Over three years since my most memorable “Spider-Milk-Man” run in aid of Carmela’s Stand Up to Muscular Dystrophy, it’s always nice to catch up with Carmela Chillery-Watson and her family. If I expressed then how much of an inspiration to us all Carmela is, agelessly, it was never said in a patronising manner simply because she was just six years old at the time, because she’s growing up, and surely proving my point…...
This week has seen Carmela in hospital for an operation, for a monitoring device to be implanted near her heart, and still, she comes up smiles! We all wish you the very best here at Devizine, Carmela, and of course, a very happy Christmas too, but the news Carmela plans to start helping one of our local care homes in the new year is outstanding.
Mum, Lucy explained, “on one of Carmela’s sad days a few weeks back, we discovered she was really keen to help put smiles on the elderly who can’t get outside to do sports and fun activities.”
“Carmela said she gets sad because her body won’t allow her to do lots of things she was once able to and she said her weak body is like the elderly. But having me in her life helps her to do lots of other fun stuff. So that’s why she felt she could help the elderly like I do for her.”
Carmela will be coaching bean bag boccia and fun hand sensory activities once a month after Christmas, and visited the home last week where she got to have a brief chat with one of the residents who was 99 years old. See what I mean now? She really is an inspiration to us all.
Well done, Carmela, and I just know you’re going to win their hearts!
Last August a team of fundraisers, led by Carmela’s mum, Lucy, cycled 66 miles through Wiltshire villages for Muscular Dystrophy UK, and plan to do it again in 2023. You can register your interest HERE, or you can donate to the Courageous Carmela fundraising HERE, or the Cure for Carmela HERE.
Opera Is Back! – The Elixir Of Love! – Go See This Show!
by Andy Fawthrop
We’ve said it before, and we feel no shame in saying it again, but we are incredibly lucky to have so many talented musical and dramatic companies on our doorstep. White Horse Opera (WHO) is but one of these, a company packed with plenty of both talent and enthusiasm. They’d previewed this week’s offering with a few early excerpts at their Spring Concert way back in March in Devizes Town Hall, which I also attended, but tonight’s dress rehearsal was a chance to see how the full operetta had panned out.…
And I have to say that it is a total and delightful success! Regular readers will know that I’m no expert on opera, but it’s one of the musical forms that I do happen to love. This particular 19th-century two-act comic opera production is a very accessible and easy-to-love piece, with some absolutely gorgeous music.
The plot, as is fairly usual in any comic opera, is somewhat ludicrous and unbelievable. Briefly – Nemorino, a poor peasant, is hopelessly in love with the beautiful Adina, a rich landowner. Aware of his adoration, she torments him with her indifference and allows herself to be courted by the recently-arrived Captain Belcore. Nemorino resorts to buying what he thinks is a love potion (in this case a cheap bottle of Bordeaux) from the shameless Dr. Dulcamara, but will it work to enable him to win her love? That’s the set-up in the first act.
Will everything be resolved in the second act?…..well, you’ll have to come and see the production to find out! Suffice to say that there are lots of twists and turns, deceptions, misunderstandings, a secret inheritance and plenty of improbabilities before everything is finally sorted out.
The opera, which essentially is about the triumph of sincerity over trickery and duplicity marks Matt Dauncey’s directorial debut, and he’s made a fine job of it. He’s introduced some nice visual comedy into the production, but without obscuring the essential comedy of Donizetti’s plot. It also features three big duets between the exciting lead tenor (Robert Felstead making his debut opera performance with WHO) and lead soprano (beautifully sung by the ever-reliable Lisa House). There are other star turns too from Jon Paget as the dashing Captain Belcore and Stephen Grimshaw as the duplicitous Doctor Dulcamara.
For regular opera lovers, this show is an absolute must, and for those wondering about whether to dip their toes into the shallow waters of opera, this would be a cracking one to start with. It’s very accessible – it’s sung in English and there are programme notes to guide you through the plot – but, more importantly it’s really well done. To say that WHO is an amateur opera company is to somewhat undersell itself – what they deliver is an extremely polished and professional performance. The opera itself is a delight, featuring lots of great songs and choruses, and it delivers a great night’s entertainment.
In summary the main reason you should go and see it is that it’s bloody good!
Tickets are still available for performances tonight (Wednesday), and for Friday and Saturday.
Future WHO events:
Sat 12th Nov 2022 Gilbert & Sullivan’s Ruddigore 7.30pm Hilperton Village Hall
Fri 25th Nov 2022 Top Of The Ops 7.30pm Holt United Reformed Church
Wed 14th Dec Christmas Concert 7.30pm St. Johns Church, Devizes
Another sign that things are slowly getting back to normal was the re-emergence on Friday night of the rarely-seen, but very talented, White Horse Opera with their first post-Covid presentation of the dodgily-titled show “Top Of The Ops” in the splendid surroundings of Devizes Town Hall. I think the title was meant to be a play on words involving the word “opera”, but never mind.
The two-hour-plus show featured excerpts from two comic operas – Donizetti’s “L’Elisir D’Amore” (the Elixir of Love) and Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Ruddigore”, together with several other pieces. The purpose in selecting these two particular operas was to highlight the fact that the company are planning to perform them both in full in 2022 – the Donizetti next October, and the G&S as a bookable touring production for local venues from Spring onwards.
But on Friday night (also reprised on Saturday night), the emphasis was on presenting a rich selection of items, and to get singing once more in front of a paying audience. We kicked off with guest tenor Carlos Alonso leading the charge into the Donizetti, with strong support from in-house principals Lisa House and Stephen Grimshaw. And before we reached the interval we had highlights from Mozart, Saint-Saens, Bizet, Gounod, and Borodin amongst others. Paula Boyagis and Barbara Gompels were the stand-out performers here.
The Town Hall is a splendid venue for this sort of music, with its high ceiling, great acoustics, and plush formal decoration. The only minor problem is the chandelier-based lighting, which makes it difficult to dim the lights in the audience whilst leaving the action on stage well-illuminated. But this is a tiny quibble when compared to the overall glory of the historic surroundings.
On to the second half, which took more of a sideways step in its selection of items. A particular highlight for me was Lewis Cowen’s rendition of Tom Lehrer’s “Masochism Tango”, which I discovered I was still nearly word-perfect on, but that’s just my particular perversion. We also had pieces from Flanders & Swann, Kismet, West Side Story, and Little Shop of Horrors. But the key pieces were from Gilbert & Sullivan’s fantastical comic opera “Ruddigore”, a particular favourite of mine. This featured some nice solos from Chrissie Higgs and Jess Phillips, but with strong and fulsome support from the whole company. Pianist Tony James, the sole musician, was impeccable in providing bright and upbeat accompaniment.
So by the end of the evening we were all au fait (and very well-acquainted!) with such musical technical terms as glissando (sliding from one note to another) and colatura (elaborate ornamentation). I’m no expert, and couldn’t carry a tune if you gave me a large bucket, but I know what I like when I hear it, and I definitely liked all of tonight’s performance. Not only did it sound good, but it was obvious that the performers were enjoying themselves, and the packed audience certainly appreciated it. Great night out & amazingly good value for a tenner!
Future WHO events:
18th December Fauré ‘s Requiem/ Christmas Concert7.30pm St John’s Church Devizes
Sat 8th Jan 2022 Top of the Ops 7.30pm West Lavington Village Hall
Spring 2022 Ruddigore 7.30pm Venues TBA
26th, 28th & 29th Oct 2022 L’elisir d’amore 7.30pm Lavington School
It’s not often that you’ll get me schlepping down to a Community Hall in the middle of nowhere (well, OK, Lavington) on a Saturday night for a dose of Light Opera, but…well…it seemed like a good warm-up for the BBC Last Night of the Proms which was due to be broadcast later that night – and so it proved to be.
Devizes Musical Theatre (DMT), in their wisdom, had chosen this slightly out-of-the-way place to perform “A Gallery of Rogues” as their 2021 production (their first since 2019 following Lockdown for most of last year). And thus, breezing my way past the various posters for WI and other local events, I found myself in this rather modern and well equipped hall.
The evening was in two parts – the first being a performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Trial By Jury”, a one act comic opera, and the second being the company performing a number of well known songs from many different musical shows.
“Trial by Jury” is a comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was first produced in 1875, at London’s Royalty Theatre, where it initially ran for 131 performances and was considered a hit. The story concerns a “breach of promise of marriage” lawsuit in which the judge and the legal system are the objects of light-hearted satire. As with most G&S operas, the plot of “Trial by Jury” is ludicrous, but the characters behave as if the events were perfectly reasonable. This narrative technique blunts some of the pointed barbs aimed at hypocrisy, especially of those in authority, and the sometimes base motives of supposedly respectable people and institutions. The success of “Trial by Jury” launched the famous series of 13 collaborative works between Gilbert and Sullivan that came to be known as the Savoy Operas.
In this production, using mostly modern dress, no scenery, and virtually no props, the guys and gals from DMT had nowhere to hide. Using only a simple piano accompaniment, it was down to the strength and quality of the voices only. And, after a slightly nervous start, they pretty well nailed it, with each singer growing in confidence as the play progressed. The call-and-response choruses, so beloved of G&S fans, were used to great effect and the whole production swung along with very few flaws. Of particular note were Naomi Ibbetson as The Plaintiff, and Tom Hazell as The Defendant. The supporting roles, especially the three bridesmaids, were also strongly played to great effect.
The second half consisted of a series of songs from various musicals including “Cats”, “Oliver” and “The Wizard of Oz”, culminating in a full-cast version of the Lockdown classic “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Not a dry eye in the house.
For me, it was a good evening of entertainment, and well worth the trip out to Lavington. And I’d say the rest of the audience agreed, as the applause was hard and long. However, I’m still mystified as to why a concert that clearly took a lot of time and effort to be produced was only to be given this single performance, and why at such an out-of-town venue. Surely more people would have gone to see DMT in action if this had used a more Devizes-central location?
A Gallery of Rogues, huh? Can’t be, they look okay to me; it’s always the quiet one. I’m just pleased to hear the Devizes Musical Theatre is back and coming to a Market Lavington Community Hall near you!
Presenting a complete performance of “Trial by Jury,” W.S Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan together witha collection of other ditties, performed by members of the cast, and directed by Laura Deacon and Susan Braunton.
On the 21st October 1965, Devizes Musical Theatre (formerly named ‘Devizes Light Operatic Society’) was born. A society committed to the arts, with an emphasis on fun, team work and a love for all things musical. Since, ‘DMT’ has grown into the talented, passionate and friendly society that it is today.
The society performs two full-scale productions each year with a number of concerts and showcases alongside these. In two sections; youth (‘DMT Footlights’) or adult, aged 8 or 80 they have something for you! On stage, behind the scenes or front of house alike, they are always keen to welcome new people.
Rehearsals began in a back garden and they’re now ready to bring you a large slice of G&S, followed by a pot pourri of songs. A light-hearted evening’s entertainment for all the family, on 11th September. Doors at 7:30pm, £7 payable on the door. Or email email@example.com to reserve your tickets.
First thing I’ve got to do this week is to congratulate Carmela Chillery-Watson, our seven-year-old local heroine, for being chosen by WellChild, the national charity for sick children as their inspirational child in her age category. The celebration finale came last week, with a ceremony in which Harry Duke of Sussex presented her the award, amidst a star-studded audience.
I couldn’t agree more with WellChild’s excellent choice, being personally inspired by Carmela. It’s been a little less than two years ago when Carmela’s mum Lucy sent a fundraising poster for me to share on Devizine, and after talking to her about her daughter’s rare form of muscular dystrophy I thought, you know what, I could do more than this to help. And yes, it ended in a warm August morning, delivering milk, as is my “real” job, dressed in my Spiderman onesie!
Lucy had suggested Carmela prefers Wonder Woman as a superhero, but the practicalities, not forgoing the visual impact of me in blue star-studded hot pants might be pushing it too far! So, Carmela joined me for a short stint, to deliver the bottles, dressed as Wonder Woman, and we raised approximately £1,500 for some specialist equipment to make her life somewhat easier.
The apt association with Wonder Woman stuck for Carmela, who’s various fundraising efforts caught the attention of Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot last year, and she kindly donated over £3,000. Inspired by the superhero, Carmela took on 300km in 30 days dressed as her hero, but it really did take it out of her with. There were days spent in pain and suffering with vertigo sickness, due to her spine curvatures and strain on her weak muscles.
A similar gauntlet is laid this year, the aim being a united 1,500 miles, the total it takes from Wiltshire to where they filmed Wonder Woman in Southern Italy. Commencing on the 1st September, the family hope to do it with the help of teams, raising money towards the medical research, in hope of giving effected children hope of a future or even just a treatment to slow the progression down. More information here.
And progress on a cure, or at least slowing the process down has recently had a breakthrough. INews Science & Environment Correspondent, Tom Bawden reported; “a cure for muscular dystrophy is on the horizon after gene editing experiments in mice completely eradicated the disease. Although far more research is needed to test the technique in humans the researchers are hopeful the process could one day be used in the NHS,” just last week.
Therefore, it’s been long overdue to catch up with the Chillery-Watson family, to congratulate them for the award, find out if the breakthrough treatment applies to Carmela’s rare strain of the disease, but mostly, to get the gossip on the celebrities she’s been meeting, making her something of a celeb now herself!
“I don’t think I ever met a celebrity until Carmela came along,” Lucy replied to my verbal probing about the renowned faces I see her pictured with. I suggested pictures posted on Carmela’s Facebook Page with Harry, she seemed to have her husband Darren pushed aside while displaying a flirty-face in his presence! “I’ve always got a flirty-face on!” she laughed, “we’ve met Harry once before, and he really is a great guy to chat to. He’s been patron of this sick child’s charity since 2007. He’s very passionate about it, I think because he gets it from his mum. Carmela was telling him her rude jokes!” she giggled.
I pointed out that Carmela has got so used to being in the spotlight. “She’s so blasé about it!” Lucy said, “it’s my fault because we wanted to get awareness out there, and it’s helped her confidence. She has gone through stages of low self-esteem, particularly now as she comes to terms with what her limitations are. So doing things like this makes her feel a little bit important. It boosts her self-esteem.”
Amanda Holden was one of Carmela’s chosen celebs to have turned up. “What a great chick she is,” Lucy responded, “so, so, one of us; she doesn’t mince her words, and made us feel at ease.” One I do know, Rolling Stone’s Ronnie Wood was there, she told me, but another was one my age made me ask my daughter for her identity, revealed to be pop star Anne-Marie, who sang live at the ceremony. Lucy praised her voice, but moved onto Ed Sheeran, claiming he was shy.
“Throughout lockdown,” we moved onto, “she did loads because she had to. With muscular dystrophy you can’t sit down all the time, because you get joint contractions, you get tight muscles and it’s irreversible, you have to keep that balance, and that’s very difficult.”
The gene therapy advances I wanted to mention. “The one we’re hopeful with is LCMD Research Foundation.” A family in the USA with the same condition to Carmela, but more severe. “They found some researchers in Spain willing to take on the gene therapy project specific for Carmela’s type, if they raise two million,” Lucy explained, stating they’ve already raised half in just six months. Lucy was unsure what strain the INews Science & Environment Correspondent reported on was specifically for, “but is also promising news.”
Somewhere in the conversation I doubted she would even remember me, the mere mortal milkman, now she’s rubbing shoulders with all these icons and celebs. But in the perfect finale to our chinwag, Carmela broke her bedtime procedure to disrupt the sombre and mature themes we were discussing, and bounded in to say hello. I confess, this part melted my heart, it’s been so long through lockdown since I’ve seen her, and was delighted to note, she knew me and remembered our shared work-shift almost two years ago.
Cheekily, I asked Carmela if she had a favourite celeb she met, and she confirmed they were Anne-Marie and Amanda Holden; mine too! Amanda in particular, I pointed out, being I had to inquire to who Anne-Marie was, truth be told. Intent on keeping me on my pegging, Carmela asked me, “have you heard Anne-Marie’s voice….” of which I was intending to reply a yes; now I have, when she added, “but, in real life?!” To which I can only confess she had this one over on me!
“Well,” Carmela added, “you could always come to the WellChild as our guest.” Lucy laughed; she’s invited a number of guests already. Well, every celeb needs their entourage.
But I did finish on my surprise she recalled me, being she’d met all these “important people, when all I’ve been doing is putting milk bottles down.” Carmela replied, while dancing, “it’s very important for you to put the milk bottles down.” And it’s responses like that which makes her such a special person, and her zest for life is truly inspiring for all ages; the very motive, I might plug, for me to channel efforts into this compilation album for Julia’s House, who I might add, provide support to Carmela with regular home visits.
I don’t know where the ingenious pub name The Chocolate Poodle came from, or why it had to sadly close, but it always sounds like it should be the name of an East End pub to me, so, for fun, here’s a preview today written in cockney rhyming slang, (although there will be no jellied eels) with translation in brackets so not to ganderflank the yokels!
Allwhite me ol China (mate)? Thee know those gorgeous lads with their gourmet Lilian Gish n jockey whips (fish n chips) slice (van) The Fiesty Fish, right? Well, usually they’re up at the ol’ Chocolate Poodle bath (pub) in West Lavington on a poet’s day (friday) evening, right?
Well ave a Butcher’s (look) at this;
This Saturday, June 19th, they’ll be driving a few yards up the Jack n Jill (hill), at a’ Becketts vineyard where you can try their fantastic sparkling Calvin (wine) while you get your laughing gear around yer tucker in the picturesque surroundings!
Pre-order from their website and join them from 11am-2.30pm. That sounds sugar (nice), innit?! Roll out the barrel.
Best way to locate these travelling fish n chips virtuosoes is to like their Facebook page.
A huge congratulations to Carmela and the Chillery-Watson family of Lavington, who knew nothing about the Points of Light awards until Carmela was rewarded with one this week. “We are absolutely bowled over with pure happiness at this surprise award,” mum Lucy said.
First established in the USA by President George Bush in 1990, UK Points of Light was developed in partnership with the US programme and launched at Downing Street in 2014. Since then, hundreds have been named Points of Light by the Prime Minister, highlighting an enormous array of innovative and inspirational volunteering across the length and breadth of Britain.
Points of Light are outstanding individual volunteers; people making a change in their community, and after her 300km challenge last year, we couldn’t think of anyone more suitable and deserving than our lovable Carmela.
Diagnosed at the age of three with L-CMD, a progressive muscle-wasting disease which weakens every muscle over time, Carmela is now six and has come a colossal way in raising awareness and funds for Muscular Dystrophy, and continues to be an inspiration to us all.
“Thank you, Boris,” Carmela said, “this is awesome news, I can’t believe it, it’s so amazing. Thank you so much.” Although the prime minister is just another celebrity notched on Carmela’s campaign trail, meeting with the likes of Beverly Knight, Frank Bruno, Jimmy Carr, and even Harry Duke of Sussex. Oh, and not forgetting last September when Wonder Woman actress, Gal Gadot, donated over £3K to Carmela’s fund. Face it, between Boris and Gal, I know which one I’d rather meet!
It’s a wonder, excuse the pun, if Carmela remembers the morning when she helped me on my milk round at all. I hope so, as it was a pleasure to meet her, Lucy and dad, Darren, and an occasion, I’ll always hold dear; even if I was a little tired and smelly!
CEO of Muscular Dystrophy UK Catherine Woodhead congratulated Carmela, and added, “everyone at MDUK is thrilled that Carmela’s outstanding fundraising efforts for the charity have been recognised by the Prime Minister. To date, Carmela and her family have raised nearly £50,000 for MDUK.” Which is simply, amazing. Well done Carmela.
Massive shout out to People Like Us member, Pip Phillips for getting his head shaved on Sunday in aid of Carmela’s Stand Up to Muscular Dystrophy. I told him he needs to join a ska band with his new skinhead look!
For those who don’t know Carmela, she has a very rare progressive muscle wasting disease which weakens all skeletal muscles, weakens the respiratory system and cardiac issues occur, and receives care from Julia’s House Children’s Hospice twice a week. You may recall the day I did my milk round in my Spiderman onesie August last year, when I was delighted Carmela came to help dressed as Wonder Woman.
Her love for Wonder Woman has become somewhat of a running theme in the fundraising effort, Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot recently donated over three thousand pounds when Carmela walked her own mini marathon in place of her father Darren, who was intending to run the London Marathon.
Superhero is apt though, to describe Carmela, she is a little fighter, determined with her physical exercise to stay as mobile and strong for as long as possible. More to the point though, I can vouch for her charm, you’ll never meet a more inspirational girl than six-year-old Carmela and everyone immediately warms to her natural magnetism.
The tables have turned for this venture though, as her determination is to put smiles on other’s faces this Christmas. November is a time when Carmela usually raises money for her cure campaign with Muscular Dystrophy UK. But she asked to help children have presents for Christmas, as she saw a TV programme about vulnerable families and wants to help.
So, Carmela will be taking part in a virtual 4-week physical challenge with http://www.superheroseries.co.uk called Winter Wonder Wheels, Race Around The World, and instead of asking for sponsorship she is asking for at least £5 unwrapped gifts for any aged child sent to her home address so they can take them to The Salvation Army, as one trip at the end of her event. Please privately message Carmela on her page for address. Precisely why we love Carmela! If you want to get involved, here is the Facebook event page.
Who watched our Carmela and family on the telebox on Wednesday? Surely the most heart-breaking section of a documentary about life in lockdown and those taking the highest risks or making the worst sacrifices.
As her Dad, Darren said while driving his van around, delivery samples to hospitals, and unable to hug his daughter, the funding for muscular dystrophy research has dried up. But here’s a way you can help from home, and even win yourself a grand. The blind card advert can be found on Carmela’s Facebook page. You can help fill this lottery up. Pick a number from 1-150, pay £10 per number, so can have more than one if you so wish. Pay via PayPal.me/carmelasfund
Once all the numbers are taken the winning number will be revealed and the winner receives £1000, Carmela gets £500 towards a safe garden access area to play. Yep, it is play, Carmela’s family say, but only in a form of. It is, in fact, crucial exercise for her at a time when swimming, and other activities have been restricted. It helps build her muscles, and rather than most of us, being for a healthier life and perhaps some abs for the opposite sex to swoon at, muscle building is essential for someone with a muscle-wasting disease. The lockdown is already taking its tow on Carmela’s health and wellbeing.
So, please, if you can, support this sweepstake and be in with a chance of winning. Thank you. x
It was a sunny afternoon when we arranged a photoshoot for our Spider-milk-man fundraiser last spring, so the playpark outside my house was an ideal location. Carmela played on the climbing frame while I got to know her mum, Lucy. It was sadly evident then how restricted her muscular dystrophy limited her ability to do what so many other children love to do, run and jump and play.
The lovable part to this six-year-old is her optimism and endearing personality, but the inspirational is her zest for life and determination to overcome. For Carmela’s family life is a constant fundraising campaign and together they strive to find new ways to promote it. If Muscular Dystrophy UK, like many other charities is feeling the effects of Covid-19, for the family personally it hasn’t been easy either. In a heart-melting film for Points West last month, we saw Carmela’s Dad Darren unable to see his daughter as he’s a key worker and communicating with sign-language with her through the garden’s patio doors.
Alongside the many fundraisers for ‘Carmela’s Stand Up To Muscular Dystrophy,’ and for MDUK in general, Darren was due to run the London Marathon on the 26th April for MDUK, but this event has now been rescheduled for October. MDUK needs our help now though, for those with a progressive muscle wasting disease, at high-risk from the pandemic and the usual systems for coping vastly restricted.
Save the UK’s Charities General fundraising has been hit very hard by COVID-19. Thousands of fundraising events have been cancelled and many charities, particularly smaller ones, are struggling to maintain services because of this huge reduction of income. This impacts all sectors of society from children to the elderly as well as the vital work in areas such as palliative care, serious diseases, mental health, housing support, food supplies and countless others that charities support.
Step in our six-year-old heroine, to replace the 26.2 miles of a Marathon, Carmela is going to attempt to do 26 laps of her therapy assault course LIVE via her Facebook page on 26th April at 2pm. Carmela would normally only do two to three laps. “This is going to be a very tough challenge,” Carmela’s mum Lucy explains, “we may have to take out certain high equipment during the challenge as she is not meant to over exert her exercises as damaging her muscles is permanent and won’t repair.”
Who thinks I’d make a good job replicating Clare Torry’s orgasmic vocal improvisation on Pink Floyd’s Great Gig in the Sky?! Don’t all jump at once; Purple Fish’s bassist Roger Marsh suggested tight trousers may help, I reckon a vice or at least some mole-grips would be more appropriate!
It can’t be an easy section to reproduce live, of an album that can’t be easy to reproduce live, yet local rock covers band Purple Fish have already done it, five times. Originally to celebrate Dark Side of the Moon’s 40th anniversary, they bring their tribute of this stunning and timeless album to the Market Lavington Community Hall on Saturday December 28th. Face it, the Quality Street tin will be filled with just empty wrappers by then, and you’d have had it with cold turkey sandwiches.
On another night, Purple Fish cover rock classics, a seamless five-piece, female-fronted function band, who cite Pink Floyd, Rush, Dream Theater, Doobie Brothers, and Heart as some of their influences. They also have a couple of side projects, namely this Pink Floyd tribute and amusingly titled Mick Jogger & The Stones Experience. Tricky Sunday quiz time, I’ll leave it up you to decide who that’s a tribute to!
Roger, who’s been Purple Fish’s bassist for the past four and a half years, informed me guest musicians and singers are pulled in to enhance the show, which includes all the sound effects from the album, plus a background projection which, although might not be possible for this gig, completes the effect usually. There may well be other Pink Floyd songs added in too, for your money’s worth!
The Great Gig in the Sky vocal then, is okay, no need to recruit me after all. Roger explained it’s performed by a trio of girls who were originally pupils of lead singer Adrienne’s, when she taught at their school. Tickets are £15, in aid of Alzheimer’s Support. Best of luck to them all with this project, one of my all-time favourite albums, and I’m sure you’ll agree no easy feat to replicate live…. already said that bit, didn’t I?!
For want of a feel-good story this stormy weekend, what a marvellous opportunity for the kids at MACS Theatre School, as a group performed a musical melody Halloween show on the main stage at Disneyland Paris this week. “Each and every one of them were absolutely fantastic, and a pleasure to take on the trip,” the Devizes theatre school announced.
A proud moment for the school, and a memory that’ll last a lifetime for the group. Twelve-year old Evie, who performed, said, “I had the best time with MACs last night, attending has given me the confidence I never knew I had.” Many other parents and children have expressed their delight at the chance. It’s an achievement proving what we’ve said before, “Mac’s Theatre School is refining local drama and putting Devizes on the map!”
With a high quality of standards, Mac’s aim is to “create and produce theatre that excites, entertains but more importantly inspires. Giving young people a chance to shine, to challenge themselves and exceed expectations,” and I think this news goes to show just that, if you’ll pardon the pun!
“We’re so incredibly proud of them,” said Emily Dodd, assistant director and Mini Mac coordinator, “the show was a huge success!” Held in anticipation since the wonderful “Our House” performance, I asked if she could give us a hint as to what might be next for MACs, or if it’s top secret?!
“We’re taking a break from big shows this year so we can spend time with our own little mini Mac! However, we will continue with our full membership groups, which run on a Wednesday and our mini Mac’s sessions on a Monday.” Membership fee is just £15 for weekly workshops. Weekly workshops run as Mini Macs (aged 5-10), First Stages Group (aged 11-13) or the Centre Stage group (aged 14-16.) Places are available, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
As for me, I’d risk a roller-coaster ride, but I’m not singing and dancing; no one needs to see that, even Mickey Mouse! I’m just wishing all those involved my very best wishes for the future. Well done to all!
Carmen is an opera in four acts by the French composer Georges Bizet, based on an original story by Prosper Merimee, first performed in 1875. It is written in the genre of opéra comique, with musical numbers separated by dialogue, and it shocked its early audiences with its breaking of social conventions. Nowadays it is one of the most popular, and frequently-performed, operas in the classical canon. And, of course, it features two very famous arias – the Habanera, and the Toreador Song.
It is set in southern Spain and tells the story of the downfall of Don José, a naïve soldier who is seduced by the wiles of the fiery gypsy Carmen. José abandons his childhood sweetheart and deserts from his military duties, yet loses Carmen’s love to the glamorous torero Escamillo, after which José kills her in a jealous rage. The depictions of proletarian life, immorality, and lawlessness, and the tragic death of the main character on stage, broke new ground in French opera and were highly controversial at the time.
So – what have White Horse Opera done with this absolute classic of an opera? First up they’ve kept it simple. There are just four backdrops to represent the four locations of the four acts, the costumes are modern and unfussy, and there are very few props. This allows the music, the singing and the acting to speak for itself. It’s also sung in English to keep it very accessible. Even the orchestra is a stripped-back unit of only seven musicians + conductor.
Stand-out performances came from all the leads – there are no weak links here – Paula Boyagis as Carmen, Phillip Borge as Don Jose, Jon Paget as Escamillo, Barbara Gompels as Micaela, Brian Brooks as Zuniga and Graham Billing as Morales. But the cast has strength in depth, with some fine support work from Jess Phillips, Bryony Cox, Lisa House, Stephen Grimshaw and Robin Lane. The only wooden thing on the stage (making a key contribution to Act 2) was one of the benches from The Vaults!
I enjoyed the production a lot. It had pace, passion and a great freshness. Why wouldn’t you? – the story involves love, smuggling, jealousy, seduction, and death! Definitely worth the trip out to Lavington School.
White Horse Opera will be performing Bizet’s Carmen at Lavington School Wed 30th Oct, Fri 1st & Sat 2nd Nov at 7.30pm.
The secret of Carmen’s success is its excitingly exotic setting in and around magical Seville, its devastatingly passionate story charting the downfall of two people pole-axed by love, and the ravishing music whose impact is both immediate and lasting.
Paula Boyagis plays the fiery, seductive gypsy Carmen, Don José is being played by Phillip Borge who is flying in specially from Gibraltar! Barbara Gompels plays Micaela, his childhood sweetheart. The dashing bullfighter Escamillo will be played by Jon Paget.
Fully staged sung in English with an excellent professional orchestra.
Do you like opera? What about “light” opera? With rather a lot of comedy thrown in? Good – because you’re really going to love this!
Last night I was privileged to attend the full dress rehearsal for “The Mikado” by the splendid White Horse Opera company. I was expecting something perhaps still a little rough round the edges, maybe the odd fluffed line, the occasional note or cue to be missed, but there was really none of that. The company had been rehearsing for months, had chosen their principals carefully, and were absolutely up for it.
Yet again – another gem in the entertainment crown of Devizes – we are so lucky to have these people doing this stuff!
This particular bit of nonsense, a “comic opera” in two acts, with music by Arthur Sullivan and words by W.S. Gilbert, their ninth of fourteen operatic collaboration, opened in March 1885, in London, where it ran at the Savoy Theatre for 672 performances, the second-longest run for any work of musical theatre, and one of the longest runs of any theatre piece up to that time. Since then it’s been translated into numerous languages, and is one of the most frequently played musical theatre pieces in history. The setting is Japan, an exotic locale far away from Britain, which allowed Gilbert to satirise British politics and institutions more freely by disguising them as Japanese. And the company has done an excellent job of the now-traditional exercise in updating the lyrics of some songs to reflect politics Britain in 2019. Particularly pointed was Ko-Ko’s (The Lord High Executioner’s) song about who he’d like to execute (“I’ve got a little list, and they’ll none of them be missed”).
It’s always difficult, and sometimes a little invidious, to pick out individual performances but I think it’s worth mentioning particularly Graham Billing, who delivered a hilariously nervous and dithering Ko-Ko, Charles Leeming as a wonderfully pompous and self-important Pooh-Bar (Lord High Everything Else), Lisa House as Yum-Yum, and the resilient Ian Diddams, playing The Mikado splendidly as a power-crazed modern dictator. But there were strong performances all round, from every member of the cast. It was so obvious that they were thoroughly enjoying what they do, delivering a top-notch production.
I’m not going to give the plot away, nor would I even attempt to summarise the complicated ins and outs leading to the hilarious denouement – suffice to say that the story is stuffed with disguises, mistaken identities, the fickleness of emotions, and the usual human drivers of fear and greed. The main characters ham it up splendidly, and deliver the songs with confidence and panache, squeezing every last drop of comedy out of the script.
Given that it’s performed in modern dress, sung in English, and is a laugh-a-minute, it’s completely accessible and enjoyable. So, even if you thought that you didn’t like “opera”, I can assure you that you are going to love this. Thoroughly entertaining stuff!
It’s going to be performed on Saturday 15th June at St Mary’s church at 7.30pm. Tickets are an absolute bargain at only a tenner, and are available via Ticketsource or the company’s website at https://whitehorseopera.co.uk/
Future productions by WHO include:
• Wednesday 30th Oct to Saturday 2nd November @ Lavington School – Bizet’s “Carmen”
• Tuesday 17th December – venue TBA – Christmas Concert
• Friday 20th March 2020 – venue TBA – Spring Concert
And if you’re interested in getting involved yourself, whether singing, playing or behind the scenes, just head over to their website. You can also support them by becoming a “Friend” of the company for £20 p.a. Remember – they are an amateur company, supported by volunteer efforts and by voluntary contributions from their supporters.
What’s all this about then, another invitation to “like” a Facebook page? I was glad to catch up with Claire Gilchrist yesterday, as she announced a new venture with other former People Like Us originator, Mark Povey…….
The fresh electro-acoustic duo dubbed, De Novo, promises to “create something frickin’ stratospheric!”
Bassist Mark left People Like Us after a sell-out New Year’s Eve gig at the Three Crowns, Devizes back in 2017, while Claire left towards the end of last year. Let’s not dwell on details, I wanted to press Claire for what we can expect from this silver lining, for does she see it as thus? “Quite,” Claire agreed, and informed me, “De Novo is Latin for New Beginning.”
But is De Novo something dreamed up on a whim, this Sunday afternoon in a beer garden? “No. Mark and I have been toying with the idea of a duo for a while now,” Claire explained, “but I was far from ready to sing again after last year.” The split from People Like Us left Claire disheartened, so we are pleased to hear she’s found her feet again, and that wonderfully punctual and expressive voice too, obviously.
But, what kind of music can we expect?
“We will be producing our own take on chart and album songs, old and new,” she explained.
How far do you plan to go back? I inquired, requesting them to give us some eighties!
“Foo’s,” Claire namedropped, “Beach Boys, Adele, Guns & Roses, The Police…” Then Erasure, The Human League, and Simple Minds were also cited.
A broad pop mix, “choosing your favourites?!” I asked.
“The One and Only!” came a knee-jerk reaction, I hope in jest! “Yes, but also songs that people won’t necessarily recognise.” The blurb on De Novo expresses: Anyone who knows either of us already will not be surprised to read that our duo will not be that of the ‘every day’ kind.
Claire agreed with my belief, that it’s fascinating to cover songs, when putting your own stamp on them. But what about originals, has the duo their own compositions up their sleeves?
“Yes, Mark and I are songwriters.”
“Yes.” Claire was keen to open up to a little of her history, “I had a record deal with an independent label when I was in my early twenties. My song-writing partner and I had songs that were put forward to artists in Nashville, at the time.” Yet she sings and plays by ear, “I always need an ‘actual’ musician to realise stuff properly.”
Mark and Claire are at “the very beginning of our musical journey together,” and we wish all the best for this promising duo, but are they ready?
“Not quite yet, we’re honing our act. We don’t want to go out and perform without being 100% happy and ready,” she explained, “but we’re hoping to pop up over the summer to give people a free taster and be gig-ready by September. Like flash-mob, out of the blue, street kinda stuff.”
“Buskers,” I jest, though Claire professed the importance of busking, informing me her idol KT Tunstall started as a busker. So, track their progress by giving the De Novo Facebook page your “like,” and we look forward to hearing from them soon.
The White Horse Opera’s Magic Flute, Reviewed by Andy Fawthrop
No – not a night with the Marx Brothers or a Queen concert, but an actual night at the opera! And in Devizes too – well it was Lavington School actually (no passport required) – to see the wonderful White Horse Opera’s 2018 production of Mozart’s most-loved opera The Magic Flute.
This two-act opera is a classic tale of good and evil, of love and loss, serpents, fairies, magical queens, spirits, sorcerers, castles, magic flutes and….well, you get the picture. Just the normal, classic stuff of your average opera.
And this production was bang on. Well sung, well acted and well (musically) played by a dedicated (and very talented) company of amateurs, this was an extremely enjoyable night. By singing in English, using modern dress and a minimalist set, the team made the story accessible and easy to follow for a non-opera buff like myself. Mozart’s music, as ever, is light and lyrical. The libretto is straight-forward, eschewing the usual long miserable and repetitive arias so favoured by some composers, so things move along quite briskly.
Particular shout-outs last night:
• to Matthew Bawden who, playing the lead role of Tamino, had only taken up and rehearsed the role within the last ten days or so when his predecessor had to drop out due to unforeseen circumstances. He sang and acted well, betraying no sign whatsoever of being short of practice;
• to Barbara Gompels, playing the Queen of the Night, (not for the first time in her career) for her pitch-perfect delivery of some of Mozart’s most demanding soprano parts;
• to Chrissie Higgs for not only shuffling around the stage playing a shambling old lady in one of the chorus parts (frighteningly convincing!) but for the fact that she directed the whole production;
But, to be honest, I didn’t spot any weak links at all – either in the cast or in the orchestra. A fine all-round production.
White Horse Opera is based in Devizes and was founded back in 1990. It produces both static and touring versions of many classic operas. It’s supported through sponsorship, fund-raising events and by ‘Friends’ of the Company. It’s all done on a voluntary, amateur basis – which makes it worthy of everyone’s support. It’s yet another jewel in Devizes’ crown.
This production has its last two performances tomorrow (Friday) and on Saturday, for which there are still just a few tickets left. So, if you haven’t already done so, make plans to get yourself out to Lavington and have yourself a great night out! And – reviewer’s tip here – get yourself one of the padded seats!