Category Archives: Classical Music

The Lady in the Van and Other Stories Review

Last night at the Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre, London, I attended a special one-off performance of film music by George Fenton, conducted by the man himself, entitled ‘Lady in the Van and Other Stories’. With the Philharmonia at his fingertips, pianist Clare Hammond as the soloist, and playwright, author and the man behind Lady in the Van, Alan Bennett as narrator, it looked like it would be a very interesting evening – and it certainly was that, but not always for the right reasons.

Many less film-score savvy amongst us will probably best know Fenton for his work as the composer to the original series of Planet Earth, Frozen Planet and Blue Planet, but from after yesterday’s concert it is clear that he is more than a one-trick-documentary-scoring pony. The theme of the concert was true stories, but this did not limit the scope of his music, with extracts of Fenton’s music performed in the concert ranging from animation (Valiant) to World War II documentary (Memphis Belle) to his latest project, BBC Predators (coming soon to IMAX cinemas in the UK). The concert also featured a collaboration with Alan Bennett, combining his spoken word readings with an orchestral underscore for the piece titled ‘untold stories’. Whilst individually I thought that both aspects of the composition had artistic merit, and were very interesting, I felt that combined they seemed somewhat disjointed from each other, like estranged brothers rather than twins.

That leads on to my main criticism of the concert – by combining extracts of music from a film over specially-edited montages, with both film footage and stills –  but not the scenes which the music was originally composed for, I felt that the two aspects of the compositions – the video and the music – did not gel in the way that the original score almost certainly did with the real films. The music for the most part was a triumph though, showing Fenton to be a true master of sweeping melody, orchestral timbres and thematic development, but the visuals left me slightly confused, as if trying to overhear two conversations at the same time, not knowing which to pay more attention to.

The Lady in the Van

Confusion aside, the finale of the first half of the concert, The Lady in the Van, was a fascinating story, with Alan Bennett regaling the audience with his experiences, in particular those with Miss Shepherd, aka the Lady in the Van. The snippets of dialogue interspersed with footage from the film scored by Fenton’s wonderful music, which sways from lighthearted to melancholic in the bat of an eye, was a pleasure to discover for the first time.

As a big fan of film music, I will always advocate for more film music concerts, but I think that there is scope for amending the delivery format, as for me I find film score extracts being performed live over original footage far more engaging. Having seen Fenton conducting live to film his Planet Earth and Blue Planet scores, for me this concert was a little disappointing, but this was mostly due to its delivery format rather than the content.

What’s On Brighton October 2016

Here are my picks of the bunch for gigs coming up in Brighton this month.

What’s On Brighton October 2016

Sami James EP Launch @ The Brunswick – Wednesday 5th October

Sami James EP Launch at The Brunswick, Hove
Sami James EP Launch at The Brunswick, Hove

Marbella born and Brighton-based singer-songwriter Sami James is no stranger to the local music scene in Brighton. You’ll often see him performing at open mic nights around the city, such as those by Eyes and Ears Brighton (Hop Poles Open Mic is one of our favourites at AfterDark Brighton) but on 5th October at The Brunswick, Sami will be releasing his latest single ‘Judge Me‘. The night will feature supports from two Sussex songwriters, Shaune Murray and Amber Anderton and advance tickets are just £3 in advance (£4 on the door).

READ MORE  about why The Brunswick is the perfect launch venue on AfterDark Brighton

Brighton Philharmonic’s 2016-2017 Season – Starting Sunday 9th October

Brighton Philharmonic's 2016-2017 Season
Brighton Philharmonic’s 2016-2017 Season

Starting on Sunday 9th October, The Brighton Philharmonic will be returning to the Brighton Dome for their 92nd Concert Season. This season contains 8 concerts between October and March including the traditional New Year’s Eve Viennese Gala, which always proves popular with an audience of all ages. I take a look at some of our highlights from the upcoming season.

Read more on AfterDark

Pictish Trail @ Green Door Store – Monday 10th October

Pictish Trail coming to Brighton's Green Door Store
Pictish Trail coming to Brighton’s Green Door Store

Coming to Brighton’s favourite stables-turned-venue (Green Door Store) on Monday 10th October, Melting Vinyl and One Night Only present Pictish Trail, with supports from Monoganon + TAiL (Mum, Dad & The Kids) + DJ Buried in Space SEE THE AFTERDARK EVENT LISTING – Tickets are just £8 in advance so book now to save being turned away on the door at this pretty limited capacity venue!

Read my full preview on AfterDark

Lisa Hannigan @ The Old Market, Hove – Friday 14th October

Lisa Hannigan performs at The Old Market in Hove
Lisa Hannigan performs at The Old Market in Hove.

On Friday 14th October, Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan will be coming to Brighton & Hove to perform at The Old Market, performing songs from her extensive back catalogue, as well as tracks from her recent release At Swim which was released in August 2016. The show is currently sold out, but it may be worth contacting the box office to see if there are any returns as this is a show that you won’t want to miss.

Read my full preview on AfterDark

All Tvvins @ The Hope & Ruin – Tuesday 18th October
All Tvvins perform at Brighton’s Hope & Ruin

Dublin duo Conor Adams and Lar Kaye (better known as All Tvvins) are coming to Brighton this month as part of their October UK & Ireland Tour, celebrating the release of their long-awaited debut album IIVV. Other dates across the south include Southampton (17th Oct), Bristol (22nd Oct) and London (26th Oct). All Tvvins are performing at The Hope & Ruin on 18th October (hosted by One Inch Badge), with support from Safe To Swim.

Read my full preview on AfterDark

InMe 20th Anniversary Tour @ Patterns Brighton – Friday 28th October

Inme 20th Anniversary UK Tour 2016
Inme 20th Anniversary UK Tour 2016

Ahead of their upcoming dates in the South – Bristol’s The Fleece (24th Oct), Cardiff’s The Globe (25th Oct) and Brighton’s Patterns (28th Oct), AfterDark spoke to InMe’s lead guitarist Gazz Marlow about his favourite InMe tracks, venues, guitarists and the band’s current tour, celebrating 20 Years of InMe.

Read my interview with InMe guitarist Gazz Marlow on AfterDark

Other Music News

End of An Era – The Last Eyes and Ears Brighton Open Mic Night

Eyes and Ears Brighton
Eyes and Ears Brighton

For those of you who are familiar with the open mic scene in Brighton this will no doubt come as a bit of a shock but Eyes and Ears Brighton (aka Amy Forrester and Rosie Powell) will be stopping their open mic nights at The Hop Poles (Tuesday nights) and Martha Gunn (Wednesday nights).

Full story

Review of the Month – Heart to Heart EP

Mari's EP Launch on 4th Novermber in London
Mari’s EP Launch on 4th Novermber in London

“There’s similarities to Destiny’s child and Leona Lewis too, which are certainly not bad comparisons to draw in the early stages of your musical career.”

“Closing the EP, this Tracey Chapman-esque waltz is the records crowning gemstone – Beyoncé & Alicia Keyes have nothing on this girl! It sounds like a BIG hit in the making – it just needs to reach the right people.”

Read my full review

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra Review

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Triumphant Return To Brighton Dome

As the Brighton Dome Concert Hall filled up with a notably diverse audience, young children were noticeably part confused as to what was going on and part excited to have been brought out to see the spectacle that is a symphony orchestra performing in full force at the beautiful venue.

From the conductor’s entrance in a bright red waistcoat, worn under his jacket, to the dominant brass showcasing the opening credits to Star Wars, everything was set to stun the audience into silence as the programme of film music classics began. As with most film music concerts, the shorter pieces help to keep the audience in full attention, with an intermittent commentary from the conductor, who already has to keep the sizeable orchestra in check and in-time throughout. As by no means a pre-requisite of the job as a conductor, it was a delight that Pete Harrison took to it like a duck to water, providing the audience with some interesting back-story into the pieces, films and composers of the music which was being performed. He was straight-talking but engaging and steered away from bad jokes and awkward non sequiturs which can often come too easy in these kinds of concerts.

The orchestra was in fine voice, with notable performances from the Principal Trumpet, Chris Avison for his delicate and controlled solo from Apollo 13, Eluned Pierce with her beautiful harp playing, which added a contrast to the brass fanfares and sweeping strings of the film music repertoire, and the 5-strong percussion section and timpanist who kept everything together with strong rhythms on a wide assortment of instruments. The repertoire was well chosen for a concert of this type, although in my opinion could have done with an addition of a few more 21st Century film scores in lieu of one too many John Williams tracks, as is often the case  whenever a film music concert is performed.

It was great to see a number of younger musicians in the orchestra, as well as the seasoned professionals who had clearly been performing all of their adult lives. This will ensure that the future of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra will live on for a long time and is something that I would like to see more of in orchestras across the country. I hope to see the BSO return to Brighton again soon with another film music concert, which if complete with a few more contemporary soundtracks, will surely help to resonate with the younger audience and have them coming back to concert halls time and time again.

Sol3 Mio Interview 2015

Last month when Sol3 Mio were over in the UK to support the release of ‘I See Fire’, the soundtrack to the New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup team. In amongst a busy schedule, they took the time to answer some more of my questions (see my first interview with Sol3 Mio from 2014). Unfortunately the video had some technical issues, but here is the interview for you all to enjoy and to find out some more about the powerful voices supporting the All Blacks in their Rugby World Cup campaign.

Nice to have you guys back in the UK. I know that myself and many others will have been disappointed not to have seen you live last year when Alfie Boe had to cancel the Brighton tour date due to illness. When is your next UK tour planned?

Pene: We’re definitely going to do one again but at the moment there’s nothing planned as we’re incredibly busy for about the next two years but I’m sure we’ll come back again.

Shooting the video, I get the feeling it will be used for years to come by the New Zealand tourist board. Did it feel more like you were shooting a film rather than a music video?

Moses: Yeah when we were recording the vocals we did envision the video while we singing because of the orchestra stuff and the Haka elements – it was like a film. And so when we actually put everything together it was almost like creating a short film. It was an epic little piece what with Amitai opening it and then leading into these different chants. It didn’t have a particular genre it was just cinematic.

What made you choose this song to cover as your first single from the new record? Do you think that this track will make your music accessible to a new audience who are not familiar with your operatic style?

Amitai: We definitely hope it opens the music up to a new audience as that’s one of our main goals. Not many people listen to opera so If we can open an audience to this song in particular and then they can look us up online and hopefully they will see all our other music as well. We hope we can help them to get over that barrier that they might have with opera and seeing it as an elitist genre of music. They can see that we can also do contemporary stuff and hopefully they’ll like the rest.

Did you feel the brotherly connection between the Dwarves in the Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was something that you could connect with and use to connect with your audience to rally them in support of the NZ rugby team?

Pene: That’s a good one! I didn’t think of it that way but the brotherhood that goes over to defeat the dragon and take back the homeland…this is what New Zealand’s doing right!

Sol3 Mio Interview 2015 Serious

The title of the new album ‘On Another Note’ seems to suggest that this is a move away from your debut record. How do you think the albums mainly differ?

Amitai: I guess you could look at it that way – it’s definitely a step-up. We’re staying true to our classic side but we’re taking it up to another level. People enjoyed what we did on the first album so we wanted to bring something different but also to do something portrayed us as both the group and individuals. Hopefully people will enjoy the diversity in it.

Pene: Yeah it’s not too different. People will instantly assume after listening to ‘I See Fire’ that we’ve swung that way but that’s not completely where we’re at. That song was put out first to coincide with the world cup but if they listen to the rest of the album there’s a lot of different stuff.

With such a wide range of styles, who do you imagine is your ideal listener and how do you think the album is best listened to?

Pene: We see our ideal listener as everyone which is a good and a bad thing. It’s that common saying of not focusing on just one audience but rather taking a risk and taking everyone on. But if you do pull it off you’ll have reached everyone!

Sol3 Mio Interview 2015 Laughing

When we last spoke, you said that your aim was to promote core opera as much as possible to new audience. To what level do you think you have done that with the new record?

Moses: We’ve absolutely seen the results! It has shown in everywhere that we’ve performed. When we first started our audience was little older which is normal for the kind of music that we do. But the proof is in the pudding and wherever we perform now we can have people as young as two years old coming to our concerts and absolutely loving it. And families loving it! A family will come and really enjoy what we do and they can all take something different away from whatever song and be inspired to do something.

Finally, having covered Ed Sheeran and Coldplay, is there anybody who has caught your eye/ear in the pop charts at the moment that you would like to cover?

Amitai: I’ve done a few pop covers but you probably wont hear them on this album. They’re shower songs! We’ve had a few ideas that have sprung to mind.

Pene: Yeah its not always ‘right-now’ pop; we really like those nostalgia pop songs that everybody knows but once you sing it people are like ‘oh I haven’t heard that in a long long time’. Stuff like ‘Something Stupid’ – it’s a popular song but it hasn’t been sung in a long long time.



CBSO Review: 21st Century Blockbusters – 6th March 2015

Tonight in Birmingham at the majestic Symphony Hall, I was privileged enough to be in the audience of a wonderful concert, displaying some of the finest film music of the 21st Century (so far)!

Hosted by Tommy Pearson and conducted by Michael Seal, Friday Night Classics: 21st Century Blockbusters was a fantastic journey through recent cinematic history through a marvellous selection of film scores, covering a wide range of film genres as well as composers and styles of music. Opening with an extract from the instantly spine tingling score of John Williams’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and continuing onwards with extracts from popular family favourites such as The Hobbit, Avatar and Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as some scores from more adult films such as Gladiator, There Will Be Blood and The Bourne Ultimatum. The compere’s introductions to the pieces with some back story were very interesting and worked well to engage the crowd, which seemed to be a very mixed age range audience, which was a real pleasure to see at a classical concert!


My personal favourite apart from the opening piece were the extracts from David Arnold’s entertaining and exciting score to the popular TV series Sherlock, Michael Giaccino’s wonderfully warm score from Star Trek: Into darkness (which Tommy rightly dedicated to the recently deceased Leonard Nimoy) and the amazing cultural experience that was the juxtaposition of hearing the sitar and orchestra in A.R. Rahman’s score to Slumdog Millionaire.

A final mention must go out to Craig Armstrong’s ‘Glasgow Love Theme’ from Love Actually, which is always a joy to hear with its beauty and simplicity performed live. The orchestra played brilliantly and whole audience left with a real buzz – as one younger Twitter fan said of the concert:

“We are literally dying at how amazing the orchestra is.”

With student/under 25s tickets available from just £5, the CBSO have attracted a younger audience to their shows and if the great scores keep being written and the concerts keep being performed to such a high standard, I am sure that they will stick around for many years to come. I know that I will be coming back for more from the CBSO!

CBSO Review
Image taken by @HopeStreetBlues


For more information about the CBSO concert series, visit or follow on Twitter @TheCBSO. Check out the trending tweets from the concert on #CBSOfilm.