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2:30pm Friday 3rd May 2013
SOME 25 years ago Courtney Pine lived no more than ten houses from me in a quiet, tree-lined street in Harrow and here was I, on a Friday evening in late April 2013 at the Harrow Arts Centre, within ten metres of the man himself.
5:21pm Friday 1st March 2013
A bitterly cold night, an ancient cavernous church, the atmosphere at St Albans Film Festival's preview screening of Mike Newell's Great Expectations could not have been more apt - even without the dry ice and fake mice. The organisers really went to town with the decorations which included candles, cobwebs and even a mouldering Miss Havisham at her bridal table. The director's local pedigree is well known - the Newell family's connection with St Albans Cathedral dates back more than 200 years (though as Mike points out when we speak before the film starts, it is known affectionately as 'The Abbey' by those who reside within the city's environs). As well as having a strong link with The Abbey Theatre's Company of Ten just down the hill, Mike was head chorister at the abbey in his youth. In his introductory speech before the film he recalls bats swooping through the nave on autumn nights of yore making ladies in the congregation duck. "In an odd and mysterious way my work is connected to this place," he says. "I swear this is where I started to use that part of my imagination." He goes on to describe Dickens' most loved novel as a "great moral drama" and his film brings that ethical dilemma to the fore. When we first meet Pip he is an impressionable pup but his thirst for knowledge goes beyond pure bookish learning - what we see on screen is his quest for a meaningful way of life. Jeremy Irvine's enthusiastic portrayal as the adult Pip contrasts beautifully with Holliday Grainger's imperious ice queen Estella and the journey they embark on is thoroughly convincing. Dickens' minor characters - the Pumblechooks and Pockets et al may be played out as theatrical caricatures but all the major players are gratifyingly and edifyingly solid. Ralph Fiennes' Magwitch, Helen Bonham Carter's Miss Havisham, Jason Flemyng's Joe Gargery - Mike reveals their heart and humanity at every step. There may have been "countless other versions" as the director himself points out, but he is thoroughly justified in making this one - its infinitely more than one might have hoped for.
8:52am Monday 4th February 2013
The Primavera Ensemble is a sextet: two violins, two violas and two violoncellos. This is a comparatively unusual chamber music combination, and in this concert each of the works played had its extra element of novelty.
3:50pm Friday 1st February 2013
2:56pm Friday 1st February 2013
Window envelopes, old packaging and used tea bags - just everyday items that most of us would discard without a second thought, but not artist Ann Kopka, who is currently exhibiting at Harrow Arts Centre.
9:32am Tuesday 3rd January 2012
9:39am Friday 19th October 2012
Mike Bartlett visited The Palace Theatre 18 months ago with his very successful product play Love, Love, Love and his latest offering Medea, a modern version of the greek tragedy by Euripides, doesn't disappoint. In fact it has a show stopping finale that matches any I’ve seen over the years.
11:54am Friday 19th October 2012
Two people playing duets on a single piano is a form of chamber music that we do not hear very often. It is even less usual when the two are mother and son, as are Helen and Harvey Davies. In the home and in piano teaching, it is commonplace, of course, and the co-ordination and sympathy that we expect in those circumstances were very evident in this concert given for the Radlett Music Club. As the programme demonstrated, composers from the early days of the piano to the present have been inspired by this form. We do not always know why they chose it, but sometimes it provided the extra richness and dynamic range that would later emerge in an orchestral version. Or, as Harvey, addressing the audience, pointed out, this extra dimension might be valuable in a student work, as was the case in Joubert's Divertimento, opus 2, the first work in the concert. It was easy listening, and at once demonstrated the special techniques required when, for instance, the hands of two players must cross and when one player must use the sustaining pedal for two.
11:59am Friday 19th October 2012
This was a further recital in the series given by Richard Hills on the theatre organ at the Colosseum. The audience had been invited to send in requests. The result was a nostalgic programme of light music best remembered by older listeners, but well worth the attention of a new audience which we may hope will be attracted to hear it. Favourite numbers such as the Dam Busters march from the classic film and songs such as 'Singing in the Rain' and 'Those Foolish Things' from well loved stage musicals made up Richard's programme, as indeed at his previous recitals here. More ambitious requests were for music composed by Albert Ketelbey and Percy Grainger, for instance; for these, even Richard, who usually plays from memory, had the printed music in front of him. I wonder whether further expansion of his repertoire might attract a larger audience. The event tested one's memory of music that was universally known and popular in its time but has hardly been heard for half a century. These pieces may rightly be described as classics of their kind. They inherit the easy rhythms, simple harmonies and memorable tunes that derive from the romantic music of the nineteenth century. Much of the charm of Richard's performance is due to his expert use of the theatre organ's resources. A good theatre organ such as this is remarkably versatile. Loud or soft, fast or slow, dance or march or song, appealing and sometimes surprising tone quality, the technique of three manuals, pedals and a full range of stops and other controls - he is the master of them all, as this programme again demonstrated. Watford is fortunate in having acquired this sort of organ, but perhaps it sometimes tempts him to use its maximum volume when it may confuse the listener. Richard said in his opening remarks that this is one of the finest instruments of its kind surviving in this country (most such theatre and cinema organs of the mid-twentieth century were lost as public tastes changed). It is to be hoped that the reputation of these recitals will be widely circulated and will contribute to the revival of some excellent music. Graham Mordue
12:47pm Thursday 11th October 2012