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June 19, 2017 / basabbott

Music from the Turbulent 1790s


Summer Concert
Harleston Choral Society

Composing in the 1790s must have been like working during the Blitz.
Europe was in the kind of turmoil not experienced again until the World
Yet out of it came great works like Mozart’s Requiem and Haydn’s Maria
Theresa Mass.
Religious works with Glorias, Credos and Agnus Dei were inspired by and
reflected their times.
There was much to inspire choir and orchestra, conducted by Christopher
Bracewell and led by Mike Golding.
In the spirited, impassioned singing you could hear the works as
anthems for a dying century.
Troubled times, with hints of Gothic, created the touching and the
prayerful, along with great jubilation.
The orchestra were at their most eloquent in the Haydn, with strings,
brass and timpani hitting exultant heights.
When soloists Sonia Stockel, Stephen Harvey, Michael Hart-Davis and
Callum Thorpe sang it was like a master class. Their voices seemed to
waft down through history.

Basil Abbott

June 14, 2017 / basabbott

The R34 Adventure newsletter No. 15

R34 nwsltr15

Click to read the latest R34 airship project newsletter.

June 14, 2017 / basabbott

1911 Nature Cure


The Secret Garden
Spinning Wheel Theatre
Palgrave Community Centre

A Richard Mabey style nature cure is one of the themes of Frances
Hodgson Burnett’s 1911 novel.
Emotional neglect and parental death have turned Mary into a
“tyrannical, selfish little pig”. But tlc, play and gardening do
wonders for her.
The Indian Raj background and cholera epidemic are conveyed by a letter
– one of the clever means of adaptation in Amy Wyllie’s production.
Back in Yorkshire Mary (Niamh McGowan) has one angry set-to with a
servant. Then she brightly discovers skipping, friendship, plants,
animals and local dialect.
Alice Osmanski does brilliant work as the housekeeper, maid and male
You forget that young adults are playing both grown-ups and children.
Joe Leat shines as Mary’s guardian, the doctor and her friend Dickon.
Samuel Norris rejuvenates movingly as the sickly Colin.
Becca Gibbs’ set design suggests Yorkshire stone softened by floral
The production picks up on the garden as a childhood metaphor – both an
enchanted era and a gathering place of fears.

Basil Abbott

May 21, 2017 / basabbott

New Score On The Somme


The Battle of the Somme
Pulham Orchestra

Last year Diss Museum showed the Somme film with a piano accompaniment.
This time, at Diss church, it was the turn of the Pulham Orchestra to play the new score by Laura Rossi.
When the film was made in 1916 it was seen by twenty million people, a record not broken until Star Wars.
The film was propaganda, showing military life but giving no impression of the disaster of the battle.
It took an act of imagination on the part of a modern audience to see the film with the eyes of 1916.
But they were helped by the stunning playing of the Pulham Orchestra at the back of the church. Conductor Margery Baker used the font as a stand.
Several people said that at times they forgot the orchestra were there, as the music seemed just part of the film.
Cheery marching soldiers, the thunder of the guns, poignant moments – all were depicted with style and distinction.

Basil Abbott

May 16, 2017 / basabbott

Optimism in Troubled Times


Spring Concert
Burgate Singers

There was a moment when the setting sun caught the face of the young lady soprano.
The natural spotlight through the Eye Town Hall window announced an unforgettable performance by Henrike Legner.
Unfazed as a portrait of an infanta, she dominated the evening by her stillness and perfection of voice.
Around her swirled Stravinsky psalms, the Polish folk nationalism of Szmanowski and Haydn’s Mass in Time of Trouble.
It was music that gave great chances to choir and orchestra, under Alain Judd’s direction.
The Burgate Sinfonia (leader Julian Trafford) shone particularly in the Stravinsky, which highlighted each instrument. Also in a passage of racing excitement in the Szmanowski.
The choir achieved heights of penitence and praise in what were all religious pieces in Latin.
The fiery, optimistic fervour of Haydn, from strife-torn 18th century Austria, was delivered at full throttle.
With a dying Health Service and right-wing fingers on the Trident button, it was the kind of optimism we need.

Basil Abbott

May 2, 2017 / basabbott

Somme Film & Concert

April 27, 2017 / basabbott

Born To Trouble


Diss High School

Richard Burton was born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.
He led a Faustian life of booze, cigs, women, adulation, with his final curtain call at 58.
All solo performer Rhodri Miles needs on stage are a throne-like chair and a drinks trolley, continually visited.
That Welsh paean Under Milk Wood underscores the show and rolls off his tongue like the Llareggub tide.
We hear a potted life story of Richard Walter Jenkins from poor beginnings to fame and wealth.
Many green room and film anecdotes are recounted along the way, forever with drink in hand.
Mr. Miles gets into his stride after the interval when he talks about Cleopatra, the film that made Burton’s career take off.
Sometimes he sounds more like Anthony Hopkins, without that fierce, nasal delivery Burton used in performance.
But the passages from Dylan Thomas and glimpses of Hamlet (‘What a piece of work is a man!’), from Old Vic and Broadway days, left us longing for more.

Basil Abbott