Music Reviews

RAVEL PLUS - Bright Quartet

This was a gorgeous afternoon performance by this highly polished quartet. It started with a summer tango by Gardel featuring the well-known tune ‘Por una cabeza’, which gave the feeling of sunlight and gardens to brighten our day.

Next came an original composition written by the viola player Adrienne Spilsbury, a six-section, elegiac piece entitled 'Day Turning' inspired by a visit to a Cheshire garden with a pond. This had a maturity of string texture, together with some dissonance, played very well as an ensemble. One of the later sections contained a lovely viola solo, featuring the composer!

The main item, the Ravel quartet, a favourite of the players, was rich and dramatic, with advanced techniques and a joy to listen to. In the first movement, there were rich textures and dramatic climaxes, with some lovely duetting between the first violin and viola with plucked cello. The second movement with much pizzicato, is well known and was an accomplished performance. The third (slow) movement featured muted strings and brightness as a contrast, and a delicate ending. The final movement was full of vigour, with some rhapsodic passages, and a big finish!

We had the romp of Frank Bridge Idyll no.3 to finish – a single meandering movement, almost Elgar-like in places, and a dramatic end – wow!

Martin Bisknell

CLOSE ENOUGH AT THE PUMP ROOM - Close Enough Barbershop Quartet

The rite of passage to the world of Barbershop singing is daunting to ordinary singers and not to be undertaken by the faint-hearted - total exposure without a safety net of an accompanying instrument or a crib sheet for memory lapses (aka the score), pitching notes from a standing start, singing awkward intervals and most importantly running in harmonious balance with the others. Rumbling on is the old conundrum whether exponents of the art form are born with innate talent for harmonisation or acquire the technique from many hours of obsessive repetition of the nuts and bolts of the music. I guess the template for the voice is similar to any other musical instrument: best quality kit you can afford, complete familiarity with what does what and learn how to play it with many hours of inspired practice. The gentlemen of ‘Close Enough Barbershop Quartet' have certainly arrived from their journey and gone beyond. The technical vocal acrobatics on display this evening at the Pump Room were entrancing. Their musical fluency performing some lovely close harmony arrangements was transformed into a most entertaining evening by the witty repartee and expressive presentation.

It has been a long four years since ‘Close Enough’ last appeared in Buxton. As a group they are clearly on top of their craft. From an introduction by Tom Eyre-Maunsell, their lead (a Barbershop term for the low tenor part rather than a tribal chieftain), we gathered the members of the group are Oxford alumni, two at the same college as Rishi Sunak. Throughout the evening the entertaining banter included mild political satire and affectionate and very witty sociological observations. The communication with the audience was very warm and responsive to the mood.

The numbers in the first half of the show include some barbershop standards such as ‘Story of Rose’ and ‘My Sweet Adeline’. The quartet are masters of animated and exaggerated gestures highlighting the lyrics and of course the infectious smiles, usually a strained afterthought with ordinary choirs. A lovely unusual treatment of the melody about the fictitious Irish homestead from ‘Finian’s Rainbow’, while ‘How are things in Glocca Morra’ has a lavish share of lovely suspended harmonies. Although in this group everyone is a soloist, Tom led an exciting arrangement of 'Mr Sandman'. The rendition of 'Loch Lomond' started in a fairly routine barbershop way and then moved to a new dimension with the lower parts breaking into strains of ‘Scotland the Brave’ in a rhythmic up tempo backing encouraging the audience to join in clapping for a while. ‘Goodbye my Coney Island Baby’ was another barbershop standard superbly smooth as ever.

Johnny Shipley, who holds great bass line and is a master of the humorous animated facial expression, hails from Buxton, we learn. He took up a humble ukulele to do ‘When I’m Cleanin’ Winders’, a version of George Formby that was a tad aristocratic and very amusing. By the end of the first half, the humour in the show was well established. The saucy song about reading the information on the tattoos of ‘Lydia’ would do justice to any Groucho Marks’ performance on the vaudeville stage. The quartet’s gestures were not merely highlighting the amusing lyrics, but more of a full on choreography. As always clarity of articulation enabled the audience to hear every word.

The Pump Room staff tonight are to be commended in attending to the audience. Drinks, in decent glassware for a pleasant change, were available and dare I say a great improvement on events I attended earlier in the Festival.

The second set opened with another solo, this time a moving song from the great voice of baritone, Tom Rogers. This other Tom is seen pulling out a tuning fork from time to time amidst a wall of noise from the applauding audience which he can block out to sing a note from which the guys can derive a chord.

During the Covid years, the quartet have discovered fame on the internet, posting on Youtube amongst other things a clever reworking of a tune in the form of a spoof zoom meeting, casting hilarious political memes and a gracious side sweep at the Queen’s foray into computing and a perplexed view of lockdown. The online production is well worth a look; it is entitled ‘That’s what zoom is for’. The song, performed live tonight had some addition local references such as internet celebrity Jackie Weaver whose chairing of an infamous chaotic zoom meeting of Handforth’s Parish Council went viral. The fresh educated wit in the banter of the quartet is what really gives ‘Close Enough’ that additional flare as an entertainment over and above great close harmony singing.

Tom, the lead, after explain the translation did another solo in the Ukrainian language as a tribute to the plight of the population. ‘Sunday Kind’a Love’, and ‘Goodnight sweetheart’ were very traditional Barbershop arrangements and close harmony at its best, including convincing key changes.

The Pump Room is a particular good venue for this vocal format with a nicely reverberant acoustic created by the buildings structure and space created by the restored spa bath. This was particularly effective in the song from tenor 'Woody' Allen about the fortunes of a sailor returning home. The narrative was enhanced by pedal notes and sustained chords off heard stage from the other singers creating a etherial effect.

The action song ‘Johnny Schmoker’ which starts steadily, building up to a frenzy with repetitive actions and words demands concentration and coordination to avoid getting tied in knots would usually degenerate into embarrassing hysteria like the ’12 days’ or some disorganised campfire round. The quartet sailed through the number making it look easy and laughter for the right reason was inevitable .

Two encores and a standing ovation from an appreciative audience says it all. A night of great entertainment delivered with musical expertise, sophisticated humour and a secret ingredient which is engagement with the audience. I look forward to seeing the ‘Close Enough Barbershop Quartet’ at next year’s Fringe.

Brian K W Lightowler

ZERENE - LIVE AT BUXTON FRINGE 2022 - Zerene

High Peak Bookstore and Café is the ideal venue for a chilled night of music at the end of a hot and busy Fringe week. And the gig by guitar-vocal duo Zerene was the perfect accompaniment, albeit a gig that went in directions no one had expected.

Excellent guitar work and smoky vocals combined with an eclectic first-half acoustic set, including songs by artists as diverse as Nancy Sinatra, Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac and Lana del Rey. We had a terrific rendition of the now popular again Running Up That Hill.

After the interval we were promised an electric set … and then the lights went out. A power cut had taken out all the electricity at the venue. After a short hiatus during which it became apparent the electricity wasn’t coming back on again anytime soon, the duo put together an unplugged set including songs by Johnny Cash and Radiohead.

This situation emphasized Zerene’s resilience and versatility, and they are to be congratulated for their Fringe spirit in making sure the show went ahead, as are the venue for creating such a jolly evening in trying circumstances. Unforgettable.

Robbie Carnegie

PARTITA - EARLY MUSIC CONCERT - Partita

In 1977 a previous reviewer wrote: “The welcome return of Partita to the Fringe gave us an evening of delight."

The Festival Fringe has, once more, been truly delighted to welcome Partita, which this year was made up of: Sasha Johnson Manning (soprano and cello), Holly Marland (alto, kora and recorder), Jill Lingard (harpsichord) and Roger Child (lute, archlute, baroque guitar).

The ensemble started with pieces for archlute and harpsichord from an older ‘Jubilee’ - from the court of Elizabeth I - the first by Thomas Campian, and then two short pieces by John Johnson, Elizabeth’s chief lute player. Taking my seat early and scanning the programme, I was intrigued by a piece entitled ‘The Queen’s Dumpe’ by Johnson, which I subsequently learned was not about Elizabeth II’s current Prime Minister and their dodgy relationship.

There then followed pieces from the Italian Renaissance, some from the earliest surviving lute manuscripts and others by Marcheto Cara and Bartolomeo Tromboncino. The latter piece, entitled ‘Scopri lingua el cieco ardore’, we were told included the line ‘My love will burn to ashes.’ At this point a member of the audience - presumably in a moment of involuntary emotional recognition - let out a gasp of ‘Oh, dear!’

Holly Marland then sang three songs in the Mandinka language accompanying herself on the kora, a beautiful, ancient, harp-like instrument which European audiences are more likely to associate with the Malian musician Toumani Diabate. Holly explained the sentiment within the songs, which were both uplifting and exhortatory - music is from heaven above, and rich people should share what they have because in the end it is just humanity that matters. You really cannot argue with that in any language, can you?

Moving on to the French Baroque period, we were treated to music from the time of Louis 14th, including a piece celebrating the wedding of the Dauphin, Louis, and the Spanish Infanta, Marie Therese Raphaelle in 1745 . Throughout the concert, but particularly in this section, the blending and interplay between voices and strings was utterly sublime.

Holly Marland then returned with songs and kora, including one of her own compositions created with NHS staff from diverse backgrounds.

Finally, the ensemble gave us three arias from JS Bach, Handel and Claudio Monteverdi with various combinations of voice and instrument - harpsichord, archlute, cello and recorder and Sasha Johnson Manning’s and Holly Marland’s divine singing. It is hard to find words to describe the emotion, technical skill and erudition which went into each of these.

Partita’s music is not old music, it is timeless. It is not a niche interest, it speaks of the eternal human longing for creativity and expression. It has no geographical boundaries, it has the power to transport us to other cultures, other communities. If you close your eyes, you can instantly have a bond with other generations, other experiences, other cultures, but still be sharing what it is to be creative, to be driven to express emotion and to leave a mark. I must stop now, before I get too poetic… It was wonderful.

Graham Jowett

TRIO SIABOD - SHAPELY JAZZ - Trio Siabod

Trio Siabod are Helen Southall (clarinet), Russ Grant (guitar) and Garfield Southall (percussion). They are named after the Welsh mountain 'Moel Siabod', which features on their music stands and publicity. The musicians were of good quality, clearly at ease playing mostly jazz material. The band took it in turn to introduce the material, providing useful context for what we were to hear.

They played a mixture of jazz covers and their own compositions. The covers included 'Struttin' (Louis Armstrong), 'Line for Lyons' (Gerry Mulligan), 'Apex Blues' (Jimmie Noone) and 'Forest Flower' (Charles Lloyd). As a complete contrast, their final cover was a country one, 'Your Cheatin’ Heart' (Hank Williams), performed as an encore.

Their own compositions, written by their guitarist Russ, were about such diverse subjects as: a Welsh dancing club, the last bus home, where we used to live, the excitement of staying up late as a child and un-natural yoghurt. These compositions were enjoyable, keeping the audience entertained.

They performed two sets with a good mixture of their own material and covers. The interval provided a good opportunity to talk to the musicians, the audience as well being useful for refreshment purposes.

John Hare

BACH DOUBLE VIOLIN CONCERTO AND WORKS 'FROM THE CZECH HOMELAND' - Keld Ensemble

Acoustics of the Pump Room, the refurbished section of Buxton’s historic Spa facility, proved a perfect setting for the concert from the Keld Ensemble. An intimate venue, which could have been beset by excessive natural reverberation emanating from the spa pool space, was for this concert ideal. The ensemble had cancelled their first night performance at Eyam Church, supposedly out of concern that the audience may have been too small. However tonight’s concert was sold out and the obvious popularity of the ensemble could have arguably supported a larger capacity venue, such as St John’s; indeed it may have been over pessimistic to abandon the previous show. The Keld ensemble essentially comprises a group of professional string players who are individually based in the South East of England employed in a spectrum of jobs performing and music teaching. For the last 10 years some of the group of colleagues have come together a few times a year to perform concerts as a small string orchestra. The co-founder and general convener of the group is free-lance violinist and educationalist, Jonathan Acton who introduced tonight’s concert. On this occasion there were 16 players conducted by Neil Carison who’s principle career is as an oboist; indeed he was to have performed Bach’s Concerto for Oboe d’Amore yesterday at Eyam. We are delighted that Buxton has been selected for the “Keld Reunion”.

From the first chord of Leos Janacek’s ‘Suite for String Orchestra’ it was apparent that the ensemble knew their stuff and decisive yet expressive playing was the rule. The 2nd movement, adagio, muted upper strings smoothly gliding through the suspended harmonies leant a richness to the piece with the players milking the points of tension and release. In the 5th movement annotated adagio, the lead cello excelled with the solid melodious line. The work is still in the romantic idiom with a dreamy andante in the last movement, then “times up” with an abrupt finish.

J S Bach’s ‘Double Violin Concerto’ BWV 1043 is better known than even non-musical people would admit. The main themes, including the received voicing of certain sections, has really entered popular culture, having been hijacked by advertisements, phone jingles and graduated onto Classic FM’s short playlist. The work’s popularity is well deserved because it is a cleverly written piece which is as easy or difficult to appreciate as the listener can perceive; “something for everyone” one might say. Implied in the eponymous title there are two soloists who also lead the ensemble. Sometimes one soloist will play a phrase to be answered by the other soloist and sometimes the phrase is answered by sections of the orchestra in a marvellously intricate musical conversation. The differences in the timbre and mood of each speaker are all part of the charm of the format. No similarity to the political fashion of trial by head to head TV debate (aka exchanging insults) is implied. In tonight’s musical dialogue the violin soloists, Pia Jeppesen and Jonathan Acton, produce noticeably different sounds and at first there is a danger of believing one player’s technique is somehow superior to the other, rather than in truth a different and complimentary voice. Both violinists are certainly up to the task of playing this challenging piece. In the familiar opening vivace, with its fugue passages, Pia produces a rounded and confident exposition of the melodies in contrast to Jonathan’s more subdued reply. In the 2nd slow movement the lead from Jonathan could be thought by baroque aficionados to warrant a crisper definition and precision of tuning on some notes which occasionally gives the phrases a whiff of swing. However there is an endearing contrast in their styles; as a matter of personal taste I like Pia’s playing. The overall balance was very effective, soloists blending well with the accompanying orchestra and occasional other soloist popping up from the ensemble. The last movement was entrancing as the listener becomes drawn into the mêlée which neatly resolves in calm.

The interval was more of a pause in proceeding to make new acquaintances with one’s neighbouring concert goer. Maybe a wander round taking in the architecture of the fascinating building with a glass of wine would be something for the venue to consider next year.

Antonin Dvorak ‘Serenade for Strings in E minor, opus 22’ is a work which is skilfully written with scope for every member of the ensemble to shine. The waltz tempo 2nd movement has some lovely passages for the violas and cellos, played with great expressive conviction. The ensemble effectively built up to a frenzied climax in the vivace facilitating the contrast to a more measured sweet sounding finish. The larghetto movement featured again some beautifully enunciated viola passages with the theme later tastefully taken up by the cellos. The 1st violin could consider his subtle intonation and detuned attack on some exposed notes, though sounding quite cool, may be pushing the boundary of context for the late romantic era. The finale serves as reprise of the Serenade, rounding off a most enjoyable concert.

The warmth of the prolonged ovation is a clear sign of the audience’s appreciation for a great concert from accomplished musicians. It is hoped that we will have the opportunity to see the Keld Ensemble visiting Buxton again.

Brian K W Lightowler

ADVENTURES IN SOUND AND LIGHT - Egriega

On a steamy summer’s night, this was such a treat offering a fabulous combination of dry wit (courtesy of the advertised “sarcastic robot” projected on a screen) and great songs, some with a romantic bent, from “the foolish man bun” aka Pieter Egriega.

Nothing was inaccessible. There were catchy tunes and choruses and irresistible beats, often with a Latin feel. Egriega’s wailing voice exuded emotion and the lyrics were beautifully poetic and resonant. His set captured the uneasiness of today’s world when “the neighbours are looking frightened and the news does not enlighten”, or mental health breaks down: “Oh I can feel your pain, oh here it comes again…”, this last performed against a disturbing rhythmic thrumming. Love is never out of fashion; Egriega crooned about having “perfume on his mind” or of standing on a pavement looking up to see “There’s a light in your window but no place in your heart”. And there was a feeling that we are all in this together in his sing-along anthem, “We are the people” (more of the fatboy’s “Marxist nonsense” according to the robot).

The projections, also by Egriega, added greatly to a dreamy, fascinating evening A song called Promenade, with a walking pace tempo, took place against a backdrop of city folk constantly on the move, the visuals gradually becoming distorted as if we were all just one step away from molten wax (not out of the question on 30 degrees-plus Monday night). Other films showed everything from fairground roller coasters to monochromatic abstract patterns or even just the surface of the moon. With only Egriega and his guitar on stage, the backdrop also offered him the chance to play with a lively three-piece band at one point.

The robot offered a great counterpoint and laugh-aloud lines. In a way, it was like having both sides of ourselves up on stage - on occasion we agreed with cynical IAN (the Idiosyncratic Artificial Narrator), at other times, as when it reminded us that “humans are puny”, we felt aggrieved at its unfeeling harshness and found ourselves back in man bun’s camp.

There were some technical glitches and the all-important visuals did not show up as clearly as they might have sometimes. I wondered whether it might have been better to have Egriega sit to the side of them rather than in front of them. But with a little help from his technician friends, Egriega made it through and even (following a warning about defibrillators) performed a little dance at the end. A stroke survivor, he must be aware that weakness is part of the human condition but that’s also why his sensitive lyrics speak so eloquently to us all.

Stephanie Billen

ALL IN A GARDEN GREEN - Mr Simpson's Little Consort

Mr. Simpson’s Little Consort have performed at the Fringe several times, each year with a different programme, and often at the beautiful small church in the plague village of Eyam.

The group play period instruments of the 1600s: violin, viols of varying size, recorders and harpsichord and voices, with the players swapping around within the programme. They perform at a professional standard, all being seasoned experts in the field of early music.

I could not introduce the programme better than quoting from the group’s own website https://mrsimpsonslittleconsort.wordpress.com/2022/07/14/all-in-a-garden-green/

“This is a truly delightful programme of readings and music. Poetry and prose have been selected by author, Philip Robinson, from his book the Faber book of Gardens. Music by Christopher Simpson, Henry Purcell, John Dowland, Charles Butler (the Bees madrigal) and, of course, the Willow Song by our all-time favourite composer, “Anonymous”.”

It was indeed a delightful afternoon of music and poetry evoking the garden, with its flowers and insects, gardens of all kinds, large and small.

The format of the concert was based on the four seasons - each section alternating a poem and a song, matching the season, and supporting the text. This structure works very well in steering the audience, reinforcing the feel of each moment, and sparking the imagination. The overall impression of the programme is one of calm and relaxation in a well-rehearsed and polished performance.

I particularly liked the voice of Cate McKee, who has a lovely mellow sound, easily soaring to the higher register.

Highlights for me include the Jenkins Fantasia for 4 viols, a composer well known in this period. The Shakespeare piece from Richard II was also very entertaining, featuring some Tudor banter between the two characters. In ‘Ah Robyn’ the three women in the group sang a capella, very nicely done with good tuning. The Purcell piece ‘Strike the Viol’ with its ‘syncopation’ lyric was almost a jazz madrigal – loved this one and also The ‘Willow’ song mentioned in the intro, featuring just solo voice and bass viol.

The group finished the Winter set with a cross-over arrangement of ‘A Nightingale in Berkeley Square’, with plucked bass – nice! This chilled us out nicely for the hot weather outside!

If like me, you would like a copy of the poetry book: “Book of Gardens”, check out this link: https://www.faber.co.uk/product/9780571224210-the-faber-book-of-gardens/

Martin Bisknell

AN ART SONG RECITAL: UNDER THE GREENWOOD TREE - Adrienne Pyne & Stephenie Leung

A delightful concert; the time flew by. Adrienne and Stephenie were clearly very well-rehearsed for this performance, totally ‘in tune‘ with each other in every way and absolutely at ease with their repertoire. This was a lovely, well chosen programme beginning in Leipzig with songs inspired by Schumann’s love for his new wife, Clara. The romance behind these songs was not difficult to imagine - evoked beautifully by Adriennes’s singing and her expressive performance. Adrienne skilfully moved her interpretation of the love and emotion behind these compositions from passion to melancholic and pensive. Stephenie’s accompaniment of this part of the programme was always perfectly balanced, never under or over weighted. Perfect.

The solo piano pieces were an equal delight. Stephenie did not compromise on this very hot day and gave fully of the physicality, energy and vitality behind Mozart’s Sonata in C minor. When Stephenie introduced this piece, she mentioned Mozart’s exuberance on arriving in Vienna; her expression of this was not lost in her playing of it.

The concert was rounded off by ‘Five Elizabethan songs’ by Ivor Gurney. A good choice and an opportunity to hear a lesser known composer. Be sure to see Adrienne and Stephenie again at next year’s Fringe.

Jim Marriott

THE GUITAR AND ITS COUSINS - Rik Roberts

Rik Roberts usually performs classical guitar pieces, but for these performances he is also showing his abilities with other plucked instruments and musical styles. During the one-hour performance Rik showed his skill in playing the guitar, ukulele and banjo. Sometimes he swapped between instruments mid-tune asking the audience to keep the beat going. He also encouraged the audience to provide vocals for the songs he performed, concentrating on his playing. These made the performance inclusive and entertaining.

Items performed were mostly folk or popular pieces including “Amazing Grace”, "Danny Boy”, “Spanish Romance”, “Down Under” by Men at Work, “Dirty Old Town”, “She moves through the fair”, “Don’t worry about a thing” by Bob Marley. He performed two self-penned songs one with South West African influences and the other about Pott Shrigley. Rik was able to swap easily between instruments continuing to keep the audience suitably entertained. A very enjoyable one-hour performance of well-known plucked instruments.

John Hare

ALBION AFTER HOURS: SONGS OF LOVE AND CONNECTION - Albion Choir

A performance which created a sublime experience exploring the human voice in beautiful surroundings with a sympathetic acoustic.

The concert started with a solo soprano singing verses from Psalm 118 as she walked down the centre aisle of the church, the other singers then appeared in the side aisles with supporting chordal harmonies. This was an indication of how the evening would progress – exploring the potential of vocal colour and the use of acoustic to create an immersive atmosphere.

Albion’s Afterhours concert was to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the group which was originally formed to sing ‘music of these islands’ - folksongs, madrigals, chant, and anthems from the British Isles. This concept has now evolved to include broader repertoire whilst maintaining the soundscape created with all compositions and arrangements by Fraser Wilson. https://albionchoir.bandcamp.com

The programme included some of Albion’s established repertoire such as ‘Down by the Sally Gardens’, ‘Wishes’ – a setting of WB Yeats and ‘Oliver Cromwell’ - a humourous folk song from Suffolk. There were re-imaginings of older pieces such as ‘Greensleeves’ and ‘Now is the month of maying’ which maintained the ‘fa la las’ and intimacy of madrigal singing.

Most of Albion’s repertoire is unaccompanied, occasionally with piano embellishment from Fraser.

Members of the choir sometimes step forward as soloist – an indication of the soloistic quality of all the singers who retain an immaculate blend when singing together.

Another format was vocal embellishment supporting a reading of the poem ‘Only us’ by Piers the Poet which finished with the choir repeating the words ‘there is no you and me, only us’ finishing on a perfect unison.

New repertoire included ‘Invocation II’, ‘Wonderful World’ and ‘What the world needs now’. Some of these arrangements can be heard performed by Apollo5 as part of the ‘Live from London’ series https://livefromlondon.org

This concert at the end of the day was a perfect way to revive the soul by being emmersed in an uplifting experience of choral music making.

Let us hope that the nearly promised return in December does happen!

Carol Bowns

HARMONIES WITH A SMILE - Kaboodle Community Choir

A joyous performance with smiles all round! With the event title ‘Harmonies with a smile’, Kaboodle certainly brought smiles to the audience sitting on the grass in front of the Pavilion Gardens bandstand and there were smiles in abundance from the 35 members of the choir.

Kaboodle is a no-audition community choir from the Wirral who were enjoying a day trip to share their love of singing in Buxton. Unfortunately their lack of knowledge about Buxton venues meant that they made a spur of the moment decision to move their first performance from outside the Pump Room to the bandstand, which meant that the reviewer and a few potential audience members missed the first couple of numbers of the set.

The choir sang a well-known songs such as ‘All you need is love’, ‘Wonderful world’ and ‘Only you’ mixed with less familiar (to the reviewer!) songs. All were performed with confidence and secure knowledge of the harmonies. Their conductor played and directed from the keyboard with the choir moving comfortably to a capella on occasion.

The enthusiasm of the choir moved to the audience joining in clapping rhythmically with some numbers.

A group of ukulele players from the choir continued with a short performance (reviewer unfortunately unable to stay) whilst the choir had a break before a second performance later in the afternoon.

This was a performance from a choir which really communicated a love for singing and desire to share with the community. I do hope they decide to make a return appearance.

Carol Bowns

SIMPLY ACAPPELLA - Ordsall Acappella Singers

It was great to hear this delightful choir again in Buxton, last seen in the Fringe before the Covid recess 2 years ago. They are no strangers in town and had been regular supporters of the Buxton Festival Fringe for almost a decade before. As stated on the packaging, the group rehearses in Salford and are part of the adventurous genre of choirs abandoning musical safety nets such as accompanying instruments and reams of aides memoire. The Singers are well known in the NorthWest appearing in a range of concerts and festivals. Their conductor, Jeff Borradaile has a high reputation as an experienced choral leader and teacher. His infectious enthusiasm, charismatic presence, not too mention his formidable musicality, is a recipe which can’t fail to bring out the best in any group. Today’s performance from the 25 strong Ordsall Acappella Singers was a great credit to all concerned and it is obvious that this the culmination of years of considerable hard work and rehearsal.

The opening number had immediate “sit up and pay attention” impact. There are no passengers in this choir, every voice counts and is heard. By the end of the second song ‘Cool Moon’ there was no doubt the singers were well drilled with accurate pitching in all the parts. Many rich suspended chords and sweet countermelodies from the altos plundered the imagination.

The song ‘I’m Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger’ flogged into submission by American Country & Western artistes such a Johnny Cash & Emmylou Harris was given a most refreshing gospel treatment by Ordsall. The arrangement contained some lovely chord changes accurately pitched and throughout today’s performance the singers in all the parts took in their stride some tricky intervals, major 7ths, minor 9ths and augmented 5ths, not a technique for novices. This also came over well in ‘My Blessing’ which makes the most of the modal effects where in the voicing of the chords emphases degrees of the scale other than the tonic. Whilst this feel to the music is built into the arrangement, it has to be sung accurately to come to life, and this choir did just that with aplomb.

Ordsall’s version of ‘Why We Sing’ had a “Swingle” treatment which sounds very clever exploring vocal techniques imitating percussive instruments. The singers developed the song building up the pathos of a ballad, evoking tearful emotions at times. Later in the piece a sweet soloist from the group (Sally) pulled out even more magic from the number.

A more relaxed tempo to the ever popular latin number ‘Sway’ allowed the intricate detail of the middle parts to come through in this complex choral arrangement by the “go to” barbershop arranger, Dave King. The piece worked much better with a rhumba feel than out dated faster cha cha versions. The singers delivered the delayed entries clearly giving an impression of the fugue idiom and accurate pitching of the key change.

‘Colours of the Wind’ is associated with the Walt Disney animation Pocahontas. Today’s arrangement by the prolific American choral arranger, Kirby Shaw, is much more straight forward vocally than earlier numbers in the concert. There is a pleasing innocence which singers captured very well which I attribute to accurate harmonisation and tempo control. Lesser choirs could easily make it sound ragged, but not so the Ordsall Acappella Singers.

‘Bridge Over Trouble Water’ was very Barbershop and very American, opening with high tenor lead (Jeff Borradaile) backed by an “easy listening” syncopated chorale accompaniment. The sweet sound of the soprano section takes over the melody resulting in a pleasing performance.

In this choir it is unfair to single out individuals or even sections for special praise because every person counts. However in the arrangement of ‘Deep Peace’ the three, and only 3, basses underpinning the singers rendered this tune particularly moving.

For ‘Grant Us Peace’ a delightful arrangement by Bruce Tipperty, the audience was primed apologetically that this was new to the chorus’ repertoire. In the event the caveat was hardly necessary as the overall effect was unblemished.

Jeff Borradaile’s slightly extraverted yet endearing manner exercised his ability to motivate the most unlikely rabble with the “sing a line after me” audience participation song, ‘Dance Lightly on the Earth’….Then the actions… then the round..altogether… It seemed so painless one wondered how the whole room had been tricked into smiling, so effortlessly and so quickly. No wonder Jeff gets such good results from his groups.

‘Fools Rush In’ and ‘Here Comes the Sun’ taken at intuitive tempi, are I would guess more familiar to the choir as the expressive rallentando’s and, relaxed triplets seemed to fall quite naturally, rendering a conductor superfluous.

Thinking that it couldn’t get much better, the last couple of numbers, ‘I Will Love You Forever’ and ‘For you’ nailed the performance amongst the most memorable.

Most of today’s pieces were arranged such that the melodies were darting around the choir everyone is a soloist and accompanist at the same time singing in harmony and beautifully. The articulation of lyrics was crisp, as indeed were the notes with some difficult lines. The crucial overall impression was the cohesiveness of the choir which today revealed no weak links.

There were two sessions on this visit, the morning set at URC church was extremely well received and I am sure the matinee at St Mary’s will build on this stunning performance. We certainly look forward to the next visit of Ordsall Acappella Singers to Buxton and a name to watch for on the circuit.

Brian K W Lightowler

MRO 21 AT THE FRINGE - Manchester Recorder Orchestra

The MRO have been performing at Buxton Fringe for over 20 years. The orchestra was started in 1971 by amongst others Dennis Bamforth, one of the biggest names steering the rising popularity of the recorder in the UK in the last few decades. I recall Bamforth, who died in 2015 at the age of 80, was a music master at my old school in the 1960s. He was fairly obsessed with the instrument then, recruiting as many boys as possible to the cause in the face of an apathetic wilderness of kids who thought they had left the recorder behind in primary school and that this ancient lineage of the flute family had been superseded by more sophisticated woodwind instruments. Incidentally a lad in my cohort at school, Touchin, took the bait and went onto great fame and fortune with the humble instrument (and a few other musical talents). Fast forward to the present day the legacy of Bamforth has seen the establishment of a growing interest in recorder orchestras and introduction of contemporary repertoire for the genre which is a far cry from the former hey day of recorder consorts in Tudor times. Early music ensembles which include recorders amongst the viols, sackbuts and harpsichords have never really fallen from favour but in recent years “recorder only” groups are taking a hold in the establishment.

Tonight’s varied programme showcased the talents of members the MRO, opening with a piece written for recorder orchestra ‘Leicester Harmony’. It had some awkward rhythms and tricky moments but flowed nicely. It is all too easy for the tenors & basses to sound like a couple of old men humming in the background but tonight there was enough lift in the supporting lines to create suitable punctuation of the music. The similarity to flute pipes on the mighty organ, means the ensemble comfortably tackles transcriptions of organ works such as the this evening’s forceful performance of a Bruckner ‘Prelude, Fugue & Postlude’. To conclude the first half, was Dennis Bamforth’s 6th Symphony Op 60 for recorder, subtitled ‘The Classic’. I could say that the writing of the master sometimes lack sparkle and rather plays into the book of critics who still regard the gentle instrument as a “one trick pony”. The work was however well played by the MRO with accuracy and as much varying expression as the piece allowed.

The second half of the show was enlivened with an arrangement of Grieg’s ‘Triumphal Homage March’ from the incidental music to one of the plays for which the Norwegian was frequently commissioned. The orchestra created some pleasing contrast bringing out the voices and timbre of the different pitches of recorders in the orchestra. Two more contemporary compositions written specifically for recorder orchestra followed: ‘Fading Echoes’ by J Frith in 1977. Then a jaunty compilation of Irish jigs and reels said to be inspired by the Belfast folk group ‘The Chieftains’ by David Moses, an arranger whose pieces frequently appear in the MRO programmes.

We were once again entertained by a group of players who are well rehearsed and produce a wonderful spirited sound. I look forward to hearing the MRO again, likely a welcome return to next year’s Fringe

Brian K W Lightowler

SOUL REPAIR - Adrian Lord

Stressed out? Anger Management Issues? Contemplating the meaning of life? Well, we’d come to the right place for a blissful hour with pianist, Adrian Lord. This was an audience in the round and made all the more special by this intimate set up.

I am not a piano aficionado by any stretch, but as with many happy accidents at the Fringe I was lucky enough to see Adrian at his first Buxton Festival Fringe performance back in 2019, where I was blown away by the sheer gorgeousness of his music. Three years later and this award-winning composer/pianist did not disappoint. Inspired by the landscapes of his travels he purposely selected his most calming original compositions for this ‘Soul Repair’ performance, all within the wonderful acoustics of Buxton Methodist Church.

Opening with ‘Northern Lights’ from his 2018 second album ‘Sky Blue Piano’, the room was immediately entranced and fortunate enough to hear Adrian’s first ever live performance of ‘Discovery’ from that same album.

This was followed by selections from his third album ‘Piano Meditations’ (premiered at Buxton Fringe Festival 2021), including ‘Snowfall’, ‘Evermore’, and the totally sublime ‘Space’ which I urge you to check out on your music streaming service of choice.

Adrian spoke with enthusiasm about the composition to performance process, enticing us with talk of new 2022 works in the pipeline and a sneak preview of ‘Wish You Were Here’.

The set ended with five pieces from Adrian’s 2017 first album 'Journey- Twelve Romances for Piano', recorded in Crear, Scotland. This included ‘Footsteps’ and ‘The Wedding’ (a favourite from my 2019 review). He then concluded our listening pleasure with ‘Time to Remember’, followed by an encore of ‘Little Star’.

I'm running out of superlatives for his music… uplifting, dreamy, haunting, atmospheric etc just don’t seem to cut it. What a talent, I could have listened all day, but after a wonderful hour we all emerged into a sunny Buxton afternoon in a bit of a daze.

With only one performance this year make sure you earmark Adrian Lord for Buxton Festival Fringe 2023, where hopefully we’ll be lucky enough to hear yet more fantastic music from his pending fourth album.

Karen Wain-Pimlott

MUSIC FOR TWO GUITARS - The Roth Guitar Duo

It really is worth tearing yourself away from the frenetic delights of Buxton at least once during the festival period and experiencing the welcoming calm of Spring Bank Arts Centre in New Mills. The acoustics are perfectly suited to chamber music, and the Roth Guitar Duo - Sam ROdwell and Emma SmiTH (see what they did there?) gave us a fascinating and diverse programme of music from around the world. Well, from Orkney to Argentina via Italy, Sarajevo and Leicester, at least.

They opened with Farewell to Stromness, an unlikely protest song by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, written as the opening piano solo of ‘The Yellow Cake Revue’, opposing the mining of uranium on Orkney. This piece seemed to me to have the stately, lilting style of a Scottish folk dance. There then followed a Serenade in A by Fernando Carulli dating from the early 19th Century, followed by the first dramatic ‘nuevo tango’ piece by Argentinian Astor Piazzolla. This gives some idea of the range of music Emma and Sam are able to draw on, and their choice of repertoire brilliantly displayed their tonal range, the dynamic interplay between them and their technical skills.

Another tango piece had a languorous, melancholic slow section sandwiched between fiery movements with percussive effects and what sounded (to me) like jazz chords. Again, the interplay between the Duo, swapping phrases by using the upper register of the fretboard and a sort of continuo below, was exquisite.

The next two pieces - Balkan Express, by Vojislav Ivanovic and Sonatina Canonica - could not have been a greater contrast with each other. The first had percussive effects, a slower section in a minor key with really delicate use of harmonics, whereas the second had a very Baroque feel.

The Duo finished their set with two pieces by a colleague and friend from the Royal Northern College of Music, Yvonne Bloor. ‘Always Good to Me’ was clearly a love song written as an engagement gift to Sam and Emma and, once again, showed their technical mastery and rapport.

In short, this was a delightful concert, varied, stimulating and truly balm for the soul.

Graham Jowett

CLASSICAL GUITAR - JONATHAN PRAG - Jonathan Prag Classical Guitar

Jonathan Prag returns to the the United Reform Church for his classical guitar concerts at this year’s Buxton Fringe. Although occupying the same venue as last year, Jonathan is presenting a completely different programme, with the only (tenuous) link being the continuation of a global musical journey. Friday’s concert delivered a musical itinerary with stop-offs in Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Greece, Spain and Bosnia; across a time span from late Baroque to the present.

Two Preludes (No 1 and No 5) by the Brazilian composer Villa Lobos were wrapped around the Bourrée and Gigue from J S Bach’s Lute Suite in E minor (BWV 996). We then stopped off in Greece for two songs by the composer (and politician) Mikis Theodorakis ‘Margarita Magraro’ and ‘Mana-you Kai Panagia’. Jonathan Prag then guided us into the more familiar territory of the Spanish pianist and composer Isaac Albéniz and ‘Leyenda’ – commonly recognised by its misnomer ‘Asturias’ – before returning to South America, and music from the Argentinian composer José-Luis Merlin, who’s six movements of the ‘Suite del Recuerdo’ delivered a sumptuous textural heart to the afternoon’s programme.

After an encore of a traditional Bosnian song ‘Moj Dilbere’ arranged by the guitarist Tanja Miric we arrived back at our destination, stepping out into a sunny Buxton on a Friday afternoon after a most enjoyable journey, thanks to the talent and knowledge of our expert guide, Jonathan Prag.

Enjoy the journey for yourself, Jonathan has several concerts yet scheduled: 16–17 July and 22–24 July at the United Reform Church.

Curtis Bollington

MIDNIGHT WINE - Chris Milner - Journeyman

Well respected singer/ songwriter and musician Chris Milner invited us to join him in an afternoon of wine, song and reflection.

Chris took us on a journey looking back at his memories of the people and experiences that have inspired him over his career. As Chris has been a well-known and respected figure on the British folk scene for 50 years this was going to be some trip!

Using both his guitars and his wonderful singing voice Chris shared his journey from the folk clubs of Yorkshire, wanting to be a poet at 15, his special memories of secret places and his affection for his Yamaha guitar which has provided inspiration for the last 50 years.

Some of the songs were traditional, some were contemporary, some had humorous notes, and some were spiritual in tone, all were beautifully rendered. His song written for his teenage daughter almost made me cry.

Chris used his gift for storytelling to interact with the audience, bringing laughter and well-deserved applause.

In the introduction to his programme Chris describes himself as a journeyman and wonders if he chose the right genre.

I can only say that to me Chris appeared to be a master of his craft and I think the rest of the audience would agree. In the words of his hero Folk legend Dave Burland “Aye Lad, Nice Take”.

Don’t miss his last Buxton Fringe show on 17th July at 15.15 the United Reform Church.

Carole Garner

LIFE IS A CABARET! WELCOME TO THE HOUSE OF FUN - Buxton Community Choir

Recently formed by Musical Director Chris Blackshaw, 42 local singers joined together as Buxton Community Choir within the wonderful acoustics of Buxton Methodist Church. With piano accompaniment, the choir’s voices and harmonies uplifted and entertained the audience with their first public production of ‘Life is a Cabaret’.

Opening with the aforementioned ‘Cabaret’ we were then treated to an eclectic performance including songs from musicals and pop classics throughout the decades. This included ‘You Raise me Up’, ‘Something Stupid’, ‘Mamma Mia’, and my personal favourite; the choir’s beautiful interpretation of Frank Sinatra’s 1973 hit ‘Send in the Clowns’. The second half of the show began with a comical rendition of ‘Alto’s Lament’, followed by ‘Our House’, the Les Misérables classic ‘Bring him Home’ and many more. The choir’s poignant rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ was hypnotic to listen to and featured in their recent online fundraising efforts for the Ukraine Appeal.

The evening also included some special guests. West End star Andrew Edwards performed hits from the musicals Beauty and the Beast and We Will Rock You, and he regaled us with backstage tales of floating wigs. Local choir Peak Voices also performed, where we finally heard the wonderful voice of Chris Blackshaw performing ‘A Million Dreams’ from the musical The Greatest Show, and an outstanding medley from West Side Story.

Buxton Community Choir finished their set with a finale of ‘Mr Blue Sky’, but with the audience demanding an encore they joined with Peak Voices for a rousing rendition of ‘Time to Say Goodbye’, which earned them a standing ovation.

This was a fun evening for all the family and looking around the audience there was an emotional rollercoaster of laughter, tears and copious amounts of foot tapping.

If you are inspired and want to join their much-anticipated Buxton Fringe performance in 2023 then Buxton Community Choir welcomes new members of any ability, with no audition necessary. Rehearsals are usually held every Monday, 7.00-9.00 pm at Buxton Methodist Church.

Karen Wain-Pimlott

MILONGA DEL ANGEL - ARKangel

The ARKangel duo told the story of Tango and played Tango songs and tunes on the guitar and violin. They showed variations in style from dance tunes to songs of longing for home. Some particularly moving songs included Malena, Nana de Sevilla, El Dia Que Me Quieras and Besame Mucho. The programme helpfully gave the name of each number and its composer/lyricist.

Between each number, the violinist/singer shared the history of Tango music which has Spanish, Italian, African, and Jewish influences. Tango dance was originally working class and influenced by the lack of women in Argentina, so men had to practise and be flamboyant in order to be noticed. Later influences on Tango included Jazz and 20th-century classical music. They gave the history of the founding and development of Buenos Aries and described the turbulent and often oppressive Argentinian political scene. The development of the cattle industry in Argentina was also outlined. The story of two notable Tango composers was described in detail - Carlos Gardel and Astor Piazzolla. Gardel and other members of his band sadly died in a plane crash. Piazzolla studied classical music In Europe but was persuaded to return home to Argentina to concentrate on Tango.

This one-hour performance was both entertaining and educational. Highly recommended.

John Hare

PUT A LID ON IT - Basin Street Jazz and Blues

A thoroughly enjoyable event in the delightful surroundings of The Green Man Gallery – I honestly can’t think of a better way of spending the evening than in this venue listening to Jules singing with the four highly accomplished yet relaxed musicians alongside her. Don’t miss their next performance on the 24th.

The show got going with a zing and song – and what could be more appropriate than the eponymous ‘Basin Street Blues’. No long prologues, no tuning up or mucking about with mics - the professionalism of this band shone through from the very first seconds. And carried on that way. Soon came the first instrumental piece – Charlie Parker’s Yardbird Suite – sublime. As with all excellent musicians their instruments appear to speak words and songs – and absolutely so in ‘Good Morning Heartache’. By now things were nicely chilled and brief, light-hearted exchanges between Jules and the band between pieces added to the delightfulness of this show.

Mike Dale showed his versatility in ‘Strike up the Band’ when he exchanged sax for flute and demonstrated why this instrument is so suited to the jazz/blues scene. Shortly afterwards, pianist Brian Lightowler did likewise - took up his accordion and lent a French flavouring to the repertoire, starting with a brilliant Django Reinhardt piece, then on through the emotions of ‘Dead Leaves’ to ‘Jardin d’Hiver – all played and sung evocatively and beautifully.

Fred Rolland’s faultless guitar shone through the programme as did Ade Sherwood’s tempo-keeping; digging rhythms out of nowhere and getting every piece started – not to mention his skilful handling of ‘the blonde’ – a double bass so-named by the band because of its colour and because Ade has his arms around it all night long. After the show, Ade was asked how he knew the music for all the pieces without a sheet in front of him. 'It’s magic', he said. And this show truly was. Great musicianship, totally entertaining and a delight to see musicians in tune with each other in every way.

Jim Marriott

SINGING TOGETHER - Kaleidoscope Community Choir

The sun was shining outside, and it was also high energy inside the Methodist Church for this concert by Kaleidoscope, a community choir set up over 10 years ago as a collaboration between the Buxton Opera House and the Festival. Indeed, collaboration is the choir’s motto, encompassing also their outreach work around the area.

The choir of around 25 strong, gave us a delight of variety, ranging from the 17th century, via gospel and popular music to the contemporary.

One of the highlights was ‘Sing’ written for the Diamond Jubilee by Gary Barlow and Andrew Lloyd Webber, which the choir have performed with local schools, another collaboration. I also enjoyed the ‘teach and sing’ number combining 3 songs together with the audience choosing their own part – great fun!

I must also mention the moving Ukraine ‘Lullaby’, sung in native language and including some challenging, crunchy harmonies. It was an impressive performance of a tricky song.

Another item with audience participation later in the set included mouth percussion for the choir and finger clicks for the audience. This was followed by the beautiful song ‘Fields of Gold’, made famous by Sting and Eva Cassidy – a fine and bright performance, with the classic backing music - most enjoyable.

This delightful lunchtime concert finished with a lively rendition of ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’, the well-known Glen Miller song, with a jazzy backing track.

For more information or to join the choir see: https://buxtonoperahouse.org.uk/learning-engagement/kaleidoscope-community-choir

Martin Bisknell

MUSIC OF WATER & STONE - Henrietta Hill and friends

These concerts form part of the series ‘Music + Art’ in the Green Man Gallery, curated by Henrietta Hill (viola) who was joined by Resident Artists Chris Jones (violin), Martin Cropper (violin) and Ben Michaels (cello).

These concerts attained the highest standard with musicians who impressed with their playing, interpretation and ensemble.

There was pattern to both concerts, starting with arrangements for String Trio of JS Bach Goldberg Variations. Originally written for keyboard these have been arranged in various formats and the first concert ended with a variation arranged for violin and viola, the second with one for viola and cello.

Both concerts included works by the Danish String Quartet. ‘Shine you no More’ would not have seemed out of place in the ‘Celtic connections’ Festival - a link endorsed by ’The Dromer’, probably a misspelling of ‘The Drummer’ which featured the Scottish reel ‘The Piper o’ Dundee’.

These pieces highlighted the physicality of the players with their energised commitment to the music.

There was no large, central work to either concert with a selection of very varied pieces for different instrumental combinations. ‘Efue for Solo Cello’ by Thomas Demenga showed various extended techniques including playing near the bridge, behind the string and using paperclips on the string to create different resonances. (Efue is German for ivy).

The link to the subject matter of the exhibition ‘Dancing Water, Weathered Stone’ was extended to include landscape, with Derbyshire limestone containing fossils of creatures who lived in the sea, and nature with Bartok a keen collector of the sounds on nature to include in his folk inspired compositions.

Along with playing composed works, the instrumentalists also improvised in response to artworks in the gallery, so we heard pizzicato contrasting with bowed melody as inspired by the mixed media of Mara Edwards “Moon River’ and a gentle violin tremolando starting the improvisation to Caroline Small’s ‘Ripples’ which was introduced with the poem ‘Ripple Effect’……'ripples start with one small movement’.

Throughout the concert Resident Artist Geoff Chilton responded to each work as and when he found the inspiration. These were worth closer examination, a detail not easy to see from your seat – inevitably less complete than the artist’s normal work – a very brave thing to do. Some members of the audience also made use of the materials available to respond to the music and artwork.

To complete the circle of music inspired by art the quartet improvised to the watercolour created by Geoff during ‘Limestone and Felt’ by Caroline Shaw.

The first concert over-ran by 15 minutes – due partly to a slightly late start and the potential risk of mistiming where improvisation is on the menu. However, several audience members from the first concert stayed for the second.

Throughout the playing was expressive and dynamic. It was a privilege to feel included in the music making of such highly skilled musicians.

Following the example of ‘Spellsongs’ – a response by musicians to words by Robert Macfarlane with watercolour by Jackie Morris, this was a rare event across artistic genres and media - a great format, creating a real mixed-media gig.

The next concert in the series ‘Music + Art’ is 28 October with strings, wind and voice celebrating 10 Years of The Green man Gallery. Don’t miss it!

Carol and Ian Bowns

BIG BAND TAKES THE STAGE - High Peak Big Band

For those of us lucky enough to be in the Conservative Club for High Peak Big Band, it was a rare treat to see a seventeen-piece big band in concert with serried ranks of brass fronted by wonderful singing. The band covered decades of great music from the halcyon days of the showbands featuring everyone from Jerome Kern to George Gershwin and Fats Waller to Nat King Cole.

The band opened with St Louis Blues before being joined by singer Jules Scott for great renditions of Somebody Loves you and Billie Holliday’s God Bless the Child. By now the band were into their stride and clearly enjoying themselves on Sammy Nestico’s tribute to Quincy Jones and Count Basie, which showcased some of the players. Throughout the evening there were lots of opportunities for individual musicians to do their thing, including a lovely trumpet solo from Bethany Pollard, the youngest member of the band.

Brian Lightowler is a knowledgeable host and introduces the songs with background information about the composer or the show it came from, many of which sank without trace but left a fantastic song to live on.

Singer Jules Scott has bags of personality and a great voice as she performs standards such as Sunny Side of the Street and the moving Folks who Live on the Hill, but she’s not the only singer on view, as players emerge from the depths of the brass section and we enjoy songs from Hazel McKie (The Very Thought of You), Mike Mason (Sinatra’s Just in Time) and Mike Watson (Send in the Clowns).

The band are the stars of the show though, and cope admirably with a wide range of material. I enjoyed being introduced to unfamiliar pieces such as the bossanova inflected Estate (Summer in Italian) and Serenata by Leroy Anderson, better known for Christmas classics like Sleigh Ride. Though my highlight was a fine version of that old favourite, Summertime.

When that many brass instruments get going it can be like a runaway train so credit to the unsung rhythm section for keeping them on track and to musical director Brian Lightowler for maintaining control.

It was a wonderful evening of spirited arrangements of ballroom, showband and stage musical classics, from a band clearly enjoying their performance to a very appreciative audience.

Stephen Walker

MIX IT UP - The Good Ole Boys & Susie and the Bad Habits

A good number of people spent a very pleasant sunny Sunday afternoon in the Serpentine Community Garden enjoining some wonderful music. There were 2 acts:

Susie and the Bad Habits sang unaccompanied in both traditional and barber shop style. The 4 female members of the group were joined by their usual male pianist on most songs. The earliest work was the traditional 'Summer is a coming in' and the latest were 2 songs by Billy Joel 'And so it goes' and 'The longest time'. Other songs included 'Some where over the Rainbow', 'Penny Lane' by the Beatles and 'Danny Boy'. I particularly enjoyed 'The Bird’s Lullaby' and 'What a Wonderful World'. Another highlight was the 'Arrival of the Queen of Sheba' arranged for voices.

The Good Ole Boys, as the name suggests, performed American numbers from the last one hundred years. The 4-piece band were a guitarist singer, a banjo playing / guitarist singer, a double bass player and a percussionist. They played such well-known songs as 'Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea', 'San Francisco', 'Midnight Special' and 'Route 66' with the 2 vocalists swapping lead duties. Two compositions highlighted the banjo 'Blackberry Blossom' and 'Freight Train'. There were occasional jokes about the time taken to tune a banjo. Every tune they played caused me to tap my foot in time with the music.

The two groups then joined forces to perform 'Precious Time' and 'Worried Man Blues' as a finale. It was an excellent musical afternoon amongst the polytunnels of the Serpentine Community Garden. The Community Garden is open to visitors: Sundays 11 am to 3 pm and Wednesdays 10.30 am to 1.30 pm.

John Hare

DARREN POYZER'S SUNDAY SERVICE LIVE! - Darren Poyzer

Gosh, what to say about man-around-Fringe Darren. He's been very busy, what with busking, Fringe launch and more. He's already something of a legend and always gets a warm reception - and it was certainly warm yesterday!

For those who don't know, Darren is a singer-songwriter from Glossop who has built up something of a following both here at the Fringe and around the area. He doesn't play concert halls, but rather old folks' homes, community centres and other less fashionable venues. And this commitment is at the heart of his songwriting which is unashamedly left-leaning but not proselytizing in the slightest. It is what you might think of as folk singing in that it reflects the lives and concerns of ordinary people, people who through no fault of their own have problems and could do with a helping hand.

As Darren himself will probably tell you when you go and see a show, he's not been immune to some of the same problems, and his songs and shows are his way of paying something back. They are songs of hard times.

The Sunday Service is the name of his online show, which goes out on, well, Sundays and returns next week for another airing. So, if you are looking for something gentle and heartfelt that's going to be the place to be.

Ian Parker Heath

STRUNG OUT! A HISTORY OF ROCK GUITAR - Kenny Robertson

If pop music is the sound track of our lives then the rock guitar is front and centre.

Beginning early in the 20th century with the development of 12 bar blues - significantly by Robert Johnson, Kenny Robertson leads us with examples of the music of the unfolding times. Kenny gave details of how the pentatonic scale was modified to suit the merging musical styles. This was the first of several informative interludes of music theory, which were informative without being too technical or prolonged.

We were led up to the 1950s and early sixties which were dominated by American styles until – as we all know – ‘the beat’ movement happened in the UK. Predominantly from Liverpool (the Mersey Sound). Kenny demonstrated with a medley of familiar guitar riffs from the Kinks, Rolling Stones, The Who and of course the Beatles.

In the late sixties, a revolution happened when Jimi Hendrix took his electric guitar and produced sounds (noises to some) that had never been heard before. This was influential not just because the techniques were copied but prompted other bands to experiment and develop their own paths. We were led through the seventies with samples from Thin Lizzy, Led Zeppelin, and others until we reached the nineties and beyond with ‘Grunge’. It was at this point that the ‘more mature’ members of the audience started to be left behind. An interlude of ‘Funk’ was however a bit more familiar.

The show was not specifically about great guitarists and so Eric Clapton, Richard Thompson etc. were not mentioned. The emphasis was on innovators.

Kenny demonstrated specific guitar techniques and electronic effects. We had heard the sounds but maybe not understood how the effects were achieved.

Kenny, supported by Ash and Billy on drums and bass guitar, had an easy rapport with the audience and the whole session was entertaining and informative. It was impressive that they were able to convincingly play all styles well.

There are two complaints: firstly Kenny and his band have only one gig at this years fringe, and secondly (more of a suggestion) we would have enjoyed a full play through of one or two significant numbers.

Brian Kirman

ORCHESTRAL CONCERT WITH SOLOIST - High Peak Orchestra

The High Peak Orchestra, formed 47 years ago, based in Whaley Bridge is well known locally for many concert performances and promoting amateur music making. The orchestra is quite at home in St John’s Church with the marvellous acoustics of the venue and they are regular contributors to the Buxton Fringe.

It was a lovely touch that the concert opened with a rendition of the Ukraine National Anthem as a gesture of support Ukrainian people displaced by the war and welcomed to take refuge in the High Peak area.

The orchestra went on to play the overture from Leonard Bernstein’s operetta, Candide. The excellent programme notes for this concert speak of a ‘sparking whirlwind of rhythm and melody’ which is an apt description. Behind this and all the symbolism of Voltaire’s original story from which Bernstein is credited of drawing his inspiration, is a fiendishly tricky piece of music to play. The technical difficulties are bad enough particularly for the woodwind, which the clarinets flutes, oboes and bassoons of the HPO commendably make light work. The majestic passages from the brass ensemble were grand and convincing. The usual ambush which can so easily make this work messy is the frequent tempo changes and cross rhythms. However tonight the orchestra had it all under control - maybe facilitated by a realistic tempo and a positive contribution from the conductor?. The piece held together seamlessly with good rhythmic lift and certainly captured the emotion and vitality of Candide which seemed to be over all too quickly, in keeping with a well delivered overture.

To conclude the first half - a standard of the advanced violinist’s repertoire, the work simply entitled ‘Poème’ by Ernest Chausson. There were numerous moments of delightful orchestral playing often relaxing in mood without too much excitement. In the main the orchestra acts a backing band accompanying the soloist which they did with sensitivity and accuracy. Tonight the principle violin part was performed by Anya Muston who stepped into the breach at the last minute. Clearly this did not diminish her command of the piece which she carried off with the aplomb as befits the professional standing which she holds. Anya completed a distinguished musical education in Sydney and Manchester and currently a member of the BBC Phil. She was a guest soloist with the HPO 10 years ago. Anya’s performance ably demonstrated the range of sentiments from lyrical passages through to some virtuosic flourishes.

Tonight’s concert is in support of the valuable work of the Buxton Samaritans and some of their volunteers provided the interval refreshments.

After the interval it was time for Dvorak’s 9th Symphony ‘from the New World’. The Czech composer had emigrated to the USA in 1892. As a spurious testament to the success of the composition, the themes of the work have made their way into the popular culture to be incorporated into TV advertisements, all sorts of unintended musical links, and even to space voyages. The orchestra’s string ensemble was well balanced and produce a lovely cohesive sound throughout the piece. Earlier in the concert the bass line may have seemed a bit lightweight with James Banks underpinning the section on his own, but the Dvorak was just right. A highlight of the second movement was the exposed lead tune beautifully and sympathetically played by Kate Hamey on the cor anglais. The 4th movement is seen as a recap finale, though marked as allegro and sometimes ‘con fuoco’, it is enlivened by tempo changes and expressional nuance which demand close attention to the orchestral holy grail of playing together. For this attribute the HPO performed magnificently as a body which may have something to do with the cajoling powers of the conductor. Deserving of mention is the tight brass section, engendering an awe-inspiring colour to the triumphant passages.

The maestro David Chatwin has held the baton for 5 years bringing a wealth of professional experience from the orchestral world. He has steered the orchestra through the disruption of the Covid time and followers of the HPO’s fortunes will recognise a maturity and improved discipline on David’s watch, evident in tonight’s performance. I look forward to hearing them again.

Brian K W Lightowler

AN AFTERNOON OF FAVOURITES - VociVoices

It was a delight to see this group of four vocal soloists and pianist returning to the Fringe with a highly entertaining variety of songs, ranging from jazz and musicals to opera and sacred music. We heard a rousing ‘Entertainer’ opener, followed by a jaunty rendition of ‘Chasing Rainbows’ which featured lovely duetting across the group. Must also mention the snazzy piano break in ‘Sunny Side’ played by well-known musician Jonathan Ellis – nice!

Other highlights of the afternoon included a lovely blend of voices in ‘Monastery Garden’ and Simon Horsfield’s rendition of Offenbach’s ‘Scintille’ which showed powerful control of his upper baritone voice.

Later there was a selection of light opera, including some stratospheric high notes from Elizabeth Ambrose in ‘Pirates’; I noted that the pianist sang too - a man of many talents! I also enjoyed Eric Cymbir’s fine tenor solos from ‘Gondoliers’ and later in the De Curtis.

The Lloyd Webber set featured some sublime blending, great timing and was quite powerful, I almost forgot to take notes as I couldn’t take my eyes and ears away.

I do love Margaret Ferguson’s amazing soprano voice, Fringe goers may remember her solo recitals from previous years, I hope she will come back soon. Her gospel-like rendition of ‘Can’t take it Away’ was a showpiece, and the Verdi aria earlier in the show was amazing too.

This group do not disappoint and provide great entertainment - the whole experience was a delight in the beautiful ambience of St Mary’s, which suits small music groups very well. Good to see a few children in the audience.

Check out the quartet’s website for more information: www.vocivoices.co.uk.

Martin Bisknell

HARP-GUITAR IN CONCERT - Jon Pickard

With the ‘Best Solo Instrumental Performance’ accolade from Buxton Fringe 2021 I had high hopes for Jon Pickard and he certainly did not disappoint. A career spanning over 25 years as a professional guitarist and pianist was evident with this musical talent.

Having never previously heard of a ‘Harp Guitar’ I was intrigued by what it would look and sound like. Making a revival in the 1960s this rare instrument has been around since the 17th century, much longer than the standard 6-string guitar we are all familiar with today. With a combination of un-fretted harp strings and fretted guitar strings the fusion sound had a much richer quality than either individual instrument. It was even more impressive to realise that Jon had designed this 23-stringed version himself.

This lunchtime concert showcased Jon’s original compositions and other works beautifully and included a brief introduction to each. There was a genre mix of Irish folk ‘Merrily Danced the Quaker’s Wife’ and ‘Lon Dubh’, the classical ‘Ave Maria, followed by his guitar hero Mark Knopfler’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’.

Jon then played us his own compositions, including my personal favourite ‘Beating Heart’. ‘Scallywag’s Breakfast’ was dedicated to his own daughter and her morning breakfast escapades as a toddler (performed with a wry smile). He then swapped to a fretless harp-guitar to perform ‘Liquid Moonlight’ and ‘The Shepherd in the Temple’. These had an unusual sound, reminiscent to me of the Indian sitar. Listen out for ‘The Princess and the Walnut’ where you will learn of the connection between a young Princess Victoria and Jon’s own Harp-Guitar.

With an opportunity to chat with Jon and take a closer look at both instruments post performance this is a great event for music lovers, or anybody who wants a thoroughly relaxing hour away from it all.

Karen Wain-Pimlott

CLUB ACOUSTIC AT THE FRINGE - Club Acoustic

It has been a while since I’ve been to a Club Acoustic event I must say. However, like an old friend, there it was, warm and welcoming like I’d never been away. I’m going to own up here and say I missed the final act as I was just so tired – nothing to do with the show at all I swear!

What I did see and hear was what the Fringe is about. Unafraid to give local artists the chance to show what talent we have here in and around Buxton to visitors from far and wide. It surely works, as it was standing room only last night at the Old Clubhouse and I haven’t seen that in a while!

We were treated to some well-liked regulars giving us their best. First up was Will Hawthorne who Fringe-goers will know from his many appearances here. As good as ever, Will got the show off to a flying start and well-deserved applause.

The second artist was another local favourite, Gill Sweeting, who’s another long-time performer here at the Fringe with a number of bands/artists and has drawn some great reviews over the years. I know how that sounds but sounding old is something she clearly doesn’t do! The audience loved her set and it was easy to see, and of course hear, why she has become a firm favourite. What a lovely voice she has, and very much looking forward to seeing her again! My evening finished with Stuart and Suzann who kept the show on track and the audience engrossed. It was a shame I had to leave but I was wilting by the end of their set.

Club Acoustic has been going for over 20 years and it is easy to see why from this show alone. It may be acoustic but it is certainly worth listening to and it is such a shame this is the only time the Club is included in this year’s Fringe. But don’t worry, they’ll be back on the 1st & 3rd Weds of each month down at the Old Clubhouse. Go.

Ian Parker Heath

RARE OCCASION IN CONCERT - Rare Occasion

It was good to see such a large audience for a performance on the first day of Fringe 2022. This was Rare Occasion’s debut Fringe appearance. Unfortunately, it was also their only appearance this year, as prior commitments prevent further performances. The group comprises Judy Dunlop as lead vocalist, with Jon Scaife on guitar and cittern, and Nigel Corbett on violin, with both players adding occasional backing vocals during the evening. The singing and playing was accomplished, sensitive and musical throughout, with beautiful vocal and instrumental tone. The size and acoustic make the Green Man Gallery an ideal Fringe venue for small musical groups. The sound reinforcement (not really amplification), in the capable hands of Geof Trend for the concert, was just right.

They began with their own version of the Sheffield Grinder, an industrial song about the plight of the cutlery grinder, which I first heard as part of the play, Stirrings in Sheffield on Saturday Night. Retaining those words, but to a tune composed by Jon.

The songs were varied in content. Drawing on the tradition for songs about work (Sheffield Grinder or Travelling Comber), we also heard on love and loss from Burns and Byron, through Meeropol and Tagore, on to Richard Thompson and Billy Joel.

The programme was well-constructed and paced. Neither Billy Joel’s Downeaster Alexa (“not that Alexa”) or the shocking Strange Fruit sounded out of place, either in the gig or in their place in the set.

The contemporary tune set (The Resting Chair/Hut on Staffin Island), that started with the slower composition leading to a dramatic tempo change, was played beautifully. Traditional tunes were also carefully woven into some of the songs, most notably Bonny Woodhall, a traditional song of love and war.

The group’s arrangements varied from a solo unaccompanied song (First Day at the Mill) to the full trio, with guitar or cittern and violin, with Judy’s leading voice backed by Jon and Nigel’s vocal backing. Their most innovative arrangement weaves a love poem by Nobel prize-winner Rabindranath Tagore into the fabric of the Richard Thompson song, The Dimming of the Day. It was a great place to end their planned set.

This was such a heartwarming concert, at times both poignant and moving. But it was also amusing, relaxed and natural. The audience seemed to love the performance, and Rare Occasion richly deserved their encore. Let’s hope we see and hear them again soon and in next year’s Fringe.

Ian Bowns

A TELLYFULL OF SONGS - Fred Up

Local musician Fred Rolland has been performing on the Fringe for some 20 years but says this show of TV theme tunes is the first project he and Fred Up partner Paul Harrison can really call their own. It is a brilliant format combining elements of pub quiz with huge doses of nostalgia; on the night I attended, one audience member said it had been like a journey through her whole life!

Fred Up consists of Fred and singer Paul Harrison and they work well together, their harmonies and gutsy guitar playing adding extra verve to these well-known tunes. I say well-known, but it was strange how hard we often found it to pin down which TV show went with which song. As for winning extravagant bonus points by naming the writer of the song, that proved well nigh impossible on some, though not all, occasions.

It has become apparent in writing this that to name the numbers would be to offer massive spoilers. You may rest assured however that you will be transported back to the Sixties and Seventies but also more recent decades as Fred Up helps us appreciate the cracking songs, performers and composers associated with many of our best-loved shows. It is also great to hear some of the songs in full rather than truncated to fit TV credits. With jokes, unexpected rapping and invitations for us to sing along, Fred Up creates a proper party vibe - and all for free! Happily there are two more sessions to enjoy at RedWillow on the 13th and 20th - and don’t forget to shout “More!” as their closing number was just perfect.

Stephanie Billen