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Manchester reviewed
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Manchester music reviews

A Classical Extravaganza

A Classical Extravaganza

The Halle Orchestra at Bridgewater Hall

Reviewed by Matthew Dougall October 2016

 

This was The Halle Orchestra's first concert in this year's season of POPS. A series of concerts of lighter music designed to attract those who may find sitting through a whole Beethoven symphony something of a punishment, or for those who may well be new to classical music and these concerts provide a lovely opening and insight into that world.


 

Entitled A Classical Extravaganza, I thought perhaps that the music would have been more eclectic and indeed more 'extravagant' than it actually proved to be. Finding two items on the programme by the same composer was a surprise enough, but to also have three movements from one of his works when there is a whole world of music out there spanning several hundred years, was pushing it a little. Or maybe that was just me who thought that.

 

The concert was of course conducted by the very personable Stephen Bell. It is always a delight to watch him conduct, and his easy rapport with the audience as he gives us little snippets of information about the pieces is always welcome. The one thing that does irritate me slightly in a concert such as this where there are many miniature or novelty pieces lasting only a few minutes each, is why the members of the orchestra who are not playing in that particular piece need to leave the stage. Surely they can just sit silently and still for a few minutes before playing again? It is a little distracting and haphazard.

 

The music itself was of course wonderful. The Halle never disappoints. Although if I do have to be picky, then the French horns were a little out of sync on their chorded introduction to Fenby's 'Rossini On Ilkla Moor', and I could hear the cymbals being placed on the ground after they were used in the opening piece [surely they could have been placed on a cushion or cymbal rack?]. But, yes, I am nit-picking, sorry. This is live entertainment not canned, and so it will obviously not be flawless; that's part of the beauty and appeal.

 

I did know all the pieces on offer in the concert; although I suspect a good few were hearing one or two for the first time. Dvorak's Carnival Overture started the concert off and it is always a good rousing and jolly opening. In the first half there were such gems as Elgar's Chanson De Matin, one of two pieces he wrote originally for solo violin and piano so that he could perform them himself, however, this was his orchestrated version of 1901; Fenby's 'Rossini On Ilkley Moor', a novelty piece by Yorkshire composer Eric Fenby who wrote a concert overture using the tune of 'On Ilkley Moor Bah't 'at' in the style of Rossini; and Johann Strauss' waltz Tales From the Vienna Woods, which interestingly has the longest introduction to the waltz of any of Strauss' hundred or so compositions. The original version also calls for a solo zither, however, Strauss also authorised a version for string quartet to play the solo zither part, and it was this version we heard this evening.

 

We also heard Pachelbel's Canon, which sounded very different from versions of this work I had previously heard. Here the repetitive bass theme was played with strict adherence to the actual note length, coming off almost staccato before playing the next. I assume this to be more authentic perhaps; however the bass continuo theme has always been played legato before, so that there was no conceivable gap between one note and the next. Interesting.

 

Finally in the first act was one of my all-time favourite pieces of music, and a classic example of a dissident wearing his heart on his sleeve; Dmkitri Shostakovich's Romance from his film music to The Gadfly. The Halle Orchestra's leader, Paul Barritt taking the violin solo here and playing it beautifully.

 

After the interval and the spotlight was turned on one of America's, indeed the world's greatest contemporary cross-over composers, Leonard Bernstein. What a delightful start to the second half with his rather jocular and brash Overture to Candide. Back to Elgar again and three movements from his Variations On An original Theme, Enigma. Nimrod alone would have sufficed here surely, as with the next excerpt, Handel's Music For The Royal Fireworks; chose the most well known piece, in this case, La Rejouissance, and pass by the other two in favour of some other music from the vast and limitless music cupboard.

 

The penultimate piece was Faure's hauntingly beautiful Pavane. Always a delight to hear this piece; so simple and yet so heart-wrenching. And then to finish we heard the theme to TV's The Lone Ranger - or to give its correct title, Rossini's overture to the opera William Tell. This was Rossini's last opera, and yet he still continued composing for 40 years, so one can only assume that he thought this work the pinnacle of his operatic mastery. It's a great piece of music and a lovely way to finish a concert devoted to 'pops'.

 

Manchester really is spoilt with such a wealth of music at our fingertips. Manchester is home to this quite rightly world renowned orchestra, and I always feel privileged and even proud to be able to enjoy their incredible musicianship in a live arena.

 

The Bridgewater Hall itself can look a little austere and unfriendly from the outside, but I urge everyone to be brace enough to enter. The staff are always extremely pleasant, helpful and welcoming; and the Hall itself hosts a whole plethora of events, ranging from Heavy Metal gigs, to Folk music festivals to indeed rather highbrow classical concerts. But do take a look at their website, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find! Details of upcoming Halle concerts can be found at http://www.halle.co.uk/whats-on/, with The Bridgewater Hall's complete events listings at http://www.bridgewater-hall.co.uk/whats-on/.

 
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Manchester theatre reviews

Jumpers

Jumpers for Goalposts at Oldham Coliseum

by Tom Wells

Reviewed by John Waterhouse Oct 2016


The synopsis for this play seemed to suggest that it is about football and the gay community. Loosely speaking, what I saw broadly covered both these two topics but neither was dealt with in any incisive or meaningful way, and I left the Coliseum wondering what the play was really about and who it was really aimed at. One player did say he had been hit outside his flat for being gay but this was really just in passing and homophobic abuse is certainly not what this play is about.

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Manchester lifestyle reviews

Engels’ Beard

Engels’ Beard

and daring to believe in the social transformation of society

at University of Salford

Reviewed by Mark Iddon September 2016

 

The New Adelphi building at the University of Salford was completed over the summer 2016 and has celebrated its opening with the launch of a specially commissioned sculpture / bouldering wall, adjacent the new building, called Engels’ Beard. The piece was created by Jai Redman of Engine Arts Production Company which is based in Salford. The sculpture is almost 5m high and is made of fibre glass and there is a small exhibition in the new building which features a video of the making of the sculpture.

 

The launch event featured a brass band, flag bearers, the participation of a local primary school (Clarendon Road Primary, Eccles), and the University of Salford Chancellor and Writer in Residence, Jackie Kay, giving the first public performance of her poem ‘Thinker’ inspired by the artwork.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Brassed Off

Brassed Off’ at Oldham Coliseum

Adapted by Paul Allen; screenplay by Mark Herman

Reviewed by John Waterhouse and Dave Samuels Sept 2016

 

Following on from their June production of 'The Ladykillers', Oldham Coliseum are now presenting another stage adaptation of a popular film, and having never seen the film version of ‘Brassed Off’, I went to the opening performance without any preconceptions, other than knowing the story centres around a brass band in a Yorkshire mining community.

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Manchester theatre reviews

That Golden Age

That Golden Age’ at Audlem Scout Hut

Written by Rob Johnston, produced with Rebecca Fenwick

Reviewed by John Waterhouse September 2016

 

There is always something poignant about a play that deals with true events and particularly so when the main characters have struggled to achieve something against the odds. ‘That Golden Age’ puts an interesting slant on this concept by showing how crime on the high seas in the eighteenth century gave birth to a peculiar form of feminism.

 

Mary Read and Anne Bonny are documented as having been two of the most notorious pirates operating in Caribbean during the so-called ‘golden age’ of piracy. Literally commanding hundreds of men and hijacking dozens of merchant ships, it took a Royal Navy captain Jonathan Barnet, sent out at the request of the Governor of Jamaica, to put an end to their high-seas adventures. The women were certainly not a pair of nautical Robin Hoods but neither were they just feminized-Blackbeards, with piracy not having been the first choice of either of them. This is essentially the story of two women’s attempts at survival in a man’s world, after differing circumstances forced abrupt ends to otherwise more stable and comfortable lifestyles.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Latin Fiesta!Latin Fiesta! - Halle Orchestra

At The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester

Reviewed by Matthew Dougall July 2016

 

This is the world famous concert orchestra, Manchester-based Halle, romping, gambolling and partying. In a programme filled to the rafters with the popular contemporary rhythms of Central and South America, this really was a Latin fiesta!

 

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Manchester theatre reviews

U.DanceU.Dance at Lowry Theatre

Reviewed by Matthew Dougall July 2016

 

U.Dance is an annual festival of the best youth dance companies throughout the UK and held in a different city each year. This year it was Salford's Lowry Theatre acting as host for this three day event which sees three showcase performances on the main stage on the evenings of 8 - 10 July and has various other exhibitions and pop-up performances happening around the building too, as well as workshops and masterclasses for the dancers.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Spoonface Steinberg

Spoonface Steinberg by Lee Hall

at St John and St Peter RC Primary School

Reviewed by John Waterhouse July 2016

 

The idea of a play dealing with suffering from cancer might ordinarily sound potentially inspiring but essentially sad. The idea of a very young girl, and an autistic child at that, having cancer would probably suggest a depressing story. Add to that, the protagonist having a firm identity of being from a persecuted minority and you could be forgiven for thinking that this will be a grim tale indeed.

 

Yet, somehow, ‘Spoonface Steinberg’ takes all these factors and weaves them into a play that is inspiring, uplifting and frequently funny. It takes several issues which adults find difficult to deal with and presents them through the eyes of an innocent child with an indefatigable spirit, a wry sense of humour and an ability to see positives in almost anything.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Die Diana

Die Diana

Bandit, Mugger & Thief, Canal Street, Manchester

Reviewed by Stephen Bowler July 2016

 

Stephen M. Hornby’s new play about the life and death of Lady Diana projects a plethora of facts through a prism of fiction. The result is kaleidoscopic, as the colourful pieces of an undeniably spectacular existence fall into a new, even more fantastic order.

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Manchester music reviews

Big Bang!

Big Bang!

The Halle Orchestra and Children's Choir

Reviewed by Matthew Dougall June 2016

 

Maybe the timing of this concert wasn't so great (Manchester Day and parade through the centre, and Fathers' Day), or maybe the inclement weather kept people away, but it was such a shame to see the Bridgewater Hall not even half full, particularly since this was a family concert. Although it was lovely to see so many families in attendance with young children, even if, in majority of cases the children were far too young, and started crying, fidgeting or sleeping during it.

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