January 15, 2014

Reviews written for EDP and Lynn News 2013-14

Fr Peter Rollins

Pilgrimage and the Port of Lynn

Marriott’s Warehouse Sunday 27 October

Fr Rollins wore his office lightly for this well-attended and captivating talk, joshing late arrivals across a creaky Warehouse floor ‘Catholics - always late for Mass!’ - and, over the clangour of someone’s mobile, ‘if that’s the Pope, I’m unavailable.’

Celtic Lynn, meaning ‘lake’ or ‘pool’, attracted visitors to its magical lowland confluence of water, sky and earth: like a sacred Blackpool.

The Walsingham connection began after the Norman lady Richeldis de Faverches, inspired by a vision of the Virgin Mary there in 1061, built a replica of the Holy House, hence England’s Nazareth.

Pilgrims arrived by sea in Lynn Episcopacy (Bishop’s Lynn) with its skyline of five imposing friaries and giant harbourside Cross before staying at the ‘motorway service stations’ of the age - the monasteries – and flourishing Inns along the marathon walk to Walsingham. Rollins explained that Church-licenced, uniformed pilgrims did not always behave in a penitential manner, and ‘football crowd’ Ave Maria chants drew complaints. The unworldly and disorientated (many from overseas) were also mercilessly fleeced by locals.

The entire industry stopped in 1537 (until 1897) with Thomas Cromwell’s concerns: to maintain Henry VIII’s financial independence (by ‘acquiring’ monastic wealth) and end idolatry associated with holy sites. This change was brutally enforced and the 12 plumbers, masons and others (concerned for their livelihoods as much as their Faith) who reopened Richeldis’s shrine were hanged, drawn and quartered, two in Lynn. No others tried.

A fascinating insight.
The Bricks of Burston
Fakenham Community Centre

100 years ago, the parson of Burston, Norfolk, drove Annie and Tom Higdon out of his county school and started the longest strike in trade union history.
The set is a convincing Edwardian classroom with attention focused on the nondescript door. In a fine moment of theatre, the audience realises the three compellingly-acted characters are trapped together in limbo.
Annie and Tom’s relationship is explored best through the story of the strike itself, which pitches dynamic chapel egalitarianism against landowning establishment and church.
Tom is a born fighter, defeating the parson (who runs the village) in a local election; Annie just wants to teach and fears to alienate their patron.
Their marital rows are as convincing as their shared belief that every child, however low-born (Tom himself is labourer’s son) deserves an education to make dreams come true, not just a training for servitude.
The NUT advises Annie to smile in court. The children strike on her behalf. Workers from all over the world send money and bricks to build an alternative school.
Alex Helm’s parson is a study of unctuous complacency challenged by a changing society and a gradual agonising self-awareness that he hates his own God.






http://www.lynnnews.co.uk/what-s-on/lifestyle-leisure/review-east-anglian-hopefuls-get-their-chance-to-support-the-swarb-1-5977303 here



EDP Reviews are print only so I reproduce them here.

Rich Hall. King’s Lynn Corn Exchange. Wednesday 15 May.

There was a midweek stir about King’s Lynn as American stand up king of cuss Rich Hall drew a near-capacity crowd. Hall is not as barbed as some TV comedy stars – his jokes at the expense of the audience’s town were balanced with an expressed affection for Norfolk, if not for the London he has chosen to live, the Essex he says America started out from or the next town on his tour. Armed only with words - including an F word that became part of the rhythm of his delivery - he held this audience for over two hours, often making them the butt of his jokes, when he wasn’t bringing up to date Wilde’s quip that ‘We have everything in common with America nowadays, except of course language ’ with observations on armed US schoolteachers, English cobblers cutting keys and buttoned-up Englishmen not showing their appreciation. This audience showed it with chortles, claps, cheery heckling and whistles.
And then there were guitars: had Rich gone pop? No, though his strum-n-growl improvisations of audience stories– even persuading Nigel in row 2 to propose to Ellie!- added variety. And he did finish the evening singing a searing satire on Dylan.

KIng's Lynn Festival 2013

Laura van der Heijden (cello) and the European Union Chamber Orchestra, St Nicholas’s Chapel, King’s Lynn.
Apt that this King’s Lynn Festival concert began with the work of a 16-year-old prodigy, Mozart, as another, winner of BBC Young Musician 2012, was the star of several pieces, notably Haydn’s Cello Concerto No 1 in C Major. Early Mozart and Haydn is sometimes dismissed as ‘decorative’ – technically gifted but lacking the personal expression and mature emotion of later works - but you may as well accuse the air of heaven on a July evening of lacking gravity. And in any case, the beautiful adagio of the Cello Concerto held heart-strung emotion which the soloist handled with sublime ease before showing her mastery of the fraught final movement. Bridge of Sighs for solo cello and strings composed by Tom Waits, another (relative) youngster, present in this audience, carried a gentle breath of his workplace - St John’s College, Cambridge - into the warmest air St Nicholas’s can have known for many a summer, the work’s accessible modernity aided by its homage to a Monteverdi madrigal. To finish, the elegiac melodies of Grieg and dancing airs of Respighi left the audience charmed. Gareth Calway

Courtney Pine. Corn Exchange, King’s Lynn.
The musical diversity at this year’s King’s Lynn Festival is extraordinary – distinguished orchestras and conductors, bright new stars of classical music and, with Courtney Pine and his six piece band, a surprising new take on modern jazz
Jazz musicians always look cool. These guys looked Jamaican-cool. And as the dreadlocked Pine explains, it is the exciting rhythms, warmth and joyous improvisation of Jamaica that drives them. Led up, down and all over the scales by Pine’s soprano sax and EWI, the tight fusions of drums, steel drums, dual guitars and stripped-down bass take us on a helter-skelter of meringue, ska, mento, calypso and freestyle. ‘What is that tune?’ Pine enquires, ‘accidentally’ finding Take Five - though we were never allowed to stay in the comfort zone of a standard tune for long.
The virtuosity of each player also emerges in breathtaking solos – generously framed for the audience in dumb show of respect by the ever-genial Pine.
It is music as interaction that interests him most, dance music for the heart and this two-thirds capacity crowd joyfully responded throughout. By the end, it was on its feet, clapping, singing, making its own festival. Gareth Calway

The Benyounes Quartet. Town Hall, King’s Lynn.
These dynamic and elegant young players, judged best performers at the International Sador Vegh String Quartet Competition in Budapest and in receipt of four other prizes in 2012 including Best interpretation of Bartok, got the King’s Lynn Festival programme of coffee concerts off to an impressive start. Three recalls to the stage by a capacity Monday morning audience continuing to exclaim its approval as it filed out down the antique steps speaks for itself.
After paying its respects to the teenage Schubert’s String Quartet in E Flat major, the group tackled a new work by Tim Watts - present in this audience –inspired by a poem by Sylvia Plath. They daringly reversed Plath’s technique, successfully turning her crisp musical metaphors into actual music.
The intense closeness of the ensemble playing was evident to both eye and ear throughout and nowhere more than in the Slavonic folk tunes and dance rhythms of Dvorak’s String Quartet in E Flat. In each movement, the young players explored something fresh , tender or exuberant, or all at once, flowing seamlessly from fast polka rhythms through lyrical andante to joyous melody and showing a collective mastery of all.

Blazin’ Fiddles. Guildhall , King’s Lynn
‘We’ll start with a shet of reels from Setland.’ Not an easy sentence for a Highlander to say in a heat this traditional six-piece fiddle, guitar and keyboard band grinned about throughout – mentioning hot tubs and cocoa as their interval treat - but belied all evening by the fluency of the playing.
This King’s Lynn Festival event drew a different capacity crowd from those at the classical music and modern jazz concerts and it applauded the full range of Highland and Island stories, from jumping rhythms calling to the feet to the Jacobite lament and other pieces truly touching the heart. Each player - except the keyboard player who let his foregrounded syncopating rhythms and bearded smile do the talking - had a distinct tartan story to tell in spoken introductions then on a fiddle, redolent of late nights reeling towards dawn.
The solo virtuosity and ensemble of fiddles, keyboard and the acoustic guitar, thrashed with a rhythmic folk subtlety often lost as a lead instrument in amplified rock, had us clapping and jigging to this ceilidh-in-seats, in the truly warmed-up second half. A festival of British diversity in all its glory. Gareth Calway.

You look Familiar! The Familiars at Folkspot

(Familiars on left, me and Dave the presenter of Folkspot, on right looking on)


p.32 EDP Monday 17 February

Fairport Convention
Princess Theatre, Hunstanton

Fairport are The Great Revisiters: old songs, grand old venues, grey longhaired audiences mirroring those onstage. The tour album By Popular Request (2012) revisits 45 years of fan-voted masterpieces. Tonight’s audience revisits young, gifted, wild 1967, proud to have been there.
Fairport wear their instrumental virtuosity like their motley clothes – casually: musicians not rock-stars.
Sole original member Simon Nicol denies Fairport ‘beat a drum for folk-rock’ - ‘we absorb some folk tradition’ into rock. But rock is heritage now too - vintage Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson songs are highlights.
Fairport also re-invent via sell-out evergreen winter tours (this is their 30th in a row); showcases for new acts (Edwina Hayes, a singer worthy of Sandy); their Cropredy festival and a host of new songs in which their creative phoenix burns on:
A billion dollar mandolin
Won’t play a bluegrass tune.
An unwanted novelty was Peggy, Fairport’s stage-clown bassist, chatting out front pre-show nursing a bandaged hand. Surely a joke? But Fairport have a long tradition of replacing the irreplaceable: Pegg Jnr impressively deputised, though hearts lifted when Andy-capped Dad grinned onstage for vocal duties.
The ensemble playing is, as always, vibrant, creative, soaring. And everyone sings.

See also: Fairport in a storm. http://garethcalway.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/fairport-on-ice-in-north-sea.html">interview with Fairport Convention's Dave Pegg http://www.lynnnews.co.uk/what-s-on/lifestyle-leisure/dave-pegg-heading-back-to-norfolk-this-summer-we-always-look-forward-to-our-hunstanton-gigs-1-5951558

Jesus Christ Superstar
KLODS. Guildhall, King’s Lynn
The iconoclastic 1969 rock opera is recharged with contemporary energy, the hippy apostles re-imagined as anti-capitalist indignados of 2011. Peter Yates’ agitated Judas is Parka and booted against Jesus’s dazzling crown-of-thorn T shirt ‘summer of love’ and Sara-Jane Brennock’s heart-singing, free-loving, it-will-end-in-tears Mary Magdalene. The overture’s witty montage of celebrity Jesus counter-culture newspaper stories is an inspired touch. The music drives the production, an amplified heartbeat of fervour, sorrow, agony and passion over the exuberant hippy-Mama choruses. Always tricky to ‘play God’ – James Golder does it handsomely from idealist youth to crucifying experience. Peter is sung with piercing beauty; Simon with conviction. Judas, Rice’s alternative human antagonist in Peter’s stead, sings from a broken heart throughout and storms the gates of heaven with the show hit Jesus Christ Superstar, in which he post-suicidally emerges in a hell-tongued Rolling Stones T shirt and bomber jacket, amid dancing flames. The dark-glassed Sanhedrin is ‘wickedly’ costumed and sung, Caiaphas bass and dominitrix Priest awesome. The theatrical set pieces – Judas’s suicide, Jesus’s flogging and crucifixion, are lit, directed and played brilliantly. There is not a false step or note in this sexy all-singing all-dancing operatic triumph.

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