Month: August 2017

Colchester Classics – Classical Music Picks for August 2017

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

Classics

This month offers more opportunities to explore Classical Music through the BBC Proms with a diverse season of live concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, on BBC TV and BBC Radio 3. With your appetite now whetted for Classical Music, feast your ears and eyes on just a few of the concerts in our musically rich region.

If, like me, you thoroughly enjoyed the Film Music of John Williams at the BBC Proms on July 20, here is your chance to hear some of these iconic film scores again. On September 9 the Colchester Symphony Orchestra under its strong and stable conductor Chris Phelps, kickstarts its 2017/2018 season with some well-known movie music such as Star Wars and Schindler’s List by John Williams, Walton’s Spitfire Prelude & Fugue, Shostakovich’s The Gadfly and much other popular movie music.

This concert is on Saturday September 9 at 7.30pm in St Botolph’s Church, Colchester and tickets are already available (01206 271128)

If you have ever fancied getting up close and personal with Colchester’s magnificent Moot Hall organ and would like the chance to pull out all of the stops, then read on!

First up, tomorrow (Tuesday August 1) the Borough Organist, Ian Ray, will show you how to play the Edwardian organ in a lunchtime recital with music by J S Bach, Vivaldi and Richard Strauss. Ian will be joined by the Seckford Brass Ensemble, led by John Jermy (recently heard as the trumpet soloist with the Colchester Symphony Orchestra). Tuesday August 1 at 1pm in Colchester’s Town Hall.

Free concert with a Retiring collection. Further details (01206 272908).

The Moot Hall’s majestic organ was first installed in 1902 and the Heritage Lottery Fund-sponsored restoration was completed in 2015. On this year’s Heritage Open Day you have the chance to pull-out all the stops in a Meet (and Play) the Organ from 12 – 2pm on Sunday 10 September.

More information coming soon!

With recent reports continuing to extol the beneficial effects of singing in choirs, I thought it would be appropriate to introduce a day of singing, exercise, socialising and learning some new music

Last month I had the privilege of featuring Colchester’s Roman River Summer Music Festival in the beautiful setting of St Peter ad Vincula in Coggeshall. This month I would like to highlight an opportunity for all our many local choral singers to treat themselves to work with the young conductor Ben Vonberg-Clark in a varied programme from the all-time choral favourite, Handel’s Zadok the Priest through to new repertoire by Eric Whitacre. The choral works will be accompanied by an orchestra and be part of the Roman River Festival Finale concert on Sunday 1 October.

For further information click  http://romanrivermusic.org.uk/events/event/come-sing-2017 or email info@romanrivermusic.org.uk

If you can’t get to the above singing day, other opportunities are available! It may interest you to know that The Telegraph has recently been quoted as saying Choir practice is healthier than yoga”After the summer break many choirs and choral societies open their rehearsal doors to new members, so don’t miss your chance to improve your well-being by singing and socialising in your local choir.

A good source of information is www.makingmusic.org.uk and www.MusicInEssex.info

Next month the Roman River Music Autumn Festival brings music to the heart of Colchester. Outstanding international classical musicians returning to the Festival include pianist Benjamin Grosvenor who will play at All Saints’ Church in Fordham on Saturday 23 September and Natalie Clein will give a cello recital including compositions by woman composers in the Colchester Arts Centre on September 17. Another Festival highlight for me is The King’s Singers making their festival debut on 28 September in Stoke by Nayland Church.

For full information please visit www.romanrivermusic.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

 

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

 

(BBFC 12A 2Hrs 17Mins)


Imagine a big empty cardboard box. Now imagine that box wrapped in the most astonishing paper, ribbons, bows and gift tags. Got it? Okay, now imagine that the box and wrapping cost the best part of £200 million and you’ll come close to understanding the experience of watching director Luc Besson’s latest sci-fi extravaganza, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (hereafter just referred to as Valerian in this review for the sake of time and word count). It’s a sprawling epic that blasts beyond the screen with eye-popping visuals and aesthetics but, beyond that, it’s a bit like a bubble-headed Love Island contestant, “… full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”, as Lady MacBeth once decried.

Alpha, the “City” of the extended title, is an ever-expanding space station, a repository of the collected knowledge and information of a plethora of CGI and practical effects alien races. Into this neon-infused, candy-crush coloured diaspora arrive Special Agents Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne), a couple in all but name, squabbling and babbling inanely, spreading their own unique brand of “banter” as they try to solve I’m not sure what because I’m not sure why. I didn’t really understand what was going on and I suspect nobody involved in the movie did either, the plot has something to do with a Pokemon dinosaur that poops marbles and the destruction of some kind of “Ibiza” inspired planet full of lithe, pale supermodels and an infection/dead zone spreading through the city/space station. None of it makes any sense and there’s over two hours of it.


But what Valerian lacks in plot, characters or plausibility it more than makes up for in its visuals, every frame is crammed full of invention and mind-bending colour. If you’ve ever wanted to know what Aldous Huxley, John Lennon or Doctor Timothy Leary experienced without the hassle and expense of consciousness expanding drugs? Look no further: Memory consuming jellyfish; a bazaar that exists simultaneously on multiple dimensional levels; Cara Delevingne wearing the Universe’s biggest hat; fat-bottomed frogs; fish in spacesuits… you’ll want to check that bucket of popcorn you’re inhaling to make sure it hadn’t been inadvertently switched out with a huge tub of mescaline.


I’ll be honest here and admit that I’ve never truly been aboard the Luc Besson train, his movies leave me cold, he’s a director whose ideas are vacuous and, whilst almost always visually impressive, as a storyteller he has all the panache and craft of Monty Python’s Mister Creosote forcing a last “wafer thin mint” between his bloated, gluttonous lips: yes, there’s a huge explosion of colour on the screen but ultimately his bacchanalian greed leads to disappointment and emptiness. People may leap to his defence citing The Fifth Element (loopy fairy-tale powered by cliché) or Leon The Professional (amoral and smarmy in its Hollywood excess) or The Big Blue (free divers squabble when not holding their breath, tedious), but even they would have a tough time denying the indulgence and sheer lack of soul in Valerian. For a director steeped in self-indulgence, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets surely represents the pinnacle of his achievements.

There are moments of dizzying invention, for instance a chase scene that crashes through multiple dimensions, but it is dazzling empty spectacle and, unfortunately, nothing more.


Both DeHaan and Delevingne struggle to bring anything based in reality to their characters, neither has the charisma or joie de vivre necessary to carry the film or imbue it with any sense of fun. Dane DeHaan is best known for his moody “outsider” roles such as Chronicle (moody teen become moody teen with super-powers), The Amazing Spider-Man (moody, rich teen becomes moody, rich teen with super-powers) and The Cure For Wellness (moody banker becomes moodier banker but with added incest and eels), Valerian should be a crazy, thrill-ride of a character; as quick with his thoughts, actions and quips as he is with his trigger finger; DeHaan, with his permanently furrowed-brow and slow delivery only manages to convey a sense of fatigue. Cara Delevingne, all pouts and eyebrows, is best known for being a coat hanger and for being easily the most appalling thing in the appalling Suicide Squad; like a personality vacuum, she manages to suck all the life from practically every scene she’s in. Valerian and Laureline sound like ingredients in the latest, miracle shampoo but that’s where any analogy to chemistry ends; they bicker like a couple who’ve been together too long, a pair you’d spend two weeks trying to avoid on your holidays, which makes it all the more bewildering when a “Will they, won’t they…” story thread is introduced. Like I said, “NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE”.

Oh, and Rihanna, Ethan Hawke and Clive Owen turn up as well. Mostly briefly, mostly looking bewildered.

If, like a toddler who delights in the wrapping paper more than the present, there’s probably plenty to enjoy here. Valerian, for the rest of us is just that big old empty box.

“Out, out brief candle”, indeed.

Andy Oliver