Month: November 2016

Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for December

OUR CLASSICAL MUSIC COLUMNIST LIZ LEATHERDALE, FOUNDER AND OWNER OF COLCHESTER CLASSICS, BRINGS YOU HER PICK OF DECEMBER’S CLASSICAL MUSIC EVENTS IN, AND AROUND, COLCHESTER.

Classics

Somehow Christmas isn’t the same without Festive Music, whether traditional carols from a choir or a Brass Band playing seasonal treats. If you are looking forward to hearing Christmas music and singing some favourite carols, you will not be disappointed with the small selection highlighted here.

This month offers the chance to hear the unique sound worlds created by Wind Instruments from both Medieval Times and our current day, Christmas music and much more!

 

The final two concerts in the Colchester Early Music series 2016 take place in the Medieval Church at Marks Tey where the distinctive sounds created by period wind instruments originally heard at dances and banquets in Medieval and Renaissances times will be heard.

The first concert is on Sunday 4 December when The King’s Lynn Waites presents music and readings from the Hall Books of Lynn  in a concert entitled “When th’ Instruments they can scarce hold: tales and tunes of a Wait’s life”. The following Sunday The York Waits end the Colchester Early Music 2016 concert series with seasonal music from the 12th-17th centuries on shawm, sackbuts, harp, gittern, fiddles, recorders, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy and rommelpot in “Godday my Lord Sire Christemass”. Both concerts start at 2.30pm in St Andrews Church, Mark Tey, near Colchester.

Tickets: £8 including refreshments. (01206 212466)

www.colchesterearlymusic.org.uk

Back to modern day wind instruments and the East Anglian Single Reed Choir conducted by Anthony Bailey present a concert in St Osyth Church of both non-seasonal and seasonal music including the premiere of Anthony Bailey’s latest Christmas music, this year based around the Holly & the Ivy.  The word Choir is often associated with church choirs, large choirs but it is also the term used to describe an ensemble of wood wind instruments, either all of one type or in this case a combination of single reed instruments – the clarinet and saxophone. Sunday, 4 December, St Osyth Church at 6pm.

Tickets: £6 including refreshments available on the door

‘Christmas is Coming’ is the title of the recital on the magnificent Moot Hall organ with soprano soloist Lindsay Gowers accompanied by organist Ian Ray in an all-English programme of songs and organ music. Tuesday 6 December, 1-2pm in the Moot Hall, Colchester Town Hall.

Admission is free with a retiring collection

The following Sunday, Ian Ray will be back in the Moot Hall directing the Colchester Choral Society, a children’s semi-chorus singing from the gallery, a brass quintet, organist Dr Gillian Ward Russell and compere Terence Craig Waller in ‘Here Comes Christmas’.  December 11 at 4pm.

Tickets £8 including refreshments in the Mayor’s Parlour

‘A Symphonic Christmas’ with The Choir of St Mary’s, Maldon, accompanied by the Lewisham Concert Band, performs John Rutter’s Gloria, Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride and Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite. Saturday, 3 December at 7.30pm, St Mary’s Church, Maldon.

Tickets: £12. (01621 856503)

On the same day, the Clacton Choral Society accompanied by the Kingfisher Sinfonietta present their Christmas concert with Handel’s Messiah (Part One) and Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols. In addition to these choral works the Kingfisher Sinfonietta who will also perform Winter from Vivaldi’s popular work, The Four Seasons, and in contrast Gabriel’s Oboe from the film, The Mission.

Ticket information (01255 221511)

Two concerts with little or no reference to seasonal music are also available this weekend. The Puffin Ensemble, Colchester Symphony Orchestra’s principal wind players, performs music by Strauss, Dvorak and Hummel in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester, tomorrow at 7.30pm. Tickets: £14 (01206 271128).  Then on Sunday afternoon the Kingfisher Sinfonietta returns to Lion Walk Church in Colchester with music by Vivaldi, Mozart and Frank Bridge.  . Sunday 4 December 2016 at 2.45pm.

Tickets: £12

www.facebook.com/ColchesterSymphonyOrchestra

www.colchestersymphonyorchestra.org.uk

If you have a forthcoming concert of classical music, you would like previewed, contact Liz Leatherdale on 0800 999 6994.

Start your love affair with Classical Music at www.colchesterclassics.co.uk and take a minute to watch their company video: 

Liz Leatherdale

Liz Leatherdale

MOANA

MOANA (BBFC PG)

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Beautiful.

There is nothing about Disney’s 56th animated feature that is anything less than beautiful. From the tops of mountains to the depths of the ocean; from the inspirational, aspirational heroine to the ; from the comedy (both broad and oblique) to the truly exciting action set-pieces; from the effortlessly toe-tapping songs to the colourful, unforgettable characters; from the story to the message; from start to finish (and I mean the very end when the screen goes blank) Moana pulls at your eyes, heart and mind then snaps them back into your body leaving you breathless and basking in its sheer audacious over-use of the word.

The descendent of Polynesian sea-faring nomads Moana of Motonui (Auli’i Cravalho) feels the waves of wanderlust washing over her as she enters her mid-teenage years, she yearns for travel and adventure, to break away from the responsibility and staunchly land-based community provided and nurtured by her father, Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison). When ecological disaster threatens her tribe’s paradise and based upon the advice of Gramma Tala (Rachel House), Moana takes the initiative to return a magical stone to its original resting place on the distant shores of Te Fiti.

So, she takes a canoe, her pet pig Pua and, along with stowaway rooster Heihei (clucks by Alan Tudyk), sets sail to save her people. But to achieve her task Moana must enlist the aid of prankster demi-god Maui (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who stole the stone in the first place and this entails rescuing his magical fish-hook from the Realm of Monsters and the clutches of villainous, “Glam-Rock” crab Tamatoa (Jermaine Clement).

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Add in one of the most exciting chases since Mad Max: Fury Road involving some extremely diminutive pirates and the climactic battle with Te Ka, the monstrous lava creature guardian of Te Fiti and you have in place everything you’d expect from a Disney “Princess” movie.

Except one.

Romance.

There’s no handsome prince to woo Moana’s princess (although she determinably expresses that, despite being the daughter of a chief, she is no such thing). Moana is about friendship, mutual trust, platonic and familial love but not romance. And you know what? It is absolutely the right decision, Moana is about finding out who you are rather than how you are defined by your romantic relationship. It’s a subtle but powerful message that is as empowering as it is refreshing and it’s genuinely appropriate.

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Directors Jon Musker and Ron Clements are no strangers to creating perfect Disney fare, their CV boasting The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and the criminally under-appreciated The Princess and the Frog. The DNA of those movies is more than evident in the character of Moana, someone who yearns for a life beyond their immediate environment, whose courage and ingenuity is tested, who lives beyond the screen. Using full computer animation for the first time (their previous films used traditional hand-drawn techniques with limited CGI) has not limited but expanded their palette, there is an incandescence to the colours, bright, popping and luminous; there are levels of detail here that deserve the biggest screen and highest resolution; there is warmth and emotional involvement from even the most surprising characters.

The voices are all perfectly cast and all deliver excellent performances, especially from Auli’i Carvalho as Moana who, only 14 when she recorded her part, makes for a believable and loveable protagonist, perky, plausible, intelligent and brave, she’s the person we all hope our daughters could be. Dwayne Johnson proves to be just as likeable and amiable as his on-screen persona and provides many of the movie’s best laughs (most of the others come via Alan Tudyk’s crazy rooster and Jermaine Clement’s jewellery obsessed crab, Tamatoa, both of whom are, again, perfectly cast). Maui is as vainglorious as Moana is earnest and they complement each other gloriously, like opposing sides of the same shiny coin you’ll want to keep in your pocket forever.

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The bad news for parents who’ve only just reclaimed their music systems from their little darlings and the Frozen soundtrack is that the music and songs of Moana are just as catchy, infectious and sing-along-able to the point of distraction. The song-writing trio of Disney regular Mark Mancina, Samoan singer Opetaia Foa’i and Hamilton impresario Lin-Manuel Miranda have crafted songs that will have you humming on the way home and power millions of school-runs. All the cast sing their own songs which means, yes, The Rock sings and he’s not half bad, in fact he’s pretty good (so, that’s about the last thing you need to cross off your “Worry List”).

I don’t know whether Moana will have the same impact as Frozen, that’s down to a generation much younger than my own, although I very much hope it does. There’s so much misogyny and racism in the world right now a little immersion in a vibrant foreign culture and a bold heroine is a welcome respite, an exciting, funny, colourful and stimulating ray full of hope.

Beautiful.

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

A spin-off of the Harry Potter film series, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is a fantasy film directed by David Yates,  inspired by the book of the same name by J. K. Rowling.

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Here’s a question for you: How do you follow up the Harry Potter series, one of the most successful and acclaimed literary and cinematic creations of all time? Do you…

  1. Continue with the original characters and create new adventures?
  2. Create new characters and place them in familiar surroundings?
  3. Set the story 90 years in the past, introduce not only new characters but a new setting, new perils and throw in a whole bunch of themes/situations that have relevance to the world we’re living in today?

I think it’s pretty obvious which choices most Hollywood movie studios would usually opt for, given their obeisance to the Law of Diminishing Returns and a general fear of dipping their toes into unknown waters. Thankfully, and due in most part to author J.K. Rowling’s refusal to loosen her grip on the reins of her creation and seemingly boundless imagination, we are treated to the third option. And what a treat Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is.

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Set in a fabulously realised 1926 New York, Fantastic Beasts finds Magizoologist Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) making a quick stopover whilst on his quest to find and catalogue all the world’s magical animals. Newt carries with him a magical, Tardis-like suitcase in which he keeps his ever-expanding menagerie of beasts but a mix-up in a bank with a No-Maj (American parlance for “Muggle”), Jacob Kowalski (Dan Fogler) results in chaos and the escape of the bag’s inhabitants.

Newt and Jacob attempt to recapture the beasts as surreptitiously as possible, which is to say they absolutely fail at the “Surreptitious” part. They are joined in their endeavours by former Auror Porpentina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) and her telepathic, breathy bombshell sister Queenie (Alison Sudol), but the bedlam the quartet creates brings them under the unforgiving spotlight of the MACUSA (the Magical Congress of the United States of America, the US equivalent of the Ministry of Magic) and their Chief of Secret Police Percival Graves (Colin Farrell).

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What it lacks in central plot Fantastic Beasts more than makes up for in its world building. Setting the film in Jazz-Age New York adds relevance and poignancy, a surface world of excess and flamboyance whilst austerity and intolerance bubbles just beneath, the city is cold and dark, seething with mistrust and pamphleteers call for a “Second Salem” (two centuries after the infamous Witch trials). American wizarding hides itself and enforces its laws with a fascistic iron fist: no mixing of cultures; inter-racial marriage an unforgiveable sin. There’s echoes of Runyan and Fitzgerald but they’re faint and only there if you’re willing to look hard enough. There’s also a smirking son of privilege running for Congress, supported by his father’s fortune, take from that what you will.

Remember that Fantastic Beasts is the first part of a five-part movie cycle which, kind of, gives it a pass: the introduction of fascinating characters, some of whom you’ll love, some of whom you’ll despise and the world building gives the viewer plenty to enjoy, digest and look forward to. There’s a lot of setting up of things that will be more important in future, a lot of exposition and the film misses the mark slightly by not having an immediate threat (just an introduced one in the form of Gellert Grindelwald – Potter fans will understand the significance of this character, casual viewers, though, are left in little doubt), but such is the way with first episodes.

The film is immaculately cast and Eddie Redmayne is immediately adorable as the bashful and twitchy Newt and seems born to the Potter Universe. More than able support is offered by Waterston’s pragmatically heroic Portentina, Alison Sudol fizzes as the peppy Queenie and Fogler’s bumbling, fumbling, loveable Kowalski makes for a great comic sidekick. Colin Farrell captivates as the husky Percival Graves but, unfortunately, the film undersells his worth and squanders his character. It’s one of the few bum notes in the movie, though not as glaring as the “Ta-Dah!!” appearance of a certain superstar. Honestly it’s such a gurning misstep I’m still cringing at the very thought of it.

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There’s two great elements of Fantastic Beasts I haven’t mentioned yet, the creatures and the design. From the Niffler (a kleptomaniac echidna) to the Erumpent through the Thunderbird, the Swooping Evil, the Graphorn and others, they are all beautifully realised and amuse, terrify and fascinate in equal measure. I suspect it will not only be the youngest of fans who will wonder at the magical menagerie with open mouthed awe. Enjoyable as the creatures are, there is as much pleasure to be had in the overall design of the movie from the on-point costume design to the stunning recreation of Jazz-Age New York. This movie is a feast for the eyeballs.

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Director David Yates, who helmed the last four parts of the Harry Potter series, keeps the movie moving along at enjoyable clip despite a few static moments and the afore mentioned “Superstar” reveal. The script and story comes from a first-time screenwriter, though when said person happens to be Joanne Rowling you know Fantastic Beasts is in safe hands. Rowling is a consummate storyteller and everything here plays out in service of a bigger picture you suspect she already has in mind, whilst providing an exhilaratingly fun ride for this chapter’s 133-minute run time.

Potter fans will love it. The casually interested will enjoy it. Maybe it doesn’t quite do enough to convert the sceptical, but it has a helluva lot of fun trying.

Andy Oliver
Andy Oliver

 

Arrival

Arrival has arrived at Colchester’s Odeon cinema and 101’s movie critic Andy Oliver gives us his verdict.

Arrival

When twelve mysterious, monolithic objects appear at random points around the Earth, the race is on to find out why they are here: is this an invasion? A warning? A gift? A precursor to war?

That is the conceit at the heart of director Denis Villeneuve’s provocative, thoughtful and (at times) stunningly beautiful new sci-fi film, Arrival, and to tell you too much more about its plot would wander into the territory of spoilers. I shall attempt to review it without giving too much away but, in case you’re worried, know this and read no further: Arrival is not just one of the best science fiction movies since Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, it is one of the best movies of the year.

Still with me? Good. I’ll tread as carefully as I can. Promise.

The objects are so alien when they appear that their purpose is completely unknowable. They float just feet from the surface like giant sky-written exclamation marks or (from certain angles) like enormous chocolate orange segments. There are no observable means of propulsion, no cockpit, no weapons, no clue as to what they are or why there’re here. Governments around the world gather academics to discover their purpose: physicists, engineers, code-breakers and linguists alike are charged with the seemingly impossible task.

Arrival

US Army officer Colonel Weber (Forest Whittaker) brings together a team including physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) and linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to decipher the meaning of the wedge hanging unfeasibly above the Montana landscape. It turns out that a door in the base of the object opens every eighteen hours, allowing access to the inhabitants and the chance to communicate.

Arrival doesn’t baulk at showing the aliens and we get to meet them very early, mammoth, seven-limbed, intimidating beasts that move through their atmosphere like elephant-sized squid. Their language is so alien and complex that Banks quickly realises it is only through the written word that we will be able to communicate, if only we can work out their alphabet, grammar and the limitations of translation.

It’s a movie featuring solid but seldom flashy performances by the central trio of Adams, Renner and Whittaker, which is not in any way a criticism more another attempt to avoid spoilers (revealing anything more would likely hint at the movie’s remarkable denouement). Beautifully shot by cinematographer Bradford Young, Arrival is frequently breath-taking, occasionally abstract and builds tension and character with oblique lighting and strikingly vivid splashes of unexpected colour against the desaturated environments.

Arrival

As with all the best science fiction, Arrival holds up a mirror to the viewer and the viewer’s world finding allegory and metaphor without sacrificing story, character or intent by pushing it in your face. Villeneuve has already proved he is a master of the subtlety of theme with the excellent thriller Sicario, a film about how men use sex to maintain power skilfully hidden within a drug war narrative. Here Villeneuve explores how cognitive linguistics shape our understanding, and limit our perceptions, of the world about us and cultural differences. It’s heady stuff that has led to some reviewers claiming that parts of the narrative are misleading and unnecessarily tricksy, but that’s missing the whole point of the movie.

Arrival is a movie for people who enjoy taking their brain to the cinema, who love to think through movies for many weeks after viewing, who like to dissect, discuss and argue. Don’t expect gung-ho heroics, laser beams and the destruction-porn of landmarks a la Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay, this is a film about understanding not xenophobia, it’s about the world today and the hope of what the world could be. It’s a ferociously smart movie and one, I hope, we’ll be talking about for a long time to come.

Andy Oliver

Andy Oliver