Friday, January 29, 2010

‘Light a Candle’ by Forró in the Dark

29 January 2010

Forró in the Dark are a band formed by four New York-based Brazilian ex-pats who have taken forró (“the hip-swiveling, dancefloor-filling, rural party music of Brazil’s northeastern states”) and created from it a cool, modern, urban, infectiously catchy sound. Their album ‘Light a Candle’ is a varied set of songs in a number of languages (including English) which are cheery, upbeat and very danceable. Electric guitar, saxophone and flute are to the fore, accompanied by the ever-present syncopated tingle of the triangle. It’s music with a smile – easy to like if a bit indeterminately ‘international’ rather than distinctively Brazilian. At times Forró in the Dark sound remarkably like the German world music fusionists 17 Hippies (reviewed here in October 2007). Cheer-yourself-up music.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

'Ed Reardon's Week' by Christopher Douglas and Andrew Nickolds

22 January 2010

I was a late convert to the joys of 'Ed Reardon's Week', the wonderful BBC Radio 4 comedy by Christopher Douglas and Andrew Nickolds which has just started its sixth series, but like many late converts I'm now zealously enthusiastic. These thirty minute tales of the life of the eponymous curmudgeonly writer (played by Douglas) and Elgar, his faithful feline companion, are beautifully crafted with a host of subtle literary references and running jokes. Each episode manages to give the impression that nothing has happened while actually carrying the listener through a nicely rounded plot with a satisfying comic twist. I can relate to the local references, being not too far from Berkhamsted, and increasingly to Ed's constant railing against the '12-year-olds' in charge of running the modern world (badly). The show has a great cast including Stephanie Cole, John Fortune, Philip Jackson and Geoffrey Whitehead - though the best character is definitely Ed's literary agent's dippy Sloane Ranger assistant Ping (now played by Barunka O'Shaughnessy). 'Ed Reardon's Week' is currently on Radio 4 on Monday morning's at 11.30 am (and available on iPlayer). And in the best Ed Reardon tradition I'm grateful to Wikipedia for its help in writing this review.

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Friday, January 15, 2010

‘The Life of Lilly’ by Ruth Notman

15 January 2010

As I’ve struggled to get in and out of Eversholt through the severe wintry weather this week, I’ve been keeping my spirits up by listening to the wonderful second album by my favourite young English folk singer, Ruth Notman (reviewed here in February 2007, April 2009 and August 2009). ‘The Life of Lilly’ continues the mix of traditional songs and original compositions that characterised her debut album ‘Threads’. There’s a similar variety of arrangements and moods: I particularly like the beautifully moving title track and the cheeky jollity of ‘Johnny Be Fair’. ‘The Life of Lilly’ is another classy album dominated by Ruth Notman’s gorgeous and distinctive voice. If you haven’t discovered her yet make, it your New Year resolution to do so!

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Lea Singers Christmas Concert

8 January 2009

The Lea Singers Christmas Concert in Harpenden was the perfect way to start our Christmas break. This excellent amateur chamber choir (of just 21 singers) entertained a packed audience with a mixture of carols and Christmas songs from around the world including a fiendish arrangement of 'Jingle Bells' by Ben Parry which shaves a quaver off the length of a bar each time the chorus comes round. This was the first Lea Singers Christmas Concert for the choir's impressive new conductor, James Sherlock, and his enthusiastic contribution, together with the return of the wonderful young tenor soloist, Nicky Spence, made for a light-hearted, cheeky and extremely high-quality performance.

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