Tag Archives: Roberto Carrillo-García

Last Train to Tomorrow

World premieres don’t happen to me every day. And as Andy Ryans of the Hallé pointed out in his speech to the orchestra’s stuffers on Sunday afternoon, it was a first for our group. I’d been feeling despondent and worried he wouldn’t actually come and make his annual speech, but finally there he was, curtseying no less, and drinking two glasses of gin-free orange juice.

The Hallé did all right – but that doesn’t mean everything is absolutey fine and not worrying! – last year, and would have been stuffed without us. I think that’s what Andy meant.

This was a family concert, and the Bridgewater Hall was teeming with tiny future customers, but this was no Hallé light as far as the music was concerned. The theme was the Kindertransport, and conductor Carl Davis started off with Smetana’s Mẚ Vlast: Vltava, to signify where some of the Kinder came from.

At this point my companion, who shall remain anonymous, dozed off very slightly, but that’s why I have been equipped with elbows, and the situation was soon rectified. The livelier Brother Come and Dance with Me from Engelbert Humperdinck’s – the original one – Hänsel and Gretel, was beautifully sung by the Hallé Children’s Choir, wearing red shirts and really brightening up the choir seats.

The final piece of the first half was a lesson in orchestral instruments (which the stuffers had been deemed as not being in need of), courtesy of Benjamin Britten, assisted by six brand new actors from the MMU. Anyone who needed to know about woodwind or the banging of percussion players now do so. Hopefully this will have provided interesting facts for any newbies in the audience. (And on a personal note, I was very pleased to see Roberto Carillo-García in his original place where I could see him clearly.)

I have a dreadful confession to make. I was feeling pretty cynical about this world premiere thing. I felt that regardless of what Carl Davis’s specially commissioned piece for the Hallé Children’s Choir actually turned out to be like, a polite audience would applaud to order and we would be none the wiser.

Sorry about that.

Carl Davis admitted to being nervous. Maybe he was, but this showman always seems very sure of himself. Today he wore a bright blue coat, except for the second half when he changed into black, which was more suited to the occasion.

For Last Train to Tomorrow the children of the choir came onto the stage, to act as children on a train, and the actors, Amy Cameron, Jack Coen, Lowenna Melrose, Lucas Smith, Sinead Parker and Will Finlason joined them there. Their words as well as the songs were written by Hiawyn Oram.

The actors told the brief story of what the Kinder of the Kindertransport went through, from Kristallnacht until their arrival in England. The choir sang beautifully and with feeling, with the odd solo bringing the attention to individual children and what happened to them. There was nothing new in all this. We have all read the stories, and many of us know it from novels about this period in history.

But that didn’t detract from the effect Carl’s piece had on us. I’m afraid I have to say that after a while I didn’t hear his music, nor the doubtlessly expert playing by the orchestra. That’s because what the children sang and the actors acted out was so strong and touching that you simply had no room for musical excellence.

It is time to eat my words. Not only was this a fantastic new piece and a great performance, more than deserving of honest applause, but the audience had the good taste and sense to know that it required a standing ovation. This went on for some time, which was good, because there is much repair work that can be done with a sleeve in the dark. My cheeks were almost dry when the time came to leave.

I’d like to think that in years to come, I’ll enjoy being able to say I was present at the premiere.

Needless to say, after so much ovation, we didn’t make the five o’clock train home. But it’s good to remember that 10,000 children made it to their train to England. (Carl made a reference to what things are like today. I suspect he wanted to make a point about what has become of us.)

The American Dream

Isn’t it lucky that Sir Mark Elder went to New York? If he hadn’t, we might not have had Leonard Bernstein’s Wonderful Town to enjoy, here at the Lowry in another wonderful town.

I could see his left ear, but for the most part I forgot all about Sir Mark, except when I noticed a pair of arms flapping somewhere in front of me, and wondered about it before remembering this was actually a musical with the whole of the Hallé hiding down in the orchestra pit. (Although Daughter sneaked a look down and said it couldn’t be all of them and she didn’t see Roberto Carrillo-García anywhere.) I love it when the serious players play lighter stuff. They do it so well.

That’s why it was easy to forget they were there. Perfection is unobtrusive. And this was perfection. Speedy Valenti had a nerve instructing Sir Mark and his band from up there on the stage…

Wonderful Town by Alastair Muir

What happened on stage was also perfect, but because it happened right in front of me I didn’t miss it. And who would want to miss this? Simon Higlett’s set and costume design must count as one of the most pleasing I have ever seen. Possibly the best ever. New York never looked more New Yorkish, including a natty little elevated train.

And those clothes! The clothes were to die for, and that goes for everyone from leading lady Connie Fisher’s to every last one of the dancers’. It was an interesting – and oh so American – blend of 1930s to 1950s style. The kind we privately aspire to and usually fail to achieve. It was a clever move to have the dancers help Connie and her stage sister Lucy van Gasse dress on stage.

Those dancers are every bit as marvellous as director Braham Murray said they were. Choreographer Andrew Wright even had his dancers conga-ing down the aisles at the Lowry, and as for the Riverdance sequence in jail, well…

Jailors and sailors all fell for Lucy’s beautiful Eileen. Every single male (and I don’t necessarily mean ‘single’) in New York followed Eileen around and having witnessed Michael Xavier try to walk into the ladies toilet at the launch, I know only too well what hit her admirers.

Wonderful Town by Alastair Muir

Michael as Bob Baker was a singing Dan Stevens-lookalike. Somewhat dim when it came to what he really, really thought of Connie’s Ruth, but eventually the penny dropped. There isn’t a tremendous amount of plot here. Two sisters arrive in New York, looking for jobs and maybe fame and fortune. They meet people. At least, Eileen meets people. Men. They make friends. Ruth gets her Bob – and a press card – and Eileen gets a job with Valenti.

Wonderful Town by Alastair Muir

The finale with the sisters wearing the most gorgeous glittery dresses and happy endings for both major and minor characters is perfect.

We need a CD. Possibly even a DVD. (Are you listening at the Lowry, the Royal Exchange Theatre and the Hallé?)

Wonderful Mancunians who haven’t yet booked need to do so urgently. People in other wonderful towns must see to their ticket needs for the wonderful tour of Wonderful Town. Who knows when we get to see anything like it again?

I want to go again tomorrow, and maybe next week, too. And if all else fails, I will really need that CD.

Family prom

If I’d known that by having the wine and not drinking all of it, they could have poured it back into the bottles and returned it to the shop, thereby saving money, I would have. (This is obviously not true. The Hallé are suffering financially, but this was more by way of amusing idea to bring it home to us how frugal they are being.) But since I don’t drink wine, I didn’t. Hopefully they saved even more on that.

Because it’s all about saving money these days. That’s why we come and stuff envelopes for the Hallé, and it’s also why the only classical music concerts we go to tend to be our free reward ones. And I’m almost totally sure Andy Ryans was only joking when he said every pound saved goes towards his salary. Although, in a way that must be true.

The concert started with a Suite from Carmen, which was nice. You can’t beat The Toreadors, really. The only problem as I’ve mentioned before is that they have put double bass player Roberto Carrillo-García at the back.

Then for Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals they moved Roberto closer, which was great until that Mark Elder (Sir, I mean) came and stood in front of him. All I could see was the swirly top bit of his double bass peeking out of Sir Mark’s shoulder. He only shifted out of the way when it was Roberto’s solo in The Elephant. Which was lovely.

Mark Elder was there not to conduct, but to read the poems by Ogden Nash to go with the music. You’d think that on his day off he’d want to be off, but there he was. Right in front of Sr Carrillo-García. Admittedly, he was wearing holiday type clothes, although the Resident IT Consultant said he was being Saint-Saëns. Sir Mark. Not the Resident IT Consultant.

If I’d been Andrew Gourlay I’d have felt intimidated conducting in front of the ‘boss’, but he did well. (Though I still wonder quite how helpful all that waving is.) I’ve decided I quite like Carnival of the Animals. The audience was full of children, and I hope they liked it too. I often think that just because a piece has a more ‘childish’ title, doesn’t mean it appeals to children any more than other music.

It wasn’t just The Elephant which was enjoyable. The Cello solo was almost as good, and the weird piano pieces were funny. For someone who doesn’t do applause all that much, I clapped quite a bit, until I realised that with RSI that isn’t advisable.

The second half consisted of Ravel’s Mother Goose and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Suites, both of them, so presumably (she says hopefully) not the full works?

But speaking of full, the Bridgewater Hall was pleasingly full. Not totally, but nicely busy. And all those children will hopefully grow up and continue going to concerts. Hopefully the Bridgewater Hall will still be there for them.

Christmas stuffing

The witch couldn’t have got closer if she’d planned it. As we made our way down the aisle at the Bridgewater Hall on Thursday (and I’m not talking weddings here), I realised I was about to sit closer to my favourite double bass player than ever before. From my seat it was a very short distance to Roberto Carrillo-García. Daughter can’t see what I see in him, but then she’s very young.

The reason I hadn’t planned anything was that the Hallé stuffers received an invitation for an extra free concert with less than 24 hours to spare, and by some miracle the witch family were all available to make use of the offer, once we had extricated Daughter from school an hour early. A cancelled train (Thanks, Northern!) almost did for us, but we had determination on our side. Anyway, I reckon the late ticket offer was to test our dedication to the Hallé.

Not being the most knowledgeable on classical music, I went in the belief that I didn’t know any of the music. But I’m not quite that bad! It was a kind of Russian relay, with Tchaikovsky to begin with, and Prokofiev to finish off. I see from the programme notes that their lives overlapped by two years.

I know the Overture to Romeo and Juliet. Must be the iPod, as I hardly ever sit down with proper LPs or CDs nowadays. What’s more, I knew the Piano Concerto No.1 in B flat minor, Op. 23, too. I’m amazed at myself. Nicely played by Polina Leschenko.

After the others gorged themselves on ice cream (I brought grapes) we had a Suite from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, so we stayed romantic and tragic. Even the first bit of that sounded familiar, or was I imagining Peter and the Wolf in it all?

Conductor Alexander Polianichko conducted well, I think, but I must confess to having paid more attention to Roberto C-G. There’s something about the double bass. I like that side of the orchestra. Tuba, trombone, double bass. And thanks to some rearranging of how the Hallé players sit now, R C-G is less far away.

I noticed that stuffing brothers D and G sat very near the lovely Polina Leschenko. And the ever beautiful Lyn Fletcher. Might have been coincidence..?