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Patti Smith (1975 and 2015)
Patti Smith and Her Band, The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, London, 31st October 2015: The Horses 40th anniversary tour. No, no, no, no, it can't have been that long. My old mucker, Lewis, managed to track me down after an interval of a mere 37 years. Both of us were denizens of UCL in the period 1975-78. We were at the original 'Horses' gig at the Roundhouse 40 years ago. It was time to return. What happened? Did we blink? It could have been a maudlin nostalgia trip, but no. Actually it was just very interesting to catch up on what had happened to people: lives on fast forward from student to retirement. Object lessons in the determinism of life? Maybe. Ye Gods, London is busy for a country bumpkin. And Camden Town during the rugby world cup final, and halloween and the Patti Smith gig, must have been its epicentre. Patti and her band did their stuff. The whole of Horses, her first album, was duly delivered. But there was plenty more after that - they were not about to short-change the audience. They played a continuous set of slightly over 2 hours. Not bad for a woman who will be 69 next month. Respect, bro. And that woman can still hold a crowd as few can. A good night out and a quiet doze on the midnight coach home to the sticks.
Patti Smith and Her Band, Gloria (Roundhouse 31/10/2015)
Mellow Peaches (Amit Dattani and Rich Harris)
Mellow Peaches, Under The Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 3rd October 2015. Not your traditional folk, or your traditional blues, or your traditional country - Mellow Peaches came over well with their idiosyncratic guitar and mandolin playing. Possibly the least pretentious act I've ever seen.
Mellow Peaches, Just a Chain and It's a Horseshoe of Mine
Wotton Concert Series, 20th June 2015, St Mary's Wotton-under-Edge: The London Mozart Players, conductor Benedict Hoffnung. Mendelssohn Overture and Scherzo from A Midsummer Night's Dream, Opus 21; Mozart Horn Concerto No.4 (K495); Beethoven Symphony No.7 in A, Opus 92. Blisteringly good performances. The soloist on the horn was Gavin Edwards. Really a great experience hearing this played right up close. Like most concertos, the Mozart horn concerto No.4 includes passages of terrifying difficulty, negotiated with aplomb by Edwards. Bravo! But it was the Beethoven No.7 that impressed most. Somehow I've never quite got it before. But it's a piece of extraordinary power, even by Ludwig's standards. The playing was perfection. I particularly mention first violinist Ruth Rogers in dispatches, her enjoyment and energy being very evident.
Beethoven Symphony 7, 4th movement, Wiener Philharmoniker, Leonard Bernstein, 1978
Louise Jordan, Under The Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 9th May 2015: A welcome return to UTEA from Louise with her lovely soprano voice. But what a shame the turn-out was so poor.
Louise Jordan, In The End
Wotton Arts Festival, April 2015
The Bristol Ensemble
The Festival Concert with the Bristol Ensemble, soloists Imogen Triner (oboe) and Daniel Harding (violin). First rate concert of mostly baroque. In the first half we had Vivaldi's C major oboe concerto followed by J.S.Bach's violin concerto in A. The incredibly young Dan Harding from Dursley played fantastically well, quite a triumph for him. And Bach can do no wrong for me, especially with the violin. We then had a short Sibelius (Andante Festivo) followed by our very own Gordon Phillips' composition "Suite for Oboe and Strings", which really was very good indeed. I was most impressed. Well done, Gordon. (And a brave scheduling coming on after Vivaldi's oboe, not to mention Bach and Sibelius!). After the interval we had Vivaldi's Four Seasons and also the Four Seasons of Piazzolla. However it was not a case of one piece followed by the other. No, instead the seasons were interleaved. Worked very well, I thought. Yet another example of how lucky we are in Wotton to have such first rate music on our doorstep so frequently.
The Bristol Ensemble: Adagio in G minor (probably not really Albinoni but Remo Giazotto)
Robin Bigwood and harpsichord.
Sunday 26th April: Robin Bigwood (harpsichord) and Annabel Knight (flute/recorder), Baptist Church, WuE. A most enjoyable afternoon's renaissance and baroque. The husband and wife team are the principal components of the group Passacaglia. This afternoon we heard pieces by de Boismortier, Farnaby, Byrd, Telemann, van Eyck, Reincken, Kerll and Couperin. Giving Robin Bigwood's bespoke harpsichord a close inspection at the interval was most interesting. Three independent sets of strings - and so delicate compared to a piano.
Passacaglia (Robin Bigwood and Annabel Knight): Dornel trio sonata La Triomphante
Wotton and District Silver Band
Saturday 25th April: Wotton and District Silver Band with The Edge Community Choir, St Mary's Church, WuE. It's been some time since brass or silver bands limited themselves to umpah-umpah marches. These days they play far more challenging, and far more interesting, music. This was certainly an example. It is easy to see why they have gained promotion to West of England 1st Section Band in 2016. Heck, but they were loud. The Edge Community Choir did their stuff to general acclaim and joined the band at the close for a rendition of Swing Low Sweet Chariot.
Craobh Rua, Under The Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 21 March 2015. Craobh Rua (pronounced Crave Roo-ah), hailing from Belfast, perform traditional celtic-Irish music. We were in two minds whether to go, but were very pleased we did. And only just in time. I think we took the last two places. It was a sell-out. The four piece consisted of a fiddler, a banjo/mandolin player, a singer-guitarist and a wind instrument player. The latter played penny whistle, Irish flute and uillean pipes. I couldn't figure out how the uillean pipes were played until he explained. The bag is under one arm - I could see that - but I didn't realise that there was a bellows under the other arm. The chanter has a two octave range, substantially more than Scottish bagpipes, and the drone pipes could also be played. This had to be done using the wrist of the hand playing the chanter! Sounds bloody hard to me. They gave us the anticipated instrumental reels, jigs, slip reels and hornpipes, but these were interspersed with guitar led songs. This was a good idea because it would require a full-on aficionado to digest a diet of only reels, jigs, etc. But the songs were first rate. The whole thing was delivered with relaxed and unpretentious good humour. Great night. I hope we get them back again. We should do - it was a money spinner.
Matt Schofield Trio, Colston Hall, 8th March 2015 (part of the Bristol Jazz and Blues festival). Having failed to make it to previous Bristol Jazz and Blues festivals, I got my act together this year. There were events for nearly 12 hours per day for three days, so clearly I wasn't going to them all. As the British Blues Awards Guitarist of the Year in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Matt Schofield was an easy choice. Moreover, he was on in the Lattern immediately before Dr John came on in the main hall, so I figured a good wheeze would be to catch them both. Schofield did not disappoint. He can run around that fretboard with the best of them, squeezing all the blue notes out of that Fender.
Matt Schofield Trio
Dr John - The Night Tripper
Dr John and band, Colston Hall, 8th March 2015 (part of the Bristol Jazz and Blues festival). The Colston Hall was heaving. I've never seen so many people there. Scurrying from Matt Schofield I pushed through the crowd to the main hall to see Dr John. I need not have hurried. They were pretty late on stage. The band consisted of drums, bass, organ and a woman on trombone. The bassist was rock solid, very impressive. The organ was unexpected given that the good doctor would be on piano. But the organ effectively did the rhythm thing. I suppose if it had been baroque I'd have called it the continuo instrument. The woman on trombone was extremely irritating. She did the talking and all the leaping around. It didn't help that she started by wishing us a happy international women's day. After the band had warmed up, the good doctor strolled slowly on stage, supported by a stick in each hand. I had to catch this act, I'd not be getting another chance to see this particular legend. He is 74 as I write. He was a heroin addict in the 1950s and continued a life of addictions of various kinds until finally getting clean in 1989. Being still alive, let alone still performing, is quite a triumph. To be honest I've never been a fan. Boogie woogie New Orleans piano is not my thing. I was here to see the legend. He did one number on guitar, the rest on the grand piano. He did a nice version of Walk on Gilded Splinters, though as far as I am concerned Steve Marriott made that song his own for good. He also did a nice version of Motherless Child, and, of course, his trademark "Dr John the Night Tripper". In the second half, the band was joined by Pee Wee Ellis, the sax player, who I last saw at Under The Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, one of our most significant capturings of a major name.
Dr John, giving it some boogie woogie
Mr Dowland's Midnight
Mr Dowland's Midnight, Under The Edge Arts, Wotton-under-Edge, 28th February 2015. Mr Dowland's Midnight comprises Simon Leach on oud, Knud Stuwe on guitar and Jake McMurchie on saxophone. They are named after one of John Dowland's lute pieces. They opened very effectively with one of the gymnopedie and, of course, included Dowland's Midnight in their set. Some of pieces were composed by members of the band, others were arrangements of traditional pieces. Their sound was quite mesmerising, with an ethereal quality. The three instruments belnded ver well together, with the oud taking the rhythm or bass roles. The oud looks like a lute but sounds very different. It has no frets. Another first rate musical experience at UTEA. I'd be very happy to see them again.
Simon Leach on oud and Knud Stuwe on guitar playing Norwegian Wood
Wotton Concert Series, St Mary's Church, Wotton-under-Edge, 7th February 2015. I have attended all these Wotton Series concerts since I became aware of them several years ago. Well, they are on my doorstep and the standard is truly exceptional. I defy you to find concerts of a higher, or even comparable, standard in any town of comparable size. We are extremely lucky and should be duly grateful to the organisers. The last, pre-Christmas, concert was Handel's Messiah. Tonight was principally Mozart, but Handel made a short but scintillating appearance in the form of the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, which opened the second half. The evening was started, though, with Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, a piece he wrote as a birthday present for his wife and had it performed at their home on Christmas Day 1870. Darn it, I didn't think I liked Wagner. Now I will have to change my mind - and struggle with the ideological implications. The two major peices tonight, though, were the Clarinet Concerto in A by Mozart and, after the interval, Mozart's Symphony 40 in G minor. I was very surprised that this concert was not a sell-out. The previous concerts have mostly been sell-outs, or very nearly so, and I would have thought that Mozart would be particularly popular. But you could get tickets on the door for this one. I suspect it might be because the tickets did not go on sale until much later than usual. The clarinet concerto was a great experience, especially being almost within touching distance of the soloist, a strikingly handsome young man (can I say that at my age without being assumed gay?). He, Jordan Black, was a finalist in the 2012 BBC young musician of the year competition. He played the concerto using a conventional (B-flat soprano) clarinet, which is usual these days. However Mozart wrote the piece for a basset clarinet. This has an extension piece with 4 extra notes and is pitched in A. Below I include a YouTube link to a Julian Bliss recording of the concerto using a basset clarinet. Another great night at St Mary's.
Julian Bliss playing the Mozart Clarinet Concerto in A
2012 finals of the young musician of the year competition: Jordan Black
David Russell, St.George's, Bristol, 29th January 2015. I only just spotted this one in time. I knew nothing of this guy beforehand, but that was clearly just my ignorance. He comes loaded with accolades, including the Julian Bream prize from the Royal Academy and first prize in the Andres Segovia Competition, the Jose Ramírez Competition, and the Fransisco Tarrega Competition, plus a Grammy award. It's easy to see why. His musicianship is very obviously outstanding even to the non-player. The most technically demanding passages seem effortless. Though it may seem a minor point, but isn't, Russell projects a good volume of sound. This is not easy on a classical guitar in a large hall, and is the mark of accomplishment. The listeners' attention will tend to drift if a good volume is not maintained. The pieces played, in order, were Fantasia III in F (F Sor), Sonata In B flat (Vivaldi), Cantigas De Santiago (S Goss, World Premiere), Partita I (J S Bach), Sonatina (F Morel). The composer, Goss, was in the audience for the premiere of his new composition. He came on stage and introduced the piece, explaining its 7 movement structure. I was braced for tedium, but actually it was quite magical. There were many David Russell CDs on sale and I tried to get a CD of this piece, but, of course, being new, it has not yet been recorded. All the pieces played were remarkable, but the other stand-out was the Bach.
David Russell playing Morel's Sonatina
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