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!