Music Reviews

CAVATINA - ED BILLINGHAM CLASSICAL GUITAR RECITAL - Ed Billingham

Virtuoso guitarist Ed Billingham makes welcome return to the Fringe producing a delightful breath of cultural air, sandwiched between the televised finals of Wimbledon men’s and Euro football championships. The acoustic properties of the Burbage Institute are ideal to appreciate the subtleties of solo guitar; however the big leap is to find an artiste who can make the nuances of the instrument come alive. Ed is just the man to engage the audience for an hour of contrasting music showcasing the beauty and versatility of the classical guitar.

Ed kicked off with the emotive and popular film theme by Stanley Meyers, ‘Cavatina’. It was evident after a few bars that we were hearing a master in action.

After the warm up, we heard the ‘Suite Popular Brazilian’ by Heitor Villa-Lobos, originally conceived in 1914, demonstrating in four movements the many sound colours of the instrument. Well into his stride in the recital, Ed’s apparently effortless finger work clearly belies a level of control born of a few thousand hours of practice.

Vivaldi’s ‘ l’estro armonico op3 no9’ is a lovely piece but takes no prisoners; a few wrong notes can derail the whole thing. In the arrangement by John Williams, one of Ed’s heroes, Ed not only kept the flow firmly on track but was firmly in the driving seat, capturing the beautiful melodic slower sections. The last movement is a piece of cleverly constructed baroque writing in which each bar fits like a jigsaw into the next; no safety net for Ed in this one ….as if he ever needed one! Maybe there was an internal sigh of relief at the end, but it didn’t show.

We heard some more familiar melodies in the selection of Grieg Norwegian folk songs lending variety to the programme and an opportunity for Ed to display a few more aspects of finger technique.

With a suite from the Spanish tradition by Albeniz, Ed tastefully demonstrated yet another aspect of the guitar repertoire. On the last movement ‘Sevilla’, a piece often hijacked by cameos designed to evoke the popular tourists’ image of Spain, Ed managed to give it an elevated musical sophistication.

As well as being a skilled interpreter of the guitar's potential, Ed reaches out as an effective communicator and as an ambassador for the instrument. In Ed’s hands the inevitable challenges in playing the guitar become a joyful aspiration for others. He is able to bring out the range of tone and voicing of the guitar as a musical medium for all occasions. I expect he would also be an inspiring teacher. We look forward to looking out for Ed Billington in the future, here at the Fringe and elsewhere on the concert platform or in a chamber setting.

Brian K W Lightowler

MUSIC, ART AND FREEDOM - Trilogy Ensemble - Music + Art Series

Trilogy Ensemble are made up of Amy-Jane Milton (flute), Bethan Griffiths (harp) and Henrietta Hill (viola). All dressed in green and black, they performed two concerts at the Green Man Gallery on Sunday 14th July.

The music was woven together by stories, art and freedom. The first concert was entitled John Bull (inspired by Jeff Perks’s exhibition) and the second Freedom Road (inspired by resident gallery artists). Jeff Perks’s exhibition in collaboration with poet Michael Rosen was on the role of Britain in slavery and more modern British treatment of people of African descent.

Part One began with Wallace Willis's Swing Low Sweet Chariot, the great African- American spiritual song, before moving on to David Lancaster's Before I fall asleep the city… again with sound effects played on the instruments depicting night in a city. The composer was actually present in the audience.

The musicians went on to perform George Gershwin's Summertime (the song from Porgy and Bess was arranged for the trio by Chris Marshall and included a quote from Fur Elise by Beethoven) and Arnold Bax's Elegiac Trio. We learnt how this piece was written in memory of some of Bax’s friends who died in the Irish Easter Rising of 1916.

Rebecca Clarke's Lullaby followed. This piece was originally written for piano and viola but here played on harp and viola. It is based on the Scottish folk song 'I will bid my hear be still'. Clarke, from England, met her future Scottish husband in the United States, during wartime. Part One concluded with Traditional – Wade in the Water. This is an underground rail road song. It contains a map of how to escape slavery in the Southern United States.

Part Two brought us Mel Bonis's Scenes of the Forest. Two movements were performed here: Nocturne and Invocation. The female composer Bonis is from France. Two Debussy works followed. Syrinx was a solo piece for the flute, Syrinx being turned into a reed in Greek Mythology. Debussy's Sonata for Flute, Harp and Viola was a flowing piece of music with a very lively finale.

Next was Geoff Chilton's Three Sketches – Cairn, Spring and Henge. Again the composer was present in the audience. Geoff is also a painter. This piece depicted landscapes in its titles and music. We went on to hear

George Gershwin's I’ve Got Rhythm. Again this was arranged for the trio by Chris Marshall. The viola was plucked rather than bowed.

The concert ended with Miguel del Agula's Submerged. This piece involved playing the instruments in different ways. The flute was deliberately overblown, the harp was distorted and the viola was plucked to imitate a South American 'Charango'. This piece was so beautiful.

The trio are excellent musicians. They perform both happy and sad music so well. They shared the leads between themselves in an easy manner. Bethan had to retune her harp a few times, during the concert. Quite a few people attended both concerts. Quoting a line from I’ve Got Rhythm – 'Who could ask for anything more'.

John Hare

SONGS AND STORIES OF TEXAS - Dimestore Dirtbags

The Dimestore Dirtbags. including Randy Horton, Sarah McConnell and Keith Smitheman, made a welcome return to the Fringe. Following last year’s Susanna and Guy Clark tribute, this year they cast their net wider to bring us a cornucopia of alt-country gems and for good measure added in a few of their own compositions.

It seemed fitting to start with a song titled ‘Songs Of Texas’ by Pat Green and this quickly established the format for their set as interesting and evocative numbers were interspersed with engaging stories. These offered snippets of background information on the alt-country artists whose songs they cover (very welcome as I was unfamiliar with most of them) plus a little bit about the personal history of native Texan Randy and Brit Sarah including how they got together.

Randy’s slow Texan drawl provided the perfect introduction to their collection of songs by the likes of Gary P. Nunn, Hayes Carll, Joe Ely and Susan Gibson, music that effortlessly evoked the world of the American south with its honky tonks, drinking and wide open spaces. There were so many songs packed into the two hour set that it was hard to keep track but I particularly liked the Ray Wylie Hubbard number Drink till I see double, which also gave us a clue as to the origin of Sarah’s Reba McEntire tattoo!

It was great to hear some of their own songs including the darkly humorous Everybody Loves Me When They’re Dying and the Tex Mex-influenced Wives of Pancho Villa.

By this time we were loosened up enough to join in the chorus of Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother and our efforts were rewarded when we were even deemed honorary Texans by the generous Randy.

The band’s down home vocals were most successful in the higher registers and musically they were able to achieve some wonderfully foot-tapping rhythms and a robust sound in the intimate setting of the Green Man’s Workshop Room. The addition this time of the excellent Toby Lyons (formerly of The Colourfield) on lead guitar was especially welcome.

The party atmosphere was infectious but the event also acted as an enticing taster to a wealth of alt-country American music. There is one more chance to catch the band on Sat 20th.

Dan Osborne

HANNAH BRINE WITH CLIVE GREGSON - Hannah Brine

Hannah is one seriously talented lady - singer, songwriter, choral director, and pianist. Accompanied by Clive Gregson on guitar and piano, bringing his extensive five-decade career as a singer/songwriter and record producer into the mix, this was always destined to be a quality performance not to be missed.

Welcomed by Caroline at my favourite Buxton Festival Fringe venue of the Green Man, with its wonderful art gallery setting, Hannah and Clive immediately engaged an audience from Oldham to Oklahoma with their warm and joyful rapport.

Inspired by 60s and 70s folk-pop, Hannah’s pure tone of voice was reminiscent to me of a latter-day Eva Cassidy/ Karen Carpenter, or more contemporary Norah Jones/ Rumer. The foot tapping around me started early with her upbeat opener ‘Let Love Find You’. This was followed by several more original songs including ‘Picture Book’, ‘Goodbye London’, ‘This Little Ship’ and my personal favourite the hypnotic ‘Blue Sky Now’ where Hannah also played piano.

Clive’s solos and amazing guitar skills had me transfixed, particularly when he let rip in their blues cover of ‘Route 66’. There was audience participation with ‘Don’t Dim Your Light’, then a Fleetwood Mac-esque ‘Green Velvet’ inspired by stomps up Lantern Pike, followed by the melodic ‘Spirit of the Singers’. Just when we thought this evening could not get any better the encore of Joni Mitchell’s classic ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ had the audience ‘um-bopping’ along with a final thoroughly deserved standing ovation. This set of original music was sublime from start to finish and I could easily have sat listening to Hannah and Clive all evening.

Think you’ve got Hannah’s genre pigeonholed? Well think again. Hannah’s ‘You and I’ was the biggest selling trance track in the world in 2022. Listen and find more tour dates at www.hannahbrine.uk, and catch Clive’s solo set at Edinburgh Fringe 21 August 2024 www.clivegregson.com. But before that settle in for another glorious performance by Hannah and Clive at Buxton Festival Fringe 20 July 8:30pm to 9:30pm.

Karen Wain-Pimlott

A FAUN, A FANTASY AND AN AFFIRMATION OF FAITH - High Peak Orchestra

Giving us a mixed programme of Scottish fantasies, a somewhat obscure but melodic Prelude by Debussy and a Mendelssohn Symphony the HPO makes its welcome return to the Buxton Fringe.

As always for their performances St John’s Church was full of appreciative concert-goers, and while we enjoy the solo and small band contributions of other fringe musicians, isn’t it great to be in the presence of a large live orchestra?

After the soothing Debussy we were treated to Max Bruch’s music, drawing heavily on Scottish folk music. This was where many of the melodies were familiar and the stand-out performance was by the young soloist, Georgina Bloomfield, a recent graduate of the RNCM. Her spirited confident playing captivated the audience which gave her a standing ovation.

After an interval it was on with the Mendelssohn, Symphony 5 in D minor to be precise. This is an interesting work beginning lively and flowing, becoming back to familiar melodies in the second movement; Allegro vivace, no less. Finishing with two andante movements which were somewhat quieter climaxes than one might expect to finish a symphony.

The audience loved the whole show and we eagerly await the HPO’s next return to Buxton.

Brian Kirman

AS I WALKED OUT... - ARKangel

The musical duo ARKangel, no stranger to the Fringe, reprised their recital, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, in the intimate setting of The Pump Room. A companion piece to their Cider with Rosie (performed on July 12th), it’s inspired by Laurie Lee’s account, in the second volume of his lyrical autobiography, of his epic teenage walk from his Cotswold home into the crucible of the Spanish Civil War. The story was told through the music of violin, voice and guitar, with well chosen and told extracts and summaries from the book.

As the thread of Laurie Lee’s narrative was followed through the evening, we were taken on a musical journey in the company of composers Vaughan Williams, John Ireland, Manuel de Falla, Rodrigo and Lorca, along with some traditional English and Spanish songs. The well-crafted programme of twenty items moved nimbly, never dragging, often leaving us wanting more; spoken word and carefully chosen music always in the service of one another. Our violinist and singer’s occasional personal reflections on her knowledge of Spain were welcome and illuminating. The passion and (quite frequently) plaintiveness of the music beautifully reflected the themes of adventure, loss and the futility of war which we find in Lee’s book as it follows our author, dreamer and violinist, from his rural home in Gloucestershire, through the harsh deprivations of the road, and from teenage naivety to the harsher realities of a Spain sinking into bloody civil war. The recital was evidently enjoyed by the near capacity audience, some of whom, like me, would have been drawn by the literary connections, others by the musical.

The Pump Room is a lovely venue, architecturally and acoustically, for an intimate recital of this kind, but I did find myself, seated half way back from the performers, wishing I could see both of them: while our violinist and narrator was visible throughout, our guitarist was lost to us from the moment he sat down. A small demountable stage would, for me, have been a welcome addition. I would also have loved the musicians to introduce themselves by name – their names appear in none of their publicity – so as to give them the full credit they deserve.

This was a well-conceived and beautifully performed programme; do look out for ARKangel at next year’s Fringe, when they promise to be back with a new themed recital to delight us!

Simon White

JAZZ BLUES LIVE LOUNGE - Sideways Band

I didn’t really think that I’d be sat singing along to a chorus of “Dead badger in the middle of the road” on Saturday evening – but that’s the Fringe for you. I was at the Jazz Blues Live Lounge, a well picked location in the panelled room at the Leewood Hotel.

A small but enthusiastic audience – some of whom had travelled quite a distance to specifically see Sideways Band. The duo are based in Dorset, but have a long association with Buxton. Peter Buxton takes guitar and vocals – and most of the chat between songs, while Richard Smith expertly plays the harmonica; well, quite a few harmonicas as it turns out.

Peter tells us upfront that they don’t have a set playlist for a show, but they adapt and play what they think each particular audience will like reflecting mood, response and creating a bond with their audience. T’s mostly covers – and very much their own twist on them as well as a few of their own compositions: including the Dead Badger number (inspired by Loudon Wainwright III’s ‘Dead Skunk’). Audiences were welcome to join in with familiar choruses.

This performance started with ‘Deep River Blues’, moved into ‘Drift Away’. We were treated to a range of styles from jazz, blues and folk style pieces including jazz standards such as ‘Autumn Leaves’ Lindisfarne’s ‘Meet me on the Corner’ which segue into Ralph McTell’s ‘Streets of London’. I enjoyed the old numbers such as ‘Ain’t Misbehaving’ and ‘Custard Pie Blues.’ As well as their own writing including a lovely piece about coming home. There were different tempos and the two musicians clearly worked brilliantly together; relaxed, confident and comfortable.

Personally, I didn’t really need a 20 minute interval in a 90 minute show, but getting to chat with Peter and Richard at the interval was clearly part of the charm. And it did give me a fascinating opportunity to talk to Richard about his harmonicas. He had a case of nearly thirty, and it turns out he invented wireless electric harmonica – the range of different harmonicas provides different keys meaning he is able to adapt to different music and singers to fit perfectly with whoever his is playing with.

The Jazz Blues Live Lounge, with Sideways Band is the perfect gig to mellow away 90 minutes. It’s a bit like sitting in your front room with some old friends, who just happen to be talented musicians as well. Grab a drink (the Leewood will serve you teas and coffees as well as the bar), pull up a chair. And make sure you sneak a peek at Richard’s box of harmonicas.

Maria Carnegie

GRACE TOUR - Joe Bayliss

It was an intimate gig at the Green Man Gallery where Joe Bayliss the singer and song writer performed songs from his forth coming album Grace, as well as some from his back catalogue.

The songs covered themes of love and loss and were introduced by Joe, who shared some of the tough life moments that inspired these songs. The very personal nature of the lyrics could not help but touch emotions we all share.

If I say his work has been described as ‘somewhere between John Martyn and Damien Rice’, you I hope will be able to imagine the soft melodies and singing that Joe performs. Songs that speak to deep emotions with their considered lyrics. All superbly supported by Mike Seal on his upright bass and reluctantly tuned banjo.

There is another chance to catch Joe and Mike next Friday 19th July, don’t miss this – a great way to start the final weekend of the Fringe.

Sarah Wilks

CLASSICAL GUITAR JONATHAN PRAG - Jonathan Prag Classical Guitar

He might be billed as a classical guitarist, but Jon Prag offers his audience far more than a familiar routine of well-worn favourites.

His concert at the United Reformed Church started with JS Bach, but quickly moved on to an eclectic programme that took us on a journey from Ireland to Latin America, via Greece, Brazil and Armenia – with an encore featuring a Billie Holiday number by jazz pianist Mal Waldron.

The intimate setting, great acoustics – and comfortable seats – at the URC are ideal for this kind of recital: close enough to allow the audience to see each skilled movement of the guitarist’s hands and appreciate his mastery, as well as enjoying the mellow tones of his music.

Jon links his pieces with a commentary that adds a fresh level of interest... The strains of Bach’s Prelude No. 1 in C major are certainly familiar, but I didn’t realise this piece had inspired other musicians from Julian Lloyd Webber to Procol Harum.

Next up are two pieces by Celtic harpist Turlough O’Carolan, followed by a 'Lobos sandwich': two preludes by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos either side of Cole Porter’s Begin the Beguine.

Jon is a veteran player and a regular at both Buxton and Edinburgh Fringes, but he is still exploring his art. He chose our performance to experiment with the use of a capo (guitar clamp) for Paco Pena’s flamenco-style Herencia Latina: 'This is the first time I’ve ever used this in a concert!' he revealed – not that anyone would have guessed.

Jon is certainly worth seeing and there are more chances over the next couple of weeks. He is performing at the URC, 1.05pm, on July 13, 14, 19, 20 & 21.

Lesley Caddy

MUSIC & MYTH (LEGENDS FROM THE CELTIC ISLES) - Jon Pickard (Harp-Guitar)

It was a pleasure to meet and hear Jon Pickard play his two harp guitars. He is gentle and personable with such enthusiasm for his instruments and the skill to get the best out of them.

These are instruments that I had heard of but never seen, nor had anyone else in the audience. But what wonderful instruments they are. They have such an incredible range of sounds, the harp strings extending those normally available on a guitar both higher and lower.

Jon started his performance by introducing us to his instruments, how they worked and how they had come about, thus satisfying our curiosity about them. After that he gave us a bit of his background. He was originally a classical guitarist and this is evident in his playing and compositions. He hails from rural countryside near Glastonbury, which is quiet and peaceful, not loud, noisy and crowded like the large festival famously held in the area. Wandering through the fields and trees enhances his awareness of the magic of the natural world around him, which has spurred his interest in myths and legends of areas around these isles. The tranquillity of his area is echoed in his work.

The inclusion of the harp strings allows a wider range of sounds than a standard classical guitar and a further depth of sound and therefore also another dimension to his compositions over those normally available to classical guitarist. It also requires a greater amount of dexterity and I certainly appreciated his mastery of his instruments. The second of his harp guitars was fretless which allows for moving away from classical playing to provide additional moods .

I often like to keep my eyes closed when I listen to music but the accompanying images on the screen, enhanced rather than distracted and I found myself compelled to keep them open. They reflected the stories told and gave a completeness to the music. At one time during the fiery tale, there was some unintentional throbbing pink lights coming through the side windows from outside which seemed most appropriate, but that was purely serendipitous and unlikely to happen again.

Jon Pickard is performing two different sets of music on his harp guitars. One in his evening performances and one in his daytime performances. I enjoyed his evening set and am only sorry that I will not be able to attend one of his afternoon performances this year as well.

Carolyn Page

RIK ROBERTS: THE MOUNTAIN BANJO SHOW - Rik Roberts

A banjo solo recital is, as Rik Roberts pointed out to his audience, not something you go to every day. Rik Roberts is obviously a banjo evangelist, keen to spread the good news that the banjo is the most excellent of instruments, versatile and evocative, with a complex history that is woven into the music it makes. Rik himself is a talented musician, playing not only the banjo but electric, classical and acoustic guitar as well as the ukulele.

The audience were taken on a journey of the history of the banjo from its African roots to spreading around the world with Bluegrass and Celtic tunes. We were introduced to the different techniques of playing – claw hammer and plucking and to different types of the instrument. Rik chose tunes and songs that showed how flexible a banjo is and the different variety of sounds and tone it can produce. Including one of his own compositions, inspired by a regular bike ride in the Covid times.

He also chose songs for the audience to join along to and encouraged some gentle and tuneful participation to such tunes as Dirty Old Town.

Jerry Garcia described the banjo sound as "a river of pearls". ‘It can sound like a gentle, flowing stream... or a hive of buzzing bees that you're trying to swat away from your ears with your hand’. I am glad to say the tunes and songs played by Rik never made me feel like doing any swatting, in fact I might even pick up the banjo that has sat neglected in the corner of our back room again.

Sarah Wilks

GHOSTS - Egriega Ensemble

The Egriega Ensemble is Timm Johnson on guitar, Laurence Stanley on violin and, centre stage, Egriega himself on guitar and banjo and in fine voice. There was also an empty chair on the stage, beneath the stained glass windows. A hint was given that previously it would have been filled by another member of the ensemble, now possibly lost.

A pervading sense of loss suffused the whole hour. The show is called ‘Ghosts …are somebody’s memories’ and the evening’s songs summoned spirits of people, places and times now gone or out of reach. The ghosts in turn responded to the call, making their presence felt in between and even during the melodies.

Memories are inseparable from loss (there is, after all, no need for us to remember something we still have) but the act of recall need not be unhappy. This was not a nostalgic hour, there was no rosy glow of air-brushed memory. Nor was it a wholly melancholy one. But something shifting and elusive in between.

The music set the tone immediately as Stanley drew a smokey, sombre refrain from his violin that Maigret might have found familiar. The violin provided a mellow counterpoint to the two guitars for the rest of the hour. If I could have one wish, I would have liked to have heard more of the violin and banjo.

Egriega sensibly made no real attempt to explain his memories. They were simply presented to us and it was for us to accept them or not.

The songs - with their ghosts - speak for themselves.

Anna Girolami

CHAMBER MUSIC FOR MIXED ENSEMBLES - Cheshire Chamber Collective

The Spring Bank Arts Centre in New Mills provides an ideal acoustic space for the 10 musicians under the banner of ‘Cheshire Chamber Collective’. The natural resonance of the venue, formerly a chapel, effectively enhances the clarity and tone of the musical instruments producing tonight’s programme.

The concert opened with a quartet by the somewhat neglected composer Ferdinand Ries, following the conventions of the German classical period the arrangement incorporates some ingenious passages for each player to shine. The principal themes on the flute were fluently played by Anne Shipton with a resonant and even tone throughout the instrument’s range. Some tricky passages deftly negotiated by Nicola Bright (violin), Adrienne Spilsby (viola) and Anna Cowham (cello)

Next a change of line up to the wind quintet presenting a well balanced version of Elgar’s Chanson de Matin. Anne Shipton joined by Paul Brimicombe (clarinet), Lindsay Kershaw (oboe) Jen Ward (French horn) and Alex Kane (bassoon). They went on to play a piece by Danzi of the late classical era, a busy movement from a bigger work in which all the parts contributed catchy melodies and counter melodies. The group managed to achieve a crisp and light feel to the piece. Notable in this respect was the French Horn and bassoon imparting a dancing feel to the work.

A suite of Romanian dances before the interval provided a characteristic Bartok set. Cheery melodic interplay between Lindsay Kershaw (oboe) and Paul Brimicombe (clarinet) in the 2nd movement contrast the mournful air from Anne Shipton on piccolo.

Six Studies based on English Folk Song themes by Vaughan Williams were an ideal vehicle for Lindsay Kershaw to demonstrate the rich rounded voice of the cor anglais and beautifully played melodies. In the middle movements a lovely contrast by Nicola Bright, Susan Harris (violins) and Anna Cowham (cello) producing a warm hollow wood tone with their mutes in place.

The nonet published in the 1920s by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu could be described as virtuosic for each and all players. For this piece the adept double bassist Jonathan Thackery joined the group for the cleverly arranged piece, this time conducted by Susan Harris. There were highlights and tricky passages in all the parts and the overall effect was breathtaking.

The finale piece in the concert was an arrangement by Adrienne Spilsby (violist in the ensemble) of a medley of Astor Piazzolla’s popular numbers Oblivion and Libertango. The voicing successfully captured the essence of the ‘Neuvo tango’ genre and the 10 piece ensemble had plenty of lift and Argentinian authenticity, including subtle touches from the atmospheric tango orchestral bowing to Nicola’s percussive ‘chicharra’ scraping behind the bridge.

The members of the Collective are all musicians of high achievement, most having studied music formally in college and 6 of the 10 pursuing music related careers. The musicality on display this evening was magnificent and the pieces arranged for sub-sets of the group and all ten players in ensemble was a delight. There were no passengers in this group and it would be impossible, indeed unfair to single out one person for special commendation. All the arrangements provided the opportunity to each and every player to be a soloist and the group together melded into a total blend of virtuosity.

The Cheshire Chamber Collective are regular contributors to the Fringe and I expect to see them again next year.

Brian Lightowler

THIS ISN’T GOING TO HURT - Dr Stuart Bootle

At the start of his sold-out, one-off performance, pianist, singer and one-time GP Dr Stuart Bootle joked in reference to the title of his show that he couldn’t guarantee 'it wasn’t going to hurt'.

In fact the evening proved immensely therapeutic from the start with Stuart kicking off with a pleasing rendition of the Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald song Summertime, encouraging us all to join in so as to take advantage of the medically proven benefits of singing as a group. As he put in endearingly: 'Music brings us together and that’s what the Fringe has done'.

There were further opportunities to sing along with popular choices such as Elton John’s Rocket Man which sounded particularly otherworldly thanks to a combination of Stuart’s expert piano pedal action and the glorious acoustic of the Green Man Gallery. It was also good to join him for a tender rendition of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart.

As well as enjoying a rapport with a supportive audience that included ex-GP friends of his, Stuart was joined on stage at times by fellow musicians from Responsibly Sauced, the four-piece group of which he is a member and which is also performing at the Green Man. This added to the variety of the evening and they certainly made a wonderful sound together with singer/guitarist Will Hawthorne also providing an excellent solo.

A major component of his show was Stuart’s medical anecdotes and at one point 'Little Lisa' from Harrogate came up out of the audience to give us her tragi-comic tales of CPR. While there was much to laugh at in Stuart’s tales of Young Ones’ style student living and never-washed hospital white coats that made them all look like butchers, the show also addressed Stuart’s struggles with diabetes. He even gave us a song he had written on this subject: 'Why did you stay with me? Why don’t you set me free?' If it sounded like a relationship song then that’s because in some ways it was with Stuart showing how he had learnt some self-compassion and had found a way to reconcile himself to a life-long condition.

At the end of the evening Stuart sang Lou Reed’s Perfect Day and Abba’s Thank You For the Music. It was an emotional climax to a truly pleasurable evening. Thank you indeed for the music, Stuart.

Stephanie Billen

WINE, WOMEN & SONG - The Wye

The Wye are primarily three singers of harmony – Danielle Banks, Kate Latham and Emma O’Brien. Accompaniment was mainly by Danielle’s guitar, sometimes supplemented by Emma’s guitar, percussion or shruti box playing – always tasteful, but not the focus of attention, which remained the three voices throughout.

After a small technical issue at the start, the trio performed no fewer than sixteen songs in just over an hour, mainly covers of very well-known songs – classics covering around sixty years of writing. Their individual voices offer different timbres yet blend together beautifully on the extensive harmony sections. Their phrasing was very musical and tight when they meant it to be, freer when appropriate. Arrangements were creative, though very accessible.

Two of Danielle’s own songs, Amsterdam and Running Free, did not seem out of place, reflecting her strong writing and delivery.

A particularly lovely moment was when they stepped in front of the amplification to perform Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You – a nod to the wine theme. The theme was fairly loose, particularly in relation to wine, which Emma confessed not to like.

The hour was a hugely enjoyable trip through some beautifully sung, familiar songs, and the audience clearly enjoyed every single one. The evening finished with their final song, and then another.

The versatile Will Hawthorne ably managed the sound.

This was the only opportunity to hear this performance by the group in this year’s Fringe, though The Wye have a Club Acoustic Showcase event on the evening of 31st July in Buxton Working Men’s Club.

The Wye are also involved in The Rough and Rowdy Collective, who perform Rough and Rowdy Days Live on 20th July (7.30pm) in the High Peak Bookstore and Café.

Ian Bowns

ROUGH AND ROWDY DAYS - LIVE - The Rough and Rowdy Collective

An enthusiastic and talented collective of three musicians and a poet brought this evening's audience a smorgasbord of classics from the music-defining decades of the sixties and the seventies. The music, delivered in a variety of highly successful formats, was interspersed with Alan's storytelling as he used his beautiful and reflective poetry to pay a rich tribute to his (and without doubt our!) musical heroes. Alan linked the music superbly with his personal narrative throughout the performance to provide the audience with a smooth transition from one decade to the other.

The audience were rewarded throughout the evening with a musical journey which couldn't fail to invoke deep and personal memories as they listened to the musicians work together and individually. Delivering superb cover versions of the songs which we grew up listening to, Will's incredible acoustic guitar renditions, Emma's rich and soulful vocals and Michael's keyboard interpretations quickly brought the audience together in appreciation. The musicians gave excellent performances of musical tracks which audiences may suspect could only be performed by the heavies of the rock scene. Absolutely not the case for The Rough and Rowdy Collective.

The High Peak is very lucky to be able to showcase this local talent and this show comes highly recommended to all those who love and admire the music of those two amazing musical decades. The next performance is at The High Peak Bookstore and Cafe on Saturday 20th July at 7.30pm. Don't miss it!!

Julie Alexander

ALL ABOARD FOR THE 'BIG BAND SPECIAL' - High Peak Big Band

The Fringe is indeed privileged to host the spectacular 19-piece High Peak Big Band and an appreciative crowd settled in to relish their glitzy performance in the comfortable surroundings of the Conservative Club.

Experienced conductor, pianist and host Brian Lightowler offered knowledgeable introductions to every number and we were treated to powerful renditions of favourites from musical theatre and the heyday of showbands with many of the band’s musicians offering exciting solos. Among the evening’s many highspots were singer Jules M Scott wowing us with her silky voice and tear-jerking rendition of The Folks Who Live on the Hill, the 1937 song composed by Jerome Kern with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and singer Julia Peacock, resplendent in Fringe orange, offering us an equally assured version of the finger-clicking Peggy Lee hit, Fever.

The band delivered on its promise to present jazz, swing, Latin and more and its swing numbers proved so irresistibly swinging that Emma and Casey Brayndick, visiting dancers and Fringe performers from Chicago’s On The Spot troupe, got up and gave us their East Coast Swing moves on the small dance floor. It was fun and particularly Fringey to see this happening during the Nat King Cole number Orange Colored Sky!

Regular attendees will know what to expect from this much-loved band by now but in fact there are always surprises with the evening also featuring the singing debut of trombonist Peter Boxall who had no problem offering a charisma-filled rendition of the Frank Sinatra classic You Make Me Feel So Young as well as duetting with Jules for Nat King Cole’s Straighten Up and Fly Right.

The evening sped by and far from tiring, the band got better and better, their whole performance leaving me walking home with a spring in my step.

Stephanie Billen

GOLDEN TREASURES - Basin Street Jazz & Blues

If you're looking for a chilled evening listening to timeless jazz and poignant blues, look no further than Basin Street where you will be transported to jazz and blues heaven. The band consists of Mike Dale on sax, clarinet and flute, Adrian Sherwood on upright electric bass, Brian Lightowler on keyboard and accordion, as well as Jules M Scott with her angelic voice - she is truly a golden treasure. These insanely talented jazz musicians will take you on a journey in which you will experience the unlimited possibilities of music. They showcased a range of songs from as early as the 1920s to as recent as 2009. There was a variety of Brazilian, Latin American, North American and more, including some French music to make you feel as if you were in a jazz club in Paris. They also played a piece written by Mike Dale himself which was wonderful.

This incredible band is no stranger to the Fringe, having performed here for the last 10 years, so you can expect a first class show with an exceptional ambiance. There was a great intimacy about the performance which was admired by all members of the audience who were left begging for more. The heartfelt nature of the jazz and blues they play will certainly leave you feeling moved and filled with a mountain of emotions. Don't miss their next show on the 16th!

Alice Tolley

SUMER IS ICUMEN IN - Mr Simpson's Little Consort

Summer may only tentatively be making an appearance this year, but we’re not quite ready to put on thick coats, scarves and woolly hats to go out carol singing! However, as we found out today, Carols are not just for Christmas, but a form of celebratory music making for all festive times of year.

Mr Simpson’s Little Consort, a trio of musicians, specialising in early music from Buckingham, take their name from the 17th century virtuoso viol player and composer, Christopher Simpson. This is the first programme they have conceived without viols. Instead, we were treated to the delights of recorders, gems horn, bells, glockenspiel and crumhorns with singing. Cate McKee – true to her listing in the programme: ‘sings like an angel’ - taking the melody, supported by vocal and instrumental harmonies from Sue Snell and Piers Snell.

The ensemble had been invited to explore Mediaeval carols by their local historical society and they were keen to share their investigations in their ninth Fringe visit to Eyam. Previous award-winning visits have included venues in Buxton.

The selection of 16 carols were introduced with informative nuggets of historical perspective and interspersed with readings of poems by the Persian poet Rumi.

We were reminded that Mediaeval carols had been in the charts with Steeleye Span’s version of 'Gaudete' in 1973 and 'In dulci jubilo' from Mike Oldfield.

The hidden Catholic meanings in 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' were explained and we found out about the origin of raising a toast with 'The Goucestershire Wassail'.

Also included was the Castleton Carol, 'Down in yon forest'. Interestingly, early carols often shared similar words to different tunes – much as the continuing tradition of local pub carols in Derbyshire and South Yorkshire.

Sue gave a very enlightening talk supported with slides about the instruments used in the Mediaeval period and the move to Renaissance.

The last piece was a joyful rendition with crumhorns of Henry VII’s 'Pastime with good company' extolling the value of friendship – a true celebration of carols, whether sung at Yuletide or in July.

This was an enlightening event delivered by accomplished performers keen to share their extensive knowledge and love of this music.

Carol Bowns

DANCING ABOUT ARCHITECTURE - Ian Bowns

When once asked to speak about his songs, Elvis Costello said that talking about music was like dancing about architecture. You can see what he is getting at, but Ian Bowns doesn’t completely agree, arguing that particularly in the folk world there are things you can say about a song that can enrich the experience of hearing them.

Ian’s knowledge of folk songs seems encyclopaedic, as you may recall from his Song a Day during the lockdown Fringe of 2020, so in a move which he claims is to stop himself getting too carried away, he has put the information on a screen which displays alongside him as he plays. It’s a smart idea which allows us into the background of the songs, while we get to hear plenty of great music.

The selection of songs is wide ranging; from traditional songs collected over 100 years ago to some written very recently, from South Yorkshire to the South Atlantic, and coal mines to scuttled ships. The opener, ‘Things to Say’ by Ray Hearne was a tone setter, reflecting the strong messages and stories in the folk songs to come. Early in the show came a couple of traditional songs collected many years before including ‘Lovely Joan’, a fun story about an arrogant man trying to seduce a woman who rather gets the better of him, and ‘Geordie’, Ian’s version being a variation on the many different collected variants, some with happier endings than others!

A highlight was the wonderful ‘Wee Pot Stove’ written by Harry Robertson, a ship engineer for the Norwegian Whaling Company in South Georgia. Ian played a recording of Harry talking about home brew, singing and punch-ups on boats 'safely anchored ten abreast' and a treat of fresh penguin eggs – they knew how to make their own fun! A lovely song and great pictures of the boats in harbour against snow covered mountains.

Ian is an accomplished performer and an excellent guitarist with a real feel for the material, particularly on a run of songs set around the World Wars of the 20th Century, especially Kris Drever’s Scapa Flow 1919, which featured not one but two guitar capos for the afficionados!

We closed on the gorgeous Thrift by Spellsongs, based on a poem by Robert Macfarlane, read beautifully by Ian’s wife, Carol, who had worked the tech for the evening. A thoroughly rewarding evening with another show to come on Thursday 11th.

Stephen Walker

BACK WITH MORE FAVOURITES - VociVoices

VociVoces are comprised of Elizabeth Ambrose and Margaret Ferguson (soprano), Eric Cymbir (tenor) and David Cane (baritone), four singers clearly very at home with singing together as this charming evening shows.

‘Back with more favourites …’ covers a wide range of musical styles, with sections devoted to musical theatre, sacred music, Gilbert & Sullivan, opera and operetta. Sometimes in this kind of concert, there’s a temptation for the singers just to do their party piece, with the result that the repertoire can feel unbalanced. This programme was skillfully constructed, creating a very satisfying whole to which all four singers contributed equally.

The arrangements of the songs were all tunefully delivered by these experienced singers. I particularly enjoyed the short trip around the British Isles, with touching renditions of songs from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. The singers were also skillfully and sensitively accompanied by Jonathan Ellis on the piano.

At times – especially in the solo numbers – I’d have preferred it if the singers were less wedded to the sheet music than they were – their downcast eyes meant at times they weren’t relating to the audience as much as they might. The exception to this was the effervescent Margaret Ferguson who was constantly engaging, especially in her solo rendition of ‘Je Veux Vivre’ from Gounod’s Romeo e Juliette, delivered without sheet music.

When I was growing up, my mum, a trained opera singer, used to sing in a similar group to this one, so I found the affectionate sound of these singers performing together very nostalgic. Even without that personal association, this concert was still a relaxing oasis in a busy world.

Robbie Carnegie

CHARLIE MORITZ - OF SHOES AND SHIPS AND SEALING WAX - Charlie Moritz

The Green Man Gallery is a great location of music, and the setting worked well for Charlie Moritz; a singer-songwriter who provided a warm, comfortable, easy hour of music. Generally Charlie expertly accompanied himself on the guitar. For some pieces, rather than playing his guitar, Charlie was accompanied by the equally talented Stuart Bootle on the piano, and he also sung acapella.

There was a nicely judged blend of covers – including the familiar Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’ and the (probably) less familiar ‘Lady Franklin’s Lament’, a broadside ballad from around 1850.

Charlie talked comfortably about his work and the origins of some of the songs. His inclusive style made you feel part of a conversation, rather than being lectured at. There was opportunity and encouragement for some gentle audience participation to join in on a chorus of a reworked version of an old nursey rhyme ‘The Man of Double Deed’. Don’t worry if you’ve not heard of this nursery rhyme; as Charlie explained, it has its origins in the late 1700s, first written down in a collection called Gammer Gurton’s Garland.

I really enjoyed Charlie’s own pieces, whether it was a poem he’d set to music or songs he’d written and composed. The two that especially stood out to me were Clomping Boots – simply inspired by the sound of footwear had a really catchy feel to it, and his last piece which was a new song that captured some family history; Charlie’s two grandfathers fought on opposite sides in World War One – I thought this one excellent, thoughtful and real. I would have welcomed hearing more of Charlie's own material.

Charlie Moritz is on again on Friday 19th July. (and you can also catch Stuart Bootle in two different shows at The Green Man Gallery). If you’d like a gentle hour with a talented singer-songwriter who is sharing a blend of folk, traditional and Americana singer-songwriter pieces – this is very much for you.

Maria Carnegie

ELEMENTS - Adrian Lord

Composer and pianist Adrian Lord has become a regular and welcome visitor to Buxton Fringe over the years, and it is a particular treat to hear him play his own compositions on the wonderful Broadwood Grand Piano in the United Reform Church. It is a piano with particular meaning for the Fringe since former Chair, the much-missed Keith Savage, had led the efforts to have it restored.

Lord has released a number of albums and alongside them has produced accompanying books of sheet music. In response to those looking for music that is less complex to learn he has put together a new selection featuring two brand new compositions and a selection of more straightforward pieces from his previous albums. This concert was arranged around that new album and piano book, Elements, and we were treated to a selection of music that must be so rewarding to learn and play.

There was a stirring start with ‘Discovery’ featuring dramatic building tension overlaid with a piercing but simple melody, followed by ‘Shimmer’, one of those brand new pieces that was being performed for the very first time – a premiere for the Buxton Fringe! The memorable ‘Sky Blue’, a favourite of mine from the eponymous Sky Blue Piano album evoked big skies and hopeful possibilities.

Lord is a gracious presence (with great taste in shirts!) and puts the audience at ease with his simple introductions and music that is great at setting a mood, often with a hopeful optimistic feel. He can also paint pictures with his music, particularly in ‘The Misty Isle’ inspired by Scarba, an island in the Inner Hebrides.

I can’t think of a more pleasant way to spend an hour during this hectic Festival season, but unfortunately this was his only appearance at this year’s Fringe. Hopefully, we’ll see him again next year.

Stephen Walker

RESPONSIBLY SAUCED (ALMOST) UNPLUGGED - Responsibly Sauced

Amid a sea of talent from across the UK and beyond, Buxton’s Responsibly Sauced delivered a rousing introduction to the local music scene at the Green Man Gallery.

The band, made up of four seasoned musicians, rolled out an eclectic mix of songs: some well-known hits, others self-penned.

Elvis’ Little Sister got the first set rocking, followed by Sheryl Crow’s Winding Road. Numbers by the Beatles, Stones, Dylan and Tom Petty rolled up the tempo, with entertaining and distinctive takes on classics including Stuck In The Middle – complete with audience participation – and that new local favourite Werewolves of Buxton!

But one of the highlights was Bigger Gun, written by accomplished lead vocalist/guitarist Will Hawthorne: great words, great tune and great rhythm too. Will is the front man, engaging with the audience between numbers. Bassist Adrian Sherwood also took the lead in a couple of numbers. The band is completed by Stuart Bootle on keyboard and Eric Culbert providing the beat on electronic cajon.

All four are also performing as part of other acts during this year’s Fringe, but they work brilliantly together – and the Green Man Gallery is the ideal place to see them, with its intimate stage and good acoustics. The venue also boasts a sprung dance floor – unfortunately ruled out of bounds because it supports displays of local paintings and ceramics. But the audience made up for it by dancing in their seats.

The gig was a sell-out, but there’s another chance to see the band on July 15. Highly recommended.

Lesley Caddy

CHRIS MILNER - JOURNEYMAN - Chris Milner

Journeyman Chris Milner has spent more than three decades performing to music fans around the globe, and that experience promises a treat for those who catch him in his third year at Buxton Fringe.

The Yorkshireman takes his audience on a gentle stroll through his life and influences... from the Leonard Cohen song that changed his take on folk music, to his first guitar, his travels and his family.

Chris – one of the folk scene’s leading singer/songwriters – has a knack of engaging his audience and drawing them into his world as he weaves his way through songs and stories with easy charisma and irresistible humour. His mellow tones and thoughtful lyrics bring it all to life with effortless appeal.

A carefully collated range of contemporary folk songs, many self-penned, is interwoven with tales, while banter with the audience gives the evening an appealing intimacy... 'You forgot to remind me to plug in the guitar!'... 'Don’t mention the word Harrogate in Buxton!'... and, while retuning his guitar on stage: 'I do that on purpose so you can see that I’m a proper folk singer!'

There’s no question about that. Chris’s travels have taken him from his native Bradford to Chester-le-Street County Durham, London and the Isle of Wight, as well as further afield to Turkey and Kenya, and he has written songs about them all. Family is a big influence too: with more songs influenced by both his daughters and his wife.

Chris is currently embarking on a new musical collaboration, with the promise that he’ll be back in Buxton next year... if not before.

Lesley Caddy

POP STAR OF THE CENTURY - Johnny Dysfunctional / Doll's House

I don’t think the makers of this show will mind when I say this is a very strange, silly show indeed. In fact, I imagine they’ll embrace that description.

Buxton singer Johnny Dysfunctional presents his personal tribute to some of the most iconic (and largely deceased) singers of all time. Aided by DJ Baz playing backing tracks, Johnny takes to the stage, performing as a series of different singers, from Elvis Presley to Amy Winehouse, from Elton John to Agnetha from ABBA, from Neil Diamond to Frankie Valli, and many other points in between. This involves chaotic costume changes and – the show’s most bizarre feature, Johnny wearing cardboard masks of each of the singers he’s representing.

There’s something surreal and slightly creepy about having the sightless eyes of a mask gazing out at you, the expression fixed and unchanging. It’s a very odd idea, but the friendly enthusiastic Buxton audience lapped it up. The main reason for this is that for all the shambolic eccentricity of the show, Johnny can actually sing and his renditions are always tuneful and accurate. A bit like Les Dawson playing the piano, you need to be good to carry off something so unusual.

At the end of the show the audience votes on their favourite from the line-up we’ve witnessed, and in a Mike Yarwood-esque ‘and this is the real me’ moment, Johnny finally appears as himself to the applause of the delighted crowd.

It’s a silly show, indeed, but strangely irresistible.

Robbie Carnegie

REFLECTIONS IN SONG - Danielle Banks & Ian Cleverdon

This one-off performance by two singer-songwriters featuring their own compositions was a great way to start this year’s Fringe at the Green Man Gallery. They met on a songwriting workshop and compositions relating to workshops and workshop exercises featured prominently. The varied stories behind the songs reflected the source material (personal experience, friends, mining etc), as well as the tricks of the trade. Most were written by Danielle or Ian alone, though there were a couple of contributions from others, notably on Kindness and Potholes. They’ve produced a good range of lyrics and music, resulting in a strong set of songs, with more variety than many singer songwriters and a good few memorable hooks.

The decision to be truly unplugged made the most of the Green Man Gallery’s acoustic, and the two strong voices and varied instrumentation. The use of several guitars, tunings and voicings, and the judicious use of a little harmony vocals added tastefully to the mood of each song. Ian’s mandolin on Danielle’s Lost Without You, provided further variety, with a beautiful instrumental break in the middle. Each performed one of their songs solo, Ian’s Blue Scar and Danielle’s Running Free, adding further variety. It’s also great to hear every word of every song, even though we were towards the back.

The ten-song set was well paced, starting with an upbeat opener, to the last song – their 'hit' - Potholes. If you haven’t heard it, try a well-known search engine.

All in all, an excellent and assured start to the Green Man Gallery’s musical contribution to the Fringe. Only the Fringe’s tight time constraints precluded an encore – the audience clearly enjoyed the performance. The only problem is that it was the only opportunity to hear this combination at this year’s Fringe.

Ian Bowns