Late Music presents Gemini, Unitarian Chapel, St Saviourgate, York, December 3
NICOLAS LeFanu’s 75th birthday earlier this year was celebrated in fine style by one of our most distinguished and long-lived groups, Gemini, itself only a year short of its half-century. Two of her own works framed eight others, including one by her husband David Lumsdaine.
Gemini is a flexible ensemble led from the clarinet by Ian Mitchell. Here he was joined by a piano trio for the premiere of LeFanu’s appropriately titled Gemini Quartet, newly commissioned and written only this summer.
As an opener it was designed to reflect how we welcome others, in a dozen or so brief “bagatelles” (her word), some of only a few seconds. It charms with surprises, moving seamlessly between comfort and anguish, impressionism and rhythm, sometimes noisy, more often gentle, using the instruments in a variety of different groupings. Gemini delivered it with loving care. I could only have wished its 13 minutes had lasted longer.
At the end of the evening, more than two hours later, we heard her Piano Trio of 2003. Its single movement is rhapsodic, all its material developed from high harmonics and tremolos, which are soon amplified by a piano solo. It charts a fascinating course between nerviness and relaxation, the two moods changing between strings and piano, as dialogue influences their responses to one another.
As always with LeFanu, her orchestration is imaginative. It eventually reaches a harmonious conclusion, with trills in the piano as the strings disappear into the ether. Gemini interacted intuitively throughout.
Only a handful of the other works on the programme reached these levels. One of them was another premiere, David Lancaster’s Hell’s Bells Bagatelles, inspired by church bells, especially those of York Minster, and conceived over the last five years.
In his words, its five sections may reflect ecstasy or doom, but within those extremes his use of rhythm verges on dance most appealingly and pizzicato cleverly and regularly evokes the percussive ping of bells.
Lumsdaine’s Blue Upon Blue (1991), for unaccompanied cello, also fell pleasingly on the ear, combining slow melody with more urgent, un-tuned ‘commentary’ from wood, gut and hair, and transitioning between the two by means of glissandos. Sophie Harris teased out its essential lyricism with focused intensity.
Thomas Adès’s suite from his 2005 opera The Tempest was predictably clear-cut in its reactions to six Shakespearean scenarios, always with an ear to vocal characteristics in the four instruments.
Space forbids discussion of the other works, most of which fell into the category of vignettes. For the record they included two pieces without piano, Dorothy Ker’s Water Mountain (1999) and Blaze And Fall (2017) by Charlotte Bray, Martin Suckling’s Three Venus Haikus (2009), setting poetry by George Bruce, and two lockdown pieces for solo piano (Aleksander Szram) by Janet Graham, Church Blackbird and Advent Thoughts. All had something positive to offer.
But most of all we were reminded just how valuable an asset Nicola LeFanu is to York, Yorkshire and well beyond. Many happy returns!
DANCE at the double, Jekyll & Hyde, a quartet of short plays, sax music and Late Music, a Manic Monday and a Taylor-made gig are Charles Hutchinson’s pick of the early autumn harvest of live shows.
Intoxicated tales from darkest Soho: Matthew Bourne’s The Midnight Bell, York Theatre Royal, tonight to Saturday, 7.30pm and 2.30pm Saturday matinee
CHOREOGRAPHER and storyteller in dance Matthew Bourne’s new show for New Adventures explores the underbelly of 1930s’ London life, where ordinary people emerge from cheap boarding houses nightly to pour out their passions hopes and dreams in the bars of fog-bound Soho and Fitzrovia.
Inside The Midnight Bell, one particularly lonely-hearts club gathers to play out lovelorn affairs of the heart; bitter comedies of longing, frustration, betrayal and redemption.
Inspired by novelist Patrick Hamilton, Bourne’s dance theatre show will challenge and reveal the darker reaches of the human heart. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
The other dance event of the week: Riverdance: The New 25th Anniversary Show, York Barbican, tomorrow to Sunday, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee
TWENTY-FIVE years on, composer Bill Whelan has re-recorded his mesmerising soundtrack while producer Moya Doherty and director John McColgan have completely reimagined the Irish and international dance show with innovative and spectacular lighting, projection, stage and costume designs.
The 25th Anniversary show catapults Riverdance into the 21st century and will “completely immerse you in the extraordinary and elemental power of its music and dance”. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Play of the week outside York: Blackeyed Theatre in The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde , Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, tonight until Saturday
NICK Lane’s adaptation of Jekyll & Hyde draws inspiration from his own journey. Injured by a car accident when he was 26 that permanently damaged his neck and back, he imagines Jekyll as a physically weakened man who discovers a cure for his ailments; a cure that also unearths the darkest corners of his psyche.
“I wondered, if someone offered me a potion that was guaranteed to make me feel the way I did before the accident, but with the side effect that I’d become ruthless and horrible – would I drink it?” ponders Lane.
Combining ensemble storytelling, physical theatre, movement and a new musical score by Tristan Parkes, Lane remains true to the spirit and themes of the original novella while adding a major female character, Eleanor. Box office: 01723 370541 or at sjt.uk.com.
Short run of the week: RhymeNReason Put On Shorts, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, until Saturday, 7.30pm
WHAT was Margaret Thatcher’s relationship with Jimmy Savile? Why did a Yorkshire pensioner try to smuggle a fruit cake through Australian customs? What really happened on day three in the Garden of Eden? How should a perfect murder end in a real cliff hanger?
Questions, questions, all these questions, will be answered in funny, thought-provoking short plays by Yorkshire writers David Allison, Steve Brennen, Lisa Holdsworth and Graham Rollason. Box office: tickets.41monkgate.co.uk.
The good sax guide: Sax Forte, Friday Concerts, St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, York, tomorrow, 12.30m
YORK saxophone quartet Sax Forte – Chris Hayes, Keith Schooling, Jane Parkin and David Badcock – open York Unitarians’ new season of Friday Concerts with an afternoon programme of English and French music.
Introducing themselves, Sax Forte say: “Chris plays soprano sax because he likes showing off; Keith plays alto sax because he tries to keep up with Chris; Jane plays baritone because she’s got the strongest shoulders; David knows his place (with apologies to The Two Ronnies and John Cleese)!”
The saxophone was not invented until the mid-19th century, but Sax Forte will be playing earlier classical and baroque pieces, trad folk tunes and later 19th and 20th works for sax quartet.
Classic comeback: York Guildhall Orchestra, York Barbican, October 16, 7.30pm
YORK Guildhall Orchestra return to the concert stage on October 16 after the pandemic hiatus with a programme of operatic favourites, conducted by Simon Wright.
The York musicians will be joined by Leeds Festival Chorus and two soloists, soprano Jenny Stafford, and tenor Oliver Johnston, to perform overtures, arias and choruses by Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Rossini, Mozart, Puccini and Verdi. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Late Music…now: Gemini, St Saviourgate Unitarian Chapel, Saturday, 7.30pm
YORK’S Late Music programme of contemporary music returns from pandemic lockdown with Gemini on Saturday night.
First performances will be given of Gemini’s commission of Sadie Harrison’s Fire In Song and Morag Galloway’s It’s Getting Hot In Here, complemented by Peter Maxwell Davies’s Economies Of Scale and works by York composer Steve Crowther and Philip Grange. Box office: latemusic.org or on the door.
Not just another Manic Monday: Manic Street Preachers, York Barbican, Monday, 8pm
WELSH rock band Manic Street Preachers play York on Monday, with a second Yorkshire gig at Leeds O2 Academy on October 7.
Their autumn itinerary is showcasing this month’s release of their 14th studio album, The Ultra Vivid Lament: “both reflection and reaction; a record that gazes in isolation across a cluttered room, fogged by often painful memories, to focus on an open window framing a gleaming vista of land melting into sea and endless sky,” say the Manics. Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
The inside track on the outsider: Roger Taylor, Outsider Tour, York Barbican, Tuesday, 7pm
QUEEN drummer Roger Taylor plays York Barbican as the only Yorkshire show of this autumn’s Outsider tour in support of his new album of that name, out tomorrow.
“This is my modest tour,” he says. “I just want it to be lots of fun, very good musically, and I want everybody to enjoy it. I’m really looking forward to it. Will I be playing Queen songs too? Absolutely!” Box office: yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Gig announcement of the week outside York: The Shires, Pocklington Arts Centre, January 26 2022
THE Shires, Britain’s best-selling country music act, will bring their 2022 intimate acoustic tour to their regular haunt of Pocklington next January.
“Wembley Stadium, MEN Arena, Grand Ole Opry are all amazing, but Pocklington will always be a special place for us,” say Ben Earle and Crissie Rhodes, who are working on their fifth album. Box office: 01759 301547 or at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
Oh, and just one other thing….
BOND, James Bond. Yes, after all those false dawns in the accursed Covid lockdowns, the perpetually postponed final curtain for Daniel Craig’s 007 opens today when it really is time for No Time To Die to live or die at last. Shaken or stirred, thrilled or deflated, you decide.