Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Scenes from a kitchen at Christmas (early preparations)


Christmas 2007, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

I could have written about the concerts I saw this week which included Cecilia Bartoli with a slight cold yodelling in tribute to early 19th-century diva Maria Malibran, or about the five hours of Wagner I sat through in a coma on Friday (mental note: Parsifal isn't my cup of tea), but anyway, I thought this was far more appropriate for Christmas day...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Overheard at the midnight Eucharist...

Woman: Who are those men in black?
Man #1: They are the priests...
Man #2: No they are the vergers...
Woman: Virgins?
Man #2: No vergers... (to Paul) We know they ain't virgins...

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Tis the season...

After the Accentuate the Positive concert with the LGMC the opportunity arose this week to freeze one's ass (or arse) off in the Covent Garden Piazza singing Christmas carols. Have made mental note to always wear thermals in future, but it was a great way of getting into the festive spirit. And with the mulled wine and hot cider on offer in the square, it helped to keep warm and add to the heartiness of the singing...

Tuesday night's carols were quite eventful with one very straight drunk wanting to join the chorus and no security in sight. His mates were looking on laughing as he pushed his way in through to the front. He got through a full verse of Hark the Herald Angels sing before security finally realised he wasn't part of the tenor 1's. He was dragged out wailing he "jushwannadooshing". They weren't messing about the second time while we were singing ABBA's "Happy New Year". Some drunk queen in a long coat and scarf stopped and stood next to me for a brief moment. A brief moment was all it took for security to pounce on him and man-handle him off to the side as he cried, "But-ith-maa-favourite-song!"

As we finished our finally set Dave walked up to me. I was ignoring him as he looked like he was about to try and sell me a copy of The Big Issue, but instead he gave me a Christmas card addressed "to all the lovely singers on stage". The festive spirit was alive and well in Covent Garden that night...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Concert: Accentuate the Positive

Before the curtain rises (or rather the gauze) on what became a rather memorable show, a choir waits for its cue and a full house waits for the show to begin.

After nine weeks of rehearsals it was show time. But the concert felt less of a show and more of a gathering of family and friends. A gathering that just happened to take place at the Palladium, where Judy, Liza, Barbara, Frank, Rufus and Jason Donovan have previously performed... To name a few...

Throughout what turned out to be a long day with much waiting around, in our spare time one tried not to gawk too much at the Judy Garland memorials both front and backstage, nor did I linger too much around Connie Fisher's dressing room (although I was informed to see Sound of Music before she leaves as the replacements are rubbish). In every corner of the building there is a sense of history about the theatre, although when you get to the bar you tend to forget all that when you are being charged £7 for a G&T...

True Colours went down well and I avoided tripping over myself even with the last minute changes to the choreography to enable us to be heard. The green shirt I wore in the second act was a little bit more controversial with comments ranging from "Great shirt" to "What are you a leprechaun?" Well it takes all sorts I suppose...

photo source: www.luthor.net.nz

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Scenes from Clapham High Street Friday


15-12-2007, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

Supermarkets make a wonderful addition to any high street, particularly with their active frontages and contribution to an improved public realm...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

News this week in London


Evening Standard, originally uploaded by robinrimbaud.

Well the homeless man did say to the star that he hadn't had a bite in ages...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Music: Billy Budd and the last stand

It had been a while since I had heard or seen Billy Budd live so this concert version at the Barbican with the LSO seemed like a good idea. And it was. Huge forces, excellent soloists and thrilling and dramatic score made it seem not necessary for all that staging and drama stuff. With such a large orchestra at hand one also felt like you were on the Indomitable as it swelled and subsided... It was all thrilling stuff and quite a treat, even if it started at 7pm which would have to be a rather annoying starting time leaving little time for dinner.

But towards the end of Act two I was preoccupied with the added tension of Ian Bostridge's music stand teetering over the stage. He had been leaning over it, pushing on it, holding it with both hands as the drama dictated, and every time he did, the music stand moved closer and closer to the edge. By the finale, one leg was over the edge. If another went surely that would have made the evenings recording less than satisfactory. The old woman in the front row might have let out a yelp as well. By the Epilogue, Bostrige wasn't even holding the stand and with one and a half legs over the stage I was expecting a crash bang clang any moment. It didn't take long to come. It started to topple like it was in slow motion. There it went. The old woman was probably not watching the stand about to thump her as Bostridge is a bit of a sex symbol for that demographic. What I had not counted upon was Bostridge's quick reflexes. He swooped in and picked the stand up and moved it back to the stage. All was well. Epilogue finished with whimper (as it should). But there was just so much added drama and distraction to the evening...

Hot news this week in London...


09/12/2007, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

It's all about canoes. By the end of the week the canoe husband was in the slammer...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Theatre: Bitch Slapped by God

After three evenings of rehearsals for next Sunday's concert (which was all a bit step, step, turn now what the hell are we supposed to be singing?), the thought of going to see something was a refreshing prospect, particularly with a titled Bitch Slapped by God at the Drill Hall.

A "million Santa march" on Washington leading to Christmas being cancelled sounds like a great idea for an antidote to Christmas panto, but it was more of an ordeal to be endured. Perhaps it is a work in progress but I was just glad I didn't pay to see it.

Still, there was mulled wine on offer at the end of it and the entourage of lesbians enjoyed it. Hopefully for the rest of the run there will be some revisions that take 30 minutes from it. Oh but the killing of the reindeer (and their reassembly) was my favourite part.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Idle chatter on Elaine Paige's talent

John: Elaine Paige is all ham and cheese
Paul: She's like a croque-monsieur...
John: Well you got the crock part right...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Scenes from the Coliseum Sunday Afternoon


021220072920, originally uploaded by Paul-in-London.

It was Sunday evening around 10.30pm when I looked at my watch while waiting in the wings of the Coliseum and wondered what the hell I was doing there. Sure it was Barbara Cook's 80th Birthday concert. Sure she was great. Sure we were about to go on to sing two minutes in the finale chorus of Make Your Garden Grow... But after being there since 3pm it was a bit of a stretch. Well the concert didn't start at 3pm, it just felt like it did.

Mind you there were more than just a few of us in the chorus that jumped at the chance to sing with Barbara Cook when asked a few months ago. Hell even if it was for just two minutes we were there. Some people in the chorus did ask "Who is Barbara Cook?" to which I replied "Wash your mouth". Well, in the four years I have been in London I have seen her perform twice and got her autograph but all that wasn't intentional. But she is one of the interpreters of the great American song.

Barbara Cook's 80th was a fund raiser for World AIDS day as well. Cook has been doing this concert in the US for the past few months and getting raves for it. And you could tell why. Cook was in great form and it is always a treat to hear her sing. You get a sense of a performer wanting to share something with you, sing without pretension and with a lot of experience. It was a pity what could have been a tight 90 minute show without intermission was padded out for another 90 minutes with a lot of filler. That filler included "stars of tomorrow", dancers out of time, and Elaine Paige.

Paige came on in the second act and started telling Cook how much she adored her since she was young. She did this by rubbing Cook's back in a creepy manner and telling a strangely incoherent anecdote about how she first heard her sing. As she kept telling and telling and telling the story, throwing in some lines such as she couldn't afford a proper seat so some man "stuffed her up the back" (what the...?) the story made less and less sense. She finally finished the story and then inflicted on the audience a tourettes-induced version of "I Know Him So Well" with a spontaneous scream singing of lines like "leahrned about the maaahn bufah ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh fehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhlll". This was then followed by a spectacle of "Cry Me A River" that was a cross between Judy Garland and Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest. It reminded me that she still is the worst thing you could ever see on stage. Seeing such a hammy screamer perform on the same stage as Cook has to be a crime. Actually seeing Paige perform on any stage surely has to be a crime. I was wondering if we can serve an ASBO on her for anti-social performances? Not even a theatre full of luvvies drunk on champagne from the interval could give her more than polite applause.

Fortunately Barbara Cook got back on stage after this horror and again she stopped the show. Alas it was getting close to our call so we did have to give up our box seats we had commanded for the second act and get back on stage. Even though we were in the finale, the show just wouldn't end. After many curtain calls the compere in a moment of dementia felt that it was time to get everyone to sing "happy birthday". A bit late since she turned 80 in October I thought . I think I got home by midnight. Well that was a night to remember...

On our dinner break we walked past Cook's dressing room only to be told off by her assistant for making too much noise as she was having a nap after dinner. And dinner was salmon. Maybe omega-3 is the secret for longevity and preserving those pipes. It would have been better than that Mexican we had in Covent Garden I suppose...