Celebrate 800 years of Magna Carta in song


Join
Lester Simpson
of Coope Boyes & Simpson
in celebrating
800 years of Magna Carta
with
Songs of Liberty
A Folk Song Workshop

Cotton Augustus II.106St Hilda’s Church Hall
Courtrai Road
London SE23 1NL
Saturday 18th April 2015 12:45- 5:15
£25

Tickets available here advance booking essential

 

Listening between the notes


Monday Night, Croydon Folk Club, Coope Boyes & Simpson gig.

I know I spend a lot of time writing about music, but there is method in it. In the right circumstances, and these were they, being in the front row, singing along with professional musicians who encourage joining in, not only do the spirits lift, but the brain uncreases and all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas get flowing, despite the slightly wistful I wish I could do that that takes over when I hear someone at the top of their game as CB&S are.

Coope Boyes & Simpson are very relaxed, unassuming performers, they chat quite happily between songs, but when they are singing they pay close attention to each other, giving the impression that they might just be improvising, not that I think they are, and there is a feeling that you are eavesdropping on a private session. They feel no need to drag the audience in, there is no need to do more than sing.  The timing is exquisite (The Cool of the Day), the harmonies clever and the contained way in which they deliver quite devastating songs (Hill of Little Shoes) is perfect.

To get singing (and song writing – Falling Slowly and Turn Your Face to the Light) of this calibre in a prefab shack at the back of Ruskin House is extraordinary. Worth missing the last train for. Lester Simpson claims to not know anything about music theory, describing one of the songs as not being in 4/4 time, but the changes in tempo in his songs are one of their highlights.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Live music works on two different levels for me, I get completely engrossed in the music, (which is so totally three-dimensional compared to recordings) at the same time that I am following and playing with the harmonies, which have their own spacial existence, I also listen to the spaces between the notes.

I was once asked to explain harmony to a Deaf choreographer, eventually I said, when you have more than one person dancing, what they do reflects and follows and contradicts what the other dancers are doing, and they create shapes that only exist in the relationship between each dancer? (Poor interpreter, that stretched him), Yes yes, she said. Right, that’s what harmony is, just in sound, I said, sweating a little with the effort. She beamed, completely understanding.

So I do, on some level, experience sound (in particular music) as being shape and space and three dimensions,  (I’m sure in terms of the physics of sound waves that this is true, if not quite how a scientist would describe it) and that creates room for something else.

Inspiration.

The Singing Season


Not that the singing season ever went away, it’s a bit like football, the break gets shorter all the time; but we didn’t do Sing for Water this year because of A’s broken leg, so larynx and lungs feeling a bit under used.

So the good news is that Raise the Roof is back next week, and we’ve already started Summer All Year Long back into a regular schedule (although it may be disrupted by Arachne Press activities – or not, actually as some of the repertoire is London songs with the thought that we might have a musical interlude at some of the readings.) And we’ve signed up to sing the Vivaldi Gloria for the annual Christmas spectacular at Blackheath Halls, where rumour has it Wendy Dawn Thompson will be joining us as one of the soloists.  We love Wendy, she is great fun to sing with. I’ve already bumped into two people we sing with whilst doing the rounds of bookshops and venues for readings of London Lies, and anticipation is running high!

Plans are also afoot for another workshop with Lester Simpson of Coope, Boyes & Simpson for 1st December, and on a consumption front we are booked to go to the ‘Last Night of the Mini Proms’ where the lovely and talented Messrs Grant Doyle and Nick Sharratt with whom we have sung on numerous occassions, are singing (amongst other things) the Pearl Fishers Duet, which will be distinctly lush.

© Cherry Potts 2012

Lester in Brockley (and Croydon)


Light relief from nursing A (she wouldn’t agree I’m nursing, but that’s shorthand for everything I wouldn’t normally do, and am now doing at high speed and with one arm strapped up and the other coming out in sympathy) five happy hours, round the corner at St Hilda’s church hall, learning new songs with Lester Simpson of Coope Boyes & Simpson.  Quite a tonic.

I’m perched on the corner of the sick bed now, having played A my recordings, and promised to teach them to her while she womanfully pretended she wasn’t both disappointed and jealous.  But disaster – the laptop then decided to corrupt the files, and I’ve lost half of it.  I’m not coping with small reversals at the moment, and am in a raging fury now, and I’ve lost the recordings of the harmonies for Sweet Thames from Wednesday as well.  I hate it when technology conspires.

Yesterday was a joyous afternoon with thirty others, sun pouring into the rather lovely hall (great acoustic for which – obviously – I take full credit, as I made the booking). Songs from Chaucer to Cherokee; songs that use the word for freedom in dozens languages; and magnificent harmonies: quite lovely … and I was so pleased with myself for asking Lester …

Those who know me well will be able to tell what kind of temper I am in currently, others can imagine thunderous brow and foul-mouthed spitting.  I’ll get over it.  I  know in the great scheme of things it’s a minor irritant but camels and straws and all that.  Hell, I can’t even be bothered to employ my cliché screen.

Anyway. Thank you Lester for a brilliant afternoon, in which I quite lost myself.

Lester is performing at Croydon Folk Club on Monday evening.

© Cherry Potts 2012

music is taking over my life


Raise the Roof at the Horniman

Haven’t written anything here (or anywhere else much) for a while, and I blame that pesky singing lark. It has taken over.
We are rehearsing Ramirez’s Navidad Nuestra, carols and RTR stuff for Blackheath Halls on the 16th December, end of term concert for Raise the Roof at the Horniman Museum TODAY!!!! 2.30pm,
and a selection of more unusual carols with Summer All Year Long in aid of Crisis for 17th December,
3pm at Crofton Park Library, 4pm at Hills & Parkes Deli 49 Honor Oak Park and 5pm at The Broca Cafe Coulgate Street Brockley, right by the station.
It’s all huge fun, but time consuming, and there’s always room to be made for just one more extra rehearsal, or (Latin American) Spanish to be written out phonetically and big enough to be read (Score is unreadable), or posters to be designed, printed, distributed.
Would I have it any other way?
No.
But the garden is neglected, I was writing Christmas cards at 5am this morning, and Christmas shopping started yesterday – normally I’d have it all tied up by September!
That said I highly recommend Cockpit Arts in Deptford (and Holborn) for Christmas presents of a very classy kind. I won’t go into detail or everyone will get previews of what will be in their stockings on the 25th… but check out their website.
And when not rehearsing or performing I’m attending musical events.
Highlights recently Coope Boyes and Simpson at the Goose is out, Goose is out singaround at the Mag, two versions of Figaro… and yet to come Lewisham Choral Society at St Mary’s Ladywell on the 10th, and Nunhead Community Choir on the 11th
I had high hopes of getting to lots of the Spitalfields Winter Festival, which has some really exciting things on, but there’s so much on locally that I think I’ll be lucky to make it to even one, and then of course there’s the Welcome Yule at Southbank on the 18th, might try to squeeze that in.
And there’s been less successful outings, a disappointing Eugene Onegin at ENO, which was too static, under characterised, and had a very odd libretto although the sets were wonderful (I worry when the sets are what I’m praising – I also worry when people laugh at Onegin’s anguish when he realises what a disastrous mistake he’s made), I really think rough edges not withstanding our Blackheath production was vastly superior… followed by an APPALLING Castor and Pollux also at ENO, which by comparison made Onegin look like a shining light of dramatic excellence. I know I shouldn’t judge an opera by it’s dramatic punch, but I do, if I just wanted the music I could listen to a disc. Rameau’s music is exquisite and I can’t fault the orchestra nor the singers, particularly Allan Clayton as Castor, but the director showed very little respect for his singers, who were required to (I was going to say act, but really; no) behave like disturbed and sexualised toddlers. I winced for them I really did.

The storyline was rather throw away too, I didn’t much care which of the brothers died and I wasn’t moved by their dilemma, mainly because the production (and lack of it) detracted from the music in a depressingly consistent way. I can only assume the budget for scenery and costume had been blown on the other productions, This was naff, and I was not surprised that Roderick Williams (Pollux) was taken ill, the amount of compost and glitter they were probably breathing in, I hope no one sustained permanent damage… My dad was groaning in anguish and muttering imprecations through out. This would have been better as a concert performance, then we could have allowed Rameau to light our imaginations and conjured up Hell and Jupiter for ourselves, rather than having it channelled for us by Little Britain doing zombiesRus.

I found myself wisting after the productions of Handel (Xerxes, Ariodante) that ENO did many years ago, which were directed with wit and aplomb, and with a knowing nod to the audience; and still manage to move me; I still quote a tiny bit of recitative from Xerxes where Arsemenes is asked to woo his own beloved on behalf of his brother, the timing and phrasing of his ‘I’d rather die’ summed up his entire character.  That was great singing, great acting and great direction.  Handel had a hand in  it too, but Rameau is good enough to deserve that kind of attention.

Enough grumbling, got to go and SING!!

copyright Cherry Potts 2011