Tuesday, June 29, 2010

One last look: Seven Deadly Sins

And of course, there was the little matter of the London Gay Men's Chorus concert The Seven Deadly Sins at the Roundhouse on the weekend. There is something satisfying about performing three concerts in a row and they get better every time... And you learn a few things about staying focussed, looking excited and keeping the energy levels (and fluids) up... This is a brief clip of the encore / playout music, recorded by a very enthusiastic member of the Saturday evening audience...



There will be an appearance at Pride (and Europride in Poland), and then the next concert will be at Christmas...

Opera: Manon

Last Tuesday night's opening night of Manon at the Royal Opera was a surprise. A four hour opera comique that was so engaging and so thrilling that you didn't care you had been there all evening watching the melodrama unfold, and you would not have minded staying longer... There is something very engaging about watching how somebody's choices in life lead to their own downfall... And of course there is great music, beautiful costumes and interesting sets... Some wonderful photos from the evening are on Intermezzo's blog.

This is a new production of Jules Massenet's opera and while the story has been updated and made sexier by Laurent Pelly, the stars of the show were Anna Netrebko and Vittorio Grigolo in the lead roles (featured above). Despite a high profile in both USA and Australia (something to do with a best selling crossover album and a stint on Dancing with the Stars), Grigolo was making his Royal Opera debut and from his arrival on stage you could feel the audience sit up and take notice... We were watching something potentially special here. While his singing style may not be to all tastes, there was so much passion and fire between the two, and the production felt so intimate that you could have been forgiven for feeling a tad voyeuristic.

Watching Netrebko in this piece was watching a marathon runner at peak form as her character moves from innocent to schemer, to fallen woman. It was one of those nights at the opera where the casting, production and music all fall into place... It runs until 10 July and it would be a shame to miss it... Grigolo will also be releasing an album entitled "The Italian Tenor" which will be out later this year and I suspect we will be hearing a lot more from him...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Music: Out of the Piano

It's been a busy week with Seven Deadly Sins at the Roundhouse, but in amongst all the rehearsals I did get a chance to see the third Tim Williams Award for musical composition. It is a competition that presented 21 news compositions to lyrics taken from classical or established text, performed by various West End and sensible professionals...

While 21 new compositions are bound to be a mixed bag, there were a few rough diamonds in here... The winning song by Christopher Hamilton called Burn and performed by Diannne Pilkington was one of those rare moments that just surprised the audience and had us bursting with laughter.

There is a full podcast of the show on Musical Talk, or just some silly post show banter (much shorter too) from Audioboo... The next awards are in October. Here's hoping there are more comic songs... We can do with the laughs...

Listen!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Music: West End Live (day one)


It is a bit like it was shot from a mobile phone (probably because it was), but the London Gay Men's Chorus did take part in West End Live today... The rain held off (mostly) and the crowd seemed to like our stuff which is a good omen for the three big shows next Friday and Saturday at the Roundhouse in Camden...

IMG00000042The resolution is not the best of the video above but I managed to do (slightly) better backstage just before we went on. Rest assured this is not the full chorus, there are almost going to be double this number on stage next week... And some of us even have hair...


West End Live is a great showcase for some of the musicals playing on the West End and the chorus has been privileged to also take part. There is more tomorrow and it is worth a wander by...

Out and about: British Museum

British Museum South African GardenA trip to the British Museum this week to see the Masterpieces from the Uffizi Gallery (and the Museum too) is a pleasant enough diversion for an overcast day and an opportunity to brush up on 500 years of drawing and making paper... There are so many drawings that it is difficult at times to concentrate in the low light of the library reading room in the museum... It is there until July.

Also in the museum grounds there is the South African landscape with its mass plantings of colourful Cape Daisies and rather interesting-looking quiver trees. It is there until October.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Music: Karen Akers

Karen Akers is playing at Pizza on the Park this week. Ms Akers is probably not so well known in London, but she was in the original Broadway cast of Nine and Grand Hotel. She also had a small role in the film Heartburn. These things I know, but she has also spent a lot of time in the last thirty years just recording and performing songs in her own way. This way is mostly a dark alluring alto voice which would make you do anything for her... Her ability to sing a song and hold your gaze might also have something to do with it...

Sitting in the front row it could be a little unnerving at times... particularly when you have Johnnyfox serenading her back on your right, and a crazy looking Dutch man at the table on your left looking at her with a wide-eyed fascination that couldn't be healthy (well I think that's what his wife sitting next to him and clutching him was thinking)... At one stage he looked as if he was about to get on stage and help her with her microphone stand when it became a bit stuck... When she tells the audience "I was grabbing it at the wrong end" that was not a comment that our table could let hang there without some schoolboy tittering...

Tonight she was singing was the music of Cole Porter. Her interpretation of the songs make them feel as if they are new. It was amazing to watch her turn a song like "Don't Fence Me In" into something that could almost be a torch song... Songs like "I Love Paris" gave her a chance to sing in French as well.

An evening to meditate over Cole Porter was not what I was expecting but I was sure glad to have been there to see it. Her show runs through to Sunday and worth catching.

This is probably the last time I will be at Pizza on the Park... Soon its funky artwork and low ceiling room will be a thing of the past... So it was only appropriate that a final semi-coherrent audio-boo captured those lasting impressions... Some of which are not quite accurate... She isn't old for instance, she is only sixty-five...

Listen!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Plug: London Gay Men's Chorus does Seven Deadly Sins

It's less than a month away from when the London Gay Men's Chorus presents the Seven Deadly Sins at the Roundhouse. The show is a mix of classics, pop and show tunes, which is fair enough...

But even more interesting will be a segment in the show where a group of young fathers aged between 16-25 join with a small group from the chorus to create a version of John Lennon's 'Jealous Guy', fusing pop and rap. The fathers and members of the Chorus are being tutored by Rodney P, 'the Godfather of British rap' along with musical director Simon Sharp from London Gay Men's Chorus.

This will be the first time the chorus performs a show at the Roundhouse. A year or so ago we rehearsed there and made some weird yelping noises so the Roundhouse could get a sense of the acoustic for choirs (or the acoustic for gay men). Anyway it is a great venue and I'll be blogging more about the fun and hard work of it all this month...

Tickets are on sale now through the Roundhouse and the show will be raising funds for the Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports lesbian, gay, lesbian and trans and bisexual young people.