An evening of Music and Dance

One Friday evening in January (19th, to be more specific), a group of LANS students went to see ‘An Evening of Music and Dance‘ with the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Royal Ballet Sinfonia. This one-off concert consisted of an alternating mixture of classical music and dance excerts performed in the beautiful symphony hall, with introductions by the director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, David Bintley. The pieces were generally light-hearted and joyful, and we all left with smiles on our faces.

Evening dance 2The six dances showcased an impressive range of style and skill from the performers. The show opened with the Act III pas-de-deux from The Sleeping Beauty, a classical piece requiring a perfectly executed balance of strength and grace. This was contrasted with others, such as the far more contemporary After the Rain: pas-de-deux and the comedic La Fille mal Gardée clog dance, an entertaining fusion of ballet and tap performed in (you guessed it) clogs. My personal favourite was the finale: pas-de-deux and solos from Don Quixote. It was a fiery and exciting dance with many leaps and jumps culminating in a series of seemingly never-ending spins from the ballerina.

The music performed came from a variety of sources, including dance (The Miller’s Dance and Final Dance from The Three Cornered Hat), opera (prelude to Hansel and Gretal) and film (The Adventures of Robin Hood: suite). Beyond being able to say the pieces were performed very well, I do not know enough about music to be able to comment on them, so I turned to my more musically talented friends for advice (shout out to Alice Sharp and Joanna Stell)! They commented on the excellent Cor Anglais solo, as well as on the overall high-quality performance and well-chosen, entertaining pieces. They also liked how the music of Spartacus had repeated themes that changed subtly to reflect the emotions of the characters in the dance, with a more innocent variation for Spartacus’ wife that switched to a note of apprehension when he considered the war.

Evening dance 3, Giselle-Iain-Mackay-as-Albrecht-photo-Bill-Cooper-681x1024This concert was also of significance as it was the second to last performance of principal dancer Iain Mackay, who has been with the Birmingham Royal Ballet for 19 years. He and his partner, Jenna Roberts, danced After the Rain and Spartacus: adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia. According to the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s website “Iain created the role of the Prince in David Bintley’s Cinderella which premiered in 2010 and was broadcast on BBC Two to millions of viewers on Christmas Day that same year. He is also known for his outstanding performances as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, the Third Seminarian in Carmina Burana and most recently for creating Prospero in David Bintley’s 2016 production of The Tempest.”1 He took his bow here to a standing ovation and huge round of applause.

1 https://www.brb.org.uk/press/birmingham-royal-ballet-principal-dancer-iain-mackay-to-leave-the-company-after-18-years

Contributed by Eleanor Teather, LANS year 1

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Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition

birmingham-symphony-hall stageOn Wed 7th Feb 2018, the Symphony Hall housed another classical music evening, a concert that combined well-loved classical repertoire, as well as unusual yet enchanting compositions is sure to be a hit with classical music lovers of all ages- and this performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition was no exception.

Performed by the fantastic City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), the first half of the concert was a wonderful mix of calm, soothing melodic lines that filled the entirety of Symphony Hall, and sharp, energetic rhythms that could catch anybody’s attention. Listeners were treated to the upbeat and whimsical ‘May Night: Overture’ by Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), and then whisked off to Spain during Falla’s (1876-1946) ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1915), featuring talented pianist Javier Perianes.

After the interval, Modest Mussorgsky’s (1839-1881) music took central stage. The famous ‘A Night on a Bare Mountain’ opened the second half, using the orchestration of his friend and admirer Rimsky-Korsakov; a piece as delightfully eerie as expected, that also served as a nice introduction to the main feature of the concert- ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’.

ELP, Pictures, Album cover

One of the many ‘takes’ on the “Pictures at an Exhibition” – the cover of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer album presenting their interpretation.

This piece, originally created as a piano work, was presented in the more famous format, orchestrated by the renowned French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). The piece depicts various pictures seen at an art gallery, from gnomes to hens, the music perfectly captures the weird and wonderful artistry seen in such galleries. Featuring memorable musical motifs depicting beauty as well as comedy, the overall experience was thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting.

Hearing classical music being played live is always an amazing experience for anyone – a fellow classmate commented on the fact that being able to see all the instruments working together to produce such a sound gave her an appreciation of classical music and orchestration in general.

In conclusion, the concert was a great night out for all who attended- a memorable event for sure!

Contributed by Alice Sharp, Y1 LANS (Music)

A brief history of (English) music

contributed by Jennifer (Qian) Zhang, LANS Y1

What else could bring you the music of the Middle Ages England on a Friday evening? The answer surely is a Cultural Event!

On 17th Feb, we went to the Solihull Core Theatre for an educational treat. It was an ‘intimate’ experience according to Jennifer Bainbridge (Yr4) that pulled us close to some English folk music 600 years ago, and presented some interesting aspects of that culture.

Brief History of Music

After a brief introduction, the two presenters/musicians started off playing the oldest surviving English song (so old, that I forgot its name!). The show moved in chronological order. Most songs were cheerful and genuinely pleasant to listen to. Throughout the whole evening, the same two people kept the show going and I really appreciated their stamina, as they were either playing an instrument, or singing, or explaining the background of music and presenting the various instruments – non-stop.

One feature picked out by many was the interesting explanations offered for each song. The performers would give an idea of when the song was composed, the occasion it was played in, and so on. There was one really loud instrument which musicians would get paid and use it to wake people up at certain time. Abi Pilkington Yr1 mentioned: “they combined the comedy and education elements really well and successfully, plus I came away with more of an appreciation of the background of instruments.Jennifer Bainbridge Yr 4 also reviewed: “I liked the balance between music and explanations and felt like learned a lot.

Almost none of us knew what to expect, as it was rather difficult to fathom from the online description; it was difficult to imagine what it might contain before actually experiencing it; but everyone would agree that we were drawn to the uniqueness of it and, on the evening, everybody enjoyed it. It is true, having some random songs were played, using some old blaring instruments might not sound that attractive (pun intended!), but the overall value came from such a straight forward way to presenting and experience the culture of a time long past.

To end this blog, I would like to mention another thing that made me enjoy the event which was the witty and cheeky lyrics. The song repeated:

My thing is my own,

And I will keep it so still

Yet all the young lasses may do as they will.

More comments on “A brief history of music”:

Miriam Wallis Yr2: I absolutely loved it. It was also really funny which was a nice surprise. Definitely one of the better events I’ve been to.

Abi Pilkington Yr1: I really enjoyed the show, however I wish they’d shown the more modern/ current pieces of music too so I could relate.

Jennifer Bainbridge Yr4: I really enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say it has inspired me but I’d definitely be interested in attending similar events to do with folk music/ history of music 🙂

Katy Potter Yr2: I really enjoyed it! It was great how many instruments they used. It doesn’t link really to anything I do haha but I really enjoy music so I thought it would be a good thing to attend.

And also,  thanks to Alice Heaps who would like to share her blog on this event. Click here to see her blog with amazing and quality details on the event: A Brief History of Music – just one second: https://justonesecondalice.wordpress.com/2017/02/18/a-brief-history-of-music/

Reflections on an evening with Angela and her Bach.

contributed by Lizzie Slattery, 2nd Year LANS student

Last Friday a group of LANS students and staff members attended an Angela Hewitt piano recital at the Birmingham Town Hall where she played six suites by Johan Sebastian Bach. Hewitt is arguably one of the most accomplished pianists alive today, having started her piano studies at the age of three in her home of Ottawa, Canada. She has since performed all over the world and is particularly known for her cycle of Bach recordings which took her over ten years to complete.

I am certainly no expert on classical music or piano playing and so cannot comment technically on the performance. However it appeared evident that Hewitt is a pianist of astonishing skill, and is deeply emotionally connected with the music of Bach. It is quite something to sit through six Bach suites, particularly if, like me, you are unaccustomed to doing so, and I sometimes found my attention wandering. It was always brought back, however, when I focused in on the music and listened to the weave of incredibly complex harmonies and rhythms which are constantly interacting in Bach’s music, as well as the dazzling gold dress she wore.

I asked some of those who attended to share their thoughts on the evening:

“Riveting. Ravishing. And Radiant. The whole performance was surreal. Angela Hewitt did not just play piano, she performed with her body and soul. It was extraordinary to watch. A definite must see for anyone who loves piano or classical music!” – Kimberley, year 2

“I’d never seen someone just play solo like that for a whole show which was really cool and it’s not something I’d go to otherwise. I did enjoy it, but I don’t think it was that amazing so I doubt I’ll go to something like it again, but I’m glad I went especially because the venue was so impressive.” – Joe, year 2

“I thought it was a lovely evening and very sophisticated. The playing was amazing, the standard too. And the riff at the end that she played was a funny, I can’t remember what she said now, was it what inspired Bach? Either way the history and playing was lovely.”  Miriam, year 2
“I thought it was an interesting experience. She was extremely talented. I think it may have been a difficult choice of music if you had never seen classical music before. But overall I enjoyed it.” – Sophie , year 2

And if you would like to read a professional journalist review of this show, you can always check the local press’ views