70th anniversary concert at Royal Festival Hall

An incredible end to a pretty busy Sunday of fun with friends, art, history, culture and now music.

We raced up to Waterloo and managed to squeeze my car into what must have been, judging by the looks we were getting, the last car parking space on the Southbank.

I had been looking forward to this concert for what seemed like a long time.  Partly because I knew it’d be wonderful but also because I wanted to see what my Proms friends thought of the Royal Festival Hall as a concert venue.  Sadly due to work commitments they had to cancel at the last minute.  However it was fortuitous for the mother and daughter who were making a beeline for the box office and to whom I donated the now spare tickets.  They were thrilled and clearly mother, visiting from overseas, was utterly delighted.

Tonight’s concert, conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi, was part of the 70th Anniversary Concert series at the Royal Festival Hall.

Piano Concerto in A minor – Robert Schumann
Symphony No. 9 in D minor – Ludwig van Beethoven

Clearly the pianist truly felt his way through the Schumann Piano Concerto and by that I don’t mean for the first time but more a feeling that with every note there was an emotion.  The speed at which his fingers crossed the keys and drifted from reflective quiet to decisive vigour.  Quite a performance and it certainly found us holding our breath and leaning forward to hear every note.

After the intermission we were treated to an amazing performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No 9.  Entranced as we listened and watched whilst the orchestra bought the performance forward and were then joined by soloists and an outstanding performance by the choir.  Incredible and deserved my ‘Wow, just Wow’ comment later!

RFH Programme Notes

The evening’s performance was conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi without any notes or music.  It’s no wonder that he holds the position of Philharmonia Orchestra’s Honorary Conductor for Life.

Telegraph Review – here
FT Review – here

 

Prom 51: Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons

My fourth and final Proms of this season.  My what a treat.

IMG_0053IMG_0052

Firstly, it was obvious from the moment the Boston Symphony Orchestra took to the stage at the Albert Hall that they were truly excited to be performing at the Proms.  Throughout the performance there were many smiles, glances and looks of sheer enjoyment on the musicians faces that it was clearly a joy to be here and performing such amazing pieces.

Secondly, I can’t express how much energy and excitement that the conductor bought to the performance.  His sheer exuberance was infectious and he appeared to have every instrument and musician captured in his hands.  I truly loved him and the performance – if only we could bottle his enthusiasm together with the impeccable sound of the orchestra and play it out in every tube and train station on a Monday morning… I guarantee everyone would be buzzing and smiling for the rest of the week.

Great picture taken by the Art Desk of Andris Nelsons conducting:

Prom 51 (98)Some of his facial expressions and the way he moved around the podium, almost bouncing and Tigger-like, made me think that this would be Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean, if he ever took over the Proms!

Apparently Andris Nelsons, the conductor, had created the program for tonight to showcase the excellence of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  Ooh and he did that in spades.  A-mazing.

Programme
Haydn – Symphony No 90 in C Major
Barber – Essay No 2

Interval (no doubt the conductor and musicians required a short lie-down)

Shostakovich Symphony No 10 in E minor
And a truly incredible piece as an encore ‘Shostakovich’s Galop’.  Wowza!

You have 30 days to listen to the performance on the BBC iPlayer and quite frankly, if you don’t, you will have missed out on something quite incredible.

Part I – here
Part 2 – here

Two reviews of the concert and also of the conductor:
The Arts Desk review
Telegraph review

Rewind 80s Festival 2015

REWIND-2015-LOGOline-up

I once again ventured in the land of the 80s at Henley’s Rewind Festival.  This year however I’d chosen only a day pass for the Saturday.  Mostly, I have to confess, so that I could hear Black Box and be transported momentarily to the hours spent on the motorway heading north for a weekend of clubbing in Manchester.  I have an abiding memory of being stuck somewhere near Birmingham, our car full of four exciting revellers, with ‘Ride on Time’ blasting from the car stereo!  Ooh to be young and carefree again!

Honestly though Rewind Festival is quite obviously the place where everyone forgets their troubles and becomes carefree… it’s clear from the various outrageous, fabulous and fun costumes; the ability for anyone to chat, dance or sing-a-long with any other festival goer; and that everyone (of all ages) knows every lyric and joins in!

Fortunately on Saturday we were also blessed with awesome weather.  Lovely hot sunshine and only a spit of refreshing rain to cool the sunburn in the early evening.  Perfect.

I think Heart FM have some of the best pictures of a selection of the costumes… and believe me there were sooo many more to see too.  Click here.

And a whole heap of photos here.

Some photos of the artists too.

Great fun.  Great friends, old and new.  Beautiful weather and setting.  Reminiscing and reliving my 80s… not a bad thing and truly it doesn’t seem that long ago!  Wonderful day.

As I set off from Henley on my drive home, I turned the volume up on Radio 2 and couldn’t help giggling to myself when the show was ‘Sounds of the 80s’!

PROM 30: The John Wilson Orchestra perform Sinatra

Tonight was my first foray into the late night Proms.  A very special Prom to celebrate the 100th year of Frank’s birth year.

Frank 100yrs

The John Wilson Orchestra with the help of some very talented singers (crooners), Jamie Parker, Claire Martin and (the creator of Family Guy), Seth MacFarlane, performing Frank Sinatra.

I love a bit of Frank. He’s been part of my life, my whole life.  In my 20s I became a little obsessed with that whole era, Sammy Davis Jnr, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe to name but a few.  One of my only regrets is that I didn’t borrow the money for a ticket to see Frank Sinatra live on his final tour at the Albert Hall in 1992.  I recall the tickets were virtually a month’s salary!

So last night I was hoping the performance would capture ‘Essence de Frank’ and transport us back to an era of swing and swoon.

It’s fair to say we all had a swell time but it wasn’t Frank.  I’m not sure if it was the Albert Hall acoustics, or the annoying man further down our row of seats who insisted on “singing” along a few keys out (I guess he may have had ‘a few’ before the late night Prom).  From where we were sitting, I didn’t feel the passion or energy in the performance from the singers.  The orchestra was great but the singers quiet and distant.

However that said, I just may have been grinning for most of it – you can’t help but smile when listening to a bit of Frank.

Proms 30 John Wilson

You can watch the performance on the iPlayer for the next 30 days here (a closer performance that we got from our seats, sadly)

PROM 17: Halle – Debussy, Vaughan Williams & Elgar

Prom17

I chose this concert as my Proms No 2 of this season, as I was excited to hear both the Debussy piece and hear Elgar performed in the Albert Hall.

I wasn’t disappointed by the performance one bit.  Well maybe a little but that’s my personal taste as I don’t particularly enjoy Vaughan Williams’ work…

During Debussy, it was evident that the entire audience was hanging on every note.  The flute was played beautifully (I should so pick up my flute and play again).  A true aural treat.  Taken away by the music to places peaceful, graceful and delightfully soft and gentle.

OK so I don’t enjoy Vaughan WIlliams’ work… but hell I can appreciate an incredible performance.  They utilised the entire Albert Hall.  We had the Youth and Boys Choirs together the tenor solo performing from the gallery.  The sound encapsulated the audience with the orchestra and main choir from the stage.  Incredible performance from all.

And finally, but certainly not least, was Elgar’s Symphony No 2.  A piece that carried you along with every note.  Elgar’s wife apparently described this work as ‘vast in design and supremely beautiful’ – I think it sums it up very well.

You can see the entire concert on the BBC for 30 days here

BachTrack Review
Telegraph Review

Sylvie Guillem: Life in Progress

For those of you not familiar with dance and ballet, Sylvie Guillem is extraordinary.  She has had a long career for more than 30 years and has taken the brave decision to retire at the age of 50.   Her career has been scrutinised within the world of dance and nobody expected her career to last… she had shape, she wasn’t conventional, she used her body in a way that other dancers didn’t, she interpreted the music and created dance, she was probably a nightmare for those trying to recreate a piece… and reviewers and other dancers and choreographers didn’t hold back in criticizing her.  But probably in spite of the comments, she’s bought dance to a different place.  Introduced a new dimension and allowed others to travel that road with her.  She challenged and because of this dance has changed, challenged and stereotypes shattered.

I think the strength of love and respect for Sylvie Guillem was clearly demonstrated in that extra dates have had to be added to her final tour because the tickets sell out instantly.  I missed out on seeing her at Sadlers Wells and as soon as I heard about the extra performance at the Colliseum in London, I messaged an ex-colleague to tell him and ask if he’d like to join me… if I can get tickets. His instant reply “I’m on holiday then.  B***.  But I’ve just come back from Sadlers Wells. Amazing! But we’re so sad. I LOVE her. But – wow – she is awesome. Take a hanky”

Sylvie-GuillemA few pictures borrowed from the internet of the performance and which I hope capture the emotion of the stories being delivered through dance.Sylvie-Guillem-and-Russel-012Her final piece was truly emotional.  It was danced, as she always dances, from the heart.  But the quiet dance resonated around the auditorium as the piece ended with her walking through a doorway and looking back at us, one last time.  There were people visibly moved by the performance and I, for one, had a lump in my throat and perhaps something in my eye.

Sylvie Door

I have no doubt at all that Sylvie will be missed within the world of dance.  However I am absolutely sure that her resolute strength and determination will have opened doors for dancers in years to come.

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 19.08.42Good luck Sylvie with the rest of your ‘Life in Progress’.

Guardian review
Independent review
DanceTabs review

PROM 11: Fiddler on the Roof (My Proms No 1)

Not an empty seat in the Albert Hall this evening for Prom 11 – Fiddler on the Roof the lead performed by Bryn Terfel.

I’ve seen Fiddler on the Roof on stage several times and was intrigued to see how they would perform it on the stage as a Prom.  Remember there’s no real set, no backdrop, no scene changes and a huge audience surrounding the stage.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Bryn, and the supporting cast, together with an incredibly fine orchestra, took the entire audience with them on a journey through the story of Fiddler on the Roof.  The performance had been stripped back to the original script, music and song – perhaps a harsher and more honest version.

Fiddler on the Roof

A long performance but worthy of much applause.  Even the youngsters a few rows in front of me, up way past their bedtimes, seemed glued to the stage and were also caught up in the story.

FiddlerOnTheRoof

You can listen to the performance on the BBC website for a further 30 days here

La Boheme at the Royal Opera House

I know I say this a lot… but WOW!

Im ready for La Boheme

Tonight I was treated to a night at the Royal Opera House to see La Boheme.  No ordinary production either.  Conducted by none other than Pacido Domingo who has performed this opera many many times but whom you could clearly see was proud to be conducting a flawless performance from both orchestra and singers alike.  An incredibly gifted man leading gifted actors.

But there’s more.  Just before curtain up, we were told that this was to be the final John Copley’s production and therefore there would be a couple of ‘added extras’ (as if we needed more!).  The whole cast would do an extra curtain call between Acts 2 and 3.   (Usually the child actors and many extras for Act 2 are long gone by the time of the curtain call.)

AND as this would be the final time the set was to be used (after 40 years), the set change between Acts 1 and 2 would be done with the curtain open.  Wow and Wow again.  I managed to video most of it and I think you’ll agree it’s an incredible skill to create such intricate sets and then to orchestrate the changeover swiftly, precisely and, it seems, effortlessly.  Click here for video.

The whole performance was spellbinding, glorious, magnificent and emotive.   Truly never fails to disappoint.

And the final curtain….

IMG_9622An amazing evening and such a gift for me to have been there.

Guardian Review
Telegraph Review

Don’t you just love this bar… everyone SHOULD be dressed in evening gowns and black tie to complete the picture!

Bar ROH

 

Kew the Music – Caro Emerald

You know me.  Yes Girl!  If I’ve not tried something or been somewhere and get asked, I’m sure to say ‘yes’.  (Well to most things!)

So when my friend asked if I’d like to see an open air concert at Kew Gardens, I jumped at the chance.  I bought my ticket and then googled Caro Emerald to see what I’d be seeing/listening to.

Andreya Triana: 6.30pm – 7.00pm

Jack Pack: 7.15pm – 8.00pm

Caro Emerald: 8.30pm – 10.10pm

Caro Emerald

Seriously fabulous smiley music.

What a beautiful setting.  We had glorious weather and thank heavens the rain held off.  A small picnic, drink and gossip first on our picnic rugs and then the concert began.

A great atmosphere and variety of ages loving the evening’s entertainment and location.

http://www.kewthemusic.org

Wimbledon 2015 – Day 5

Tennis in SW19 never fails to excite the nation and unite us in supporting the Brits.

My only visit to SW19 this year was to Centre Court.

Wimbledon 2015

I managed to get tickets in the ballot and was delighted with the matches being played on on Day 5:

GENTLEMEN’S SINGLES – THIRD ROUND
Richard Gasquet (FRA) [21] defeated Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) [11] (6-3 6-4 6-4)

GENTLEMEN’S SINGLES – THIRD ROUND
Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] defeated Bernard Tomic (AUS) [27] (6-3 6-3 6-3)

LADIES’ SINGLES – THIRD ROUND
Serena Williams (USA) [1] defeated Heather Watson (GBR) (6-2 4-6 7-5)

How fortunate were we to be in Centre Court for what I consider to be the match of the year – Williams v Watson.  The atmosphere was electric.  The majority of the spectators were supporting our home girl, Heather Watson.  The game was so incredibly close and (bias I may be) Heather so nearly won!

I think this little clip shows the level of excitement.

A beautifully hot day where fans and sunscreen was the order of the day for players and spectators alike.  A wonderful little video across Centre Court at the fluttering of fans.

Hot day in Centre Ct

And, of course, time to visit the No 1 Ball girl at Wimbledon again.  My wonderful Abi.  I think this slo-mo video shows you the extent to which they are trained and professional.