Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre have today announced the full creative team for The Turn of the Screw, a co-production with English National Opera, alongside titles to complete the Open Air Theatre’s 2018 season

Artistic Director of Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, Timothy Sheader, directs The Turn of the Screw, which plays 9 performances from 22 June – 30 June 2018. ENO Mackerras Fellow Toby Purser conducts members of the ENO orchestra, and the production is designed by Soutra Gilmour. Completing the creative team, lighting design is by Jon Clark, sound design by Nick Lidster for Autograph, and casting by ENO Head of Casting, Michelle Williams.

This story of unearthly encounters at a remote country house, and of a young governess desperate to protect her children, finds chilling new levels of suspense in this unique outdoor production of Benjamin Britten’s masterly reworking of Henry James’ classic novella.

Timothy Sheader is a multiple Olivier-Award winner with credits at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre including Into the WoodsThe CrucibleCrazy for YouLord of the Flies, and Porgy and Bess. His production of To Kill a Mockingbird won the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Play Revival, and it subsequently completed a sell-out UK tour ahead of a month-long residency at the Barbican. In 2016 Timothy directed Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar, which won the Olivier-Award for Best Musical Revival and the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical. The production played a return engagement in 2017, and plays at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 2018. Other productions include The Magistrate(National), Barnum (Chichester Festival), The Three Musketeers (Bristol Old Vic), Streetcar to Tennessee (Young Vic), Sweet Charity (Sheffield Crucible, TMA Best Musical Award), andMy Fair Lady (Aarhus Teater, Denmark).

Previously for the ENO, Mackerras Fellow Toby Purser conducted The Marriage of Figaro. He has also conducted orchestras including the English Chamber Orchestra, the London Concert Orchestra, L’Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, the Orpheus Sinfonia, Sinfonia Viva, Kammerphilharmonie Graz, the St Petersburg Camerata, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the St Petersburg Festival Orchestra, as well as a range of concerts for Raymond Gubbay Ltd at major venues throughout the UK.  Working with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and the tenor Jesús León, he recorded Bel Canto now available on Opus Arte CD. Toby is also the Founder and Artistic Director of the Orion Orchestra, a stepping-stone orchestra for the most talented musicians leaving music college, and Artistic Director of the Peace and Prosperity Trust. Other notable engagements include conducting Madama Butterfly, Eugene Onegin, Rigoletto and Fortunio (Grange Park Opera), The Daughter of the Regiment, Orpheus in the Underworld, Tales of Offenbach and The Queen’s Lace Handkerchief (Opera Della Luna) and Le Comte Ory (Chelsea Opera Group). For Pimlico Opera, he has conducted productions in various prisons, with a cast of inmates performing alongside professionals, including Carmen the Musical, Les Misérables, Sugar, Sister Act, Sweeney Todd and West Side Story.

The Mackerras Conducting Fellowship celebrates the legacy of Sir Charles Mackerras, ENO Music Director between 1970 and 1977, and is made possible with the philanthropic support of The Philip Loubser Foundation.

Pinocchio: Jasmin Vardimon Company

Sadler’s Wells Theatre, 27 October 2017

This show is rivetingly original. Staged in the sort of dim light usually reserved for puppetry, it includes a silhouette sequence, work with trapeze, bungee and flying. A fascinating sequence involves six performers, hands linked, rolling in turn slowly through 360 degrees to represent a huge cog wheel. Then there are two people chatting animatedly in a restaurant – their faces painted on to feet with toes waggling expressively and hands (two other performers behind?) acting like mad. Moving lights work to terrific effect too and ultra violet technology may have been around for a long time but it still impresses – here three pairs of ultra-violet lit hands represent a huge talking face.

 Pinocchio by Jasmin Vardimon Company @ Stour Centre, Ashford Kent.

Pinocchio is, of course, a puppet and Jasmin Vardimon has returned to the unsentimental tenor of Carlo Collodi’s original 1883 book rather than allowing herself to be side tracked by any of the many interpretations since, including Disney. This Pinocchio, whose movements remain floppy and puppet-like throughout – as he is manipulated by almost everyone he meets – is discovering what it means to be human rather than turning into a real boy.  And Vardimon choreographs exquisitely. No one who sees this show is going to forget the monster tormenting Pinocchio formed from the linked undulating arms of a line of performers.

The music which accompanies all this is borrowed from many sources to suit the mood of each episode. We leap effortlessly from Beyonce to Shostakovich and from The De Leeuwin Dutch Street Organ to accordion music from the Faroe Islands among many other things. Steven Glasser’s recorded narration grates, however. The movement in this show tells the story expertly and needs no words but it’s a minor objection

Jasmin Vardimon must be one of Britain’s most talented choreographers and educators. Her company, based since 2012 at the Jasmin Vardimon Production Space at Ashford, Kent, is supported by Ashford Borough Council, Ashford Leisure Trust and Arts Council England. And Pinocchio is co-produced by Gulbenkian Theatre and Kent County Council along with Sadler’s Wells. It is most encouraging to see such a splendid dance company getting the support it so richly deserves. I was also delighted to see hundreds of enthusiastic dance students and young dancers in the audience at Sadler’s Wells.

Susan Elkin



St Nicolas Pevensey – new CD

In 2016 St. Nicolas church hosted a series of memorable concerts to raise funds for the restoration of the church. Work on this is currently under way and a celebration concert for the completion of the eleven year project will be held on April 21st next year, 2018. More information about this exciting and very special event will be circulated in the New Year, but make a note of this date!

In the meantime an 800th Anniversary Concert Highlights DVD is in preparation and will be available if demand justifies this.  The performances are introduced by the musicians who have authorised their contributions for inclusion on this exclusive and entertaining disc, and. They include:-

                              The Canterbury Cathedral Choristers
                                 Maria matrem – Michael McGlynn
                                 Silent Worship – G.F. Handel
                                 Tecum principium – Antonio Vivaldi
                                 Ave Maria – Giulio Caccini
                                 Fantasie – Camille Saint-Saëns, (Guy Steed, organ)


                             Catherine Rimer – ’cello
                              Suite No. 5 in C minor – JS Bach 
                              (movements on period instrument)
                             The King’s Singers
                                Trois chansons de Charles d’Orléans – Claude Debussy
                                I’ve got the world on a string – Harold Arlem
                                Alice in Wonderland – Spike Milligan
                              Harvey’s Brass
                                Slavonic Dance No. 8 – Antonin Dvo?ák
                                Soul Bossa – Quincy Jones
                                Keep young and beautiful – Al Dubin
                                Charleston – James P Johnson


                             Pasadena Roof Orchestra ‘Hot Five’
                                When you’re smiling – Louis Armstrong
                                Stardust – Hoagy Carmichael
                                Cake walking my baby back home – Sidney Bechet


If you have Christmas in mind then this disc could make a unique present for friends and family who really enjoy lovely music performed by gifted performers in the wonderful acoustics of St. Nicolas church. The monies raised from sales will contribute to the upkeep and maintenance of the restored building.

Orders are now being taken (up until 26th November) for this DVD which plays for over 1hr 15mins.

The disc will be issued on a first come first served basis. Please apply – in writing only – with full payment for as many as you require.  Availability however is subject to the number of discs ordered covering the costs of production and distribution. The minimum total number required making the disc profitable and worthwhile to the church is one hundred. Should orders fail to reach this number, payments will be returned, and the Celebration disc will not be produced.

Application Procedure

All applications with payments should be sent to

George Stephens,
10 Leasingham Gardens,             
Bexhill on Sea, TN39 4DZ,

Payment cheques should also be payable to me ‘George Stephens’. Discs cost £12 (including P&P) or £10 each if collected at St Nicolas church on Sundays once the ordered discs are available in December.

Please ensure you provide full address details whether applying for postal delivery or for personal collection.

Your order must be received by George Stephens by Sunday 26th November please.

Applicants will be told when the discs are available. I cannot enter into correspondence once applications have been made.

If you came to the concerts I really do hope you will re-live some varied and thrilling music from the 2016 Concert Season. If you didn’t or couldn’t come you’ll soon realise what and how much you missed!

ENO: Rodelinda

London Coliseum, 26 October, 2017

Richard Jones is becoming as much a key element for ENO today as David Poutney was a generation ago. The wide range of his productions are all united in a fierce concentration on detail and a deep sense of humanity. Singers rarely stand and sing, unless they are addressing the audience directly, and even within the strictures of opera seria he generates a sense of heightened normality which carries the narrative forward rather than halting it every time an aria pops up.

All of this is very obvious in his presentation of Handel’s Rodelinda where the story line may stretch the imagination but the relationships and the emotional truth of the characters is never in doubt.

Rebecca Evans returns as Rodelinda and her nobility is ever present, along with a wonderful flexibility of musical line, regardless of what Richard Jones is asking her to do. Tim Mead as her husband Bertarido is new to the production but creates a complex individual, splendidly uneasy in the bar-room scene, yet heroic when the need arises.

There is subtle comedy in the work provided by Susan Bickley’s Eduige and Neal Davies blood-thirsty Garibaldo, and Matt Casey’s unspeaking Flavio is a visual delight throughout. Christopher Lowrey’s Unulfo is regularly on the receiving end from the royals around him but his finely focused counter-tenor made the part seem more eloquent than maybe Handel intended.

Juan Sancho’s Grimoaldo seemed petulant at first but as the evening developed his emotional turmoil became more overt and he created a fine range of emotional states.

Christian Curnyn was once more in the pit, maintaining excellent pace and bite for what is, after all, a long evening. Thankfully, in the hands of these performers, it never seemed so.




Hastings Philharmonic

The second Hastings Philharmonic concert of the season is due to take place at St Mary in the Castle on Saturday 4 November at 7pm. This time the Choir and string orchestra have an interesting mix of beautiful choral and orchestral classical and modern music to please a range of tastes. The Schubert and Mozart contrasts with the Britten and Holst bridged by one of Elgar’s finest orchestral pieces.

Benjamin Britten’s Cantate Misericordium is possibly the least well known of the pieces, but it deserves a public performance for its dramatic depiction of the parable of the good samaritan. It celebrated the centenary of the Red Cross and a non-sacred text in latin was specially commissioned to attune with the non-religious ethos of the Red Cross. The premiere in 1963 produced fine performances from Peter Pears and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and this performance will feature the excellent solo voices of Kieran White and Jolyon Loy. The choir have worked hard to reach the required speed and drama in the dissonance with the help of Marcio da Silva’s expert direction.

The two orchestral pieces in the programme are Mozart’s Serenata Notturna in D and Elgar’s Serenade for Strings which entertain in a way that may be expected of Mozart at his best, and Elgar is thought to have reworked an earlier suite to combine youthful creativity and maturity of style – it was purportedly the first of his compositions with which he professed himself satisfied.

It is always a delight to hear Schubert’s Mass in G, probably the best known and popular of his masses. The audience will be able to welcome back the beautiful soprano voice of Helen May to sing with the choir and above-mentioned tenor and baritone. Gustav Holst’s ‘Two Psalms’, whilst produced in the early 20th century, has a hauntingly familiar archaic flavour, simple and repetitive, suggesting plainchant.

Hastings Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra, conducted by Marcio da Silva, 4 November, 7pm at St Mary in the Castle, Pelham Crescent, Hastings TN34 3AF. Tickets £20/£17.50/£15.50 (Under 16 £5)  

FAME! The Musical

Hastleons, White Rock Theatre, Hastings, 18 October 2017

Resisting the urge to pull on the leg warmers  and lycra I joined the audience for an entertaining and uplifting evening courtesy of the Hastleons . The show is based on the film, rather than the television series that many of us grew up with. Consequently I found that early on I was mentally renaming some of the characters to fit with the ones in my memory. However, I soon found I no longer needed to do so as every character, without exception, was played with such conviction. The nature of the show – charting the progress of a group of students at the New York School for Performing Arts – calls for a particularly youthful  cast with just a few parts for the longer established members as the school’s staff. Interactions between staff and students were realistic, with differing relationships just as in any school setting.

This is very much a song and dance show and, as well as some outstanding individual performances, I was most struck by the ensemble numbers. The choreography was very reminiscent of dance from the ‘80s – and gave opportunities for the characters to play to their strengths as well as allowing some characters to be less proficient – just as would be the case where students with a specialism are encouraged/forced to take part in disciplines in which they don’t really shine. (I speak from my own college experience!) The energy and interaction between all of the cast in these numbers was wonderful. So much work must have gone into this and it really paid off.

It is difficult to single out individual performances but I was particularly struck by the young leads Nathan McDonald (Nick Piazza), with the lovely I want to make magic and with his convincing theatrical leanings, and Robyn Nash (Serena Katz) in Let’s play a love scene and her feisty angst.  Kenny Giles worked well as the class clown Joe Vegas and the larger than life (but really rather fragile) Carmen Diaz was brilliantly portrayed by Vanessa King. Amanda Porter (Mabel) surprised us all with her fabulous gospel rendition of Mabel’s Prayer. Thomas Nichols’ portrayal of the troubled but finally redeemed Tyrone Jackson worked extremely well – at times full of fire and anger, and at other times quietly resolute. Rapping can be a difficult task but he did it with force and conviction. Tom Golby’s Schlomo was a very endearing character, pulling off another difficult trick, synching his “piano playing” to the band and his attitude at the piano being very convincing.

There were moments in virtually every dance where individuals were doing amazing things.  Just as in an Aardman animation these little background details make all the difference but are often passed over without much comment.

The use of a live band enhances a production so much. The small group of musicians under the direction of Clare Adams, were superb, producing a wide range of sounds and styles, in often up-tempo and complex sounding arrangements. The singing of members of the company was often intricate with solo lines and harmonies appearing from all directions in a fluid and natural way.

A production such as this involves so much time, talent and commitment from those on stage but also from all who have worked behind the scenes and during a long period of preparation. I always enjoy a good musical but how much more enjoyable when it is by a local company, and particularly when so much well established and newly emerging talent is on show. Please support future productions. We will miss them if they disappear.


Stephen Page in Concert

Emmanuel Centre, Battle, Saturday 21 October 2017

Stephen Page brought a genial mix of music and song to the Emmanuel Centre in Battle as part of this year’s Battle Festival.

The first half was loosely focused on classical, if often very familiar, pieces, opening with Susato’s Mohrentanz – probably the most well-known piece of Tudor music still in the repertoire. The next three works for organ brought together a romantic work by Scotson Clark, his Marche des Fantomes, Buxtehude’s Choral Prelude Now Come Redeemer and the Rondo from Purcell’s Abdelazer.

Stephen then moved to the piano, commencing with a delightful rendition of Chaminade’s Automne, moving through works by Zez Confrey and John Ireland to settle eventually on Bach’s Air on a G string.

Astor Piazolla’s gently melancholic tango Mumuki  gave way to Robert Farnon’s Jumping Bean before he returned to the organ for a rousing rendition of Strauss’ Radetzky March – even if the audience failed to provide the traditional clapping along to the march.

The second half was given over to music from stage and screen, touching on scores from The Lady Killers, The Misson and The Deer Hunter. After the exhilaration of The Entry of the Gladiators the solo part of the evening wound down with Send in the Clowns and the waltz tune from Genevieve. At this point we were invited to join in a sing-along to familiar songs from The King and I, The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady – with the words clearly displayed for us on the overhead screens.

This should have been the end but Stephen was persuaded to provide an encore which he did – singing for us Sydney Carter’s Down Below, whose wistful images send us off home smiling.


WNO: Die Fledermaus

Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, 19 October 2017

John Copley’s production of Die Fledermaus moves the time scale forward, but not by very much. The designs are gracefully art deco but the costumes retain the opulence – and perhaps the decadence – of the late nineteenth century. No attempt is made to up-date the work or give it any spurious relevance. As such it is a triumph, allowing the score to radiate its charm throughout, and the singers to show just what wonderful music this is.

Judith Howard’s Rosalinde is a woman of the world, only too aware of her husband’s short-comings and more than up to his schemes. Her act two czardas is thrown off with aplomb and totally secure at the top. By contrast Rhian Lois’ Adele has the coloratura for the laughing song but is wily enough to convince the most hardened of old rogues. There was a wonderful moment when she is talking to her sister Olga and they both slip into Welsh accents!

Of the men, Mark Stone’s Eisenstein reminded me of Hugh Bonneville, caught somewhere between Downton Abbey and W1A. He sings with relish and his comic timing is equally impressive. There was strong support from Ben McAteer as Falke and James Cleverton as Frank. Paul Charles Clarke’s Alfred was gloriously over the top, the sob in the voice reminding us of every second-rate tenor we have had to sit through. Anna Harvey is a surprisingly young Orlovsky but very much in control of events.

The chorus were as fine as expected but it was the conducting of James Southall which really raised the whole level of the evening. After hours of Andre Rieu it was such a treat to hear Strauss as, one suspects, Strauss intended. The rhythms taught yet flexible, the sense of élan always in place and the tempi perfect. This was the second outing for this production and it should certainly live to see another day – or two!

CDs/DVDs October 2017

Peter Auty (tenor), Benjamin Bevan (Baritone), Richard May (cello), David Bednall (organ)
Wells Cathedral Choir, directed by Matthew Owens
RESONUS RES10198 69’56

As expected from Resonus this is a beautifully production. The recording has been timed to celebrate Joubert’s 90th birthday and showcases recent choral works, all of which have been premiered in Wells Cathedral. Together with the (unacc)Mass & the Passion is a setting of Locus Iste.

There is a numinous quality to these settings and throughout the choir and other musicians seem at ease with both music and text.  There are moments of intensity and drama as alongside more reflective moments. The passion (which incorporates the solo cello and organ) lets the drama unfold in the manner of traditional (eg Bach) Passions where the newly composed music  is interspersed with traditional hymns, giving an easy point of connection and participation for the congregation. An excellent birthday tribute to this prolific composer.

Robert Smith, viola da gamba
RESONUS RES10195 79’15

Having only recently been listening to some of Bach’s works for unaccompanied cello I was struck by the similarity to these works by his contemporary. Long known about, but the manuscript having only been rediscovered in 2015, this is a very welcome release. Sensitively interepreted by Robert Smith and recorded in a beautiful church acoustic this haunting music is to be recommended.

Kirsten Sollek (Mezzo), Richard Lippold (Bar), Frederick Teardo (organ), Myron Lutzke (cello)
St Thomas Choir of Men & Boys, Fifth Avenue, New York, conducted by John Scott
RESONUS RES10200 63’14

Here we have another  fine posthumously released recording of John Scott’s work at St Thomas’ Church, Fifth Avenue. The pairing of these two celebrated twentieth settings of the Requiem makes for a very satisfying CD. They are interspersed by one of Vaughan Williams settings of a more unusual text, Valiant-for-Truth, words of Bunyan from Pilgrim’s Progress.

Robert Quinney, Metzler organ of Trinity College, Cambridge
CORO  COR16157 77’31

This latest volume of Bach from Robert Quinney maintains the high standards of recording and excellent musicianship of the previous three releases. There is a good balance of material on this CD which culminates in the majestic Prelude & Fugue in E minor, BWV548. The other most substantial works are the Partita on Sei gegrusset, Jesu gutlig and Concerto in D minor BWV596 (after Vivaldi). A selection of chorale preludes and the Fantasia on Komm, Heiliger Geist complete the programme

Chopin: Volume 5
Louis Lortie, piano

This series is splendidly enjoyable and the programme of Mazurkas and Polonaise on this fifth disc is linked to the less familiar Allegro de concert Op46. The works all date from the mid-1830s and form a concise and telling collection. Where we have become to accept the Mazurka as quintessential Chopin it is hard to believe that, at the time, the dance form was virtually unknown to the wider west of Europe.

Vaughan Williams: Sinfonia Antartica; Concerto for two pianos; Four Last Songs
Louis Lortie & Helene Mercier, pianos, Roderick Williams, baritone, Mari Eriksmoen, soprano, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis

An interesting combination which draws together a fine performance of the familiar Sinfonia Antartica with two far rarer works. The Four Last Songs are brief pieces composed for voice and piano right at the end of the composer’s life. They are as far removed as one could imagine from Strauss’ opulent settings of the same name, being closer to Finzi in their limpid simplicity. They are given in an orchestrated version prepared by Anthony Payne. The concerto dates from 1931 but was arranged for two pianos in 1946 with the help of Joseph Cooper. Soloists are all strongly focused and the Bergen Philharmonic again responds sympathetically to Sir Andrew Davis’ conducting.

Two little words
Felicity Palmer, mezzo-soprano, Simon Lepper, piano

This recording forms a brief auto-biography of Dame Felicity Palmer’s life in song – as opposed to her lengthy career in opera – and many of the works are included for very personal reasons. I can’t think of many recordings which will include both Schubert and I’ll walk beside you yet the balance is perfect and the voice as wonderful as ever. She is accompanied by Simon Lepper who was to a large extent responsible for the resurgence of her career in lieder, and we can be very grateful to him for doing so.

Carl Millocker; Waltzes, Marches, Polkas
Nurnberger Symphoniker, Christian Simonis
CPO 555 004-2

For those of us who enjoy the comfortable wallow that so often comes with Viennese music this new cd is a delight. Most of the scores were unknown to me but seem instantly familiar within the genre. I particularly enjoyed the Polka Mazurka Melitta and the Polka snell Carnevalslauen,  but all thirteen pieces are thoroughly enjoyable.

Kenneth Macmillan; Three Ballet Masterpieces
Royal Opera House Orchestra, Barry Wordsworth & Martin Yates

This is a reissue of three of Macmillan’s finest creations for the Royal Ballet – Manon, Mayerling and Romeo & Juliet. As all are quite recent recordings – the earliest being only 2008 they are high quality productions and frequently give the viewer a better sense of the dance than can be experienced from many seats at Covent Garden. As such it is very welcome.





Maidstone Symphony Orchestra

Mote Hall, Maidstone, Saturday 14 October 2017

The new season is built around a series of concerti all of which will be performed by young professionals, often at the start of what we hope will be long careers.

For this first concert, Savitri Grier was the eloquent soloist for Mendelssohn’s ever popular violin concerto, finding a gentle melancholy in the opening passages but a real sense of bite in the cadenza and unexpected sweetness in the unfolding melody of the slow movement. Brian Wright’s approach to the work was more reflective than is often the case, with a greater sense of waltz rhythms in the slow movement and introspection in the first. Any shadows were however blown away with the sparkle of the fleet finale, hinting throughout at the other world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The concerto was sandwiched between two Russian masterpieces, opening with Shostakovich’s Festive Overture, a riot of colour and a tour de force for the brass. Written at great speed for the 37th anniversary of the Revolution, it is never quite clear how tongue in cheek it actually is – not that that affects our enjoyment.

After the interval we were presented with Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony. One of the problems with the popularity of the two central movements is that we rarely hear them in context, and the long unwinding of the first movement demands considerably more attention than either the Allegro molto or the Adagio. There is also the reality that the composer’s style and orchestration has been regularly high-jacked by the film industry to the point where the original can sound derivative. Thankfully the orchestra’s playing and the skilful direction from the podium kept us on our toes and alive to the every shifting patterns that Rachmaninov creates for us on what is a long and often complex journey, before the exhilaration of the finale.

The next concert is on Saturday 2 December when Olivier Stankiewicz will perform Strauss’ Oboe Concerto, together with works by Wagner and Vaughan Williams.