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Edward Seckerson
2015 Reviews
2014 Reviews
2013 Reviews
2012 Reviews

 

 

Do you want free tickets to festival events this May? If you are between 16 and 30 you can! By becoming a Newbury Spring Festival Critic you can select the events you want to come to and in return submit a review!

 

 

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.

 

2015 Judges

 

Kate Green  Editor Country Life Magazine
Keeba Roy Assistant Arts Editor Sunday Times
Janice Rycroft Editor Berkshire Life
Georgina Campbell Features Editor Newbury & Thatcham Chronicle
Michelle Tompkins Features Editor Swindon Advertiser Group
Dorothea Rotha Publisher Antiquarian Book Publisher
Trish Lee  Arts Editor Newbury Weekly News
     

 

Events Reviewed 2015

 

Sat 9th May
BBC Symphony Orchestra
Pasadena Roof Orchestra

 

Sun 10th May
Sound Beginnings Cinderella
Hitchcock, Hollywood & Herrmann
Film: Psycho
Hyeyoon Park and Huw Watkins

 

Mon 11th May
Trio Isimsiz
The Highclere Concert

 

Tue 12th May
When You Are Old : W.B. Yeats at 150
CrossHarbour
Classical Opera

 

Wed 13th May
Andrey Lebedev
The Imperfect Pearl
Voces8

 

Thu 14th May
Poetry of The Great War
Ballet Central
Calefax Reed Quintet

 

Fri 15th May
Quintabile Brass Ensemble
The Sheepdrove Recital
Hollywood Romance
Tenebrae

 

Sat 16th May
Julian Joseph Trio
Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra

 

Sun 17th May
The Sheepdrove Piano Competition Final
Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore
Endellion String Quartet

 

Mon 18th May
The Sheepdrove Piano Competition Winner
Gary Williams and Harry the Piano

 

Tue 19th May
From Page to Screen
Film: Vertigo
Goldberg Baroque Ensemble

 

Wed 20th May
Maxwell Quartet
Peter Donohoe
Harry the Piano

 

Thu 21st May
Till The Clouds Roll By
The Rite of Spring / Romeo and Juliet
Ruby Hughes

 

Fri 22nd May
Ars Eloquentiae
A Taste of Spain
The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars
Ex Cathedra Consort

 

Sat 23rd May
The Dragon’s Tale
Kit & McConnel
Philharmonia Orchestra

 

 

 

 

YOUNG FESTIVAL CRITICS 2012 Includes reviews & winners YOUNG FESTIVAL CRITICS 2013 Includes reviews & winners YOUNG FESTIVAL CRITICS 2014 Includes reviews & winners

 

 

Young Festival Critics is proud to be part of BBC ARTS GET CREATIVE CAMPAIGN

 

 

Reviews 2015

 

 

Pasadena Roof Orchestra
9 March 2015, Newbury Corn Exchange


Pasadena Roof Orchestra approach each song with such effortless ease that one with no musical skill whatsoever could be fooled into thinking they could climb the stairs to the stage, grab the nearest clarinet and join in unnoticed. Instead, I decided (much to the relief of the other audience members) to stay in my seat. So easy was it to sit back and allow the soulful jazz tunes to take the mind to a time of prohibition, beaded gowns and Gatsby swirling around his great house.


Each musician demonstrates their finesse time and time again as the orchestra smoothly slips from one 1920‘s and 30‘s hit to the next. The Orchestra comprises of brass and wind sections; piano and drums. Each musician showed a relaxed mastery of their instruments, often switching instruments several times in one song. The end result being a harmonious hullaballo that filled the Corn Exchange right up to the beams. Sewing this talent together (and providing a good dollop of humour) is Duncan Galloway. His silky voice fits perfectly with the dancehall tunes while his leadership of the band allows individual talent to shine. Duncan and The Pasadena Roof Orchestra provided Newbury with an excellently crafted, satisfying night of swing.


Nadine McIntosh, 29

**SHORTLISTED REVIEW**

 

 

BBC Symphony Orchestra
9 May 2015, St Nicolas Church


It was the first time that the Newbury Spring Festival, or indeed St Nicolas Church had been visited by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, who opened the event true to the blossoming theme of spring, with a collection of Romantic works.
We began with the Wagner, Overture to Tannhäuser. This rich tapestry of romantic polyphony was sublimely executed by the orchestra, and the residual emotive response that is so indicative of Wagner’s works, was both uncompromising, and profound. Opening woodwind introduced the core motif that is characteristic of the composers Nationalist bearings. This was shortly followed by the organised chaos of the chromatic descents in the upper strings - a growing conflict mirrored in the opera’s rooted love theme. This texture, finally reuniting into the security of homophony and common tonality, brought with it a sense of dignified resolve.


Progressing further towards late romanticism, we were presented by the Finnish composer, Sibelius - another noted nationalist. He too provided an elaborate texture and complex melodic devices which presented a technical and fervent challenge to the concerto violinist, Valeriy Sokolov. He never failed to communicate the passion and complex emotions of the work, through his impressive command of his instrument, and kept the breath of the combined audience, perpetually held.


Finally to the English composer, Elgar, and his first symphony at the beginning of the 20th Century.


Once more a strong unifying device with a driving nationalistic core resounded throughout. Exposed clarinet, amongst other woodwind, were precise and beautifully complementary.
What a privilege to be treated to a truly pleasant evening of brilliantly polished music, in such an intimate setting.

Matthew Trout, 23


 

Hyeyoon Park violin and Huw Watkins piano
10 May, St Mary’s Church, Kintbury


Applause echoed as the audience rose to its feet, ending a superb concert in the intimate setting of St Mary’s church, a beautiful backdrop for the performances of Schumann, Korngold and Franck by the young violinist Hyeyoon Park and her accompanist Huw Watkins. I use the word ‘accompanist’ liberally as the relationship between them was so naturally attuned that they performed from the outset as a perfect duo.


Watkins made his presence felt through exquisite playing and a natural empathy with Park as he glanced over his shoulder at her during pivotal moments, particularly the infamous climactic peaks in the final movement of Franck’s sonata.


Park captured the audience with Schumann’s sonata, the great melodist’s combination of lightness and dramatic Romanticism embraced by the outstanding technique of the violinist.
Korngold’s Suite Much Ado About Nothing then thrust us firmly into the twentieth century with its coupling of unsettling motifs and satisfying resolutions. Korngold’s narrative nature was then reflected in the world premiere of Mark Bowden’s Five Memos. The composer’s intention of exploring ‘the values to be used by us all to shape the future’ had a sense of unnerving uncertainty, particularly in the third movement where extended notes “senza vibrato” were followed by alarming chromaticism.


Finally Franck’s sonata resounded as many closed their eyes and embraced the ease of this popular composition. The climax of the virtuosic final movement united the composer, performers and audience, culminating in an explosive conclusion to a wonderful evening in the little village of Kintbury.


Harriet Nicholls, 24

 

 

CrossHarbour
12 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury


“And that’s why I play the flute!”
We’re about halfway through a memorable evening with Crossharbour, and Órlaith McAuliffe’s observing the bouzouki-guitarists tuning up. It turns out the charismatic group are very at home on what they confess is a “big stage” for them, but any possibility of being swallowed up by their surroundings are ended by the sheer skill on display.


Sometimes a quartet, sometimes a quintet, they’re often joined on stage by Rosie Hodgson. Her mesmerising voice is highlighted during a solo near the end; as great as the instrumentals are, Hodgson’s vocals and songwriting adds extra flavour throughout.
Crossharbour’s main speaker, Sam Proctor, occasionally steps into the shadows as his bandmates rattle through toe-tapping sets with curious titles like ‘The Secret Package’ and ‘Voldemort’. Having a connection with your listeners is vital, and Crossharbour have this in spades. Tales flow with ease as if we’re in a tiny pub, whether Proctor’s discussing vocalist recruitment (folk festival, chip van, long story) or informing us of the backstory behind these songs, and those unique names.


The persistent liveliness and sudden tempo changes keep enthusiasm up, and before the interval a woop comes from bódhran player Tad Sargent. Was it the sheer joy of music, or the prospect of a drink? You decide…


The band is approachable afterwards, too. Following a signing and nattering about all things Irish, this reviewer leaves the Corn Exchange sensing bigger nights on the horizon for these men and women.


Alex Carter, 22

 

   

CrossHarbour
12 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury


A mesmerising performance from the up and coming Irish folk band, CrossHarbour. Held at The Corn Exchange in Market Square right in the heart of Newbury. This big venue was full of people soaking up the lively atmosphere, clapping along and tapping their feet. There wasn’t any fancy stage setting, lighting or smoke -it was all about the music.
The group of five captured the audience’s attention straight away with a fun and relaxed stage presence. They spoke about past experiences of playing mainly in pub and folk clubs which explained their carefree style. Each song was introduced with a story as to why it was written which got the audience really involved.
Recent success has given them gigs at Camden Town Festival and the Trafalgar Square celebrations for St Patrick’s Day.
There was a mixture of instrumental and vocal pieces, both traditional and self-composed but the band really came together when Rosie Hodgson, on vocals, came out to join the rest of the group. Her voice is truly pure and blended beautifully with the mixture of percussive and melodic instruments. As an encore Rosie came onto stage alone and sang unaccompanied – to stunning effect. The other instruments in the band consisted of a fiddle, pennywhistles, flute, guitars and bódhran.
I am new to folk music, and this has been a great insight into how traditional and modern styles can really blend. I look forward to their new CD coming out, as well as listening to their current album.


Fran Miller, 18

 

 

Ballet Central
14 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury


Ballet Central is the name of a touring show created by the graduating year’s students of the Central School of Ballet. These students have been learning ballet/contemporary for three years before going on tour. The students performed brilliantly and danced with pure passion. The music fitted with the chorography very well and with some performed live by a pianist. The different scenes in the show made it very interesting to watch, seeing each emotion produced through dance. The whole show had me mesmerised until the second it had finished. As always Ballet Central kept up to their very high standard of contemporary ballet and show stopping dances. Each year Ballet Central always think of fresh ideas as no show has been the same (this is the third year seeing Ballet Central). My favourite part of the show has to be after the interval which they showed a proposal through dance, then the stag and hen do’s and lastly the wedding. I also found the variety of dance thought the show to be very eye-opening as well. I would highly recommend everyone to see Ballet Central as it produces new talent and it's always a fresh show each year.


Simon Ball, 20

 

   

Ballet Central
14 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury


On a gloomy Thursday evening we were treated to chance to escape reality and enter a world in which super humans exist. The dancers of Ballet Central allow you to suspend reality for just a moment. Dancers that leap so high and land without making a sound; that contort their bodies in a way you would think impossible; lifting each other with no apparent effort. The fact that they are human and have dedicated their lives to training and honing their skill makes what you see even more remarkable.


Ballet Central is the touring company of the Central School of Ballet. It is made up of final year students hoping to shape their craft and experience the realities of a ballet tour before graduating and moving into the glittering/gruelling world of professional dance. The audience at the Corn Exchange were given a performance that showcased the range of ballet itself as well as that of the dancers, including contemporary; classical and narrative styles. Each performed with outstanding skill and grace. Following the interval we were offered a longer narrative piece that encompassed the drama of one young man’s romantic life. Performed with humour and wit, it was a theme that managed to be both contemporary and timeless. The dancers were able to fluently translate the story and the feelings of those involved using the diversity of ballet.


This was my first experience of Ballet and has certainly left me yearning for another peek into that magical world.


Nadine McIntosh, 29

**SHORTLISTED REVIEW**

 

   

Ballet Central
14 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury

 

“You’ll forget that the dancers you see here tonight are students”. This introduction to the following performance may have had all the signs of a cliché, but I only recalled this sentence uttered by the Deputy Director of the Central School of Ballet, as I was leaving the venue later that evening, and found that I had fallen into that very trap.
The captivating performance led us through the tales of various individuals, beginning with a playful characterised piece which exuded charm, and warmth. Moving forward to a piece accompanied by Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, which beautifully complemented the lovers’ quarrel that was unfolding on the dark moonlight stage. Passion flowed through a series of movements which intimated spanish influences, and at the height of the piece’s frustration, firm rhythmic clapping.
The evening was concluded by an episodic narrative of a man engaged to be married, that was both humorous and emotionally capturing. Within this, lurked a subplot of an affair with another woman that instantly obtained the empathy of the audience. This was in part due to the considerable difference in suitability, lucidly depicted through the dancers’ strong communication skills delivered by an impressive use of the medium that is their art form.

The dancers never failed to convey the sentiment and subtext of each piece. Physical devices aided the dancers throughout, with effective and dynamic incorporation of props and stage scenery.
This was the second time that I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a performance by this company, and once again I was astonished by their brilliance, creativity through choreography, and contemporary arrangement of ballet. The passion of these young people is impossible to ignore.

Matthew Trout, 23

 


 

Tenebrae
15 May, Douai Abbey, Upper Woolhampton


Arriving at the beautiful Douai Abbey for the performance of Tenebrae, there was a strong sense that something special was on its way. Surging crowds made their way across perfectly cut grass, past people picnicking and sipping wine by the marquee. This Glyndebourne-like feeling of luxury was tempered when entering the calm tranquillity of the smooth white abbey, a remarkable building, its gothic columns and arches in the choir contrasting with the uniform normality of softwood and concrete in the nave. The dramatic contrast of the building was extremely appropriate for the exceptionally talented choir Tenebrae, whose name in Latin means shadows, and who certainly lived up to this sense of theatricality. After a tiny hmmm giving the starting note, the choir began their spectacular concert, performing a combination of renaissance and modern music by composers such as Tallis and Tavener. It is difficult to describe the particular beauty of the harmony of voices reverberating around the clean white walls of the abbey, and playing up to the dramatic, the choir often separated and moved around the whole abbey to emphasise what was a truly sensory experience. The highlight for me was Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere. Splitting up into three different parts, there was a lone wandering pilgrim soloist encircling the audience, a quartet of soaring spirits in the far end of the abbey who gradually came to the front, and the main body of the choir grounding the whole divine evening.


L. M 25

 

   

Tenebrae
15 May, Douai Abbey, Upper Woolhampton


Musica Dei Donum
‘Seamless’ is not a word I use lightly but tonight’s performance filled every inch of Douai Abbey in such a way that its sound neared absolute perfection.


At the back of the church the choir gathered behind a blissfully unaware audience which mumbled a gentle diminuendo into prayer led by Father Oliver. A welcome surprise, seeing a difference from the expected performer- audience routine, the introduction of De Lassus’s Musica Dei Dornum poured into our ears and since our sense of sight was so willingly taken from us, eyes were drawn shut, the music rolling in waves of excitement as dynamics rose and fell with perfect ease.


Complementing the resounding words ‘Shall Never Die,’ came next ‘I know that my Redeemer Liveth’ where the choir’s physical movement through the building began, continuing throughout to dramatic visual and acoustic effect.


An insight into the exploration of tonal dissonance by Rachmaninov, Tavener, Chesnokov, Whitacre and Harris delighted us in the second half but it was with the Baroque composer’s works that we were drawn to a strange equilibrium of intimacy and grandeur which reached its climax in the genius of Lotti’s Crucifixus. Each phrase of piling suspensions compelled a desperation for the next whilst we simultaneously clung to the previous, resulting in our pursuit of hedonistic consummation being overwhelmingly satisfied.
The a cappella voices were instruments- soloists, duets and accompaniment, relying on each other to trust, feel and entice each voice into theirs.


How to achieve choral perfection? Tenebrae certainly enlightened us.


Harriet Nicholls, 24

**SHORTLISTED REVIEW**

 

 

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
16 May, St Nicolas Church, Newbury


Joviality reigned supreme at St Nicolas’ Church in Newbury on the night of the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra’s performance. The playing out of convivial greetings to friends not seen since last year could be heard as verbal spillage in the form of “hellohownicetoseeyouagaindoyouknowCharlesandMary…” Combined with the frantic passing of cushions and craning of necks to see whom one recognised, we were all in a mood to be overjoyed, which luckily was on the program.


Conducted by the quiveringly dynamic Jacek Kaspszyk, the orchestra dexterously made their way through Schubert’s Symphony No 3 in D major almost as if it was a warm up, preparing themselves and the audience for Beethoven’s eminent Choral Symphony. The symphony begins with a short section that sounds very much like each instrument is tuning up, but this then suddenly glides into melody with all the bows of the string players moving in unison. It was a great pleasure to hear all the recognizable passages being performed with such skill, and the second movement brought some particularly serious toe-tapping brilliance. As The Newbury Spring Festival Chorus became gradually more alert at the back of the stage, it was a sign that the essence of the performance was about to begin, the extremely well known last movement of Beethoven’s symphony. The familiarity of the ‘Ode to Joy’ in no way hindered audience’s enjoyment of it, as choir and orchestra played with great enthusiasm to the delight of all.


L.M 25

 

   

Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra
16 May, St Nicolas Church, Newbury


The buzz bustling into St Nicolas on Saturday was of great enthusiasm and anticipation. A sense of occasion loomed as friends were meeting and greeting, politely acknowledging new acquaintances and discussing events in the Festival that one would (and should) attend. As the orchestra tuned, practising bantam passages like little treats to entice us, a hush fell upon the audience as Jacek Kaspszyk and his orchestra were introduced to great applause. Schubert’s symphony no.3 in D major asserted itself over the audience with its first movement, reminiscent of a song or story, boasting a playful back-and-forth game between woodwind and strings. In the third movement the orchestra enveloped the dynamism of the work, marked by the occasional smiles of players, as they braced themselves for the impressively fast presto vivace.


The interval allowed us preparation for Beethoven’s ninth. A nervous but eager Spring Festival Chorus resumed their seats where they had patiently waited for their chance to have their voices received. That iconic motif, aching to be heard, ran through each section of the orchestra, followed then by the soloists and finally by the choir who engulfed the church with Beethoven’s famous theme. The double bass players arched over their instruments, one wiping sweat from his brow, hammering each string to keep up with the speed of the conductor’s swaying arms; the entire orchestra questioned and answered each other at once, culminating in a the final notes of this incredible performance which unquestionably resounded an ‘Ode to Joy.’


Harriet Nicholls, 24

**SHORTLISTED REVIEW**

 

 

Endellion String Quartet
17 May, St Mary’s Church, Shaw


The Endellion String Quartet arrived on stage looking very distinguished in their black suits and spectacles, and proceeded to give a suitably distinguished performance of three interestingly diverse quartets.


The Mozart in E flat (K428) provided a temperate entrance of soft sophistication, which seemed appropriate for the Wedgwood blue and white interior of the Church. Each instrument was given the chance to shine as the melody was passed around, and in the last movement all four players created a texture reminiscent of a babbling river, with both gentle pauses and bubbling rapids.


The remaining quartets, as explained by the cellist, were both written as a reaction to the Germanic tradition of music from the late 18th and 19th centuries. Ravel’s only string quartet, written when he was a student, felt a lot like an experiment in how the instruments could come together texturally. Although each of the instruments were playing different things, such as clashing notes, plucking against bowing, or a melody against trills and scales, they were woven together to form one fabric, and the harmonized playing of the Endellion Quartet really highlighted this. Sibelius’ String Quartet in D minor was equally textural, and had all the moodiness of a piece ‘inspired by the natural world of Finland’.


With the persuasion of an enthusiastic audience, the quartet rounded off their impressive performance with a lovely slow movement from a Hayden quartet giving the whole evening an ‘icing on the cake’ flourish.


L.M 25

**SHORTLISTED REVIEW**

 

   

Endellion String Quartet (Classical)

17 May, St Mary’s Church, Shaw

 

Many eager and finely dressed people made their way through the tranquil grounds of St Mary’s Church in anticipation of the highly esteemed Endellion String Quartet. Once seated, I was given an opportunity to observe St Mary’s church, immersing myself within its elegance and fine architecture.

The quartet soon took to the stage and began playing Mozart’s String Quartet No. 16 in E flat major, K. 428 with faultless precision. Bar the occasional cough, the quartet were met with a respectful and stunned silence from the audience in between movements.

The quartet continued to play, seamlessly transitioning from hopeful melodies to endearing melancholia. Each note warmly resonated within the walls of the church making it seem as if it were built precisely for such a performance.

Ravel’s String Quartet in F major was introduced by cellist David Waterman. He explained Ravel’s experiences with political tension in his country at the time of composition. The ominous, complex melodies, swaying rhythms and virtuosic pizzicato painted a vivid picture of Ravel’s frustration.

The third piece performed was Sibelius’ String Quartet in D Minor, Voces Intimae, Opus 56. Dynamic, intense, complex, it was perhaps the most riveting performance of the evening. With seamless ease, the four musicians played through the multifaceted piece, leading up to a thunderous finale. This was met with rapturous applause from the delighted audience. They concluded with Haydn’s calming opus 64, no 6.

Had the respective composers of these pieces been present, they would have been honoured by the renditions.

Robert Gould, 23

**SHORTLISTED REVIEW**

 

 

Gary Williams and Harry the Piano
Monday 18th May, The Vineyard, Stockcross

 

A performance by the exceptionally talented Gary Williams and Harry The Piano at the beautiful setting of the Vineyard in Stockcross. The intimate function room allowed Gary to interact the audience, and after taking requests at the beginning he dedicated each song to a different couple. Gary spoke of his time touring the UK with the BBC Big Band, as well as recording with famous artists in the Abbey Road Studios. The duo were immensely versatile, making up medleys as they went along from requests, as well as being able to play any song in any style! The songs were Frank Sinatra classics and modern standards, but with some unexpected twists in lyrics for good humour - for example Rehab, which the audience loved. People responded by clapping along and dancing in their chairs. Either member of the duo would have easily held the stage alone, but together what they produced was so precious I felt privileged to witness it. I have never been to such a small, intimate concert and I wouldn’t hesitate to go and see Gary Williams and Harry The Piano again.

Fran Miller, 18

 

   

Gary Williams and Harry the Piano
Monday 18th May, The Vineyard, Stockcross


The wonderful Gary Williams and Harry the Piano put on a lively and impressive show situated at the Vineyard in Stockcross. The function room was a truly gorgeous setting for equally beautiful music. The set started with Harry the Piano who played an impressive rendition of an audience member’s request, he played it in a mixture of styles, ranging from Chopin to Shostakovich. This opening number really captured everyone’s attention, awestruck gasps and whispers crept through the room. Gary Williams was so relaxed, connecting with the audience on a personal level and getting to know them.

This made the atmosphere very calming and the concert flew by! Everyone in the room was tapping their feet and clapping along to all the cabaret classics. The pair spoke of past experiences while touring the country as well as famous people they had worked with, saying how they developed and began to work together. It was a nice touch that their entire set was a compilation of requests from the audience, it tailored the concert to those who were there. Overall a really great evening and I will definitely be going to more events like this in the future.

JH, 20

 

 

Ruby Hughes,   soprano & Joseph Middleton, piano

21 May, Englefield House

 

‘When I’m picking my nose’- the words of Britten’s Cabaret Songs gave rise to a murmur of chuckles in the Long gallery on Thursday night. The fact that these funny songs were presented alongside Schubert’s Lieder and the incredible work of Duparc’s resounding score of Baudelairian beauty was just one of the little oddities in tonight’s concert.

France undoubtedly reigned supreme as the sum of its Austrian counterparts stood as mere ‘fillers’ in a programme, chopped and changed at the last minute, as Hughes informed her audience that, this way, she “finds it’s best”. With a short introduction we were informed that her beauty would add to her performance, a superfluous remark. As she took to the stage she assumed the archetypal hand in hand pose expected in a Lieder recital and sang agreeably. Joseph Middleton greatly encouraged Hughes with his empathy towards her dynamic efforts and occasional outbursts of excitement, most noticeably at the flagrant words ‘O Mankind, of your suffering’ during Mahler’s penultimate verse of Um Mitternacht.

The remarkable composition of Ravel’s Kaddisch made every attempt to be heard over Hughes’ somewhat over-worked vibrato, which unfortunately detracted from the poignancy of the composer’s mourning and ritualistic intention. However, order was restored with her delivery of Duparc’s short songs which brought undeniable enjoyment to the audience.  

Harriet Nicholls, 24

 

 

Ex Cathedra Consort

22 May, Douai Abbey

The beating drum echoed causing an eerie silence to fall on Douai Abbey as the choir processed its liturgical chant, confirming every person to be an outsider observing this ritualistic event. Intimate and private, we were simultaneously imposing and yet allowed to look through the keyhole at this hidden paradise of musical bliss.

The remarkable discovery of the Americas through the choir’s deft decision to give little snippets of their composers such as Juan Gutierrez de Padilla, Tomás Pascual and Francisco Hernández was most interesting showing that despite some native percussive resonances in their compositions, they were still overwhelmingly influenced by their European dominants -the likes of Byrd, Tallis and Psalter who had delighted us before the interval. Although mostly adorned with serious expressions, occasionally the bass would deliver a cheeky smile to the sopranos. No longer are choirs all male!

The order of this programme showed the stark impact of European music (and the imposition of European values) on South America as we were reminded of primal and base composition being westernised. This was most significant in Juan García de Zéspedes’s Convidando esta la Noche where his alternation of simple and compound times evoked thoughts of more contemporary Latin American styles. It is ironic to think that the rhythm and excited voices in unison would, over three centuries later, inspire Leonard Bernstein to compose his famous ‘I like to be in America’.

With the imitators becoming the originators, the term ‘Ex Cathedra’ is given new and rousing ambiguity. 

Harriet Nicholls, 24

**SHORTLISTED REVIEW**

 

 

The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars

22 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury

A blue, neon backdrop illuminated the stage. Before it the instruments for the evening’s performance sat, gently caressed by a thin layer of artificial smoke. Immediately the tone was set for the evening.

The quintet (Alex Garnett – sax, Freddie Gavita – trumpet, James Pearson – piano, Sam Burgess – bass, Chris Higginbottom – drums) took to the stage and began playing classics from the likes of Charles Mingus and Dizzy Gillespie, their faultless virtuosity instantaneously apparent.

The show was not only musically astounding, but also educational and entertaining. In between performances saxophonist, Alex Garnett and pianist, James Pearson shared tales of the history of Ronnie Scott and his groundbreaking jazz venue. Amongst these, several humorous anecdotes were told, notably, one of esteemed drummer Ginger Baker, heavily under the influence, heroically disarming a man who entered the club with a gun. Assisted by numerous photographs and videos projected onto the backdrop, the audience were informed of the venues history dating back to 1959 and the formation of the ‘old’, original Ronnie Scott’s club.

The band continued to play with a level of unparalleled technical prowess, each member performing improvised solos with effortless proficiency. Drummer Chris Higginbottom, paid tribute to legend Buddy Rich by performing an exceptional solo that was met by a sea of applause and cheers.

The show was concluded with a visual montage of key events in the venue’s history and famous musicians who have performed there.

The evening was a fitting tribute to the impressive legacy of Ronnie Scott’s.

 

Robert Gould, 23

   

 

The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars

22 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury

When walking into the Corn Exchange on Friday night to watch ‘The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars’, I honestly didn’t know what to expect, never previously having listened to much jazz music.  But within the first five minutes, I, and the whole audience, was fully engaged and loving every second.  The use of video in the performance’s opening was extremely effective; the audience were immediately submerged in the atmosphere of the 1960’s jazz movement and the essence of Ronnie Scott’s London Club.

All five members of the group are exceptionally talented musicians, as evidenced from the superb solos throughout the evening, but it was far more than simply a musical performance.  Led by James Pearson (piano) and Alex Garnett (saxophone), the group guided us through the history of Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, from its opening in 1959 right up to the present day.  The use of recordings, photos, anecdotes and live music was perfectly balanced to make this a truly enjoyable and also educational evening.  What was particularly notable was just how much fun all the performers were having on stage: this translated to the audience, and by the end of the night I don’t think there was a single person not tapping their foot along! 

I would certainly recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to do so sees this quintet.  They have definitely excited me about jazz music, and I hope I will one day have an opportunity to visit the club itself.

Heather Barr, 18

**SHORTLISTED REVIEW**

 

   

The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars

22 May, Corn Exchange, Newbury

The Ronnie Scott’s All Stars played an outstanding concert at the Corn Exchange. The performance opened with a short film about Ronnie Scott’s quintet and how his famous jazz club started 50 years ago. Alex Garnett acted as front man, with the quintet playing well-known jazz pieces relevant to the timeline. Alex told witty anecdotes and quotes from Ronnie himself in between each song.
The ‘’piano genius’’, James Pearson, was truly mesmerising. He appeared to be just hitting the piano, but it sounded amazing, turning around and smiling at the audience while his hands were skating up and down the keyboard! Each member of the quintet took solos with main ones from Alex on tenor saxophone and Freddie Gavita on trumpet. Chris Higginbottom’s drum solo was a particular highlight- the rest of the band left the stage and he played an impressive five minute cadenza. Sam Burgess on bass not only played a hypnotic solo, but he also rounded off the sound throughout the concert.
At the end of the concert they played along to a recording of Ronnie’s Quintet’s appearance on a TV show, it was so special to see the performance brought to life! I absolutely loved this performance, and after going to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London previously, I will be venturing again very soon to see this talented bunch of musicians passionately playing in their true setting.


Fran Miller, 18

 

 

Philharmonia Orchestra

23 May 2015, St Nicolas’ Church

In the fading light of early evening, the nave of St Nicolas’ Church buzzed into life as the Philharmonia began their dynamic performance of Vaughan Williams’ Overture, ‘The Wasps’. The warm brass and majestic strings successfully evoked the exotic Grecian summer of Aristophanes’ writings. Under the reigns of Martyn Brabbins, the Philharmonia’s opening performance invigorated the audience for a night of musical entertainment.

As dusk’s golden glow spilled through the stained windows, Dinara Klinton began a hesitant performance of Rachmaninov’s third Piano Concerto. With an uncomfortably slow opening, Klinton’s performance was technically impressive - but her seemingly forced emotional connection with the piece was overwhelmingly distracting. Despite the fantastic backing of the orchestra, one felt as though Klinton’s performance lacked the spirit and vigour Rachmaninov originally wove into each note. After a bout of deserved applause for her technical achievement, the soloist’s encore outshone her initial performance by far; the intimacy of the piece drew the entire audience in, displaying her mastery of restraint, rather than of showmanship.

As the evening descended into night, the Church was transported to a verdant winter meadow of Vaughan William’s creation. The Philharmonia’s transcendent performance of the composer’s Fifth Symphony brought out the piece’s rich texture and luscious harmony. Brabbins treated the piece with both delicacy and energy- the pianissimo lulls momentarily stopped time in breathtaking display of subtlety, while the uproarious brass flourishes called the Church back to life, ending the evening on a moment of triumph to be treasured by all.

Derri Lewis 17

**SHORTLISTED REVIEW**

 

   

 

 

Philharmonia Orchestra

23 May 2015, St Nicolas’ Church

 This is my first time seeing the Philharmonia Orchestra and I must say they didn't dissapoint.
The pianist Ms Dinara Klinton who was playing Piano Concerto No3 in D minor Op 30 by Rachmaninov, was outstanding. The practice and dedication it must have taken to learn and play this difficult piece so well is astonishing.
All of the Philharmonia Orchestra played amazingly and evoked my creative senses. They made me want to pick up my clarinet again and finish that book I have been working on for years.
What technique to be played in such a beautiful surrounding. The orchestra did not look out of place in the St Nicolas Church, Newbury, quite the opposite.  It looked like it belonged there filling its vast space with their moving music, creating an unstoppable duo.
I was sat near a visually impaired lady and her beautiful dog Henry and the music and the atmosphere even reached Henry. The music seemed to calm him on moment then had him up wagging his tail coming to see the people near to him to share his excitement; it was a lovely thing to see.
This is something I would definitely like to do again. Although the concert being over two hours put me off initially, the time flew by and I could have stayed longer.

Thank you for letting me come and review such a wonderful night.

Gemma Bryan 26

 

   

Philharmonia Orchestra

23 May 2015, St Nicolas’ Church

A truly spectacular concert by the Philharmonia Orchestra and the hugely impressive Russian pianist Dinara Klinton in the uniquely intimate and beautiful venue of St Nicolas Church in the heart of Newbury.

Following the colourful Overture the Wasps, Dinara Klinton completely spell-bounded the audience with her technique and sublime touch with Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto in D Minor.

To finish, the tranquillity of rural England captured by Vaughan Williams' Symphony No5 in D Major was shared with the enraptured audience. 

After the last note was played, there was absolute silence. Then rapturous applause which rightfully filled the fantastic venue and it was a privilege to be in the presence of such humble musicianship.

The superb concert by the Philharmonia and Dinara Klinton has inspired me to attend more classical concerts in the very near future and share this experience with others. 

David C Williams, 30

   

 

Philharmonia Orchestra

23 May 2015, St Nicolas’ Church

The Newbury Spring Festival was concluded in spectacular fashion by the Philharmonia Orchestra.

As the audience eagerly made their way to be seated in the pews, the sound of the orchestra tuning their instruments resonated through the stunning walls of St Nicolas Church. Revered conductor Martyn Brabbins soon took to the stage, greeted warmly by applause from the audience.

The orchestra began with Vaughan Williams’ Overture: The Wasps. The faultless talent amongst the performers became immediately evident as they played their way through the short and energetic piece, sweeping trills and glissandos filling the church.

Pianist Dinara Klinton joined the stage for a rendition of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 30. After winning the 2013 Sheepdrove Piano Competition, the Philharmonia Orchestra offered Klinton a job on the spot. It was easy is see why - Klinton’s piano skills were impeccable and captivating. You would be hard pushed to find a pianist with greater talent. After the final notes were played, Klinton and the Philharmonia were met with a rapture of cheers and frantic applause from the audience.

After a brief intermission, the Philharmonia concluded with Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 5 in D major. Regarded by many as Vaughan Williams’ finest work, the piece weaved elegantly between elevating melodies to poignant moments of melancholia. The Philharmonia did the piece justice, hitting every note immaculately.

To find fault in the evening’s performance is a task of virtual impossibility. Watching the Philharmonia Orchestra was a privilege.

Robert Gould, 23

**SHORTLISTED REVIEW**

 

 

How to be a Young Festival Critic

 

 

 How to Critique – it’s easy…

 

The results

 

T&C’s

 

The Competiton

 

 

There are prizes for the best, and most well written, reviews:

 

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

 

Previous Judges:

 

Edward Seckerson - Formerly Chief Classical Music Critic of the Independent, still reporting for several national newspapers.

Kate Green – Editor of Country Life magazine.

Trish Lee – Arts Editor, Newbury weekly News

Giles Woodforde – Arts Critic, Oxford Times

Barry Millington - Arts Critic, The Guardian

 

 

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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