Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas greetings!

Hello people - if I have not sent you a card by e-means of postal means, apologies!

Enjoy this


Monday, December 10, 2012

BeVox at Buxton with Brass Saturday 8 December 2012

So unusually for a review piece, this one isn't so much about a performance I attended as one in which I participated!  I joined the Nottingham branch of the BeVox choir part way through the previous season (week 5, so lots to catch up on!) and signed up to also join the forthcoming - and what felt ages ahead - performance at Buxton Dome.  You can read more about the Dome and its history at the Dome website.

Inside the cavernous dome space we were going to be singing to two audiences - a matinee and evening performance.  It was a heck of a space to be singing in!  Images only give a hint of the space...

Following a 3 hour journey from Nottingham to Buxton - don't ask, our navigation skills are rough at best but we did about 30 extra miles going off track thanks to road closures for Xmas fairs etc - we finally got to the hotel.  We stayed at the rather charming Lee Wood Hotel, part of the Best Western franchise, and they were lovely.  We ate, after getting lost on foot in Buxton (spotting a pattern yet?!) and then headed back to the hotel where thanks to the dread cough we slept pretty crappily.
We were up first to breakfast the next day.  I ran out to buy a sarnie for lunch - although Neil had got me supplies like crisps etc I really needed a lunchtime sarnie - and whilst out also picked up a skirt to have something to change into for the evening performance (£4.50 charity shop skirt: fab!).  It was going to be a busy day with lots happening.

We kicked off by arriving and making sure we were ready for the stage - walking on and off appropriately (this is harder than it looks, corralling nearly 150 people onto and off a stage).  Given that there were heavy hints that unless people volunteered to go on the front row, people would be chosen randomly, I (temporarily I thought) stood to be on the front row of the Alto 1 section....

... and ended up stuck there!


I did stick my hand up and say I felt a bit exposed but since it would also give me an easy exit if I had another dread coughing fit (like last weekend's rehearsal) I couldn't then get out of the position.

Oh heck!

Hanging out with the choir as the day trundled along towards the actual performances was really nice though, lots of good camaraderie and chatter.  Thanks to everyone who chatted with me - both from Nottingham and further afield (Sheffield, Barnsley and Wakefield branches)  as it made the day so much more enjoyable.

Tim who leads the choir and conducts* was as energetic as ever.  This was actually even more marvellous than it sounds as late last week he broke one of his toes!  Running on adrenaline during the performances he bounced around like unleashed animal and kept us all enthused.  Between them, Toni (who runs BeVox with Tim) and stage manager Pauline (who is also a member of the choir but for the show focused on keeping everything on track) --- well these two women are equally talented and astonishing.  Toni sings Alto 1 (where I am also vocally placed**) and it's a heck of a standard to live up to! It was a real team effort with lots of people involved in making it happen.  And the ProMusica Brass Ensemble were amazing, even if brass instrumentation is quite something to compete against vocally!

And that was one of the hard things about the day - judging how to sing - the space itself was really challenging and the cues of hearing other parts of the choir was pretty tough.  But we did it and actually from the audiences perspective it seemed to be pretty grand.  By the evening especially - where the lighting and set-up really came into its own - things were pretty tight for pretty much everything.  the soloists were consistantly awesome and we got a really great reception from the audience.

Running order
Christmas medley
Most wonderful time
The Christmas song (Chestnuts Roasting)
Alone – Solo, Rachel Wood
Viva la vida
The man with the child in his eyes – Solo, Louise Jarman

One day like this
I won’t give up – Solo, Emma Cassinelli [unfortunately Emma couldn't do her solo spot]
Fly me to the moon
Love changes everything – Solo, Martin Clarke

The rhythm of life – Band (ProMusica Brass Ensemble)
Wishing you were somehow here again – Solo, Lis Luke
High and lifted up


Africa (Solo line at the end – Rachel Wood)
Shona malanga
Adiemus (Solo lines – Toni Ratcliffe)
Libertango – Band (ProMusica Brass Ensemble)
Gaudete – Ensemble: Ann Hallam, Rosie Ross, Roz Bexon, Lynda Simms, Val Simons, Jennifer Holmes, Martin Lloyd-Penny, John Walters, Keir Flynn, Tony Pannell
Let it snow – Solo, Louise Beard
Veni Emmanuel
Ave Maria – Duet, Lis Luke & Toni Ratcliffe
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Surabaya Santa – Solo, Toni Ratcliffe
Total praise
Encore: Lean on me

Thanks to this video you can get a flavour of the concert with the piece that opened the second half of the show.  (The filming is facing towards the Soprano and Tenor side of the choir rather than the Bass and Alto side.  Then again, you can't really see the choir as such so no great loss for me not being visible.)

I will try and post more photos and links as I get them but hope you enjoy this as much as we did doing it!

After the show/Sunday
We ate at the Old Hall Wine Bar in Buxton between matinee and evening shows (thanks Ann H for organising this!) and then had a hot meal AFTER the evening show too (by heck I needed that food!).  We slept better Saturday night and then after breakfast trundled home, getting lost again but only because we wanted to go to Cromford and Scarthin Books before Xmas.  We had to double back on ourselves to do it, we we went, had a ploughman's lunch, spent loads, came home and watched eps 7-8 of The Killing s3.  WHOOO!!  What a GREAT weekend!

* Tim is basically a one-man talent machine.  Composer, arranger, choir leader, conductor, producer... he's astonishing really.

** Makes it sound like I know what I'm doing doesn't it?!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Villainous villains: The Secret of Crickley Hall - BBC TV November-December 2012

James Herbert is a funny old writer: his books have sold by the truckload (42 million according to the Gods of Wikipedia) and he clearly knows how to construct a ripping yarn.  Adaptations though have been more erratic and The Secret of Crickley Hall was the first to be attempted for TV.

In some ways it is easy to see why his works are a difficult beast to transcribe to visual form.  The momentum is different, and in some ways they don't necessarily work that well on the page either.*  Partly, this depends on if you can follow the ride of familiar tropes and scares or end up feeling like you are ticking off the cliches.

The adaptation was also affected by the (early-ish) move to change from a 90 minute adaptation to a 3 x 1 hour serial. This is an awkward maneouvre as there was probably too much material for a either a 90 minute movie version or even a 2-part 2 hour adaptation.  However, whether there was really enough done to make the three part version I'm not 100% convinced.  90% maybe. What they did to stretch things was to visualise much more of the 1940s narrative.  Now: clearly this had bonuses for me - more Henshall, braces and a cane.  Nasty wicked villain. But there was clearly slender material to work on and this didn't always work to it's advantage. Nevertheless, it was well directed and the movement between the two narrative periods was excellent.  Kudos to the editors on that one.

Obviously I came for Douglas Henshall, and stayed for the ride.  With a role that is limited in what it can do - very few lines, TONS of menace, acres of villainous villainy - Henshall nevertheless sought to invest the difficult and unlikeable character of Augustus Cribben with some emotional weight. His psychosis is clear but not necessarily easily understood.  His violence is abhorrent but he is obviously a tormented figure.  I particularly liked one late scene in the production, where there is a possibility of redemption despite everything that has been happening. He hesitates, almost takes the offer, and then hardens, letting it drop.  Does he deserve the offer?  Probably not.

I thought the kids were great (Pixie Davies as Cally was adorable - and as director Joe Ahearne attested at his Q&A preview screening for episode 1, you cannot direct children, just guide them towards what you want as a natural reaction.  I certainly spotted a few lines which you just knew were her take on what she would say.  As Ahearne said, she'd tell you if a line was "silly").  Suranne Jones - who just seems to keep working with my favourite actors - and  Tom Ellis - who also has a habit of cropping up in favourite shows alongside good actors ** were well matched as the haunted parents trying to escape from/come to terms with the disappearance of their young son.

I also thought that generally the acting in the 1940s sequences was really nice from the central figures of Percy and Linnet especially.  the young boy playing Stefan was very good, but blimey he had a rough time...

As I mentioned above, the production work was great - fabulous settings well used and the editing of the two narratives was really convincingly done.  Bravo for that.

The music - ARGH!  I want to shoot so many composers and sound mixers for TV.  Just tone it down, stop hamming up the melodrama and let the imagery and acting breathe!  In something as high-melodrama as this, it really didn't need the extra dosage of 'feel-emotion-NOW!'

Sarah Smart - I like her as an actress but I'm not sure this role really worked for her.  If anything she made Henshall's character seem straightforward.  A nasty piece of work but without any depth (even her inappropriate relationship left one confused.  What was she doing?)

Explaining Donald Sumpter's character WAAAY too early: no, no NO.  This should have been left unclear until episode 3, and definitely not too long before Percy's realisation.  Would have been much more powerful.

I'd have also liked a TINY bit more on the 'what happened next' elements.  The kitten was cute but even a photograph of the happy life lived afterwards would have satisfied me a little more.

Overall: I enjoyed it.  Hell, I would wouldn't I?  But it wasn't as good as it could have been or promised to be. A solid but perhaps less than fully successful 3.5/5.

* Having said that I read The Fog as a teenager and it HAUNTED me for a long time.  I still find my stomach lurch at unbidden memories of the images the text instilled.  A totally unrelated narrative to The Fog (film by John Carpenter) - a fact I didn't realise for ages and which threw me for a long time as I tried to imagine how they could have filmed the horrors of Herbert's novel (I don't think they easily could, though I suspect the Koreans could make a good attempt at the nightmares it presents).

** Ellis was also in the MAGNIFICENT 'The Fades'.  If you haven't watched that, get hold of it and shudder.  Creepy, funny, brilliant.  And that show ALSO starred Iain De Caestecker, who played Young Percy Judd here in this show.