IF THE DEVIL
CAST HIS NET ... Oh what a catch he'd make 

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GIG REPORTS 2018

Rogers personal view of the gigs he has attended
Not all are Rock'n'Roll - Roger likes all live entertainment

Disclaimer: All the views expressed herein (unless otherwise ascribed) are those of the author and may
be unsuitable for overly sensitive persons of low esteem, or irrational religious beliefs. Any attempt
to sue me over the contents will constitute an irritating social faux pas.

                         


2018

 

Tuesday 17th July 2018
CAMEO OPERA sang OPERA A TAVOLA over dinner at Carluccio's Restaurant in Cobham.

This was our second outing this year to see Cameo Opera, and our friends Mike & Shirley had come to stay so they volunteered to do the driving. This suited Fran and I well because it meant we could both be designated drinkers for a change! The four of us arrived at Carluccio's Restaurant in Cobham just before the designated start time of seven o'clock - and were greeted with a glass of Prosecco and canapés. Inside we joined our friends Jacky & Colin Pattenden, Liz & Colin Earl, and their friends Andrew and Gill. The concept of these evenings is brilliant. Take a restaurant which would usually be fairly empty on a Tuesday evening - and fill it to capacity by putting on a fixed menu at a reasonable price (forty pounds in this case) and have five entertainers singing extracts of opera and light entertainment songs during the intervals between each course.  The entertainers were Cameo Opera, a group led by Matthew Craven. He was accompanied by vocalists Sophie Pullen, Stephanie Crooks and Ian Parrett; and they were accompanied on the piano by Judith Buckle (who is also an accomplished vocalist - we have seen and heard her singing at previous events). They gave an impromptu couple of songs while the canapes were being served, and led into the performance proper after the "Primo" (starters). This included Brindisi from La Traviata; Habanera from Bizet's opera Carmen; and I Feel Pretty from West Side Story. They closed with Matthew in judges costume singing The Judges Song from Gilbert & Sullivan's operetta Trial By Jury.  The Secondo was a fish course, Merluzzo & Prosciutto - parma wrapped cod plus vegetables. after which the singers gave us a selection including Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro ; Moon River ; Don't Cry For Me Argentina and O Soave Fanciulla from La Boheme. The conclusion was another of Matthews fancy dress numbers - he wore an exaggerated policeman's helmet and held a truncheon aloft as he delivered Gilbert & Sulivans A Policemans Lot Is Not A Happy One from The Pirates of Penzance. For this number he was accompanied by a dozen men from the audience - including me and Colin Earl - who sang the response refrain and flexed our knees while holding our hands behind our backs - like "real" policemen! The "Dolci" course was Panna Cotta with passion fruit and was followed by Ian and Matthew singing The Drinking Song from The Student Prince.  There was more Puccini and light songs from La Rondine and White Horse Inn as well as Lloyd Webbers Music Of The Night from Phantom of The Opera. The formal closing numbers were Mozart's I Will Choose The Dark One from Cosi Fan Tutte (probably the least politically correct opera in existence?) and The Toreador's Song from Carmen.  However that was not the end - Matthew presented us with an unscheduled extra; Tom Lehrer's When You Are Old And Gray - much to the delight of Liz Earl (who had written a thesis on that very song for part of her teaching degree!).  The evening ended - as is customary - with all the audience and the entertainers on their feet - holding hands - and singing Volare. A brilliant evening in good company.
 

Ian Parrett backed by Cameo Opera

 

Ken with Jack Lyntons band

Saturday 14th July 2018
THE JACKIE LYNTON BAND played at The Half Moon Pub, Windlesham

 Saturday evening I went to a Jackie Lynton gig at The Half Moon pub in Windlesham. This was a not very This was a private party for Alan Hibbins - arranged as a surprise for him by his wife Joan for her husbands sixty-fifth birthday. I collected Spud Metcalfe and we drove the few miles to the pub where we met Colin Pattenden, and helped unload all the equipment for the b and. Jackie Lynton arrived quite early too as did Chris Bryant. We had a pleasant hour sitting in the garden with beers while we waited for the party to start to happen.  The regular second lead guitar, Mike Windus, was unable to perform so we were joined by Ken Osborn, lead guitar of The Nashville Teens. He was a bit late, but from our table out in the sunshine we knew he had arrived when we heard him tuning up.  The evening was warm and sunny, so most of the party happened out in the garden - but the conservatory where the band had set up faced out to the garden, and all the doors were wide open - so it was a bit like being on a stage.  The band played two sets and I streamed a couple of the numbers out live onto Facebook - getting comments from friends watching it as far away as Los Angeles and San Francisco!  An excellent live music gig.
 

 

Friday 22nd June 2018
THE NEW ADVENTURES COMPANY danced Matthew Bourne's choreography of Cinderella at New Victoria Theatre, Woking

This is our second outing to see this wonderful ballet - and it lived up to our expectations of Matthew Bourne - in that every time he re-launches a ballet it gets bigger and better!  This interpretation of the old French fairy story utilises the ballet score written by Sergei Prokofiev and published in 1944. The scenario is the wicked step mother is an alcoholic with two daughters (and in this version three brothers as well) and is married to the crippled war hero who is mistreated and who's daughter, Cinderella, is treated like a servant. The "prince" in Bourne's version is a handsome - but wounded - airman called "Harry-the-pilot"; and the grand ball is The Cafe De Paris, in Coventry Street (close to Piccadilly Circus) on 8th March 1941 during the London Blitz. This was a real historic event when two German bombs fell through a ventilation shaft into this basement venue and exploded on the dance floor, killing most of the clientele and the bandleader "Snakehips" Johnson. Cinderella is rescued from the devastation, but has lost a shoe. In hospital her wicked step mother attempts to smother her with a pillow, but is caught red-handed and arrested. Meanwhile Harry-the-pilot also survives the bomb blast and finds the missing shoe. In a daze he wanders around night time London, eventually being beaten up by hoodlums and ending up in the same hospital as Cinders. The shoe fits and they are joyfully reunited. The final scene in Paddington station involves all the extended family (except the alcoholic wicked step-mother) bidding farewell to Cinderella and Harry, who are leaving to start a new life.  The dancing was amazing; especially the fairy godfather. The scenery and effects for this staging were also gobsmacking.  One scene has a rainy night in London, and the rain actually looked real - but was just a projection. The scene in the Cafe de Paris where the bomb has struck is also amazing - broken beams tilt down, the curtains hang in tatters; the lights and neon signs splutter where they hang at weird angles and the glitterball hangs low where it has fallen - all to be restored to a lively nightclub by the magic of the Fairy Godfather as he turns back the clock - and then destroyed again by the bomb explosion at the end of Act Two. There is also an impressively realistic railway carriage which appears in the final scene at Paddington station among a cloud of steam. A fascinating new take on an old story - beautifully danced to the wonderful music of Prokofiev.  A great night out.
 

Matthew Bourne's Cinderella

 

Katie McHardy

Saturday 16th June 2018
THE KATIE McHARDY TRIO and THE PETE HAMILTON BAND played at Penton Hook Marina near Staines.

Penton Hook is a marina on the River Thames right opposite the entrance to Thorpe Park. It has a lovely little private clubhouse and our friend Colin Pattenden stores his boat - Joybringer - there, and it is where his company offices and workshops are located. The event was a private party to jointly celebrate the birthdays of two dear friends; Jacky Pattenden and Elizabeth Earl. Given that both are married to sixties rock musicians their choice of live music at the party was interesting. Not a drum kit in sight! and you could actually hold a conversation during the performances without shouting and without imposing on "the performance". The first band on was The Pete Hamilton Band. We have seen these before at one of Liz's functions. They are quietly understated and old fashioned; and they provide just the right amount of interaction to be enjoyable, without preventing the general conversational discourse at parties. They are all excellent musicians and very entertaining.  Next up was The Katie Hamilton Trio. Much more jazzy and Katie's voice is extraordinarily good.  Katie is a friend of Liz's daughter, Georgia - who (like her mother) is an arbiter of excellent good taste. A great choice of music for a party.
 

 

Sunday 3rd June 2018
HOWIE CASEY played at The Bistro on the Beach at Christchurch.

Sunday was forecast to be a beautiful summer day and we had nothing planned, so when I learned on Saturday morning that Howie Casey was going to be playing a lunch time gig at The Bistro On The Beach in Christchurch, we decided that we should have a day at the seaside. The show starts about one o'clock and our experience is that the restaurant regularly takes ages to prepare food, so we phoned through on Saturday morning and booked a table for twelve thirty.  The weather forecast was for such a nice day that we planned on getting to the beach early and have a few hours soaking up rays and reading books before lunch, so we set out about a quarter to nine o'clock and were on the beach my half past ten. We had also alerted our surrogate daughter, Emma, that we would be in that direction - she lives in the New Forest, not far from the beach. The beach was not particularly busy and we were soon joined by Emma, Matt, young Olly and baby George - whom we hadn't met before (he is only five months old). We had a great time catching up on news and playing with Olly and George, before it was time to find our table at the Bistro. Howie greeted us and we had a chat about what was going on. Howie has been playing supporting Chas n Dave on the current leg of their tour; and we both regretted the recent parting of Roy Young. although for various reasons neither of us had been able to attend his funeral. Howie was supported in his performance by Cornell Richards on drums and they also had a little help from a backing tape on some of the songs they performed - but nothing intrusive. During the first break from performing Howie introduced me to Joe Jones - who is vocalist with Howie's band, Beatles With Wings. Joe sang all of the second set and has a great voice and big vocal range. We particularly liked his choice of songs too - which included the Wilson Pickett arrangement of 6345789 and the Sam & Dave arrangement of Soul Man. He also sang Floyd Dixons Hey Bartender (although his arrangement owed more to The Blues Brothers film than it did to Floyds original 1955 recording). The group also gave us several Beatles songs, including Obladi Oblada and Lady Madonna. A very talented little group and Joe is a versatile vocalist who delivered a nice range of songs.  We stayed until the group finished at three o'clock before we bade them farewell and set off back to Bracknell.
 

Howie & Cornell

 

The stage set at Opera In The Park

Saturday 2nd June 2018
COSI FAN TUTTE by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was performed at Holland Park Opera by The City of London Sinfonia and The Opera Holland Park Chorus.

Tickets for this gig were a birthday gift for Fran and were for this well known opera which we hadn't actually seen live before. Since seeing Amadeus (twice in the last year!), we have been keen to see another of his operas. Fran and I hadn't visited Opera Holland Park for well over twelve years - the last opera we saw at this venue was La Boheme. It was a lovely warm summer evening - just right for an outdoor event. Actually it isn't really "outdoor", being under a massive tented arrangement it is virtually "indoors", but with natural air conditioning and sometimes intrusive birdsong. There was a strict "no photography" rule - so my picture (left) is the stage set as the orchestra were assembling and before too many people had got into the auditorium.  The whole event was magnificent, with awesome music and singing - although the story line was totally politically inappropriate, misogynistic and outrageously sexist.  The only good thing to be said about the plot is that while everybody ends up unhappy, upset and disappointed - at least they don't all die like the heroes and heroines of many opera plots! Although there is a substantial chorus, Cosi Fan Tutte has only six main characters. Fiordiligi , sung by Eleanor Dennis (who was fantastic - what an amazing voice) and her sister Dorabella, sung no less brilliantly by Kitty Whately; their lovers Guglielmo performed by Nicholas Lester and Ferrando, by Nick Pritchard. Engaged to be married in early eighteenth century Naples, their lives are disrupted by the poisoned tongue of Don Alfonso, sung by Peter Coleman-Wright who, aided by the sisters maid, Despina, sung by Sarah Tynan, sets a bet that he can prove all women to be basically unfaithful. The singing - particularly by the girls - is classic Mozart, with lots of scales being sung; but the plot is so very inappropriate for the modern era that the ending - showing that women are faithless - is flat and disappointing. An excellently produced and presented show, and well worth seeing and hearing for the priceless joy of hearing a Mozart opera sung as it should be.
 

 

Friday 18th May 2018
THE FRAN McGILLIVRAY BAND played at The Barley Mow in Shepperton

I had to go to this this gig - not only have I suffered a very busy few weeks with no live music; but this is my favourite little band, they were playing relatively locally. Also they are going on a months tour of Scotland, so this was going to be my last chance to see them for a while. When I arrived the pub was relatively quiet - I found Fran McGillivray, Michael Burke and Roger Nunn had already set up their instruments and were sitting at one of the pub tables drinking coffee. We chatted for a bit, news about their daughter Katie working in San Francisco and their excitement about their forthcoming tour of Scotland which starts next week. Mike and I reminisced about our experiences at Les Cousins Club in Greek Street in the mid sixties. It was a very small club, and although we don't remember each other, we compared notes and realise that we must have been at many of the same shows, both loving Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and The Young Tradition.  Mike is a year older than me, but "The Cousins" was a club which I had managed to blag my way into at a pretty young age (fifteen going on sixteen) and because I got friendly with the doorman I never got questioned about my age. The band started playing at nine o'clock and regaled us with a set of mixed music which included Wang Dang Doodle, Some Luck and Route Sixty Six. I managed to stream a live video of the latter onto FaceBook, and got positive comments from friends who were watching live from San Francisco and from The Netherlands. Mike sang Mercury forty-nine - which chimes with my current mini-obsession with fifties music.  The "stage" at The Barley Mow is just a corner of the pub, but is decorated with odd bits of music memorabilia including a tiny African drum - a mini-djembe. Roger Nunn is an eloquent (in fact a World class) djembe player  - and we had a laugh during the break when he played it.  The band were really having a good time - big smiles all around - and as the evening progressed they were getting tighter and tighter - being really on fire by the second half of the second set.  Mike's guitar solo in the middle of Blood On Your Hands was awesome, and I tried to stream his excellent long solo in Born Under A Bad Sign - but my Mobile Data budget ran out part way through it so it was only partially broadcast.  Their encore was their own arrangement of Taj Mahal's Blues Ain't Nothing.  A brilliant performance all round. Wishing them lots of luck with their Scottish tour.
 

The Band at The Barley Mow

 

Much Ado About Nothing at The Rose Theatre

Saturday 5th May 2018
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING was at The Rose Theatre in Richmond

Seven of us met for a late afternoon dinner before venturing into The Rose Theatre to see this modern version of William Shakespeares wonderful play, Much Ado About Nothing. It was set in a luxury spa hotel in modern day Sicily,  with the key players being members of Mafioso gangs - a concept that worked exceedingly well with the theme of the play. The key figures of Hero and Claudio were played by Kate Lamb and Calam Lynch - who was actually quite scary as a mafia gangster. The comedy duo of Beatrice and  Benedick were played by Mel Giedroyc and John Hopkins, and the two parental (or do I mean Godfather?) figures of Don John and Don Pedro were presented by Peter Bray and Peter Guinness respectively. Peter Guinness really looked the part of a Mafia Don with his heavy brows, bald head and grim demeanour; however, we chanced to meet him in the car park afterwards and he was transformed into a lovely actor!  We were particularly impressed with Mel Giedroyc. I had only seen her before as a TV comedienne (half of "Mel & Sue"); but she is a fine actress as well. She handled the role of Beatrice brilliantly - a strong minded woman rebelling against a patriarchal society and (reluctantly) falling in love.  Overall a really refreshing and lovely re-imagining of this classic Shakespeare story - it worked well and was very entertaining.
 

 

Saturday 28th April 2018
SON OF A PREACHER MAN was at The New Victoria Theatre in Woking

Son Of A Preacher Man is a musical story soundtracked by some of Dusty Springfield's hits. We went to see it The New Victoria Theatre in Woking with friends Jacky & Colin Pattenden. The show was directed by Craig Revel Horwood (whom I confess I had never heard of, but the girls tell me he is a choreographer who is something to do with a TV show about dancing) The music was all Dusty Springfield's music and was performed live by the cast. As well as singing some of the cast impressively and professionally wielded instruments on stage including tenor sax, flute, trombone, clarinet, violin and cello - augmented by a group of musicians in the orchestra pit. The choreography wasn't bad either, with some quite complex moves. I particularly enjoyed the three coffee bar waitresses who really put their hearts into bouncing about gracefully. Unfortunately the story line was not particularly strong, and Fran and Jacky agreed that it was the sort of thing a high school sixth form class might have generated - good, but a bit shallow and unpolished. Essentially it is a story of three broken hearted people from three separate generations who meet up while seeking closure/resolution of their problems at a coffee bar on the site of an old Soho record shop. Back in the sixties the old record shop was conveniently run by a charismatic called "The Preacher Man", and the coffee bar is now run by his son. The shop is sited on the corner of Old Compton Street and Dean Street (I used to work in an office in Old Compton Street less than a fifty yards from that junction and can confirm that the premises are fictitious). Despite the shallow plot line, I did enjoy the show and was very impressed by the acting, dancing and singing abilities of the four key leads, Michael Howe, Nigel Richards, Michelle Gayle, and particularly Alice Barlow - who as well as being a cool little actress, has an amazing singing voice.  An enjoyable show - it would be overly critical to say that it was a triumph of eagerness and nostalgia over a weak script, but without the zeal and ardour of the cast and the truly great soundtrack I don't think the story line would have stood scrutiny.
 

Son of a Preacher Man

 

Nashville Teens at Sunbury
 

Friday 13th April 2018
THE NASHVILLE TEENS performed at Sunbury Music Club, held at Sunbury-on-Thames Cricket Club.

The Sunbury Music Club is usually the first gig of each year for the Nashville Teens - held on the second Friday of January, unfortunately Ray Phillips was ill this year and so the gig was postponed until this week. Rescheduled for Friday 13th April 2018.  I arrived at a quarter to seven and found that all of the band were already there and setting up. The hall was also beginning to fill with pre-show diners - this is a new feature, since last year the Club started providing hot meals before gigs. As well as regular club friends Peter & June, Ray's partner Mel and Colin's wife Jacky were also there; sadly Fran had not been able to make it because of illness. We were also graced with the presence of ex-Teen Len Surtees.  I am currently selling the bands "new" CD (actually a double CD and a DVD all in one package) which was recorded live in 1983 - and Len was the bass guitarist on that session. He was accompanied by his pal Gary Roberts, who is also a renowned musician (Denny Laine Band). I was interested to learn that they would be performing locally in May, so I hope to catch them and hear what sort of music they are up to. I caught up with Simon Spratley, Spud Metcalfe, Ken Osborn, Colin Pattenden, Adam Russell and Ray Phillips in the dressing room and we had a quick discussion about the logistics for getting the band down to Devon for a gig scheduled in June. Then it was time for the first set and the band kicked off with Rockin' On The Railroad. The band were very tight - and Ray's voice was perfect. The audience were very appreciative and the sound quality was good. The band included The Spencer Davis Medley; Redhouse, Slow Down; Honky Tonk Women and Brown Sugar in the first set. They closed the set with a rousing version of Route 66.  After a break the second set commenced with The Who Medley and included Mona and I Put A Spell On You. The latter is one of my favourites with some neat piano fills by Simon. Kelly and Vanessa (Rays daughters) got up to dance and soon the dance floor was crowded. The band finished their act with Tobacco Road, but followed it with an encore of Born To Be Wild. It was a very successful night for both the band and the house (it was a sell-out) and the booking for January 2019 was confirmed. 
 

 

Wednesday 4th April 2018
MACBETH by Verdi was performed by The Royal Opera Company at The Royal Opera House and streamed live to cinemas around the World.

I went to see this at Didcot cinema with my first and third grandchildren and one of their school friends. The opera was Verdi's Macbeth - and as the two elder boys had been studying Verdi at school this performance appeared to be a good thing to reinforce their learning. The story line is based very firmly on Shakespeare's story, with a slight variation in the number of witches. Shakespeare had three hags, while Verdi has a whole chorus of over twenty of them ! Verdi initially wrote his opera in Italian (apparently translated from a French translation of the original English) some two hundred years after Shakespeare published the original play - and he also launched his opera twice. The first time the opera was performed was in Florence in 1847 and it was then revived in 1865 but this time in French and with a much darker portrayal of Lady Macbeth. A key driver for the re-launch was Verdi's experience of political change driven by the revolutions since the original launch which had resulted in the current single political unit of Italy. As well as the language change it had some lengthened songs and the addition of the refugees revolt at the beginning of Act 4. This staging was excellent - with a cage motif which represented the "safe" in which the crown of the Kingdom of Scotland was kept. Macbeth himself was sung by Zeljko Lucic who was perfect in the role,  A powerful bear of a man with a sonorous voice - he looked as I imagine Macbeth would have looked - and he achieved a miraculously rapid change of costume throughout, ending most scenes soaked in blood and starting the next in a fresh white shirt!  Lady Macbeth stole the show - sung and acted by Anna Netrebko. She not only sang her parts passionately and well, but she acted the cruel manipulative Queen to perfection - goading her husband from one murder to another - and then looking genuinely bewildered and haunted as she continually washed her hands to remove imagined blood. While the murder of Duncan was off-stage, Duncan's guards, Banquo, Lady McDuff and her two children and the young Siward all die fairly graphically in front of the audience - the murder of the two children being particularly graphic. The march of Birnham Wood was well portrayed with the refugee army carrying long cut branches.  Lady Macbeth died in bed mysteriously holding a dagger (Shakespeare has her die from lack of sleep), and at the end Macbeth himself is stabbed and strung up on a cruciform (Shakespeare has him beheaded), but it kept all the key components of the story and told it very powerfully and graphically. A marathon of an opera which lasted three and a half hours.
 

 

Saturday 31st March 2018
THE FRAN McGILLIVRAY BAND played at Scratchers (aka The Three Lions) in Godalming.

We hadn't seen Fran McGillivray, Mike Burke and Roger Nunn for far too long, so on Saturday evening we drove down to Godalming to catch their show at Scratchers. As well as a live band the pub had let two long tables out for a young ladies thirtieth birthday party! Cakes, food and generally a lot of chatter which wasn't conducive to listening to music! Never mind - it was nice to catch up with Fran, Mike and Roger again. My Fran and I sat at the back of the pub where the sound quality of the music was good, but the view was pretty poor - and Fran McGillivray's announcements between songs were sadly obliterated by the chatter from the party tables. No worries though, we know most of the story lines and we heard Mikes dedication to us of Spoonful, which he knows is the first song I ever heard them playing live first time I ever met them. They started with Delbert McClintons great song, Mess of Blue followed by a great selection including Hound Dog, Big Front Seat, Route 66, and Not Fade Away as well as Mikes feature of Mercury 49.  Their show was peppered with some of their own songs like Some Luck, Checking Up On My Baby , Get Back To Love and one called Don't Look Back, which I don't recall hearing before. I'm hoping that it may be a new one in preparation for their next CD - it was very good.  They encored at the end with another one of their own compositions Mister Blues.  An excellent show - I always feel revived after a dose of Fran & Mike.
 

picture left: Fran, Roger and Mike at Scratchers

 

Friday 30th March 2018
THE NASHVILLE TEENS played at The Platform in Morecambe.

This was a long trek, and on Easter Good Friday the traffic was not friendly! The two hundred and fifty mile journey is almost all motorway and should have taken around four hours; in fact we left just after nine thirty in the morning and arrived just before six in the evening - more than eight hours travelling! I chauffeured Ken Osborn and Spud Metcalfe while Colin Pattenden drove Ray Phillips and Simon Spratley. The journey was dire; the huge weight of traffic caused the flow to be stop-start virtually all the way from Birmingham to Lancaster; the boredom being punctuated by a few toilet and coffee stops and frequent mobile conversations between me and Colin to establish progress and warn of traffic conditions ahead. Luckily the gig was excellently equipped and professionally managed, so when we eventually piled out of our cars we were almost miraculously quickly set up with their backline and sound checked. The venue - The Platform - is a converted Victorian railway station - with the audience area extending the full width if the old Victorian buildings and the stage set along one of the long sides - a very well appointed performance area. We found ourselves checking into our hotel just along the promenade by the time the doors opened to the public at seven o'clock. There were two other bands playing and we were not on stage until half past ten - scheduled to play until a quarter to midnight - so we spent a lot of that time in the pub next door eating (lightly - cannot sing the blues on a full stomach).  We had two "friends" in the audience. The first was Peter Holmes - who was a band follower and photographer during the sixties. Peter provided a lot of the old photo's which I use on The Teens website - it was great to catch up with him again. The other was Steve Knowles who used to play with a band called Factotum - who worked alongside the Teens in those early days. The performance started with Rockin' On The Railroad which got the ladies up dancing right from the start; and the band progressed through the usual set list.  I managed to capture some of the show on my iPhone and stream it live via Facebook so that two of Rays daughters could see it, as did a couple of friends in San Francisco and my daughter in Oregon; isn't technology amazing? The show climaxed with Tobacco Road, followed by a storming rendition of Born To Be Wild as an encore. This was the first show at which we have had the new double CD and DVD available as merchandise, which was exciting. We managed to shift half a dozen of them, which is not bad for a smallish audience.  After the show we made it back to our hotel and sat in Spuds room and got through a bottle of vodka while we sat talking and playing tracks from the new CD until two in the morning.  Just after eight the next morning we were all on the road, making a quick breakfast rendezvous at Lancaster Services before trekking back South along now almost deserted motorways, and getting home in just half the time it had taken on the outward journey.

 

Nashville Teens at Morecambe

 

    Eleanor, Judith and Matthew.  Couldn't find a picture of Arthur.

Tuesday 30th March 2018
CAMEO OPERA sang over dinner at Carluccio's Restaurant in Cobham.

We joined our friends Jacky & Colin Pattenden and Liz & Colin Earl at Carluccio's Restaurant for dinner and entertainment by Cameo Opera: who are four singers, Judith Buckle, Eleanor Meynell, Arthur Coomber and Matthew Craven, accompanied on the electric piano keyboard by Kenneth Roberts.  The show was presented in three parts, after each of the "Primo" and "Secondo" courses and after the "Dolci" course. The show started after the Primo (starter) course on a light note with Funiculi, Funicula - only the Italians would write an opera song about a railway! Matthew compere'd the evening in a very entertaining way, giving us not only an introduction to each singer and each song, but some context about the story line of the opera, and where each particular song fitted in. The singers presented a very eclectic mix with some classic stuff mixed with very light songs. The show continued with Una Voce Poca from Rossini's opera The Barber of Seville followed by some lesser known songs from operettas by Tosti and Herbert. The session ended with Matthew singing Plenty o' Nuttin' from Gershwin & Heyward's opera Porgy & Bess. The musicians retired while we ate the main course, and then took to the floor again with Arthur invading the audience and singing Largo al factotum (The "Figaro" song) from the Barber of Seville while he threw a towel around the neck of one of the audience and proceeded to give him a shave ! This was followed by another air from this classic Rossini opera, followed by Say Goodbye Now from Mozart's opera, the Marriage of Figaro. Handel's Endless Pleasure was brilliantly performed by Eleanor who is clearly a superb actress as well as a perfect pitch vocalist.  Then we enjoyed some Verdi, a duet from La Traviata. The group finished this section with Arrivederci Roma from The Seven Hills Of Rome. We enjoyed our dessert course before the group resumed with Judith and Eleanor singing The Meow Chorus. All the group joined Matthew singing I'm Getting Married In The Morning. The post dessert session also included Novello's Wings Of Sleep; Stars from Les Miserables; and Judith sang One Fine Day from Madam Butterfly. Matthew then lightened the scene with Ivor Novello's And Mother Came Too.  The penultimate song was Botcha Me and they ended with the whole group singing Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man from Showboat.  This was a great experience and not at all what I expected - very entertaining.  I'm sure we will go again.    
 

 

Saturday 25th March 2018
PAUL KING'S SKELETON CREW played at The Bell pub in Shepperton.

We had not visited this pub before; very nicely laid out on a cul-de-sac country lane in Shepperton. The menu looked OK and the atmosphere was cosy and welcoming, out back there is a decent sized room where the music happens. Bare walls and square shape indicated that we should not expect the best acoustics in the world; although Steve Kemp was there with his thoughtful disco and his output sounded OK. Unfortunately when the band commenced the combination of very high volume and constant feedback during the first couple of numbers all but drowned out Paul Kings vocals. Colin Pattenden managed to fix the feedback and hum by about the fourth number, but the bass and guitar outputs were still uncomfortably loud until the second half, when it was very evident that they had "turned down" a bit. Luckily Paul is extremely good as orchestration, and whenever he had a particularly sublime piece of harmonica playing he directed the guitarists to play "diminuendo" or "molto pianissimo" - so the overall sound was OK. In addition to Pauls lead guitar, vocals, harmonica and occasional kazoo and banjo; and to Colin's bass guitar (at which he got to play two solos, which I love to hear); Chris Bryant was giving his usual versatile and excellent performance on lead guitar and Amber (don't know her surname) was providing percussion. Amber is a really good drummer - only just seventeen years old, she has a rock steady beat and holds her own with a load of old men who are mainly at least fifty years older than she is. The music was great - as we expect from such consummate professionals. It included many of Pauls own great songs, including Will You Kiss, Will You Dance and  Sophisticated Mama. Of course he sang In The Summertime acknowledging his own heritage with Mungo Jerry, and The Might Quinn acknowledging Colin's heritage with Manfred Mann's Earth Band. I was really pleased to hear Voodoo Blues again - a song which he put on his "Last Supper" CD many years ago, and which I haven't heard for ages. We sat in the audience with Janis, Jacky and Sarah-Jane; and also there were Wesley & Matt and I managed a chat with Keith-The-Stalker and his posse at half time. The second half was a more comfortable volume and as the audience became better lubricated they became more excitable. The dancing was fuelled by zob sticks and tambourines and Paul encored several times. While this was great entertainment the pub has to shut down music at half past eleven at the latest for fear of neighbours complaining, which meant that there wasn't time for Steve Kemp to regale us with his thoughtful disco - never mind, it was great to catch up news with him and Janis.
 

Skeleton Crew in weird red light

 

Colin Earl and Roger at Royal Albert Hall
Paul K in the background

 

Sunday 18th March 2018
CLASSICAL SPECTACULAR was performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and others at The Royal Albert Hall in London.

This event is a regular Raymond Gubay crowd puller, Classical Spectacular - loads of "pop" classics performed by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, The Royal Choral Society and The British Imperial Military Band; ably assisted by the Moscow Militia and the Classic Spectacular Dancers from The House of Creo. The show also incorporated fireworks, a laser light show, and - of course - some muskets and a couple of cannons for the climax of the 1812 Overture. The show remains hugely popular and always sold out even though it has been running twice a year for twenty five years with a virtually unchanged running list of music! We had seen this show three times before - but we were very happy to see it for a fourth time, and I hope we will be able to take our younger grandchildren next year or the year after. One of the triggers for reminding us that we'd like to see this again was the discovery that our neighbours, Paul and Helen, had never been to the Royal Albert Hall before - and we felt that needed to inflict that experience on them! They say they loved it. We arrived in good time and loaded up with champagne, red wine and crisps to see us through the performance. The show started with Prokoviev's Dance of The Knights from Romeo and Juliet, followed by Carmina Burana (which visibly moved Colin Earl, even though it demonstrably wasn't either Country Blues or Rock!) We were treated to Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever, Debussy's Clair de Lune and the Royal Choral Society sang the Chorus of The Hebrew Slaves from NabuccoColin Pattenden smiled at Holst's Jupiter from the Planets Suite - he was a member of Manfred Mann's Earth Band when they recorded their version under the title Joybringer. The C.S. Dancers whirled in the aisles to Tchaikovsky's Waltz from The Sleeping Beauty. The opera soloists, Marc Heller (Tenor) and Nicholas Lester (Baritone) sang the duet Au Fond Du Temple Saint from the Pearl Fishers and we were all very impressed by the performance of Ravel's Bolero. The first act finished with Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 - which is the tune to Land of Hope and Glory - and which always makes me think fondly of my late Dad - for whom it was an inspiration which kept him going for the three years that he was a Japanese prisoner of war working on the Burma Railway. Apparently their camp band was forbidden to play God Save The Queen, so they played Elgar's much more motivating March instead! We ate lots of ice cream and drank more booze in the interval until the orchestra struck up the Rusedski March, and the Moscow Militia marched through the aisles with their flintlock muskets shouldered, followed by Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. This reminded Fran and I of our great friend Beryl - who died last Summer, and had this played at her own funeral.  The Chorus sang Zadok The Priest and the soloists contributed La Donna E Mobile from RigolettoLargo Al Factotum from the Barber of Seville ; and joined forces for Nessun Dorma, from Turandot.  The Orchestra treated us to Nimrod from the Enigma Variations and then the audience participation started in earnest with The Hornpipe from Henry Woods Fantasia on British Sea Songs. We all sang Rule Britannia and then the Orchestra went into the Classical Spectacular climax of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. This was very impressive with choreographed lasers swinging around through the smoke, fireworks streaming across the ceiling space of the Royal Albert Hall and The Moscow Militia firing muskets and canon up in the Gods. The show did not finish there; there was  - of course - an encore, with the C.S. Dancers cartwheeling and leg waving down the aisles to The Can-Can, followed by the choir and the soloists joining the orchestra to lead the audience in another rendition of Land of Hope and Glory with lots of flag waving, red, white and blue lasers, and a cascade of red white and blue balloons.  A brilliant show.

                             

Classical Spectacular - waving the flag                                                                                                   The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra                             
 

 

Wednesday 14th March 2018
MY GENERATION was the launch of a new documentary about the sixties, presented by Sir Michael Caine and "streamed" to The Cineworld Cinema in Bracknell.

This new film has been six years in the making and used a lot of "new" film footage which hadn't appeared in previous films about the era. The films Producer, David Batty, had managed to obtain lots of "rushes" - never before used - from various sixties film makers.  The film also did not stint on music - and even included some of the classic Beatles tracks which must have cost a fortune to market - including my favourite Strawberry Fields Forever.  The thrust of the film was to document the social change in the nineteen sixties. It focussed on the journey of the first generation to "rebel" successfully despite the efforts of "the establishment" to maintain the status quo. and was narrated and hosted by Michael Caine.  Almost since feudal times society had been fairly static embedded around a class system which was so entrenched that it was taken as being the norm.  He summed up the huge social change with the words "Me and my mates used to hear our parents talking about the good old days. We asked ourselves what was so good about them? For the first time in history, the young working class - people like me - stood up for ourselves and said "We are here, this is our society, and we are not going away". The film stirred lots of lovely memories for Fran and I. There were a lot of comments from sixties celebs in the soundtrack, but not the full interviews with each of them. This was a good thing because it avoided a distraction from the main thrust of the documentary, which was about the social change of the era - and the resistance to it from "the establishment". After the screening of the film there was a live Q&A session with Sir Michael Caine and  David Batty (the films Producer). The Question and Answer session was live from The Southbank in London, but participated in via Twitter and email from four hundred cinemas around the UK. Sir Michael mentioned that the full individual interviews with other celebs - of which parts are used in the film - are going to be packaged and broadcast in a series of six TV programmes. It was (perhaps not too coincidentally) Sir Michael Caine's eight fifth birthday so the show ended with the interviewer getting the audience at the Southbank - and orchestrated around four hundred cinemas around the country - to sing "Happy Birthday to You".
 

Not a lot of people know that...

 


The Chiesa Di Santa Maria Pieta

Sunday11th March 2018
CIESA DI ANTONIO VIVALDI was performed by I Virtuosi Italiani at The Chiesa Di Santa Maria Della Pieta in Venice.

Antonio Vivaldi
was one of the classical baroque composers of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries; and he was a Venetian - born there in 1678. So while we visited Venice what better way to remember him than to attend a classical concert of baroque music in his own church (he was an ordained minister to the Santa Maria Dela Pieta Hospital - an orphanage - and this was his church which owned and managed that hospital charity.)  Eleven of us made our various ways across Venice toward our rendezvous for attending a concert at the Church of St Mary de la Pieta; which dominates the waterfront between St Marks Square and Arsenale. It had been raining hard and the Spring tide was up - so Venice was flooded and we had to balance along the temporary wooden walkways to get to our agreed meeting point at the Hotel Metropole next door to the Church before the doors opened at eight o'clock. The place was not crowded, perhaps fifty or sixty people in a very cold damp - but beautiful - church. There were three violinists, a basso Continuo (bass violin), a cello, a double bass and a harpsichord making up I Virtuosi Italiani. They opened with Palchelbel's Canon in D Minor - which is a great scene setter for any baroque presentation. This was followed by Telemann's "Tafelmusik" (originally published as "table music"); and then by Vivaldi's own classic  - The Four Seasons.  The musicians were excellent and the sound quality resonated beautifully in the Church. It was a very uplifting feeling to think that the particular piece of music we were hearing had actually been written in the very Church that we were sitting in!  After the concert we headed back to the Hotel Metropole for another drink before traversing the walkways across the now falling tide to catch a boat ride back to our hotel in the island of Lido.
 

 

Tuesday 6th March 2018
CARMEN was performed by The Royal Opera at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
We watched it "streamed" to The Odeon Cinema in Bracknell

Carmen is one of the classic operas in which "everybody sings and then the heroine dies"!  Carmen is the heroine. She and her best mates, Frasquita and Mercedes, keep poor company - specifically smugglers - and she is a bit of a tart! She declares that any man she decides to love should beware; a very avant garde - in fact risqué - portrayal at the Opera Comique in the late nineteenth century; a venue renowned for "family" entertainment. First she seduces Don Jose - an army corporal who initially appears uninterested in her, but who eventually becomes totally infatuated with her. In fact he is so seduced that he abandons his sweetheart Michaela and deserts his job in the army to join Carmen and her smuggler friends in the mountains.  Carmen, however, swiftly tires of Don Jose's possessiveness and turns her attentions to seducing a dashing toreador named Escamillo. Jealousy sets in and in the end a humiliated Don Jose stabs Carmen to death outside the Bullring where Escamillo is performing.  The words of the song ("Toreador") reflecting both what is happening as Escamillo slays the bull inside the arena; while in parallel Don Jose, outside the arena, is inflicting the same fate on Carmen. The interpretation was "interesting". Some of the extra bits of Bizet's original scores which are often omitted were included and the singing was absolutely mesmerizing - tip top quality. Carmen was sung by Anna Goryachova, and she was stunning - both as an actress and as a vocalist. Don Jose was sung by Francesco Meli and Escamillo by Kostas Smoriginas. Carmens buddies, Mercedes and Frasquita were played and sung by Aigul Akhetshina and Jacquelyn Stucker respectively, and Kristina Mkhitaryan was a very innocent looking Micaela. Unusually there was a narration (in French - but with sub-titles) which I thought greatly added to the comprehension of the plot. In fact the sub-titling generally was a plus point for me - especially as the translation from French was in modern colloquial terms, not a literal translation of nineteenth century wording. The set and some of the settings were less satisfactory to my taste. There was effectively no scenery - just a bank of steps the width of the stage and rising half the height of the proscenium arch. I have no problem with this minimalist approach, but as the cast members climbed or descended the steps they creaked! This was very distracting and gave the whole show a rather shoddy air. The noise was so loud that I suspect that the creaking was consciously left there, perhaps even enhanced by floor mikes? But unfortunately instead of appearing as "artistically minimalist", it managed to give the air of having been done on the cheap.  There were also some set pieces where the chorus danced (mainly very well) and appeared to be trying to emulate silent movies or mid twentieth century cabaret shows - although the effect appeared to be "art for arts sake" because it was not specifically empathetic to the story line. A very low point in my assessment was early on when Carmen appeared in a gorilla suit, gradually stripping it off as she sang. Bizarre, totally pointless, totally un-related to the plot and a real distraction from what was otherwise a superb performance by Anna Goryachova.  However, despite the pseudo art inflicted in the design and direction, overall it was an enjoyable evening, and the music was fantastic. I am glad that I only paid thirteen pounds to see this streamed to a cinema - I would have been very disappointed if I had paid two hundred and twenty plus pounds for a ticket to the Royal Opera House itself, and been subjected to the pretentious "art" surrounding and often distracting from this otherwise solid and excellent musical performance.
 

Francesco Meli (Don Jose) and Anna Goryachova (Carmen)

 

Sunday 4th March 2018
HOWIE CASEY was playing at The Bistro On The Beach, at Christchurch.

Howie Casey is a renowned saxophone player.  He first came to fame in the very early sixties in Hamburg as Howie Casey and The Seniors, since then he has been a member of The Dominos (King Size Taylors Band), The Alex Harvey Band, and has backed many big name musicians including Chuck Berry, Carl Perkins and Marc Bolan; but most famously he has backed Paul McCartney on five different Wings LPs. I met Howie in Hamburg back in 2012 and we renewed our acquaintanceship when we were back there together last April - on which occasion we enjoyed three nights running of getting blind drunk in the company of Cliff Bennett, Beryl Marsden and Ray Phillips !  Recently Howie sent me a text saying that he was playing this lunchtime gig at his local beach restaurant near Bournemouth (Howie lives in Poole). So - despite the freezing weather - Fran and I booked a table at The Bistro On The Beach on the sea front at Southbourne and drove down to the coast for Sunday lunch. The restaurant really is right down on the beach - invisible from the road above. It was good to see Howie playing in this sort of environment. I have only experienced him before as part of the line up for sixties R&B artists like Kingsize Taylor and Cliff Bennett (and once - for Ray Phillips). On Sunday he was much more mellow - playing some relaxed Beatles and Elton John tunes and other classically cool sax music. Very relaxing and just right to accompany Sunday lunch and a glass of wine.  Howie played a few solos, but was also supported by some other musicians, one of whom I recognised as Beverly Miller who played the clarinet. There was also a guy playing a trumpet and a black guy on percussion with a really laid back beat and great timing.  Overall it was an excellent show and just right for the ambience of the restaurant. Because he was working we only got time for a couple of short conversations, but enough to compare health notes, catch up news on old friends and establish a couple of gigs that we might get an opportunity to meet up at again in the next few months. After the show Fran and I went for a brief walk along the beach and back. During the performance I had posted a very brief bit of live video on Facebook, and as we returned from our perambulation we paused at the restaurant for Fran to take advantage of its amenities. While I waited I used the restaurants free wifi to update my iPhone - and found a picture which had been posted in response to my little video by Art Sharp (one of the Nashville Teens original lead vocalists) of the line up for the Carl Perkins UK tour of 1963 - in which he had marked a much younger Howie Casey - see below.  I had to duck back into the restaurant to share this gem with Howie before Fran and I set off back home

 

            

            Howie Casey at "The Bistro on the Beach"                                                        Howie Casey (top left marked) 55 years before with the Carl Perkins tour
 

 

Wednesday 28th February 2018
THE WINTERS TALE was danced by The Royal Ballet at The Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.
We watched it "streamed" to The Odeon Cinema in Bracknell

William Shakespeare wrote The Winters Tale towards the end of his career, when - after a lifetime of successfully writing plays which were essentially historically based - he was having to compete with the more fictional and magically spectacular stories by his rivals. The works he wrote at this time had some very complex plots with some excellent insights into human nature in them. The better known among these are A Midsummer Nights Dream and (my favourite) The Tempest.  However, this lesser known play is a masterpiece of the gamut of human emotions, misunderstandings, pure joy and dark thoughts. The Winters Tale is famed mainly for it's stage direction "exit stage right, pursued by a bear" at the end of Act I; but nowadays it is rarely performed. The conversion of the play to a ballet has been choreographed, produced and musically composed by Christopher Wheelan, Bob Crowley and Joby Talbot - the team who made their mark with their Royal Opera House production of Alice In Wonderland a few years ago.   The lead performers at the performance we watched were Ryoichi Hirano (Leontes) and Lauren Cuthbertson (Hermione), both of whom are excellent dancers and athletes. I was especially impressed by Hirano who purely with dance (no use of mime or sub-titles) very clearly portrayed the transition of the blissfully happy king of Sciclia into a jealous and suspicious husband (wrongly) accusing his wife of adultery with his best friend Polixenes - danced by Matthew BallThe Royal Opera House stage settings were imaginative, but the lighting - while good for a theatre - was not the best for a live transmission on TV.  Some scenes were just a little too dark to fully appreciate the spectacle. The choreography was brilliant and the dancers put on a fine show - particularly the corps de ballet who unusually had the lead for most of Act Two.  Joby Talbot's music was technically brilliant too, it was both emotionally attuned to the story line and fitted the moods for each dancer in each scene. However the music was my least favourite aspect of this ballet - while it did its work professionally, I found it sometimes a bit discordant and sadly not at all memorable.  Another other slightly disappointing bit for me was the bear scene. Even though it is only a vignette which is almost an aside to the overall plot of the story to tidy up the loose end of having a potential witness to the saving of the Princess; it is the only bit which most punters know about the story!  In the story Antigonus is escaping to exile with the baby Princess Perdita at the end of Act I. The stage backdrop in this ballet version is an undulating sheet onto which roaring seas and a ship were back-projected to tell the story of the shipwreck where Antigonus with baby Perdita were being cast ashore. Antigonus leaves baby Perdita abandoned by a rock - where she will be conveniently be found and adopted by a shepherd in Act II. After placing the baby down carefully he is supposed to be chased and killed by a bear.  Antigonus runs off to stage right and the back-projection blurs from waves into a (stationary) polar bear - but the lighting was dim enough that I'm not convinced that everybody actually saw it!  Meanwhile, I don't think that a pale projection of stationary bear really gelled with Shakespeare's stage direction of a fatal pursuit. Overall the show was good - the dancing was great and the choreography very clearly segmented the plot and related the narrative while the skill of the dancers portrayed the moods of the characters and told the story well.  A very good show.
 

Ryoichi Hirano and Lauren Cuthbertson

 

Young Frankenstein - the musical

Saturday 24th February 2018
YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN was playing at The Garrick Theatre, London.

Mel Brookes film version of Young Frankenstein is on my personal top ten list of comedy films, and I was pleased to find that this stage production of a musical version of the story is loads of fun and is just as entertaining. Fran and I went with friends Jacky and Colin Pattenden to see the matinee show prior to a visit to a posh restaurant (Brasserie Zedel). We drove into London and managed to park just off Leicester Square, only a few hundred yards from The Garrick Theatre, which is one of London's most central theatres, being on Charing Cross Road, just North of Trafalgar Square. Mel Brookes wrote the book and made the film Young Frankenstein long ago iin 1974 - a comedy set very vaguely in the middle of the first half of the twentieth century and starring Gene Wilder as a second generation descendant of the infamous Baron Frankenstein. This musical version - also by Mel Brookes - is more or less the same story, equally whacky and with some side splittingly funny song lyrics. The story is essentially a farce of how the Young Frankenstein (played by Hadley Fraser) moves from absolute denial of his heritage ("no, my name is Froderick Fronkensteeen"), through the inheritance of his ancestors castle in Transylvania, to generating a new "monster".  On the journey he ends up working with a descendant of Igor (played by Cory English) and his late ancestors girlfriend, Frau Blűcher (played by Lesley Joseph - yes, the neighbour from hell in the TV comedy "Birds of a Feather").  The monster is brilliantly acted by Nic Greenshields, who eventually ends up with super intelligence and romantically paired with young Frankenstein's ex girlfriend Elizabeth (Dianne Pilkington); while "Froderick" himself ends up paired with his pretty assistant Inga (played with gusto by Summer Strallen with a lot of stage winks and flashing of knickers!).  Of course there is also a brilliant supporting cast of disgruntled villagers who want to torch the castle, and who also get a lot of hilarious songs to sing. The songs throughout the show are all brilliant, witty and very reflective of Mel Brookes' dry humour. I thought that the dance routine to "Putting on the Ritz" (perhaps the only song in the show which Mel Brookes did not write) was particularly brilliant, but all of it was memorable and funny.  I would happily go to see this show again tomorrow - it was so good.
 

 

Sunday 11th February 2018
EMMA VICTORIA PALFREMAN, our surrogate niece, was dancing at a hafla at Garth Hill School Bracknell..

Emma-Victoria is our "surrogate" niece;  We first came across Vicky in the Middle East where her parents were good friends of Frans sister - who lived there at the time. We got on really well with her parents, Maree and Barry, and became lifelong friends. When she was a small girl at boarding school in Devon her parents had relocated to Borneo and Fran and I became her UK guardians. At holiday time we would meet her at Reading Station, and get her to Heathrow airport to go spend her holidays with her Mum and Dad. We would also do the reciprocal journey on her return to meet her at the airport and deposit her onto a train to return to school. As she grew up her parents moved back to  Bude, Devon, in the UK and we used to visit them whenever we could. So we have always been "uncle" and "auntie" for her and her brother Gavin. Vicky is now a smart married woman with two growing kids, and one of her passions is "Tribal Dancing" - which is essentially a modern take on belly dancing, sometimes involving swords (real, sharp, swords).  On Sunday she was visiting Bracknell with her Tribal Dancing buddies to give a performance - known as a "hafla" - at Garth Hill School. Quite coincidentally this is the school our children attended, and I had been chairman of their Parent Teacher Association for a couple of years in the early nineteen nineties.
The event was The Enchanted Market - a travelling market for beautiful people, pagans, witches, goths and old hippies.  There are about a dozen such events each year around the south of the UK and among other groups represented are Tribal Dancers - who include our Emma-Victoria.  There are many such groups of empowered women who dance largely improvised variants Middle Eastern and Asian heritage dancing to a staggering array of different types of music. The ladies come in all shapes and sizes, some bizarrely tattooed or hennaed, but are all beautiful in their own way; and all are totally empowered ladies.  Unfortunately our surrogate niece was late and missed dancing with her own troupe - although we did have the pleasure of seeing her dance in an impromptu show at the beginning of the second set - which was staged for live transmission to the USA where it was allegedly being watched by Carolena Nericcio-Bohlman - who is credited with originating "ATS" or American Tribal Style Dancing.  The whole show was fascinating - there are many sub-styles, some performed in groups, others solo or in pairs; and the dancers exhibit a huge variety of skill levels. There were some fascinating belly dancers, some vaguely Egyptian looking dances and the more Persian looking Tribal dances which Emma-Victoria specialises in. One of the more entertaining acts were a couple of ladies called "The Belly Cleaners" - who performed a belly dance while dressed in cleaning lady smocks with their hair in curlers and waving yellow dusters. A great afternoons entertainment and great pride in watching our "niece" dancing.
 

Emma Victoria and friend

 

 

The Mayors Benefit gig

Friday 9th February 2018
PAUL WATTS & FRIENDS were raising money for the Mayors Fund at Sunbury-on-Thames Cricket Club.

On Friday evening Fran and I drove over to the Sunbury Cricket Club at Sunbury-on-Thames - home of The Sunbury Music Club. The event was the Mayors Charity money raising event, when the Club Chairman (and Cricket Club Chairman and ex A&R Man) Paul Watts, raises money for the local Mayoral charities by singing with a variety of musicians - some of them with quite an amazing heritage - backing him. The Mayors were there - goodness which boroughs or areas they represented, but at least three ladies and one gentleman were wearing heavy gold chains of office. Although we were relatively early, the place was already crowded. Luckily our friends Peter and June were already there and had saved a table for their mates - so we joined them. We found several old friends were scheduled to perform,, including Kevin Welling (keyboards - Dave's Not Here) and Karl Green (one of the founder members of Hermans Hermits). It was really good to catch up with Karl, whom I have spoken to on the phone a few times, but  haven't seen since he returned to being a musician "the road" playing in the USA. I have to confess that an ulterior motive for the visit was too disseminate leaflets announcing the launch of the Nashville Teens next CD when they are scheduled to play at the club on Friday 13th April. Paul is not a professional vocalist but he tries hard and is usually not bad for an amateur singer. Unfortunately the club has installed a new PA system and because they are not made of money it is of an absolutely awful quality - very toppy. The resulting sound lacked both projection and had virtually zero bass and middle range outputs. At the back we could not make out any of the announcements (a bit embarrassing when someone tried to called out raffle numbers but could only be heard at the front) and it did no favours to Pauls vocals while he was singing. Still, we all had a fun evening and the event raised £1800 for the local Mayors charity, so it was worthwhile.
 

 

Saturday 3rd February 2018
AMADEUS was playing at The National Theatre, London.

Fran and I had seen this version of Peter Schaffer's fantastic story of Mozart and Salieri streamed live to our local cinema last summer - and we were so impressed that we felt the need to see it live!  We managed to get tickets for the matinee performance on Saturday and headed for The National Theatre on London's South Bank. The NT is home to several venues, and this one was in The Olivier Theatre - a fantastic cavernous space with an open stage and arena like seating. The principle roles were played by Adam Gillen (Mozart) and Lucian Msamati (Salieri) and the music was provided by The South Bank Sinfonia. The premise of the play is Salieri in his dotage remembering the jealous way he treated young Mozart - and eventually, despite the mans obvious musical genius, brought about Mozart's ignominious demise. Salieri then finds that the rest of his life reinforces the fact that he is just a mediocre composer and after telling the story in the play he attempts suicide, but fails (like everything else in his life -mediocre!) and spends the rest of his days in a lunatic asylum. Msamati is an amazing actor - the play takes three hours and has almost continuous dialogue from Salieri - delivered with an enormous range and intensity of passion. Equally strenuous is Gillen's role as the childish and clearly bi-polar Mozart - portrayed as a punk (including wild hair and Doc Martens boots!) suffering with tourette's and a very scatalogical sense of humour as well as being an absolute musical genius. He is ably supported by Karla Crome who plays his wife, Constanze.  The other key characters are the Emperor Joseph II of Austria (brother of Marie-Antoinette) ; Baron Van Swieten - his chancellor ; Count Orsini-Rosenburg, director of the Opera, and Salieri's mistress Katherina Cavalieri played (and brilliantly sung) by Fleur de Bray.  Also on stage for almost all of the play - usually in uncomfortable positions, sitting cross legged or laying on their backs as well as occasionally performing roles as "extras" - are the South Bank Sinfonia. They play and sing both incidental music and some of the set pieces of Mozart's great works. The music - especially the vocals from Sarah Amarkwah and Ekow Quartey as well as from Fleur de Bray - are amazing.  The whole performance is an emotional roller coaster punctuated with magical music. The story is an absolute tragedy for both Mozart - who in real life may, or may not, have died as a result of Salieri's hypocritical and devious manipulation ; and for Salieri - consumed by jealousy when confronted with a better composer and then consumed by shame at the mediocrity of his own life once he had destroyed Mozart's career. A particular chord with current events was struck in the scene where Salieri clumsily attempts to seduce/blackmail the young Constanze - very reminiscent of the current scandals around the appalling behaviour of Harvey Weinstein.
 

Gillen and Msamati
 

 

Exuberant kids put on a great show

Wednesday 31st January 2018
GREASE  was being performed by Didcot youth at Didcot Girls School.

This production of Grease was staged at Didcot Girls School by the pupils, with assistance from the local boys school (St Birinius).  It featured local kids from the ages of eleven through to seventeen, including two of our grandchildren (numbers #1 and #3), who - despite being at the younger end of the age spectrum - both performed principle roles which involved loads of dialogue, a solo song each and the opportunity to accompany themselves live on the guitar live (well, actually it was a tenor ukulele, but through an amplifier it sounds like an electric guitar). 
Didcot Girls School has a very large campus, and the car park was about as far as you can get from the hall where the performance was scheduled - it was a very cold night, but clear - so we had a great view of the "Supermoon" (allegedly the brightest for one hundred and fifty years) as we trekked the quarter of a mile from car park to venue. Tickets were sold out and the audience was jammed with parents - including Ulrika Johnson who apparently has a daughter at the school, although we couldn't work out which one of the little actresses was hers. Both of our Grandchildren had reasonably prominent parts;  #1 played "Roger", the second in command of the "T-Birds" gang, and #3 played "Doody", another lead member of the gang. We were surprised, pleased and proud to find that they both had not only a lot of lines; but both also had solo songs and solo opportunities to accompany themselves on the ukulele - which had been a birthday present for #1 just a few weeks before. Both boys show signs of being real actors - throwing themselves into the characters. The show was magnificent and all the kids delivered professionally. After the end of the show we collected the boys and drove them home; they had already had two full rehearsals during the day - so by the end of Wednesday night they were shattered and #1s voice was going.
 

 

Friday 26th January 2018
FRAN McGILLIVRAY AND MIKE BURKE were playing at The Barley Mow, in Shepperton.

Our first gig of the year was at The Barley Mow at Shepperton where our friends Fran McGillivray, Mike Burke and Roger Nunn were performing. They found ten minutes to chat to us before it was time to start their show and because we were with our friends John & Lesley (who are not music aficionados) we sat in a corner away from the main thrust of the PA system. The sound quality behind the PA wasn't brilliant and we had to strain to hear all the words clearly. This was not helped because there were two very loud and noisy ladies in the pub who shouted trivial conversation at each other over the music; it was a great relief every time they went outside for a cigarette! Fran, Mike and Roger played a great selection, mainly of their own compositions - although they did start with Mess of Blue and end the fist set with Not Fade Away. I particularly liked Mikes rendition of Mercury 49. While we were watching the first set we were approached by a sinister figure in a long waxed coat and with a dark fedora pulled down over his eyes. Was it the Gestapo come for me? No - it was Stevie Kemp, my favourite DJ. Apparently Steve hails from that area of Shepperton and having seen that my favourite band were playing at a local pub he had decided to drift by and check whether we were there. It was good to catch up with him and confirm that we planned to be with him at one of his own gigs the following evening (although we didn't make it  the following evening because I was not well). The second set was great as well, including numbers like Big Front Seat, Route 66 and Spoonful. They also played a lot of their own numbers including End of The Road, Get Back to Love, Hard Working Woman and the spooky Blood On Your Hands. The set ended with Bad To The Bone, followed by an encore of their own song Mr Blues. A great night out.
 

Fran Roger and Mike

 

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