Monday, 15 December 2008

The South Bank Show/Messiah (5)

Our big day out with the Keighley Vocal Union. As tradition dictates this choir perform Messiah every Christmas at a small Methodist chapel in Freckleton, not far from Preston.

The chapel is warm and welcoming. Only an organist accompanies the choir as there isn't room for an orchestra, and besides, this Messiah is being performed (if that's the right word) as part of a Methodist service which these days is quite a rarity. It's a reminder of how much Messiah owes to the singing tradition embodied in Methodism although personally I much prefer it served up in a concert hall.

In between Part One and Two the elders at the chapel lay on a huge tea. It reminds me of those pristine spreads I would stare at with envy in Ladybird books from the seventies, all colour and cream. Afterwards everyone goes to the pub and carols are sung at full pelt. On the coach home everyone reverts to good old Abba, the Patron Saints of coach parties.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

John Shuttleworth/Bloomsbury Theatre

I saw John Shuttleworth for the first time at a charity gig in Brighton in the late eighties. His act has barely changed since then and I do wonder if this ever worries Graham Fellows, Shuttleworth's creator. I only ask because Shuttleworth and his audience (myself included) have built up such an affection for each other over the years that it's hard to know where Fellows can take John Shuttleworth next. Certainly nowhere too far afield, all his references (Kitkat wrappers, the Austin Ambassador) are simply too English for that. The non-plussed Spaniard sitting behind was assured by his friend that he would get more of the references with the other character on the bill, the morose brummy Brian Appleton. And sure enough he chortled away while Appleton lamented his missed opportunities as a prog-rock pioneer. By the time Shuttleworth reappeared to round off the show the Spaniard was pacing about at the back of the theatre like a caged animal. The rest of us sat back and basked in the nerdy warmody that is Shuttleworth's stock in trade, complete with silly tunes (actually infuriatingly catchy) and daft lyrics. No swear words either, or belly laughs, just a cosy night in.