Monday, July 30, 2018

WOMAD 2018

30 July 2018

This year’s WOMAD Festival at Charlton Park in Wiltshire had mixed weather but the threatened torrential downpours failed to materialise and we only had a little light rain on Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. The music was eclectic as ever. My personal highlights, from the 17 full performances I saw, included gentle acoustic songs from Estonian singer Mari Kalkun, the pan-American female quartet LADAMA (from Columbia, Brazil, Venezuela and the USA) and a long-overdue opportunity to see the wonderful Amparo Sanchez and her band Amparanoia. This was a WOMAD for catching up with artists I have enjoyed listening to for years but never before had the chance to see perform live. French vocal gymnast Camille (reviewed here in May 2008) proved as impressive, bizarre and compelling as I had hoped, with a stunning show on the main Open Air Stage on Saturday evening, featuring some great dancing. And the young, female, a cappella, Finnish folk hop quartet Tuuletar (reviewed here in January 2017 when I compared them to Camille) were stunning live performers as well as being hilarious and charming in their appearance at the Taste the World stage (where they demonstrated how to make traditional Karelian pie). But my favourite performance of WOMAD 2018 was the Bollywood Brass Band with the South Indian violinist Jyotsna Srikanth. I loved Sarha Moore and Kay Charlton’s new soundtrack for the finale of the amazing 1948 film 'Chandralekha’ which the band performed live with the film on Saturday afternoon. It starts with the epic scene where 400 dancers perform on top of enormous drums: suddenly the drums open up to reveal armies of soldiers who attack the stronghold – it’s an incredible spectacle. Then the Bollywood Brass Band played their new four-movement  ‘Carnatic Suite: A Day In Bangalore’, composed with Jyotsna Srikanth and featuring the amazing South Indian percussionist and vocalist RN Prakash. It was a great performance from a really enjoyable festival. You can see a selection of my photos from WOMAD 2018 at:

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Thursday, July 26, 2018

'Romeo and Juliet' by William Shakespeare

26 July 2018

Last weekend saw the start of the 2018 Milton Keynes International Festival. On Saturday afternoon we were at Fred Roche Gardens in central Milton Keynes to see an open-air production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by the Handlebards. In a similar vein to the Pantaloons (reviewed here in August 2013 and August 2015) the Handlebards use a very broad, silly approach to open-air theatre – helping themselves to food from the audience’s picnics and coming out of character to comment on each other’s performances. The Handlebards take Shakespeare around the country on bicycles and make good use of bicycle bells throughout the performance. The four young female actors each play multiple parts (sometimes within the same scene) but they are extremely easy to follow. Despite the silliness the acting is very impressive and they maintain the integrity of the play, finding real emotion amongst the fun. In the programme they point out that Shakespeare’s legendary romance “centres around what is, essentially, a three-day fling between two Year 9 students” and Sian Eleanor Green and Lucy Green give Romeo and Juliet a touching earnestness alongside their incompetent naivety.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Northampton Symphony Orchestra concert

18 July 2018

The Northampton Symphony Orchestra Friends’ Concert is a thank you to the Friends of the Orchestra at the end of our concert season – a short Sunday afternoon concert, followed by a buffet, which always feels like the proper start of summer. It is also a chance for the orchestra to play a selection of shorter pieces that wouldn’t fit within our main concert programmes. This year we concluded our season of works inspired by visual art by playing Respighi’s ‘Trittico Botticelliano’ – three pieces based on paintings by Botticelli. We also played Ravel’s suite of dances, ‘Le Tombeau de Couperin’ and the ‘Ritual Fire Dance’ by Manuel de Falla. There was a beautiful flute solo by Graham Tear in Ralph Vaughan Williams’ ‘Fantasia on Greensleeves’ and we finished with ‘Tangazo – Variations on Buenos Aires’ by Astor Piazzolla – a fun piece with a challenging horn solo which I’ve been practising hard over the past few weeks. Despite it coming at the end of the concert it seemed to go fairly well and was very enjoyable to play. Finally we said thank you to Nick Bunker who is about to step down as Chairman of the NSO after more than 25 years on the committee. Nick has been the driving force behind the orchestra for all the years I have played in it and has kept us going through some difficult times.

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Friday, July 06, 2018

Wimbledon 2018

6 July 2018

On Thursday we were lucky enough to have tickets for Centre Court at Wimbledon. It was an incredibly hot and we were quite near the front in the fierce sunshine, but it was worth it to see three really entertaining, if a little one-sided, matches. We saw Rafael Nadal, for the first time since 2011, beating Mikhail Kukushkin in straight sets to reach the third round. We then watched Johanna Konta lose to Dominika Cibulkova. Finally we enjoyed seeing Kyle Edmund defeat the American Bradley Klahn to set up a meeting with Novak Djokovic on Saturday.