Sunday 30 June 2013

The Rocky Horror Show at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Tuesday 4th June 2013 I attended Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show at Norwich Theatre Royal. This was an all new 40th anniversary party production of the rock n roll musical. It was a night full of fun, frolics and frivolity. Lots of the audience had dressed up for the show, helping to turn the Rocky Horror Show into a non-stop party.

The Rocky Horror Show is a humorous tribute to science fiction and horror B movies, the musical tells the story of a newly engaged couple getting caught in a storm and coming to the home of a mad transvestite scientist unveiling his new creation, a muscle man named Rocky Horror. Squeaky clean sweethearts Brad and Janet are on an adventure they'll never forget as they meet Frank n Furter and Magenta.

There were brilliant performances from Oliver Thornton as Frank n Furter, Abigail Jaye as Magenta, Dani Harmer as Janet, Sam Attwater as Brad and Henry Davis as Rocky. Philip Franks was a fantastic narrator. The Rocky Horror Show is bursting at the seams with timeless classics including Sweet Transvestite, Damn it Janet and Time Warp.

We all had the rockiest ride of our lives at Norwich Theatre Royal and it was great fun doing the Time Warp again and again. The Rocky Horror Show is an opportunity to have a great time and lose your inhibitions. Don't dream it, be it.

Friday 28 June 2013

Pavilion Big Band at Eaton Park

On Sunday 2nd June 2013 I attended the Pavilion Big Band concert on Eaton Park, Norwich. This was the first of this years bandstand concerts organised by Norwich City Council and Brian Dermott, taking place every Sunday from June to August in various Norwich parks.

The Pavilion Big Band was formed in 1998 by a group of talented East Anglian musicians with a common interest in reviving the great sounds of the dance band era. They are an eighteen piece big band which has been entertaining the public in and around Norfolk for well over a decade.

Dean Martin's Ain't That a Kick in the Head was a fantastic opening to this concert and was followed by Have You Met Miss Jones by Frank Sinatra. Van Morrison's Moondance sounded wonderful at the Eaton Park bandstand in front of a large enthusiastic audience. Other highlights included Fly Me to the Moon, Little Brown Jug and Pennsylvania 65000.

This was a brilliant opening concert for 2013 which combined some amazing music with an afternoon of bright sunshine in Eaton Park. The Pavilion Big Band put on a show that went with a swing, perfect for fans of big band music.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Bare Feet Records Summer Showcase at Norwich Arts Centre

On the evening of Saturday 1st June 2013 I attended the Bare Feet Records Summer Showcase at Norwich Arts Centre which featured Port Isla, Heart of a Dog, Wooden Arms and Milly Hirst. This was a great opportunity for the label to present some of the finest artists they have been working with this year.

Bare Feet Records is an independent record label based in Norwich. They serve as an antidote to struggling independent artists and bands attempting to release their music to a wider market. Port Isla are a four piece Folk-Rock band from Norwich while Heart of a Dog also from the Fine City are an alternative – lo-fi – folk collective.

Wooden Arms are a Norwich based modern quartet while Milly Hirst who is originally from Cambridge, is now a prominent figure in the thriving Norwich folk scene. This was a wonderful mixture of musical styles to make this an interesting and enjoyable gig at Norwich Arts Centre.

During the evening there was the label's tradition of one of the members of the other acts making a guest appearance during each set with one of the best collaborations being Milly Hirst joining Wooden Arms on stage to perform Separate the Verb. Rose was the highlight of Milly Hirst's performance, a truly wonderful song. Wooden Arms gave us a taste of classical mixed with modern, which made for a unique sound.

Both Port Isla and Heart of a Dog gave us a more noisy sound in the second half of the gig which made for a fun time and dancing in the audience. The gig finished with all the acts on stage together greatly enjoying themselves. This was a fantastic night at Norwich Arts Centre showcasing the musical talent at Bare Feet Records.

Monday 24 June 2013

Andrew Cantrill Organ Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church

On Saturday 1st June 2013 I attended the Andrew Cantrill Organ Recital at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich in the Mancroft Music Summer Recital Series. This was the first of this Summer's Recitals at St. Peter Mancroft which is always one of the highlights of the musical calendar in Norwich.

The programme consisted of Incantation pour un Jour Saint - Langlais, Cantilene improvise - Tournemire, Praeludium in E minor - Bruhns, Variations on Unter der Linden grune - Sweelinck, Seven Allegorical Pictures on Kling no, klokka - Eftestol, Andante in F - Lefeburne-Wely and Sortie in E Flat - Lefebure-Wely.

Andrew Cantrill is one of the UK's most experienced and versatile church musicians. His career has taken him to three continents, working in schools, churches and cathedrals, and he has appeared in some of the world's most prestigious venues as conductor, organist and singer. He now freelances from his home in Suffolk and enjoys a busy career of concerts, teaching and examining.

This was a wonderful programme of organ music which Andrew Cantrill played brilliantly to an enthusiastic audience at St. Peter Mancroft. I always enjoy listening to the organ at this Norwich City Centre Church during the Summer Recital Series.

Sunday 23 June 2013

Stabat Mater at the St. Giles on the Hill Church

On the evening of Friday 31st May 2013 I attended the Sacred Charity Concert at the St. Giles on the Hill Church, Norwich in aid of Cancer Research UK. Charlotte Ellerby, Katherine Horton and Timothy Patient performed the Stabat Mater by Alessandro Scarlatti.

In 1086 St. Giles Church is referred to in the Domesday Book. After the Norman conquest it was one of the three large parishes forming the French Borough, the richest part of Norwich. It's 120 foot tower is not only the tallest in Norwich, but rises from the highest ground.

The building as it is now was built around 1400, when the perpendicular style was first introduced in Norwich. The church is made of knapped flints, apart from the ashlar faced south porch, which was added in the 16th century, and ashlar decoration on the buttresses. The tower which dominates the city was a beacon tower, (the iron basket for the fire is still on view inside) and contains a peal of eight bells, the earliest dating from 1430. The decorative iron fence round the churchyard is famous for its wisteria in spring.

The Stabat Mater is a religious musical work written by Alessandro Scarlatti in 1724, on an order of the Franciscans, the Knights of the virgin of sorrows. The Stabet Mater is based on a liturgical text of the thirteenth century meditating on the suffering of the Virgin Mary. There is a first manuscript of the work dated 1715 and preserved in Naples. Considered outdated even by those who had ordered the piece, it was replaced by the famous Stabat Mater by Pergolesi.

This was a wonderful evening at the St. Giles on the Hill Church which overlooks the Fine City of Norwich. Scarlatti's Stabat Mater was performed brilliantly in this beautiful church. The concert finished with an organ recital from Timothy Patient. This was a great opportunity for me to visit the St. Giles on the Hill Church and to enjoy some splendid choral music.

Friday 21 June 2013

Ashley Grote Organ Recital at Norwich Cathedral

On Monday 27th May 2013 I attended the Ashley Grote Bank Holiday Organ Recital at Norwich Cathedral which featured a special programme of music to celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Queen's Coronation. Ashley Grote is the Master of Music at Norwich Cathedral, he directs the Cathedral boy's and girl's choirs as well as Norwich Cathedral Consort.

The programme consisted of Coronation March - Orb and Sceptre - Walton, Prelude on Rhosymedre - Vaughan Williams, Trumpet Tune - Purcell, Organ Concerto in F Op 4 in G - Handel, Pomp and Circumstance March No.4 in G - Elgar, Prelude in E flat BWV 552 - Bach and Variations on America - Ives.

This was a wonderful morning's music at Norwich Cathedral which marked the 60th anniversary of The Queen's Coronation. Charles Ives write Variations on America in 1891, which he premiered at a recital celebrating the Fourth of July. The piece takes the tune of God Save The Queen through a series of fairly standard but witty variations. This proved to be an amazing and perfect way to finish this fantastic organ recital.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

Verdi's Requiem at St. Andrew's Hall

On Sunday 26th May 2013 I attended the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Festival Chorus concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich which was the final event of this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival. This special performance of Verdi's Requiem was celebrating the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth.

David Parry was conductor on the evening. Also performing were Nadine Koutcher - soprano, Rosie Aldridge - mezzo-soprano, Gwyn Hughes Jones - tenor and Graeme Broadbent - bass. Verdi's Requiem is an electrifying masterpiece with an intense and utterly compelling marriage of liturgy and opera. It raises the spirituality and emotion of the Latin mass to the pinnacle of high drama.

Verdi's Messa da Requiem is a musical setting of the Roman Catholic funeral mass (Requiem) for four soloists, double choir and orchestra. It was composed in memory of Alessandro Manzoni, an Italian poet and novelist much admired by Verdi. The first performance in San Marco in Milan on 22 May 1874 marked the first anniversary of Manzoni's death. The work was at one time called the Manzoni Requiem. It is typically not performed in the liturgy, but in a concert.

This was a fantastic way to bring this year's Festival to a dramatic finish as the sounds of Verdi's Requiem filled St. Andrew's Hall. The London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Festival Chorus along with all the soloists were brilliant and created an night of magical music, with lots of emotion and intensity. Yet again Norwich can be proud of putting on a wonderful Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Monday 17 June 2013

Noises Off at Norwich Theatre Royal

On Saturday 25th May 2013 I attended the matinee performance of Noises Off at Norwich Theatre Royal. This Old Vic production is a multi-award winning backstage comedy which was touring after its triumphant and critically acclaimed sell out run in London. Hailed as one of the greatest British comedies ever written, Michael Frayn's celebrated play serves up a play within a play.

Each of the three acts of Noises Off contains a performance of the first act of a play within a play, a poor farce called Nothing On. This is the type of play in which young girls run about in their underwear, old men drop their trousers, and many doors continually bang open and shut. It is set in a delightful sixteenth century posset mill modernised by the current owners and available to let while they are abroad, the fictional playwright is appropriately named Robin Housemonger.

Act One is set at the dress rehearsal at the fictional Grand Theatre in Weston-Super-Mare, the cast are hopelessly unready, and baffled by entrances and exits, missed cues, missed lines, and bothersome props, including several plates of sardines. Act Two shows a Wednesday matinee performance one month later, at the again fictional Theatre Royal in Ashton-under-Lyne. In this act, the play is seen from backstage, providing a view that emphasises the deteriorating relationships between the cast that lead to offstage shenanigans and onstage bedlam. The play falls into disorder before the curtain falls.

In Act Three, we see a performance near the end of the ten-week run, at the still fictional Municipal Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees, when personal friction has continued to increase. The actors remain determined at all costs to cover up the mounting series of mishaps, but it is not long before the plot has to be abandoned entirely and the more coherent characters are obliged to take a lead in ad-libbing somehow towards some sort of end.

Much of the comedy emerges from the subtle variations in each version as character flaws play off each other off-stage to undermine on-stage performance, with a great deal of slapstick. The contrast between players' on-stage and off-stage personalities is also a source of comic dissonance.

There were wonderful and funny performances from Neil Pearson, Maureen Beattie, David Bark-Jones and Sasha Waddell as Norwich Theatre Royal was filled with lots of laughter. This was a very enjoyable afternoon as this clever and funny play directed by Lindsay Posner gave us numerous moments of humour which may have appeared as shambolic but were brilliantly timed. Noises Off was perfect comedy entertainment.

Friday 14 June 2013

Frisky and Mannish at the Spiegeltent

Comedy cabaret double-act Frisky and Mannish specialise in mad musical mash-ups that unearth the hidden meanings in some pop classics and poke fun at the ridiculousness of the songs we know and love. After Meow Meow cancelled her Feline Intimate performance at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, Frisky and Mannish were added to the bill in the Chapelfield Spiegeltent.

On Friday 24th May 2013 I made my way to Chapelfield Gardens looking forward to a fun night in the Spiegeltent. Frisky and Mannish are pop educators and you need to pay full attention if you want to be top of the class at the School of Pop.

A packed Spiegeltent greatly enjoyed an evening of musical comedy cabaret as we were all given some Extra Curricular Activities. A meeting between Noel Coward and Lily Allen was the highlight at the School of Pop. There was a guest appearance from Dido as well as an Elizabethan take on TLC's No Scrubs. Bonnie Tyler's Total Eclipse of The Heart was turned into a horror movie soundtrack as Frisky and Mannish brought the sounds of pop and lots of laughs to the Spiegeltent.

Thursday 13 June 2013

These Foolish Travels at Norwich Castle Museum

On Friday 24th May 2013 I visited Norwich Castle Museum to see the These Foolish Travels installation by Brian Griffiths which for the duration of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival was hosted in the Castle Keep. This was a carnivalesque collection of tents and temporary dwellings making for an interesting sight in this historic setting.

Through rendered signage and painted image on the exterior of these dwellings, it appeared that this village was a scaled representation of our cosmos. The tents themselves ranged in size and purpose to recall experience, from wedding parties to scouting expeditions.

While the Castle and its historical artefacts suggested the passage of time, the installation presented an absurdist rendition of space, shrunk to fit the confines of the keep's wall, with Griffiths' customary mix of poignance and humour. This was a fantastic installation at Norwich Castle Museum which brought a lot of thought provoking and gave a colourful and spectacular visual experience.

Monday 10 June 2013

Adams and Muhly music at St. Andrew's Hall

On Thursday 23rd May 2013 I attended Britten Sinfonia's Norfolk and Norwich Festival concert at St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich. This was an exciting performance from this adventurous ensemble which combined complex minimalism with cross-genre inventiveness.

The programme consisted of Shaker Loops - John Adams, Seeing is Believing (Concerto for Electric Violin) - Nico Muhly, Double Standard - Nico Muhly and Chamber Symphony - John Adams. Clark Rundell conducted the orchestra at this fantastic concert. Thomas Gould played the electric violin on Seeing is Believing while Colin Clarke and Alexandre Esperet played percussion on Double Standard.

Shaker Loops was composed by John Adams in 1978, it was originally written for string septet and a version for string orchestra followed in 1983. It began as a piece called Wavemaker in which Adams tried to emulate the ripple effect of bodies of water in his music. The piece was a commercial failure, but Adams kept the idea of repeating loops of oscillations on string instruments. He retitled the piece Shaker Loops, both because of the shaking of the strings as they oscillate between notes and the idea Adams had of Shakers dancing to repetitive, energetic music.

Nico Muhly composed Seeing is Believing in 2007, the piece blends electronic fusion and Tudor motets. The composer said that Seeing is Believing references the ancient practice of observing and mapping the sky. The electric violin reminded him of the 1980s and he tried to reference the music attendant to 80s educational videos about science. The piece ends as it began, with looped educational music depicting the night sky.

Double Standard was written by Nico Muhly for Colin Currie and the finalists in last year's TROMP Percussion Competition, won by Alexandre Esperet. This was the piece's UK premiere and is a single movement concerto for two percussionists. Nico Muhly wanted the solo parts to highlight not just technical dexterity but also the do-it-yourself practical knowledge that all great percussionists have.

John Adams composed the Chamber Symphony in 1992, the piece was commissioned by the Gerbode Foundation of San Francisco for the San Francisco Contemporary Chamber Players. It was written for fifteen instruments and bears a resemblance to its eponymous predecessor, the Opus 9 of Arnold Schoenberg. The Chamber Symphony is broken into three discrete movements, Mongrel Airs, Aria with Walking Bass and Roadrunner.

This was a brilliant night to be present at St. Andrew's Hall as Britten Sinfonia brought us the musical delights of John Adams and Nico Muhly. I was very excited about hearing Shaker Loops live and hearing the music of Nico Muhly. John Adams's Chamber Symphony was the highlight of the concert for me. It was full of kinetic energy and had so much going on.

Friday 7 June 2013

Khyam Allami at St. Peter Mancroft Church

On the evening of Wednesday 22nd May 2013 I attended the Khyam Allami with Vasilis Sarikis concert at St. Peter Mancroft Church, Norwich. Khyam Allami is an Iraqi virtuoso of the Oud and a composer with an international reputation, but his roots are in rock and punk. He was accompanied by percussionist Vasilis Sarikis at this Norfolk and Norwich Festival event.

For this concert Khyam Allami revisited his 2011 album Resonance/Dissonance, exploring the middle eastern melodic music of Maqam. St. Peter Mancroft Church is a beautiful venue that proved to be perfect for this concert which I witnessed from the choir stalls. The pair provided us with a powerful and dynamic live show.

This was an emotional night as the sounds of classical Arab music which Khyam Allami has given a contemporary feel came to the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. It is always a pleasure to listen to music at this venue and this performance sounded incredible. Both performers seemed to greatly enjoy playing their music at St. Peter Mancroft.

Thursday 6 June 2013

Dear Lynda Exhibition

I visited the Dear Lynda exhibition at The Gallery, Norwich University of the Arts on Wednesday 22nd May 2013. This Norfolk and Norwich Festival exhibition was a homecoming celebration of the works of curator, art historian, writer, patron, muse and Professor, Lynda Morris.

There was an impressive collection of books, letters, catalogues, paintings and ceramics on display relating to exhibitions Lynda Morris has curated, many of which took place in and around the Norwich Gallery. This was an examination of an incredible lifetime's work in the art world.

Dear Lynda told stories of the curatorial encounters Lynda Morris has had with some of the greatest artists of the century including Gilbert and George, Konrad Fischer, Richard Hamilton, John Baldessari, Art and Language, Marcel Broothaers, Sir William Coldstream, Richard Long, Nigel Henderson, Colin Self, Peter Doig and Andre Cadere. This was another great visual arts event at this year's Norfolk and Norwich Festival which was thought provoking and very interesting.

Wednesday 5 June 2013

The Clarinet Trio at The Assembly House

At lunchtime on Wednesday 22nd May 2013 I attended the last of this year's Royal Academy of Music Concerts at The Assembly House, Norwich as part of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival featuring the Clarinet Trio. This was another wonderful concert brought to us in the annual visit to the Festival by virtuosi from the Royal Academy of Music.

The Hommage a Schumann concert was played by Antanas Makstutis - clarinet, Ugne Tiskute - viola and Morta Grigaliunaite - piano. The programme consisted of Marchenerzahlungen Op.132 - Schumann, Hommage a Robert Schumann - Kurtag and Acht Stucke Op.83 (selection) - Bruch.

The Marchenerzahlungen (Fairy Tales) was composed by Robert Schumann in 1853 which was the year that saw his first meeting with Johannes Brahms. This piece has echoes of Schumann's earlier works. These Fairy Tales seem like an escape into musical fantasy.

Gyorgy Kurtag's Hommage a Schumann was composed in 1990 and is one of the most exciting pieces in the clarinet, viola and piano repertoire. It is directly linked to Schumann's Fairy Tales through its title and instrumentation. The final movement Farewell creates a procession like atmosphere that ends with a heavy bass drumbeat played by the clarinet.

The Acht Stucke was written by Max Bruch in 1910 and was dedicated to Princess zu Wied. His attention to the combination of viola and clarinet resulted in some wonderful repertoire. Bruch recognised that the instruments were in the same register. The composer's son Max Felix Bruch was an exceptionally talented clarinettist who was compared to Richard Muhlfeld.

This was a fantastic finish to this year's Royal Academy of Music Concert Series with a very enjoyable and strong performance from the Clarinet Trio. The Assembly House is full of life during the Festival and with brilliant music like this, it is always a joy to visit.

Monday 3 June 2013

Rokia Traore at Open, Norwich

On the evening of Tuesday 21st May 2013 I attended the Rokia Traore concert at Open, Norwich. This Norfolk and Norwich Festival event featured this fantastic Malian singer who was showcasing her new album, Beautiful Africa which was produced by John Parish. I saw her at the Barbican in London last year and I was looking forward to seeing her perform in my home city.

Rokia Traore was most recently seen in the UK as part of Damon Albarn's Africa Express. Her music is the sounds of Malian roots, blues, rock, jazz and folk. She has been described as the most adventurous female singer in Africa and has a striking stage presence.

The concert was delayed by fifty minutes, but this didn't damp any of the enthusiasm of the large crowd in attendance at Open as we looked forward to seeing Rokia Traore perform her amazing music. She apologised for being late for the first time in her fifteen year career before playing a ninety minute set.

This was a concert full of energy and wonderful music as Rokia Traore and her band filled the venue with the sounds of Africa. The lyrics of her songs are in French and Bambara, that expressed a mixture of emotions, both sad and joyful. This was a brilliant night at Open as Rokia Traore showed why she is such a big star in her native Mali with an emotional performance that moved and greatly entertained the Festival crowd.

Saturday 1 June 2013

An evening of 19th century song at The Assembly House

I was back at The Assembly House, Norwich on the evening of Monday 20th May 2013 for the Sam Furness and Matthew Fletcher concert at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. This concert was in the Royal Academy of Music Concert Series which has become a vital and much-loved feature of the Festival.

The programme consisted of An die Leier - Schubert, Dichterliebe - Schumann, Des Abends, Aufschwung (from Fantasiestucke Op.10) - Schumann, Chanson triste - Duparc, Oh quand je dors - Liszt, An die ferne Geliebte - Beethoven, Etude No.3 in E major Op.10 - Chopin and Three Petarch Sonnets - Liszt.

This varied programme of chanson and lieder provided a wonderful overview of 19th century song which featured works by the leading masters of the genre. Tenor Sam Furness and Pianist Matthew Fletcher opened the concert with Schubert's An die Leier, a song published in 1826 that is a setting of a poem by Franz von Bruchmann which is based on the sixth century BC Greek satirical poet Anacreon.

Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe song cycle was written in 1840 with texts taken from Lyrisches Intermezzo, a set of poems written in 1822-23 by Heinrich Heine. Schumann chose twenty to set to music with a dramatic narrative, however only sixteen of the resulting songs made it into the first edition. Fantasiestucke is a selection of eight solo piano pieces written by Schumann in 1837, inspired by the selection of short stories Fantasiestucke in Callots Manier by E.T.A. Hoffman.

Chason Triste was written by Henri Duparc in 1868 to a poem by Henri Cazalis. who wrote under the nom de plume Jean Lahor. Oh! Quand je dors was written in 1842 by Franz Liszt as a setting to a poem by Victor Hugo. The song calls for the singer's beloved to come to him while he sleeps.

An die Ferne Geliebte is widely considered to be the first ever song cycle. This set of songs was composed by Beethoven in 1816 to poems by Alois Isidor Jeitteles. It is a selection of reflections by the poet as he sits on a hill thinking of his beloved, from whom he is separated.

Etude No.3 was composed by Chopin in 1832 and was dedicated to his friend Franz Liszt. Chopin considered it to be his most beautiful composition. Franz Liszt's Three Petarch Sonnets were published in 1846 but were composed several years earlier. Liszt set sonnets by the Italian poet Petrarca who, having seen a woman called Laura in church, was inspired to write Rime Sparse. The songs were written in a very emotional, Italianate style to match the poetry.

This was a brilliant night to be at The Assembly House as the large audience in attendance were treated to a night of chanson and lieder in French, German and Italian. Sam Furness, who is already establishing an international profile and Matthew Fletcher, winner of numerous prizes at the Royal Academy of music put on a performance of the highest quality which was one of my musical highlights at this year's Festival.