Culture from 2019

July ’21

Joe Martin – The Live Room, Saltaire


Entirely enjoyable evening

Vaiteani, Signs
Stravinsky: Ballets Russes, Les Siècles, François-Xavier Roth
Bartok: Bluebeard’s Castle. Mika Kares, Szilvia Vörös, Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra – Susanna Mälkki

 June ’21

John Boden – The Live Room, Saltaire


Boden on form

Fabulous to see John Boden again (as droll as ever). Astute mix of his solo eco-apocalypse trilogy albums and stuff familiar from his Bellowhead days. Great gig.

Olcay Bayir – The Live Room, Saltaire



Thoroughly enjoyable first gig of the year. Gasp of normality.

Bartok: Works for orchestra, Chicago SO – Solti
Paris, Hilary Hahn
Ravel: Le jardin feerique, Members of Berlin Phil chamber orch
Vaughan Williams: Symphonies 4 & 6, LSO – Pappano
Oka Vanga, Oka Vanga
Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire, Patricia Kopatchinskaja
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, LW
Falla: The Three Cornered Hat etc. Orch Suisse Romande – Ansermet
Daniel Lanois: Heavy Sun
A Concert at the time of Proust, Théotime Langlois de Swarte and Tanguy de Williencourt
Brahms: Symphony 2, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch – Blomstedt
Ravel: La valse etc. Basque National Orch – Trevino
Prokofiev: Symphony 5, Philharmonia – Santtu-Matias Rouvali
Eotvos: Violin concerto Faust, Orch de Paris – Heras-Casado

May ’21

R Wan, La gouache
Vaughan Williams: Symphonies 5 & 6 RLPO – Manze
Vaughan Williams: Folk songs vol. 2, Roderick Williams et al

April ’21

Leshnoff: Zohar & Symphony No. 2 “Innerspace”, Atlanta SO & Chorus – Ford
Haydn Quartets Op76, 4-6, Chiasroscuro Qt
Made Kuti: For(e)ward
Thorvaldsdottir: Rhizoma,
Mozart Violin Concertos, Vol. I, Aisslinn Nosky, Max Mandel, Handel and Haydn Society
Takemitsu: Orch works, NHK SO – P Jaarvi
Walton: Piano Quintet etc. Jones, Bradley, Lowe, Thwaite
Mojo Magazine June 2021: Into Tomorrow

The Cambridge Companion to Vaughan Williams, eds. Alain Frogley & Aidan Thompson
Tchaikovsky The Man and His Music, David Brown

March ’21

Prokofiev: Piano works, Eteri Andjaparidze
Debussy: Sonatas and Piano works, Pixels Ensemble
Strauss/Scriabin: Also Sprach Zarathustra, Seattle Symphony – Dausgaard

The String Quartet: A History, Paul Griffiths

Feb ’21

Tarkiainen: The Earth and Saivo, Virpi Räisänen; Jukka Perko; Lapland Chamber Orchestra – John Storgårds
Elina Duni, Rob Luft, Lost Ships
Diana Jones, Song to a Refugee
Fatma Said, El Nour
Loma, Don’t Shy Away
Prokofiev/Myaskovsky: Symphonies 5 and 21, Oslo PO – Petrenko
Tino Contreras, La Noche de los Dioses
Whither Must I Wander, Will Liverman, Jonathan King
Britten and Purcell: String Quartets & Fantasias, Doric Quartet
Plaisirs illumines, Kopatchinskaja, Gabetta, Camerata Bern
Mojo Magazine March 2020 – The Cure covers
Ginastera/Bernstein/Moussa: Works for violin and orchestra, Wan, Monreal SO – Nagano

Benjamin Britten: A Life in the Twentieth Century, Paul Kildea

Jan 2021

Shostakovich: Violin Concertos, Alina Ibragimova, State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia ‘Evgeny Svetlanov’ – Vladimir Jurowski
Mahler: Erinnerung, Christiane Karg, Malcolm Martineau
Prokofiev: Songs and Romances, Margarita Gritsova, Maria Prinz
Martinu: Violin concertos 1 & 2; Bartok: Zimmermann, Bamberger Symphoniker – Hrusa

Mozart: The Reign of Love, Jan Swafford

Dec ’20

Sing High! Sing Low!, The Silver Field
Source and Deliver
, The Lightning Orchestra
A Hero’s Death, Fontaines DC
Britten: Peter Grimes, Skelton, Wall, Bergen PO – Gardner
Rajatila/Borderline, Tuuletar
Smyth: The Prison, Braley, Burton, Experiential Orch & Chorus – Blachly
Sins We Made, Harrow Fair
Music of the Spheres, Aurora Orch – Conlon
Convergence, Iceland SO – Bjarnson
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde, Bomberger, Dean Smith, Budapest Festival Orch – Fischer
Benzecry: Ciclo de canciones, Violin Concerto & Clarinet Concerto, various, Lviv National Phil SO – Boggiano
Barbarians, Young Knives
Vaughan Williams: Job & Songs of Travel, Davies, 
Adams, Battiwalla, Hallé Orchestra, Mark Elder
Schumann: Einsam, Nino Gvetadze
For Mario, Rava/Herbert/Guidi
Smyth: The Prison, Brailey, Burton, Experiential Orch & Chorus – Blachly

Nov ’20

Alexander Zemlinsky: A Lyric Symphony, Marc D Moskovitz
Ravel, Roger Nichols

Vasks: Viola Concerto; Symphony 1, Rysanov – Sinfonietta Riga
To Love is to Live, Jehenny Beth
Gogo Penguin, Gogo Penguin
Beethoven: Symphonies 1-5, Les Concerts Des Nations – Savall
Clyne: Dance etc. Inbal Segev, LPO – Alsop
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde, Yves Saelens, Lucile Richardot, Het Collectief – Reinbert de Leeuw
Corigliano et al: Guitar concertos, Bangso, Tallinn CO – Kaisa

Oct ’20

Edgelarks, The Live Room – Saltaire

Fabulous duo

Lucky to scrape in another gig before another calamitous (if necessary lockdown; ‘calamitous because it should have been instigated weeks ago but our government have a policy of closing stable doors).  And it was the great Edgelarks with their intensely varied sound palette driven by Philip Henry’s instruments and Hannah Martin’s voice.

Poulenc: La voix humaine – Leeds Playhouse

Tour de voix

Gillene Butterfield was excellent as the jilted lover but as I’m not a fan of the work it’s not surprising it should leave me cold though the Covid19-restrictions no doubt contributed. Worth seeing and hearing though.

Orpheus in the Record Shop, Testament – Leeds Playhouse

Skilful but over-reached

A Covid19-secure event had a sterility to it that any performance, for me, would struggle to overcome. Testament is certainly an excellent beatboxer but his attempt to weld the Orpheus myth to the everyday – whilst a good idea – didn’t quite work as the myth tended to disappear in the background. Musically not strong enough for me too.

The Rheingans Sisters, Live Room – Saltaire

Not quite catching fire

I suppose socially distanced gigs are better than none but this didn’t grab me. Whether it was the sparse, but enthusiastic audience, or the performance I’m not sure though the sisters never got any banter going but maybe that’s not their schtick. Good performances.

Part, Vasks, Macmillan, Choir of Clare College Cambridge – Ross
Clytemnestra, Ruby Hughes, BBC NOW – van Steen
Mal Waldron Trio, Free At Last

Wagnerism, Alex Ross

Sept ’20

Earth, EOB
Stepping Back, Jumping In, Laura Jurd
Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North,
The Magnetic North
Tourists, Psapp
Janacek: The Cunning Little Vixen, Crowe, Finlay, LSO – Rattle

Arnold Schoenberg’s Journey, Allen Shawn

August ’20

Fleet of Knives, Gareth L Powell
To Boulez and Beyond: Music in Europe Since The Rite of Spring, Joan Peyser
The Eighth: Mahler and the World in 1910, Stephen Johnson

Lianne Le Havas, Lianne Le Havas
Songs of an Unknown Tongue, Zara McFarlane
Shostakovich: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk: Ewing, Haugland, Langrdige, Bastille Opera – Chung
Beethoven: String quartets, Julliard Qt
Beethoven: Symphonies, Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique – Gardiner
Erzulie, Yilian Canizares
Bitter Better, Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards
Lang: The Prisoner of the State, Oke, Ott, NYPO – van Zweden

July ’20


Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
Ironopolis, Glen James Brown
Olive, Again, Elizabeth Strout


Korvits: Hymns to the Nordic Lights, Estonian National SO – Joost
Beethoven/Sibelius: Violin concertos, Tetzlaff; Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin – Ticciati
Berg: Wozzeck, Shore, Barstow, Philharmonia Orchestra – Daniel
1977, Ana Tijoux
The Land That is Not, Sinikka Langeland
Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde, Baker, King, Concertgebouw – Haitink

June ’20

Northern Ballet – Dracula (BBC4)

Possessed motion

Not only is the dancing(choreographed by David Nixon) and set design brilliant, so is the choice of music: Schnittke, Rachmaninov, Pärt and Daugherty.

The Livelong Day, Lankum
Who Sent You?, Irreversible Entanglements
Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple
Rajatila/Borderline, Tuuletar
La Passione, Barbara Hannigan, Ludwig Orchestra
Debussy-Rameau, Víkingur Ólafsson
Somethin’ Else, Cannonball Adderley
Part: Stabat Mater, Clare College Camb – Ross
Dabrinka Tabakova, String Paths
Ades conducts Ades, Boston SO – Gernstein
dumama + kechou, mother time
100% Yes
, Melt Yourself Down
Siltane, Moonlight Benjamin

The Seige, Helen Dunmore
Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell
A Theatre for Dreamers, Polly Samsom

May ’20

A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams – Young Vic, YouTube

Fine performance

Gillian Anderson dominates as Blanche but gets fantastic support from Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby. The revolving stage was irritating on the screen but better to see it there than not at all.

Mahler: Symphony 1, Netherlands SO – de Vriend
Concurrence, Iceland SO – Bjarnason
Rose Golden Doorways, Pulled By Magnets
Holst: The Planets, VPO – Karajan
Rachmaninov: Piano concertos, Ashkenazy, LSO – Previn
Volodos play Mompou

Miles Davis, Ian Carr – absolutely brilliant piece of writing
Here We Go, Graham Swift
The Blue Moment, Richard Williams
Music, A Subversive History, Ted Gioia
Deluge, Charlotte Ansell
Listen to This, Alex Ross
Debussy, A Painter in Sound, Stephen Welsh

April ’20

One Man, Two Guvnors, Richard Bean after Carlo Goldoni, National Theatre – YouTube


James Corden’s genius, with brilliant supporting cast, pulls off this slapstick farce; the 80-year-old waiter is genius too.

The Question, Anna Tivel
Thin Air, Daniel Morgan
Superior: The Return of Race Science, Angela Saini
Beethoven Anguish and Triumph, Jan Swafford
The Last, Hannah James
Permanent Record, Edward Snowden
The Nickel Boys, Colston Whitehead

March ’20

Cries and Whispers, Manchester Collective, Town Hall – Leeds

Intense music making

Including Britten’s 1st and Shostakovich’s 8th quartets this fantastic collective produced another great concert. Also included were Widmann’s String Quartet No 2 and arrangements of Gesualdo’s Madrigals though playing the latter twice having told us he was a murderer didn’t work.

Dark Matter, Moses Boyd
Strauss: Alpine Symphony etc. Oslo PO – Petrenko
Khachaturian: Piano music, Iyad Sughayer
Out of My Province, Nadia Reid
Beethoven: Middle Quartets, Emerson Quartet
Bartok: String Quartets, Emerson Quartet
Lise Davidsen, 4 Last Songs etc. Philharmonia – Salonen

Your House Will Pay, Steph Cha

February ’20

Alaw, The Live Room – Saltaire

Welsh harmony

It’s a bonus when a band’s banter is so funny that tears run down the cheek especially when their playing is equally brilliant. Fabulous guitar work (from Dylan) and great interplay all round.

Black Midi, The Irish Centre – Leeds

Not one for me

I’m getting old (maybe; well definitely but definitely maybe regarding rock gigs) as I didn’t enjoy this and my son rated it as a top gig. Bit like Melt Yourself Down but less interesting. Support III Japonia was interesting but also ‘not for me’. Never heard Messiaen has the between act music before (Trois petites liturgies de la présence divine, I think) before!

Giuseppe Guarrera, The Venue – Leeds

Man in a hurry

His playing was too fast for me losing the poetry along the way, particularly in Alborado del gracioso. However, going fast is  prerequisite for the finales of Prokofiev’s 7th piano sonata so that worked!

Iceland Symphony Orchester, Yann Pascal Tortelier, Town Hall – Leeds

Bizet (L’Arlesienne), Ravel (brilliant Jean-Efflam Bavouzet playing the left hand concerto) and Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, all played with panache. Anna Thorvaldsdottir’s Aeriality added a suitably brooding presence to the storm blowing outside. Excellent concert.

Beethoven and Bruckner: Yeol Eum Son, Liverpool Philharmonic – Andrew Manze, Philharmonic Hall – Liverpool

Yeol Eum Son is petite but propels a fantastic sound, sometime overwhelming the woodwind, out of the Steinway during the ‘Emperor’ concerto. The Bruckner (4th Symphony) similarly blasts, this time the brass; enough the compete with Storm Ciara that was blowing outside. Top performances.

Beethoven: Rasumovsky No3 and Op. 131 quartets, Elias String Quartet, Square Chapel – Halifax

Stunning performances

The Op131 in particular grabbed me. It is an astonishing work and got the performance it deserved by the Elias.

Richard Hawley, The Met – Bury

Not for me

This one was a mistake because I don’t like his songs ‘acoustic’; give me screaming guitars and ‘yes’.

February ’20

Celtic Connections: Fatoumata Diawara, Tramway – Glasgow

A flabbergasting performance from Fatou and undiminishing energy as she got everyone dancing at the end, including the front row on the stage. A great rock star.


Celtic Connections: VILDÁ, Tramway – Glasgow

Hildá Länsman, who has Sámi ancestors, and Viivi Maria Saarenkylä for a fantastic duo that seems to come from the ends of the earth (well, in a way they do). Länsman’s incredible vocals reach into the brain and fry it slightly.

Hunterian Art Gallery and Mackinstosh House, Glasgow University

Nothing like the inside

This recreation of Mackintosh’s house in Nottingham is stunning; particularly the bedroom. The art gallery was great because of its eclecticism. Loved the Whistlers.

Celtic Connections: Isobel Campbell, Mackintosh Church – Glasgow

This was a gig when the importance of an artist connecting with their audience was emphasised; for me Campbell had none. She appeared distracted, the scratch band were valiantly trying to keep with her but didn’t always succeed. Unfortunately we were stuck in a pew near the front.

Should’ve been good

Oscar Marzaroli, Street Level Gallery – Glasgow

Gone Glasgow

Marzaroli’s photos were quite brilliant and superbly curated.

Celtic Connections: Anaïs Mitchell and Bonny Light Horseman, Fruit Market – Glasgow

A mixture of Mitchell’s earlier stuff and her new album as part of Bonny Light Horseman. Great musicianship and connection to audience.

Bonny brilliant

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum – Glasgow

Gothic building and weather

This great ‘monstrosity’ was a fascinating gallery as it was just chock full of stuff including Dali’s stunning Christ of Saint John of the Cross.

Celtic Connections: Nitin Sawnhey, Fruit Market – Glasgow

Fabulous reconstruction

Stunning performance of Prophecy particularly Nikki Wells’ vocals. Ear-singing!

Everyday Racism – Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow

Karen Gordon’s fascinating collection of ‘everyday racism’

Each photo has an explanation; for the above: ‘Jawad says people are friendly to him, but only when they realise he’s Irish, and not a practising Muslim, do they really open up.’ The ‘culture war’ is hotting up in the UK (and no doubt elsewhere) as white privilege pushes back at the gains made, usually by denying the racism in the first place.

Roberto Fonseca, Yesun
Beethoven: Symphonies, Gewandhaus Orch – Chailly

The Warehouse, Rob Hart
The Whisper Man, Alex North
The Sound of the City, Charlie Gillett
The Silent Companions, Laura Purcell

January ’20

Corinna Boylan and Andrew Quartermain – The Venue, Leeds

Varied programme

I enjoyed the mix of Debussy, Beethoven and Schumann but neither Boylan nor Quartermain could quite match Kauer and Rhind of a couple of weeks back. Well worth hearing though.

Britten Sinfonia, Town Hall – Leeds

Leader, Thomas Gould

An eclectic mix of Bach, Shostakovich and Pärt, couldn’t help feeling a little low key as only the Russian had any grit. Elegant playing throughout the Pärt’s Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten was suitably chilling.

Ecstatic Dances, Manchester Collective, The Crypt – Leeds

Paul Høxbro

Although the gig was programmed to include Warlock’s Capriol Suite and Ades’ Arcadiana, the Manchester Collective don’t do ordinary. So we were regaled with a mash-up of new (Ades) and very old: Trad. Ancient Songs and Dances from England, Scotland, and Denmark. Excellent stuff.

Mike Ferris, The Live Room – Saltaire

Blasting soul

This was a great blast of rocking soul to start the new year at the Live Room. Could’ve done without the pseudo religious stuff (audience as community) toward the end but that’s probably just me. Great band and Ferris was a superb front man.

Sophie Kauer & Alison Rhind, The Venue, Leeds

More than precocious

When some geezer shouted ‘Bravo’ halfway through Shostakovich’s cello sonata the smile evident on Kauer’s face in the photo above burst out. She is an exceptional cellist, even at only 18; accomplished accompanist Alison Rhind vouched for that. It was a good programme with miniatures from Francoeur, Webern (great Drei Kleine Stucke) , Schumann and Poulenc adorning the main event.

West, Carys Davies
Infinite Detail, Tim Maughan

Songs of Our Native Daughters, Our Native Daughters
DJ Dolores: Recife 19
Vilda, Wildprint
Roberto Fonseca, Yesun
Nitin Sawhney, Prophecy

December ’19

Van Gogh The Immersive Experience, York St. Mary’s

CGI infects art world

There’s a painting called ‘Still Life’ which has been CGI-ed to move: What. Is. The. Point? I couldn’t see a link between the intermittent commentary and the images but maybe I’d lost interest by then.

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band, The Live Room – Saltaire

No difficult second gig

If a band blows you away the first time you see them there’s a danger they won’t repeat the feat as you know what to expect. No danger with this sensational band, with added John Spiers since I saw them in July. Truly great band – gigs of the year!

Lanny, Max Porter
The Cut-Out Girl, Bart van Es – brilliant biography of a Jewish child in Holland during the war and after.
Electric Eden, Rob Young
Feral, George Monbiot
The Elm Witch, Tana French

Laura Cannell, The Sky Untuned
Daniel Pioro, Dust
Moor Mother, Analog Fluids of Sonic Black Holes

November ’19

Orchestra of Opera North – Edwards, Town Hall – Leeds

Cargill, Edwards and Purvis do Bartok

A massive orchestra for both Janacek’s Sinfonietta and Bartok’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle is enough to blow the wax out of your ears. Excellent performances, though Cargill was sometimes swamped by the orchestra.

The Centre is Everywhere, Manchester Collective, Town Hall – Leeds

Doing it different

I’m not sure anyone who thought they were going to get the whole of Vivalidi’s Four Seasons thought, but interspersing four movements from the warhorse with Ligeti’s Metamorphoses quartet and sung Bach chorales was certainly different. It was also sensationally good. Part two was traditional, a marvellous new piece by Edmund Finnis, which gave the concert its title, and an arrangement for seven strings of Strauss’ Metamorphosen that sounded even more suitably astringent than the original. Great gig.

The Practice of Love, Jenny Hval, Bates Mill – Huddersfield

Left field as it should be

The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival offers stuff that’s difficult to hear most times as the music usually fits only one category: uncategorisable. Although Hval’s new album, The Practice of Love, is more mainstream than her earlier stuff, this show more than doubled its short length with bizarre, daft, funny and silly theatrics. Occasionally the show soared; sometimes it did not. Great stuff.

Lady Maisery, The Live Room – Saltaire

Don’t need no men

Loved this band’s attitude: they obviously have taken it from the song ‘Lady Mary’ (sometimes Maisery) who is haughty toward men who try to bring them down a peg. Fabulous musicianship and harmonious singing.

Dustbowl Revival, The Live Room – Saltaire

Rocking the crusties

It’s rare to have a dance area at The Live Room and it is a tribute to Dustbowl Revival that they a reasonable amount of the predominantly oldish audience on their feet. Great band.

Native Tongue, Suzette Haden Elgin

October ’19

Poor Nameless Boy, The Live Room – Saltaire

Songs based on stories

Laidback Canucks gently told us stories and then sang to songs they inspired. Some lovely electric guitar work.

Lauren van der Heijden, BBC Philharmonic – Joana Carneiro, Town Hall – Leeds

Neuroses in music

As a Jew forced to convert to Catholicism for his career, it’s not surprisingly that Mahler was mentally conflicted. His 5th Symphony seems a battle between the forces of order and disintegration; the Adagietto excepted. Fantastic performance, Carneiro drew fabulous playing, particularly from the brass. The concert was a first for me in that it combined females in the roles of soloist and conductor and composer. Anna Clyne’s Masquerade was a colourful opener and van der Heijden sparkled in Saint-Saens.

Catrin Finch and Seikou Keita, The Live Room – Saltaire


Great to see ‘world’ roots at The Live Room; recent winners of BBC Folk Awards fusion category. Much as I loved the sound it was a bit monochrome for a whole gig.

Arcade, The Live Room – Saltaire

But I don’t like ’80s pop

The Live Room is essentially a ‘roots music’ gig and as Heidi Talbot is a renowned folk artist is was a bit bemusing to find Arcade is an incarnation, with Adam Holmes, were they channel their love of ’80s pop. Best song: cover of ‘I’m on Fire’.

Halle Orchestra – Andrew Manze, Jame Ehnes, Leeds Town Hall

Not the simple patriot he might appear

Although Ehnes played Bruch’s warhorse well, the highlight was Elgar’s first. He epitomise, for some, misty-eyed patriotism but it’s clear that after the ‘big tune’ flowers beautifully in the finale it all crumbles to dust afterwards.

William Blake, Tate Britain – London

The Ancient of Days

I don’t know why but I’ve always liked Blake. After experiencing this excellent exhibition I still don’t know why. Not that that matters. I had that not uncommon experience of finding a favourite piece (above) was actually not much bigger than a postcard!

Manu Delago, Circadian
Rowan Rheingans, The Lines We Draw Together
The Small Glories, The Small Glories
Donnacha Dennehey, The Hunger
Debussy: Les Trois Sonates
Saint-Saëns: Piano Concertos Nos 2, 5 & Piano Works, Chamayou, National Orch of France – Krivine

Women and Power, Mary Beard
Searching for John Ford, Joseph McBride

September ’19

Sekiya Maki, The Venue – Leeds

Slight but powerful

Although Sekiya failed to lift the piano lid without help, her performances were powerful. The Chopin Nocturnes didn’t sing but she caught the drama of Beethoven’s last sonata, blasted out Liszt’s ‘La Campaniella’ and fully caught the essence of Gybaidulina’s ‘Chaconne’. Good concert.

The Lonesome Ace String Band, The Live Room – Saltaire

Astonishing playing

These Canucks apparently describe themselves as ‘journeymen musicians’ but they are extraordinary virtuosos. Great gig.

Fraser Anderson, The Live Room – Saltaire

Engaging musically and as a band

Not all the songs were strong but the playing always was.

The Overstory, Richard Powers – brilliant combination of trees and humanity

Christian Scott, The Emancipation Procrastination
The Lonesome Ace Stringband, When the Sun Comes Up
Fontaines DC, Dogrel
Black Midi, Schlagenheim
The Flaming Lips, King’s Mouth
Idles, Joy as an Act of Resistance

August ’19

3hattrio, The Live Room – Saltaire

From the desert

It’s difficult to characterise this band; as they say, they’ve created a new genre, ‘desert music’. I loved the drama of the songs and the electronic interventions. Great singing voices too. One of the best gigs of the year.

Whitby Folk Week

The best bit

After a couple of dire concerts it was looking bleak. However, the music making in the pubs made me feel I was in Ireland. Paul Sartin created ‘Living By the Sea’, featuring Faustus, a choir and narrator Matthew Crampton was excellent.

Homo Deus, Yuval Noah Harari – thought provoking
Music, Music, Music, Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Boys, Boys, Boys, Viv Albertine – honest and insightful
Semiosis, Sue Burke – fantastic ‘first contact’ novel

Caroline Shaw, Orange, Attacca Quartet

July ’19

Alvin Youngblood Hart and the Muscle Theory, The Live Room – Saltaire

As Mr Hart said, ‘I hope you’re not here for folk’.

What they did was rock; at least in the 2nd half. The first half didn’t grab me but in the end they were brilliant.

Mama’s Broke, The Live Room – Saltaire

Incredible virtuosity from Lisa the fiddle

They made up for what they lacked in audience rapport with stunning playing on a variety of instruments and gorgeous harmony.

Tao of Glass, Royal Exchange Theatre – Manchester

The repetitions of life

Phelim McDermott’s brilliant tribute to the role of Philip Glass in his life is as much a meditation on the latter as the former. Great performancers from McDermott, the puppeteers and the musicians. Pretty much a one-off.

The Color Purple musical, Hippodrome – Birmingham

Deserved curtain call

Whilst I wasn’t wholly won over by this episodic adaptation, the performances were brilliant. Interesting that the audience, with a higher proportion of BAME folk, was much more involved in the action than the usual middle class rabble.

Gigspanner Big Band, The Poly – Falmouth

Rocking folk jazz

Peter Knight’s Gigspanner, supplemented by Edgelarks to make it ‘big’, blazed with brilliance. Most tracks started folk and the middle section featured extended solos and duos (versus) which where utterly gripping. Great harmonica too from Philip Henry; can’t wait to see them again.

The Brother Brothers, The Live Room – Saltaire

Twin harmony

Good repartee and some excellent songs; particularly liked the cello playing.

Normal People, Sally Rooney

June ’19

Huddersfield Choral Society, St Paul’s – Huddersfield

Glorious harmony

This was a ‘scratch’ performance of two pieces by Eric Whitacre and masses by Vaughan Williams and Faure. Fabulous sound and performances.

A Ladder to the Sky, John Boyne – superb dissection of ambition
The Snakes
, Sadie Jones – brilliant critique of capitalism
1984, George Orwell
Native: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire, Akala – essential political history of racism
Aurora, Kim Stanley Robinson – gripping investigation into what it means to be human
Roboteer, Alex Lamb
The History of Science Fiction, Adam Roberts

The Comet is Coming, Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
Tchaikovsky: Symphony 6, BPO – K Petrenko
Third Coast Percussion, Perpetulum
New Order, Power, Corruption and Lies
Clinic, Wheeltappers and Shunters

May ’19

The Willows – The Live Room, Saltaire

Occasionally took off

Engaging but not immersive.

Rachel Yamagata, Trades Club – Hebden Bridge

Good connection

I like Rachel Yamagata a lot, she has a soulful voice and intense performance style. However, the sound was far too loud in such a small venue.

The Little Unsaid – The Live Room, Saltaire

Saying a lot

Great set, mostly from their yet-to-be-released album, including that rarity, a techno-roots song. Top stuff.

The Rite of Spring, Seeta Patel – Kala Sangam, Bradford



Two Rites in one year (cup runneth etc) and this was even better than the last. Riveting and elemental. What a score!

Golden State, Ben Winters
The Damned,
Nick Riddle
All the Colours of the Town,
 Liam McIlvanney
A Closed and Common Orbit,
Becky Chambers
The Big Sleep,
Raymond Chandler
The Dry
, Jane Harper
Chernobyl: History of a Tragedy, Serhii Plokhy
Beneath the World, the Sea, Chris Beckett – fantastic novel about the instability of the self

Rhiannon Giddens, There is no Other (with Francesco Turrisi)
Chemical Brothers, No Geography
Holly Herndon, Proto
Benyounes Quartet, Innovators
The Little Unsaid, Atomise
The National, I Am Easy to Find

April ’19

The Unthanks – Square Chapel, Halifax

This a cappella gig suffered from a lack of variety no matter how beautiful the voices are. And Kit Dowell’s and Aiden O’Rourke’s jazz-folk did not gel at all.

West Side Story – Royal Exchange, Manchester

1950s brought to life

Superb production of superb musical. Shit hot band.

Fatherland, Robert Harris
The Dark
 Circle, Linda Grant
Film Noir
 Prototypes, eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini
A Month in the Country, JL Carr

Zibuokle Martinaityte, In Search of Lost Beauty
Matthew Bourne, Nightports

March ’19

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Vasily Petrenko, Philharmonic Hall – Liverpool

Glorious singing

Although Beethoven’s 3rd rarely grabs me, Petrenko still made it interesting and he gets the best out of Rachmaninov’s Isle of the Dead. Best of all was Elgar’s Sea Pictures, with Kathryn Rudd in total control.

Shall Earth No More Inspire Thee, The Unthanks, Bronte Parsonage Museum – Haworth


The Unthanks and Emily Brontë are a good match and this short walk from their Parsonage, through the graveyard, onto the moors accompanied by song and reflection is a good way to engage with this place 200 years ago.

The Barbershop Chronicles, Inua Ellams, Royal Exchange – Manchester

Essential tails

Although the Royal Exchange’s ’round’ wasn’t ideal for me to see this, the accents were difficult to decipher when the actors’ backs were towards me, I still enjoyed these tales of black, male experience.

Track Dogs, The Live Room – Saltaire

Superb live band

Although I found their album ‘only’ ‘listenable’ (that’s damningly faint praise), live they were superb. Particularly enjoyed the Spanish influence; they live in Madrid but are American, English and Irish.

Mark Thomas: Check Up: Our NHS at 70, Home – Manchester

Thomas has the ability to nail the politics with a one-liner; “There are more types of dementia than there are UKIP councillors.” It’s a shame he, by default, preaches to the converted.

Martin Parr: Return to Manchester, Manchester Art Gallery


Parr is one of Britain’s great photographers of the working class. His affectionate eye often captures the plain daftness of life. The great show goes from the early ’70s start up to last year.

Unsung, Lisa Holdsworth, Unsung collective, Square Chapel – Halifax

Like Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls Holdsworth places four women from history: scientist (Lovelace), doctor (Jex-Blake), soldier (Bader) and writer (Dunbar) together. It’s an effective dramatisation of the patriarchal barriers these women had to overcome.

Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell
The Glass Room, Simon Mawer
Burnt Orange, Harriet Tyce
Walter Wanger Hollywood Independent, Matthew Bernstein

Sibelius: Symphony 1, Gothenburg Symphony – Santtu-Matias Rouvali

February ’19

Katya Kabanova, Opera North – Leeds

Burning with guilt

Stephanie Corley was excellent in the title role; indeed there wasn’t a weak link in the cast. Scene changes took too long and drained the drama somewhat but Sian Edwards ensured the orchestra was in top form.

The Rite of Spring – Phoenix Dance TheatreGianni Schicchi – Opera North, Leeds

Haitian rite

Jeanguy Saintus’ choreography for Stravinsky’s Rite channeled Haitian voodoo. I couldn’t follow it and one of the dancers was often out of synch but it was great nevertheless.

Melodic farce

Interesting double bill, coupling opera and ballet. Puccini’s farce is fine but crowned by the gorgeous ‘O mio babbino caro’ with Richard Burkhard as Schicchi and Tereza Gevorgyan as Lauretta. Excellent production and performances.

Opera North String Quartet – The Venue, Leeds

Brilliant performance of Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’.

Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things, Hepworth Gallery – Wakefield

Gob smacked

This is a fantastic exhibition of Odundo’s amazing er pots. They are exquisitely beautiful and Farshid Moussavi has curated it in a fascinating way, contextualising the the work with objects ranging from recent to 5000 years old.

Beyond Belief, Tmesis Theatre, Square Chapel – Halifax

Well titled

All the interesting ideas of how our relationship with AI is going to transform our lives plonked onto the stage.

Liverpool Philharmonic – Varga, Liverpool

Great afternoon programme with Kristóf Baráti playing Mozart’s ‘Turkish’ concerto, which followed Haydn’s 49th. The orchestra swelled in part two for Wagner’s Faust Overture and Hary Janos by Kodaly. Could have done without conductor Gilbert Varga’s ‘old man’ flirting with the first violin.

Fitzwilliam Quartet, Howard Assembly Rooms – Leeds

Great programme that highlighted Beethoven’s ‘Harp’ quartet and Shostakovich’s Octet. I’d never heard the latter but it was played so well they encored the second movement.

War and Peace, Lautten Compagney
Sharon Van Etten, Remind Me Tomorrow
Debussy, Dutilleux, Ravel: Quartets, Arcanto Qt

Dark Pines, Will Dean
Transcription, Kate Atkinson
Studying Ida, Sheila Skaff
Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine, Helen Fry
The Medusa Chronicles, Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds
XX, Angela Chadwick – quite brilliant
From a Low Quiet Sea, Donal Ryan
If Beale Street Could Talk, James Baldwin

January 2019

Schubert: String quartets 14 & 9, Chiaroscuro Quartet
Suzanne Farrin: Dolce la morte
Stravinsky: Petrushka, Mariisky Orch – Gergiev
Nneka, My Fairy Tales
The Willows, Through the Wild
Lisa O’Neill, Heard a Long Gone Song

Embers of War, Gareth L Powell
Defender, GX Todd

%d bloggers like this: