 December 2012

St. Gregory's Orchestra's Remembrance Day Concert

On the afternoon of Sunday 11th November 2012 I attended the St. Gregory's Orchestra's Remembrance Day Concert at Princes Street United Reformed Church, Norwich. The orchestra were conducted by Martin Wyatt with Alison Mills as Leader. Soloists were Kevin O'Regan and Beverley McInnes.

The programme consisted of The Warsaw Concerto - Addinsell, Crisantemi - Puccini, Roses of Picardy - Wood/Weatherly, Movements from Czech Suite - Dvorak and Symphony No.5 - Tchaikovsky. The concert was given in aid of Princes Street United Reformed Church, which faces large bills for essential repairs and maintenance. This beautiful building is not just a place of worship but also home to numerous local organisations.

There was a very nice atmosphere at the venue as the St. Gregory's Orchestra played a wonderful programme of music. From The Warsaw Concerto which evoked memories of the 1940's to Tchaikovsky's Symphony No.5 Martin Wyatt conducted the orchestra splendidly. Refreshments were served in the coffee bar during the interval.

Dreamboats and Petticoats at Ipswich Regent

On Saturday 10th November 2012 I caught the train to Ipswich to attend the matinee performance of Dreamboats and Petticoats at Ipswich Regent Theatre. This is a jukebox musical built around songs from the late 1950's and early 1960's. A brilliant feelgood show. Bobby and Laura were played by Scott Haining and Elizabeth Carter.

It's 1961, where Bobby, an awkward but talented teenager, is auditioning for a band at the local Youth Club. He almost gets the part, but is edged out by a last minute arrival to the auditions: the cool and confident Norman. The teenagers that hang out at Youth Club all know each other, even if they're not necessarily friends. These teens include Bobby and his best friend Ray, Ray's younger sister Laura who has a crush on Bobby, cool girl Sue whom Bobby has a crush on, and Donna, who is Sue's friend.

Bobby's father announces that the Youth Club association is holding the first National song writing competition. Bobby and Laura, who have similar tastes in music, agree to write a song together. At first they make some progress, with Bobby coming up with an idea and basic tune, which Laura takes on to expand into a full song. But Bobby then starts ignoring Laura when Sue, the girl he has a crush on, starts flirting with him. Laura warns Bobby that Sue is only pretending to be into him in order to make Norman jealous, but Bobby doesn't care.

The Youth Club are taken on a road trip to a local carnival, and there emotions run high. Ray and Donna get together and become a couple. Sue's plan to make Norman jealous works, and Norman takes her away to be alone. Bobby is crushed, and Laura tells him "I told you so". However, when the whole group gathers together at the end of night, Norman boasts to the others that he went "all the way" with Sue. Sue is enraged and humiliated, insisting that they only kissed. Bobby confronts Norman, insisting that he apologies to Sue. At first Norman refuses, so Bobby challenges Norman to an "official" fight in a ring, in which Bobby wins. Norman apologises to Sue, and Sue is ecstatically grateful to Bobby and happily becomes his girl.

Laura tries to remind Bobby about their songwriting commitment but to no avail, since all his time is dedicated to Sue. Norman is also being ignored by Sue, even after apologising and promising to become better. Norman then approaches Laura, both flirting with her with suggestions that what he really needs is a "good" girl, and that they should write a song together. Bobby is confused and upset when he hears about this from Ray, who also tells Bobby that Laura has had feelings for him for a long time. Bobby and Sue break up when Bobby accidentally causes Sue to fall out his bedroom window, but when he approaches Laura to reconcile, she claims that he only started to notice her because she's started dressing nicer and doing her hair.

Laura's 16th birthday party is held at the Youth Club. She and Sue decide to put the awkwardness between them to the past, and agree to be friends. Norman and Sue reconcile. Bobby and Laura confess their feelings in the locker room, admitting that they've each liked the other for a long time and didn't know what to do about it, and finally kiss.

News comes in from the songwriting competition. Bobby and Laura, who are a team again, have made it to the next round. Norman did not make the cut at all. It then jumps to the final National performance, where Bobby and Laura win with the results of the joint efforts, the pop song "Dreamboats and Petticoats".

It was a wonderful afternoon at Ipswich Regent Theatre as we were all treated to a load of great songs like Let's Dance, Dream Baby Dream, It's Only Make Believe, Great Pretender, Let's Twist Again and C'mon Everybody. At the end of the performance everyone was singing and dancing along to the songs as the Regent became one big celebration of the Sixties.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Seckou Keita at Norwich Arts Centre

Seckou Keita is a kora player and drummer from Senegal. He is a charismatic live performer and one of the few champions of the less-known and rhythmically rocking kora repertoire from Casamance in southern Senegal. On Saturday 3rd November 2012 I attended his concert at Norwich Arts Centre which was the finale of Norfolk Black History Month.

His new album Miro has just been released and this was the perfect night for Seckou Keita to showcase his music which is influenced by his West African roots and travels around the world. His music put smiles on everyone's faces and got lots of the crowd dancing on a night of positive vibes at Norwich Arts Centre.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Rusulka at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Friday 2nd November 2012 I attended the Glyndebourne performance of Dvorak's Rusalka at Norwich Theatre Royal. This Opera sung in Czech is based on Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid. This performance was dedicated to Robert Poulton who was tragically killed in a car accident on Tuesday 30th October 2012.

As wood nymphs dance by the lake, the moonlight wakens the water sprite, who tries to lure one of them into the depths. They mock him and run away. His daughter Rusalka, sick at heart, tells him of her yearning to become human. He is shocked to learn that she loves a human being – a prince who comes to bathe in the lake. Her father tells her she must consult the witch, Ježibaba warning her that she will be doomed if claimed by a man.

Rusalka appeals to the moon to tell her lover she is waiting for him. She wakes Ježibaba and asks her to give her a human soul. Ježibaba informs her that the ability to speak to humans will be denied her. If she fails to win love, she will be forever accursed; if he rejects her, her lover, too, will be eternally damned. Confident of her love, Rusalka agrees.

Hunters approach, among them the Prince, seeking Rusalka. He sends the others away, and sees Rusalka standing silently before him. Unable to answer him, she throws herself into his arms. He leads her away as the other water nymphs lament her leaving. At the Prince’s castle, the Gamekeeper and Kitchen Girl discuss events. The Prince has brought a silent female back with him from the woods, and seems likely to marry her; the Gamekeeper hopes that they will be delivered from such sinister magic. Yet there is hope: the Prince is increasingly attracted to the Foreign Princess.

The servants disappear as the Prince enters with Rusalka. Though he is still drawn to her, he complains that she is devoid of passion. Watching them as she enters, the Foreign Princess vows to separate them. She asks why the Prince’s bride-to-be is so silent. As the Prince recalls his duties as a host and leaves with the Princess, he tells Rusalka to dress as befits the wedding ball.

As the ball begins, Rusalka looks on broken-hearted while the Prince dances with the Princess. Her father arrives to warn her that death awaits her back at the lake; she will return eternally damned. As the Prince embraces the Princess, Rusalka acknowledges that he has betrayed her. Rusalka suddenly throws herself into the Prince’s arms, but he rejects her. As Rusalka’s father drags her away, the Prince falls stupefied. The Foreign Princess laughs.

A moonlit night at the lake, where Rusalka sits sadly. Deserted by the Prince and banished by her companions, she longs for death. Ježibaba mocks her, relenting only so far as to tell her that if she kills the Prince herself, she can return to her former state. She gives Rusalka a knife, which the latter throws into the lake. The Gamekeeper and Kitchen Girl arrive at the witch’s cottage, seeking a cure for the Prince’s illness, caused by the sorceress Rusalka. The witch sends them packing and Rusalka’s father angrily chases them away.

The dryads return to dance until Rusalka’s father’s tale of his daughter’s undoing causes them to flee. The Prince enters, once more seeking Rusalka. She appears, warning him that now she can mean only death to him. The Prince asks her to kiss him, to bring him peace. Rusalka finally agrees. He dies. She asks for God’s mercy on his soul and sinks back into the lake.

Glyndebourne took us to the magical world of Rusalka as Dvorak's Opera was performed at Norwich Theatre Royal Conjuring up a world of dark forests and deep lakes. Natasha Jouhl as Rusalka and Peter Berger as the Prince were wonderful which together with the amazing music from The Glyndebourne Tour Orchestra made this an unforgettable night.

Friday 23 November 2012

The Marriage of Figaro at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Tuesday 30th October 2012 I attended the Glyndebourne performance of Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) at Norwich Theatre Royal. This was a great opportunity to witness world class Opera in the Fine City.

The entire action of Mozart’s life-enhancing opera takes place within a single day; a day of madness as the subtitle of the original text describes it. Figaro and Susanna’s determination to marry enrages their master, the Count, reducing him to a state of lustful frustration, disregarding his wife, the Countess, who is left to suffer the miseries of unrequited love. In a breathless circle of plots and counter-plots, the Count pursues Susanna, the young and hormonally volcanic Cherubino pursues anything in a skirt and the scheming pair of Bartolo and Marcellina come close to upsetting Figaro’s plans but are caught in a web of their own devising.

Conceived by the brilliantly scurrilous writer Beaumarchais in 1784 as a barbed satire on the aristocracy, the original play was repeatedly banned from performance in the years leading up to the French Revolution. It was considered to be dangerously incendiary and to Mozart and his librettist Da Ponte it proved irresistible, inspiring them to create an opera of unrivalled beauty and acutely perceptive characterisation.

Transferring direct from the 2012 Festival,this was a new production from celebrated director Michael Grandage, returning to Glyndebourne following his critically acclaimed Billy Budd (2010). A packed Norwich Theatre Royal had a splendid entertaining evening as Glyndebourne thrilled us and gave us lots of laughs. This was Mozart set in the Swinging Sixties with Joélle Harvey as Susanna and Guido Loconsolo as Figaro both performing brilliantly along with the fine music from the orchestra conducted by Jonathan Cohen. Glyndebourne took us on an amazing emotional journey.

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Joseph at Theatre Royal Nottingham

Thanks to East Midlands Trains I made the journey to Nottingham on Friday 26th October 2012 which included a visit to Theatre Royal Nottingham to attend a performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Keith Jack as Joseph and Laura Ingram as the Narrator. This was a wonderful opportunity to see this Andrew Lloyd Webber Musical.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age, and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Joseph had a dream and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.

The Biblical saga of Joseph and his coat of many colours comes to vibrant life in this delightful musical parable. Joseph, his father's favourite son, is a boy blessed with prophetic dreams. When he is sold into slavery by his jealous brothers and taken to Egypt, Joseph endures a series of adventures in which his spirit and humanity are continually challenged. He is purchased by Potiphar where thwarting advances from Potiphar's wife lands him in jail. When news of Joseph's gift to interpret dreams reaches the Pharaoh (wryly and riotously depicted as Elvis), Joseph is well on his way to becoming second in command. Eventually his brothers, having suffered greatly, unknowingly find themselves groveling at the feet of the brother they betrayed but no longer recognise. After testing their integrity, Joseph reveals himself leading to a heartfelt reconciliation of the sons of Israel. Set to an engaging cornucopia of musical styles, from country-western and calypso to bubble-gum pop and rock 'n' roll, this Old Testament tale emerges both timely and timeless.

Any dream will do and I'm dreamed of seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. My dream came true at Theatre Royal Nottingham where the cast put on a brilliant show full of many splendid songs including Jacob and Sons, One More Angel in Heaven and Go Go Go Joseph. This was a show of many colours and was full of fun. The audience was full of smiling faces as the magical of this musical spread throughout the whole theatre.

Then Joseph said to his brother, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. Tell my father about all the honour accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.” Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Happy 20th Birthday Britten Sinfonia!

On the evening of Tuesday 23rd October 2012 I attended the Britten Sinfonia 20th Birthday concert at Norwich Theatre Royal. This was a celebration of Britten Sinfonia both present and future. The line-up included Pekka Kuusisto - violin/director, Thomas Gould - violin/director, Jacqueline Shave - violin/director, Caroline Dearnley - cello, Nicholas Daniel - oboe and the Britten Sinfonia Academy.

The programme consisted of Gallo Variations - Alissa Firsova, Rakastava Op 14 - Sibelius, Concerto for Oboe and Violin in D minor, BWV 1060 - Bach, Fantasia Concertante on a theme of Corelli - Tippett, One - James MacMillan and Symphony No.1 in D major, Classical - Prokofiev. The pieces from  Alissa Firsova and James MacMillan were Birthday Commissions which were being World Premiered on this tour.

This was the perfect night to showcase twenty years of  Britten Sinfonia with an very imaginative and varied programme being performed at Norwich Theatre Royal. My personal favourite piece of music was Bach's Concerto for Oboe and Violin. Happy 20th Birthday Britten Sinfonia and we all hope that the next 20 years will be as equally successful and pioneering.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Alina Ibragimova at the John Innes Centre

I made my way to the John Innes Centre at Colney, Norwich for the Norfolk and Norwich Chamber Music concert on the afternoon of Sunday 21st October 2012 with Alina Ibragimova who entertained us with a solo violin performance of Johann Sebastian Bach Sonatas and Partitas. The programme consisted of Bach's Sonata No.1 in G minor BWV1001, Partita No.1 in B minor BWV1002, Sonata No.2 in A minor BWV1003 and Partita No.2 in D minor BWV1004.

Alina Ibragimova was born in Russia and entered the Gmessin State Musical College in Moscow at the age of five. She moved to London in 1996 when her father took up a post with the LSO. Alina went to the Yehudi Menuhin School and then attended the Guildhall and Royal College of Music studying with Christian Tetzlaff. She know has a full international career performing music from baroque to new commissions. In 2010 she won the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award.

Bach write his Sonatas and Partitas in 1720 of which there are three of each. They occupy an unchallenged position in the literature for solo violin. Alina Ibragimova put on a brilliant performance at a packed John Innes Centre on her 1775 Anselmo Bellosio violin. She proved what a talented Violinist she is and made this an afternoon to remember.

Monday 12 November 2012

Musical treats from the Academy of St. Thomas

On the evening of Saturday 20th October 2012 I attended the Academy of St. Thomas concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich which featured soloists Kanako Ito on violin and Martin Storey on cello. Christopher Adey was conductor as we were treated to a programme of Egmont Overture - Beethoven, Double Concerto for Violin and Cello - Brahms and Symphony No.4 The Italian - Mendelssohn.

In the autumn of 1809 Beethoven was commissioned by the Director of the Vienna Court Theatre to compose the incidental music for a new production of Goethe's 1787 play Egmont. The music consists of an overture and nine additional pieces for soprano, narrator and orchestra. Brahms write his Double Concerto for Violin and Cello for his friend Joachim in 1887 who he had fell out with for several years. Mendelssohn's The Italian is always referred to as his Fourth Symphony although it is his third in order of composition. It was started during a visit to Italy in 1830 but was not completed until three years later in Berlin.

This was a wonderful evening at St. Andrew's Hall as The Academy of St. Thomas put on a brilliant performance with the highlight of the night being the Brahms Double Concerto for Violin and Cello when Kanako Ito and Martin Storey gave us a moment to remember. The programme was true to the orchestra's philosophy to offer diverse programming as well as more familiar repertoire.

Friday 9 November 2012

Jonathan Wiseman at St. Peter Mancroft

On Saturday 20th October 2012 I attended the Jonathan Wiseman Classical Guitar Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich as part of the Mancroft Music Autumn Recital Series. Jonathan Wiseman studied at the Royal Academy of Music, London and in 2011 won the Julian Bream Prize that is awarded for artistic excellence.

The programme consisted of Sonatina for Guitar - Torroba, Elogio de la Danza - Brouwer, Andante - Bach, Variations on a theme of Scriabin - Tansman and Cadiz - Albeniz. For an encore Jonathan Wiseman performed Porro - Montana.

This was a wonderful performance from a very talented young musical which was very well appreciated by the lunchtime audience at St. Peter Mancroft Church. This was a brilliant recital full of imagination. Jonathan Wiseman has a bright future with a commission for a new guitar concerto as well as recording and publishing initiatives.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Julius Caesar at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Thursday 18th October 2012 I attended the Royal Shakespeare Company's performance of Julius Caesar at Norwich Theatre Royal. This was part of a national tour following runs in Stratford-upon-Avon and London's West End.

In this production William Shakespeare's great political thriller finds dark contemporary echoes in modern Africa. This epic struggle for power was directed by RSC Chief Associate Director Gregory Doran and was originally created as part of the World Shakespeare Festival for the London 2012 Festival. How many times shall this our lofty scene be acted o'er in states unborn and accents yet unknown.

Julius Caesar tells the story of the conspiracy against Caesar, his assassination and the defeat of his conspirators. Julius Caesar has returned to Rome triumphant from the war against Pompey. The Roman republic is prepared to heap him with new honours, causing concern and dismay among some senators who fear that too much power is held by one man.

Caius Cassius plots a conspiracy to murder Caesar, enlisting the support of the well-respected Marcus Brutus. Brutus has misgivings but is persuaded that Caesar's death is necessary for the good of the republic. However, he rejects Cassius' proposal that Mark Antony, close friend of Caesar, should also be killed. Brutus, Cassius and their co-conspirators stab Caesar to death at the senate house on the Ides of March.

At Caesar's funeral Brutus addresses the people and successfully explains the conspirators' motives. However, Mark Antony speaks next and turns the mob against the conspirators, who are forced to flee from Rome. Mark Antony and Caesar's nephew, Octavius, take command of Rome and lead an army against the conspirators. Brutus and Cassius are defeated at Philippi where they kill themselves rather than be captured.

There were wonderful performances from Paterson Joseph as Brutus, Cyril Nri as Cassius, Ray Fearon as Mark Antony and Jeffery Kissoon as Caesar as this classic story was transferred to present day Africa making it relevant for the 21st Century. The African music and stage set worked very well and the play being acted with African accents gave a real contemporary feel showing how present day political situations can compare to events in history. I really enjoyed my evening in the company of the RSC which made for a real thought provoking and progressive event at Norwich Theatre Royal.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Episode Two of Brahms and Szymanowski

After my visit to The Royal Opera House on the afternoon of Saturday 13th October 2012 I made my way to The Barbican for the second episode of the London Symphony Orchestra's Brahms and Szymanowski series of concerts. The LSO were conducted by Valery Gergiev as they played Tragic Overture - Brahms, Symphony No.2 -Szymanowski and Symphony No.2 - Brahms.

The Tragic Overture was composed by Brahms in 1880. Brahms chose the title Tragic to emphasise the turbulent, tormented character of the piece, in essence a free-standing symphonic movement, in contrast to the mirthful ebullience of a companion piece he wrote the same year, the Academic Festival Overture.

Szymanowski completed his Symphony No.2 in 1909. He was greatly influenced by German culture and the symphony has many echoes of Richard Strauss and Max Reger. This Symphony is a complex tapestry of threaded musical ideas that the composer claims to be one of his favourites.

Brahms composed his Symphony No.2 during the summer of 1877 during a visit to Pörtschach am Wörthersee, a town in the Austrian province of Carinthia. Its composition was brief in comparison with the fifteen years it took Brahms to complete his First Symphony. Brahms said that this symphony was so melancholy that you will not be able to bear it. I have never written anything so sad, and the score must come out in mourning.

This was another wonderful evening to be at The Barbican as Valery Gergiev and the LSO brought us more delightful music from Brahms and Szymanowski. This was a fabulous way to finish another brilliant day in London before catching the train back to Norwich.

Monday 29 October 2012

Swan Lake at The Royal Opera House

On Saturday 13th October 2012 I caught the early train from Norwich to London looking forward to a splendid day which included attending The Royal Ballet's matinee performance of Swan Lake at The Royal Opera House.

Swan Lake was Pyotr Il’yich Tchaikovsky's first score for ballet which was premiered in 1877. Anthony Dowell's romantic interpretation returns the ballet to its 1895 origins by using the choreography of Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa.

In the castle grounds Benno von Somerstein and other friends of Prince Siegfried are waiting for his arrival to celebrate his coming of age. A feast begins when the Prince and his tutor Wolfgang appear. The Queen reminds the Prince that tomorrow he must formally choose his bride at the ball. When the party finishes the Prince tells Benno and Wolfgang that he wants to remain for a little longer on his own.

Prince Siegfried is magically drawn to the banks of the lake where a flock of white swans are swimming. One of the Swans tells the Prince that she is Princess Odette and that she and her companions have been bewitched by the Evil Genius who in the form of a huge black bird is constantly guarding them. By day the girls are fated to take the form of swans and only at night are they restored to their human form. The spell will be broken when a man falls in love with the Princess.

They dance for the Prince who is captivated by Odette and swears to save her from the magic of the Evil Genius. Odette warns him that the Evil Genius can only be overthrown when a man is prepared to sacrifice his life for love. The Prince invites Odette to the ball.

The Master of Ceremonies gives his final orders as people arrive for the ball. The Queen and Prince Siegfried greet their guests and the brides appear and dance for the Prince. He finds them all charming and beautiful but none to whom he can swear eternal love.

Fanfares announce the arrival of Von Rothbart and his daughter Odile who resembles Odette. The Prince becomes captivated by her. Odette tries to remind him of the Evil Genius and his dangerous magic but the Prince does not see her.

Convinced that Odile and Odette are the same girl Prince Siegfried chooses Odile as his bride. He suddenly sees Odette and realises that he has been deceived. Von Rothbart and Odile disappear leaving Odette destined to remain forever in the powers of the Evil Genius.

The Prince begs Odette to forgive him for his unwitting betrayal swearing his love. He is ready to sacrifice his life to defeat the Evil Genius and rushes into the waves carrying the tyrant bird with him. Both die in the cold waters of the mysterious lake leaving Odette grieving for her beloved Prince.

Brilliant performances from Marianela Nunez as Odette/Odile and Thiago Soares as Prince Siegfried made for a wonderful time in Covent Garden at The Royal Opera House as The Royal Ballet performed the magic of Swan Lake. Fantastic costumes showed the contrast between human and spirit worlds, while glowing lanterns and shimmering fabrics designed by the work of Carl Fabergé created a magical setting. The Orchestra of The Royal Opera House conducted by Boris Gruzin combined with the outstanding dancing from The Royal Ballet made this the perfect afternoon in London.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Tap dancing along 42nd Street

I made my way to 42nd Street on the evening of Thursday 11th October 2012 as the magic of Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble's tap dancing musical made it's way to Norwich Theatre Royal. With starring roles from Dave Willetts as Julian Marsh and Marti Webb as Dorothy Brock, this was a night of glamour no one wanted to miss. Jessica Punch played the role of Peggy Sawyer as we were taken to Broadway.

This musical is set in New York City and Philadelphia in 1933 telling the story of a humble, naive young actress named Peggy Sawyer who has come to audition for a new Broadway musical called Pretty Lady. Unfortunately, due to her nervousness, Peggy arrives to the audition late and misses her chance to join the chorus. Luckily, Peggy soon catches the eye of the famous director, Julian Marsh, and he gives Peggy her big break. However, the shows ageing leading lady, Dorothy Brock, quickly grows to dislike Peggy. On opening night, Ms. Brock falls and breaks her ankle. Panic spreads through the company, as the show is doomed for closure, until it is suggested that Peggy take the roll. In only thirty-six hours, Peggy learns twenty-five pages, six songs and ten dance numbers and becomes a star.

I loved the wonderful singing and dancing which made for a jolly good time with an uplifting feel good factor. 42nd Street is the ultimate backstage musical where dreams can come true. Peggy Sawyer grabbed the moment and became a big star. Brilliant songs like Keep Young and Beautiful, Lullaby of Broadway and I Only Have Eyes For You filled Norwich Theatre Royal. The tap dancing was a pleasure to watch and brought lots of fun to the production. My visit to 42nd Street was an awesome experience.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Hot Chip at Norwich UEA

On Monday 8th October 2012 I attended the Hot Chip gig at Norwich UEA with support from Disclosure the garage-house duo consisting of brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence. After Disclosure got us in the mood for dancing we were all ready for the main event of the evening.

Hot Chip took to the stage with loud applause ringing around the UEA LCR. They put on a brilliant performance which included And I was a Boy From School, Over and Over and One Life Stand with an impressive strobe lighting display helping create an amazing atmosphere as we all put on our dancing shoes. It was time for one big Electro party as Hot Chip once again proved their greatness.

Monday 22 October 2012

Azealia Banks at Norwich Waterfront

On the evening of Sunday 7th October 2012 I attended the Azealia Banks gig at Norwich Waterfront with support from Zebra Katz and Njena Reddd Foxxx. There was also a set from DJ Cosmo on a thrilling night of hip hop.

Brooklyn's Zebra Katz and Njena Reddd Foxxx got the Waterfront crowd in a party mood with hits like Ima Read and Hey Ladies. DJ Cosmo took it to another level with a set of hip hop classics before Azealia Banks took to the stage.

Azealia Banks complete with sea green hair performed tracks from her free online mix tape, Fantasea, and chart topping favourites such as Liquorice and 212. Then she took it to 1991 with a  uh, la la la, flirting with a cool french dude named Antoine, wanna taste the pastry chocolate croissant. 1991 my time has come. Azealia Banks showed us all what a star she is and that she has a very bright future. This was a fun night at Norwich Waterfront.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Organ Recital at Eaton

On the afternoon of Sunday 7th October 2012 I attended the Neil Ricketts Organ Recital at St. Andrew's Church, Eaton, Norwich which was the latest concert in the Eaton Concert Series for the 2012/13 season. Neil Ricketts served as organist at St. Andrew's Church from 1998 to 2008. He is a freelance organist and accompanist who continues to conduct the Eaton Parishes Choir and Orchestra.

The programme consisted of Fantasia and Fugue in G minor BWV 542 - Bach, Trio Sonata No.5 BWV 529 - Bach, Sonate No.2 fur Orgel ED 2558 - Hindemith, Prelude and Fugue in C minor (Op 37 No.1) - Mendelssohn, Suite Gothique Op 25 - Boellmann, In Paradisum (from Douze Pieces Nouvelles) - Dubois, Bolero de Concert - Lefebure-Wely and Variations sur un Noel (Op 20) - Dupre.

This was a well though out concert with the first half being made up of German composers while after the interval we were given a programme of French composers. It was interesting to compare the different styles. Neil Ricketts played wonderfully and along with the interval apple juice this made for a splendid Sunday afternoon

Saturday 20 October 2012

Beauty and the Beast at Norwich Theatre Royal

A handsome Prince is transformed into a Beast as punishment for his ugly arrogance. Only true love can break the spell. A beautiful young woman is sent to live with the Beast though afraid at first she soon learns that she has nothing to fear except that the Beast longs for a love that she cannot return.

Beauty and the Beast is the stunning new production from David Nixon and the Northern Ballet. On Saturday 6th October 2012 I attended the matinee performance of this magical ballet which brings an enchanted world full fairies, sprites and goblins to the stage. The amazing score which included music from Saint-Saens, Bizet, Debussy, Poulenc and Glazunov was delightfully played by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia.

The dancers were dressed in haute couture style costumes which gave a wonderful look to this timeless fairytale. Fantastic performances from Pippa Moore as the Beauty, Tobias Batley as Prince Orian, Jessica Morgan as Chantelle, Michela Paolacci as Isabelle and Benjamin Mitchell as the Beast made this an afternoon to remember that proved that beauty is more than skin deep.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Flautissimo at St. Peter Mancroft Church

On Saturday 6th October 2012 I attended the latest Mancroft Music Autumn Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich featuring Anna Hopkins on flute and David Morgan on piano and organ in a programme called Flautissimo. Anna Hopkins moved to Norfolk in 2004. She works freelance as well as teaching and also performs on Baroque flute, alto flute and piccolo.

David Morgan lectured music at Norwich City College until 2006 as well as spending twenty five years as organist at St. Edmund's Church in Acle. Since his retirement David has maintained an active career as an accompanist and performs regularly with the Norwich Baroque Orchestra.

The programme consisted of Sonata No.4 in C major - Telemann, Ballade Op.288 - Reinecke, Thema mit Veranderungen and Abendlied from Sechs Stucke Op.150 - Rheinberger, Ashokan Farewell - Ungar, Cantabile et Presto - Enesco and In Ireland - Harty.

This was another wonderful lunchtime to be at St. Peter Mancroft Church in Norwich City Centre. My personal favourites from the recital were Jay Ungar's Ashokan Farewell and Hamilton Harty's In Ireland. Both Anna Hopkins and David Morgan played splendidly with a well though out and varied programme.

Monday 15 October 2012

Dub Me Tender!

On Wednesday 3rd October 2012 I attended the Dub Colossus Dub Band gig at Norwich Arts Centre. This was an exciting night to be at the St. Benedict's Street venue as the Dub Colossus Dub Band who are an fusion band with an inventive blend of Ethiopian jazz and traditional styles, dub reggae and atmospheric instrumentals put on a show to get us all dancing.

Dub Me Tender is the name of their latest album which they brought  to life on the Norwich Arts Centre stage. A full live dub band, this time based around the UK musicians involved in the project, has been put together. This latest version of the Dub Colossus live experience is designed to move the dancefloor in an uncompromising fashion, though still keeping that unmistakeable Ethiopian flavour. This event was part of Norfolk Black History Month 2012.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Grease is the Word!

I was looking for John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John on Grimwade Street on my way to the Ipswich Regent Theatre on Saturday 29th September 2012 but there was no need to worry if they didn't beat the traffic as Danny Bayne and Carina Gillespie made a brilliant Danny and Sandy. The venue was full of T Birds and Pink Ladies as we all went Greased Lightin'.

It's 1959 and Rydell High is filled with rebellious, thrill-loving students. In the midst of this scene, Sandy Dumbrowski enters as the new girl in school. It turns out that she and the leader of the Burger Palace Boys gang, Danny Zuko, have had a brief love affair the summer before. While Sandy stresses to her new classmates the emotional attachment she and Danny had, Danny stresses the physical aspects of their relationship. As the show goes on, the students at Rydell High have to deal with love, gang violence, teen pregnancy, and friendship. In the end, Sandy and Danny resolve their differences and end up happily together.

It was great fun at the Ipswich Regent Theatre as we were treated to all the wonderful songs from Grease including Grease Is The Word, Summer Nights, Greased Lightnin', Hopelessly Devoted To You and You're The One That I Want. There were lots of laughs and singing as we enrolled at Rydell High to become the latest intake of cats and chicks. Look at me I'm Sandra Dee. This was a celebration of the glory of Grease.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Murder on the Nile at Norwich Theatre Royal

I was back at Norwich Theatre Royal on Monday 24th September 2012 for the opening night of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Nile performed by the official Agatha Christie Theatre Company. The action takes place on the deck of the paddle steamer Lotus on the Nile between Shellal and Wadi Halfa. This production starred Kate O'Mara, Robert Duncan, Susie Amy, Ben Nealon and Mark Wynter.

On board the steamer Lotus under the scorching Egyptian sun are honeymooners Simon Mostyn and his wealthy socialite wife Kay who are being pursued by Jacqueline De Severac an old flame of the newly wedded groom. When a body is discovered all fingers point to Simon's ex fiancee. Everything is not what it seems and Canon Pennefather is drawn into a web of intrigue and deceit as he finds himself on the trail of a ruthless murderer.

This was a superb production from the Agatha Christie Theatre Company with all the twists and turns of a classic Christie which kept us guessing until the end. A stylish evening at Norwich Theatre Royal with the stunning wardrobe on stage. Murder on the Nile proved to be a gripping voyage which entertained the audience throughout as we shared the experiences of the passangers down the Nile.

Thursday 4 October 2012

Kate Rusby celebrates 20 years of music!

On the evening of Sunday 23rd September 2012 I attended the Kate Rusby concert at Norwich Theatre Royal. She is the defining voice of contemporary English folk music with exquisite interpretations of traditional songs and finely self-penned tunes.

This tour was to celebrate 20 years of making music from the Barnsley Nightingale and she played many songs from her new double album 20 which features new recordings of Kate's favourite songs as well as a new song called Sun Grazers.

Kate Rusby's wonderful singing combined with her Yorkshire wit made this a fun night at Norwich Theatre Royal. She was given brilliant support from her band on many emotional and moving songs. This was the perfect venue for Kate Rusby to help celebrate 20 years of music making on this tour of celebration.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Szymanowski and Brahms at The Barbican

On the evening of Saturday 22nd September 2012 I attended the London Symphony Orchestra concert at The Barbican in the City of London. With conductor Valery Gergiev and soloist Janine Jansen this was the opening concert of the LSO's 2012/13 season.

The programme was Symphony No.1 - Szymonowski, Violin Concerto No.1 - Szymanowski and Symphony No.1 - Brahms. This was part of an exciting series of concerts from the LSO celebrating the music of Polish composer Karol Szymanowski alongside the symphonies of Brahms. This was another wonderful night to be at The Barbican as the LSO gave us a performance to remember.

Szymanowski's First Symphony was composed in 1906/07 and is regarded as a flawed if valiant attempt to write on a larger orchestral scale. This piece has a lot of emotional intensity which interlinks full orchestral and chamber like passages. From 1916 Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No.1 is a piece cast in a single span which was strongly influenced by the poem May Night by Tadeusz Micinski.

Brahms said: "I shall never write a symphony. You can't imagine what it is like to have that giant (Beethoven) marching along behind one." In 1876 after a process that had begun some 20 years earlier Brahms Symphony No.1 was first performed. This piece contains the best of Brahms but was composed to sound unlike anything by Beethoven. His music has a rich sound owing to the dense orchestral texture, complex harmony and tight integration of musical motives.

I really enjoyed my latest visit to The Barbican as the LSO celebrated the great music of Szymanowski and Brahms. This was a brilliant idea to pair these two composer's music together. A dramatic and colourful performance from the LSO conducted by Valery Gergiev which included a splendid Szymanowski Violin Concerto No.1 with Janine Jansen.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Mamma Mia here I go again!

On the morning of Saturday 22nd September 2012 I caught the train to London via Witham looking forward to being transported to a Greek Island in the West End that afternoon. I was on my way to see Mamma Mia! the smash hit musical based on the songs of Abba at the Novello Theatre.

Mamma Mia! tells the story of a young woman on a quest to find her real father. Sophie Sheridan is about to be married and desperately wants her father to give her away. Since her mother refuses to talk about the past, Sophie reads her mother’s diary and finds the contact information of three men that she had intimate encounters with. She invites each of the men to her wedding and they all come. Eventually, however, it is clear that Sophie’s paternity is undetermined. But everyone involved agrees that they want to be a part of Sophie’s life.

Every Abba song sounds magical so this was always going to be a wonderful experience in the West End. Judy Craymer has created a story with strong female characters that gives a big feel good factor. She asked Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson to take a chance on me and we are all glad they did. Chiquitita, Dancing Queen, Knowing Me, Knowing You and Money, Money, Money are all brilliant songs from Act One. In Act Two there's S.O.S., Super Trouper, Thank You For The Music and The Winner Takes It All bringing us more Abba magic. In total 22 Abba songs are performed during the show giving the audience a tremendously enjoyable time.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Life is a Cabaret!

On the evening of Thursday 20th September 2012 I attended the performance of Cabaret at Norwich Theatre Royal. This production starring Will Young as Emcee and Michelle Ryan as Sally Bowles which attracted a capacity audience to the Theatre Royal will be opening in the West End in October.With music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb Cabaret is a brilliant musical full of amazing songs. What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play. Life is a Cabaret, old chum, Come to the Cabaret.

Cabaret is set in Berlin in 1931. The Nazis are beginning their rise to power, and In the seedy Kit Kat Klub, young American writer Cliff Bradshaw is drawn into a poignant love affair with a 19-year-old English cabaret performer, Sally Bowles. The drama of their love plays out beneath the ever-present gaze of the mysterious Emcee of the Kit Kat Club, which serves as a symbol of the oppression and excess of Germany's Weimar Republic.

This has to be one of this year's highlights at Norwich Theatre Royal with both Will Young and Michelle Ryan putting on strong entertaining performances to make this a night to remember. Directed by Rufus Norris this revival of Cabaret was a spectacular stage show. The story maybe dark but the audience were completely captivated as Cabaret thrilled us all. Come to the Cabaret, it's divine decadence darling!

Monday 17 September 2012

Dirty Dancing at Norwich Theatre Royal

On the evening of Monday 3rd September 2012 I attended Dirty Dancing at Norwich Theatre Royal as this classic story on stage continued it's first ever UK National Tour. It's the summer of 1963, and 17 year old Francis 'Baby' Houseman is about to learn some major lessons in life as well as a thing or two about dancing.

On holiday in New York's Catskill Mountains with her older sister and parents, 'Baby' shows little interest in the resort activities, and instead discovers her own entertainment when she stumbles upon the staff quarters when an all-night dance party is in full swing. Mesmerised by the raunchy dances move and the pounding rhythms, 'Baby' can't wait to be part of the scene, especially when she catches sight of Johnny Castle the resort dance instructor.
'Baby's' life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny's leading lady both on-stage and off with breathtaking consequences. Now I've had the time of my life, no I never felt like this before, yes I swear it's the truth and I owe it all to you. This was night for dreams to come true at Norwich Theatre Royal as Jill Winternitz as Baby and Paul-Michael Jones as Johnny Castle took us to Kellerman's for a summer never to be forgotten.
There was an amazing atmosphere at a sold out Norwich Theatre Royal as we all knew that we were witnessing something very special. There was great music and dancing during the evening throughout Dirty Dancing until we reached the iconic ending which almost lifted the theatre roof. This was definitely one night that I felt like I was having the time of my life.

Friday 14 September 2012

Blue skies over Eaton

On Sunday 2nd September 2012 I attended The Jay Singers concert in the Eaton Concert Series at St. Andrew's Church, Eaton, Norwich. This was a wonderful afternoon to be in Eaton at the first concert in the 2012/13 Series. The Jay Singers were directed by Neil MacKenzie who was a founder member of The Sixteen. Piano accompaniment was provided by Neil Ricketts.

The programme consisted of Full fathom five (from The Tempest) - Shakespeare, Full fathom five - Charles Wood, Look, stranger - W H Auden, Just as the tide - Ralph Vaughan Williams, The Lover's ghost - Ralph Vaughan Williams, Neither out far nor in deep - Robert Frost, Break, break, break - Alfred, Lord Tennyson, There rolls the deep - Hubert Parry, The sea hath its pearls - Ciro Pinsuti, Walking Across the Atlantic - Billy Collins, Fear of Falling - Jehane Markham, Seal Lullaby - Eric Whitacre and Three Shakespeare songs - Ralph Vaughan Williams. There was an interval of 20 minutes and time for a refreshing apple juice before an exciting second half to the concert.

After the interval the programme consisted of Sea Fever - John Masefield, Cargoes - John Masefield, I love my love - Gustav Holst, Matelot - Noel Coward, arr Vlasto, Blue Skies - Irving Berlin, arr Woods, Not waving but drowning - Stevie Smith, The Last Swim - Michael Laskey, Meerfey - Robert Schumann, Der traumende See - Robert Schumann, In Meeres Mitten - Robert Schumann, The Owl and The Pussycat - Edward Lear, Shallow Brown - Percy Grainger and I'm seventeen come Sunday - Percy Grainger.

This was a splendid afternoon of music and poetry with the theme of the Sea as The Jay Singers took us on a journey to the seaside. It was brilliant to hear a couple of Percy Grainger songs along with a reading of The Owl and The Pussycat. A fun and enjoyable concert from The Jay Singers which proved to be the perfect opening to the 2012/13 Eaton Concert Series.

Sunday 9 September 2012

Starlight Express at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

On Saturday 1st September 2012 I returned to Nottingham for the matinee performance of Starlight Express at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall. With music from Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics from Richard Stilgoe this musical opened in March 1984 and now in 2012 a whole new generation can enjoy the spectacle and fun of Starlight Express.

The show is a complete theatrical experience with love, triumph, sportsmanship, rivalry, danger and thrills. Complete with 3D film and new sounds and projections this is one event I definitely didn't want to miss. This show is a full two hours full of roller skating fun with a brilliant soundtrack that will have you tapping your feet.

The plot revolves around a group of toy railway trains, portrayed by actors on roller-skates, who come to life inside the mind of a small boy. The characters race to become the 'fastest engine in the world', and in the end, the underdog, Rusty,  triumphs, winning the race and the heart of a beautiful observation car, Pearl. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Nottingham Royal Concert is a brilliant venue and was the perfect place to witness Starlight Express. It was an exciting afternoon which takes you to another dimension. Don't be a laughing stock be the king of the track. If you can, go and see this new production of Starlight Express. It's lots of fun.

Drama in Chipping Cleghorn

On Saturday 25th August 2012 I attended the matinee performance from the Norwich Players of Agatha Christie's A Murder Is Announced at the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich. Published in June 1950, Agatha Christie's book A Murder is Announced saw the return of Miss Marple after a seven year absence. The novel was adapted for the stage and debuted in London in 1977 by Leslie Darbon.

A murder is announced and will take place on Friday October the thirteenth, at Little Paddocks at six thirty pm. This is placed in the personal column of the Chipping Cleghorn Gazette that very morning. When the appointed hour arrives the house is full of guests who find themselves thrown into pitch darkness as the lights go out. The door slams shut and shots are fired. Someone falls to the ground amongst the panic. It is left to Miss Marple to unravel this tantalising mystery.

The Norwich Players aim was to make a powerful contemporary version of the play setting it in the present day. This was a classic closed room whodunit set in the front room of Letitia Blacklock's large house in Chipping Cleghorn. This was another wonderful afternoon to be at the Maddermarket Theatre as the Norwich Players put on an entertaining and interesting performance.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic at the BBC Proms

On the evening of Thursday 23rd August 2012 I returned to the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms to see the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vasily Petrenko in Prom 54. There had to be a Shostakovich Symphony and with violist Tasmin Little playing Delius's Violin Concerto this was always going to be a brilliant BBC Prom.

The programme consisted of Symphony No.9 - Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Violin Concerto -Delius and Symphony No.10 in E minor - Shostakovich. Thelma Hardy was Leader of the Orchestra at this wonderful concert.

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's Ninth Symphony is dedicated to HM The Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee. The piece is one continuous movement divided into two parts. Full of fanfare flourishes to mark this special year, this was a great opening from the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

This year is the 150th anniversity of the birth of Delius and with Tasmin Little being one of his most ardent champions it seemed appropriate that she should play his Violin Concerto's first appearance at the BBC Proms for over 40 years. Tasmin Little played brilliantly to light up the Royal Albert Hall.

Shostakovich's Symphony No.10 was his first symphony to emerge after Stalin's death and with it's mix of furry and sorrow this piece shows his complex relationship with his homeland. This is one of Shostakovich's most highly rated symphonies and Vasily Petrenko with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra made sure we experienced it at it's best with a wonderful performance.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Carousel at The Barbican

On Thursday 23rd August 2012 I was back in London to attend the Opera North performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel at The Barbican Theatre. On the train in the morning I received a text saying that I could have my seat upgraded. After a lunch of vegetable burritos, spicy tomato salsa sauce, grated cheese, sour cream, guacamole and tortilla chips at The Barbican Food Hall I made my way to my seat in the stalls for the matinee performance.

Voted best musical of the 20th century by Time Magazine, Carousel features breathtaking dancing and wonderful music including the songs If I Loved You, June is bustin' out all over and You'll Never Walk Alone. Set on the New England coastline, Carousel is a story of true love, loss and feelings left unspoken. Following the ill-fated love affair between bad boy Billy Bigelow and trusting Julie Jordan, this classic musical is deeply touching and heartwarming.

This production featured an outstanding cast including Katherine Manley as Julie Jordan, Sarah Tynan as Carrie Pipperidge and Michael Todd Simpson as Billy Bigelow. Carousel was directed by Jo Davies, with designs by Anthony Ward and choreography by Kim Brandstrup and Kay Shepherd. James Holmes conducted a large orchestra which helped to take us on a magical journey.

This was a wonderful afternoon to be at The Barbican Theatre as Opera North put on a brilliant and glorious show of this classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. I really enjoyed everything about this production. The singing and the music played by the orchestra was of the highest quality. An emotional experience was had by all who were in attendance. Carousel was absolutely brilliant.