Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Head-scratching Moment: Opera vs. Musical

I'm not usually a big fan of first night performances, and the first night of the opera Faust by the ENO at the Coliseum was no exception. Surrounded by the great and the good, all of whom don't know me so there's no small talk and getting pushed out of the way on the red carpet by Paps, as they try to get a picture of Someone Famous. Everyone is on their best behaviour, the wine at the party is awful and no canapes were forthcoming after a half an hour wait.

The performance itself, however, although good - I stayed awake throughout, which was more than could be said for David Mellor - left me confused. It was a bit too Musical Theatre for me.

Don't get me wrong - I love Musicals. I saw Legally Blonde recently and thought it was splendid, so here is the confusion - at what point does an opera become another musical? Both have singing, both have dancing - the only difference I can see is the type of music, and the way that music is sung. I don't understand what other components come together to constitute an opera as opposed to a musical. I came out of the theatre thinking more about what on earth it was about this particular production that made it so different to other operas I had seen. Not better or worse - just different. This production blurred the lines somewhat.

I don't want to review the show, but to anyone who has seen it - or will see it when it transfers to New York, whenever that is - contact me and let me know what they think.

Maybe, it's just me...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Weekend Trolling...

Over to Blackheath, a two + hour journey across town, courtesy of the transport system, to the opening of David Owen's exhibition, currently on show at the Stark Gallery for the next month. I mentioned this artist in the last post, so I've just added the link here, so you can check on this and whatever else he's getting up to - oh, and the fab trailer for the '5000 Morris Dancers' show by Rob Curry is on there as well, which is worth seeing, although I should warn you now there are lots of flashing images. I loved this show, and this mixed-media artist throws up a lot of images that make you laugh, think and - in my case - covet. Studley sent me off with a view to buying one or two of his pieces, but by the time I got there, I was already seeing the little dots appearing - you know which ones, the ones that mean 'sold'. but it was still great to see these pieces full size.

The next day, I rocked up at the IKnit event at the Royal Horticultural Halls, to find it a very subdued afternoon. All was decidedly quiet. And slow. For the first time in my recollection, the people ran out before the food. I had no trouble walking up to meet Alice Starmore, no one huffed and tutted in a queue behind me as I had quite a long chat with the celebrated lady of Stornaway, and as she signed my copy of the newly-reprinted 'Fisherman's Sweaters' I was gently chastised for my pronunciation of one of her earlier books, 'Celtic Needlepoint' which has pride of place at Hand Wash Towers. A momentary lapse, it won't happen again.

The ladies of Fyberspates were in good spirits, and there was much fondling of yarn, and cooing. I like cooing. I also like spending, so after picking up a skein of something quite yummy, getting a human hug from the Silklady (Rav Name) I wended my way home, stopping briefly at Westminster Cathedral to pay my respects and see the procession of Our Lady of Victory commemorating Malta Day, which seemed to have a far better turnout that IKnit, although I could be wrong.

The following day found me at the Duck Pond Market (yes, I do like to pack in a lot into my spare time). Hanging out with friends on their lovely stall, featuring beautiful hand-dyed yarn by Shamu (again, a Rav Name). It took a lot to keep my money in my pocket, and I worry that I may become a collector, the colours are so gorgeous and vibrant. The market itself was very quiet, there being only five or so stalls out this particular venue, but it's a great market, and I see myself being a regular visitor.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Don't Mess With Morris

An off the cuff remark made by Sebastian Coe set in motion an amazing chain of events, culminating in a weekend the like of which will never be seen in London again. And I was there.

Now, Seb Coe can be a twat at the best of times.

When asked what entertainment he would like to see at the 2012 Olympics, Mr Coe jokingly replied "5000 Morris Dancers". Ha, bloody Ha.

"5000 Morris Dancers" became a celebration of folk music and traditional regional Morris Dance held over the weekend at the Southbank Centre. Outside on the Queen's Walk, the public were treated to 100 of the best Morris Dancers from across the country, both male and female teams demonstrated a diversity of styles. Hammersmith Morris Men, pictured above, are not your typical Morris Men, oh no. They are the best at what they do, and they didn't come to mess around. The Blue Boggarts turned out in full force with their painted faces. Entertaining, and I found one of them strangely attractive. There are pictures, but Studley does not want to upload them. Feeling a little jealous, I shouldn't wonder.

Inside, more delights.

Live traditional music in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, then the premiere of the documentary "The Way Of The Morris" by Tim Plester and Rob Curry, which charted Plester's relationship with his family and his village, and his own roots in folk music and dance. A beautiful film, a love letter to his village, its history and traditions, with a P.S. that said "I'm coming home". Here's hoping this film gets a wide release, I wish everybody could see it.

A few canapes, much wine and a dalliance with a Morrissed-up Star Wars Stormtrooper later, and we were back in the Queen Elizabeth Hall for a one-off concert celebrating "Morris On", the 1972 album to which all other folk/rock albums before and since have long been compared. This time the album was performed from start to finish by some of the best of the British young folk artists - Jim Moray, Saul Rose (who happens to also be on the right side of gorgeous) Sam Sweeney, Sam Carter, Jon Fuller, Dave Burbage and Jackie Oates, with a Conversation With Ashley Hutchings, one of the musicians on the original album.

Add to that the superb artwork of visual artist David Owen lining the walls:

it was a weekend like no other.

Now don't get me wrong. Folk music is not my favourite genre. Morris Dancing may or may not be the closest thing Britain has to Capoeira, but it is not a joke, to be treated with derision, to be ridiculed or maligned. To mess with the Morris, or to be blunt, fuck with the Folk, is to dismiss a large chunk of this nation's people, who are keeping traditions alive. Folk music is Soul Music and it speaks of all the things that we should never dismiss: love, longing, politics, fantasy, sex, storytelling, history and dreams. I respect and salute those who continue to sing it and who breathe new life into it.

That sounded a bit like a rant, didn't it? Good.

Huge thanks to Terry O'Brien of Playpen Management for producing, and inviting us, to this fantastic event.

Pictures will follow, once I soothe the savage Studley.

P.S. Seb Coe is still a twat.