Folk Rock is alive and well!
Fairport Convention and I go back a long way. I well remember the heady days of my youth in the late 1960s when the then burgeoning music scene was inspiring; singer/songwriters and bands were leading a sort of cultural revolution, pushing the boundaries well beyond the previously stale offerings of crooners and watered down rock & roll. All genres of music, literature and performance were being mixed in a melting pot of creativity. It makes the modern ‘pop music’ scene seem very bland in comparison. One of the aspects of this phenomena was the birth and growing popularity of ‘Folk Rock’. This was and still is a mixture of either traditional folk songs spiced up with electric instruments and drums or new songs written acoustically and peppered with modern arrangements and percussion. Arguably, it all kicked off when Bob Dylan ‘went electric’ in 1965 at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island and was then aided by the Byrds’ hits such as Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’ and Pete Seeger’s ‘Turn! Turn! Turn!’.
At the forefront of this movement in the UK were songwriters and folkies such as Davy Graham, Martin Carthy, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch and Al Stewart and bands such as Pentangle, Steeleye Span and the Strawbs; and then there was Fairport Convention. Hailed as one of the originators of British Folk Rock music, amazingly, despite line-up changes too numerous to count, Fairport Convention to this day, after 46 years since their formation, remain one of the most entertaining bands on the live music scene. Since the 70s they have hosted their yearly Cropredy festival in Oxfordshire, which attracts up to 20,000 music lovers of all ages. The band has won a coveted BBC Lifetime Achievement Award and Radio 2 listeners voted Fairport’s ground breaking album ‘Liege and Lief’ the Most Influential Folk Album of All Time.
Fairport’s 2014 Winter Tour comes to Worthing’s Connaught Theatre in late February. Catch them if you can, they can’t go on forever! …Or can they?
The first record I ever bought was ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’ by George Formby, the ukulele playing Lancastrian. I was just a little lad in Yorkshire and might have been drawn to the music by the humorous innuendo in the lyrics, my favourite being “The blushing bride she looks divine, the bridegroom he is doing fine; I’d rather have his job than mine, when I’m cleaning windows.” A year or two later, seduced by electric guitars, the Beatles et al, I considered the ukulele an instrument that I probably wouldn’t hear ever again in popular music. How wrong I was. And, as George might say, it’s turned out nice again!
The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain has got to be one of the most inventive musical ideas of the last 30 years. If you haven’t come across them you should! Consisting of as many as seven different types of ukuleles, played incredibly competently by the group, who also all happen to be rather good singers, their renditions of such varied classics as Bohemian Rhapsody; The Good, The Bad and The Ugly; My Way, are delivered sometimes comically, sometimes movingly but always with great panache. Formed in the 80s by George Hinchliffe and Kitty Lux as a bit of fun, the idea grew in popularity and band have since played in many countries of the world, released 12 albums and 4 DVDs and also appeared on the BBC proms at the Royal Albert Hall.
Audiences have a good time with the Ukulele Orchestra. From Tchaikovsky to Nirvana via Otis Reading and Spaghetti Western soundtracks, the Orchestra goes on “a world tour with only hand luggage” and gives the listener “One Plucking Thing after Another”. There are no wasted moments, and all ages and varieties of audiences routinely give the Orchestra repeated standing ovations, demanding encores and repeat bookings. Most Ukulele Orchestra shows sell out quickly, wherever in the world, and they are appearing on the 1st February at Worthing Assembly Hall. Book early!
Bolshoi Ballet – Live from Moscow
One innovation in cinemas and theatres over the last few years has been live relays of ballet, opera, musicals and even a Dr Who episode in 3D. The Connaught Cinema in Worthing is thoroughly in touch with this trend and in the first quarter of 2014 has three live relays from the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. In January the internationally renowned classical ballet company, founded in 1776, presents the company performing ‘Jewels’, an abstract ballet that is a tribute to women. February sees the Bolshoi perform ‘Lost Illusions’ which is based on French writer Honoré de Balzac’s novel of the same name. It is a new ballet, created in Moscow in 2011 by Alexei Ratmansky with dramaturgical advice by French actor, writer and director Guillaume Gallienne. This stylised adaptation Balzac’s novel features thwarted love, ambition and disillusionment, with 19th century Paris as its backdrop.
And in March the company stages ‘The Golden Age’. Set in 1920’s Europe, this is a refreshing satire, an original and delightful ballet with jazz and cabaret musical parodies, truly rethinking the traditional form of ballet.
The Barnsley Nightingale
Returning to the folk theme for a moment, April sees the Connaught Theatre hosting Kaye Rusby, one of the most famous and well-loved contemporary English folk singers. Recently, as I was whiling away an hour or two channel surfing, I heard Kate’s voice singing ‘The Village Green Preservation Society’ by the Kinks. It turned out it was being used by BBC1 as the theme tune to the programme ‘Jam and Jerusalem’. Marvellous! Besides having a beautiful voice Kate is well known for her Yorkshire wit and always has a band with her composed of very talented British folk musicians.
“Stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?”
The last lines of Rupert Brooke’s “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester”, written at Cafe des Westens, Berlin in May 1912.
In 2014, the year that will mark 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, Rachel Wagstaff’s stage adaptation of Birdsong, from the novel by Sebastian Faulks, is touring the UK. This follows a hugely successful and critically acclaimed tour earlier this year which was seen by over 75,000 people.
In pre-war France, a young Englishman Stephen Wraysford embarks on a passionate and dangerous affair with the beautiful Isabelle Azaire that turns their worlds upside down. As the war breaks out, Stephen must lead his men through the carnage of the Battle of the Somme and through the sprawling tunnels that lie deep underground. Faced with the unprecedented horror of the war, Stephen clings to the memory of Isabelle and the idyll of his former life as his world explodes around him.
Birdsong has become a classic of modern English literature and is taught on both the English and History syllabuses at schools and universities. Regularly voted as one of the nation’s all-time favourite books, it has sold more than two million copies in the United Kingdom and more than three million worldwide.
The 2014 tour will begin on 12th February at Devonshire Park in Eastbourne and arrives at the Connaught Theatre from 31st March – 5th April. In our region, Birdsong is also visiting Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall 24th Feb – 1st March; Salisbury Playhouse 3rd – 8th March and the Theatre Royal, Winchester 28th April – 3rd May.
“I could feel the soft, shivering touch of the lips on the super-sensitive skin of my throat, and the hard dents of two sharp teeth, just touching and pausing there.” – Bram Stoker, chapter 3 of ‘Dracula’
Written in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker, Dracula has spawned film and TV stories too numerous to mention and influenced a still strong cultural interest in vampires. Even a century later such offerings as ‘Interview with a Vampire’, the ‘Twilight’ saga and ‘Van Helsing’ owe their debt to this novel, which although not the first literary work to feature vampires, updated the theme and brought the concept into the ‘mainstream’.
Adapted by John Ginman, this theatrical treatment of Bram Stoker’s adventure blends Victorian Gothic with the contemporary, drawing eclectically on a wide range of forms of popular entertainment that were established or emerging at the time. With specially commissioned live music, powerful ensemble performances and innovative design, Blackeyed Theatre’s Dracula at the Connaught Theatre in March promises an exciting and thought-provoking theatrical experience.
These are just some of the talent on offer at Worthing Theatres during early 2014. www.worthingtheatres.co.uk has all the details of these and many more productions.