Sunday June 28, 2015
Photo credit John Linton
The West End Festival, which celebrated its 20th anniversary this year, has come to an end for another year. It is estimated 125,000 people attended festival events between 5 and 28 June
The festival celebrated what has been the biggest and most enjoyed festival to-date with over 400 exhibitions, performances, talks, tours, workshops and screenings at over 80 west end venues. Many of the events are programmed free of charge to encourage a wider audience and it is estimated that *115,000 festival go-ers attended free events.
Creon Brock, music and theatre programmer for Oran Mor said, “This year’s West End Festival has been another great success at Oran Mor. We've had 38 shows across the festival, and a typically eclectic range of genres including theatre, tribute bands, folk, pop, indie, jazz, talks and poetry. The highlight of the festival at Oran Mor was our 4th annual All Dayer which took place last weekend and saw 14 Scottish bands, playing across 3 stages, all in the one building”.
Other festival highlights included the Kelpie Maquettes 'coming home' (which saw over 20,000 visit the G20 Heritage exhibition) and Mackintosh Queens Cross Summer Concert, ‘Feel the Spirit’, with globally renowned composer and conductor, John Rutter. For families, author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Nick Sharratt brought the Gruffalo to the festival, giving children the unique opportunity to meet the literary character.
Festival director, Michael Dale said: “Participants from all over the world brought events to the festival including those from Japan, Serbia, India, Russia, Germany and the USA. From the mobbed streets of Byres Road on Festival Sunday to the packed out Kelvingrove bandstand finale, we’re very pleased with WEF 2015!”
This year, the festival has been working with Yelp Glasgow, the online crowd-source review company. Yelp helped recruit over 30 citizen reporters; they attended events, wrote reviews and posted them on the dedicated WEF Yelp page. Glasgow’s blogger community also got involved on a bigger scale this year helping engage more visitors and bring them closer to the festival experience.
The website also reached record activity during the festival with 200,000 page views since 5 June and nearly 16,000 unique visitors to the website on parade day alone.
The festival would not be possible without support from key funders including the National Lottery, Glasgow City Council, Glasgow Arts and Scottish Book Trust, in addition to all local businesses and participants who contribute tremendous effort.
Festival chairman, Liz Scobie, finished, “This year has been the most fantastic and energised festival yet and I would like to thank everyone involved including funders, visitors, participants and the local community. We're already looking forward to our 21st birthday celebrations next year. In the meantime, we're taking a short break prior to launching our second winter event at the end of 2015, The Electric Gardens!”
Friday June 26, 2015
Oran Mor’s “A Play, A Pie and A Pint” is a hugely successful lunchtime theatre initiative where visitors – you guessed it – have the chance to see an adaptation of a classic play while enjoying a pie and a pint (or glass of wine or soft drink if you are so inclined). It’s great to see the event continue as part of the West End Festival with its Summer Season of Classic Cuts. This week the feature piece was Harman Melville’s ‘Moby Dick’ which I had the pleasure of seeing yesterday afternoon.
Arriving ten minutes before the performance started, it was already difficult to find a seat among the 60 or so other people there where I could enjoy my pie (meat and vegetarian options available) so my first observation would be to get there early! The performance space consisted of a small runway and stage behind it making for a very intimate-feeling performance no matter where you were sat. As the lights dimmed the three performers who played all of the characters marched in from the rear, singing an old sea shanty and even slipped in a sly nod to Scotland during it. This was met with more than a few chuckles from the crowd.
The three actors regaled the captivated audience (myself included) with the tale of the white whale and one captain’s insatiable need for revenge against it. All three of them gave powerful performances using very subtle, if any, sound effects and basic props. The transition between narrative and performance was very slick and worked well as part of the 45 minute piece. Despite watching captain Ahab descend further into his destructive obsession with Moby Dick, there were a few light hearted moments which were weaved skilfully into the performance keeping the experience not too intense for a lunch time event.
Moby Dick was incredibly enjoyable to watch at Oran Mor. Great setting, great cast, great play and great pie (although I could have eaten another!) I’m a convert to “A Play, A Pie and A Pint” and will be back to check out whatever takes centre stage next!
Moby Dick will be performed again today (26th June) and tomorrow (27th June) with tickets available online or at the door of Oran Mor.
Thursday June 25, 2015
Little Bat productions presents: Speaking in Tongues - the story of nine interwoven lives. It deals with the right and wrongs of emotional conduct, of contracts broken between intimates, bonds forged between strangers and the darker aspects of human nature.
Sonja & Leon and Pete & Jane are all happily married. Or so they say. But one night Sonja meets Pete in a bar – they go back to a hotel room. Leon meets Jane in a bar – they go back to a hotel room. Is what happens tragic or inevitable? How well do your really know the one you love?
A woman disappears. But who was the last one to see her alive? Her husband? Her client? Or the man who finds her shoe in his car? Speaking in Tongues takes you on a journey through a web of deceit, love, lies and death to answer the question ‘Do you truly know the one you love?’
The production company Little Bat Bat is the creation of Meli Bach in collaboration with Simon McCay and Una McDade.
“Little Bat grew out of the need / desire to DO something and not just sit around waiting for someone else to cast us in great roles. By taking control of ‘making it happen’ we get to cast ourselves and choose projects that challenge us. When looking for material we wanted stuff that intrigued and captivated us. When we first read Speaking in Tongues we all thought ‘how are we going to do this?’ That’s all part of the challenge.
The ability of this play to capture the imagination, to keep people debating and asking questions, is one of the reasons we chose it. It is brilliant writing and technically quite difficult with simultaneous scenes and overlapping dialogue.”
- Meli Bach
Review by Andrew Stewart:
"The recently renovated and elegant Webster’s theatre plays host to the fascinating production by Andrew Bovell, ‘Speaking In Tongues’.
Meli Bach, Simon McCav, Jessica Phillippi and James J Robson take centre stage in this play about adultery and betrayal. Opening in a sleazy hotel, we are introduced to the first four characters telling two similar stories at once. At first this method seems confusing however as the play progresses we see the reason for this clever approach. As the act continues we learn about the individual characters and their marriage woes. This initially required intense concentration pays off as the story progresses.
As the second half begins we are introduced to four more characters played by the same people. Although again mildly confusing, this device becomes compelling and creates a feeling of pain shared between the characters. This play is clever as it intertwines everyone’s story and brings about an interesting plot involving a detective, a woman councillor with self-esteem issues and a character who might have been a murderer. As the plot develops, the audience begin to see how each character connects with one another and with that allows for a unique story about relationships to be told.
During the play there were many different environments including a bar and a hotel. The clever use of props allowed the audience to feel as if they were in the set environment with the characters. Working with little space, credit is due to the creative ability in order to make this a success. With only four actors playing nine different characters the opening night of ‘Speaking In Tongues’ was certainly a hit at the Webster Theatre."
Tickets available online through Little Bat Productions for performances today (25th June) and tomorrow (26th June).
Monday June 22, 2015
Tomoe was initially drawn to Glasgow through it’s indie music scene and described herself as captivated when she heard “Biggest Bluest Hi-fi”, the debut LP from indie pop band Camera Obscura in 2001 stating “It changed my life”. In 2005 Tomoe got a student visa and came to Glasgow, still pursuing the musical scene and going to a lot of gigs during her year of residence.
Not an arts student by trade, Tomoe picked up Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver (design software packages) while in Japan and first began making stop animation which can be seen here. From 2012 she fused this style of art with her love of Glasgow to create stunningly intricate paper-cuts of Glasgow areas and buildings.
Tomoe commented “I have been visiting Glasgow once a year since 2006. I always miss it when I leave and love the local atmosphere. There is a smell about Glasgow, (not a bad one) which I always get at the airport and when walking through the streets which cannot be described by words. It makes me happy to be back and I want Glaswegians to know that I love Glasgow”
Sunday June 21, 2015
I sing. I love singing. Ella Fitzgerald said that the only thing better than singing was more singing. We can all do it and should do more of it simply because it makes us happy. I have sung previously for Her Maj and the Queen of Denmark. I've sung in the White House for a US President; in Hong Kong for the last Governor-General; in Ottawa for Canada's parliament and Prime Minister. Singing has taken me to the Sydney Opera House and war-torn Jerusalem, and next year, hopefully, will take me to China.
On Saturday, 27th June, I'll pass a glorious Saturday night with the RSNO Chorus singing Durufle’s Requiem in St Mary's Cathedral on Great Western Road, and I hope you'll be able to join us. You won't be disappointed. Religious choral music can deliver unique spiritual beauty far beyond earthly prejudices.
Durufle's Requiem emerged from the embittering stresses and tensions of Nazi occupied Paris in the early 1940s. It was commissioned by the collaborating Vichy government. But its nine short movements were only completed three years after liberation as Paris made peace with itself to regain its place as the city of light and love.
The 100-strong chorus will be conducted by our recently appointed Musical Director, Gregory Batsleer, and accompanied by Steven McIntyre on the splendid St. Mary’s organ. The programme also provides a trio of beautiful motets by Anton Bruckner.
Whatever this wonderful concert delivers, it underscores Glasgow's prestigious legacy in choral singing. The RSNO Chorus evolved from the Glasgow Choral Union, formed in 1843 to sing the first full performance of Handel’s Messiah in Scotland. Almost 50 years passed before Scotland’s national orchestra was officially founded and chorus and orchestra still perform The Messiah every year on January 2nd.
Remember there are over 100 choral groups in Glasgow and, in this our 20th Festival, there are around 25 singing groups participating – virtually a whole festival in its own right. Glasgow Youth Choir conductor, Audrey McKirdy, ran a magnificent singing workshop for kids over the first WEF2015 weekend at Hillhead Library. That same weekend the City of Glasgow Chorus, directed by Graham Taylor, performed the Faure Requiem, alongside other choral classics, at Hyndland Parish Church.
The Mackintosh Choir, featuring John Rutter, performed to a standing room only audience on 14th June, and, over the past couple of weeks, we’ve enjoyed Gospel, Russian, Chamber, A Cappella, Barbershop and Evensong, as well as the Harry Ensemble from London ….. and still lots more to look forward to .... just as Ella said. The only thing better than singing is more singing.
RSNO Chorus performs Maurice Durufle's Requiem at St Mary's Cathedral, Great Western Road, Glasgow on Saturday June 27th.
Liz Scobie, Festival Chairman
Saturday June 20, 2015
Iain has dazzled audiences at many festivals and music venues around the UK with his multi-styled guitar playing from the Royal Concert Hall to the SECC. One reviewer even want as far as to say, “One of the best Guitarists I've ever seen, Iain combines an astonishing talent with a huge range of musical tastes - and a refreshing lack of self-importance”.
So head on down to CC Music tomorrow (21st June) for a special performance by an astonishingly talented guitarist featuring special guests. Supported by song writing brothers ‘King of Birds' and the soulful and majestic 'Chloe Marie'.
To see Iain perform his famous "Weejie Jig" click here.
Thursday June 18, 2015
The event was located in Wellington Church, providing a graceful and elegant atmosphere for the workshop.
Upon entry I sat down with a mixed crowd of young and old interested in honing their language techniques. Derek advised me that although my knowledge in Gaelic was minimal I would be able to gain something from this event. Titled ‘Second stage mutations in the dependant mood’ this presentation considered the use of verbs with handouts to go along.
A gentle step by step approach with audience participation ensured that no one could escape without getting involved. This technique allowed each person to tune their pronunciation in a warm and encouraging atmosphere. With word games and audience engagement this ensured a proactive approach into learning the fascinating language of Gaelic and within twenty minutes of the presentation I found myself speaking Gaelic. I believe that anyone with an interest in language studies or Gaelic would benefit from Derek’s approach.
With Derek’s passion for teaching language and unique style of delivery, I found myself not only enjoying the event but learning Gaelic in a short period of time and before I knew it the session was over. As the workshop concluded I was able to differentiate between verbs and speak various phrases of Gaelic, something that very morning I never thought would happen. After the workshop concluded I spoke to Derek and it was clear to me the passion he has for his art and I would encourage people of all levels to attend.
No stranger to the West End Festival, Derek has been providing workshops and presentations since 1999. As a language and accent specialist, his work with the WEF has a varied over the years. His first workshop discussed the difference between Scottish and English accents and continued the following year. In 2001 he discussed the Polish language and more recently in 2013 he discussed the language of Mandarin with simple conversation. In future WEF events he told me he is looking into discussing the ways in which politicians use language to cosy up to voters which is sure to be of interest to many.
If you didn’t get the chance to attend Gaelic: The Second Hour there will be another presentation at Wellington Church on the 23rd of June at 1:00pm (FREE ENTRY).
To find out more information and future workshops by Dereck here.
Thursday June 18, 2015
The torch song divas, Elaine C Smith and Christina Dunwoodie bring their newest show to the West End Festival where opera meets jazz for a witty take on classical operatic themes of love, loss and betrayal. The event is produced in collaboration with design director of Primavoce, Annette Gillies. Primavoce is a company spearheaded by artistic director Dunwoodie which uses music, opera, theatre, dance, visual arts and mixed media to bring opera classics to younger and more diverse audiences.
Christina began her career in opera as a singer, studying at the Opera School of the RSAMD in Barcelona. She has an international career as a soloist in opera (Scottish Opera and English National Opera in the UK), concert and oratorio and made her opera debut in Germany at the Eutiner Festspiele singing the role of Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello with the world famous Heldentenor, John Treleven.
Christina co-founded and was the Artistic Director of ‘Opera on a Shoestring’, which won awards for its productions of La Traviata. Many young singers sang their first major roles at Shoestring before going on to successful careers and this excitement attracted wonderful directors, designers and artists such as Terry Gilbert, Robert Love, Annette Gillies and John Taylor. Christina began directing with Edinburgh Grand Opera and a wealth of knowledge and experience in performance, stage craft, voice coaching, casting and directing allowed her to envisage radical new ways of making opera accessible to a wider and younger audience.
Christina “whose beautiful voice goes right to the heart” brings prestige and experience to this years’ festival in an exciting partnership with Elaine C Smtih.
Elaine Constance Smith is a Scottish actress and comedienne born in Glasgow and is best known for her role as Mary "Mary Doll" Nesbitt in the BBC sitcom Rab C. Nesbitt. She has appeared on numerous BBC dramas and is a star of the pantomime performing in Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White & The Seven Dwarves to name but a few!
Touring Scotland with her stand-up comedy shows, ‘Elaine with Attitude’ and ‘Hormonally Driven’, the basis for the highly successful TV series ‘Elaine’ for BBC Scotland came about. Smith also displayed her musical talents in these shows leading her to commonly be known as ‘Scotland’s First Lady of Comedy’.
Other stage performances have seen Elaine tour with the UK stage version of the hit film Calendar Girls, in addition to playing Susan Boyle in in the musical stage show “I Dreamed a Dream”.
On the pairing of a comedienne with an opera star Smith commented, “We're a really unusual double act and we've come up with this idea which we're calling Torch Song Divas. The idea is that we tell how women have been represented in song."
The show blending two distinct yet spectacularly talented performers is something which will have to be seen – and heard - to be believed!
Tickets are still available for their event “Torch Song Divas” which is showing on the 19th and 20th of June in Websters Theatre.
Tuesday June 16, 2015
The West End Festival plays host to a rare opportunity presented by the Kala Chethena Kathakali Company to see the elaborate 3-Dimensional Chutti make-up process that transforms the faces of the Kathakali (Indian dance-drama) actors. This is an amazing 500 year old traditional technique applied by the first and only female Chutti artist in the world - Kalamandalam Barbara Vijayakumar.
The display is followed by a bowl of delicious Indian curry with rice, prepared especially by one of the members of the Kathakali Company from Kerala, India
There is also the opportunity for an evening with Kathakali masters featuring chanting, songs, music and a rare opportunity to ask the artists questions. Kathakali means story–play and embraces drama, dance, music, visuals and ritual to create an exotic and visually powerful form of theatre.
Described as “spectacularly beautiful” by the Daily Telegraph, this rare gem of Indian theatre will be sure to add an exotic twist to your festival experience.
Tickets available for make-up demo, food and evening with Kathakali masters from The Scottish Mask and Puppet Centre
Saturday June 13, 2015
With eight awards in 3 years, including the recent British Country Music Award's (BMCA) for ‘Entertainer of the Year’ and 'Female Vocalist of the Year,’ Raintown are fast gaining the reputation as one of the hottest Country acts not only in the UK, but in Europe too.
They have a successful first album under their belts so it hopefully won’t be long until the second! Until then however, come witness a stripped back acoustic performance at CC Music on June 14th at 2pm supported by local blues duo ‘Elemental and Ayrshire singer/songwriter Scott Nicol.’