Category Archives: music

JAZZ AND EXMOOR CHURCHES

The United Reform Church in St Peter’s Street, Tiverton was founded in 1660 by Theophilus Polwheile. It was rebuilt in 1831 with his name prominently displayed. The church was eventually sold and deconsecrated.

Sue Johnston bought the building in 2014 and has transformed it into an arts and community centre, known as the Oak Room. Several hundred years later, although the church survives, it is being used in ways that Theophilus never could have dreamed of. The removal of some pews has provided space for a range of artistic and cultural activities, including drawing classes, yoga, theatre productions, a cookery club, and, on the first Friday of every month, live jazz.

Now, the space that once echoed to “All things bright and beautiful” reverberates to the rhythms of jazz, blues and folk music. Although many of the pews remain, armchairs and sofas provide more comfortable seats for listening to music from New Orleans, Chicago and the West Country. The licensed bar and coffee area would undoubtedly have scandalised.

The high ceiling and wooden floors seem to enhance the acoustic qualities of the space. As Sue points out, it was built before microphones and public address systems, and it was important that the unaided voice of the clergyman could be heard clearly by the congregation.

Another church that regularly echoes to the jazz beat is St Luke’s in Simonsbath on Exmoor. Although still a working church, it is also the main venue for the annual Simonsbath Festival. The festival began in 2011 and has grown ever since, with each year bringing top-class musicians to the tiny and secluded hamlet. Jazz, opera and classical music as well as folk music from around the world have all been featured. The festival runs from May Day to Midsummer.

The connection between churches and jazz has had, for at least one jazz fan, a pleasing circularity. In 2016, Nigel Penfold attended All Saint’s Church in Dulverton to listen to a fund-raising concert by Le Jazz. This is a quartet of musicians who combine classical musical educations with a love of jazz. It was, he said, an eye-opening moment. “The number of people in the audience and the evident enjoyment they got from the music, convinced me that a club dedicated to good, live jazz could be commercially viable”, he says. A month later, the South Molton Jazz Club (SMJC) was born and has now established a regular audience, who meet on the last Friday of every month to enjoy a wide range of jazz styles at the George Hotel, South Molton.

Exactly what constitutes jazz is sometimes a moot question. The West Country has a long history of embracing “Trad” or New Orleans jazz, featuring trombones and banjos. Indeed, some people claim that this is the only “true” jazz. Nigel hopes that his policy of having a different band each month encourages people to be more adventurous. Gypsy jazz one month, an Oscar Peterson piano tribute the next, and saxophonists followed by vocalists all help emphasise the huge range of music available under the jazz banner.

“People reacted well to the concept”, says Nigel. So, in autumn 2017, he started looking for an additional venue in Tiverton. This led him to the Oak Room. Applying the same formula as in South Molton, the First Friday jazz club in the Oak Room has hosted a wide range of bands including Manouche, with gypsy jazz guitar players from Poland, and the more local group Dark Town Strutters (pictured), a New Orleans band of, as he puts it, “Extremely experienced, not to say venerable, musicians”, who describe themselves as the only band listed as a national monument by English Heritage.

New jazz venues are rare and word soon spread through the musicians’ network. Nigel is regularly contacted by foreign music agents seeking gigs for their touring bands.

The prize for the band which travelled furthest to perform for the SMJC goes to the B. D. Lenz trio. This is a New York based jazz/funk combination of guitarist, bass player and drummer who flew into the UK from the US on a Thursday, performed in Birmingham that evening and drove to South Molton to perform the next day. The journey from Birmingham took them seven hours, on one of the hottest days of the year.

“They arrived forty minutes before they were due to play“, says Nigel. “They set up, they played for two hours and they were brilliant”.

Professionalism and experience like that don’t come cheap but, as Theophilus might have said, “Is not the labourer worthy of his hire?”

Future plans include integrating the impressive pipe organ in the Oak Room into a gig. However, finding a keyboard player willing to tackle the enormous instrument has so far proved difficult. The wooden floor also has musical possibilities. Sue’s partner, Ken Maharajah, is a talented artist and one of his favourite subjects is the swirly, passionate flamenco dancers of Andalucia. Following an exhibition of Ken’s paintings at the National Museum of Flamenco in Saville, Nigel’s ambition is to use Ken’s contacts to bring a flamenco dance troupe and band to perform at the Oak Room.

Live music is alive and well in the South West. Sometimes in unlikely places.

Contacts: www.SouthMoltonJazzClub.com 

www.oakroomtiverton.com

www.simonsbathfestival.org.uk 

 

 

 

 

MINEHEAD & EXMOOR MUSIC FESTIVAL

The Regal Theatre is proud once again to welcome the Minehead and Exmoor Music Festival for a week of rehearsals and performance. This is the 55th season of the Minehead & Exmoor Music Festival, which presents a week of concerts across West Somerset. 

The Regal provides a home where the orchestra rehearses and also hosts 3 major concerts.  (The Young Artists’ Concert on Sunday 22 July (at 7pm) and the Chamber Concert on Thursday 27 July (at 4pm) take place at the Methodist Church opposite the theatre.)

The orchestra, which plays a pivotal role in the Minehead Music Festival, was originally founded by Tim Reynish in 1963. It has been running in its present form for 30 years under Artistic Director and Conductor Richard Dickins.  Once again he has produced a fine programme of music which everyone is sure to enjoy. Every year he manages to persuade eminent international soloists as well as up-and-coming stars to come and perform with the orchestra.

The players are drawn from all over the country but most come from the London area where many of them perform with well-established orchestras and chamber groups. They produce high standards of performance which audiences eagerly anticipate.

Here is the festival line-up…

FESTIVAL ORCHESTRA CONCERTS AT THE REGAL THEATRE
CONDUCTED BY RICHARD DICKINS          

TICKETS: Adults £18.00, Students £3.00

Monday 23 July at Regal Theatre, Minehead
The Festival Orchestra conducted by Richard Dickins
Mozart:  Symphony No 35 (Haffner)
Paul Patterson: Double Bass Concerto
A world premiere performance
Soloist Leon Bosch
Mendelssohn: Symphony No 3 (Scottish)

Wednesday 25 July at Regal Theatre, Minehead
The Festival Orchestra conducted by Richard Dickins
Rossini:  Overture to The Barber of Seville
Bruch: Violin Concerto No 1
Soloist Maya Magub
Brahms: Symphony No 3

Saturday 28 July at Regal Theatre, Minehead
END OF FESTIVAL CONCERT
The Festival Orchestra conducted by Richard Dickins
Mozart: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
Dvorak: Cello Concerto No 1
Soloist Laura van der Heijden  
Shostakovich: Symphony No 5

Tickets are now on sale at the Regal Box Office (01643 706430), 10am – 3pm Monday – Friday, 10am – 1pm Saturday.

FOLK TRIO LEVERET AT HALSWAY MANOR

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts are delighted to be welcoming acclaimed instrumental trio Leveret to perform at the Manor on Saturday 16 June at 8pm. ​

“Classy players … their intuitive way with tunes is glorious” Mojo

Leveret is a unique collaboration between three of England’s finest folk musicians. Andy Cutting (melodeon), Sam Sweeney (fiddle) and Rob Harbron (concertina) are each regarded as exceptional performers and masters of their instruments. Together their performances combine consummate musicianship, compelling delivery and captivating spontaneity. Leveret’s music is not arranged in the conventional sense and instead they rely on mutual trust, listening and responding as they perform live. Their playing is relaxed and natural, drawing audiences in and inviting them to share in music making that is truly spontaneous and yet deeply timeless.

“This is all about the joy of playing and the intoxicating thrill of three masters of their craft … the empathy between them as the music ebbs and flows is exceptional; you can also see the smiles and winks between them. The feel-good warmth they generate is palpable.” Colin Irwin [fROOTS review of In The Round]

Fiddler Sam Sweeney was the 2015 BBC Folk Awards Musician of the Year, directs the National Youth Folk Ensemble and is known for his work in Bellowhead, Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band, The Full English and his own Made In The Great War project. Melodeon genius Andy Cutting, a three-time BBC Folk Awards Best Musician, is a compelling solo performer and currently works with Blowzabella, Topette, June Tabor, and Roger Daltry. Concertina wizard Rob Harbron leads the English Acoustic Collective summer school and is known for his work with The Full English (Best Group and Best Album BBC Folk Awards 2014), Emma Reid, Fay Hield, Jon Boden and others.

“You won’t find English folk music played better than this”R2

Leveret’s music is firmly rooted in the English tradition but sounds fresh and new.  With their albums New Anything and In The Round and over a long string of sell-out gigs, the trio have built a strong reputation as consummate musicians and captivating performers. Latest release Inventions brings Leveret’s trademark groove, energy and intuitive playing to bear on a set of new tunes composed by the trio, three of today’s finest tunesmiths in the folk field.

“Sublime, exquisite music – don’t miss them” Martin Simpson

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a Charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills Halsway Manor provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts. There’s ample free parking onsite, a bar and – of course – beautiful atmospheric settings for concerts with wonderful acoustics, and a chance to catch-up with the artists over a drink afterwards!

Tickets are priced £15. Call 01984 618274 (option 1), email office@halswaymanor.org.uk or buy securely online at www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

ALAUDIAE TAKE TO THE STAGE AT ST LUKE’S FOR SIMONSBATH FESTIVAL

After a brilliant evening in the company of ENPA chief executive Sarah Bryan, the fantastically talented opera singers Miranda Westcott and Claire Egan will take time out from their busy schedule of performances at prestigious venues such as the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, to give a concert at St Luke’s on Saturday 26 May at 7.30pm.

Members of the vocal trio Alaudiae, mezzo-soprano Miranda Westcott, from North Devon, and soprano Claire Egan return to Simonsbath Festival to present a hugely varied mix of songs celebrating A Woman’s Love and Life, from sixteenth-century madrigals to reimaginations of recent pop hits such as John Legend’s ‘All of me’ and Beyonce’s ‘Halo’.  At the centre of the evening’s programme is Schumann’s cycle ‘Frauenliebe und Leben’, balanced by a selection of folk music from the British Isles, with many other delights.

Miranda and Claire are joined by Arngeir Hauksson (theorbo, renaissance guitar, lute, percussion) and Marc Verter (piano).

Arngeir regularly performs for Shakespeare Globe productions and Marc performs in the UK and abroad at venues such as the Wigmore Hall, Barbican Centre and St John’s Smith Square.

Tickets cost £15 to reserve the seat of your choice; standard tickets £10 (£11 on the door); student/unemployed £7.50; with free admission for 14s and under.  Refreshments are available and a snack may be booked in advance for the interval.

And it’s your last chance to catch this year’s fabulous Simonsbath Festival Art Exhibition, now in its final week and closing on 28 May, at The Old Pottery, Simonsbath, in the centre of the village just by the Exmoor Forest Inn. One of the printmakers will be on hand on most days to explain the processes they use to produce their work. Phone Sandy Schott on 01643 831844 for details.

To buy tickets for Saturday’s concert, visit www.simonsbathfestival.org.uk, email tickets@simonsbathfestival.org.uk or telephone Marian Lloyd on 01643 831451.

To receive a full colour, printed festival programme or to join the mailing list email info@simonsbathfestival.org.uk or to find out about becoming a Friend of Simonsbath Festival and enjoy ticket discounts and priority booking while also supporting the festival, email friends@simonsbathfestival.org.uk or call Polly on 01643 831302.

WORLD PREMIERE FOR ST MARY’S BRIDGWATER

Bridgwater Choral Society will be performing the world premiere of Benedicite, a composition by their Conductor Iain Cooper, during their May concert. The work is a short piece for choir, brass quintet, piano duet and timpani, which Iain says is “bright and cheerful and written in an accessible style with some lively, syncopated rhythms”.

Handel’s Coronation Anthems and Faure’s Requiem will complete the varied programme for the concert on Saturday 12 May 2018. It will be performed at St Mary’s Church, Bridgwater. The recently upgraded building now offers better lighting, access and seating. The soloists will be Andre Soares (baritone), and Mary Morgan (soprano). The orchestra will be led by Brigid Kirkland-Wilson, and the conductor will be Iain Cooper.

Tickets are £12 (unreserved) and are available via the website www.bridgwaterchoral.org or on the door on the night.

PHOTO: by Ken Grainger.

BLOWZABELLA CELEBRATING 40 YEARS IN 2018: LIVE AT HALSWAY MANOR 

International folk legends Blowzabella celebrate 40 years with a festival weekend at the picturesque Halsway Manor in the Quantock hills, alongside special guests Naragonia (Belgium). The festival weekend is now sold out but tickets are still available for a public Concert / Dance on Saturday 12 May at 8pm.

At a typical Blowzabella gig there are songs, dance music, and songs you can dance to. The variety of the arrangements and the mixture of unusual and more usual instruments provides plenty to enjoy whether you’re out there dancing or sitting on the sidelines listening.

Blowzabella play dance music composed and arranged by the band for a variety of English and European traditional dances. The dances are easy to pick up and you don’t have to be an expert to get involved, just have a go. Many people choose not to dance and come along to watch and listen – and that’s fine too. The band have done gigs like this for donkey’s years so you’re always in safe hands.

Blowzabella is a genuinely unique band that makes an inimitable, driving, drone-based wall-of-sound played with a fabulous sense of melody, rhythmic expertise and sheer feeling. They compose their own music which is influenced by English and European traditional folk music and song.

Blowzabella are: Andy Cutting – diatonic button accordion; Jo Freya – vocals, saxophone, clarinet; Paul James – vocals, bagpipes, saxophones; Gregory Jolivet – hurdy-gurdy; David Shepherd – violin; Barn Stradling – bass guitar; Jon Swayne – bagpipes, saxophone.

Many of their tunes are “standards” in the modern British/European folk repertoire and are played by people all over the world. Bands across Europe who experiment with folk music often cite Blowzabella as a major influence. Much loved and respected, there is no one else quite like them.

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a Charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills Halsway Manor provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts. Parking, a bar and camping are all available onsite.

Tickets are priced £15 / £6 for under 18s. Tickets with camping & breakfast are priced £30 / £21under 18s. Buy securely online: www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

 

JOHN KIRKPATRICK CAROLLING & CRUMPETS CONCERT AT HALSWAY

One of the folk scene’s greatest performers, John Kirkpatrick, will be paying a visit to Halsway Manor shortly, to perform his seasonal show ‘Carolling and Crumpets’. He will be appearing on Thursday 7 December at 7.30pm, presenting a heart-warming, toe-tapping evening looking at the timeless rituals and folklore of midwinter England.

Mysterious and magical songs of wassailing, wren-hunting, stirring the fire and incessant feasting come dressed up in a glittering finery of sparkling tunes and cracking choruses. Add a smattering of hilarious original songs and a sprinkling of carols both familiar and unfamiliar, all stirred up with John’s usual panache and supported by his scintillating skill on squeezeboxes, and you have the recipe for a rattling good sing, guaranteed to keep the spirits cheery and the cold at bay.

“Kirkpatrick’s buoyant presence and lust for this music sounds more rampant than ever.”
Colin Irwin, fRoots Magazine

One of the most prolific figures on the English folk scene, John Kirkpatrick is a master of the free reed instrument, playing melodeon, button accordion and anglo concertina, as well as having an enviable reputation as a fine singer and interpreter of English folk music. John has performed solo, in duos, acoustic groups and electric bands; he has been a member of the Albion Country Band, Magic Lantern, The Richard Thompson Band, Umps and Dumps, Steeleye Span, Brass Monkey, Trans-Europe Diatonique, and Band of Hope, as well as numerous ceilidh bands.

The concert takes place on Thursday 7 December.  Bar opens at 7pm, performance starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £10 / £4 for full-time students. For more information visit www.halswaymanor.org.uk or contact Halsway Manor: 01984 618274 ext 1 / office@halswaymanor.org.uk.

MORE THAN 200 TO PERFORM EPIC SEA SYMPHONY AT EXETER CATHEDRAL FOR RNLI

Exeter Cathedral is set to host a large-scale performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ epic ‘Sea Symphony’ that will raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and help save lives at sea.

Members of choral societies in Exeter, Exmouth and Wellington will be joined by the musicians of the Exeter Symphony Orchestra for the celebratory performance, which will take place on Saturday 25 November at 7.30pm. They will be led by the music director of all three choirs Laurence Blyth.

Sue Ryan from Wellington Choral Society said: “Ralph Vaughan Williams is ranked among the finest symphonists of the twentieth century and so this is a big event for all three choirs and we want to raise as much as we can for the wonderful work the RNLI does. We certainly have a much greater appreciation of this and the costs involved since our recent visit to Exmouth Lifeboat Station – fascinating.”

Last year, RNLI lifeboat crews across the UK and Ireland rescued 8,643 people and saved 431 lives. It costs over £485,000 per day to run the RNLI, and the charity relies on donations from the public to continue its lifesaving service.

Chair of Exmouth RNLI’s fundraising team Don Hodgkinson says: “With a combined choir of 200 voices drawn from Exeter Choral Society, Exmouth Choral Society, Wellington Choral Society and the Exeter Symphony Orchestra, this is set to be a wonderful occasion. The RNLI relies on kind donations from the public to continue its work saving lives at sea and we are very grateful that these choral societies have chosen to support the RNLI.”

The concert is sponsored by The Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust, and there will be a retiring collection in aid of the RNLI.

Tickets are on sale at £15, £12 & £10 with accompanied under-16s free, from Exeter Visitor Information (tel. 01392 665885), online or on the door.

PHOTO: Musical Director and Conductor Laurence Blyth with Exmouth RNLI volunteers, courtesy Farwood Photography.

ANDY MAY TRIO AT HALSWAY THIS SUNDAY

The North East’s finest, the Andy May Trio, will make a rare appearance in the South West when they visit Halsway Manor as part of their short National tour. The trio will perform on Sunday 15 October at 8pm.

The Andy May Trio are three award-winning musicians from Newcastle – Northumbrian piper Andy May (Jez Lowe and The Bad Pennies, Baltic Crossing), guitarist Ian Stephenson (Kan, Baltic Crossing) and fiddler Sophy Ball (422, Bottle Bank Band). Together they play high-energy instrumental folk, inspired by the music of their native North East.

A typical performance might include traditional tunes from Northumberland, newly-composed material by all members of the band and an introduction to the pipes, all delivered with a warmth and humour which is sure to draw in both folk aficionados and newcomers alike for a dazzling show filled with virtuosity and energy.

There’s a certain connection only heard between musicians after many years’ playing together; after more than a decade’s music making together in various guises, the tight interplay and sense of fun between these three friends is sure to delight.

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills Halsway Manor provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts. There’s ample free parking onsite, a bar and – of course – beautiful atmospheric settings for concerts with wonderful acoustics, and a chance to catch-up with the artists over a drink afterwards!

Tickets are priced £10, with a concessionary price of £4 for children and full time students of any age. Call 01984 618274 (option 1), email office@halswaymanor.org.uk or buy securely online at www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

FAUSTUS AT HALSWAY MANOR

Catch Faustus, the pioneering, “bloke folk” triumvirate  of Benji Kirkpatrick, Paul Sartin & Saul Rose as they return to Halsway Manor for a live gig on Thursday 6 July at 8pm.

Previously nominated for the Best Group Award in the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and Artist In Residence at Halsway Manor Centre for Folk Arts across 2016 supported by funding from Arts Council England, Faustus brings to the stage three of the leading lights of their generation: Saul Rose (Waterson:Carthy, Whapweazel, War Horse), Benji Kirkpatrick (Seth Lakeman Band, Bellowhead) and Paul Sartin (Bellowhead, Belshazzar’s Feast). They have a plethora of experience between them, brought together here in a virtuosic display of musicianship and testosterone representing the best in the current vibrant English folk scene.

Faustus released their acclaimed third album, ‘Death and Other Animals’, in October 2016, tackling head-on subjects from the Dance of Death to the plight of the common man, sand-swallowed ships to mythical black dogs. The album has huge local resonance as it was researched, rehearsed and recorded at Halsway Manor on the Quantock Hills, during Faustus’ time as Artists in Residence. Beastly good” said Folking.com, “Modern day folk Buccaneers… so blindingly dazzling you’ll need to don a pair of RayBans before listening,” said LouderThanWar.com.

Faustus are leading a course ‘From Page to Performance’ halswaymanor.org.uk/event/faustus-from-page-to-performance/  at Halsway in the run-up to the gig, and the evening will open with performances by participants, before the mighty Faustus take to the stage!

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a Charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills Halsway Manor provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts. There’s ample free parking onsite, a bar and – of course – beautiful atmospheric settings for concerts with wonderful acoustics, and a chance to catch-up with the artists over a drink afterwards!

Tickets for ‘Faustus’ are priced at £10, with a concessionary price of £4 for children and full time students of any age. Call 01984 618274 (option 1), email office@halswaymanor.org.uk or buy securely online www.halswaymanor.org.uk.