Archive for October 2007

The Cannons Scholars; Piano 4 Hands

October 29, 2007

Original plan for this weekend was a quintet gig in Somerset, which got cancelled for some reason or other.  So nothing in the diary, until (a) an e-mail from a friend saying ‘come to our concert on Saturday night’, and (b) another friend asking if I was going to Blackheath Halls’ Sunday morning offering?  (Thanks, Sue and Gillian).  So now I have two nice concerts to write about!

The Cannons Scholars is an ad-hoc-ish young and jolly band playing baroque music on modern instruments, under the direction of John Andrews.  Saturday’s programme was Vivaldi’s Gloria and Handel’s ‘Dettingen’ Te Deum, which on paper looked like altogether too much triumphal D major;  in practice, both works had enough inventiveness and contrast to keep the interest engaged, especially in these bright and characterful performances.

Like anything John Andrews does, it seems, the performances were immaculately organised and presented (great little programme notes, by the way), immensely musical and very exciting.  (And I’m not just saying that because he’ll be reading this!  Hi, John.)  Yes, a very few ragged corners here and there.  But nobody’s perfect.

St Paul’s, Covent Garden, is a lovely venue:  cosy, welcoming, not too resonant, even quite good sight-lines.  And it’s right at the heart of Covent Garden (remember My Fair Lady?  It’s where Professor Higgins meets Eliza Doolittle), though on this occasion there wasn’t too much extraneous noise from buskers and street performers outside.  To me it always feels like being in someone’s sitting room, thanks to Inigo Jones’s simple domestic box shape, the decorated plaster ceiling, and the knick-knacks – sorry, monuments – around the walls.  (It is ‘The Actors’ Church’:  I was sitting alongside Terence Rattigan, Noel Coward and Charlie Chaplin…)
The choir – the Minerva Consort, only a dozen strong – never sounded small, and made the rafters ring.  Some nice soloists too (good to see that soprano Amy Haworth was at Trinity, Cambridge, under Richard Marlow, same as me – but I guess I was there before she was born!).  An admiring word for Sue Treherne’s clarion oboe solos, and the fearless high trumpets of John Parker and his colleagues.

Listen out for Handel’s Semele in March 2008!

This morning (after the extra hour in bed – hurrah) I rolled up at Blackheath Concert Halls for my free coffee and croissants, and was pleased to discover I could get a Musicians’ Union discount on my ticket…  The recital was by piano-duet team, Joseph Tong and Waka Hasegawa, trading as ‘PIANO 4 HANDS’.  Disappointingly small audience, but that meant I could sneak into a front-row seat.

The duo were a joy to watch.  (more…)

Honda — perpetual motion machine

October 27, 2007

my car!(tempting fate, I know!)

Just got the Huge Friendly Giant back from its MoT ( = annual roadworthiness test) which it passed without a hitch, with well over 101,000 miles on the clock.  (As the man at Elite Motors said:  ‘It’s a Honda… if it fails, it’ll be on something silly like a light bulb.’)

This is just to express my admiration to Honda for making such a beautifully engineered and reliable machine.  When I bought this Prelude two years ago, I was worried about its high mileage:  ‘What do you call high mileage?’ said a friend. ‘83,000 miles.’  ‘My Honda’s done 140,000 and it NEVER goes wrong!’  (Famous last words… eventually hers lost its brakes and shunted the car in front.  But she had already decided she’d like a new one by then anyway.)

 kallipygous honda

For its 100,000th birthday I treated it to a service and a new pair of chrome exhaust trims (the previous ones having, er, mysteriously disappeared).

Of course there are (more…)

quick roundup

October 23, 2007

…in case you were wondering where I’ve been…

Thursday was the Phoenix Orchestra concert (that’s the London Phoenix Orchestra — I didn’t hop over to Arizona!) — brilliant and lots of fun.  The singers were super too — Mary Nelson lovely and full of character (and a sweet voice) (and a nice simple red dress), Amos Christie a smouldering tenor who gave the most heartbreaking rendition of Lensky’s aria from Eugene Onegin.  And the bassoons had a good blast in the ‘Dragons d’Alcala’ interlude from Carmen…

Friday was (two hours in a traffic jam, then) rehearsal of the Phoenix Wind Quintet (no relation) prior to our gig in Bradford in a couple of weeks — ‘light’ music for a party.  Going well…

Saturday was (more traffic and one-ways and queuing for car parks and) a concert in Kingston (that’s Surrey, not Jamaica)…  Blowing the contra in Gershwin and Liadov and 3rd bassoon in a piece by Jonathan Dove… then sitting out the second half which was Tchaikovsky 4th Symph — never quite realised what a MAD piece that is.  Terrific.  Conductor of Kingston Philharmonia was our very own Lev Parikian (who does a different orchestra every night of the week, it seems… How does he get around them all?  He has a folding bike)… Thank you to Mark and his wife for very nice company and meal before the show…

Sunday was (more…)

Oops — sorry, Sir Edward

October 19, 2007


Just received this postcard of Elgar from a friend, in response to my post on the ECO’s Elgar concert (where I described the Nursery Suite as ‘fairly fluffy stuff’)…

He also says:

The ‘Nursery Suite’ was almost the first classical music that I ever knew — from the BBC afternoon test cards in the early 1960s.  The other pieces were ‘España’, ‘Valse Triste’, a waltz from ‘Eugene Onegin’ … and … the ‘Rosenkavalier’ waltzes…

Thanks, Grahame!  So you never can tell what’s going to hook you in. 

Dear BBC (and everyone else), please, don’t ‘dumb down’ — keep scattering the seeds of classical music and there might at least be a few new listeners in future generations.  Otherwise the entire cultural heritage of our civilisation will just dribble away before anyone notices.

Phoenix Orchestra does Opera — it’s tonight!

October 18, 2007

Phoenix flyer 

A reminder…

Yes:  the London Phoenix Orchestra’s next concert will be an amazingly full programme (ten items — incuding two full-sized overtures!) of operatic treats, starring Mary Nelson, Amos Christie and conductor Lev Parikian.  It’s on 18 October at St John’s, Smith Square at 7.30;  do come, and bring all your stage-struck friends… Check the orchestra’s website for details.  Hope to see you there!

Click on this link to see the flyer as a pdf:  Phoenix concert 18 Oct

Donizetti’s ‘Rita’

October 18, 2007

…is in the Linbury Studio at the Royal Opera House, for three performances only by the Jette Parker Young Artists’ Programme.  Get there if you can!

It lasts less than an hour, it’s great fun, and it is sung in Italian with NO SURTITLES.  Speaking as devil’s advocate, this is brilliant.  (I don’t know whose decision that was — certainly surtitles were never mooted as far as I’m aware.)  All credit to the singers’ diction and acting, and to the language coaches.

And credit to (presumably) director Tom Guthrie‘s idea of listing a few keywords with translation in the programme — ‘wife’, ‘marriage contract’, ‘beating’, ‘cripple’…  Yes, if it weren’t so funny it would be extremely un-PC.

It isn’t fair or ethical to review a production on the basis of a dress rehearsal, especially when I was there as an ‘insider’, so I’ll just say that it’s a very jolly show, and the production is simple and effective (the sleazy 50s cafe is just right — though I could have done without the other customers:  extras are always distracting!  ho hum).  Nice playing by the Southbank Sinfonia — just a nice size of small band for this genre of opera and size of theatre.

(And it’s not by Wagner!!) 

Book NOW!

Greenwich Market ‘saved’

October 16, 2007

(see my previous post:  Save Greenwich Market)

It seems we’ve won!

So instead of knocking it down, it looks as if ‘they’ are going to do it up nice after all.  


Common sense prevails — hooray!

Many thanks to all of you who signed the petition.

And thanks to The Londonist for the heads-up.


picture (‘What the market could look like’) from BBC London — thanks