Thursday, 24 December 2009

Aladdin/Hackney Empire

I know I'm not panto's target audience but boy did this drag. The story got ground down by too many characters on stage jostling for laughs. Consequently none of them, including the mighty Clive Row as Widow Twanky, made much of an impression. Their job certainly wasn't helped by a rather lack lustre script. Happy Christmas by the way.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Green Carnation

To the attractive Green Carnation, a night club in Soho that does its best to evoke the spirit of Oscar Wilde, and an evening of music by Errollyn Wallen. Generous in spirit to the end she has invited me and one of her students to road test a couple of our songs as well. This could be very embarrassing, especially as the blurb surrounding this inaugural event talks about it 'bringing the vanguard into the mainstream' or something like that. The trouble is my little tune is as cheesy as they come. Undeterred, and with some invaluable support from Will Mount who provides the lyrics, vocal and some tasty work on guitar, we strum our way through a song called Karen O Karen. It's a slowish ballad about..actually I'm not sure what it's about as I'm not really taking Will's lyrics in as I'm far to busy concentrating on the piano chords. It's warmly received thank God. Errollyn wants to make the evening a regular thing that encourages all sorts to come forward with songs they itching to perform. A good idea.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Michael Rosen/Bookmarks. St Mary's Old Church Stoke Newington

Children's author and poet Michael Rosen was the socialist book store Bookmarks' Christmas present to its customers. Holding forth for about an hour, he entertained his young and appreciative audience with hilarious stories about his childhood. Never missing a chance to turn the smallest turn of phrase into a short and witty rhyme, poem or chant, he demonstrated how one man's imagination and humour can be a far more valuable experience for children than all those phony Santa's Grottoes put together.

Spent the evening at St Mary's Stoke Newington, the prettiest and possibly oldest church in this part of town. Plans are afoot to turn it into an arts centre hence my appearance at a fund raiser for this cause. Apart from the odd wedding or two, I haven't really done a solo spot in public since my days at music college so I was a bit nervous. Luckily it was a very friendly informal occasion. I made the audience sing a long to As Time Goes By. Helpful. Nicky Spice from Highbury Chamber Choir accompanied on the piano. Great player!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Richard Rodney Bennett/Claire Martin

A little treat this afternoon. I was lucky enough to film Richard and Claire at a very fine recording studio at the back end of Stamford Brook. They were putting together a couple of tracks for an album of Cy Coleman songs that will be released in 2011 to coincide with Richard's 75th birthday. It's a lovely working relationship they've got, finely honed after a fair few years they've spent on the cabaret circuit (such as it exists) in London and beyond.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Leif Ove Andsnes - Pictures Reframed/Errollyn Wallen - Christmas Concert

I used to be a bit of an evangelist for classical musicians experimenting with visuals to enhance their performances. It was the premise of a South Bank Show I made about the baroque ensemble Red Priest a few years ago. They were keen broaden their appeal to a younger generation of listeners and so they got in some blokes to spice up their stage show with dry ice, goth-icky costumes, moody lights and an exploding recorder (I exaggerate a little). It fell flat on its face. I had always assumed Red Priest would have had a better chance of success had they spent more time and money on it. But after seeing Leif Ove Andsnes's Pictures Reframed at the QEH on Saturday I'm not sure these kinds of classical/multi media projects live or die by the size of the budget thrown at them (and I'm assuming Robin Rhode's accompanying film for Pictures at an Exhibition didn't come cheap), they just die because they're not necessary. All the way through Andsnes's excellent account of Mussorgsky's work my attention was constantly being pulled in a direction I didn't want it to go in. I'm sure Rhode's film images were full of clever references to Pictures but I wasn't getting any of them and what's more, I didn't really care. When you get as good a player as Andsnes up on stage any extra biz is completely superfluous.

A very well groomed West London crowd turned up to the new Theatre 34 to see Errollyn Wallen present its debut as a concert venue. She ran through some of her songs old and new, helped by a string quartet, a guitarist and a couple of dancers. She is an exceptional composer whose skills as a pianist take her to places most other songwriters probably don't know exist. Thoughtful, melodic and funny she is one of music's best kept secrets - well to the mainstream anyway. But just how do you categorise someone as versatile and quirky as Errollyn? I can't see the mainstream embracing her yet, or should that be vice versa?