Saturday, 22 March 2014

Primark signs up to move units in Marketgate



Fashion retailer Primark has signed an agreement with the owners of Lancaster's Marketgate shopping centre, Allied (Lancaster) Ltd, for a 50,000 sq ft store - which will make it the biggest retail occupier in the city of Lancaster. The store will occupy the Market Hall, disused since the Market closed in September 2012, and also additional retail units to extend through to a frontage on the precinct's central Cornmarket.

The potential deal was under consideration back in 2012, when it was first reported in Virtual-Lancaster by John Freeman. (see report: Welcome to Pri-Market?). The City Council held the 99 year lease on the Market Hall until mid-2013 when it bought itself out of the contract for a disclosed sum, estimated to be in the region of £20 million. Planning permission was sought in November 2013 for the extensive modifications required to create a large 'anchor' retail unit, adding balance to a city centre potentially tilted by the planned Canal Corridor development at the further end, and it has been granted. The affected premises are empty or in the process of vacating and the £10 million rebuild is likely to begin soon to take advantage of the milder season.

Primark has operations in the UK, Spain, The Netherlands, Portugal, and Germany with over 250 cut-price fashion stores, expanding vigorously through the recession with annual revenue around £1 billion a year.

Last week the retail giant coincidentally announced that it will begin making long-term payments to the 580 workers (or their dependents) of Primark supplier, New Wave Bottoms, which occupied the second floor of the eight storey building, who died, or were injured as a result of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in April 2013. The payment will amount to some £5.5m, with around one third already distributed in early support to the workers or their families.

The company was prominent at the forefront of the response to the tragedy, being the first UK brand to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, in May 2013, committing to financing and implementing a joint fire and building safety programme.

The brand is owned by Associated British Foods, whose chief executive, George Weston, announced in June 2013: "We must get away from the days of the past where companies parade their ethics as a marketing tool.” His comments came as Primark saw sales jump an impressive 22% to £4.27 billion, with pre-tax profits up 44% to £514 million.

The company has been criticised in the UK for using unpaid Workfare labour. This is a national subsidy to large corporations in which unemployed people, under threat of losing their basic welfare benefits must work for them in unskilled roles unpaid for placements up to six months, when they are replaced by a fresh supply of unpaid labour and allocated to another corporation. This subsidy from the Benefits System to influential corporations gives them a competitive advantage over local businesses, who cannot transfer their payroll liability to the DWP. The placement must include a training element, such as habituation to conforming to the requirements of the beneficiary corporation.

Friday, 21 March 2014

'The Winders of Wyresdale' music symposium and ceilidh

The Winders of Wyresdale
by Andy Hornby
The music of the Winders of Wyresdale, which spans three centuries, will come under the spotlight at a Lancaster University symposium on Thursday 27 March when historians will examine the relationships between regional musical composition and performance and international trends in folk music.

Distinguished Visiting Professor Michael Beckerman, Professor of Music at New York University, together with colleagues and friends, will present a series of free public talks followed by discussion, based on the work of local musician Andy Hornby and his book 'The Winders of Wyresdale'.

The Winders, a local family from Wyresdale, were an important presence in the musical heritage of the region, from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century, and many of their songs and tunes survive in manuscripts.

The Winder collection represents the typical repertoire of a Northern village band between the late 1700s and the early 20th century and mainly comprise tunes to popular  dances  such as jigs, slip jigs and reels, There are also hornpipes in 3/2 and 4/4 time, minuets, cotillons, quadrilles and waltzes.

The talks will use the Winders as a case study and will also include material on bagpipe music in northern England and on Jewish folk composition during the Holocaust.

The symposium, entitled ‘The Winders of Wyreside Local Histories – International Destinies’ starts at 1pm at the FASS building on campus.

The day will be brought to a close with a concert of music from the Winder family songbook at the Gregson Centre in Lancaster at 7.30pm, featuring Northern Frisk, Folk to Folk, Howard Haigh and Celia Briar.

Both events are open to the public. For further information and to book places please go to: www.Lancaster.ac.uk/fass/history/event or email history@lancaster.ac.uk.

You can find out more about the Winders' music and Andy Hornby's book at  http://www.andyhornby.net/Winders.html.

Florence Nightingale Day celebrates women in maths and statistics.

Florence Nightingale,
nurse and statistician
1820 - 1910
The Florence Nightingale Day, showcasing women in maths ans statistics will take place on Thursday 3 April 2014, 9:30am - 3:30pm, at Lancaster University Management School.

Florence Nightingale, best remembered for her work as a nurse during the Crimean War, was also a pioneer in statistics, especially in the use of visualisation of statistical data and her work was profoundly influential in demonstrating the correlation between fatal infection rates and insanitary conditions and overcrowding over a range of situations. She is the chosen icon for Lancaster University’s continuing efforts to promote mathematics and statistics.

Aimed particularly at female students in year 12, but open to all students, the Florence Nightingale Day is part of Lancaster University’s continuing efforts to promote mathematics and statistics and the participation of women in those subjects.

The event, the second of its kind, is organised by Dr Nadia Mazza (n.mazza@lancaster.ac.uk), a lecturer at Lancaster University's Department of Mathematics and Statistics.

More than 60 students from the Morecambe Bay area and beyond are expected to attend, together with expert speakers from all over the country,

“The event will showcase women in mathematics, hear from men supportive of women mathematicians, display information about the possibilities offered by a degree in mathematics or statistics and give an opportunity for participants to compare their mathematical skills with their peers in other schools via a quiz,” said Dr Mazza.

These activities will take place in a lively atmosphere in which students and experienced mathematicians will be encouraged to mix with each other.

Further details and full programme are available from the website:
http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/fas/maths/events/?event_id=1312

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Missing cat, Aldcliffe: Have you seen Andy?

Update 20/3/14 - Andy has been found and is safe and well



Update 20/3/14 - Andy has been found and is safe and well

Have you seen Andy? He is a cat who has been missing from his home in Aldcliffe Road, Lancaster for a week now and his human housemates are asking if people would check their outbuildings to make sure he is not trapped anywhere.

If you have any news of Andy's whereabouts, please contact 01524 32763.

Unpaid carers to qualify for leisure center passport

Unpaid carers across Lancashire are being helped to get fit and healthy. Lancashire County Council, in partnership with district councils and local leisure trusts, has produced a 'Passport to Leisure' card specifically for carers.

The cards are available to anyone in Lancashire who looks after or provides help to someone with an illness or a disability who couldn’t manage on a day-to-day basis without that additional support.

The aim is to give carers' health and wellbeing a boost by offering them discounts on a wide range of leisure activities across the county.

Carers can use the card at a number of venues countywide to enjoy reduced admission charges for activities such as swimming, golf, racquet sports, gym, Zumba, exercise classes and much more.

Carers who are committed to the care of a sick or disabled person find that their opportunities for action are limited by the requirement to stay available at home, or out but at the physical pace that the person they care for can tolerate. Health studies show that the effect of caring on health and fitness is significant.

County Councillor Tony Martin, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: "Carers frequently ask us about leisure opportunities for themselves as well as the people they care for.

"The 'Passport to Leisure' card will help carers by providing exactly the sort of high-quality information they need to get the most out of their local leisure facilities.

"The card will also help carers to take short breaks, relax, make new friends and generally recharge their batteries."

Carers can register for a 'Passport to Leisure' card, free of charge, at their local leisure centre, which in our case is Salt Ayre. You will love it. You will need to bring proof of identity and your most recent Carer's Allowance award letter. You can register on the spot before your first session. It's most definitely worth a punt.  For more information tel: 01524 847540 or visit
http://www.lancaster.gov.uk/salt-ayre-sports-centre/

For more information about help for carers, call Carers Lancashire on 03456887113 or visit www.lancashire.gov.uk/carers.

Alternatively, phone Lancashire County Council's carers team on 0777 522 1258 or email carers.feedback@lancashire.gov.uk.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Local Cinema Round-Up for 19th to 27th March 2014 by Peter Clarke

For up to date local cinema links and day-by-day listings every week visit the Virtual-Lancaster Cinema Page. Read on for the weekly round-up, and reviews.

 A great deal of churn this period with a good helping of new releases.

Latest comedy releases include Muppets Most Wanted (U); A Long Way Down (15) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (15). Drama is represented with Labor Day (12A), Starred Up (18) and the action movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier (12A). Finally we have music with the release of Elton John: The Million Dollar Piano (12A).

We have lost the films Frozen; Mr. Peabody & Sherman and The Wolf on Wall Street. However a couple of fine movies have returned with further chances to see Philomena, The Railway Man and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.

For high culture there is The Royal Opera House: The Sleeping Beauty and NT Encore: War Horse. Finally for an alternative to the mainstream, try the excellent road movie Nebraska

Reviews

12 Years a Slave
Director: Steve McQueen
Category: 15
Cast Includes: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Sarah Paulson, Michael Fassbender
Set in the 1800s, New York black man Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is drugged, kidnapped and sold as a slave to a New Orleans Plantation. Here he works for slave-master Epps (Michael Fassbender) who is a sadist, dishing out sexual abuse. The film is based on an 1853 memoir by Solomon Northup, the script being co-written by Steve McQueen and John Ridley. This is one of the finest films about American Slavery. It is very visceral, with Northup trying to maintain dignity amidst the atmosphere of violence of the movie. Very well shot and splendidly acted, this is the must see film for 2014.

300: Rise of an Empire
Director: Noam Murro
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Sullivan Stapleton, Eva Green, Lena Headey, Rodrigo Santoro
The film is based on Frank Miller's graphic novel 'Xerxes' and the action adopts the visual style of the 2007 prequel '300'. The Persian forces led by Xerxes (Santoro) and Artemisia (Green) are opposed by the Greek General Themistokles (Stapleton). The film centres on a sea battle. The story is rather predictable, but there is plenty of blood, violence and CGI effects to keep the interest. If you liked the original you will enjoy this movie

Gravity
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Ryan Stone (Bullock) a medical engineer and seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) are on a shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Telescope. However during a routine space walk, disaster strikes as the shuttle is destroyed by impact from space debris and Stone tumbles free in space. The film follows Stone's plight as she battles to survive. Bullock gives a superlative performance in this spectacularly shot movie. However the interest of the film is not the impressive special effects but rather the exploration of human frailty in adversity.

Muppets Most Wanted
Director: James Bobin
Certificate: U
Cast includes: Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, Tina Fey, Eric Jacobson, Steve Whitmire
A long awaited sequel to 'The Muppets' in which the entire Muppet cast undertake a sell out world tour. However Constantine (a Kermit lookalike and major criminal) and his right hand man Dominic (Gervais) involve the Muppets in an international crime heist. The film is an upbeat Disney musical comedy that will appeal to all ages and generates plenty of laughs. An excellent film.

Non-Stop
Director: Jaume Collet-Serra
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Liam Neeson, Nate Parker, Julianne Moore
Bill Marks (Neeson), an alcoholic and chain smoking air marshall on a flight from New York to London, receives a series of text messages demanding he get the government to transfer a large sum of cash to an offshore account else a passenger will be killed every twenty minutes. Yet the offshore account is in Mark's own name, making him the prime suspect. This is an excellent and enjoyable suspense drama, complete with air turbulence, scared stewardesses and the inevitable deaths on the airplane.

Philomena
Director: Stephen Frears
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Judi Dench, Steve Coogan
A quaint and charming film based on the book 'The Lost Child of Philomena Lee' by Martin Sixsmith. Philomean (Dench) plays an Irish woman who had her baby taken from her for adoption in the USA whilst she was forced to live in a convent after becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Much later in life she enlists the help of Sixsmith to try to discover the whereabouts of her lost son. Coogan produced the film and co-wrote the screenplay. He plays Sixsmith, the journalist who has fallen out of favour. Both Dench and Coogan give superb performances in this funny and heartwarming if a little sentimental film. Well worth seeing.

Ride Along
Director: Tim Story
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Ice Cube, Bruce McGill, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo, Tika Sumpter
Ben (Hart) is a security guard who wants to marry his sweetheart Angela (Sumpter). Yet to do so he must convince Angela's brother James (Cube), a cop in Atlanta that he is worthy. Hence Ben gets to spend a day riding along on the brothers shift whilst James is trying to catch a notorious criminal. The plot is not very convincing, but that is no great distraction from the film which is a really a buddy cop movie giving Hart the situations for his stand up humour. This is a fun movie, enjoyable and entertaining which benefits from not taking itself too seriously.

The Book Thief
Director: Brian Percival
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Sophie Nelisse, Geoffrey Rush, Roger Allam, Emily Watson
The film is based in World War II Germany and tells the story of Liesel (Nelisse) a young girl sent to live with a foster family after family problems. She copes by stealing books to read and this enables her to become close with her foster father and with Max, a Jewish boy hiding in their basement. The film does not make any comments on the horrors of Nazi Germany, it simply provides a backdrop for what is essentially a love story, and during the film we have Death providing the narration. The acting is acceptable but the characters are not totally believable.

The Dallas Buyers Club
Director: Jean-Marc Vallée
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, Griffin Dunne, Jared Leto
The movie is set in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Texan electrician and part-time cowboy Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) is diagnosed as HIV positive and given 30 days to live. Ron finds there is no approved treatment for his condition and such is the hysteria over this disease he is ostracized by many in his circle of friends. He joins forces with a number of outcasts for form a buyers club in 1985 and undertakes a world wide search of unorthodox treatments for this condition. Potentially this could have been a depressing movie, but superb acting by McConaughey makes this an excellent film looking at the bigotry of this period. A strong film that must be seen.

The Grand Budapest Hotel
Director: Wes Anderson
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Saoirse Ronan, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Tony Revolori
An idiosyncratic movie telling the adventures of Gustav (Fiennes) the concierge at the Budapest hotel and his friend Zero Moustafa (Revolori). The film is full of madcap characters and is filmed in the classic Anderson style. Set in Europe between the wars, the film tells the story of the theft of a Renaissance painting and disputes over fortunes. The movie has a star-studded cast and much of the plot of interlocking stories is told in flashbacks. A fine comedy making this a must see movie.

The Railway Man
Director: Jonathan Teplitzky
Certificate: 15
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Colin Firth
The story of Army Officer Eric Lomax (Colin Firth), this film is based on Lomax's memoir. Lomax was a POW during world war II, tortured and brutalized whilst was forced to work on the Burma Railway. The film, set in 1980, tells of his meeting, courtship and subsequent marriage to Patti (Nicole Kidman). The background of Lomax is shown in flashbacks as Patti herself learns of his history from one of her husbands fellow POWs. Patti encourages Lomax to face his demons and return to the place of torture. Here he discovers an old Takashi Negase, who was one of his torturers. The acting of Kidman and Firth is excellent and the flashbacks of Lomax's experience as a POW are strong and harrowing. However the end of the film does not quite live up to the tension built up during the movie.

The Stag
Director: John Butler
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Andrew Scott, Michael Legge, Peter McDonald, Brian Boru Gleeson, Hugh O'Conor, Amy Huberman
Fionan (O'Conor) is due to marry Ruth (Huberman). He does not want a stag night but Ruth gets the best man Davin (Scott) to arrange a stag weekend with groom and assorted friends as they hike in Ireland. This is an inoffensive British comedy that comes up with a good selection of wacky situations, male bonding and predictable nudity. A run of the mill film that generates some laughs.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Lancaster Student awarded for malaria mapping methodology

Emanuele in Malawi
Research to help fight malaria in sub-Saharan Africa has won Lancaster University PhD student Emanuele Giorgi a $3000 prize at the International Biometric Society's world conference.

He is the European winner of the “Young Statistician’s Showcase” prize for his work for his work on malaria prevalence mapping. He will present the paper, selected from more than 30 entries, at the 2014 conference in Italy.

The other authors include Sanie Sesay and Dianne Terlouw from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Professor Peter Diggle from Lancaster Medical School.

Emanuele, studying for a PhD in Statistics and Epidemiology in Lancaster’s Faculty of Health and Medicine, said: “If in the long term we really want to eradicate malaria from sub-Sahara Africa we first need to intervene in these areas of high risk.

“For example by making use of our developed methodology we can produce continuous maps of malaria prevalence and identify hotspots of malaria, i.e. areas where the malaria burden is exceptionally high.

“The way that my research can help these people is by informing policy makers where urgent intervention is needed.”

As part of his research, Emanuele spent some months in Malawi where he worked at the Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme in Blantyre.

He said: “Some of my Malawian friends told me that Malawian people consider malaria in the same way as we consider flu in Europe. It's almost impossible for a Malawian not to contract malaria once in a life. Those who bear the greatest sufferings from malaria are children under 5 years and pregnant women because it's in these groups that malaria can have the most violent expressions.”

He said he was humbled by the poverty he encountered and the friendliness of the people.

Malawi is called the "warm heart of Africa" because people are indeed very friendly and they have never experienced a civil war. You can see children, most of them malnourished, smiling and whose favourite toy is a broken branch from a tree.

“Spending so much time there had a great impact on my professional development and, particularly, made me understand that "statistical units" in my data-sets are actually human beings. For these reasons I did my research with the greatest passion because I very well realized what impact it could have in a developing country such as Malawi.”

Williamson Park Woodland Walk leaflet opens up Fenham Carr

If you go down to the woods today.. take the new Williamson Park Woodland Walk leaflet!

Everyone is invited to come along to Williamson Park in Lancaster and explore its woodland with the help of a new Woodland Walk leaflet.

The free leaflet provides a fun way of exploring the Fenham Carr area of the park and spotting the variety of trees, wild flowers and creatures that live there. There are hints and tips of what you might find during your walk, depending on the season. The leaftet won't tell you what they are - but how to tell them apart.

The walk is less than a mile in length and takes about 30 minutes to complete. It follows the pathways around Fenham Carr taking in Fenham Wood, the reservoir and Bowland View.

The trail will take you on a journey through continuous belts of woodland and meadow-like glades that provide a rich habitat for woodland animals.

Discover the history of this corner of the park and how it has changed over the years.

The 'Woodland Walk' leaflet has been funded by the Forestry Commission and is available from the park’s gift shop and also to download from the right hand sidebar at  www.lancaster.gov.uk/williamsonpark

Monday, 17 March 2014

Dukes Young Actors present war drama with a difference

A century after the outbreak of World War One, what does war and conflict mean to young people today?

Find out at The Dukes from this Tuesday 18th to Saturday 22nd March when the Lancaster theatre stages a bold and thrilling new production – Your Country Needs You! (But I don’t need my country…).

Some of the fifty members of The Dukes Young Actors and Young Company presenting the production are the same age as many soldiers who served in the Great War. And during the preparations for the show, the 14 to 20-year-olds researched the war at Lancashire Infantry Museum, took part in a military drill and discovered what war is like nowadays from a Lancaster soldier who served in Afghanistan.

These experiences have fed back into the four short new plays, by awardwinning writers, which fuse together to produce Your Country Needs You! 

Laurence Wilson, who wrote the successful productions of The Unsociables and Metropolis for The Dukes, focuses his play on two young soldiers returning to Britain from Afghanistan and the different paths they take. It explores their experiences of war and the psychological impact of conflict.

The Combined Services Entertainment organisation, formerly ENSA, is at the heart of Daragh Carville’s play which follows two Lancashire cadets sent to Camp Bastion to entertain the troops.

Eddie Robson’s play takes a Monty Pythonesque look at the development of the arms race and the rules of war by focusing on children playing a game of war in a make believe playground.

And the fourth play looks at how civilians are affected by war by drawing on testimonials from a Gaza youth project.

Your Country Needs You! (But I don’t need my country…) is very much a contemporary take on war. It follows in the tradition of the previously successful productions of The Unsociables and Hamlet by The Dukes Young Actors and Young Company.

Performances, which are recommended for anyone aged 14 plus, will be in The Round at The Dukes and feature live music.


Director, Louie Ingham, said: “We want to produce theatre that’s exciting for young people to make and exciting for people of any age to watch. This production explores our place in the world and is our response to the first of five years of investigating World War One and what conflict means to young people now.”

Performances daily from 18 - 22 March 2014 at 7.30pm + Saturday 22 March matinee at 2pm.
Age guidance 14+
There will be a post show talk-back after the performance on Tuesday 18 March.
Ask at the Box Office to find out more about The Dukes Young Programme and workshops and events running alongside this show.  
Tickets £9 (£7 conc) from the Box Office: 01524 598500 or online at:
http://www.dukes-lancaster.org

Bowling buggies included at Regent Park

Paul James of EDF (front) presents the buggies to
Alan Tizard, Ian Thompson, Brian Cooke and Graham Buckley,
 representing Regent Park Crown Greeen Bowling Tuition Centre.

Wheelchair bowlers at Regent Park crown green bowls club have been given some new buggies which will help them practice and play. The group approached EDF Energy, which runs Heysham power stations, for a grant from its Sporting Legacy fund – set up post London Olympics to help local groups.

EDF have bought the two specially-designed ‘buggies’ which will help the bowlers get on to the greens. They are not self propelling so if you are using one and cannot walk safely on grass you will need to be pushed by somebody able-bodied. They are cushioned and light but balanced with rollbars to allow users to rock back and forth safely with freedom of upper body movement to facilitate the bowling action.

Brian Cooke, secretary at the centre, said: “The company has kindly given us £5000 which has allowed us to buy the new buggies specially designed to allow bowlers with disabilities to learn the sport.

“There is no other provision for people with disabilities or special educational needs with other bowls clubs,
We have been looking at how we can make our club even more inclusive for players and now having these two buggies means that we can open our tuition activities to even more people.

 “The buggies will be is an invaluable way to allow some people to also regain a degree of independence and to allow them to continue to play sport. Both can be used by adults and children alike and allow them to bowl safely.”

Ian Stewart, station director at Heysham 1 power station, said: “I am delighted that we can support this group which offers people with disabilities a chance to enjoy sport.

“I have been very impressed with the commitment of all involved at the bowls club to ensure everyone can get involved and I am delighted that we can support their efforts to open the club to people with disabilities.”

Regent Park crown green bowling tuition centre was set up seven years ago and offers coaching for adults and children, inclusive of special needs. Members of the Regent Park Bowls club welcomed guests and VIPs to an open day at the park when the two buggies were displayed. In recognition of their unflagging commitment we refer you to their facebook page, and the picture series in which club Tuition Secretary and Coach Brian Cooke is unpacking and assembling the buggies for use. Respect.

New Community Roadwatch group launches

Although the campaign group Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe has wound up, a new group - Community Roadwtch - launches next month in it place, with an inaugural meeting on Wednesday 9th April  at Torrisholme Methodist Church.
 
Although the meeting is in Torrisholme, the group's foundrrs hope residents from all along the new controversial M6 link route, and from the Lancaster and Morecambe area, will come.
 
The provisional aims of the new group would be:
      -      To make sure the County Council sticks to its promises on traffic 

-      To assess the benefits of the road;

-      To develop sustainable transport solutions that will really work for the area

 

At this first meeting, they’re hoping that as many people as possible will volunteer to work with the new community group, in whatever way you can.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Review: Brecon Baroque at Live at LICA


 Brecon Baroque at Live at LICA
Thursday, 13 March 2014
in the Great Hall, Lancaster University

Reviewed by Henry Prince

Those who had googled this ensemble in advance will have had a growing excitement as the hour approached for the commencement of Thursday’s Live at LICA concert. There have been a number of very good chamber music groups on the programme this season but this small Baroque orchestra, modelled on the one in 18th century Leipzig directed by J S Bach himself, seemed to promise to be the icing on the cake.

Possibly others in the audience shared my belief that the concert would include at least some works by Bach, Telemann, Purcell or Handel and would not be confined to the advertised Vivaldi, but we were wrong. Just a touch nervously, we heard ourselves being congratulated from the stage for having been “brave” to attend an all-Vivaldi evening.

We soon agreed that the programme choice was not scary at all but in fact wonderful. Nine superb Vivaldi violin concertos played by nine excellent musicians! The audience loved it!
Brecon Baroque

Led by its founder Rachel Podger, the Brecon Baroque ensemble, comprising four violins, 2 violas, cello, double bass and keyboard, chose works from the opus 3 set of 12 concertos known as L’estro armonico. By the close of the evening, we had become ‘experts’ on the popular ritornello form of the period and had begun to appreciate the boundlessly inventive skills of Vivaldi in being able to create such diverse musical textures from rhythms and tempi alone.

Nearly everyone these days is aware of the Red Priest’s set of concertos known as ‘The Four Seasons’. What is perhaps less well known is the fact that those pieces were all composed for solo violin and strings. In contrast, the opus 3 set contains equal numbers of concertos for solo violin, two violins and four violins, in some cases with added cello.

In the Great Hall, we were treated to a mixed selection of these. In every case, the instrumental combination was thrilling but the enjoyment generated by those concertos particularly scored for four violins with cello topped the bill. No doubt the visual clarity of the four interacting violinists added greatly to the pleasure of the performance. Not only could one hear the texture of the music, one could see it as well.

I was surprised that the balance of sound was not as good as it could have been. For some reason, the two violas, usually simply doubling a single ripieno part, played far too loudly whilst the keyboard continuo part was always underplayed, whether on harpsichord or organ. Why the harpsichord lid was left closed is anyone’s guess.

I especially enjoyed the four concertos in which the cello abandoned its traditional Baroque continuo role and was allowed to contribute to the concertino. Clearly the player herself also enjoyed her unfettered freedom.

So, no Leipzig Café Zimmerman experience but one instead somewhere in Venice. I never imagined I would ever confess that I was pleased not to have heard any Bach, but I was. By the time it was clear that there would be no further encore and the exit doors had opened, it seemed there had never been any other Baroque composer but Vivaldi, Vivaldi, Vivaldi. A great finish to a remarkable Live at LICA season of chamber music events.

H. Prince


Artists’ websites: http://www.percius.co.uk/clients/brecon-baroque
                              http://www.rachelpodger.com/

Concert Programme:
Vivaldi Concertos from L’estro armonico Op.3, Nos. 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11

Tickets were priced (web advance):  Adults £21.50, Concessions £18.50, Young person/student £7.50

Future musical events at Live at LICA: https://www.liveatlica.org/whats-on