In this performance, classical guitarist Geoff Robb showcased eight tracks from his upcoming album (due for release at the end of August 2020). Each track is inspired by a different type of tree and he introduces each with some background about the species and describes where the piece was written. These short intros really help to set the scene and when he played his first piece, 'Willow tree', I was transported by both his skill and the lyrical imagery he created.
In the following 45 minutes, we learn about the Linden tree (the old English name for a Lime tree), the Elm, Silver Birch, Scotts Pine, Yew, a Holm Oak and the Cherry tree. While each piece is unique to the tree it describes, Geoff plays them all with quiet intensity. Elements of Spanish guitar are evident as are Celtic influences. He really is a virtuoso.
This would have been Geoff's first trip to Buxton and the Fringe and he ends his performance with the hope that he will be able to attend in person next year. I for one, will definitely be in the audience when he does visit. I can only imagine the intensity of these tracks when played in person.
I really recommend that you catch this show if you haven't already seen it.
Singer/songwriter Darren Poyzer has been writing songs for over 30 years. He has created a new show for his online audience. He invites you to join him in his home for a bit a chat and song. The first instalment of three ‘Home movies’ is simply, but thoughtfully presented. Darren talks comfortably to camera to introduce each of his songs and tell you a little bit about him, which captures the flavour and expectation of going to see a live show. He’s thought about the presentation of the songs – with a mixture of the simple backdrop of a corner of a room in his home; the photos on the shelves are a nice personal touch, or a photo montage to illustrate the topic of a song.
The lyrics come up on the screen for you to follow. Different approaches are taken to this which helps keep it varied; but I did feel it might have been nice to have some songs without the full lyrics. However, it does mean you can turn it into a sing-a-long if you so wish! This lifts it from just being a film of someone playing and singing. It works equally well as an audio though, if you were in a mood to multi-task or simply want a break from staring at a screen.
I liked Poyzer’s reflection that he sees music as a peaceful protest and I think this sums up the mood and strength of his songs. Contemporary subjects with a solid foundation. He talks about his work with music and special needs, and how he believes that music brings out the best in anyone. It’s an engaging performance, delivered with warmth and he’s easy to listen to. You’re encouraged to take some time out and enjoy the music – and I’m sure Darren would be happy for you to join in.
Home Movies 2 is out on 8 July and Home Movies 3 on 15 July
On the 7th July, I sat down to review a Fringe event – carried out in a most unusual way that has recently become the norm as we endeavour to keep in touch with family, and friends and neighbours.
I was attending an online meeting of the Buxton inclusive community choir Kaleidoscope, an outreach project run by Buxton Opera House and Buxton International Festival, led by Carol and Ian Bowns. Rehearsals for choirs around the UK have generally been very difficult during these challenging times, particularly because the most popular social group platforms such as Zoom carry an inherent time lapse and also a degree of echo and interference which of course combine to make group singing almost impossible.
However, such was the enthusiasm of members of this particular choir that once they realised that it was going to be a long time before choirs could meet as normal again, they decided to go ahead with online rehearsals using Zoom, even though this meant that participants would have to mute their microphones and join in singing on their own, led by Carol and Ian but without being able to hear other members of the choir. Around 20 singers have continued to meet weekly in this way since the end of May. Technical arrangements are covered by Ian, and Andy Parker, an active member of Buxton Musical Society and Buxton Town Team, is supporting the choir by monitoring the YouTube live stream for the Fringe sessions.
So, this was to be a very different reviewing experience as it was only going to be possible for this reviewer to hear the choir leaders’ voices. Nevertheless, on the day, I joined the choir through a live Youtube link, as did other relatives of choir members from as far afield as East Sussex and Hampshire. Carol and Ian were connected to their choir on Zoom. The hour began with a physical warm-up for singers, paying close attention to their heads, necks and shoulders and including breathing exercises and sounds practice. Moving quickly to the first song, the choir joined Carol and Ian as they sang ‘Make New Friends’, a new piece for the choir, and one which was destined originally to be performed together with Signs from the Peaks, a Buxton-based signing choir. Next, and despite the obvious technical challenges involved with managing a piece sung in canon when singers cannot hear each other, Carol and Ian led members in a two-part version of ‘When The Saints Go Marching In’. Following ‘This Little Light of Mine’, Carol introduced a song that has definitely presented a technical challenge – Sting’s Fields of Gold sung in three parts. For this, the choir have learnt to use the Breakout Room facility in Zoom to practise the soprano, alto and bass parts separately – no doubt the result will do justice to this effort when all are able to sing together again. This, of course, would not be a Kaleidoscope presentation without the inclusion of the now well-known ‘Distant Peak’ written about our beautiful Derbyshire landscape by choir member Jacob Eckert. This was enhanced today by the inclusion of an evocative slideshow of beautiful photographs taken locally by Jacob and his father. There then followed by an almost meditative piece, learnt by the choir during lockdown, the singular lyrics of which contain just one very fitting sentiment in these unsettled times – ‘All Will Be Well’. After some very positive greetings from the choir, allowed to switch on their microphones for just a few seconds, the particularly poignant final song summed up a national tide of emotion as the choir, each in their individual homes and, remember, not able to hear each other at all, sang along with Dame Vera Lynn, and Carol and Ian, in ‘We’ll Meet Again’. An eternal tear-jerker, but a very positive and supportive message.
Carol and Ian plan to resume ‘normal’ Kaleidoscope meetings after a summer break, just as soon as they are absolutely sure that singers can meet together with all the necessary safety precautions in place. It was great to be able to be alongside the choir online, to hear pieces old and new and, most importantly, to know that Carol, Ian and their members have been able to support and inspire each other during these challenging and uncertain times. Well done!
As one who himself greviously misses the joy of ensemble music making, I am intrigued to discover how other frustrated musos have been coping.
Music for Everyone are based in the Nottingham area and have clearly been doing their best to keep everyone on board in their music-making activities. After an amiable introduction to their work by chairman John Hess we soon find ourselves in the midst of of a little bit of vocal coaching from Rachel Parkes and then some guidance through a song for the ‘lockdown choir’ from musical director Angela Kay. Those who have never been in a choir will probably find this part all a bit of a revelation. Vocal samples are provided to sing along to - they certainly have some talent amongst their vocal guides. We then get a rousing performance of the Thunderbirds theme from their orchestral ensemble. Various other bits of vocal and orchestral fun follow along with individual contributions. The performers are all highly accomplished and the video production is impressive - everything is precisely synchronised and the individual videos have a consistent ‘look and feel’ which makes them blend together well.
I am sure that Music for Everyone are are going to love getting back together again - long may they prosper!
So this is it - the Buxton Festival Fringe 2020! At this current time, I feel as if a dose of theatre, comedy, music and so much more is just what we all need!
As Tony Boden explains at the beginning of their video, the Club Acoustic has been part of the Fringe every year since 2012 and this year they have continued their amazing contribution to the festival online! Over the past few months, they have kept up their live music tradition through music concerts made through Zoom and uploaded to YouTube. If you enjoy their Fringe contribution, there is no doubt you will want to check out their YouTube page!
I have always enjoyed the Club Acoustic evenings that have taken place in The Club House on certain Wednesday nights each year. My dad and I have listened to a variety of musicians there playing a range of original songs and familiar covers that we can all sing along with! Their Fringe contribution consists of seven different performers, each playing a number of songs in various musical styles featuring acapella, guitar and keyboard accompaniment. What was really lovely and refreshing were the different settings of each performer with performances taking place in living rooms or even outside with nature! And the viewer can watch in the comfort fof their own home with an optional gin and tonic and the ability to pause the hour and a quarter long session whenever required - I promise it is worth the watch!
Buxton Fringe regular, singer-songwriter-guitarist Will Hawthorne recognises in his intro to his webcast that the circumstances this year are 'unique but not ideal'. However, he has risen to the challenge of 2020 with a look back over his 5 years as a performer in Buxton.
His first show was 'Killer Bs' celebrating the gems often hidden away on B-sides of singles back when singles were a thing. He plays 'The Spider and the Fly', the B-side of the Rolling Stones' 'Satisfaction'. This was followed by his performance of The Kinks' concept album, 'Arthur' (where his vocals suit Ray Davies' tones).
This was followed by reminiscences of his show celebrating film music of the 1960s (I can never resist 'Windmills of your Mind'), and his show based around the surname Jones, where his instrumental version of the Dad's Army theme had the audience singing along. He also plays tracks from his CD around the outlaw Poole (of Cavern fame).
Will's intros are informative and full of affection for the chosen music and nostalgia for the shows themselves and his dextrous guitar-playing and characterful singing make this a very agreeable 45 minutes.
I enjoyed watching the video of part of a concert given at New Mills on Saturday 6th April 2019.
The High Peak Orchestra with soloist Iona McDonald performed the violin concerto No.1 in G minor op 26 by Bruch. David Chatwin is the regular conductor of this orchestra but I believe the conductor was Patrick Gundry-White on this occasion.
The camera focused on the soloist throughout giving a limited view of the orchestra. Also the sound production inevitably was not as good as we are use to on televised programmes of performances but in spite of these limitations the video gives you a good idea of what the High Peak Orchestra and Iona McDonald are capable of and people who listened to it may be encouraged to attend future performances.
Bruch who was a pianist, was advised by the violinist Joseph Joachim on writing for the violin, especially I expect in the virtuoso passages which are meant to be difficult. Iona proved to be up for the challenge; she is a very talented violinist whose playing showed both sensitivity and energy.
The weather gremlins really had it in for pianist and composer Adrian today. A storm at his end and rain in Buxton disrupted the live broadcast.
Being a true professional, Adrian re-started his live concert after some technical adjustments and I'm so glad he did. His music is just sublime; I lay back and floated on Adrian's picks from his two CDs.
If pushed I would chose 'Northern Lights' as my favourite. It made me imagine a crisp, cold winters night - snow on the ground, watching the Aurora Borealis dance to Adrian's music or were his fingers dancing on the keys in time to the lights? I have no idea if this was Adrian's intention, I only know I loved it.
Adrian also treated us to a sneak preview from his CD due out next year, the track titled 'Castle Crag' was inspired by the beautiful Lake District.
If you missed Adrian or had technical difficulties, tune into his facebook page where the recording (thankfully perfect quality) is still available - you won't be disappointed!
Peak Voices were due to come and sing at Buxton Fringe but then Covid-19 arrived. Not to be daunted, stopped or discouraged, the group have put together a highly entertaining selection of songs from musicals, all filmed locally, outdoors and observing social distancing. A sort of West End Theatre meets the Peak District National Park.
Liz McKenzie, Rachel Callen, Gemma Fliter and Sue Margan’s lively rendition of Mama Mia, started what was to be an original and entertaining show. It looked to me as if this particular song had been filmed near Bakewell, and trying to guess the locations for the songs was an added bonus.
The format adopted by the group was songs interspersed with interviews. Between the songs we learnt something about the group and about individual performers. The group, who have only been together about two years, was founded by Chris Blackshaw, who is also their musical director. As well as singing together in harmony each group member sang at least one solo and all the singing was of a very high standard.
Songs were filmed against the backdrop of fields, wild flowers, stone walls, cows, sheep and even a tractor! The film editing was slick and very professional, many visual effects being used to enhance the enjoyment of the audience, including a retro effect for Nic Wilson’s wonderful rendition of 'Don’t Put Your Daughter On The Stage Mrs. Worthington'. This song typifies the good humour and sense of fun that comes across in this concert. Credit must also go to the musical backing. I want to know exactly which stone wall the full orchestra was hiding behind!
The programme was carefully put together to give each performer the opportunity to make the most of their strengths and also to create balance. The group moved effortlessly between Nessum Dorma and Spamalot, even changing the words of the latter song to reflect our present situation. And, in the very best concert tradition the group have even recorded an encore that appears after the final song.
One Song More is well worth listening to and shows what can be done under Lockdown with talent and determination.
Folk performers and Fringe regulars Ian and Carol Bowns and Sarah Owens have come up with a novel idea for this year's online Fringe. Instead of a full concert they are posting a song every day of the Fringe.
This means you can dip in when you have just a few minutes but also really immerse yourself fully in the song, a sort of 'folk song mindfulness' if there is such a thing.
Today's offering featured Ian using the words from a 1588 American song book for a nonsense drinking song titled 'Martin said to his Man'. Ian performed this acapella and it really was a fun warning about the dangers of a few too many tipples. A cheeky look back at yesterday's song showed the talented Ian on guitar playing the moving Ghosts by Kris Drever - really lovely sound quality.
I'm looking forward to seeing what Carol and Sarah will bring to the mix over the days to come.
Multi-award winning Fringe regular Pieter Egriega is back with a new show originally planned for live performance but successfully reinvented as an online production.
Inventively filmed with atmospheric footage and photographs of Portugal past and present, the show is inspired by the story of forgotten Fado singer Xuxu Carvalho, charting her experiences before, during and after the 1974 Carnation Revolution and showing how she was a victim of repression both in terms of sexual politics and politically as part of Portugal’s working poor.
Xuxu comes across as far from pathetic though. In recently discovered archive recordings, she describes her contempt for ‘pig-like men’ with their ‘smells and curly tails’. From the inside of a tiny TV set (a little like something out of Monty Python), Egriega feels he should point out that translation is a difficult art and that the origins of her songs are complicated, the melodies deriving from other musicians…
The air of mystery enhances rather than detracts from Egriega’s soulful musical performances. His impassioned singing is well suited to the Fado genre with its jangly Portuguese guitar sounds augmented by double bass and Charles Ormrod’s piano. The performer’s backdrops are always interesting whether we are looking up at him against an impossibly blue sky, watching him come and go from a white chair against a white wall, or finding his face in a fuggy room as warm and deeply orange as the Fringe itself.
Settle back and lose yourself in this beautiful, immersive experience, each Portuguese poster, mural or filmed bar scene hinting at stories within stories. A glass of chilled white Port can only help. As Xuxu says: 'You can do the bossa nova even if you’re falling over…'
Whilst studying at the Royal Northern College of Music in 2014, a shared a love of chamber music inspired Sam Rodwell and Emma Smith to form The Roth Guitar Duo.
With impressive personal biographies it is easy to understand why both highly accomplished artists are multi-award winning as The Roth Guitar Duo, but also within other ensembles and as solo performers. Their classical guitar repertoire ranges from renaissance to commissioned and unpublished contemporary works, performed throughout the UK including Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall.
Enticing snippets of their talent are available for your listening pleasure online. Don’t miss their performance of Yvonne Bloor’s 2018 ‘Homecoming’, which was commissioned especially for them and is simply stunning (I listened to it several times), as is their rendition of Bloor’s ‘Absent Friend’. If you are having a lockdown meltdown, just listen to them performing Peter Maxwell Davies’ Farewell to Stromness and ease your troubles away.
Hopefully they will return to Buxton Festival Fringe in 2021 so that we can appreciate them fully in a live and intimate performance. If you can’t wait until then, their current album ‘Canonica’ showcases their endless talent, including beautiful artwork on the cover.
Like similar organisations across the country, the ever-popular Burbage Band have been unable to meet during lockdown. However, they have managed to keep themselves gainfully and enjoyably employed, creating this socially distanced rendition of Pharrell Williams’ song Happy.
The song is always an infectious crowd-pleaser and the Band clearly had a ball recording this. Fancy dress is occasionally employed (as the song originated from the film Despicable Me 2, there are band members dressed as Minions, but also a bear and, oddly, a banana take part), and the whole thing has an uplifting, singalong, clap-along quality. It’s also very well played.
Burbage Band formed in 1861 and surely have weathered many national crises in their time. Certainly in 2020 their melifluous, warm tones provide an upbeat start to a very different Fringe.
Poperasops are a crossover opera/pop duo - Philippa Lay and Tora Wilson - who have been performing together since attending Birmingham Conservatoire. For their Buxton Fringe concert, they have taken to a garden lean-to, bedecked in Fringe leaflets, to perform together for the first time in months.
It's very easy for this kind of act to fall back on the tried and tested, but Poperasops refreshingly mix things up in their repertoire. They begin on fairly standard crossover ground, doing operatic versions of popular standards, including 'Senza catena' (Unchained Melody) and 'Il Mio Cuoro Va' (My Heart Will Go On). Then they start to change direction, with Snow Patrol's 'Chasing Cars' and the recent James Bond song 'The Writing's On The Wall' (where their operatic stylings match the vocal gymnastics of Sam Smith's original). And finally surprise again as they take an unexpected turn with versions of 'Park Life' and 'Gangsta's Paradise', reworked wittily for lockdown.
This tuneful duo have a great rapport and interact well with each other and the audience, making this a very enjoyable concert, even remotely.