Fairport Convention

Electric Palace
Saturday 28 February
BR rating: ***

By Jonah Corren
Fairport Convention
What audience members may have expected from 46-year-old Fairport Convention was largely a replaying of favourites and reminiscences of the years of former lead-vocalist Sandy Denny, and their acclaimed album Liege & Leif, which is still widely regarded as the finest folk/rock album. But the band’s set proved that old dogs certainly can be taught new tricks.

The majority of the songs the band performed were from their new album, Myths and Heroes. The best of these was an instrumental romp masterminded by Ric Sanders aptly named The Gallivant, which combined a very Spanish sounding guitar riff from Simon Nicol with a much more rocky sounding rhythm section than the previous songs. On vocal numbers, Chris Leslie’s voice shone through as the lead.

Between songs, Ric Sanders and Dave Pegg in particular enjoyed what was often childlike and cringe-worthy exchanges with the audience, riddled with shameless puns and anecdotes which made you realise just how much the band still love what they do.

The fan favourites the audience had been waiting for finally arrived at the very end, with the classic Fairport anthem, Matty Groves sounding almost as good as it did when it was first released, and the harmonies in the encore, Meet on the Ledge, creating a fantastic sound enhanced by the audience singing along to the ever memorable and poignant lyrics.

It’s clear that Fairport Convention aren’t the band they were in 1969, but considering only one member from that period remains, it’s hardly surprising. For long-time Fairport fans the tour is a great experience, but the amount of new material in the set leaves plenty for new listeners to enjoy, and the band which is famous for adapting to its circumstances goes into another year with as much enthusiasm as it has had in the last 46.

By |March 1st, 2015|Jonah Corren, Music, Review|0 Comments

UKULELE OPERA… project under way

ukop1By Nick Pitt

Serendipity, as a delicious word and a benign instrument, has been bringing succour to Sally Vaughan, the originator of Bridport’s ukulele opera project.

Just when her grand ambition to combine the energy of the community with the excellence of locally-based professional musicians to produce an operatic extravaganza seems just too daunting, up pops serendipity to lend a hand.

The latest example occurred on Saturday 7 February when Sally was manning the project’s stall in the Community Fair upstairs in the Town Hall. Since the opera features fleas because ukulele is an Hawaiian word that translates as ‘jumping flea’ and also features the game of tiddlywinks, which is known on the Continent as the game of fleas, Sally had a game of tiddlywinks set up amid her promotional paraphernalia. (If you’re beginning to think the opera might have a touch of the comic-absurd about it, you’re right.)
No one managed to pot a wink until a lady arrived and promptly potted five in a row. Turns out she was a champion in her university days, is quite familiar with such treats from the tiddlywinks lexicon as squidging, squopping and boondocks, and would be happy to set up some challenge matches as a fundraiser for the project. Result.


Hester Goodman

That was minor serendipity. It followed two major coups since the inception of Sally’s idea – the recruitment of what might be called the project’s maestro and virtuoso. The maestro is Andrew Dickson, the esteemed composer who has collaborated with Mike Leigh on many of his films and lives in Higher Eype. Sally and Andrew devised the show, with Andrew writing the score. All that was missing was the right female lead. She needed to be top-notch both at singing and playing the ukulele. It was at that juncture that Sally, who is well known in ‘uke’ circles as the co-founder of the bUCKY –dON’TS [sic], Bridport’s ukulele group, received an e-mail from Hester Goodman, a member of the renowned Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. Hester had just moved to Bridport and was keen to meet a few people. Not a problem. Enter the virtuoso.

After a well-attended public launch in the loft of The Stable pizza parlour, with half-a-pint of free cider per-person on the house, the real work to bring the opera to production in the autumn has begun. Musicians, actors, stage-hands, costume-makers and so forth are all required and welcome and will have the benefit of working with top-class professionals.

But the most fundamental and urgent task is fund-raising. The Ukulele Opera will soon be trying to raise £10,000 through the Kickstarter funding platform. We will post a notice once this is available online.

See the website: www.ukuleleopera.org.uk

Sally Vaughan can be contacted on sally@ukuleleopera.org.uk

Photographs courtesy of Brendan Buesnel Photography.

By |February 14th, 2015|Music|0 Comments

Extreme Baroque

extreme-baroque-webSladers Yard
6 February 2015
BR rating ****

By Elaine Beckett

A bitterly cold night failed to deter violinists Wendy Staal and Bridget Pearse, and cellist Roberto Sorrentino from delivering their finely-tuned exposition of trio sonatas, as well as chiaconnas, which are a form of 17th-century dance music so transparently rhythmic that they were once banned by the Catholic Church.

The relatively dry acoustic of the ground floor gallery space allowed the character of each instrument to be heard in detail. Sorrentino’s cello (1768) provided a rich, resonant backdrop to Staal and Pearse, who delighted the audience with their conversational exchanges, effortlessly expressed in Telemann’s G Minor Trio Sonata, and in a beautifully balanced performance of Corelli’s Trio Sonata No1.

The players’ informality in expressing how they felt about their chosen repertoire allowed the audience refreshing insights into live music-making. For example: “We really love playing this piece,” as opposed to “Why on earth did we choose this one?” The first half ended with a brave rendition of Passacaglia by the Norwegian composer, Halvorsen, which in string players’ circles is often referred to as ‘the impossible duet’. As the variations increased in intensity, Pearse and Staal challenged each other to a grand-duo competition.

Having confessed he’d left his music behind in London, Sorrentino gave a resonant, moving performance of the Prelude from J.S.Bach’s Third Cello Suite. “An orchestral cellist rarely gets the opportunity to perform Baroque music,” he explained. “Yet it is the purest form. I love these opportunities to play with Wendy and Bridget.”

As the second half proceeded, wilder and less domesticated chiaconnas were performed, including a delightfully complex early Venetian piece by Merula (1637) in which we were invited to listen out for African and Spanish influences. As the audience relaxed, the musicians settled into the chiaconna’s overlapping, echoing textures with graceful tenacity.

If you want to know more about Chiacconas, check out Tarquinio Merula. For Tarantellas try La Carpinese.

By |February 7th, 2015|Elaine Beckett, Music|0 Comments

Blind Buffalo Quartet

Blind Buffalo QuartetMoens Farm House
24 January 2015
BR Rating **

By Jonah Corren

As you’d expect at an event organised by Fanny Hatstand, the main act did not appear until around 10pm, at which point the event had officially been running for two and a half hours. The Blind Buffalo Quartet consisted of drums, electric guitar, saxophone and double bass. The double-bass player had played earlier with Son of Richard, who manfully holds the support spot at so many Fanny Hatstand gigs.

The first half of the band’s set was designed largely to ease the audience in, with slow songs which you could bop your head to at times. Smoke Rings, the concluding piece from this section was an atmospheric mixture of simple but effective lyrics delivered with a soft vocal and saxophone trills between lines.

In the last hour, the Blind Buffalo Quartet showed us what we’d been waiting for. The tempo was increased tenfold, and all but one of the tables were cleared to allow for dancing. The songs now were jazzy, with regular saxophone solos and the stylish addition of scat singing (using the voice to imitate the instruments) which was well performed by the lead singer.

The venue was rustic and cosy, essentially a converted barn, nicely decorated with light-coloured Asian-style tapestries draped across wooden beams. It made for a lovely atmosphere.

Even if the night was slow to start, it finished with a bang as the Blind Buffalo Quartet proved in the last hour that they were worth the wait. Events such as these aren’t widely publicised due to the limited space for punters, but they are worth checking out for those who enjoy a cool, quirky atmosphere, as long as they don’t get impatient too easily. Well, you know what they say: good things come to those who wait.

By |January 26th, 2015|Jonah Corren, Music|0 Comments

Three Cane Whale, Annie Freud, Barbara Marsh, Tim Cumming

Sladers Yard, West Bay
17 January 2015
BR rating ****

By Elaine Beckett

Six very special artists – three poets, three musicians (and an inspired chef) ensured that Saturday evening at Sladers Yard was full of delicious treats.

Annie Freud invited us to listen as an act of friendship; the space fell dutifully quiet, so that each reader’s voice could be enjoyed for its tone and rhythmic range.

Offering humour as well as poignant reflection, Freud tempted us with a sensitive mix of material from her existing collections and new poems due to be published in June. “This looks like the sort of audience in which one or two of you may have been away for a weekend retreat,” she announced, and launched into A Retreat in an Edwardian Manor House, a deconstruction of such wit that the well-heeled audience couldn’t help but relax.

In Moths on a Blue Path, Freud carefully evoked ‘the hush of a Sussex summer day.’ In Lankham Bottom she exquisitely detailed ‘the lisp’ of her brush as she paints a landscape, her hands ‘in a rush against time.’

Barbara Marsh read poems from her dazzling 2013 collection To the Boneyard, rocking back and forth from her American childhood through early adulthood, to middle age, from cold winter streets to the Pacific Ocean. Her poetry, like Freud’s, takes care of the tiniest detail. In Manhattan Interlude she took us right into a Forty-fifth Street apartment ‘where in windy nights you could feel the building sway, ever so slightly.’

Tim Cummings took us vividly into London with poems written over many a bus journey to and from work. Using his rich bass register to command the audience, his poems were voiced like a series of prophecies that we had better take note of or else it all might be too late. In Revellers, an evocation of Budapest, he joined with Three Cane Whale to conjure up a delicious sense of the foreign. ‘I am half in love with the sound of the fifty-one bus,’ he reflected as improvised music transported us on our own private escapades.

Three Cane Whale took over, with Alex Vann on mandolin and bowed psaltery, Pete Judge on trumpet, harmonium, lyre and dulcitone, and Paul Bradley on acoustic guitar and miniature harp. Their silvery patterns were beautifully expressed in the opening number,The Bird Flies into the Forest to Rest. As if casting a spell, this allowed us to continue our reveries, extending our responses to the words we had just heard. They decided to stop and start again at one point. Once you’ve lost the pattern you are supposed to repeat, far better to start again. Good for them to have felt so relaxed about it.

The high point was Three Cane Whale’s improvisation as a background to Annie Freud’s reading of Lankham Bottom – a series of gently descending scale passages which perfectly evoked the Dorset views she was describing.

What a brilliant evening.

By |January 18th, 2015|Elaine Beckett, Music, Poetry|0 Comments