This is Pieter Egriega’s fourth show for the Buxton Fringe and each one has been completely different - both in terms of concept and the collection of original songs.
11 Reasons is his most accessible and complete show yet. Combining jazz trio (piano/tenor sax/bass) with a brief spoken word soundtrack and accompanying black and white images made in Buxton specifically the whole show is much tighter than previous Egriega events.
The story is essentially about young love and the consequence of choices made when it comes to partners and commitment. A further layer is introduced in that each song is related to one the Major Arcana cards in the tarot deck (the Lovers, The Chariot, The Hermit etc). I know nothing about tarot and will leave observation about that aspect to others. Just to note that the philosophical aspects of the spoken word soundtrack which includes reflections on the nature of life and inevitable death might be rooted in the cards.
Egriega’s songs have always had a wit and immediacy about them and this is true of 11 Reasons. There is a directness and warmth about this set largely attributable to the playing of Alex Clarke (tenor saxophone) and Charles Ormrod (electric piano). In their playing they don’t stray far from the conventions of mainstream jazz established 60 years ago but it fits perfectly here.
Alex is a young player but she has a full tone and suitably breathy touches. Charles is a nimble and fluent pianist and the arrangements are tight. 11 Reasons is a song cycle and should be taken as a set but Our Town - pretty and tender - was especially appreciated.
I looked forward to seeing 11 Reasons and some times anticipation leads to disappointment - but not this time. There is a rare audio and visual warmth and harmony that sits well in the Rotunda late on a summer night.
Charles Ormrod is well known to Buxton audiences as a regular member of Pieter Egriega’s band, but this is his first solo show here. And it’s a bit of an oddity - though as you will see this can be a good thing.
4 kHz Is A Chilli is something of an illustrated talk rather than a straightforward recital.
Charles seeks to show us how music in one style or genre can easily be transformed into another. He also wants to show us how to make music ‘tastier’ and ‘more nourishing’ to extend the food metaphor.
For example, he recalls hearing the Beach Boys being played in the background at an Indian restaurant. This didn’t seem quite right. But he discovered that it is not so difficult to turn God Only Knows into something resembling a raga.
Even less likely, perhaps, was adapting a bass figure from a Haydn piano sonata to form the basis of some classic jazz piano.
The food analogy was also used to explain and demonstrate how to arrange a piece of music to give flavour. A sandwich begins with two slices of bread. You might add butter, a filling and perhaps some dressing. Similarly with music; a composition or arrangement need not be complex to be entirely satisfying. Charles was happy to argue that in a way Lewis Capaldi surpasses Mozart.
Charles saw comparisons in other art forms. Impressionist painters had influenced composers such as Debussy and a version of Rocketman showed how ‘any tune’ could be given an impressionist treatment.
Charles also argues that bringing together and blending different cultural achievements is a ‘good thing’ because it produces something richer in flavour and texture. There may be something to discuss here - but another time and place perhaps.
This is still something of a work in progress and new ideas are occurring to Charles daily it would seem but it should settle down into something both enjoyable and instructive.
Surely this is the most fun you can have at a choir performance?
From the minute we stepped through the door the Ordsall Acappella Choir gave us a warm welcome. Reigning from Salford they have made the ‘pilgrimage’ to the Buxton Fringe for the last nine years and it is easy to understand why they are so popular.
Headed by the utterly charming Choirmaster Geoff Borrowdale, this 35 strong community choir “do what it says on the tin” and raised the roof of the United Reformed Church.
This was the perfect mixture of traditional and contemporary, from ‘The Water is Wide’, ‘The Blessing’, ‘Cool Moon’, and ‘Poor Wayfaring Stranger’, through to ‘Over the Rainbow’, ‘Say a Little Prayer’ (including air double bass), ‘Somewhere Out There’ and ‘I Got Rhythm’.
The Choirmaster joined the performance for a moving rendition of Elbow’s hit ‘One Day Like This’, which brought a tear to my eye. Just as I was putting my hanky away they floored me again with Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’. From there we moved onto ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, Bryan Adams’ hit ‘Everything I do, I do it for You’, and an uplifting encore of the Beatles classic ‘Here Comes the Sun’. We even had some audience participation thrown in for good measure.
The lack of instrumental accompaniment meant that the beautiful harmonies could shine through and allowed for some lovely soloist moments. The sheer joy on the choirs’ face was infectious.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better they extended their hospitality and treated us to tea and cake, which was the perfect way to really engage the audience with the members of the choir.
You don’t have to wait until Buxton Fringe 2020, there is another fantastic performance at 3.00 pm, 20 July at St Mary’s Church.
No stranger to the Fringe Festival, Paul Cromford returns with a collection of songs, accompanied by himself on guitar, driven by a childhood nostalgia for the 1960’s space race. The style in which Paul writes is an interesting mix of genres, showing the influence of artists such as Paul Simon and Bob Dylan with harmonies more reminiscent of 20th century neoclassical composers.
The beginning to this performance immediately indicates the mysterious and distant nature of the moon, emphasised with beautifully crunchy harmonies which transitions effectively into the next more traditional folk-rock song. There are some truly beautiful moments within this song set, a highlight of which is ‘Amethyst-Moonstone’, inspired by the 6th and 2nd chakras as Paul explains. Within the song the music transitions from A to D for the chorus, which really stands out as a musical highlight of the show. In addition it opens with a beautifully melancholic guitar introduction, which it would be lovely to hear featured more prominently and for longer.
One’s musical ears are peaked as various musical motifs and references to songs return throughout the show, which helps with the sense of nostalgia that has been woven into the innermost seams of the show. Paul makes interesting use of audio excerpts throughout his songs (first heard in ‘Dreaming Of a Way’), which he does with a certain wistfulness. However, this is interrupted in it’s infancy by the song ‘Sixpenny Cheese’ (a rather fun and clever song that definitely deserves it’s place in the song set), before then going on to use audio excerpts in the following two songs. If Paul were to change the order slightly and then use the audio excerpts as transitions from one piece to the next this could form a really powerful and possibly quite haunting trio of songs. These audio excerpts also feature in several more songs, both in the first and second half. Whilst this is definitely a talking point of the show I feel that as it stands they either need to be contained to a very small portion (of the show as it is a really well timed surprise when they are first heard) or be used as a narrative throughout and made a real feature of.
All in all, this show was a fascinating listen at the Fringe Festival this year, to which I hope Paul continues to return to.
By Rachel Catlin
Luckily this was my third time seeing Annette Gregory at the Buxton Fringe and hopefully that, along with her ever increasing audience numbers, tells you just how wonderful her show is.
The 2017 Buxton Fringe was Annette’s first year of singing professionally with her Ella Fitzgerald tribute show. Last year she paid homage to the Ladies of Jazz. This year we were treated to a gorgeous selection from the American Songbook, and the Green Man Gallery was the perfect venue for this ‘Intimate Affair’. Joined by the ‘Two Johns’ on keyboard and guitar, the easy rapport between the trio was also extended to the audience.
Annette usually focuses on female jazz and blues singers from the 1930’s through to the 1960’s, however this evening we had her interpretations of male classics from Sinatra, Cole etc, which was a great addition to her show. As this was a shorter set than normal Annette provided us with a quick background to each of her careful selections so that they could cram in as many songs as possible for us to enjoy.
Opening with ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’, the audience drifted away to familiar classics such as ‘Night and Day’, ‘Got You Under My Skin’, ‘When I Fall in Love’, ‘The Very Thought of You’, ‘My Baby Just Cares for Me’ and ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’. We were also introduced to some lesser known songs, ‘Close Enough for Love’, ‘Do Nothing Until You Hear from Me’, ‘All the Things that You are’ and ‘East of the Sun and West of the Moon’. It was impossible to choose a favourite as they were all sublime, the instrumental segments were dreamy, and as I looked around the room everyone was totally entranced by the performance.
This event would suit a varied audience of music lovers, even if you think the genre is not to your taste. Annette hit the nail on the head when she said that the doubters realise quickly that “Oh I do like jazz, I love that one”.
Unfortunately there is only one show this year, but hopefully Annette and her band will be back in 2020. If you only see one thing at next year’s Buxton Fringe let this be it and you will be guaranteed a fantastic evening.
A 22-person ensemble set the stage at Buxton Methodist Church for a delightfully uplifting, bright and cheerful evening by the City of Manchester Opera and their concert consisting of the ‘Best of British’ featuring music from British composers and British themed pieces, including Zadok the Priest by Handel, The Yeoman of the Guard by Gilbert and Sullivan and Jerusalem by Parry.
The ensemble made a fantastically blended sound in a somewhat difficult to master venue. They were always cheerful and seemed to enjoy each piece when performing, especially when limited use of costume or prop-work came to light.
The diverse and dynamic repertoire consisted of chorus numbers and solo arias both pleasing to the ear and with a technical ability not easily reproduced. Although there were many good soloists throughout, a few stood out: Laura Woods performed I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls from Bohemian Girl by Michael William Balfe with beautiful execution, hitting top notes confidently and powerfully, but not so much as to overwhelm the intimate space; Elizabeth Ambrose gave an elegant and experienced performance of O Peaceful England from Merrie England by Edward German and was accompanied delicately by the chorus; John Elliot gave a couple of solo performances, however his characterisation in Free From his Fetters Grim from Yeoman of the Guard by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan was inspired. Also of particular note the sextet who performed Chi mi Frena from Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti (Joan Dean, Helen Mulholland, Eric Cymbir, Chris Elliot, John Elliot, John Piper) which was beautifully balanced and emotionally performed.
There were wonderful moments of light humour throughout the evening, most notably the conductor & musical director Juan Ortuño employing castanets in Dance a Cachucha from The Gondoliers by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, and accompanist Johnathan Ellis adding his own drama at the end of the Phantom of the Opera Medley of the musical by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.
The performance was well received by the audience, and would be well suited to those venturing out into the world of Opera for the first time and want a taste, or for the experienced listener to enjoy a good range of classic British, or British themed, opera and music.
Sadly this is their one and only performance at the fringe, but you can catch them again on 27th July at St George’s Church in Altrincham at 7:30pm.
Throughout the summer months, the Pavilion Gardens Bandstand is the home to an array of visiting brass bands from around the region, bringing the warm tones of the brass ensemble to locals and holiday-makers. This week, however, as part of the Buxton Fringe, it was taken over by the High Peak Swing Band. This accomplished ensemble brought a rich, full-bodied sound as they made a comprehensive trawl of the Great American Songbook and beyond.
The 16-piece band performed a wide array of tunes and songs, including Moonlight Serenade, Sweet Georgia Brown, The Candyman and Big Spender. They’d laid on Singing In The Rain, but the weather remained clement throughout. The band also featured three vocalists, most notable of whom, Jules Scott, brought her silky tones to songs including Fly Me To The Moon.
At times, perhaps the introductions and links between the songs could have been a touch smoother, but this was an ideal entertainment for a summer’s afternoon. The band more than held their own in the wide repertoire they offered, displaying, as one of their songs said, It Don’t Mean A Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.
Tuesday's Buxton Blues Train was without a doubt the best Train so far in its 15-month history.
The way it works is simple. Get on the train in Manchester, play blues music to the passengers on the beautiful Buxton line, and then all pile out into the Red Willow Brewery bar for a full-on gig.
It's great for the Fringe and live music followers to have a series of artistes (including exceptional local bands) on their doorstep every second Tuesday of the month. There were afficionados from Glossop, Preston, Nottingham, Bury, Eccles, all enjoying one of the most memorable bands, giving it their all.
Midnight Johnny played to the status they truly are, in our own Buxton Red Willow.
Great classic blues with ripping riffs and a tight band, rocking to the hilt with fab bass, drums and that Hammond sound.
All in all an amazing night laid on by one of Buxton's best assets: its railway line.
The Buxton URC is fortunate to have a Broadwood grand piano dating from 1899 that was completely restored last year. That good fortune has been amplified by a season of recitals by excellent young pianists from the Royal Northern College of Music.
Brian Low Rhung Wei brought this season to a brilliant end. He began in deceptively restrained fashion with a Bach Prelude and Fugue. At the heart of his programme was an exhilarating transcription of a Bach violin Partita. The Italian composer Ferruccio Busoni published his arrangements of Bach's work in 1894 and necessarily added substantially to a piece originally written for a very different instrument. As Brian observed at the end, "I could do with a rest after that."
Brian showed something of his range as a musician with two studies by the 20th century Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu. Rain Tree and Rain Tree Sketch II - written near the end of his life and dedicated to Messiaen, whose influence is apparent.
The final piece in the listed programme was the Funerailles from Liszt's Harmonies poetiques et religieuses III. Written to mark the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 this is music with a purpose. From a jagged, tentative beginning it moved through a range of moods sometimes suggesting despair and loss, at other times the possibility of defiance, acceptance and reconciliation. Any emergent hopefulness was always foreshadowed by the prospect of crushing disappointment. This is mighty, romantic music.
Something different, rather lighter, was called for by way of an encore and slightly unexpectedly Brian played a couple of jazz standards. Misty is a tune that one can never tire of.
Brian's playing was assured and measured throughout but also emotionally well judged. A fine recital by a young musician who we hope will return to Buxton.
At this sell out concert within the wonderful acoustics of Buxton Methodist Church it was easy to see (and hear) why Buxton Studio Choir were worthy Fringe Vocal Award Performance Winners in 2018.
Formed back in 2014 their popularity and ever-increasing number of choralists continues to grow and grow. Locals in the audience may have spotted a familiar face or two as the choir’s vocal talent stems from members of our local community, which made this event even more special.
Led by the entertaining Musical Directors Janet Galloway and Thom Norman, their sense of fun was reflected in the evening’s varied selection of songs. If you came to hear a standard set list, think again! Beautiful harmonies and clever arrangements transported us from the hypnotic Moon River (personal favourite), Simon and Garfunkel, through to a rousing Beach Boys medley and beyond. The song choice showcased the versatility of this talented choir and allowed each section to shine. I loved the men’s version of ‘This boy’ with guitar accompaniment.
It was great to see how much enjoyment the choir had whilst singing, which captivated the audience from start to finish. I’m sure this has inspired a few more people to join their ranks!
There must have been some disappointed Fringe goers who couldn’t get a ticket for this event so make sure you are first in the queue next year. If you can’t wait until then, check out the Buxton Studio Choir Facebook page for further information about future events.
The newly refurbished Buxton Octagon was the ideal venue for this summer concert which provided a great setting for both the performers and the audience. It was packed to capacity with over 70 young musicians and at least twice as many friends, family and other music lovers. We were treated to an amazing programme of superb musical expertise that, in my opinion exceeded the performances of many full time professional orchestras.
These musicians from across the County only got together five days ago, to rehearse full time, under the leadership of guest conductor Mark Henson, who has appeared with many professional ensembles including the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.
Their program began with a very difficult piece, entitled Symphony no.2 in D Major by Sibelius. This demonstrated the talented variations of each section of the orchestra, some of whom had instruments larger than themselves!
During the interval we mingled with the young players who were a delightful mix of happy, young students. Later, during the second half, they entertained us with a delightful program of popular, familiar orchestral pieces. The performance culminated in Rossini’s Finale from the William Tell Overture, after which, the audience showed their delight and appreciation with a standing ovation. This prompted the Orchestra to treat us to a repeat of the final piece!
It is also a matter of pride that the main body of the strings section comes from the High Peak. Well done, we are so proud of you all.
Although percussive guitarist Chris Woods has played at the Green Man Gallery several times before, this is the first time as part of the Fringe. As this was his only performance at this year’s Fringe, you’ll need to refer to his web page (chriswoodsgroove.co.uk) for more details of forthcoming dates to see him.
The evening began with a short set from local guitarist, Kenny Robertson, who played three Gypsy Jazz standards, Lulu Swing, Swing Gitane and Minor Swing accompanied by backing tracks, the latter preceded by a slower, completely improvised fingerstyle guitar piece in a contrasting style, which demonstrated his versatility. He fluently played melody and improvised solo lines throughout the jazz pieces, giving an energetic start to the gig which complemented the main set.
After a short break, Chris Woods began with Rhythm Museum, the first of four pieces off his new CD, In Pareidolia. This was followed by established pieces, Rolling Hills and then Guitar Revolution, a 2016 piece written to involve other guitarists in a pop-up guitar orchestra. He explained that he had recently been working with other instrumentalists, with several appearing on the new CD, though the economics of touring currently preclude touring with a band. He continued with two new numbers; Saol (Irish for life), a subtle, jazz-inflected piece, followed by In Conversation, which begins with Chris building a sonic background of rain, using his looping skills, with the piece based around two guitars representing the conversation between two people. Next came two older numbers, Michelle, dedicated to his wife, and I’d Rather Be, dedicated to John Martyn, although he said it owed more musically to 1990s rave music! Banneret, dedicated to his mother, was the final new piece, which begins with a beautiful, gentle melody, then building chordally. For this, as for several other items, Chris used his technical skills to reproduce live pieces recorded with other instruments, in this case double bass. Chris finished his set with Stolen Lines, before playing Edinburgh for an encore.
This was a beautifully planned and delivered set, showing Chris technical and percussive skills, but most of all, his musical sensibility throughout, harnessing techniques and technology in the service of his compositions. He talked amusingly and informatively between songs, fully engaging a small, but clearly knowledgeable audience throughout. The four pieces from his new CD show how his latest compositions are demonstrating an even greater musical range, sense of melody, and great dynamics and phrasing.
As well as gigging and recording, Chris offers a range of learning materials and opportunities, including an app, on-line lessons, as well as traditional books and CDs, all available from his web site.
Jill Crossland is an established artist who has made several recordings and was a great success at last year’s Festival Fringe.
At the end of the first half of her Sunday afternoon performance at the United Reformed Church I heard an audience member say ‘sublime’, and I would agree with this comment as would many of those in the audience.
The programme could have almost been tailored-made for me because, with the exception of the last piece which is new to me, they are all amongst my favourites.
I think it is true to say that Jill’s playing is very individual and I think you could recognise her from her playing. She loves the pieces she chooses and cherishes every moment as she plays through them,allowing them to tell their own story in their own time. Bach of course never encountered the Broadwood piano which she played. I do believe the way she played on the Broadwood piano would have met with Bach’s overwhelming approval.
I think she played Bach as the Romantics would have done, for example as Clara Schumann or Felix/Fanny Mendelssohn or Ignaz Moscheles would have played the works in their private chambers. She successfully brought about a flexibility in the tempo at certain key points in the music especially at the end. To me she seemed to make time stand still when she played the B flat Prelude and Fugue from the 1st book of the Well-Tempered Clavier
In the French Suite no 5 in G major she played the allemande slower than I usually hear it resulting in her savouring every phrase and every nuance. This slower approach to the allemande’s logic became even clearer when she contrasted with the courante playing it quickly with its dazzling scale-like passage and she brought out several interesting melodic features. I loved all the other movements as well.
The Schumann’s Arabesque and the Debussy two Arabesques went equally well and I liked her technical and intellectual control and contrast she made in the pieces. The Brahms Intermezzo was heart-rending and the Variations in D minor also by Brahms showed her ability to shape her performance over a period of time. Brahms is certainly a great composer. He likes big chords which she managed well.
The audience would have listened to her for ages. She gave us an encore called Les Tourbillons (The Eddies) by Rameau which was played masterfully with a great drive.
Club Acoustic has been a regular part of the Fringe Festival since 2012, and this year's showcase was as good as ever! The free event was filled with local musical talent and regular musicians from their usual sessions at the Clubhouse. When we walked into the venue, we bought raffle tickets and the latest Club Acoustic CD and the venue started to fill up! The compere, Tony, thanked everyone for coming and introduced each of the five acts, who played for around 25 minutes. Starting the evening off was singer Rhiannon Mogridge, who beautifully sang an array of traditional folk songs a cappella before being joined by guitarist Douglas Torr for a few extra songs, my personal favourite being 'Vincent' by Don McLean.
Next to the stage was Wragged Tree, with Perry and Hilary offering well-rehearsed songs with Club Acoustic regulars joining in. They performed on the guitar and banjo and their voices worked very well together. I particularly enjoyed their original piece "Walk Lightly, Tread Gently.'
Performing next was the band Simply, who reformed after the death of long-standing Club Acoustic member Kevin Allsop (the band was originally named Simply Layback.) Within the band, there was a Cajón, symbol and chimes, a left-handed acoustic bass guitar, an acoustic guitar, harmonica, flute, keyboard and mandolin. The band sounded brilliant, 'Meet me on the Corner' by Lindisfarne being a particular highlight.
The fourth musician to play was professional guitarist Will Hawthrone, who played everything from Spanish flamenco music to the Dad's Army theme tune! 'If I fell' by Lennon and McCartney was a favourite for me and many members of the audience sang or hummed along to it.
After the raffle (which unfortunately I won nothing in!) it was time for the final act of the evening: the ukulele, guitar and singing band, NoJoKe, named after the three members, Norman, Joel and Keith. The band played a variety of upbeat and singalong songs. My top two from this talented band were 'Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard' by Paul Simon and 'Rocket Man' by Elton John.
It was a brilliant evening at the Underground at the Clubhouse venue filled with a variety of musical talent. The free open night acoustic event takes place every 1st, 3rd and 5th Wednesday of the Month from 8:30 onwards at the Clubhouse and is always a great night. Enjoy!
This was the first of four late morning recitals by a stripped-down Little Consort. This one focused on the music of French masters. The music was mostly of a sunny nature and lent itself well to this bright summer morning with sun pouring into the Methodist Church.
We began with a Chaconne by Morel. The form began as a dance and this is still evident. Sue Snell played a special recorder for the part originally written for flute. She was well supported by Piers Snell (viol) and Christine Whiffen (harpsichord).
Christine played a number of pieces for harpsichord. As an instrument it has a much narrower range than modern keyboards, of course, and it seems like a very polite and well-behaved cousin of the much more boisterous piano, for example. Christine played a couple of compositions by François Couperin - one of the great writers for the harpsichord. A Passacaille, written by uncle Louis Couperin, and compositions by Jacques Duphly - few of which survive - were also heard.
The programme was completed by two pieces by undoubted masters of the viol repertoire. Jean de Sainte-Colombe is credited with having developed the seven string viol which we usually hear today. His Le Tendre was the most melancholy, reflective item in the programme.
Marin Marais was a student of Sainte-Colombe and interest in his music was encouraged by the 1991 film Tous Les Matins du Monde in which Gerard Depardieu played Marais. Today we heard his Suite in G which again had three dance-like movements. This prompted the thought that this music was probably not written for recitals of the sort to which we are now accustomed.
Mr Simpson’s Little Consort presents the music in an unfussy way, allowing the listener to focus on the interplay of the delicate and subtle sounds
(The recital on the 19th features German composers: Buxtehude, Bach and Telemann. On the 20th it is the turn of Italians: Vivaldi, Scarlatti and Corelli. Finally, on the 22nd hear some English music: Gibbons, Byrd and Dowland among the composers represented).
18 July (further recitals 19, 20 & 22 July)
What arousing and cheering occasion this was. The concert was the conclusion to a residential weekend, held twice a year, where young, and very young, musicians practise and learn together, and then perform. The youngest was 9 and the oldest 19, so they come in all sizes, some seeming almost too small for their instruments, but their competence and enthusiasm is not in doubt. The courses are selective by audition, but heavily subsidised so as not to be financially exclusive. The pupils have learnt both privately and at school or county musical hubs. They arrive not knowing each other or the music, and in three days they’ll have made friends, had fun, learnt a lot, and put on a concert for the pleasure of all concerned, themselves and their proud families and teachers.
This time was special for the addition of an extra day, for the creation of an entirely new piece, (thus far titled ‘Unititled’!), by the children and their Creative Leader, James Redwood, which had its first practice in the afternoon, and performance in the evening. The professional players of Sinfonia Viva chamber orchestra were an important part of the new piece, scored to help meld together the different parts cooperatively produced by the students starting from some folk tunes, into a convincing whole. Such a whole emerged, somewhat on the lines of the folk dances of Dvorak, Bartok and Brahms, which also featured in the programme. It was tuneful, interesting, stimulating, hugely enjoyable, producing moments for individuals to shine, and for everyone to be part of something exciting and fun.
The rest of the programme included items played by the Schools’ Orchestra, items shared with Sinfonia Viva, and a group played by the professionals alone. The whole evening was conducted by Dominic Wheeler, possessor of an impressive musical CV and a stirring energy to which the young players responded with enthusiasm. Both he and Sinfonia Viva are devoted to working with young people, and tonight it really showed
This concert was part of a rousing programme of events to celebrate the return of the Octagon to public use, after its long refurbishment. It looks good, and smart, still its essential Victorian self, and the acoustic benefitted from the sound-absorbing qualities of the large audience, swelled by the families and friends of the young performers.
On Friday 19th, also in the Octagon, at 7.30pm, it will be the turn of the Derbyshire City & County Youth Orchestra, the senior version of the Schools’ Orchestra. That should be another good evening – do go!
For her Fringe debut Katharine Dryden brought two song cycles that she is performing across the region this year. The overall title - The Depths of the Heart - makes it clear that this is a programme that looks to speak to you directly.
Robert Schumann published his setting of seven poems by Adelbert Von Chamisso in 1840 - the year of his own marriage. It might be supposed that this happy event influenced, at least in part, his writing - certainly the first few songs.
Frauenliebe und Leben (A Woman’s Life and Love) is a sequence of seven songs that tell of a lifelong romance starting with Since I Have Seen Him and He, the most glorious of all. These early days of a love affair when the need to be with another is all consuming is captured with tenderness that verges on pain.
The episode Sweet Friend describes the marriage night with great delicacy and restraint. The contrast with the following On my heart, on my breast which comments on the experience of motherhood is striking.
Schumann’s piano writing throughout the cycle goes beyond simple accompaniment. The piano provides additional commentary and depth to the moods and state of mind of the woman and the piece concludes with an extended piano solo.
Edward Elgar wrote his song cycle Sea Pictures in 1899 and it soon became established in the repertoire - particularly the third song, Where Corals Lie which is often sung as part of a mixed recital.
The main theme of the opening Sea Slumber-Song recurs throughout the cycle and helps give a unity to the work.
Katharine, and her pianist Philip Robinson, gave us a thoughtful and moving account of this music. Never fussy, concentrating very much on the meaning of the song cycles, their return to Buxton would be welcome.
Partita formed in 1995 and has performed at every Buxton Fringe since. So this is the ensemble’s 25th Festival. An achievement that is likely only to be beaten by Partita. Let’s begin then by putting on record our thanks for the great pleasure this group of musicians and singers has given over that time. The programmes of song and music are seldom repetitive, some new nuggets of treasure are always unearthed.
For the first of this year’s recitals there was an element of review with some pieces presented anew. Amongst the instrumental pieces was a very danceable Chaconne by Lully and La Capona by Kapsperger which was based on the sound of the tolling bell.
For this recital some of the most memorable moments came from the songs. Holly Marland was a delight with Tarquinio Merula’s Folle e ben chi so crede. Her duet with Sasha Johnson Manning in a ‘cheerful’ Dowland - Come away, come sweet love - was also a joy.
Three Handel arias and a Bach Chorale also provided opportunities for their voices to shine.
Holly Marland also contributed an enthralling interlude to the music of the Renaissance and Baroque with some pieces played on the African kora. She is a dedicated student of the instrument and its place in West African culture. She sang three songs based on what she had learned from her studies as well as playing three original vignettes composed on the Hebridean Isle of Eigg.
Support and accompaniment throughout came from Roger Child (theorbo, lute and guitar), Jill Lingard (harpsichord) and Margaret Walker (harp). All in all another excellent Partita recital. Let’s hope that we hear them for many years yet.
Eden Walker gave a magnificent concert to an appreciative and sometimes spellbound audience. Eden Walker is presently on a post graduate course at the Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. He played a variety of pieces and showed immense technical and artistic skill.
The audience was given a very detailed programme describing the pieces on the programme and also a biographical note about the pianist.
Eden has an affinity with early 20th century pieces and it is fitting that he began with Busoni’s Sonatina ad usum Infantis Madeline(1915). Although a towering figure his music is not played frequently. I think amateur pianists may be inspired to buy this piece as they do not seem too difficult.
Mozart’s C minor Sonata followed which is extremely well known and it has tragical outer movements with a gentle cantabile middle movement.
The Scriabin Sonata No 9 (Black Mass 1913) and Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E flat / D sharp minor from Book 2 both seemed to me to be mystical in their own contrasting ways and in my imagination the stained-glass window of the church immediately behind the piano responded to the pieces.
The next piece was by the Lithuanian composer and painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis who was not known to me before this concert. His years were from 1875 to 1911 and I felt the 4 preludes showed a distinct personality although there was some possible influence by Chopin and Scriabin. The third one played called Prelude in C (1908) was perhaps my favourite which depicted the sea. It is interesting that Debussy completed his La Mer in 1905 and Frank Bridge composed his Seascape in 1910-1911.
The final piece brought the house down a favourite with virtuosos also played a few years ago at the fringe by Jonathan Ellis. The work is difficult to play. Schubert was unable to play it successfully.
Eden is a wonderful pianist with a pleasant, friendly and modest disposition. I felt thrilled with the new works which he has introduced to me. He is capable of playing rapid passages with accuracy and flair and has a wonderful cantabile touch as in the Busoni and Mozart. He shows imagination as in the Scriabin and can create excitement as in the Schubert.
Amongst my happiest moments was when he played the Bach’s fugue creating a serene atmosphere detached from all earthly misery.
Mr Simpson’s Little Consort is a group giving ‘Historic performance, with a twist’, a quote from their engaging website which suggests correctly that they are not at all solemn about themselves. The members each play multiple early instruments at need, and will all sing, or even dress up as pirates, for instance (though neither of those things on this occasion), giving every appearance of loving what they do. They have been putting on various concerts for the Fringe this year. In this instance, the overall theme was music which might have been encountered by the young men and their tutors (or ‘bearleaders’) making the Grand Tour, through London, Paris, Germany to the essential, Italy. There were generous programme notes, and cheerfully unpompous introductory readings from contemporary writers, given by George Higgins. They gave a succession of deeply enjoyable pieces both secular and sacred by the outstandingly famous baroque composers, J.S.Bach, Telemann, Handel, Vivaldi, but also several that are hardly household names – Pepusch, Bononcini anyone? C.P.E.Bach crept in only as introductory reading.
They play instruments of the period, harpsichord (Christine Whitten), bass viol (Piers Snell), baroque violin (Lucy Bignall), recorders and viol (Sue Snell), and Cate McKee, voice. Following the practice of the time, they have adapted the music to the instruments available. Thus if, for instance, you would be put out to hear the sublime aria ‘Erbarme dich’ from the St Matthew Passion with harpsichord rather than organ, and merely single violin, viol and recorder, then this was not for you – but you would have missed heartstopping beauty of voice and accompaniment. Cate McKee has not only a lovely voice with admirable purity of sound and line, but also real engagement with the story, and she can float the music with magic stillness, apparently without effort (the result, naturally, of practice and experience, but the listener is allowed to take that background for granted).
Does it sound as though the audience appreciated what was put before us? The pause each time before the spell was broken by applause suggested as much. The group has been here before, previously won a Fringe award, and might very reasonably be in the running for another this year. Whether that happens or not, I hope they will come again. And this year, you still have a chance to catch them, on Saturday 21st July 3pm at Eyam Parish Church, and on Monday 22nd July 7.30pm at Buxton Methodist Church. You’ll have a smile as well as some wonderful music.
An Evening with Cathy Rimer is the perfect way to describe this event. Cathy is instantly likable with an engaging warmth and bohemian aura. She chats with the audience like old friends whilst sharing funny anecdotes along the way. All of Cathy’s songs are self-penned and based on her day to day life, her spirituality, and love in all its guises. She introduces each with a refreshingly open account of about what has inspired her along the way.
Not only is Cathy a singer songwriter she is also an accomplished guitarist and by her own admission, the melodies show a definite influence of the great Burt Bacharach and are beautifully melodic with a hint of folk.
One song, ‘Summer’s Child’ is particularly poignant and moving, whilst she left us all intrigued by her inspiration for the song ‘Angry’. My favourite was one she wrote only a couple of weeks ago and practiced whilst on her early morning bike rides around Hartington, it was wonderful. There were acapella moments and also an hilarious impromptu poem called ‘Plastic’.
The set ended accompanied by her partner Martin - prepare to be blown away by his guitar skills. This segment was ‘rock-n-roll-esque’ and it was great to see the joy and affection they have performing together.
You can share another evening with Cathy on 21 July, 6.30-7.30 at the Green Man Gallery. Bookings are taken by the Gallery at thegreenmangallery.com or telephone 01298 937375.
Wow, what a gem on which to end the Fringe festival! This was an evening of two entertaining and academically fascinating halves.
Presented by the very able communicator Michael Howard, we were firstly taken on a literary and art history journey of the Gothic novel genre and its illustrations, given as a lecture with power point slides plus given an inside look at how an opera is being evolved: from the discussions between librettist ( Michael Howard, eminent art historian , author, artist, polymath ) and internationally renowned composer ( Peter Byrom-Smith ); to photograph documentation of the opera in the making, these taken and displayed so artfully by Adrian Lambert.
We were given an outline of some of the opera's plot, then given a taste of the sumptuous music with six arias being performed. Although written as opera, these harmonious and dramatic arias were beautifully interpreted by Lesley Davies' rich mellow jazz tones, with such clear diction, sympathetically accompanied by the excellent pianist Steve Davies. All this in the apt setting of the Green Man Gallery, art all around, including Michael Howard's talented etchings of the storyline, the evening couldn't possibly be bettered.
There was even a questions and comments participation to finish. All done with such expertise. We are left with the anticipation of the forthcoming full opera, which I, for one, will not want to miss and judging by the comments of the good sized audience, I was not alone.
This talented venture absolutely deserves to succeed.
A welcome return visit to Buxton from this brilliant musical duo. This wasn’t just a flute solo with piano accompaniment, rather as one would hope for, a symbiotic partnership with an entertaining programme.
The opening piece, Michael Head’s ‘By the River in Spring’, contained all the musical clichés associated with stock images of countryside river scenes. Virtuosic moments of the piano part, indicating flowing water were delivered effortlessly, belying the technical difficulty in producing a wonderfully expressive and dynamic effect. The lovely rich tone that Rachel coaxes from her flute enhanced by the glorious acoustic space of the Methodist Church, with soulful sections, the dawn awakenings and evocative interjections gave full compliment to the piece.
Arranging folk songs for contemporary groups obviously navigates a path well trodden by luminaries fashionable in their day, such as Vaughan Williams, Percy Grainger and George Butterworth. Todays’ arrangement of ‘Three Folk Songs’ by Christopher Redgate felt it was looking for something more challenging for the performer than the same old folksy thing. ‘Barbara Allen’ and to a lesser extent ‘Green Bushes’, may have been subtitled “a study of technique in contemporary idioms” with some detail of a technical exercise. The movements were beautifully executed yet tuneful and quite different from folk tune arrangement of the past. In the 3rd movement, based on the ‘Wraggle Taggle Gypsies’ the duo were able to convey a feel of a busy rabble leading to a more contemplative mood, finishing with a mad rush to the exit.
Rachel and Jemima cannot be accused of opting for easy repertoire. William Mathias’ ‘Sonata for Flute and Piano’ demonstrated some brilliant articulation from both players. In the 1st movement, which is meant to be allegro, the brilliance and exuberance nearly blew the lid off, but just about kept control. In contrast the 2nd movement provided an opportunity to explore the delightful expressive tone which Rachel conjures out of her instrument. There was an element of mischievous bullying from the piano, which was quite endearing. The last movement, ‘Allegro Vivace’, is what it says on the tin, life in the fast lane. The fiendish piano part had a tendency to dominate, telling the flute “catch me if you dare!”.
‘Carnival of Venice’, a well know party piece for many front line instruments, we understand Rachel also performs with a military band. Most arrangements in the theme and variations format, test amongst other technicalities the control of consistency of tone whist playing octave leaps, a hurdle at which many faint hearted flautists falter, risking making the last variation (after a big breath) a total jumble; meanwhile the smug accompaniment vamps away like the proverbial chuffer train. But at today’s realistic tempo and sympathetic piano, the exercise came off with no problem at all for Rachel demonstrating superb articulation. She could have nailed it at twice the speed….I hope the band don’t try it on next week!
From the pen of American, Cameron Wilson, the duo played ‘Celtic Partita’, comprising several recognizable folk tunes but presented in a complex and challenging arrangement. The reel sections gathered speed with excitement and the piano part deftly executed by Jemima, with impressive accurate dexterity. Seemed like a race to the end… who won?
Finally we heard ‘Oakmount Nocturne’ by Geraldine Green. The romantic piece opens with melancholic strains of unaccompanied flute, evolving in a more expansive rhapsodic piano feel and ending in contemplative mood, very suited to the duo.
Rachel and Jemima are clearly in complete control of their instruments, and on top of their game. I hope they will at least maintain their regular place in Buxton’s musical life, next year’s fringe or maybe earlier at one of the lunchtime series’ at Arts Centre or URC.
Brian K W Lightowler
The billing promised entertainment, surprise and relaxation with a catchy name suggesting a fashionable aperitif, the Norden Flute Quartet set out their stall to perform music across a wide spectrum of genres. The setting at the Brierlow Bar café under the same roof as the bookshop was ideal for the informality of tonight’s concert with refreshments on hand and cabaret style seating.
The four flutes were played by Sue Pamp, Julie Lord, John McKown also doubling alto flute and Mike Dale, doubling on bass flute. The lower pitched flutes have a lovely rich tone and it is surprising, setting aside the cost of purchase, that these instruments are not heard more often in the general flute repertoire. In the setting of this chamber group the compliment of voicing is particularly pleasing, if not essential, to the unique ensemble sound. A challenge to the delivery of a performance with an ensemble of instruments with fundamentally similar tone quality is to avoid an accusation of lacking variety. Recorders, trombones and harps to mention a few heard recently in Buxton have fallen into the trap of “sameness” which is not as readily noticeable with mixed instrumental groups. There is clearly a role in the wise choice of music and tonight we heard some skillful arrangements of popular pieces for flute quartet, which brought out the rhythmic and tonal versatility of the group.
The compare, Sue Pamp usually prefaced her well researched introductions by a rhetorical question to the audience, such as “does anyone know what this is?” Striking fear of having one’s ignorance exposed and with emphatic manipulation of spectacles to ensure the back row of the class were paying due attention, the presumption is that every nugget presents a potential education opportunity. All in good humour of course, but woe betide…..
For obvious reasons many great tunes have been commissioned for the stage and screen and first up was the calypso ‘Under the Sea’ from Disney’s ‘Little Mermaid’. The tune has had many reincarnations in popular culture to video games and the flute quartet arrangement set concert off to a firm if not unexpected start. The multinational ‘Never on a Sunday’ was given a Tijuana treatment reflecting the song’s Greek origins.
Voicing of a quaint version of Scott Joplin’s ‘Entertainer’ had echoes of a fairground merry-go-round and its traditional unfaltering mechanical organ, a tribute to the consistent time keeping and steady rhythm control of the quartet.
Their flute version of Gershwin’s ‘Summertime’ had totally different feel to most, with neat movement of the inner parts pushing the familiar chord progression along in an interesting sub plot. ‘Castle in the Sky’ laid an ambush for purity of sustained notes and synchronization of the tell-tale woodwind chiff for the ensemble (the slight push when a flute initially speaks); test generally passed.
The theme from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ conjured a jocular feel lifted by punctuation with various toy percussion instruments, spot on cue in the hands of John. This effect had popular appeal for the dog in the audience who was moved to join the fun by barking in recognition. After the interval John again took up the sound effects for the best known of the songs associated with recent versions of the ‘Ugly Duckling’ fairy tale. The affectionate dog had repaired to his quarters by the time the duck noise came on.
On to the Baroque repertoire with an arrangement of J S Bach’s ‘Sheep may Safely Graze’ which came over very well. Some self-deprecating yet rather endearing modesty in banter, the band seemed almost surprised when the piece was safely executed. There was admittedly some wasted breath escaping from around the mouthpieces but this and the rendition of Mozart’s version of ‘Ave Verum’ suited the group’s balance. Arguably the ‘Badinerie’ from Bach’s B minor Suite was a little under rehearsed but delivered the message effectively.
‘Eleanor Rigby’ and a medley of songs from ‘Mary Poppins’ proved to be jolly and uplifting with some moments of creditably accurate articulation from all the members. In contrast, Eric Clapton’s ‘Tears of Heaven’ said to have been inspired by the guitarist’s bereavement, captured the depressing mood of the piece.
The quartet’s version of ‘My Favourite Things’, which along other pieces had won them a prize in last year’s Stockport Recorder Festival and in the second set they were in their musical stride.
The well known tango ‘Por una Cabeza’ which title and lyrics inspired by horse racing and gambling in Buenos Aires of the 1930’s, was given a novel lugubrious treatment by the quartet. Argentinian dancing aficionados may have been wrong-footed by this version which may have seemed a little bland in the context of conventional vigorous versions of the piece but the tones of tonight’s ensemble were sweet and more relaxing than one normally hears this number.
‘Soul Bossa Nova’, appeared in the 1960’s featuring flutes in Quincy Jones’ Big Band. It thus sits well with the Norden Quartet who succeeded in maintaining a steady Latin rhythm. Of particular mention was Mike Dale’s improvised solo, confirming his jazz credentials.
‘Sweet dreams are made of this’ and another Gershwin tune ‘Someone to watch over me’ were pleasing arrangements and played with accuracy of articulation.
The final medley of themes from the vast library created for the ‘Looney Tunes’ cartoon movies and extensive Warner Bros franchises are well suited to the instrumentation of the quartet and was snappily played and nicely articulated. The cheeky sign off ‘That’s all Folks!’ left the audience in high spirit.
The consort should be justifiably pleased with tonight’s performance which delivered on the promise of an eclectic mix of relaxed entertainment. The members all have a good command of their instruments. A high standard of disciplined ensemble technique obviously underpins the presentation whilst the importance of attention to programme selection to minimize the risk of monotony perceived by an uninitiated audience should be kept in mind for future full length concerts. I hope we will have the opportunity to hear more from this quartet.
Brian K W Lightowler
Hattie Hatstar writes and performs her own comedy songs about coping with modern life. Each of the songs has a twist on everyday problem. Some examples of her song topics include making children's heads "Clanger" shaped, dancing like a twit, how it is easier to love your dog more than the humans in your life, coping with spandex underwear, keeping fit while the world is in crisis and, inevitably, sex.
Hatty's musical talent is as strong as her sense of humour and she accompanies her singing on the accordion and ukulele. This is an easy and relaxed performance. She said that she had struggled to decide which of her many songs to include in this show. I , for one, would have happily listened to her all afternoon.
In C. One of my favourite pieces. Chatting to members of KEMS Contemporary (King Edwards Musical Society) it seems it is also one of theirs. Although the Society was formed 60 years ago, this particular set of members have only been playing this particular piece for 6 years. The ensemble was joined by a couple of guest musicians for this show, which following on from their workshop meant they were playing and practising more around 3 hours.
I liked the fact that the work was introduced, by percussionist Julia, and included interesting detail about the first performances back in 1964 and how Morton Subotnik kept the authorities at bay outside the theatre! A nice touch.
It’s always nice to hear one of your favourite works live, and KEMS didn’t let me down. In C, like many other minimalist works relies on phasing, discipline and democracy. It is difficult work to perform as the players need to keep an ear out for not only their own cues, but also for everyone else’s. I have to congratulate them on a job well done, even allowing for a slightly sticky trombone which required a spot of lubrication in the middle of things.
Well done everyone! See you next year with more minimalism?
Ian Parker Heath
Ian Bowns is a consummate folk performer and song collector.
So with a concert entitled ‘In the Tradition’, you know you can look forward to an evening of good songs delivered with a background of knowledgeable content as to their early beginnings. Starting with an a capella version of ‘Les Filles sont Voyages’, Ian gets into his stride with ‘Lovely Joan’and ‘Willy O’Winsbury’, both songs, which he had Trad arranged. This was followed by a performance of ‘With Henry Hunt We’ll Go’ which dates back to the battle of Waterloo. He then surprised his wife Carol, who was due to sing next with him, by jumping ahead in the programme with ‘Hollow Point’.
On catching his mistake Carol got up to duet with him in ‘Riddles Wisely Expounded’. Would you believe that the lyrics were about selecting a life partner! ‘Van Diemen’s Land’, ‘There were Roses’ then followed. He then introduced the song ‘Proper Sort of Gardener’ which was beautifully sung by Sarah Owens and finally ‘Farewell Farewell’ by Richard Thompson. All in all a lovely concert.
It works like this at ‘The Cheese’; turn right when you go in if you want to listen to the music, turn left if it’s background for your night out. Many had turned right and the Occasional Band had a full house. In fact, the music was so good that even the left-turners were halted in their conversation at times - and especially so for the haunting ‘Hard Times’ ballad – three voices and three instruments tuned to perfection.
The Occasional Band is just that - ‘occasional’ and there were many last night who hoped for a name change to ‘The Frequent Band’. It comprises: Alex McGill, formerly Derry but now Buxton, on acoustic guitar - an interesting vintage one (the guitar) and apparently a rather rare ‘Harptone’; Andy Wedderburn, from Belfast to Whaley, on concertina - made in 1911, and mandolin: Tim Newton, all the way from Stockport, playing a fiddle “bought for fifteen quid in a charity shop”. And three very well-tuned voices - romping through happy ballads (Whiskey before Breakfast’ - can’t get happier than that!) and lilting melodically through the sad ones (beautifully sung ‘Homes of Donegal’). After the break, the instruments were clearly well warmed up and the set of three polkas was pure instrumental magic, foot-tapping the audience to the waterfalls, ponds and wildflower meadows of the Northern Ireland countryside.
Thoroughly enjoyable evening in the company of these three musicians within the ambience and authentic setting of The Cheshire Cheese pub.
The League of Ladies WI Choir performed their first night with great presence as newcomers to the Fringe.
The choir got straight to business, and sang a selection of songs which were refreshing, energetic and clearly enjoyed by the members. The ambience in the Pavilion Arts centre suited the performance too, creating an intimate atmosphere.
Bringing both audience and choir together, Joannne led the ladies through a resounding "Eye of the Tiger" and Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop", with participation from us.
The repertoire was well chosen, with songs of their own collective choice, and the performance was strong with good simple harmonies that worked well. This choir is clearly one to watch for the future. Singing makes you smile!
Billed as ‘Jazz for a Summer’s Night’ Basin Street Jazz and Blues aimed to make us feel “all summery on a drizzly day”, and they certainly succeeded. This sell-out performance at the Green Man Gallery was atmospheric with intimate lighting surrounded by the gallery’s fantastic artwork.
The band is a local quintet featuring the talents of Jules Scott on vocals; Fred Rolland on guitar; Adrian Sherwood on Double Bass; Brian Lightowler on Piano and Accordion; and Mike Dale on Saxophone and Flute.
We were treated to a mixture of well-known jazz and blues classics throughout the years plus some more contemporary numbers, scattered with accomplished original compositions penned by the band. There was easy cheeky banter throughout the evening along with an introduction to each song.
Opening with ‘Let there be Love’ (personal favourite), the set also included an acoustic version of ‘The Girl from Ipanema’, a fun version of ‘Sway’ featuring Jules on castanets, ‘Love on the Run’ written by Fred, and of course the performance would not be complete without the band’s namesake 1928 Spencer Williams hit ‘Basin Street Blues’.
This was a very relaxed evening and what better way to wind down than with a bossa nova or two. This event would definitely suit a mixed audience of music lovers. Happily there is one more chance to catch the band during the Fringe as they will be performing at the Buxton Working Men's Club on Thursday 18 July at 8pm. Make sure you don’t miss out!
Christmas no longer comes but once a year to the London Road Inn!
Johnny Dysfunctional and the Band turned the venue into a Christmas wonderland complete with Christmas trees reindeer and Father Christmases galore.
Add to that the surreal and Zappa-esque post punk Johnny and the Band, and you have a winning formula. This is the true meaning of Fringe. Dark, funny outrageous, wry.
The Bands songs were well tight and the engine room of bass percussion and funky guitar was great to hear. Christmas is coming twice more so get down there to hear some anarchy from the master.
Returning to the Buxton Fringe after first appearing at the Old Hall Hotel 20 years ago, Jonathan Prag played his programme of classical guitar music previously performed at the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years ago.
Taking us on an emotive journey of classical guitar from around the globe, Jonathan entranced his audience with a varied repertoire of beautiful music interspersed with a useful insight into each selection.
Starting with Bach’s ‘Loot Cello Suite in G Minor’, then a distinctly Scottish medley arranged by Neil Smith. Spain’s Enrique Granados was followed by Paraguayan Agustin Barrios, leading us onto English composer William Walton’s Mediterranean inspired composition. Next onto Greece’s Mikis Theodorakis, with my personal favourite the gorgeous ‘Marina’. Finally, we were roused from our trance by a wonderful lively ‘Latin Heritage’ flamenco.
Jonathan then treated us to an encore bonus track by performing the sublime ‘Left Alone’ composed by Mal Waldron for Billie Holiday, for which she wrote the lyrics but sadly never recorded. This acoustic classical guitar version was a perfect way to round off Jonathan’s accomplished performance.
You don’t need to be a classical guitar buff to enjoy this set as it would appeal to a varied audience. For me it conjured up memories of lazy Mediterranean holidays, which I think we would all like to be transported back to! Let’s hope Jonathan doesn’t leave it quite so long to return to Buxton Fringe.
With its roots in an original 2013 collaboration between Buxton International Festival and Buxton Opera House, Kaleidoscope choir is a successful, accessible and most importantly inclusive community initiative. With members of all ages, some of whom travel from a wide area around Buxton, the choir meets on Tuesday lunchtimes between 1pm - 2pm at Buxton Methodist Church, and new singers of all levels are always welcome – just arrive, sing and enjoy – there is no need to be able to read music, although musical scores are now available to support the learning of lyrics.
Kaleidoscope’s choir leader, Carol Bowns, has been involved in singing all her life as a soloist, teacher, choir member and choral conductor. This concert, entitled ‘Celebrating Community’, clearly emphasizes her love of bringing music to the community through this choral initiative, and she also values the opportunities this offers choir members in terms of new friendships and interests. Carol has been with Kaleidoscope since its inception, though during the past year she took a sabbatical break, and the choir spent some time led by the local well-known folk singer Bella Hardy. The past year has also seen the choir reaching out into the community with a session at the Still Waters (dementia friendly) café, and a dementia friendly open rehearsal.
In 2018, Kaleidoscope received a commendation for character and expression in the Buxton Music, Speech and Drama Festival, and Carol certainly works hard with the choir to channel enthusiasm into the musical dynamics of light and shade in the repertoire.
This repertoire has always been eclectic, as shown by today’s mainly a cappella pieces which were very diverse – a song written by a local writer, spirituals, a show tune, songs in other languages and even a football chant!
In fact, the choir of around 23 singers opened with this chant which was cleverly combined with an old scouting favourite, Ging Gang Gooly. Carol explained that this piece represented two well established community groups – football fans and the scouting movement. This was followed by the clear, confident singing of an arrangement of two well-known stirring spirituals, ‘Oh When The Saints Go Marching In’ and ‘Glory Hallelujah’. Continuing in this theme, the choir then offered a very evocative rendering of three more spirituals, beautifully arranged, under the title ‘Wade in the Water’. The singers were clearly emotionally invested in this work, which was absolutely the stand-out piece of the concert for this writer.
Another spiritual followed – called ‘Rocka My Soul’, this featured a complicated arrangement with parts mixed amongst the usual groups in the choir. The first part of the concert concluded with a lilting presentation of ‘Hevenu Shalom’ – a Jewish song of welcome.
At this point in the concert, Carol introduced a guest performer, Nicolaus Hermadi, who is one of the first music interns of Buxton Opera House. This young Indonesian baritone offered three beautifully sung pieces, concluding with ‘Whither Must I Wander?’ by Vaughn Williams.
The second part of Kaleidoscope’s programme commenced with a lively version of ‘Singin’ In The Rain’, in which the four male choristers provided a strong and very enthusiastic framework for the unusual arrangement, and a surprise ending! This was followed by Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, and a feel-good ‘Da Do Ron Ron’ which had audience members tapping their feet. Next up was ‘It’s Now Or Never’ with another community link (to the Opera House) through the challenging incorporation of the original Italian ‘O Sole Mio’. The concert concluded with ‘Distant Peak’ – a favourite piece for this choir, written, as it is, by choir member Jacob. This is a beautiful song with a haunting and memorable chorus and lyrics which clearly evoke the dramatic landscape of the Peak District. The concert closed with an invitation to the audience to join the choir for cupcakes, also created by Jacob!
In the wonderful acoustics of Buxton Methodist Church, this small, enthusiastic choir offered a very eclectic mix of music, not shying away from difficult arrangements. The result was testament to everyone’s hard work, most of all Carol herself ably supported by her husband Ian. The four men in the choir deserve special mention for their confident, reliable contribution to the arrangements. Carol mentioned that she feels that the group is now moving towards being a full performance choir, and there is certainly great potential in their enthusiasm and dedication, and in the diverse range of music with which their choir leader challenges them!
Ed Billingham and Joanne Kay made a welcome return to Buxton Fringe with their programme of mainly Latin guitar music. The first half of the concert was solo pieces played by Ed on his ‘New Concept’ guitar. He started with a Brazilian choro ‘Xodo da Baiana’ by Dilermando Reis, and followed this with another Brazilian composer, Villa-Lobos, and his interpretation of choro in ‘Choros No.1’. The programme moved to Italy, with Guiliani’s ‘Grand Overture’. Giuliani was a guitar virtuoso who was a contemporary of Rossini. We went back to South America for Lauro’s ‘Quatro Valses Venezolanos’, which incorporated local Venezuelan folk tunes. The first half finished with Albeniz’s ‘Seville’. Albeniz was a Spanish composer who composed thematic tunes about areas of Spain. With the sun streaming in through the windows of the Burbage Institute it was easy to imagine we were in Spain listening to Ed’s playing.
Jo joined Ed for the second half, and Ed swapped guitars to a cherrywood model, loaned by luthier John Ainsworth. This was because the ‘New Concept’ guitar, has, as Jo put it ‘quite remarkable sustain for a guitar.’ This makes it too loud for duet playing when Ed plays it. The guitar’s maker Romanian Constantin Dumitriu has studied acoustics and also makes pianos. Jo swapped to the ‘New Concept’ guitar for the last piece of the programme, and the contrast between the two guitars was marked, but very appealing to the ear.
The second half began with the rondo ‘Six Petit Duos’ by Carulli, and then the Lennon-McCartney hit ‘Fool on the Hill’ arranged for guitar by the Cuban Leo Brouwer. Next was a tango, ‘Por una cabeza’ by the Argentinian Carlos Gardel, arranged by Ragossnig. Another piece by Albeniz, this time ‘Cadiz’, and the programme finished with ‘Oriental’ by Enrique Granados, a Spanish composer who lost his life on his way back to Spain in 1916 when his ship was torpedoed. After enthusiastic applause Ed and Jo returned to give us one last piece by Albeniz.
This was a lovely relaxed concert with a varied range of pieces played excellently by both Ed and Jo. Ed and Jo are both guitar teachers and Ed says they’ve been so busy teaching they haven’t had much time to perform recently. It is to be hoped that they can fit in more recitals in future, to allow more people to appreciate the range and scope of classical guitar music.
Tucked inside the Old Clubhouse I had come to see the Raintown Seers, an acoustic folk band who hail from the High Peak area.
The hour long show sees the trio play all eleven tracks from their highly acclaimed album and also the show’s title – The Mermaid’s Pool and Other Stories.
Prefacing each song, guitarist and song writer Neil Fisher gives a brief introduction telling the audience what inspired its lyrics. All the songs are original, bar one excellent cover version of a song by Ewan McColl.
The subject matter is varied with many songs referencing local legends or stories, but there are also sea faring tales and a poignant opener about the thousands of GI brides who made the trip across the Atlantic to the USA and those who didn’t find their partner waiting for them.
The lyrics have been written from a variety of viewpoints including a ghost and a murderer, but I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil the enjoyment of having the tales and music unfold in front of you.
Neil is accompanied on vocals by the excellent Eleanor Ludlow. The enthusiasm of their performance shines through the entire show. Their gentle reminders as to the key of the next song or the albums’ familiar theme of murder and macabre subjects makes the performance even more intimate. The band’s percussionist and drummer stays low key on stage, but also plays a pivotal role in bringing the compositions together.
Throughout the show, the stage is backlit by projections of original art work designed by graphic artist, Deborah Fidler. There is a different hand drawn picture for each song and this extra touch makes the show a real feast for the senses.
If you like stories that are well told and music that is performed faultlessly then I would heartily recommend this show. My only regret was that it wasn’t longer.
On Saturday 20th July at 1930 the Manchester Recorder Orchestra gave a well-received concert at the Buxton Fringe the venue being Trinity Church. The Manchester Recorder Orchestra has been a regular feature of the Buxton Fringe for twenty years.
For many people the recorder is just seen as a school instrument played occasionally in early music. Some people play it to a reasonable standard and still say they can’t play a musical instrument. For many people this concert puts a different light on the recorder showing that a recorder orchestra can play as many lines as a standard symphony orchestra and even play Beethoven’s symphonies.
There were 2 conductors Ian Chesters and David Walsh both introducing the items they conducted. The orchestra aims to play a broad range of pieces and in this concert, it ranged from Mozart to contemporary composers such as Alan Davis.
It takes about a minute to get into this unusual medium but when you slip into its world it becomes a beautiful experience. We were soon in sunny Spain with Spanisch Lustspiel by Keler with its strong rhythms. In the 2nd piece called Five Strong Colours by David Moses, nobody would expect to identify the colour depicted from the movements played but the pieces were played well and showed a great deal of contrast. The Mozart Fantasia K.594 which concluded the first half was originally written for a mechanical organ. The orchestra conveyed its great contrast in mood. There was a section which was suitable for a funeral and another section more akin to the gaiety of a fairground.
The second half was the most inspiring for me. The elegy by David Moses was beautiful and had a great intensity and you could feel the sorrow he had for his dead friends. Some fine solo playing took place with good balance between parts. The playing of Beethoven’s 2nd movement of the 7th symphony showed what a recorder orchestra can achieve and David Walsh explained the ranges of the many recorder instruments.
The last piece which was played was the 5th symphony by Steve Marshall and was the one I most enjoyed showing great creativity and good contrast between solo parts and the full orchestra. Steve Marshall is a living composer working in Gloucestershire and has written much music for the recorder.
This was Adrian Lord’s first appearance at Buxton Fringe and I certainly hope it won’t be his last, this was 45 minutes of shear bliss.
Adrian is an award-winning composer pianist from Cheshire, however we can claim him as one of our own as he used to reside in Chapel-en-le-Frith before hopping the county border.
He spellbound his audience by performing a selection of original compositions from his 2016 album ‘Journey – Twelve Romances for Piano’ and his 2018 album ‘Blue Sky Piano’, both recorded on a Steinway in Crear, Western Scotland. Buxton Methodist Church certainly did it justice with its wonderful acoustics.
Introducing each piece from this very personal collection provided an insight into the inspiration, which the audience could then translate through the music itself.
It was everything compositions should be: uplifting dramatic; haunting; and thoroughly relaxing. We got swept away with ‘Sky Blue’, then onto ‘Northern Lights’ which was written for his daughter Hannah, who has clearly inherited the artistic streak as her artwork for the album cover was fantastic. ‘True North’ was dedicated to his wife Donna as they married on the beach close to where the song was recorded in Scotland. Then came ‘A Million Words’, a tribute to his late father who bought him the piano he still composes on today. ‘Misty Isle’ you can check our yourself on YouTube along with imagery from Crear. My personal favourites were ‘Homecoming’ and ‘The Wedding’ which were utterly beautiful and very moving. The performance was then concluded with ‘Time to Remember’ dedicated to his mother who thankfully started him on his journey with the piano.
You certainly do not need to be a piano buff to appreciate and enjoy this event. You need this music in your life as it is the perfect way to switch off and wind down.
Please, please, please come back!
The RedWillow was already heaving when we entered – I ordered a Four Cheese Pizza whilst my friend sampled a large Merlot … oops sorry, music not food review….
Peter Buxton from Buxton met Mark Allen from Nashville at a pub in Hope when Mark (on a walking holiday from the USA) crashed Peter’s gig with an impromptu guitar solo – and the rest is history. They hit it off instantly and have been firm friends and transatlantic musical collaborators ever since, both having very similar and at the same time diverse musical ideas, Their friendship has grown over the last 4 years resulting with release of two Albums; Rolling the Fringe (2017) and hot off the press Go Steady, which they premiered last night at the Red Willow.
Peter sings with such conviction and is an outstanding, animated performer who really draws in the crowds - you just can’t help but tap your feel and join in - and although it was a smallish venue there was quite a crowd out on the floor by the end of the night. Together with Peter’s very accomplished Blues band Herding Catz and Cajun Dave on harmonica the evening was a roaring success. Mark and Peter are obviously very much in tune with each other and this really shines through in their performance, both on vocals and guitars.
Mark’s performance was also outstanding and I was exhausted just watching him - an excellent guitarist and songwriter who also has his own band Analogue Dogs. At one-point Mark’s guitar string broke, but being the consummate professional he is, he continued on!
The evening was in two halves, containing a mix of original material and Blues covers with Peter and Mark both giving exceptional performances to the appreciative audience. With Peter dressed to kill in his brightly coloured abstract expressionist style blazer and straw fedora, who could ask for more?!
To conclude, this was a very entertaining, lively, electric adrenalin-fuelled night that was enjoyed by all. And the pizza was to die for … give me more! The wine must have been equally good as my friend was very happy too!
That Brahms doesn’t half give his bands a good workout. I was wondering part way through his symphony why the HPO hadn’t scheduled the star turn (the Elgar) as the final event but then we came to the 4th and final movement, labelled ‘Allegro con spirito’, which translates as ‘give it all you’ve got’. And the HPO certainly did; finishing with energy and a crescendo and a musical smirk that said, ‘follow that!’.
And so ended a full evening of uplifting music, proving that on the fringe you don’t have to have to laugh to enjoy yourself.
The programme began with the Helios overture which has a structure of a day from sunrise – a quiet start followed by trumpets and warming sounds (the rising sun, geddit?) and eventually subsiding to an equally gentle sunset. In the middle of the more lively section (the afternoon, presumably) we had a gentle passage which didn’t seem to fit the theme but the programme notes informed that this was composed in Greece; so siesta then.
The star turn was the lovely Korean Yukyung Na who is only slightly taller than her cello; a child prodigy who has been performing at concert level since she was 11 years old. To the many accolades and international triumphs she has collected she can now add Buxton.
The audience embraced her and responded warmly to the visitor who played the familiar Elgar Concerto with style and flair. Of all instruments the cello when played strongly, as here, has the range, depth and volume to stir the spine; what radio 4 used to call the ‘tingle factor’.
Tea was served giving us a break ready for the Brahms Symphony which for my money showed the HPO at their co-ordinated best. The earlier Helios Overture hadn’t given them strong melodies to grasp and they were overshadowed in the Elgar by the soloist (can we call her ‘Yuk’, ‘Yukkie’ ?) but they relished the Brahms with the interplaying melodies and the development through the movements leading to the finale referred to above.
Buxton Fringe offers an opportunity to try different events and not stick to things we are familiar with. Some might choose a concert such as this to add variety to their schedule, some may attend to support the Blythe House Hospice – to which proceeds were donated. Since this HPO event is a one-off performance at the Fringe make a note to attend next year, or earlier if the opportunity arises. But if you would attend for any of the above reasons there is another: go simply to enjoy the music.
This was a tremendous concert given by Jonathan Ellis. There was a variety of emotions and ideas expressed but the overwhelming feature was fun and enjoyment which Jonathan conveyed. He introduced each work with interesting information to enhance the audience enjoyment.
In the first half of the concert he played two very well-known pieces, the Haydn Variations in F minor and the Schubert’s four impromptus op 90.
In the Haydn there were two themes one in F minor and one in F major which were alternatively subjected to variations. The first theme had dramatic features and the second was gentler. I thought he showed great sensitivity in bringing about this contrast of emotions.
Unusually for Haydn the work ends with a wild flourish demanding great pianistic skills and Jonathan was up for the task.
The Schubert’s pieces had a great deal of tonal ambiguity which is a feature of the Romantic movement and the Romantic qualities of these pieces such as the contrast in volume and singing quality of many of the melodies were very successfully emphasised in the performance. I particular liked the first movements tranquil ending in a major key after a rather sad journey in both the major and minor key.
In the second half a piece probably unknown to all of the audience ‘In the Mists ‘ by Janacek was played. Jonathan brought out the contrast between the simple Czech like melodies and the impressionists flourishes. The intense emotion of the music was conveyed convincingly.
In Chopin’s Sonata in B minor the pianist showed his ability to fit together the martial like chords at the beginning with the song like second subject. He conveyed in the last movement ecstatic jubilation which required a display of virtuosity.
For the encore Jonathan played Beethoven’s Bagatelle in A flat from his op 33. This interpretation provides a good lead up to Jonathans next year performance of a complete Beethoven recital to celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday.
He finished with the Liszt’s Rhapsody no.2 which was brilliantly played showing fun and energy.
Jonathan’s future assignment includes playing with the Flyebank Trio in the United Reformed Church on July 14. Roger Horvath
Sam’s performance opened with a lovely and tender song, ‘If ever I return to you,’ almost immediately setting the mood for the next 45 minutes. His songs had meaning both for himself and for others - lyrics resonating with events in his life and music that touched the hearts of his audience. He is not afraid to reveal his own feelings; especially so in the song, ‘A flower in the garden,’ about his mother who had breast cancer. The song and metaphors he chose to express this immensely difficult and challenging event very skilfully and accurately evoked the strange, complex feelings and confusions that one has in such times.
Sam’s guitar accompaniment is confident yet relaxed and together with his touching ballads soon create that pin-drop atmosphere one feels from an audience when everyone is listening intently. His pitch, musically and emotionally, is spot-on. His vocal range is excellent and he modulates this to great effect; never more so than in, ‘Somebody’s darling’ - a song to bring one to tears and at least one member of the audience succumbed.
Speaking with people afterwards, they said that he deserved a bigger audience and praised the captivating and intense performance. Try to get to one of the next ones – 12th and 20th.
Just the thing to brighten up a rainy afternoon – 53 children aged from 7 to 11, happy to be sharing their delightful voices and love of singing with parents and passers-by in the conservatory alongside the Opera House.
Alice Littlehailes, the headteacher, cheerfully came round with a large cardboard radio, “Choose a number,” and willing participants duly dipped for a number from the back of the ‘radio’. “Number 5,” a big cheer from the kids - ‘Jellyfish’ – a favourite – obviously. And off they went, with tuneful gusto…”We are jellyfish, but we’re not made of jelly and we don’t look like fish…” This song was just one of 14 for which the children had learned the words, off by heart. Great to hear such positive lyrics too, “…we can be anything we want to be with the talents we have…” Yay - sing it, believe it, be it; good education, the real deal.
The teacher behind the baton - Emma Hillier who not only has a class to look after every day but also takes charge of this wonderful little choir. Little – well, not so little actually; there are 53 of them, unauditioned and all doing it because, as they themselves said, it makes them feel happy. Emma’s spirited leading of the children was drawing the best from them and at the same time making it absolutely a fun thing to. Not just simple singing; quite a few of the pieces were in two-part harmony. Some included actions – an arm out here, a sway there, up, down – all together, no problem. One piece they sang ‘acapella’ – and pulled it off – no mean feat for children of this age. All other songs were ably accompanied on keyboard by Nicola, a volunteer, recently out of ‘Uni’ and back to help out. It’s a team effort. And it worked.
Back to Mrs. Littlehailes and the radio – “Number1, that’ll be lovely won’t it children?” (The only answer is ‘yes’ if you have any sense.)
These kids are smart – “Yeeesss” and off they went into another number, ‘Million Dreams.’ By this time they had the grandparents glassy-eyed and all others stopped in their tracks.
A quick run through ‘Zipideedodah’ and not the slightest sign of the kids running out of steam. But hey, half past two – where did that hour go?
Unfortunately no Sweet Suzi. She has had to cancel her UK tour but hey, this is Buxton, people play cricket in the snow here and nothing would stop the stormin’ from going on at Red Willow tonight - so let’s hear it for backing group, Herding Catz Blues Band.
A quick note about Red Willow – better as a bar than a bank and certainly never as busy as this when it was RBS. Anyway, the place was packed out solid with fans of Peter Buxton and his band braving it out; Chris on sticks and Adrian on bass. Peter made his entrance from stage right, out of what looked like the old counting room – bluesy hat, red shirt etc, kitted out as he should be for this gig. The band did a great job holding it together by doing what it does so well – giving everybody a good time with the blues/rock stuff they know and love.
They kicked off with ’I saw her standing there’ and by the time they got to the second piece, Joe Jackson ‘Is she really going out with him’, the music was fully on the case (Sweet Suzy, who?). Lone blokes with empty glasses were foot-tapping along, women in denim jackets grooving, conversation approaching 120dB… and the band valiantly trying to make themselves heard above it all.
Herding Catz may have been one Suzy short of a full blues gig tonight but they absolutely did the business in this old bank by giving appreciative locals and visitors a great night out.
The show was sold out. The packed audience was very appreciative of the brilliant local rock electric guitarist and educator Kenny Robertson. Kenny described the development of music and playing styles associated with the rock guitar. He is an inspirational teacher and musician and made several adrenalin triggered spur of the moment additions to his amazing musical journey. He is a very likeable guy, very funny and he has a modest manner. He moved around the stage with vigour shaking his head with enthusiasm.
The tale began in Mississippi in about 1930s with blues artists like Muddy Waters. Blues developed into rock and roll and in 1950s with artists like Chuck Berry and during this time there was a rapid degree of commercialisation. He took us through the 60s and much emphasis was placed upon Jimi Hendrix. The journey progressed to the present day and included a massive number of styles and artists most memorable to me was Black Sabbath. Brian May and Pearl Jam.
For all of the styles and artists discussed Kenny gave illuminating demonstrations with his band which included a bass guitarist and drummer called Pete and Matt. He also gave us much technical information about scales and special effects such as playing the guitar with a coin.
A recurring theme was the contrast between rapid note playing and the playing which relates more to beauty and human emotions. I think he was implying that sheer virtuosity at times had a larger appeal than musicality. This was of course unfortunate.
He concluded on the sad note that the electric rock guitar was losing its popularity and perhaps superseded by computer technology which is capable of making similar effects. Of course, technology and public tastes constantly moves on and I suspect that like the harpsichord there will always be rock guitarists and concerts. I can imagine that in 100 years time a fringe concert could be given with a programme of Muddy Waters, Chuck Berry, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana but perhaps the audience would be less in number to the number in the audience this evening.
The Sovereign Saxophone Octet made a welcome return for what I think is about their 10th appearance at the Buxton Fringe, presenting an enjoyable evening of music exploring a broad spectrum of tasteful arrangements demonstrating their versatility and super technique. On soprano sax Helen Southall and Gordon Robson, alto Julie Collins and David Webber, tenor John Boyer and Mike Dale and on baritone Stephen Hutchinson and Malcolm Hendra. The group was formed 16 years ago, following a meeting of the founder members on a saxophone course and is still going strong, despite the tricky logistics created by the participants living miles apart; indeed the band seems to be getting better all the time. It is quite noticeable that several pieces which have been on the repertoire for some time have gained added fluency with the ensemble. Followers of the Octet’s fortunes will have noticed a more relaxed communication evident with maturity. The group certainly do not shirk technically challenging work and tonight proved they can rise to the occasion.
The opening number was an ambitious piece starting with an exposition of a reel on the sopranos. As the other players joined in unison it highlighted the difficulty and precision underpinning this folk genre, which is all too often dismissed by serious musicians at their peril. As the themes became less exposed with a 3 and 6 against 4 rhythm the result was tidier.
The ‘Funeral March of a Marionette’ which started life as a piano suite by Charles Gounod and subsequently used in several films, later adopted as the TV theme tune to “Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ in 1950’s, has formed the basis of a lovely saxophone arrangement for the band by Stephen Hutchinson. The neat contrapuntal style was obviously more familiar territory as the band got into it’s stride.
The story goes that in 1927 Shostakovich won 100 roubles in a bet that he would re-orchestrate the showtime hit ‘Tea for Two’ after a single hearing from memory. The result was his version named ‘Tahiti Trot’, subsequently re-arranged for the Octet (for a few less roubles) by Gordon Robson. The band pulled out all the necessary expression, louds, softs, swells, hits and diminuendi. There was creditable communication down the line of players who gave it the Latin feel with good contrast between the crisp marcato sections and legato melody.
‘I got plenty ‘o Nuttin’ from Gershwin’s classic ‘Porgy & Bess’ in an arrangement for saxes by Don Ashton seemed like fun to play with its rich chord changes expressively projected.
On to Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘The Pearls’ recorded in 1926. The Octet captured the ragtime era admirably with precise articulation, smooth triplets from the sopranos and the characteristic rhythmic pulse underpinned by the baritones and featuring the confident tenor of John Bowyer.
Neal Hefti’s ‘Li’l Darlin’’ often linked with pianist Red Garland from 1959, was given a slow sleazy treatment by the Octet. The piece is a deceptive test of playing together with precision and the band did well to hit both the syncopated and straight notes without the aid of the drummer upon which mixed bands rely to get out of trouble. A smooth expressive soprano tune from Helen Southall and good attention to the dynamics in the long note chords resulted in a pleasing rendition …. Big bands “look to your laurels!”
‘Witch Hunt’, a piece by Ulrich Schultheiss is arguably a piece designed to appeal to saxophonists, full of syncopated rhythms and opportunities for technical exploration which the musicians tonight approached with aplomb. Evocative of what we expect of film music, this is an ambitious piece which seemed to come together nicely in tonight’s performance. Quite a blast to end the first set and sounded very accomplished indeed with intricate accompanying “middle” parts dexterously executed.
After the interval the Octet demonstrated their control of long notes and tuning in the gentle chord progressions with a version of Antonio Lotti’s ‘Crucifixus’ the choral motel from settings of the Credo dating to 1717. An interesting Sax Octet arrangement of JS Bach’s ‘Wachet Auf’ again updating the baroque genre and developing the piece in a very pleasing direction. After a cool statement from the alto with the ground bass line maintained, the arrangement quickly becomes quite busy with fugue-like entries from other parts resulting in a complex feel to the chorale tastefully overseen by the soprano. JSB himself was a notorious improviser and adapter and would have approved heartily of the Octet’s interpretation; I think somewhat more entertaining than the single line counterpoint offering normally churned out by organists.
Arranged by saxophonist Nigel Wood, ‘The Lone Ranger goes Sax Mad’ is a whistle stop medley quoting numerous well know themes sometimes with just a few bars each and weaving them into a clever seamless trip. Exercising all the tonguing the reeds could take this showcased the Octet to advantage.
Capturing the bluesy feel with ‘The Chug’ changed the mood of the concert.
To recreate the atmosphere of Buenos Aries in 1935, the sensual Tango, moral depravity and liberal gambling activity is inevitably going to present a challenge to a Saxophone Octet in a Methodist Church. ‘Por una Cabeza’ is an essential set piece at any milonga, from the pen of Carlos Gardel, himself an inveterate equine investor from which this song and its associated dance is inspired at the races. The emphatic punctuation of a traditional Argentinian tango rhythm was a little watered down in the band’s rendition I suspect the dancers would leave the floor, settling for sanitized relaxation.
The arrangement of ‘Caravan’ from the dance band era felt much more like home ground for the Octet evoking Eastern mystery and camel trains with echoes of the beguine. Likewise the big band composition ‘Engine number 9’ allowed the group to shine with a nice blend of complex driving rhythms in the “middle” parts for tenors an 2nd alto. The improvised tenor solo from Mike Dale was very tasty, embracing the essence of the jazz idiom. The arrangement was not particularly easy listening and must be even harder for the performers to read the score as a piece of advanced prescriptive jazz intricately arranged and very well played.
The encore piece was Gordon Robson’s arrangement entitled African Waltz. With echoes of Mancini’s film music Baby Elephant Walk and recalling the popular TV image of the safari with the excitement of circus animals. A ground pulse from the baritones and altos and sopranos’ incisive tune resulting an uplifting performance, suitably energized to send us home with a delightfully warm experience.
In conclusion the audience were as promised, treated to a broad variety of pieces from the Sovereign Saxophone Octet. The choice of programme was on the lighter end of the repertoire which was not only virtuous but entertaining throughout. The members are clearly technically masters of their instruments individually and combine to produce a pleasing ensemble, interacting to achieve a glorious depth and range of tone and colour. We look forward to hearing them again.
Brian K W Lightowler
What a difference a year makes! Just over a year ago the Serpentine Community Farm was under threat of eviction. Around the town were fliers asking residents to help save the farm and on-line was a petition urging the council to rethink. This year the Community Farm is thriving. All around the site are hung laminated puns to bring a smile to your face; Wiki Leeks, Turnip the music, World Peas, Not mushroom in here, He’s carrying a lot of emotional cabbage and a plea for a seat with more legume. If you are feeling creative any more puns will be welcome.
As well as being a musical entertainment, this afternoon was a chance to visit the Community Farm, catch up on the amazing work that is being done and even take away a free plant. Homemade cheese scones and delicious fruit and berry mocktails decorated with purple borage flowers were on offer. Two art installations by Langley Brown were on display; one a ceramic tree and the other an earth listening device. Both enhanced by and enhancing the areas in which they are sited.
A profusion of flowers and vegetables tumble from the raised wooden beds and large variety of containers. Sitting surrounded by colour and produce, watching bees buzzing in and out of the nasturtiums and inhaling the scent of sweet peas is proof that Buxton is not the cold damp place some claim it to be.
Entertainment for the afternoon was provided by NoJoKe, a talented trio of ukulele players. NoJoKe are Norman Harrison, Joel Harrison and Keith Simister. Norman provided amusing repartee between the well harmonised songs which ranged from ‘One Voice,’ for which they were joined by Danielle Banks to a ‘three for the price of one’ medley of Music Hall favourites. Joel, who is Norman’s grandson, sings with feeling, confidence and maturity. His solo performance was greatly enjoyed by the audience. Half way through the entertainment Danielle returned and was joined by a group of voices to sing ‘Grow, Save, Share’ and ‘The Spirit of the Serpentine’, two songs she has written especially for the Serpentine. Both songs illustrate the many activities that happen at the Community Farm.
Sitting watching smiling residents and visitors singing along to a local group in the warm summer sun surrounded by the evidence of four years’ work and commitment, this felt like a true community event. At the end of NoJoKe’s set the audience demanded an encore but before they returned for a final song, Madeline Hall, one of the Directors, was able to tell the audience that, although there was no fresh news to offer they were quietly confident of a long lease being offered. She also urged people to take home some of the plants that were on offer and invited us to look out for the winter gathering.
Spirit of the Serpentine chorus says:
“Come on and join the working party
Lets go Lets go just dig on in
Spirit of the Serpentine
Growing up with time
We’re growing We’re growing”
Not only are seeds growing but the community is growing as well. The Serpentine hosts a range of community groups young and older, welcomes and encourages volunteers on Sundays and Wednesdays when it is open 11.00am – 3.00pm and holds regular workshops. Pop in for a visit and on your way up the driveway, if you are lucky, you may see The Spirit of the Serpentine, sitting quietly watching over the comings and goings.
After torrential rain showers in the morning, the skies cleared and the sun shone for A Taste of Summer, performed by Voci Voices. Voci Voices are comprised of classically-trained singers Elizabeth Ambrose, Margaret Ferguson (Soprano), Eric Cymbir (Tenor) and David Cane (Baritone), accompanied by the accomplished keyboard player, Jonathan Ellis.
An eclectic programme was performed including operatic pieces by Verdi and Beethoven, songs from the musicals by Berlin and Wright & Forrest, traditional Scottish folk songs and concluded with some more recent compositions by Billy Joel and Stevie Wonder.
The varied programme provided the opportunity for solos and duets, as well as pieces performed by all four singers and it was these that were particularly enjoyed by this reviewer. Pieces such as The Impossible Dream by Leigh from the musical Man of La Mancha and You Raise Me Up (Graham and Lovland) showcased the quartet’s mastery of harmonies. This was even more in evidence in the performance of The Long Day Closes, a part-song written by Arthur Sullivan, prior to his long collaboration with WS Gilbert, and Henry Chorley. Sung a cappella, the sad but inspiring song was beautifully delivered with plaintive harmonies.
It is a pity that this is the only occasion when this talented choral ensemble is performing at the Fringe.
On a wet Tuesday afternoon, I joined thirty seven other people at Christ Church, Burbage to enjoy a Teatime Chamber Treat and true to the event’s description, it was!
This is the Cheshire Chamber Collective’s fifth appearance at the Buxton Fringe and they have been both nominees and winners in previous years.
The opening piece was Mozart’s Horn Quintet in Eb major. Jen Woodward, the Horn soloist gave the audience some brief and interesting background before the piece began. Mozart wrote this piece for a good friend, Joseph Leutgeb on New Year’s Eve in 1782. The two were good friends and she told us that Mozart used to write notes for him in the margins of the music calling him amongst other things an ox, an ass and telling him to hurry up! This added a bit of colour and context to the piece. While all the musicians were first rate, Jen’s skill playing the horn was standout.
The next piece to be played was a little extra on the programme – Richard Strauss’ Moonlight Music from Capriccio, arranged by Geoff Murdin. Geoff introduced the piece which again gave it an added interest for the audience.
The Collective’s final piece was Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in Eb major, played on 2 violas, 2 cellos and 4 violins. The audience were told that Mendelssohn was something of a genius, his talents not just being limited to music, but also art and poetry. He wrote this piece when he was aged just 16 as a present for his music teacher. It is clearly a favourite amongst the musicians and this really came through in the performance that followed. The final movement was described as jumping onto a moving train and a rollercoaster to the end and I don’t think I could have described it better.
I must confess that prior to going to this performance, I was not familiar with any of the music on the programme. I couldn’t identify something composed by Mendelssohn if you hit me around the head with it, but don’t be put off if this is the case. This concert took its audience on a journey of story and music. As we listened to the pieces we were transported. All the musicians were excellent and I am really glad that I took a chance going to an event that I wasn’t sure about. Sadly you have missed the Cheshire Chamber Collective for this year, but I would recommend that you get in quickly for next year’s performance. Clearly I have been missing a trick.
The talented local trombone player Sam Slide returned to the stage for Fringe40 offering a fourth chapter of his musical autobiography! The evening took place in the Lee Wood, which was a lovely setting as I took my seat with a gin and tonic. Sam Slide not only played the trombone but he also gave the audience a music lesson and linked songs to his life, presenting us with new numbers and stories that had not been heard at the Fringe before!
Alongside Sam on the piano was Graham, who really demonstrated his musical talent as well as his humour and his friendship with Sam. Kate played the upright bass, adding jazz elements to the evening and sharing her obvious passion for music and the songs performed. Neil played the guitar and sang. This was a lovely addition to the band and the guitar really worked well with the other instruments. The audience were encouraged to join in with songs such as '' I Wanna Be Like You' and 'It Don't Mean A Thing', which was fun and interactive. It was obvious that everyone including the performers thoroughly enjoyed this relaxed and fun evening just as much as I did. The performance takes place again next week on the 16th of July at 7:30-8:30pm in the Lee Wood Hotel. A fantastic evening and definitely one not to miss! Enjoy!
Before a packed audience, Rick soon put us on notice that he had a wide, eclectic music programme for us by starting off with some finger-warming up versions of ‘And I Love You’ and ‘Blackbird’ by the Beatles. Trained at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in Spanish guitar, Rick then showed us his pedigree, with a Segovia-style version of ‘Granada’.
This was followed by his own arrangement of ‘The Look of Love’ which was very much in the bossa nova style. Claiming he was not a singer, Rick then asked the audience to help him out on ‘The Very Thought of You’. With the help of mobile phone lyrics they were happy to oblige. This was followed by showing us his ‘Slide’ version of Hank Williams ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’. Two Brazilian Waltzes were then followed by ‘Ain’t No Sunshine When I’m Gone’. Two self-written pieces with a South African flavour then led into - jacket off - some jazz. Finally there was a fantastic bit of blue grass played on Spanish guitar. An accomplished musician and entertaining chat to boot.