Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Limelight/The 100 Club

My second visit to this pioneering club and I still think it's a good idea. Ok, so the Limelight have been lucky with their audiences, most of whom know when not to go to the loo or order a drink. And although the air conditioning could be a problem for some listeners, I found myself forgetting about it once the performances begin.

On the bill last night, sets (do classical singers do sets?) from the tenor Marcus Farnsworth, followed by the American countertenor Gerald Thompson. Both took advantage of the informality of the venue by spending time explaining the background to the works they were singing. In turn, the music felt that bit more inviting than usual. Great stuff.

After the interval (during which Annie Lennox was needlessly pumped over the PA system - come on, surely this audience can get by without superfluous white noise?), the Swingle Singers entertained with their usual brand of annoying yet brilliant a cappella singing. Annoying because there's unrelenting heartiness to their duffy duffy do-do sound, brilliant because they do what they do so well. I was completely disarmed by a James Taylor song from their new album called On The 4th Of July.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Monteverdi's Flying Circus/Bridge House Theatre, Warwick, The Reservoir Frogs/West Reservoir, Alfred/Kings Place

Should have blogged about this earlier but hey ho..So, Monteverdi's Flying Circus. Nice show that manages to combine Monteverdi's greatest hits (courtesy of the Armonico Consort) with a play about the cantankerous old genius's dying days. His battles with former employers, the church (who hated his revolutionary harmonies) and his own family were all brought to the fore in a spluttering rage by the excellent Philip Madoc. Once he got going, the 'play' aspect of this joint venture suddenly become far more coherent but it did take a while to find its feet.

My music event of the year thus far was the debut of Reservoir Frogs at the West Reservoir in Stoke Newington. This very fine soul band - made up of members of the Mike Flowers Pops, Faithless, Dream Topping and the Highbury Soul Band - played a brass heavy set to a small but select crowd at a former pumping room whose boomy acoustic probably ensured the sound carried a lot further than the the next door Pirates' Playhouse. Will they return though, that's what I want to know. Any offers of work gratefully received. Here's a clip:

Finally, good to see Ian Page, artistic director of the Classical Opera Company score a hit with Thomas Arne's Alfred at the Kings Place last night. Arne was a contemporary of Handel's which, alas, has made him a bit of an also ran in the history of English music. But, as COC brilliantly demonstrated, he did write some lovely stuff, including the opera/masque Alfred.

The talents of Page's young cast outshone the quaint and unintentionally funny libretto - spoken by a magisterial Michael Maloney - that concluded with a sprightly 'Rule Britannia', as far removed from the lazy jingoism it is now associated with.