Friday, 21 November 2014

Review: Haffner Orchestra and Lancaster Singers

Haffner Orchestra and Lancaster Singers
Saturday, 15 November 2014
In the Great Hall, Lancaster University

Reviewed by Henry Prince

Was it a case of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ or was the opposite the problem? Did, in fact, the soup need more stirring and the chefs were a little too reluctant to risk stepping on each other’s toes?

Lancaster Singers with Marco Fanti
It was a first date for the Haffner Orchestra and the Lancaster Singers. Naturally, one could expect in the circumstance a certain reserve and because the two groups were given equal billing, as were their respective conductors, it was not clear at all who was in overall charge. This is possibly the best explanation for the orchestra’s under performance in the first half, in which they were being directed by the Lancaster Singers’ conductor Marco Fanti. I can imagine that he did not feel in a position to make too many demands on the Haffner whereas the orchestra’s own conductor Justin Doyle may not have been so tolerant.

The first half of the evening was given over entirely to Brahms choral works. There were certainly moments of beauty and the choir did a cracking job. But the orchestra seemed to wander aimlessly. It was as though they had rehearsed all the notes but precious little of the music itself.

The drum beat of fate in the Schicksalslied hammered through like a throbbing headache instead of an intimation of death and the first choral entry was simply drowned out by the orchestra. Moreover, the movement from Ein Deutsches Requiem was devoid of dynamics and lacked musical direction. The text may well be telling the story but the musical sounds must complement that endeavour. Just saying.

Fortunately, Schicksalslied was later rescued by a much improved balance between voices and orchestra and the lower strings pizzicato passage was quite delightful. The full-throated allegro then gave the orchestra the opportunity to show just how much work it had put in on mastering the notes.

What I really liked about the first half was the purring entry of the sopranos in Nänie. The exquisite piano of the human voice joining the orchestral timbre with which the Haffner audience regulars, including this patron, are so familiar. The beginning of a dialogue between two strangers getting to know one another. First moments are over in the blink of an eye, as was this one, but the memory of those middle register female voices remains vivid.

The second half of the concert was devoted wholly to Haydn’s Paukenmesse. For this work, the Lancaster Singers were augmented by a secure cast of soloists—Laurie Ashworth (soprano), Sarah Jillian Cox (mezzo), Christopher Steele (tenor) and David Rees-Jones (baritone)—who were on hand to play the role of concertino to the choir’s ripieno and the orchestra’s continuo.

Oddly, the soloists were positioned to the far left of the orchestra rather than centrally. This distance of 6 or 7 meters was possibly the cause of a lack of true musical connection between cellist and baritone in the que tollis section of the Gloria and was almost certainly the reason that the lower strings began to gain ground on the soloists at one point in the Benedictus.

Overall, the dynamic balance between orchestra and chorus was far better in the Haydn and the orchestra played as though they had a long, long history of accompanying choirs. In many sections, the sound was so polished that one had to remind oneself that these were not professional musicians.

The Lancaster Singers have recently announced the appointment of Tim Rathbone as their new Musical Director. He replaces Marco Fanti, who has resigned due to ill health. The Haffner is still looking for their next Musical Director. Deadline for applications is 10th December.

H. Prince

Haffner Orchestra’s website:
Lancaster Singers’ website:

Concert Programme:
Brahms: Nänie
Brahms: How lovely are thy dwellings
Brahms: Schicksalslied
Haydn: Paukenmesse

Tickets were priced:  Adults £13.50, Concessions £12.50, 18 and under free

Next Haffner Orchestra concert: Saturday, 14 February 2015, Great Hall, Lancaster University

Next Lancaster Singers concert: Tuesday, 16 December 2014, Ashton Memorial, Lancaster

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Lancaster city centre traffic changes to start soon

Vehicles displaying precinct permits parked in New Street at the second entrance to Lancaster Library.
Photo courtesy of Robert Wade

Traffic regulations are to be changed in Lancaster city centre to try to create a better and safer environment in the pedestrian zone for the benefit of people and trading.

The new regulations - introduced after a planned scheme was ditched earlier this year after concerns were raised by Blue Badge Holders - are being introduced by Lancashire County Council and aim to reduce traffic in the zone and strike a better balance between the need for vehicle access and the needs of pedestrians and cyclists.

They will come into force on Monday 1st December 2014 and mean:

• Goods vehicles are able to enter the zone for loading and unloading between midnight and 10am and from 5.00pm until midnight, but not during the busiest part of the day

• Cyclists are able to use Cheapside, the north section of Penny Street, Market Street and New Street in both directions between midnight and and from 5pm until midnight, but not during the busiest part of the day. This allows safer commuting for cyclists by providing alternatives to using the main roads when traffic is heaviest. There is no change to the existing arrangements for cyclists on Church Street and the southern pedestrianised section of Penny Street

• Blue Badge Holders can access part of the zone at all times via the junction of King Street and the upper stretch of Market Street or via upper Church Street, giving access to marked bays only on New Street Square, New Street and Church Street. However, Blue Badge Holders cannot access the rest of the zone i.e Market Square, the lower stretch of Market Street, Cheapside and Penny Street.

• The emergency services can access all parts of the zone at all times

• No other vehicular access is permitted unless Lancaster City Council grants a special dispensation

• The existing local permit systems including ‘Permit A’ are suspended

These changes to traffic management are being brought in using an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order (ETRO). The order will last for 18 months, during which the councils will monitor its effects and people and organisations will be able to give their views on how the changes are working.

The ‘experimental’ order means that the county council can, if necessary, make revisions to the way the order works during the first six months of the 18-month period.

To support the changes the city council has increased the number of disabled parking spaces in its city centre car parks.

County Councillor John Fillis, Lancashire County Council Cabinet member for highways and transport, said: "We want to improve the way traffic is managed to achieve a better environment and get the most out of this space which is vital to the daily functioning and economy of the city. Crucially we hope it will also make the city centre safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

"The experimental order will allow us to monitor how the changes to traffic management work in practice and make adjustments if necessary to improve the way they work.

"We'll work closely with the city council, businesses and local people throughout to achieve the best result for Lancaster."

Councillor Janice Hanson: new ETRO "striking a
good balance between the needs for
vehicle access and the interests of
pedestrians and cyclists."
"Lancaster’s pedestrian zone is at the heart of the city," says Councillor Janice Hanson, Lancaster City Council Cabinet member with responsibility for economic regeneration and planning, "and the setting for much city centre trading, commercial activity and host to many of the city’s cultural offerings.

"The ETRO is to see whether traffic can be better managed to create a more pleasant and safer environment for pedestrians and to the benefit of all who live, work and do business in this centre.

"It is all about striking a good balance between the needs for vehicle access and the interests of pedestrians and cyclists."

The introduction of the ETRO has been welcomed by both the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and the Lancaster Business Improvement District.

The new regulations will be enforced from the start while Lancashire County Council carries out work to change signs and road markings.

• To find out more please visit:

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

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

 This is proving to be a quiet period for films with the Reel and the Vue both showing a rather limited programme.

The only new release we have is the much awaited The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 (12A). Yet this weeks sees the loss of six films; Annabelle, Dracula Untold, Fury, Gone Girl, Horns and Nightcrawler.

There are two return, with a weekend showing of The Nut Job and a one day screening of A Walk among the Gravestones.

The big films of the moment are science fiction with Interstellar and the biopic Mr Turner. Also this period brings culture in the form of light hearted opera Royal Opera House Live: L'Elisir D'Amore and ballet with The Pharaoh's Daughter.

A film of note is the cult comedy Withnail & I being screened for one day at the Dukes.


A Walk Among The Tombstones
Director: Scott Frank
Certificate: 15
Cast Includes: Liam Neeson, Ruth Wilson, David Harbour, Robert Boyd Holbrook, Dan Stevens, Adam David Thompson, Brian Bradley
Set in 1999 and based on the tenth book in Lawrence Block's best selling crime series. Matt Scudder (Neeson) used to be an alcoholic police officer until a disastrous shootout caused him to give up both. Now he works as an unlicensed private eye and with some reluctance he agrees to help find the men who kidnapped and killed the wife of a drug trafficker (Stevens). Scudder discovers the kidnappers are serial killers and, helped by a homeless teenager (Bradley), who acts as his apprentice, he tracks them down. Neeson gives a strong performance in this atmospheric thriller. There are quite a few sub plots during the course of this movie as it builds to up a violent conclusion. A fine film.

Director: Christopher Nolan
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Matthew McConaughey, Casey Affleck, Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, Michael Caine.
The earth is facing environmental disaster. Dust storms are common and crops are failing. Cooper (McConaughey) a farmer, but formerly a top pilot, is recruited by Professor Brand (Caine), to fly a final mission taking a team of specialists through a newly discovered wormhole to find a planet in a far solar system that could be a new home for humanity. This is a big budget very grandiose film full of action and spectacular scenery as the crew search to see if there is a future for mankind. It is however a little low on humour and at times requires some suspension of disbelief but in all it is a great movie.

Mr Turner
Director: Mike Leigh
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Timothy Spall, Marion Bailey
A biographical dramatization of the life of English painter J. M. W Turner. The film starts when Turner is aged 51 and working in his London studio. It follows Turner through depressions following his father's death up until the painters own death in 1851 when he was living in Chelsea with his mistress Sophie Booth (Bailey). Spall gives a great performance as Turner, bringing out his humanity and eccentricity. A very enjoyable movie.

Director: Stiles White
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: Olivia Cooke, Douglas Smith, Daren Kagasoff, Shelly Hennig
Debbie (Hennig) confesses to playing with an Ouija board but she is murdered. Her friend Laine (Cooke) decides to investigate her death by using the Ouija board to contact Debbie's spirit and to this end she enlists the help of a group of friends. They hold a seance in Debbie's house. However, they inadvertently connect with a murderous spirit which starts to attack them. The whole is a competent horror film complete with ghosts, unexpected noises and frights for the viewer. Given the film was released just before Halloween, it merits a visit to the cinema.

The Drop
Director: Michael R. Roskam
Certificate: 15
Cast includes: James Gandolfini, Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, John Ortiz
Bob Saginowski (Hardy) works as bartender in his cousins Brooklyn bar. The bar operates as a 'drop' where criminal launder money and one night it is robbed. Bob is witness to the robbery and thus involved in the subsequent crime investigation by Detective Torres (Ortiz). However things turn out to be more complicated than they first seem. The movie is a solid crime thriller with a nice final twist based on the short story "Animal Rescue" by Dennis Lehane. A competent movie worth seeing.

The Imitation Game
Director: Morten Tyldum
Certificate: 12A
Cast Includes: Benedict Cumberbatch, Rory Kinnear, Keira Knightley
A protrayal of the life of computer genius Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) who masterminded the cracking of the German Enigma code in the second world war and continued to develop computer theory at Manchester University. The film opens in 1951 with a robbery taking place in Turing's house. Thence the film explores Turing's life by flashbacks to his schooling and his life in Bletchley Park. The acting in the film is excellent with Cumberbatch giving a particularly good performance. However the film rather backs away from Turing's homosexuality and his subsequent suicide after his persecution by the British Government.

The Maze Runner
Director: Wes Ball, Douglas Cumming
Certificate: 12A
Cast includes: Kaya Scodelario, Dylan O'Brien
Thomas (O' Brien) awakes with no memory to find himself trapped with dozens of other boys inside an enclosure with towering walls. He subsequently discovers this to be a gigantic maze. He integrates in the society of boys, becoming one of the runners, a sub group who try to map the maze and find a way out. Attacking the boys are Grievers which are giant spider like creatures who also inhabit the maze. Thomas has dreams about an organisation called W.C.K.D. and he must uncover his purpose and find a way to escape. The movie is a decent adaption of the best selling novel by James Dashner, the first in a trilogy. The acting is strong and the depiction of the maze and its grandeur is very impressive. The movie is aimed at young adults but it contains some violence and the whole has a rather joyless atmosphere. The ending was somewhat complicated, designed perhaps to pave the way for the forthcoming sequel.

Morecambe Train Station - Spruce Up Ahead?

Can you spare some time to help with an exciting new project to “Spruce Up” Morecambe Train Station?

Morecambe Council says over 200, 000 people use the station every year and now they're looking for  volunteers who are motivated to help make a difference in the community, in an effort make the station a more inviting gateway to the town.

You'll also need to be green fingered, or artistic (or both) or if have experience in gaining sponsorship and finding funding (or all three). If you think you fit the bill, then there's a meeting to discuss options for the station in the function room at Morecambe Super Bowl at 7.00pm - Tuesday 2nd December.

We doubt one of the options is tearing down the current station and extending the line back to the old station, which now houses The Platform, but you never know...

If you are interested in getting involved please go along to the meeting.

• For more information please contact David Croxall (Clerk to Morecambe Town Council) on 01524 422929 or email

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Lancaster man, 58, missing from home

Missing: Lancaster man John Pearson

Police are appealing for information about a 58-year-old man who is missing from home in Lancaster.

John Pearson was last seen at his home address on Crossdale Square on Tuesday 9th September.

He is described as white, around 5ft 7ins tall, slim build, with short wavy grey hair. He wears glasses and was last seen wearing a tweed jacket and trousers. He speaks with a South African accent. 

Officers believe he could still be in the Lancaster area but he is also believed to have links to Swindon.

Detective Inspector Phil Jones of Lancaster Police said: “If anybody has seen Mr Pearson or knows where he is, I would urge them to contact us.

“Similarly, I would urge Mr Pearson himself, if he sees this appeal, to get in touch with us to let us know he is safe.”

Anyone with information should contact police on 101 quoting log number LC-20141104-0849.

Alternatively, they can contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online at No personal details are taken, information is not traced or recorded and you will not go to court.