More than a yard of tickets to the Proms!
Iolanthe is fun and fairies and ENO gave us magic too. Fairies have been different over the ages, ENO’s fairies are multi-coloured Arthur Rackhamesque fairies of uncertain ages: fun and frolics are their territory. It fits fine and the company poked fun at the political pumpkins of our time.
It’s a five star production and the music is fantastic. The front of house announcements were made as stand-up comedy by Clive Mantle as a character fireman, who appears in the action to put out fires. The opening is further subverted with lights fading up on a faux Royal Box showing a sheep wearing a tiara, then a flamingo, the first of many running jokes.
A rare opportunity to hear the composer talk about and play his own music. Simeon Walker is halfway through a tour of 28 recitals in the UK promoting his recent projects. His programme is a refreshing change from the usual fare of St. Patrick’s music series. His first Impromptu was serene; he started playing with the minimum of ceremony, his music coming as if from nowhere as the daylight faded through the windows of the old church set in the rural beauty of the Lake District.
Fantastic to hear live large scale choral music once more with all the clarity and dynamics thrill you still only get with being in the same space where the musicians are playing. Tonight’s programme featured two large scale orchestral works with undercurrents of death and disaster.
Blaze of Glory! is the first Welsh opera I’ve come across, despite the fine roster of famous Welsh singers. I went out of my way to see it in Cardiff at the last night of the premiere run and it was brilliant. A full, knowledgeable and appreciative audience in Cardiff’s new theatre in the Wales Millennium Centre. I heard groups around me speaking only in Welsh. There was a spine-chilling concert hush from the audience for the lusty opening chorus sung both on stage and augmented in the auditorium by the Ynysowen Male Choir. Much of the audience joined in singing, in Welsh, to the final chorus at the end of the opera, then there was a standing ovation with three or four curtain calls.
Benjamin Sheen brought a touch of New York showmanship to his recital on the recently rebuilt and enlarged Wm Hill & Son organ at St. Patrick’s Church, Patterdale, near the head of Ullswater in the Lake District.
Difficult to believe he wrought such variety of sounds from just 20 stops. His playing of the Schumann piece was particularly rich in tonal contrasts. The ostinato theme of Ad Wammes’ Miroir, repeated throughout but building in weight as it is joined by other voices, showcased this fine instrument’s capabilities from really quiet to full organ.
The small church acoustic together with the state-of-the-art action on the instrument made it possible to hear the detail in Benjamin Sheen’s playing in a way that a larger acoustic would have clouded. The brilliance of William Harris’s Flourish at the start of the programme, the deep fondness he has of the Bach Prelude and Fugue in G, BWV 541 (just a few ornamentations) and overwhelmingly in his rendition of Mozart’s Fantasia in F minor, K. 608, gave these pipes a thorough workout to the pleasure of the knowledgeable audience of the Society of Cumbrian Organists.