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Tuesday 4th July: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion

Discussing First topical issue (Mark Iddon) and Second topical issue (Simon Belt)

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Manchester reviewed
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Manchester theatre reviews

The Rocky Horror Show at Opera House

The Rocky Horror Show at Opera House

Reviewed by Matthew Dougall October 2016

 

It has been a very long time since I last saw this particular show live, and I had forgotten exactly how enjoyable an experience it can be. It really is a two-way theatrical experience with many of the audience wearing costume and make-up, and bringing along torches, newspapers and other such paraphernalia to be used at time-honoured places in this cult show. They also bring with them well-known responses or even some well-placed heckles and ad-libs which the cast simply have to work with. This is a show that, very much like the sing-a-long Sound Of Music, is something of a phenomenon. You either get with it, or get lost!

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Manchester music reviews

A Classical Extravaganza

A Classical Extravaganza

The Halle Orchestra at Bridgewater Hall

Reviewed by Matthew Dougall October 2016

 

This was The Halle Orchestra's first concert in this year's season of POPS. A series of concerts of lighter music designed to attract those who may find sitting through a whole Beethoven symphony something of a punishment, or for those who may well be new to classical music and these concerts provide a lovely opening and insight into that world.


 

Entitled A Classical Extravaganza, I thought perhaps that the music would have been more eclectic and indeed more 'extravagant' than it actually proved to be. Finding two items on the programme by the same composer was a surprise enough, but to also have three movements from one of his works when there is a whole world of music out there spanning several hundred years, was pushing it a little. Or maybe that was just me who thought that.

 

The concert was of course conducted by the very personable Stephen Bell. It is always a delight to watch him conduct, and his easy rapport with the audience as he gives us little snippets of information about the pieces is always welcome. The one thing that does irritate me slightly in a concert such as this where there are many miniature or novelty pieces lasting only a few minutes each, is why the members of the orchestra who are not playing in that particular piece need to leave the stage. Surely they can just sit silently and still for a few minutes before playing again? It is a little distracting and haphazard.

 

The music itself was of course wonderful. The Halle never disappoints. Although if I do have to be picky, then the French horns were a little out of sync on their chorded introduction to Fenby's 'Rossini On Ilkla Moor', and I could hear the cymbals being placed on the ground after they were used in the opening piece [surely they could have been placed on a cushion or cymbal rack?]. But, yes, I am nit-picking, sorry. This is live entertainment not canned, and so it will obviously not be flawless; that's part of the beauty and appeal.

 

I did know all the pieces on offer in the concert; although I suspect a good few were hearing one or two for the first time. Dvorak's Carnival Overture started the concert off and it is always a good rousing and jolly opening. In the first half there were such gems as Elgar's Chanson De Matin, one of two pieces he wrote originally for solo violin and piano so that he could perform them himself, however, this was his orchestrated version of 1901; Fenby's 'Rossini On Ilkley Moor', a novelty piece by Yorkshire composer Eric Fenby who wrote a concert overture using the tune of 'On Ilkley Moor Bah't 'at' in the style of Rossini; and Johann Strauss' waltz Tales From the Vienna Woods, which interestingly has the longest introduction to the waltz of any of Strauss' hundred or so compositions. The original version also calls for a solo zither, however, Strauss also authorised a version for string quartet to play the solo zither part, and it was this version we heard this evening.

 

We also heard Pachelbel's Canon, which sounded very different from versions of this work I had previously heard. Here the repetitive bass theme was played with strict adherence to the actual note length, coming off almost staccato before playing the next. I assume this to be more authentic perhaps; however the bass continuo theme has always been played legato before, so that there was no conceivable gap between one note and the next. Interesting.

 

Finally in the first act was one of my all-time favourite pieces of music, and a classic example of a dissident wearing his heart on his sleeve; Dmkitri Shostakovich's Romance from his film music to The Gadfly. The Halle Orchestra's leader, Paul Barritt taking the violin solo here and playing it beautifully.

 

After the interval and the spotlight was turned on one of America's, indeed the world's greatest contemporary cross-over composers, Leonard Bernstein. What a delightful start to the second half with his rather jocular and brash Overture to Candide. Back to Elgar again and three movements from his Variations On An original Theme, Enigma. Nimrod alone would have sufficed here surely, as with the next excerpt, Handel's Music For The Royal Fireworks; chose the most well known piece, in this case, La Rejouissance, and pass by the other two in favour of some other music from the vast and limitless music cupboard.

 

The penultimate piece was Faure's hauntingly beautiful Pavane. Always a delight to hear this piece; so simple and yet so heart-wrenching. And then to finish we heard the theme to TV's The Lone Ranger - or to give its correct title, Rossini's overture to the opera William Tell. This was Rossini's last opera, and yet he still continued composing for 40 years, so one can only assume that he thought this work the pinnacle of his operatic mastery. It's a great piece of music and a lovely way to finish a concert devoted to 'pops'.

 

Manchester really is spoilt with such a wealth of music at our fingertips. Manchester is home to this quite rightly world renowned orchestra, and I always feel privileged and even proud to be able to enjoy their incredible musicianship in a live arena.

 

The Bridgewater Hall itself can look a little austere and unfriendly from the outside, but I urge everyone to be brace enough to enter. The staff are always extremely pleasant, helpful and welcoming; and the Hall itself hosts a whole plethora of events, ranging from Heavy Metal gigs, to Folk music festivals to indeed rather highbrow classical concerts. But do take a look at their website, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find! Details of upcoming Halle concerts can be found at http://www.halle.co.uk/whats-on/, with The Bridgewater Hall's complete events listings at http://www.bridgewater-hall.co.uk/whats-on/.

 
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Manchester theatre reviews

Jumpers

Jumpers for Goalposts at Oldham Coliseum

by Tom Wells

Reviewed by John Waterhouse Oct 2016


The synopsis for this play seemed to suggest that it is about football and the gay community. Loosely speaking, what I saw broadly covered both these two topics but neither was dealt with in any incisive or meaningful way, and I left the Coliseum wondering what the play was really about and who it was really aimed at. One player did say he had been hit outside his flat for being gay but this was really just in passing and homophobic abuse is certainly not what this play is about.

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Manchester lifestyle reviews

Engels’ Beard

Engels’ Beard

and daring to believe in the social transformation of society

at University of Salford

Reviewed by Mark Iddon September 2016

 

The New Adelphi building at the University of Salford was completed over the summer 2016 and has celebrated its opening with the launch of a specially commissioned sculpture / bouldering wall, adjacent the new building, called Engels’ Beard. The piece was created by Jai Redman of Engine Arts Production Company which is based in Salford. The sculpture is almost 5m high and is made of fibre glass and there is a small exhibition in the new building which features a video of the making of the sculpture.

 

The launch event featured a brass band, flag bearers, the participation of a local primary school (Clarendon Road Primary, Eccles), and the University of Salford Chancellor and Writer in Residence, Jackie Kay, giving the first public performance of her poem ‘Thinker’ inspired by the artwork.

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Manchester theatre reviews

Brassed Off

Brassed Off’ at Oldham Coliseum

Adapted by Paul Allen; screenplay by Mark Herman

Reviewed by John Waterhouse and Dave Samuels Sept 2016

 

Following on from their June production of 'The Ladykillers', Oldham Coliseum are now presenting another stage adaptation of a popular film, and having never seen the film version of ‘Brassed Off’, I went to the opening performance without any preconceptions, other than knowing the story centres around a brass band in a Yorkshire mining community.

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