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Edward Seckerson
 

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2016 Critics Reviews

 

Clare Teal
7 May, Corn Exchange

Clare Teal proved to be a popular and engaging opening act for the Newbury festival. A veteran on the British jazz scene, she brought a mix of covers and her own material to win over the audience with her stunning vocals and dry sense of humour. Having opened with a combination of Bob Dylan and Peggy Lee covers, Clare moved on to her own material with ‘Never go away’, with underlying Samba rhythms.

Interspersed stories throughout the set built rapport between the audience and Clare, with a good balance of music and lively anecdotes. A personal highlight was the cover of Anthony Newlie and Leslie Bricusse’s ‘Feeling Good’ which showcased the skills of the band as well as Clare’s extraordinary voice. The band was tight throughout the evening with all members coming together seamlessly. Jason Rebello, on the piano, brought a great song, ‘La belle dame sans regrets’ from his days with Sting featuring Brazillian undertones combined with French lyrics which was well received.

The second half included several older numbers from the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Dorris Day and Blossom Dearie, but Clare’s own song ‘Paradisi Carousel’ was the highlight. A slower melodic tune, which is included on her latest album, was passionately sung as part of the encore.

All in all, this was a fantastic evening from four highly passionate and accomplished musicians.

PK, 27

 

 

Clare Teal
7 May, Corn Exchange

Clare Teal’s well-received “Divas and Me” far surpassed expectations for an engaging opening night. An incredible mix of highly-accomplished jazz musicians combined with a careful balance of anecdotal conversation showcasing both Clare’s dry wit and her inspiring passion for and knowledge of jazz made this a 5* rated evening.
Clare’s ability to deliver seemingly dry venue notices, personal CD advertisements and the odd obligatory nod to her sponsor in an amusing manner meant there was never a moment where the mind wandered throughout the full 2-hour set. When Clare began to sing, her breath-taking vocals captivated the audience, evidence by the eager stillness that descended within the theatre. Her trio’s musical gifting added to the effect: Jason Robello worked an unbelievable genius on the piano (humbly boasting an impressive resume, having worked with Sting, Jeff Beck and Ronnie Corbett amongst others) and Simon Little and Ben Reynolds held their own on bass and drums respectively. The band worked together seamlessly, communicating as if by instinct and their musical passion was infectious, with much toe-tapping across the venue.
From the start, you could relax in the knowledge that Clare would tell it as it is. Our minds were put to rest regarding the encore: “Just clap and stomp a little and - whoosh! – I’ll come right back! No need to make your hands sore”. And by the end of the set…boy, clap and stomp we did. Well worth descending into the darkness of the theatre on a light summers evening for.

AK, 25

   
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra
7 May, St Nicolas Church

On the supposedly warmest weekend of 2016, I settled down into one of the many tired pews at St Nicolas Church, the delicate strumming of a harp accompanying the murmur of the audience. I’ve never had the pleasure of attending an orchestral concert before, so my excitement was a mixture of “I can’t wait to recognise my music teacher in the choir” and “I really hope I don’t get bored”.
Classical music seems to have adopted the extremely misinterpreted stigma by the majority of people as being blasé and boring. Yet this evening I was struck with such awe and felt truly inspired by the captivating performance given by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra with the Newbury Spring Festival Chorus.
The ensemble was amazing and the spirit of the evening was really captured by the incredible conductor, John Willson. Watching him conduct was almost a show in itself, his elaborate methods of emphasizing instructions to the orchestra were found humorous by quite a few. I particularly enjoyed his pizzicato motions, and crouching down to the floor to encourage pianissimo.
Alice Coote’s voice was phenomenal and she sang beautifully to Elgar’s Sea Pictures, with the entire audience held on edge. I recall the floor vibrating in the climactic finale and the infinite applause followed thereafter.
Overall I had a wonderful evening, the concert was very well organised and ticket collection was easy. My seat was close to the front and was a great one (despite the constant fear of being spat on by the soprano), and I would really recommend this type of concert to all of my young friends, as I think the audience did lack the appeal to teens.

Verity Osborne, 16

   

Benjamin Grosvenor

8 May, Corn Exchange

Having experienced several concerts by Benjamin Grosvenor, his in many ways refined, almost understated stage presence approaching the piano is immediately replaced with a fierce energy from the very first note. A powerful performance of Mendelssohn, the preludes and fugue transcending the rather humble surroundings into a vast cauldron of sound like we were listening in St. Thomas’s Church Leipzig, a city the composer himself spent many years in. The characterful interpretation of the Chopin second Sonata gave a measured view of an often over dramatized composer, noted in his time for the subtle nature of his virtuosity the measured nature of the performance combined with an astute aggressiveness gave a rounded performance of the piece. The Ravel very much played into the inspiration of the Tombeau de Couperin that of the traditional baroque suite Grosvenor seamlessly working with Ravels writing to deliver the essence of the dreamier French ‘impressionist’ take on the world. The Liszt in my opinion was the highlight of the performance Venezia e Napoli written a few years after the completion of the monumental B minor sonata in 1853, written as a supplement to book two of ‘L’annees de Pelerinage’ despite the mysterious and almost ethereal opening moving from F sharp minor to F sharp moving audience away from any sense of impending virtuosity lulling us with his often underappreciated sense of harmony, by the time the music grows into the tumultuous runs of the ‘Tarantella’ the journey Liszt wrote I have never heard as well expressed than by Grosvenor any slight accelerando or ritenuto, diminuendo of sforzando was treated with the intimacy of a wagon wheel upon a country road that Liszt himself would have travelled. Understanding the journey of the music however was only capable through the temperament of his playing the likes of which are only found of the best performers on the modern concert circuit.

A Conor, 17

   
Ballet Central
10 May, Corn Exchange

Prior to seeing the staggering performance given by Ballet Central, I learned that the performers were merely students of their profession. However this fact becomes completely lost in the time during the show, with the dancer’s incredibly accurate technique and timing being on pointe (if you can excuse the pun). The evening was very well put together, with moments made to showcase individual talent in six equally outstanding unique dances.
The first half saw a few great appearances by the pianist who added a traditional feeling which emphasized the atmosphere created by the ballet.
The opening dance entitled “Celebration” was truly that: a masterpiece of detailed ballet entwined with obvious characteristic features. The following performance was a truly captivating endeavour of the relationship between two dancers who really flowed with each other, anticipating movements and personal technique.
The stage was a constant scene of beautiful costumes, seemingly floating effortlessly around by the fantastic bodies that posses them. Everything about the show was very well thought through, with the lighting being perfect for each scene.
Although the first act’s dances were utterly flawless, “War Letters”, which comprised the whole of the second act, was definitely the highlight. An audio track begins the piece, setting the scene, allowing the audience to prepare for the emotionally captivating piece of art that it was. Every audience member was left stunned at the breath-taking choreography, toned with just the right amount of humour of a girl’s troubles of nobody wanting to dance with her, executed perfectly so that the story could be told.

Verity Osborne, 16

   
 

Ballet Central
10 May, Corn Exchange

I am so glad that my friend invited me along for the performance. I am incredibly passionate about dance in all its inspiring and beautiful ways (Contemporary being my biased) but regardless, every piece told a story, every movement was flawless and every element of each dance was truly inspiring. I could find no faults from costume design, to synchronicity, to the music choices. You could tell that those incredibly talented youths had worked phenomenally hard to reach their level of expertise. They say that to master your art, you must put in 10,000 deliberate hours of practice, and well…10,000 is probably an understatement. Not only could you see their work, but also their love. Many are said to ‘suffer for their art’ but not those dancers. Even if their dance didn’t permit them to smile (for reasons of keeping character) you could still see just how much they enjoyed doing the show. The sheer dedication and ethnic variety was also spectacular, dancers from England to Italy, China to South Africa, truly spectacular. I was truly inspired by this show and I’m sincerely grateful that those at the Newbury Spring Festival gave young people like myself the chance to see such a spectacle.

Joe Stevens

   
John Etheridge’s Sweet Chorus
12 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury

When I go to listen to a jazz performance my eyes always settle on the bass; as I wait for John Etheridge’s Sweet Chorus to take the stage the bass waits reclining on its side, there is a rhythm guitar across a seat and an electric guitar in a stand. Later I discover a wonderful treat – Sweet Chorus also has a violinist! The atmosphere is familiar. People are talking with old friends and acquaintances - I suspect jazz concerts are often like this, familiar faces returning to enjoy old favourites, certainly Etheridge and his ‘boys’ have turned out a good crowd.
The four musicians walk onto the stage, and we breathe quietly as they check tuning, and shuffle into their habitual positions. They open with a smooth piece that lifts us all out into the evening sunshine again, a continental café enjoying the start of a languid evening. It is immediately clear (for those not yet acquainted with their music) that all four men are accomplished musicians.
Christian Garrick (violin) demonstrated incredible skill with the bow; fingers that pulled notes and sounds out of his instrument that were at times other worldly – more like the voice of their mentor, Grappeli. Andy Crowdy provided all you could desire from an excellent bassist (including a sound bite of their earlier afternoon children's performance) and astounded us with his leading moments. The rhythm guitarist, Dave Kelbie, had a wonderful stage presence; his relaxed body twisting to the livelier pieces. Almost unnoticed, he created rhythms with a quick and economic hand that could get you on your feet. John Etheridge on lead guitar seemed to enjoy himself immensely and charmed the crowd with both his wit and musical acuity.
The reality behind each skilled section and the experimental sounds of this group is years of love and a deep need for music. What makes their jazz worth listening to is the way the inherent melancholy and vitality within the music resonates with the lives of the audience, providing some good opportunities to show off their skill and the ways jazz resonates with life's condition.
T H
   
Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
13 May, St Nicolas Church

I had a fantastic night out with one of Russia’s most revered cultural jewels, the distinguished Moscow State Symphony Orchestra (MSSO). This concert was held in the heart of Newbury, St Nicholas church. It was an intimate setting with proactive stewards who helped us get seated.
The concert started with a captivating performance of Shostakovichy's Festive Overture which gave the orchestra a chance to demonstrate its exceptional quality. This energising piece was led by maestro conductor, Pavel Kogan. He challenged the pace of the orchestra with his calculated beats. The MSSO confidently responded with precision and synchronisation.
Robertas Lozinskis, on Piano was a fantastic addition to the stage and brought a subtle touch to the more moving section. He captured our hearts with Rachmaninov’s great romantic, Piano Concerto No. 2 which will forever be linked to the film Brief Encounter. Lozinskis received a ten minute standing ovation for his amazing performance.
After the interval, Kogan directed us into Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony, a dark tragic courageous reply from an individual to the state. This monumental piece of orchestral writing was played with so much of passion and dedication that it evoked the right feelings.
As the symphony instruments lowered, the audience burst into wild applause to show their appreciation. The evening proved to be spectacular and left me feeling so grateful for bearing witness to an outstanding performance by one of Russia’s oldest orchestras.
Melissa Ramsunkar, 29
   
 

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
13 May, St Nicolas Church

On Friday 13th of May, Newbury was condemned to a night of Russian tempest; the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra set the tranquil St. Nicholas' Church alight with thrilling performances of Shostakovich and Rachmaninov. Conducted by Pavel Kogan, the MSSO fizzed into life with a fervent rendition of Shostakovich’s ‘Festive Overture’ (Op. 96, 1954)- the warm brass and animated strings created a buzz amongst the audience.
Robertas Lozinskis took the helm with Rachmaninov’s second Piano Concerto (Op. 18, 1901), casting dark shadows across the stage as Moscow’s finest musicians drew out the lush harmony. Lozinskis’ performance was commendable, yet the first and third movements lacked energy and seemed falsely bombastic. The soloist’s tender touch during the second movement evoked a bell-like quality, saving his performance from being lacklustre. Lozinskis encore was intriguing, involving manipulating the piano’s sound to that of plucked strings.
As twilight set in, Shostakovich’s threatening Fifth Symphony (Op. 47, 1937) brought the concert to it’s harrowing climax. The MSSO’s interpretation was confusing- the first movement was thin and rushed, whilst the allegretto was fantastically urgent. The heartbreaking largo movement seemed insincere as the bittersweet string sections and the terrifying tutti lurches were treated to the same melodrama. The finale concluded with a Russian tour-de-force of shrieking strings, military brass and deafening percussion that rumbled deep within the catacombs of the Church. After a lengthy (and deserved) applause, two encores followed; a mystical arabic dance, and some sarcastic variations on Youman’s ‘Tea for Two’, ending the night on a humorous note.
Derri Lewis, 18

   
 

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
13 May, St Nicolas Church

Seeing the Moscow State Symphony orchestra in and of itself was a wonderful experience, let alone in such a personal setting. They began the evening with a lively and exhilarating performance of Festive Overture, by Shostakovich. The amalgamation of the powerful brass and the spry woodwind and strings led to a captivating opening to the evening. Following was the second piano concerto by Rachmaninoff, which was expertly played by Robertas Lozinskis, in an awe-inspiring performance. Not only was the piano solo incredible, the accompaniment by the orchestra was stunning, causing a stirring of all emotions. It was wonderfully performed by all involved, and it highlighted just why this is such a popular concerto. Next was a brief encore played solely by the piano, in which it combined typical piano playing with playing a right hand melody while dampening the sound by touching the strings with the left hand. After that was a truly incredible rendition of Shostakovich's fifth symphony, in which all of the different emotions and feelings were portrayed beautifully, creating the military style and the emotional, sorrowful styles exquisitely. Where we believed the concert would end we received an encore of Dvorak Slavonic Dance and Shostakovich Tahiti Trot, which created a warm atmosphere of amusement and cheerfulness with which to end the concert.

Sam Palmer

   
 

Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
13 May, St Nicolas Church

On Friday night, the Spring Festival concertgoers were treated to a thrilling event with Pavel Kogan conducting the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra in an all-Russian programme, featuring works by Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff.
Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, which often takes the role of an encore, opened the concert brilliantly with a rousing combination of brass fanfares and sprightly scalic melodies in the strings and woodwind.
Rachmaninoff’s popular masterpiece the 2nd piano concerto followed and Robertas Lozinskis’ performance was both virtuosic and emotionally captivating, particularly in the contemplative final moments of the 2nd movement.
The second half of the concert saw an extreme change in character. The 5th Symphony of Shostakovich is a veiled protest against the terror inflicted by Stalin on the Soviets and nothing could be more shocking than the 252 repeated notes at the end of the work, symbolic of the millions more deaths he knew were inevitable before the truth was discovered. There is much discussion over the tempo at which this section should be conducted. Kogan chose a very slow tempo, which for me added to the agony conveyed in the work’s climax.
The audience received the piece with enthusiastic applause at St Nicolas and it was followed by two encores, Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance op.72 no.1 and Shostakovich’s Tahiti Trot, which extensively quotes the popular song Tea for Two. These extra pieces rounded off a perfect evening in the company of the Moscow State Symphony Orchestra.
Tom Carr, 17

   
  Moscow State Symphony Orchestra
13 May, St Nicholas Church

As someone who previously had not been to see an orchestra I did not know what to expect of the Performance, even if I had I still would have not been prepared for the show I was about to witness. The opening moments were amazing introducing most instruments beautifully by playing Shostakovich's festival overture. The musicians were so well prepared for the piece and it was executed amazingly with very precise timing making for a beautiful start. After this Rachmaninovs second piano concerto bought the piano into the mix is stunning fashion, before a very interesting back and forth arose between the piano and the rest of the orchestra. Although this was entertaining it dragged on for quite a while and was a little bit repetitive. After this the young Pianist cane back for an encore playing a piece that contrasted with the rest set but strangely enough seemed to fit in. Then Shostakovich's fifth symphony which was a very lengthy piece was performed and I was taken away by how some many instruments and people all came together to create such a beautiful experience. Sadly I had to leave before the end. I can strongly say all the performers performed amazingly and it was a breath taking experience.
Cameron Neale, 17
   
Budapest Café Orchestra
13 May, Corn Exchange Newbury

Budapest cade orchestra was such a delight to watch, it totally made my day. I so enjoyed listening to their traditional folk-inspired and gypsy-flavoured music. I had visited Budapest city last summer with the happy vibrant music all over the place. And this show took me right back. The infectious beats and melodies coming out of the violin, cello, klaw and guitar got me reminiscent of the Budapest cafe life and beautiful views. Foot tapping added perfectly to the symphony. The elation of listening to the band was wide evident as I could not stop gushing and smiling.
Budapest café orchestra are not only a fine set of four Hungarian musicians but a quirky lot who brought together a very fine act featuring great gypsy music and humour at the same time. I also got introduced to the Turkish stringed musical instrument ‘Saz’ and Russian ‘Domra’.These are somewhat shaped like the guitar and sound amazing.
This was my first ever show at Corn Exchange and I must say I was total impressed by the venue. The awesome sound systems, lightings, seating arrangement were all well done. And the stage was set intricately with lamp shades and the music instruments. I am so glad to have had this opportunity of enjoying such fine music at comfort of being right in centre of Newbury. In all it was a very well spent evening.
Swati Mehra, 30
   
  Budapest Café Orchestra
13 May, Corn Exchange Newbury

As we entered the Corn Exchange theatre and took our seats for The Budapest Café Orchestra, we saw dusty old lamps illuminating the stage and a smattering of instruments scattered around the floor. Then four mysterious suited figures emerged onto the stage and began to play. What followed was an evening full of twists and turns, a magical exploration of music from every corner of the world. We began as expected in the Eastern European sound world of Romania, before venturing to Greece, the Scottish Islands and Russia, among many others. One of the most surprising things we discovered when the leader of the band spoke was that these curious musicians were not from the dimly lit side streets of Hungary, but in fact from Harringay, in North London. Accompanied by the exotic sounds was a vast array of comedic moments, both within the music- notably in their arrangement of ‘The Archers’ theme- and also through their characters - the lecture on the Bouzouki and Domra (guitar-like instruments) delivered in a thick Russian accent was a moment of pure comedic genius. We were also provided with a dash of classical music, albeit with an Eastern twist. Grieg’s ‘Squeezebox Concerto’ highlighted the virtuosity of the accordion player, while the Adagio from Spartacus (Khachaturian) presented the skills of the violinist. There was also an ethereal moment when the violin was replaced with viola for a piece and Mahler appeared. Altogether, the Budapest Café Orchestra presented a wonderful evening full of twists, turns and comedic spins while constantly displaying the skill and enjoyment of the musicians and entertaining everyone in the audience for the whole night. Their pace was spot on and despite three encores, I did not want the show to end. This band of wild performers delivered one of the most inspiring and enjoyable musical performances that I have had in a long time.
David Goldberg, 17
   
  Budapest Café Orchestra
13 May, Corn Exchange Newbury

Welcome to Newbury Spring Festival! Last Friday at The Corn Exchange Theatre I was lucky to listen to the Budapest Café Orchestra. Not music I would normally listen to, I was amazed by how much I was drawn into their world. The brilliant entertaining orchestra received lots of acclaim from the audience. They were great fun and the night became a magical evening event.
The big variety of instruments gave its own style of extraordinary music. The four members of the band delivered energy and positivity, each one in different ways. The violinist lead the band, but all of them introduced percussion sounds which held a magic touch to the night and made everybody laugh. Eddie Hession, the accordion player, thrilled the audience with his solos and Adrian Zolotuhin, who is from Russia, played guitar, saz and domra creating an atmosphere of excitement. The acoustic band is inspired by highland folk music and music from the Balkans. They played two Russian songs which were incredible. The slow rhythm and light melody had a distinct touch that made the occasion unique. In addition the stage was decorated specially for the night and the stage lights were changing continuously creating a fabulous atmosphere to go with the music. The band delighted the audience with famous Tarantino film renditions. It was a treat for everyone. I had the opportunity to enjoy one of the best musical mixes of the Festival and meet the extraordinarily brilliant band, Budapest Café Orchestra, which I hope to see again soon.
Laura Cabrerizo, 22
   

National Youth Jazz Orchestra,

14 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury
The National Youth Jazz Orchestra presented the Corn Exchange with an evening of jazz standards and songs from early 20th Century America. Their pieces were innovative and well-rehearsed, delivering a very enjoyable performance. Nearly all of the players performed improvised solos that were virtuosic and showcased their many talents. The atmosphere was relaxed and casual, making for easy listening. There were two singers who performed in a number of songs including ‘I’ve Got You Under my Skin’ as well as some Broadway classics and swing songs. The singers’ voices were powerful and created the atmosphere of 1920s New York with their sounds accompanied by the swell of the big band. Mark Armstrong, the director of the band, also played in a number of items and performed a number of impressive solos himself. I would have perhaps liked to hear a wider variety of jazz styles as at times, this could have made the evening even more memorable and exciting. The closing item, ‘Unison in All Things’ once again displayed the huge talent of the performers as they played an extended passage in unison. The drummer for the band excelled, particularly in his solo bars and the rhythm section as a whole was solid and supportive. The encore item, a funk version of 'Feeling Good’ left me wanting to hear more of this extremely talented band and their guest singers.
David Goldberg, 17

   
 

National Youth Jazz Orchestra,

14 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury

Usually, I wouldn’t listen to jazz as I’m a classical musician, but however, after listening to the National Youth Jazz Orchestra at the Corn Exchange on the 14th May, it certainly made me want to listen to more jazz music! It was such a phenomenal performance with the internationally known National Youth Jazz Orchestra playing music such as Gershwin, Porter and Ellington at the Corn Exchange in Newbury. For me, this added a new perspective to music, as it is not often we get such a brilliant ensemble of such a high standard performing at a local venue, and I feel delighted that I had this rare chance to see them! From the moment the band leader Mark Armstrong walked onto the stage, you could already sense that a memorable performance was about to start. And this really did show as the evening went on! I really enjoyed the fast tempos of the pieces as it was so exciting and lively. I loved the variety of instruments, which was interesting to listen to, as these aren’t typical jazz instruments like the flute. You could see people throughout the auditorium dancing to the energy packed music, and at the end of the concert, everyone was clapping! The audience had clearly enjoyed the performance put on by the orchestra! Overall, I feel like I’ve experience music which I’ve rarely had the chance to listen to, and I would certainly recommend something like this the next time it comes to Newbury!

Michael van der Zwaluw, 17

   
 

National Youth Jazz Orchestra,

14 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury

The National Youth Jazz Orchestra performed American Jazz Standards in a mixture of instrumental and vocal arrangements. The evening was presented by Mark Armstrong, their musical director, and he spoke of the historical background to the tunes very accessibly and amusingly. Nearly all players in the band had solo opportunities, in which they wowed the audience with their style and virtuosity. Even members of the rhythm section got their own solos in the final tune, and they too showed amazing skill in their improvisation. Mark himself took a solo in the second half of the concert in the Gershwin standard Lady Be Good, in which he showed himself to be a remarkable trumpeter as well as musical director. He also performed a duet with the vibraphone player, in which they took ideas from one another, demonstrating their great aptitude in being reactive musicians. The vocalists had a fantastic stage presence and for the most part their voices carried very well over the band, which at times produced an astounding volume. That said, the band’s quiet playing was equally stunning, especially during the head of Unison In All Things, in which all of the frontline, along with the piano, guitar and vibes, played an elaborate unison line first stated at pianissimo. All of these elements came together to make the evening with NYJO a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
Tom Carr, 17
   
 

National Youth Jazz Orchestra,

14 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury

The National Youth British Jazz orchestra is famous around the world and The Corn Exchange Theatre opened their doors during Saturday night to this new generation of musicians. NYJO is formed of jazz stars and I had the privilege to see them to play live.
All of their songs were well known. The band played some famous American jazz, ‘Lullaby of Broadway’ and ‘My romance’. This last song was accompanied by the beautiful voice of Ellie Bignall, who is an extraordinary vocalist. The audience had the privilege to enjoy some Frank Sinatra songs, ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ and ‘Chicago’. Both of them were sung by the vocalist James Hudson, who impressed the audience with his similarity to the real singer. The band’s musicians expressed great confidence with their instruments. There were some wonderful solo performances by Jessamy Holder on tenor saxophone and Jake Labazzi on trumpet. Nick Fitch´s guitar solo was outstanding, giving me goosebumps. The band gave us enormous enjoyment with every piece of music and the audience´s pleasure was plain to see. A brilliant concert that Mark Armstrong, the music director, prepared with amazing musical precision, flow and feeling. In conclusion, I’ve only to say one thing. The concert wasn´t long enough!
Laura Cabrerizo, 22

   
 

National Youth Jazz Orchestra,

14 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury

It's delightful, it's delicious, it's de-lovely. The enormous wealth of talent that the Nation Jazz Youth Orchestra posses was a truly incredible experience to watch. Everything about the production was delight to witness, from the actual music, to the light hearted introductions by the band leader, even the subtle lighting changes were great, the warm hue of orange and purpes really brought it all together.

The theme of the night was American Songbook pieces and I was pleasantly surprised that some vocal acts were also part of the performance. Ellie Bignall and James Hudson were outstanding vocalists, especially when they came together for their duets which included ‘It’s De-lovely’ by Cole Porter. Considering it was James Hudson’s first night, he absolutely owned the staged and was a privilege to watch.
I had the honour to take part in a workshop at Trinity school with NYJO, they were so supportive and I could tell that they truly love jazz and are so enthusiastic about it, which made the evening so much more enjoyable to watch, they all had smiles on their faces and looked like they were having a good time. The solos were immensely impressive and virtuosic, and the band definitely know how to play fast and exciting. But they are equally amazing at playing slow and relaxed.
Overall the evening was so much fun, it was delightful, it was delicious, it was de-lovely.
Ben Winfield, 16

   
Joe Stilgoe
16 May, The Vineyard, Stockcross

Late in the evening at the Vineyard in Stockcross, rising star Joe Stilgoe took to the piano for an evening of laid-back, light-hearted jazz. Performing solo at the piano, his set was a clearly personal selection of songs from his favourite old movies and musicals. The swinging improvisation over Cole Porter’s I Love Paris set the tone from the start, an amazingly fast-fingered solo wowed during Almost Like Being in Love from Brigadoon, and a slow version of The Surrey with the Fringe on Top was a gentle and tender way to soften the mood as the night drew to a close.
A couple of diversions into more contemporary tunes were equally successful. A segue from George Gershwin’s S’Wonderful to Sam Cooke’s Wonderful World made a surprisingly fitting medley, and a beautiful slowed-down, softly sung Waterloo Sunset was the perfect accompaniment as the sun set outside. Interspersed in his set were a few of his own songs, in which he sung about his nostalgia for the golden age of Hollywood and old-fashioned lifestyle. Between his comments about his passion for the classics, they felt like jazzed-up sections of his stage banter, and with longer, freer solos and more vocal variation, these were clearly the songs he most enjoyed singing. They were clearly enjoyed as much by the enthusiastic audience, and this easy-gong set of standards and new songs was the perfect way to wrap up a Monday night for anyone with a love of classic songs and great jazz.
Nicholas Hyder, 23
   
4 Girls, 4 Harps
19 May, Donnington Priory

From the rivers of Spain to the dance halls of Russia, the programme of 4 Girls 4 Harps took the audience at the Donnington Priory to places they’d never expect. With some famous and fantastic classics, and some new and unusual sounds, there was something for any audience in this set, as the quartet showed what a variety of sounds, styles and settings the harp can conjure.
The first half was a chance to see what the harp was capable of. A piece by Henriette Renie showed a beautiful style of music the harp does best, but the highlight of this half was a new commission of four new songs based on four influential women. The discordant smash which started Frida Kahlo’s tune was a startlingly unusual sound to hear from these instruments before the music settled into a beautiful harmonic theme, whilst a jazzy swinger based on Josephine Baker buzzed with rhythm and fun.
The second half, with its programme of dances, brought real rhythm to the room. Pairing the ballet of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet with the waltz from Shostakovich’s Jazz Suite produced a superb double bill of Russian dancing. Meanwhile, a piece about a Spanish river, by one of the quartet herself, was a great opportunity to see how through a few technical tricks the harp can conjure up the most vivid setting. This was a programme of variety and surprises, with the superb playing by the quartet making for an exciting evening.
Nicholas Hyder, 23
   
Anoushka Shankar
20 May, Corn Exchange

Against the backdrop of a dark auditorium, the brightly coloured yet subtly lit stage set the scene for a profound performance that was to transform the sound of several classical ragas into a tonal landscape that was a world away from a typical Newbury on a Friday night.
Anoushka Shankar’s sitar playing was the obvious highlight of the evening; the range and technical virtuosity of her playing was balanced by a natural ability to create genuinely moving music.
The supporting artists deserve recognition for their parts in a fantastic show: Sanjeev Shankar (shehnai) and Kenji Ota (tanpura) were faultless in their addition to the ensemble, both helping to create the backdrop for the other players while each giving a masterful individual performance on their respective instruments.
A particular highlight of the concert was an extended session of back-and-forth drumming between Tanmoy Bose on the tabla and Pirashanna Thevarajah with the mridangam; I can’t tell you how long they did this as the interplay between the two instruments left me completely mesmerised, but I can still vividly recall the sensational effect this had on me.
The performance clearly caught the imagination of the rest the audience too, as was made clear when, at the end of the set, I overheard a young audience member earnestly suggest to his friend “Maybe we should get a tabla, you know, just for the house?”. After this inspirational performance, I think I might get one too.
Chris Hood, 28
   
  Anoushka Shankar
20 May, Corn Exchange

Breath-taking performance by Anoushka Shankar and her band members at the corn exchange which is usually used for Western-Style Theatre. From a distance the Sitar seemed like a guitar. When Ravichandra played the Bansuri Flute, it felt like you were watching Bollywood Movies. Anoushka playing on stage on the pink platforms sounded magical. Then as if someone was running then stomping. After each song was applauded it sounded like rainfall; seemed like the Secret Garden or A Little Princess. It felt like they were sprinkling fairy dust, therefore created an atmosphere of magical mystical wonderland. The Sitar sounded like Bangles clattering together. It seemed like Diwali. The Tempo: rhythm: tune varied a lot.
This sold-out concert was widely enjoyed; lots of cheering and smiley faces. If you get the chance, come along and see this brilliant band perform again or come along to Newbury Spring Festival next year to see many more performances of this nature.
MD
   
  Anoushka Shankar
20 May, Corn Exchange

Sitar master, Anoushka Shankar and her band gave us an outstanding performance of Indian classical music in the form of ragas at the Newbury Corn Exchange. She was trained on the instrument from a young age by her virtuoso father, Pandit Ravi Shankar.
The concert began with a deep and deliberately drifting raga by Shankar on sitar and Kenji Ota on tanpura. The bent and plucked strings on both instruments created vibrating melodies that hovered around. It took us on a journey to a place of tranquillity and demonstrated the meditative qualities of the Indian raga.
The next section included an evening raga produced by her father. The slow opening by Shankar was beautiful, expressive and engaged the audience at many levels. She was later joined on tabla by Tanmoy Bose who played a gentle seven-beat rupaktaal.
The penultimate segment was much appreciated and thrilled the crowd. It showcased the extraordinary skills of other members in the band. Tanmoy Bose had an invigorating face-off against Pirashanna Thevarajah on mridangam. This was followed by an amazing display of proficiency on the shehnai by Sanjeev Shankar.
The evening ended on an impressive note with a raga titled Raag Khamaj. It was celebratory, energetic and provided an instant reminder of Shankar’s incredible talent. She is truly a fantastic musician with a unique approach to playing the sitar. As the band bowed out, they received a resounding round of applause. I really enjoyed the show, was left wanting more and wished it never ended.
Melissa Ramsunkar, 29
   
  Anoushka Shankar
20 May, Corn Exchange

Anouska Shankar’s breath-taking performance really captured the audience of Friday at the Corn Exchange in Newbury. Playing a selection of evening ragas, including one composed by her father the world renowned Ravi Shankar, immediately she gave a good impression of what the leading sitarist in India can do. The venue’s warm lighting complimented the music wonderfully and added to the anticipation of the crowd pre-concert. Even the tuning in itself was magical; the audience hushed and were all ears to a work of art being formed in their presence. The atmosphere created by the omnipresent drone from the tanpura, created a base for the sitar to fill in the intricate sea of improvised melodies with absolute ease. All the musicians, traditionally seated on rugs on the floor, created a blend of music so reflective you often forgot you were in the venue rather than in India. The alternating drum solos performed between the tabla drums and the mridangam were carried out like a fight which proved the skills of the musicians that was clear from the start. This was especially audible when the thundering applause brought the artists back to the stage and yourself back to the venue. I thoroughly enjoyed the event even though I had never been to something like this before. I am sure that I will be coming back for more, for as at an event like this, you really have to be there to fully experience the full splendour of its magic.
Jessica Shaw, 15
   
 

Anoushka Shankar
20 May, Corn Exchange

On the evening of 20th May 2016, Anoushka Shankar took those of us lucky enough to be inside the Corn Exchange to a transient and magical place. Rapturous applause greeted Shankar and her band as they entered the stage, the audience impatient for her to transport us away. Once seated, delicately cross-legged on a patchwork quilt, Shankar swept us through a night of sitar-led Ragas. The atmosphere was serene; with every trill, every glissando and every pitch bend, the audience was overcome with the wholesome majesty of Indian classical music. The introspective, mellow evening Raga that started the performance was later juxtaposed by a frenetic, expressive percussive interlude. I was struck by the way the quintet, lead by Shankar, knew exactly when to play, to start and to finish. They created pure musical solidarity in the room, touching the audience in a way transcending words. Each piece was not defined by its start, middle and end; rather Shankar took us on a personal journey. She twisted and weaved each Raga, creating music in a far more human way; flowing from one thought into the next. Shankar's fellow musicians on the tabla, mridangam, bansuri and tunpura united to create a rich woven texture; their smiles of appreciation added to the harmony created on the stage. The night finished with a composition of her father's; the audience could barely wait to show their adulation. I have listened to Indian classical music before, but none of it resounded with me as much as Shankar’s performance did.
Alice Nelson, 16

   
Flights of Fancy
21 May, Corn Exchange

Flights of Fancy performed at the corn exchange which usually hosts pantomimes for the kids. This was not your usual panto, though. At first the stage looked like a jungle or wild forest covered in ivy. The wooden basket trolleys seemed like the trees or something that’d been carved out of trees. In this performance, the most interesting thing to watch were the skilled swift movements that brought joy to the entire room; putting smiles on everyone’s faces. The use of the green and orange coloured haired birds was so funny; amusing teenagers as well as the parents and kids. It was the boxing war between the two birds over the female bird that was the funniest scene, but also the complex technique inspired us all to take inspiration from the performance to use in physical theatre. What really kept the performance entertaining for the kids was the costume changes; they were chuckling all throughout the piece.
MD
   
Rainer Hersch - Classic Greats, Comedy Gold
21 May, Corn Exchange

I thoroughly enjoyed the Newbury spring music festival`s lively finale at the Corn Exchange. There was mirth alongside the melody as conductor Rainer Hersch is also a comedian and kept the audience chuckling with some classical inspired quirks.
I wasn't even aware that such a genre as 'Musical comedy' existed. It was a total win-win to have my interests, music and stand-up comedy being realized at the same time.
The show started on a whimsical note with ludicrous notes popping up on the screen. Rainer entered the stage with his amazing orchestra group and took over the audience by his cracking humour. The audience, kids, youth and the elderly all cheered and participated with unvarying enthusiasm. I clapped hands, stamped feet and laughed along as Rainer presented a show-stopping trip down memory lane, with some cracking tunes along the way.
Hersch is a brilliant conductor. His orchestra performed rendition of Beethoven`s symphony in many different styles such as country and rock. We also heard the orchestral versions of the Apple Phone`s ringtones. I loved his take on the opera, and went bonkers when the group enacted the sounds that the audience makes during a show. It was an absolutely fun evening full of great music and laughter. The roaring applause that followed was testimony of Rainer’s comedic talent; this concert cemented his reputation as a comedian-musician.
Swati Mehra
   
  Rainer Hersch - Classic Greats, Comedy Gold
21 May, Corn Exchange

AMAZING is the perfect word to describe to Rainer Hersch and his orchestra. The last Saturday of Newbury spring festival ended with one of the best artists, who left the audience with a really good impression. It wasn’t a typical orchestra. It was awesome and totally different.
From the beginning of the concert, the conductor of the orchestra created an atmosphere laughter and warmth. He was a really funny person and he entertained the audience throughout the concert. He involved everybody. All of us made sounds with our voices and hands and some people played on the stage with the musicians. I’d never seen an orchestra like this before. The director was making jokes all the time and people simply couldn’t stop laughing. The orchestra played popular songs with a special magic. They changed the songs for the audience and made them better. The conductor made a spoof of some Opera music. He imitated the singing of this style of music and showed the public funny alternative words to the songs. It was hilarious! People couldn’t stop crying with laugher (Even me) And at the end of the concert, the orchestra played imitating different styles of music like Rock, Punk, Jazz, Romantic (this one with Titanic’s song), Disco Music… and they did it so perfecting. I think the audience was very impressed by one of the best musical mixes that these quite different musicians gave us. It was a real pleasure to join with them. I give them a 10, of course I do!
Laura Cabrerizo, 22
   
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
21 May, St Nicholas Church

It may not be the grandest of settings for a full orchestra, but St Nicholas Church was positively dwarfed by the impressive sound of The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the closing Saturday of the Newbury Spring Festival.
More noteworthy, however, than the magnitude of the music that the ensemble produced was the evocative nature of a performance that showcased both unique individual talent and the sublime effect of an orchestra in fine form.
The thrilling rendition of Beethoven’s Egmont Overture set the pace for the evening, ensuring that the initial enthusiasm of a keen audience didn’t diminish and that everyone in the church remained enthralled by the orchestra’s rousing performance from the outset.
The orchestra’s Principal Guest Conductor Pinchas Zukerman was superlative as both conductor and violinist, and the chemistry between Zukerman and his wife Amanda Forsyth during Brahm’s Concerto for Violin and Cello - the second piece played - lent an unexpected intimacy to an otherwise grand concert.
Completing the concert was Symphony No. 8 by Dvorak, with compellingly energetic bursts contrasting with quieter sections that were truly captivating. Even as an observer unfamiliar with the nuances of classical music, I could tell that I had witnessed something special this evening, and judging by the lengthy rounds of applause, it was clear that the rest of the audience shared this view too.
Chris Hood, 28
   
  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
21 May, St Nicolas Church

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra promised an evening of emotional, melodic and romantic music to round up the festival, and they certainly delivered. Filling St Nicolas Church’s small stage to the brim with musicians, the orchestra’s three pieces made for a concert full of vim and life.
Kicking things off with a bang was Beethoven’s Egmont Overture. With some spectacularly thrilling unison playing, an energetic sense of increasing pace, and superb control of the piece’s various dynamics, this began dramatically and concluded joyously.
Conductor Pinchas Zukerman then picked up his violin and invited his wife Amanda Forsyth on stage with her cello to play Brahms’ concerto for these two instruments. The chemistry between the two musicians was palpable. Individually both players produced strong, warm, swooping sounds, but the couple were able to intertwine their tunes and compliment each other’s playing in a way which made this a charming and musically flawless performance.
The concert, and the festival, drew to a close with Dvorak’s 8th Symphony, the beautifully phrased lines of which conjured up plenty of images of the great outdoors; a bird cheeping outside could have been mistaken for a piccolo inside. Featuring a short but spectacular horn solo, a striking fanfare, and beautiful orchestral phrasing, it was a tender and sensitive performance, the orchestra invoking lovely rural landscapes through their rich playing.
With a forceful Beethoven, a passionate Brahms and an evocative Dvorak, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra brought the Spring Festival to a close with aplomb.
Nicholas Hyder, 23
   
  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
21 May, St Nicolas Church

It was with high anticipation that bustling crowds braved the heavy rain on Saturday night to attend what was, for some, the absolute pinnacle of the Newbury Spring Festival 2016. Stepping into the beauty of St. Nicolas Church, a suitably majestic and awe-inspiring venue for the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to bring the final-night performance, it was clear that expectations were high for this world-renowned orchestra. I took my seat amongst a throng of classical devotees busy discussing the pieces to be performed. Sufficient pomp and ceremony with speeches surrounded the orchestral masterpiece that was to come, adding to the exclusivity of the evening.
Pinchas Zukerman, conductor and violinist then took centre stage. From the moment Zukerman raised his baton, the orchestra responding in meticulous unison, the audience was transfixed by the sheer level of skill, passion and beauty they were partaking of. It was an utter delight to witness the symmetry and complexity of playing across the orchestra; being able to observe the string musicians across the front rows of the staging added volumes to the quality of the evening. It would have been equally wonderful to see the woodwind and brass; sadly they were less prominent.
Overall, this was a spectacular performance showcasing some of the best musical genius in the world. The double concerto for Violin and Cello played by Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth was a particular highlight as Zukerman merged seamlessly between conducting and playing. Needless to say, the evening ended to deafening applause.
AK, 25
   
  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
21 May, St Nicolas Church

St Nicolas’ church provided a suitably grand backdrop for the Royal Philharmonic orchestra, expertly conducted by Pinchas Zukerman. The finale to the Newbury Spring Festival certainly didn’t disappoint with world class musicians performing right on our door step.
Opening with Beethoven’s ‘Overture: Egmont Op. 84’, the audience were treated to musical precision, with fantastic acoustics inside the venue. The highlight of the evening, however, came next. A double concerto for Violin and Cello played by Zukerman on Violin and Amanda Forsyth, Zukerman’s wife, on Cello. These two instruments seem to rarely be paired but the piece carefully wove the two together. This captivating performance clearly showed off the skill, passion and talent of both Zukerman and Forsyth who worked together seamlessly.
After a short interval, we were straight back in to the action with a Dvořák symphony. This piece did a particularly good job of showing off the abilities of the brass players who had, until this point, been less prominent than the strings. This was a well selected piece to finish off the evening ending to a thunderous applause. After yet another brilliant and successfully executed Newbury Spring Festival in 2016, I look forward to the offerings at next year’s event!
PK, 27
   
  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
21 May, St Nicolas Church

It's not often that you get the chance to see world-class musicians on your doorstep but, on an otherwise wet and miserable day, such an opportunity arose as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra squeezed into St Nicholas Church for what would be a spirited and highly enjoyable concert and a triumphant finale for the 2016 Newbury Spring Festival.
Under the experienced hand of conductor Pinchas Zukerman, the (by my rough, pew bound, calculations) 700 or so audience members were treated to a well-selected programme of Beethoven, Brahms and Dvorak. My personal highlight of the evening was the exceptionally energetic and technically demanding performance of Brahms' Double Concerto in A minor which proved the ideal vehicle to demonstrate the virtuosic talents of both Zukerman as a violinist and cellist Amanda Forsyth. Their obvious enjoyment in playing together was infectious and held the audience captivated. Though the difference in range and voice of their respective instruments can be hard to reconcile, the abundant skill of both composer and musicians meant neither was overshadowed.
For an orchestra perhaps more used to playing in larger venues, St Nicholas Church proved to be a fantastic setting. The acoustics provided by the high, wooden vaulted ceiling and stone walls were of a surprisingly high standard, allowing an unaccompanied cello to be heard clearly throughout whilst the loudest crescendos of the full orchestra were not too overbearing.
Having never seen a full sized orchestra in the flesh I was delighted by the opportunity provided by the organisers of the festival for hosting a concert of such calibre and am most thankful to the Greenham Common Trust for their support.
TS, 28

 

 

Be a Young Festival Critic! - Free tickets in return for a review!

 

The Newbury Spring Festival is looking for reviewers. Anyone between the ages of 15 and 30 with a passion for live music or journalism can come along to this year’s Festival.

 

It’s easy to be a Young Festival Critic - You choose the events to see, the Festival gives you free tickets, see the concert, then tell us what you thought. At the end of the Festival, professional judges from the media and music world will select 3 winners to be awarded cash prizes.


Join the Young Festival Critics today…We challenge you to try something new!

 

“I have never experienced a show like this before but, I am now a true believer that opportunities like this are a once in a lifetime and would advise anyone with a chance to be part of it to get involved.” Mark, 23

 

“It is great that schemes like Newbury’s Young Festival Critics are giving a platform to budding young arts enthusiasts with something to say.” Edward Seckerson, Chief Classical Music Critic, The Independent

 

Sign Up

 

Register your interest or sign someone up by emailing their name, date of birth and email address to holly@newburyspringfestival.org.uk

 

 

Judges 2016

 

So far confirmed

 

Kate Green  Managing Editor Country Life Magazine
Simon Millward Director Albion Media
Trish Lee  Arts Editor Newbury Weekly News
James Richings Arts Editor The Observer
Jessica Issacs Editor BBC Radio 3

How to be a Critic

 

How to Critique – it’s easy…

  • You need to be between 15 and 30 years old
  • Select the events you would like to cover, come along, write a review and email it in to us.

The results

  • Your reviews will appear on the Newbury Spring Festival website and be judged by a professional panel
  • The three best written reviews (judges’ opinion) will win a cash prize! 2 runners up will review £50 each and the winning writer will get £100!

T&C’s

  • 48 hours to submit a review post production
  • Reviews written approximately 250 words. We will give you a reviewer’s pack with tips on how to write a review & formats
  • You need to be able to get to events and back by your own means
  • There is one free ticket available per event for each reviewer (unless negotiated with me first). However you can bring a friend for free to an event if they are between 15-30 years old and write a review too!

Young Festival Critics

is proud to be part of

 

What is a Critic?

 

Young Festival Critics is an exciting scheme enabling young people, who have a passion for the arts and writing to  explore new experiences while building their writing and CV skills.

We will ask the critics to focus on writing meaningful observations looking at the relationship between the performing arts and reviewing. The Festival offers a world class programme of events to cover. The scheme enables young people to not only experience new work, but also attend some of the Festivals amazing venues around Berkshire.

It's simple. Come to a Festival event and write a review of your experience.

 

 

Competiton Prizes

 

There are three prizes for the best an most well written reviews.

£100 top prize and 2 x £50 for the runners up.

Young Festival Critics

made possible by

 

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Edward Seckerson

Chief Classical Music Critic, The Independent

 

"Criticism is still so misunderstood. Is it good or bad, the best or the worst, we critics are asked - and no matter how many times we care to explain that things are rarely black or white and it's the shades of grey in between that make something interesting or not the most sensational quotes will always make their way on to the hoardings and the well written, well balanced, review will more as not be put to one side.

For me the opinion has always mattered less than the way in which it is expressed and in an age where the most outspoken among us don't always feel it is necessary to substantiate their views in any thoughtful, meaningful, way it's great that schemes like Newbury's Young Festival Critics are giving a platform to budding young arts enthusiasts with something to say.

Sharing the experience of a play, a film, a concert, or piece of art or literature is what it is all about. The best critics make us feel part of that experience whether or not we were there ourselves. I like to think that doing so is an art in itself."

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