July 26, 2014

Review of Kit and McConnel, Guildhall, King’s Lynn

This King’s Lynn Festival event brought a razor edge to what these two local boys made good - gifted cabaret pianist James McConnel (from Holt) and charismatic actor-singer Kit Hesketh-Harvey (he hails from Lynn and knew his West Norfolk– ‘our demographic has got older with us, although they weren’t when they set out on the A47) called ‘the cabaret slot’ but the acid intelligence of the writing was combined with a surprisingly warm heart. No so much correct as politically advanced and with its cutting straying over the edge –Rolf Harris’s Two Little Boys and references to Saville; a satire of the politically correct modern German paying his ‘dues’ over piano chords shifting nervously from Wagner to Kraftwerk; a daring topical comedy number about STDs rising among the geriatric age group which certainly had this grey-haired audience laughing complicitly at lines like ‘go up in your stairlift for a bit of how’s your granddad.’ There were feelgood audience sing-alongs - a ‘Just One Cornetto’ pastiche about Berlusconi - and genuine heart-thumpers: a lullaby for Kit’s dying father (fondly dedicated to the QEH) about all the things a father and son feel but never say; a tribute to a British casualty in a poetically evoked Afghanistan (where Kit has sung for the troops) which also questioned what the – we were doing there.  It may be a long way from the West End to West Norfolk but these two provided a fast track.

July 25, 2014

Lynn News review of Brooks Williams at Great Massingham, July 2014

You can read my Lynn News review here

The amazing pictures below were taken at the concert by the BBC's Iain Meikle.

Note the cigar box guitar.

To hear another recently unearthed, long forgotten and equally out of the blue interaction between Iain and I from 1992, please visit here

July 23, 2014

Review of Jubilee String Quartet Music For An Engish Country House (EDP July 22)

Music for an English Country House

Jubilee String Quartet


This King’s Lynn Festival event at Sandringham’s Park Houseouse was heavenly music and all the more so for defying both composers’ reputations for fairweather grace.  The playing was passionate and intense and both quartets gave ample material to express this. In Haydn’s consummate late G major quartet, the signature avuncular humour, ease and beguiling folk melodies were present and welcome but the old master pioneers a personal expressiveness that would have taught the young pretender more than he ever managed to do as Beethoven’s tutor. The themes are strong and the quiet warmth achieved at the end of the slow movement is won from strenuous effort, conveyed in virtuosic performances. Mendelsohn’s String Quartet in F minor was a furious meditation on disillusionment and grief in which the composer’s familiar calm, effervescence and tenderness – where present – are contextualised in stark contrast with dissonances and savage syncopations, full of menace and anxiety. We wait for consolations in vain.  The energy and power of the playing, like the music, never falters and somehow combines savagery with poise, four instruments in soaring unison. Music for an English country house haunted by sorrow and despair.
EDP Tuesday 22 July

July 21, 2014

Review of The National Youth Jazz Orchestra With Clare Teal (EDP July 21)

Corn Exchange, King’s Lynn

It was hot work on stage at this sell out King’s Lynn Festival event for band leader Mark Armstrong but the band was hotter still. Big band jazz might be approaching its second century as a popular art form but these 22 musicians, all aged under 25, and with women soloists as well as men, brought new life to the genre. While the enthusiastically-applauded classics – ‘Love For Sale’, ‘Embraceable You’, ‘That Old Black Magic’, ‘Lady Be Good’, ‘Cheek to Cheek’ - were all present, finger-clicking correct and in splendid order – the band was equally impressive in Rolling Stones territory (Willie Dixon) a Columbian tempo or the stomping – and complex - contemporary jazz rhythms of Siegel’s MBadgers - and as assured giving a razzamatazz showbiz entry to guest singer Clare Teal as they were providing a torch-song pianist for her on ‘Secret Love’. Teal – voted British Jazz singer of the year 2005 and 2007 - was the highlight, presenting evergreen songs like the warm-hearted yet super-cool Radio 2 pro she is, then hot as Africa singing ‘I Just Wanna Make Love To You.’

July 19, 2014

Review of Contemporary Consort, King’s Lynn Town Hall (EDP 16 July)

The average ‘music-lover’ may be inclined to expect the burglar alarm that went off near the start to be indistinguishable from the music but a decent-sized audience enjoyed this King’s Lynn Festival event of largely contemporary material. Schubert, represented by his lush String Trio in B flat, wasn’t present but an astonishingly young Benjamin LA Picard – represented by his melodically experimental and vibrant Diversions for clarinet, violin, viola and cello, was. As was an engaging David Matthews, informatively interviewed by Festival Artistic Director Ambrose Miller to establish the ‘felt’ and tonal basis of Matthews’ modern music, as mentored by Benjamin Britten and in helping to orchestrate Mahler’s 10th symphony. We saw how committed Sarah Thurlow (clarinet), Tom Hankey (violin), Vanessa McNaught (viola) and Ben Davies (cello) – all excellent - are to Mathews’ player-centred pieces: the full range of each instrument explored and – as in his Roman miniature Actaeon, in which the hunter is torn apart by his own hounds after seeing the goddess Diana naked – the player’s physical and emotional limits too. The argument for more repertoire for this combination is made with the closing performance of Matthews’ atmospheric and energetic Clarinet Quartet.