Buxton Brewery Tap House 12-15 & 19-23 July
Buxton Brewery has been one of the town's great successes of recent years producing a staggering (adjective chosen carefully) range of award-winning craft beers. I settled for the modest 4% IPA which was flowery.
The Tap House is a pub first and a music venue second - so don't expect hushed silence while the bands are playing. If you especially want to listen to the music get as close as you can to it and do your best to filter out other sounds. Whilst the Tap is a pub it also hosts the best and most interesting music making in town and its Fringe programme is excellent.
For the opening night this Fringe we heard Lucy Mae - a jazz and blues singer from Manchester - accompanied by Luc Phan on guitar and alto saxophone. The played some standards - Sunny, Blue Skies, Black Magic Woman - as well as some originals.
I guess that they are in their mid-20s but the music they make is of a different generation. They clearly know and love this music and play it with warmth and energy.
The Fringe schedule is packed with quality blues, jazz and folk inspired music from some of the best musicians in the region so make a point of dropping in. The fun starts at about 9.30pm.
United Reformed Church Saturday 16 July
As food and music are two of my passions, an hour of close harmony singing followed by cake is difficult to resist! It was certainly worth venturing out in the drizzle which constitutes Buxton's summer to enjoy Ordsall Acappella Singers' late morning warm invitation.
Starting with a warm rendition of 'Somewhere' from West Side Story and moving on to 'Somewhere over the rainbow' the audience soon realised they were about to be treated to a programme of familiar songs, served with interesting close harmonies. 'I know him so well', arranged especially for the choir by Barbershop specialist, Dave King, showed skill in sharing the melody between the voice parts, very welcome for singers who usually sing harmony parts.
Conductor, Jeff Borradaile, then told us that these three songs were new to the choirs repertoire - most impressive as all were sung from memory. In fact the whole programme was performed from memory, which showed the choir's commitment to the music through thorough knowledge of the songs.
More popular repertoire followed with 'Can't help falling in love (Elvis), 'I will', a less well-known Beatle song with interesting percussive sounds in the bass accompaniment and Billy Joel's 'Lullabye (Goodnight my angel)'
The next group included pieces which showed the choir's involvement in community projects: 'One day like this' was commissioned by Manchester Metro University for a project commemorating the city's regeneration after the IRA bombings 20 years ago. 'In remembrance' had previously been performed with sister choir 'Blackburn People's Choir'.
As a choir with a non- audition policy, musical director Jeff Borradaile has competently built a choir which masters intricate harmonies and rhythms. Maybe the next stage could be to develop the upper range of the voices, and try some songs higher keys. Most importantly, he has imbued them with an enthusiasm for singing which they obviously want to share with their audiences. They certainly deliver their tagline - 'Singing from the heart of Salford'.
After more songs which included Gospel numbers and a hint towards Christmas with 'Hail, smiling morn' the final group was unannounced to the choir, so we heard obviously established favourites 'I got rhythm', 'It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing'. We could now see the choir relaxing and enjoying these songs as they gently swayed to the music.
Unfortunately this review will not be in time for their second performance today, but I thoroughly recommend that you make a note for next year, as they have promised to come again - with more delicious cake!
Raintown Seers played a set of folk songs tinged with Americana that was reminiscent of the Jerry DouglasAly Bain Transatlantic Sessions project. Their sound was smooth and very professional. Frontman Neil Fisher was on guitar and vocals with the occasional mandolin. Dan Hall played bass. Lisa Lovatt sang lead and backing vocals and Steve Hyde was the multi instrumentalist on mandolin, banjo, concertina, accordion and occasional vocals. Many of the songs were Neil Fisher originals as well as including some classic and less classic covers.
The covers performed included Gillian Welch's "Wichita", Jimmy Webb's "Wicheta lineman" and Ewan McColl's "The first time ever I saw your face" sung beautifully by Lisa. They also sung the cover of a song that I think was called "Freedom to roam" about the Kinder Trespass.
While the covers were very enjoyable, I found Neil's original songs more interesting with great arrangements and strong vocals from Neil and Lisa. One song called "Overexposed" was about a Boeing aircraft with an interesting history that crashed on Kinder Scout in 1948. "The Mermaid's Pool" is a haunting song about the Derbyshire landmark of the same name. Neil adapted the lyrics from the words of a 19th Century poem."Here come the brides" is about the English women arriving in America to marry their American GIs. "Ghosts on the pass" is a ballad about an infamous murder of an eloping couple on Winnets Pass. The show finished with a moving song that I think was called "The Last Boat" about an arctic whaling expedition that ran into trouble in the ice.
As the name implies the set list made connections between the songs as well as making transatlantic connections between the USA and Derbyshire. Neil and Steve explained the connections and if you want to know more then you need to go and see the show.
All Jazzed Up and Blue : Basin Street Jazz and Blues
The Old Clubhouse – 10th July 2016
With about 40 people in the audience and a few coming and going, moving between the courtroom and the upper bar, I thought that event was seriously under-attended. Perhaps the clash with the European football final might have kept a few away but if the reports of the match are anything to go by, they missed a talented, accomplished performance that easily outshined its sporting alternative.
The guys in the band were all dressed as ‘men in black’ with the female vocalist Jules M Scott channelling her inner Sandie Shaw. Fred Rolland, Adrian Sherwood, Brian Lightowler, Mike Dale and Dave Attwood complete the line-up of Basin Street Jazz and Blues and combine their experience from many years of playing together and with other bands. Fred told me that they sometimes play as a four piece jazz band without drums and without vocals and as pianist Brian also plays the accordion, occasionally they masquerade as a Cèilidh band! A super-group perhaps?
Before I mention the music (get on with it!), it is worth mentioning Adrian’s fabulous ‘blond’ electric (double) bass. It looked great, very high-tech and sounded every bit as good as it looked.
OK, on to the music. The set was a mixture of well-known and timeless songs from the best blues and jazz artists, scattered with some quality original songs written by band members. The set was divided into two sections with a 20-minute break in the middle to replenish drinks at the bar.
The set started with the instrumental ‘Evening Sunrise’ written by band member Mike. Great Jazz Sax playing led the number and set the scene well, giving all of the instrumentalists an opportunity to shine. The smooth vocals of Jules were first introduced in the second song ‘What a difference a day makes’, originally made famous by Natalie Cole. Song number four was the Jango Reinhardt hit ‘Sweet Georgia Brown’. This slightly up-tempo version gave some space for some very accomplished saxophone and piano improvisation and the bass and guitar breaks had a sound reminiscent of Les Paul. Song five was subject to a rather questionable joke about paternity but thankfully the quality of the music was unaffected and ‘Is you is or is you ain’t my baby’ had the pleasing air of the Stray Cats about it. By song seven, Jules’ vocals really came into their own and the rendition of the Nina Simone song ‘Don’t let me be misunderstood’ was fabulous. Her vocal range had a stern test in Melody Gardot’s ‘If the stars were mine’ but this test was one passed with flying colours – perfect. The last song before the interval was an original piece by guitarist Fred Rolland, with lyrics in French. Apparently the words didn’t make sense in English!
The second half of the evening started as the first had done, with an instrumental - this time a ‘Purple patch’ written by band saxophonist Mike. The original work continued with two songs by bassist Adrian, the second of which gave Mike an opportunity to show off his soprano saxophone. A particular favourite of mine came at song eighteen with a rendition of the Elvis Costello track ‘Almost blue’; a song I’d heard live from the man himself only a few months ago and this version was well worth the ticket price alone. As the evening progressed, Fred’s jokes got worse but the music got better. Jules suggested that they should have been included in the ‘comedy’ section of the Fringe guide but I wasn’t so sure!
When the evening come to a close, the encore song, ‘Summertime’ by George Gershwin capped off a really lovely evening - Jules’ vocals as clear and as blue as you could get. A thoroughly enjoyable evening that I would recommend to all Jazz and blues fans. I hope that my review has given you the encouragement to look out for Basin Street Jazz and Blues when they next come to Buxton.
A varied programme, chosen to be in part familiar-enough but not Classic FM material, and in part much less known: and challenging for the musicians. They rose to the challenges with energy, skill and obvious pleasure.
Before the interval, baroque music - a Handel Concerto Grosso and Vivaldi Bassoon Concerto, between them a harpsichord Suite by Gottlieb Muffat. The soloist in the Vivalid was Alex Kane and his performance in this piece was wonderful, not least his dazzling fingering in the sparky music. The harpsichord soloist was Charlotte Turner and she played the Muffat’s three movements with enormous attention to detail and great sensitivity. It was fascinating to see how much, as a soloist, she leaned into the spirit of the music and didn’t simply ‘play the score’, intricate as it is.
After the interval, more-modern music. A Villa-Lobos Ciranda from 1933, and to close the concert Rudolf Barshai’s arrangement into Symphony for Strings of the late 1960s Shostakovich String Quartet No 10. Alex Kane returned for the unfamiliar Villa-Lobos and, again, worked the bassoon expressively in with the strings.
But the triumph of the evening just has to be the Shostakovich. Typical Shostakovich, one might say, with the ominous, the calm, the near-circus, the haunting melodies and the persistent rhythms – it couldn’t be any other composer. The orchestra under their conductor Juan Ortuňo were really magnificent in this, not least when belting out the darker and deeper sounds with great precision, authority and heft. This was a moving and powerful performance.
In summary: a wide-ranging programme, carefully selected to stretch the audience a little and at the same time to reward the musicians with a challenge, two fine soloists, and a tremendous depth of sound from the orchestra itself.
Local group, The Herding Catz Blues Band returned to the Old Clubhouse tonight. The lead singer, rhythm guitarist Peter Buxton spent time rearranging the room before the gig! The café style layout better suited the mood rather than the original straight rows of chairs.
This is twice in a week that I have reviewed a band with Adrian Sherwood playing bass. This time he was showing off his 5 string fretless electric bass guitar rather than the electric double bass from last weeks jazz and blues. Definitely not a case of great kit, no talent though, as Aid once more gave a very assured performance both in his playing and in backing vocals.
The four-piece band are completed by Chris Love on drums and Rob Bradley on lead guitar and together they rocked the fringe tonight with some great rock and blues.
The evening started up-beat with the Bobby Troup song ‘Route 66’, moving through Peter Green’s ‘Homework’, Eric Clapton and Ry Cooder before getting a little heavier with Steve Miller’s ‘Mercury Blues’, Ezio’s ‘Hotel Motel’ and the classic Hendrix song ‘Red House’ which was lit up by Rob’s very impressive soloing. No playing with his teeth though!
A quick chat with Peter during the intermission uncovered that fact that the band members have a combined age of 262 and that they apparently supplement their beer with Sanatogen to give them the stamina to deliver their high-energy performance!
The second part of the evening seemed to get louder and the energy levels had definitely increased. Albert King’s ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’ brought out Peter’s best blues voice and then a modern classic from Joe Bonamassa, ‘Sloe Gin’ gave Rob another opportunity to shine with the complex guitar solo.
The one-hit-wonder from Timbuk3, ‘The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades’ give the multi-talented Peter an opportunity to rest his lefty guitar fingers and blow us all away with his fantastic blues harmonica. Slipping into Canned Heat’s ‘World of Make Believe’ when the sucked notes at the end, led to him flapping his arm for Chris to close out the song! No faltering sound though.
After a little ‘walking the dog’, we ‘let the good times roll’ before the encore had us ‘back in the night’ and it was all too soon time to go home! Herdingcatz are back at the Old Clubhouse again on 22nd July. Get yourself down there for a great night of high-octane blues. They must be a shoo-in for an award this year.
Darren returns to the Fringe with another well-chosen mixture of covers and self-penned songs, this time around the theme of love. His charm and wit are still well to the fore and his voice is in good form, perfectly underpinned by his understated guitar playing. At one point he apologized to ‘any musicians in the room’ for the bum notes, but I honestly didn’t notice any.
Darren likes to add visuals to his songs; perhaps the most arresting were to his second song where we treated to a series of photo-shopped portraits of couples just setting off on married life. Most were intended as humorous, but some were downright weird or even scary. Quite a few depicted either the bride or groom held in the hand or tucked inside the pocket of their spouse – do these people really see their relationship in such terms?
Between songs he also had a few ‘vox pop’ inserts where various friends and acquaintances were invited to define love to the camera. Perhaps the reviewer is a bit of an old ‘seen it all’ dog, but these bits would have been better had any of them actually had anything interesting to say.
There was a point when the set was in danger of getting a bit repetitive, with a series of wistful songs mainly celebrating heterosexual love. Even a song on the theme of love amongst fugitive slaves manages to come over as much romantic as political. Then suddenly he changes tack with the story on an old mentally incapacitated male friend who has recently taken up with a young Thai fellow. Definitely the most ingenious way to introduce ‘Running Bear’ that I have seen, re-casting the old pop tune as a homily to all those whose love has been thwarted by the prevailing customs and practices of where they live.
Darren followed this with a very powerful rendition of the Joy Division classic ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. His treatment brings out the full darkness of the lyric; love is not necessarily a comfortable experience. Early in the set he states that marriage is more political than we think and his final song ‘Petticoat Tails’ is indeed a celebration of the diversity of the forms of loving relationships across the world.
So come to Darren’s show of you want to enjoy some simple well-played music and be charmed and challenged at the same time.
Bluesman Mike Francis (he had to change his name from just ‘Mike Francis’ in 2011 following the death of an Italian singer with the same name, which caused some confusion when gigging in Europe) is celebrating 40 years on the road by revealing the ‘Story of the Blues’ from his upcoming album of the same name.
The storytelling took place upstairs in ‘The Old Clubhouse’, with rows of chairs facing the stage (the only downside to this is there is nowhere to put your drink). Francis perched himself on a stool with a selection of guitars (including a couple of 12-strings) and a bass drum around him.
Buxton was finally basking in the summer sun and a few pounding beats from the drum as Francis launched himself into “Five More Wishes” transported the audience to a blues bar in the Deep South. Before each number, there was a brief introduction to its origins and Francis explained that this first song had origins in ‘Gambler’s Blues’ but also gospel and fans of Adele would recognise some elements in her hit, “Rolling in the Deep”.
Francis continued his set with “Honky Tonk Woman”, telling the audience that Keith Richards and Mick Jagger’s title for the song was originally ‘”Country Honk”. He then sang “Alabama” in the style of Chicago blues which, he explained, developed as a result of the mass migration from the U.S. cotton-growing areas after the 1920s following the outbreak of the boll weevil, a beetle which feeds on cotton buds and flowers, which caused severe devastation to the industry.
Despite being on his own on the stage, Francis was, at times, supported by the use of modern technology to enhance the overall sound quality. He makes no apology for benefiting from some technological advancements as he believes that originals such as Woody Guthrie, were they alive today, would do the same.
The session then took on a rock vibe as Francis performed “The Bank of Hope and Glory”, based on the collapse of Irish banking. His voice lends itself well to rock and his emotion as he sang on a topic close to his heart was obvious.
After “Imelda May”, Francis described the origins of “The House of the Rising Sun” and performed his own version, including a line which amused me greatly, “the only time that she is satisfied in when she’s rolling drunk.”
Much to the delight of the audience, there were also a couple of songs in which he encouraged audience participation, including a sing-along to “Mercedez Benz” (the atmosphere was heightened by growl and grit in his voice accompanied only by the pounding beat of the drum through most of the song) and a call-and-response to “Black Betty” - Bam-ba-lam.
Two particular favourites for this Blues novice were “Timbuktu” (about a lying ex-partner who “may as well be in Timbuktu”) and a song about the dead man’s switch in the style of Oklahoma Train Blues, which had a slow start as the ‘train’ pulls away then speeds up into a thumping rhythm with the addition of the bass drum.
An enjoyable afternoon but, as I say above, I am new to the Blues and would have liked a bit more explanation about how it originated and evolved, i.e. the story of the Blues, and, at times, I found the explanations given a bit confusing. However, the Blues fans in the room may have found that unnecessary. Nevertheless, Francis was passionate about making his show appropriate for children and young people and possibly a bit more of a chronological trip through the development of the Blues would introduce a new audience to its fascinating history.
This was the City of Manchester Opera's 'Cantemos!' A Sizzling Spanish Summer Sensation, and what a lovely summers evening it was too!
City of Manchester Opera is a company of professional, semi-professional and trained amateur singers based in Manchester. They have more than 30 members, and this evening's chorus consisted of 23 extremely talented singers of varying ages and backgrounds.
The theme of the evening was Spanish Opera, and it was a fantastic evening that took you through some of the most famous and influential Opera's. The most famous Spanish Opera of course being Carmen, of which Helen Howell gave an outstanding performance of 'Micaela's Aria'.
The second half took a more varied approach to Opera, and although not predominantly Spanish, once again took us through some key historical Opera's such as Don Giovanni and Il Travatore. All the pieces were sung with passion and vigour and the conductor worked to get the most from the chorus working together.
The accompanist Jonathan Ellis is extremely talented and I would recommend seeing him either with the City of Manchester Opera or in another of his performances (he performs as a soloist and as a chamber musician).
This performance was vey accessible to those who may not be Opera enthusiasts but who want to know more. It offers an ideal opportunity as you can experience many Opera's in one sitting, and get a real feel for the energy of the genre.
The City of Manchester Opera are next performing The Magic Flute as part of their 2017 season and I will definitely be catching up with them there!
If you ventured upstairs in the Old Clubhouse on Thursday evening you could be forgiven for thinking that you had been transported back to the early 1970s and the folk rock world of Aqualung and Liege and Lief. Black Eyed Dog are HoJo on guitar and Richard Jurgens on Flute. They treated us to a performance of their new album Closer to the Heart. The duo sometimes perform with a percussionist and an electric viola but this evening was just guitar , flute and HoJo's vocals.
Inevitably the pair must be compared with Jethro Tull because of HoJo's driving guitar style and Richard's soaring flute playing which can be favourably compared with Ian Anderson. However the duo have a their own unique style that is well worth a listen.
All the performed songs were written by HoJo except for an acoustic medley. I particularly enjoyed the powerful delivery of title track "Closer to the Heart" and "Me and You" which reminded me of the inspired ramblings of John Martyn or Stephen Stills. The final songs "Your my World" and "We've got no worries" used alternate tunings which created a very special sound to close the concert.
Black Eyed Dog are playing at the Cheshire Cheese on Friday and Saturday if you want to catch them. They have CD's of Closer To The Heart available for purchase.
Underground Venues 16th July 2016.
The Old Hall hotel has been run by Potters for over half a century, therefore was is it a coincidence that Projectadorno were elected to perform their work on the renowned late TV dramatist, playwright and author in the Underground Venue of this hotel?
Projectadorno is a double act, named after the German philosopher Theodore Adorno, Which reflects the intellectual and thorough investigation that forms the bulk of their creation. The audience of 18, admired this production by two young men, armed with guitars, plus a background of a sepia PowerPoint presentation and voiceovers, that traced the short life and talented works of Dennis Potter.
The story was told in full circle, from Potter’s humble beginnings as the son of a coalminer through his brilliance that escalated Potter’s rise to fame, and untimely death at the age of 59. Then back to the beginning, which emphasised the “Rags to Riches” determination of that remarkable man.
The presentation was enhanced by the lyrics and background voiceovers, that accompanied the visual performance, ranging from Potters start in life, in the New Forest, via. a short spell in London, to his final employment as a Civil Servant in the Treasury, which soon ended due to his extensive and talented productions in the media and as a profligate author. .
With a restriction of copywrite, the entire production had to be researched by the Adorno duo. Not only did they compose the lyrics, in blank verse, and spoken word, charting Potter’s humble beginnings to international fame, but they also, located and reproduced visual reproductions of the buildings and the milestones of Potter’s short life.
My only criticism is that they sometimes have difficulty hitting the right vocal notes. Their singing was rather flat in places, but their talent and enthusiasm shone through. Adorno have to be admired by their tenacity and thorough research, thereby generating a unique and very enjoyable nostalgic work.
The Kaleidoscope Choir make no pretensions to being the ‘finished’ product. It’s not often an audience is invited to join the performers in their warm-up exercises, but as leader Carol Bowns explained, this was as much a workshop event as a concert; the emphasis was on having fun and on these terms it certainly succeeded.
In keeping with the United Reform Church setting, the choir entered with an Alleluia chant that initially had something of a Gregorian flavour before going off a slight tangent, reflecting its contemporary authorship. Looking resplendent in their multicoloured collection of tops they went from warm-ups through rounds, response and calls of increasing complexity and finally into 3-part harmonies. The earlier songs had the lyrics on overhead display with an open invite to the audience to join in. Then partway rhrough we were treated to a display of Peak District photos taken by Jacob, notably the youngest member of the choir and author of ‘Distant Peak, a gentle song (with shades of Ralph McTell) celebrating the scenery of the hills.
The workshop feel returned prior to embarking on the 3-parters; just like in a standard rehearsal each part was performed alone before joining them into a whole. Currently the choir membership is a little over-weighted towards the soprano side with the result that the central (alto?) part is a little lost when it is all joined together, but I’m sure with time and lots of hard work this will be rectified.
The concert closed with an enthusiastic rendition of the Flying Picket hit ‘Only You’ followed with a brief chorus of Handel’s Alleluia. Everyone looked like they were having fun and I include the audience in that.
After seeing the big budget Opera productions at the main festival, I wondered how Opera Seria were going to pull it off with their minimalist set and a piano instead of an orchestra. But as soon as James Williams and Don Giovanni and Darwin Leonard as Leporello came onstage I was engrossed in what felt like the fastest 90 minutes of the Fringe so far. When Robert John Edwards as the Commendatore returned to the stage to drag the Don to hell it felt like the production was over much too soon.
Let's face it, all of Mozart's opera plots are pretty daft and need to be played with tongue in cheek which this cast did to perfection. The production had been cut to 90 minutes and this may have helped to maintain the pace as the story was packed into the time available. The acting was lots of fun with all the cast giving lively and often comic stage performances.
The singing was superb. Katy Kelly as Donna Anna, Rochelle Hart as Donna Elvira and Helen Latham as Zerlina interpreted Mozart's arias beautifully. Don Giovanni and Leporello were excellent. Michael Doroszenko as Don Ottavio, Mark Gwynne as Masetto as well as Robert John Edwards all provided able support.
To my surpise I did not miss the orchestra. Jonathan Ellis's playing was perfect for this production and complemented the singers. Hats off to Jonathan and the Stage director Rochelle Hart for creating such an enjoyable production and allowing Mozart's sublime music to shine through.
This is the first Opera Seria production for the Fringe but I hope that they come back every year and show the main festival what can be achieved with lots of energy and talent.
Buxton Methodist Church, 15th July
At some Fringe events you can just feel the love - and, emphatically, this was one of them. Simply it was a joy and a pleasure to be in Margaret's company and to hear her sing.
Margaret is an experienced performer and is quick to relax and to engage the audience. She has a charming, easy manner and though she has stories to tell she knows when to stop and start singing. And such singing!
Her programme drew heavily on opera which remains her first love with two Mozart arias at the heart of the first half. (Being colour blind and not all that fashion conscious I am not the best person to comment on Margaret's dresses but it is only right to acknowledge that she was stunning in light but rich blue for the first half and possibly lime green for the second). Anyway, back to the Mozart.
Un moto di gioja is from The Marriage of Figaro and is sung by a young woman looking forward to her wedding. Non temer amato bene is more usually heard in Idomeneo but Margaret chose a concert version for what she called the "serious stuff". "Be not afraid, my love, whatever life brings our way." This was stirring, controlled drama and Jonathan Ellis's sympathetic accompaniment was particularly evident in his careful observation of the dynamic markings.
There was more high drama in the conclusion to part one - Son qual nave by Broschi tells of a ship being blown off course in a storm into deep and dangerous waters.
Part two was rather lighter in mood but Margaret treats all songs seriously and respectfully so there is never a sense of casual frivolity.
I Have Confidence (from the Sound of Music) was charmingly delivered and The Alto's Lament (regretting the limited chorus roles whilst tenors and sopranos get the melody and the glory) was as entertaining as anything I have seen or heard all Fringe.
Quite different was Elgar's romantic and yearning Where Corals Lie. None of the earlier pyrotechnics but simple and graceful. The last item on the published programme was a modern setting of Psalm 27 - which offers consolation, hope and trust.
The audience demanded and got three encores. A love-filled evening - thank you Margaret and Jonathan.