Reviews

The Archaeus Quartet

December 2017

St. Mary’s Church, Salehurst

 

Please read the two great reviews:

Review by Stephen Hardy

The Archaeus Quartet, who have so many Robertsbridge connections, took us a little further down the road of their mammoth exploration of all Beethoven’s quartets, performing two from the early set and one from the middle quartets. We in the audience benefitted both from the wise words of introduction by the Quartet’s violist, Elizabeth Turnbull, and from the sublimest of music with that extra frisson of clarity which only a string quartet in a medieval church acoustic can provide. The Archaeus opened with Opus 18 No 6, telling us where Beethoven came from – his teacher was Joseph Haydn – but showed us where he was heading, especially in the energetic scherzo. Archaeus showed excellent ensemble playing here and progressed into the final movement’s achingly adventurous harmonies, amazing for the end of the 18th century. The second offering was the middle quartet, Opus 74, written when Beethoven was in overdrive, composing the Emperor Piano Concerto at the same time. The adagio second movement was played with true dark emotional intensity, presaging the language of his later quartets. This special evening was rounded off by a performance of the Opus 18 No 1 quartet, sprightly in the first movement, again reminiscent of his teacher Haydn, sonorous in the noble, slow second movement, quicksilver in the scherzo and in the vigorous finale, the Quartet rounded off a performance of clarity of expression, leaving the audience wanting to be taken further on this journey into Beethoven’s musical genius.

Review by Paul Pittman:

One of the great things about a RAP membership is the diversity of art it exposes you to. Every Newsletter lists events for every taste, and age group. But what about the events that are not to your taste? The ones outside your comfort zone?

My musical tastes are middle of the road, with the odd diversion into hardcore trance. The one genre missing from my playlists is classical music. I can’t say I dislike it, because I haven’t listened to enough to decide. So, on December 2nd, a night with the Archaeus String Quartet playing Beethoven seemed like a good way to refine my opinions.

The venue, convivial atmosphere, and a large glass of wine helped prepare me for 2 hours of virtuoso strings. With no previous knowledge of what was to be played, every note was a revelation. This was not the “easy listening” classical music beloved of the advertising industry, this was music that demanded to be heard.

Early in the performance some in the audience closed their eyes. If that was the way to listen to classical music, then I was up to the challenge and closed mine. With one of your senses turned off, all the others go into overdrive. As the music rose and fell, images appeared and disappeared in my mind. Each instrument’s sound carved its own path. Without the predictable hook of a chorus, or the cliché of an ear worm, everything sounded new and fresh. The scent of the candles, and a trace of a cool draught served only to make the experience more immersive.

The first half finished all too soon, and we were jerked back to serious business of wine and mince pies.

The second half started with an introduction to the pieces to be played. Suddenly, I had the back story of the composer, and perspective on the society that gave birth to the music. (If you don’t think that is important try listening to Punk with no knowledge of the 70’s!)

Now I could begin to understand what Beethoven was about. It didn’t replace my imagination, but filled in the details. It made the final connections between music, imagination and emotion.

For one night I sat amongst people who knew about classical music. That could have been intimidating. Yet it wasn’t. I don’t know what they thought of me, but thankfully there was no test at the end, so I think I got away with it.


 

Farnham Maltings ‘Brilliance’

October 2017

Robertsbridge Village Hall

Review by Peter Massini

To be honest – which I guess is the requirement of a review – the thought of a Friday evening in the village hall (any village hall) did not fill me with heightened expectations. But we had tickets and so out we went into the gloom.

The programme proudly proclaimed a production described by the director as one ‘that could only be presented in a village hall’. And so with any potential excitement further dulled, I was prepared to switch off.

But the packed village hall was about to be treated to a touch of Brilliance.

The drama, staged by Arts Council funded Farnham Maltings, told a simple story that illuminated the everyday experiences of love, friendship, the consequences of breaches of trust, and the failure to seize the moment. A simple story yes, but one that touched a chord in us all and worked well in a simple setting.

The drama and the way in which it was presented – interspersed with musical interludes, wry smiles and subtle audience interactions – conjured up the essence of a good Radio 4 drama, but with the added benefit of being brought to life by a group of quality actor musicians (no am-dram players these) responding to good writing and an appreciative audience. The fact that this was staged without a stage – the story cleverly played out in our midst, making the most of the space and lighting – added to the idea that a village hall was the only place for this tale to be told, because its appeal was in its intimacy not its spectacle.

As a drama, Brilliance did not aim to shine a light on contemporary social mores or the more challenging aspects of the human condition. In that sense it did not electrify. But there was a sparkle in the village hall on this Friday night. And it left an afterglow. I for one, contrary to my initial expectations, am looking forward to future productions in our humble, but thankfully fully-wired, village hall.

 

http://theatre.farnhammaltings.com


 

Joyce Grenfell… George – Don’t Do That!

September 2017

Robertsbridge Village Hall

Review by Timothy Kent

A full house at the Robertsbridge Village Hall welcomed the performers to the RAP presentation of George – Don’t Do That!  Devised and performed by Catherine Flye, the evening used the music and magic of Joyce Grenfell both to entertain and recount her life story.

Flye, playing Joyce Grenfell, had the audience utterly spellbound, using only Grenfell’s sketches and letters to entertain us and to flesh out her life’s story.  Dominik Golding brought charm and panache to the role of the narrator, leading us through Grenfell’s life and times.  Tony Davies on keys provided incidental music and accompaniments to the songs, to ensure the evening was as glitteringly musical as befits the subject.

Some in the audience knew of Joyce Grenfell from childhood as a superstar of stage and television.  The rest of us knew her only by name and the catchphrase, “George – don’t do that”, taken from one of her many observational comedy sketches.  Delivered as a monologue, we find a nervous nursery teacher trying to control growing chaos in the classroom, much of it provoked by her very attempts to be calm. This is occasionally punctuated by her pausing briefly to say, with scarcely controlled distaste, “George…. [long pause]… don’t do that”.  Grenfell leaves it to the chortling audience to imagine what our heroine might be witnessing.

Some sketches were simply very touching, especially the elderly widow flying for the first time, her ticket paid for by her son so that she could visit him and meet his wife and family in America for the first time.

Principally, however, this was an evening music and laughter.  One illustration of her talent for creating characters was her depiction of a singer in an amateur choir which once a year has the chance to sing in the Albert Hall.

This had the audience in stitches.  But it was striking that the sketch is so well-constructed, and performed so convincingly by Flye, that it didn’t matter that we might never have met such a person or sung in a choir.  We all feel we know this eager and entertainingly pompous character.  The observations are subtle and acute but the laughter is never cruel.  We were left in no doubt by Flye, Golding and Davies that Grenfell had a genius for music, character observation, and what may be a particularly British form of comedy: affectionately taking someone down a peg or two.


 

Son Yambu

June 2017

Robertsbridge Club

Review by:  Phillippa Beagley

We run Hastings Salsa and had been told about the Son Yambu show at the Robertsbridge Club by one of our students. A group of us decided that it would be fun to go and hoped that there would be space to dance. We were very happy to see the Club set up cafe style with a dance floor in front of the stage, and a delicious range of Caribbean drinks available at the bar.

The band was fantastic! They played a great mix of different Cuban rhythms. The lead singer got the crowd going, she informed the audience about the dance styles in the introduction: Cha Cha Cha, Merengue, Salsa, Son, even a Bachata from the Dominican Republic, and was inclusive with her encouragement to get everyone up and dancing. Son Yambu played two long sets and kept the energy going all evening.

We had an excellent night, and haven’t danced so much for ages.  We at Hastings Salsa are always happy to dance the night away and look forward to the next time Son Yambu goes to Robertsbridge.


Archaeus Quartet

May 2017

St Mary’s Church, Salehurst

Review by: Katy Bielecki

The Archaeus Quartet performed their 2nd concert in the series of Beethoven Quartets on a balmy evening last Saturday. It was wonderful to be in the church without coats!

We were treated to yet another exciting programme, commencing with the Quartet in G major, Op.18 No. 2 (1802). While Haydn-esque in spirit, this quartet does not possess the same seriousness as much of Haydn’s work, and this was a delightfully light-hearted, yet perfectly executed set of movements. The passing of phrases between the instruments and the communication between the players was enjoyable to witness.

In the second of the three quartets, Op. 59 No.3 in C, a more sombre mood was initially set by the Archaeus, before moving into a bright and (seemingly) almost unrelated Allegro. The Russian-feel of the lyrical second movement was delightful to listen to and the melody soared around the wonderful acoustics of the church. Unison themes in the finale provided an exciting end to the first half.

The final quartet of the evening (Op. 127 in E flat) was as equally enthralling as those in the first half, with particularly beautiful melodies from Martin Bradshaw on ‘cello. We were treated to four movements; the dramatic unison opening could not have contrasted more with the simple, folk-like ending of the almost magical final movement, bringing the evening to a close.

Informative and entertaining notes from Elizabeth Turnbull (viola) aided the programme notes, setting the scene for each quartet and providing some insight into the composer’s life at the time of composing these works.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening – we look forward with eager anticipation to the last in the series of concerts in December.


Six Books You Should Read

April 2017

Robertsbridge Village Hall

Review by:  Michael Smith

Local authors, Alan Judd and Charlotte Moore, captivated a packed audience at the Village Hall on Saturday April 29 with their choice of the Six Books You Should Read.  Because only a handful of insiders knew their choice of books in advance, there was a sense of anticipation which brought an enthusiastic response from the audience when they were invited to contribute their own “best book”.

Alan Judd, who has written two biographies and 11 novels, began by picking War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy and followed with The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. His final choice was A Month In The Country by J.L. Carr.

Charlotte Moore, who has published both fiction and non-fiction, selected Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Akenfield by Ronald Blythe. Her final choice was The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

In the lively discussion which followed, it was repeatedly emphasised that the choices were  purely  subjective and were not meant to signify the best books ever published or to fit into any other category.

The point was made by the diverse suggestions from the floor when audience members offered their own suggestions. The first offering was Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy and was immediately followed by Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. Next up was Stig of the Dump, a children’s novel by Clive King and the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Others picked a variety of authors such as P.H.Wodehouse, Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh but did not nominate a particular work. Other selections  ranged from Ice Cream Wars by William Boyd to Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes. Near the close the penultimate suggestion was Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel.  The formal part of the evening ended with Sagittarius Rising by Cecil Arthur Lewis.

But it was far from the end of proceedings as the audience broke up and drifted into the night, still eagerly discussing their choices or wondering why or earth no one had mentioned……..


Literary Festival

April 2017

Various locations in Robertsbridge Village

Review by:  Jane Tritton

I’m delighted to report another triumph for RAP’s second Literary Festival, held at the end of April.

With huge thanks to sponsors The George Inn, Brightling Road Fitness, Zindigo Photography, The Salehurst Halt and the BlackShed Gallery, to our speakers and of course to you, our audience for making the Festival such a success.

Bronwen Griffiths kicked off the programme, talking passionately about her new book Not Here Not Us, a series of short stories on the Syrian crisis. Topical and emotional, Bronwen’s talk sparked some lively questions.

Acclaimed writer and filmmaker Tom Connolly (The Spider Truces, Men Like Air) entertained us on the Friday evening, in conversation with Robertsbridge’s own Ruth Macaulay. We heard about how Tom writes, from the initial idea through to the finished product, and how important the sense of place and landscape is to Tom in his work.

The marvellous children’s storyteller Kevin Graal once again kept our local children enthralled with two sessions on the Saturday morning, with his stories, riddles and rhymes. With thanks to The Ostrich for use of their room.

We were honoured to have Vanessa Nicolson as part of our village festival, speaking so movingly about her childhood, the loss of her beloved daughter Rosa, family relationships and life in general, accompanied by personal family pictures. There were touches of humour too, in talking about her two books Have You Been Good? and The Truth Game. The audience was totally captivated.

Alan Judd and Charlotte Moore rounded off the programme, discussing Six Books You Should Read. Another lively debate ensued, and it was particularly lovely to see so many people lingering afterwards, delving into the dark recesses of memory for their own book ideas!

Alongside this packed programme, we had The Pile By My Bed drop-in event running during Saturday, with thanks to Susanna and Dicky Clymo for the use of their house. Local book groups brought along their own book piles, which again sparked conversations whilst enjoying delicious coffee & cake. The Inheritance Tree produced a wide range of books ‘the next generation should read’. With thanks too to Liz Avard for help in organising this day.

We’re already looking forward to the next Literary Festival in 2019, and please do get in touch with any thoughts or ideas!


Rother Piano Trio

St Mary’s Salehurst

March 2017

Review by Stephen Hardy

The Rother Piano Trio for their second concert in St. Mary’s continued in fine musical form where they left off from their previous concert. Educating us musically again, they opened our ears to the lush music of the Russian Anton Arensky’s Piano Trio in D minor. This was the concert’s big work, with cellist Martin Bradshaw having the dominant part in the lyrical expressive first movement, interspersed at times with bursts of passion. A playful second movement was followed by muted strings and Arran Keith’s piano coming to the fore in the elegiac third movement, to be enlivened by the finale’s reprise of themes we had heard already, including a luscious viola like tune from the violin of Pat Beament.

Pat starred in Clara Schumann’s Three Pieces for violin and piano, demonstrating beautifully that Clara was in many ways more than a composing match for her more feted husband. Martin and Arran lightened the mood with three of Frank Bridge’s Miniatures, originally written for piano trio in fact, putting the audience in a very happy mood at the interval.

The second half was all French but with a difference: Martin and Arran introduced us to a work by Paul Bazelaire, his Suite Francaise, a veritable Tour de France of folk and dance tunes for cello and piano ‘in the olden style’.

The Rother Piano Trip completed our musical education performing Debussy’s Piano Trio, composed when he was only 18. Harmonically spirited, imbued with late Romanticism, this is certainly not the Debussy of La Mer.  The lyrical cello theme of the third movement caught my ear, and the audience really appreciated the Rother Piano Trio’s musicality so much that they coaxed out of the Trio a rousing hornpipe as an encore. The Trio enriched us with their intensity and at times sheer joy in the music they were conveying.


6 Impossible Things

Robertsbridge Village Hall

December 2016

Review by Pam Golding

One of RAP’s aims is to bring different cultural experiences to our local audience, in this respect ‘6 Impossible Things’ hit that brief completely. It is a little difficult to pigeon-hole this piece as it was an ingenious blend of science, illusion, comedy and circus skills.

The collaboration between two companies both acclaimed for their work on the World Festival circuits, Avanti and Artizani, delivered a slightly bonkers and bizarrely enjoyable afternoon of pseudo magic and music which left the audience (and occasionally the actors!) wondering where it was all going.

It certainly provided a break from the Christmas offerings on TV, and with the gamely participation of the audience, provided us with an entertaining end to the festive season.


May Contain Food by the Protein Dance Company

Robertsbridge Village Hall

October 2016

Review by Celia Bonnett

May Contain Food didn’t give much away on the poster and the Protein Dance Company only added to our slight concern that this may not be quite what we would choose to see.

Such is the advantage of going to all RAP events, this turned out to be one of the most memorable performances of the year.

Two immensely talented actors/dancers explored our relationship with food in a series of sketches that evoked a whole range of responses from the audience.  A few of the topics: the power struggles between parents and children linked to food, the rituals of eating at different stages of a relationship, and how we treat the animals we eat.

One minute we were laughing and the next feeling uncomfortable and even troubled. The music and singing that accompanied the dance movements added to the emotions and what is more, we even got to eat.


Arias & Ensembles

With Glyndebourne Singers:

Charlotte Beament, Thomasin Trezise, David Shaw and Michael Wallace

March 2016

Review by Stephen Hardy

image430RAP has brought it off again. Following on from a previous concert in St Mary’s with the Rother Piano Trio and scintillating performances in the last two summers in the Abbey Undercroft, the audience was treated to a dazzling display of young vocal talent, lead by Robertsbridge resident (and Jazz Club founder!) Pete Beament’s daughter Charlotte Beament, recent headline star of Handel’s opera, Berenice in London. She was ably supported by three other fine singers who are honing their skills at Glyndebourne, Thomasin Trezise, David Shaw and Michael Wallace. They treated us to scintillating arias, duets, trios and a quartet in the first half, taking us through opera from Mozart to Puccini by way of Donizetti, Verdi and Tchaikovsky.

My highlight in that half was a sublime rendition of a trio from Cosi fan tutte by Mozart. Several of the performances enjoyed the bonus of a touch of acting completely fitting for the performance.

In the second half they changed to mood as the four, and their magisterial piano accompanist Matthew Fletcher, took us though a set of magnificent songs from the American musical theatre. The Liverpool football fans amongst the audition were given a lesson in how ‘You’ll never walk alone’ could really be sung by David Shaw. But for me the best of a wonderful evening was Charlotte’s poignant rendition of her own blend of folk songs. Heart strings were being plucked I could tell in the audience.


Songs, Airs & Arias

Mhairi Lawson | Soprano

Elizabeth Kenny | Lute

Review by Stephen Hardy

image406RAP has now set an incredibly high bar in this their third annual concert at the Undercroft of Robertsbridge Abbey held on 25 June, with special thanks to owners Catherine Lloyd and Nigel Leigh. This year soprano Mhairi Lawson and lutenist Elizabeth Kenny entranced the audience with a selection of renaissance songs and airs from different parts of Europe, emphasising always the subtle intertwining of musical line, poetry and drama, especially in the lament on the death of Mary Queen of Scots by Carissimi. The theorbo and lute playing of Elizabeth Kenny provided the intellectual spine to the dazzling and emotional vocals of Mhairi Lawson: their confidence in their chosen material was clear to all.

A real find was the only contemporary work in the programme: a song called Autumnal by Alec Roth with poignant words by John Donne who was writing his lines when the rest of the music in the programme was being composed.

Solos on both the theorbo and lute by Elizabeth Kenny allowed her to display her virtuosity on the instruments and in particular the range of the theorbo. Most revealing was a piece called Coloscione by Kapsberger with a thoroughly 21st century bass riff.

Mhairi made the audience take part too, getting them to sing in choruses of two Irish traditional songs. Mhairi and Elizabeth opened and closed their varied programme with works by the best of English composers of that time, Henry Purcell. Their rendition of ‘If music be the food of love’ and ‘Fairest Isle’ bookended a truly uplifting performance from two very talented and open-hearted musicians in a very special place.