Star Q&A: Andre Rieu

Round & About

music

Liz Nicholls asks international classical music champion & dad Andre Rieu, 71, about life, love & music ahead of Together Again which comes to cinemas on 28th & 29th August.

Q. Your concerts look so joyful! How do you create that magic? “Wherever we play in the world, people start to dance when they hear The Blue Danube. Magicians use their wands, I have my violin and my bow. But there is also the joy I feel when I play my music. It’s real, and luckily, my fellow orchestra members share that joy and passion. And then there is this unmistakable interaction with my audience: we face them and they can see our faces too. You know, classical music has been composed for all of us – not only for the elite like some people tend to think. Johann Strauss, Mozart; they were pop stars in their own times. Music is my oxygen!”

Q. How have you coped over the last 16 months? “When a concert was over and we were travelling to our hotel, I used to watch baking tutorials on YouTube. So that’s what I’ve been doing: making cakes, pies and all kind of pastries for the street, haha! One of the most famous cake bakers in the Netherlands (Cees Holtkamp) gave me a masterclass on my birthday, that was a nice surprise! Nevertheless, I missed contact with my audience and my big family; that’s the nickname for all my fellow orchestra members. My saviours? My wife, our sons with their wives and our five gorgeous grandchildren. I am looking forward to touring and returning to the UK in 2022.”

Q. How did your father shape your path in life? “I was raised in a classical family. My father was a symphony orchestra conductor, all my brothers and sisters play one or more instruments, chosen by our mother. She thought the violin would suit me and she was right! No other instrument translates my inner feelings so well. My first violin teacher was an 18-year-old blonde girl with whom I instantly fell in love (I was five years old, haha!).”

Q. What’s the key to a happy marriage like yours with Marjorie? “The key to our blissful happiness is the 100% mutual trust, but also sharing the same sense of humour and giving the freedom the other needs. We’ve been married 47 years, we work together but we’re also still each other’s lovers. Most people forget but it’s important to enjoy life and laugh. In the Netherlands we have a saying: ‘Not having laughed one day is not having lived that same day’.”

Q. What surprising lessons have fatherhood, and being a grandpa, taught you? “Not a single day is the same as another. Try to enjoy every moment because your (grand) children grow quicker than you think. Besides that: freedom is the secret… they’ll come to you as a father or grandfather when they’ll need you. Last thing: I love to spoil my grandchildren once in a while…”

Q. Who would be your dream dinner party guests? “Walt Disney who said: ‘If you can dream it, you can do it!’ Next to him, the one and only true King of the Waltz: Johann Strauss. Albert Einstein because of his knowledge about the universe: Jules Verne and Columbus.”

Q. What wish would you grant the world? “World peace. Not to fight for, let’s say, one year. Try to make music… more fun than weapons!”

For tickets please visit andreincinemas.com

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Star Q&A: Paul Stellar

Round & About

music

Singer & dad Paul Weller, 63, opens up about his new album Fat Pop (Volume I), collaborations and a hopeful return to live music.

Q. Congratulations on the album! How was it born? “Most things become more apparent when you’re working on a record, so I don’t think I had a masterplan, I just wanted to make a record as I was facing a whole year or more of not doing anything, as all the live stuff had been cancelled.”

Q. You recorded in each of your homes, coming together at Black Barn studio in Surrey didn’t you? “In the first bit of lockdown, I was recording my vocal and a guitar or piano to a click track, then I’d send that to the band members… so there was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing until we could all get together. It was very weird, and I wouldn’t say completely enjoyable as little things kept coming back that we could have easily fixed if we were all together, but it enabled us to stay working. Getting together in person though, was special. I’d say like the first day of school, but I hated school, so it was more like the last day, a real f***ing joy.”

Q. With your huge back catalogue you like to keep it fresh don’t you? “I’m always trying to keep my own interest and not repeat myself, which when you’ve been recording music as long as I have, can be difficult. The older I get, the less cautious I am about trying things. There was a similar ethos in The Style Council, I just don’t think I had the chops to bring it off successfully at times. If I believe in something though, I want people to hear it.”

Q. What was it like working with your star collaborators Andy Fairweather Low and your daughter Leah? “It was so easy and natural with Leah. We were sitting around the night before and I was playing this song on piano. She’s doing an album just now that Steve Cradock is producing. Even without doing the proud dad thing, I can see she’s coming up with really good songs. Andy Fairweather Low? Well, it was a joy to have him on board. We sang together a couple of years ago on a charity thing round my way in Guildford and our voices went really well together, so we’ve often said we should do something together.”

Q. What’s on the horizon? “My only ambition is to have more of what I’m having now; life, music, family, children and all that. I don’t have long-term plans because, as we’ve discovered in the last year, there ain’t no plan. As long as I get a bit more of this, I’m a happy man.”

For the latest news on Paul’s tour dates and releases, visit paulweller.com

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Star Q&A: Danny Goffey

Round & About

music

Liz Nicholls chats to musician & dad of four Danny Goffey, 47, who will star with his Supergrass bandmates at Englefield House in Theale as part of a series of gigs which have been postponed to July 2022…

Q. Hello Danny. It’s great that live music is back – do you enjoy playing the hits, getting the bangers out..? “I love getting my bangers out! Our songs are interesting and intricate enough that when you’re playing them, you’re concentrating and getting really into them. We did a tour before Covid, finished with a couple of gigs at Ally Pally and it felt… all right actually! Now playing live has a new meaning. Mind you, we’re doing a year of touring – maybe ask me at the end of that!”

Q. Do you know Englefield House? “I don’t. I moved to Oxford when I was 10 or 11. I went to school in Maidenhead and grew up around Cookham. It was a lovely childhood, mucking about in the woods, on the river, mad stuff.”

Q. Can you tell us about Oxford in the 1990s? “I remember loads and loads of pubs, characters. We had such a good laugh up and down the Cowley Road and in Jericho, at the Tavern, Freud’s and Raoul’s. Down Little Clarendon Street there was a place called Barcelona; I think I got thrown out for wearing pyjamas and acting really stupid. It was so free and easy compared to today.”

Q. Do you wish you kept a diary of those early days? “I suppose the beauty of mad off-the-wall moments is that you don’t remember them, which is sometimes the best way, haha! Some of those times were hectic and insane so it’s great not to be able to remember them. I’ve been writing my book to go with my new record so I’ve been reflecting on old times. I wish I’d written a diary from ages 16 to 20; how the band started, ins and outs. I’d recommend anyone starting something they think’s gonna be great to document it… Which everyone does these days anyway.”

Q. What’s your first memory of music? “Going through my dad’s rack of 45s, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Rolf Harris. Weird comedy records. The first band I got into were Dexys Midnight Runners; that was the first single I bought. I am crap with music nowadays; I haven’t got a record player or good stereo at the moment. I don’t listen to music much, it’s more Radio 4.”

Q. Have you felt insular during lockdown? “I’ve kept busy, with my album and book. It’s about an ageing semi-retired rock star and how he gets bullied by his family! I’ve spent a lot of time at a beach house, trying to fit decking. But I know it’s been really tough for a lot of people so I’m lucky.”

Q. What’s on your rider? “Me and Gaz tend to have a few vodka and Red Bulls before going on stage; it gives you a bit of an edge, lets you go a bit bonkers for a couple of hours. Wine and beers. A good coffee machine. We’re quite easygoing.”

Q. Who is your dream collaboration? “Ahhh, it’s endless. I’d loved to have worked on songs with Ian Dury. David Bowie. Years ago I wangled a way to play drums with Paul McCartney on bass for a Christmas album. That’ll do me.”

Q. Do you still get compared to McCartney? “Not as much as when I was younger. I look really mental at the moment with my long, wild hair.”
• To book your tickets visit heritagelive.net

Star Q&A: James Arthur

Round & About

music

Liz Nicholls asks singer James Arthur, about music, mental health and more. His new single September is out on 11th June, via Columbia Records, taken from his as-yet untitled album out in autumn

Hello James – thank you so much for taking time to share your thoughts with our readers.

 

Q. Congratulations on the new album, and the single out in June. You must be really proud of these? “Honestly, I am so proud of this whole album. I made the whole thing at home during lockdown, and I never could have imagined the difference working in a space I felt comfortable in could have led to me being able to produce the best work I believe I’ve ever made.”

Q. As someone who suffers anxiety myself, and a huge fan of CBT thank you for being so honest about it. How are you feeling now? “I take it day by day, I’ve found really focusing on staying present is the most important thing for me, I can’t control the past or the future, and trying to do so only breeds anxiety, so I focus on being in the present moment and just being grateful for that. What advice would you have for anyone going through a dark time? Speak to someone, you will be so surprised at the support you will receive if you just let people in, all it takes is a text to someone saying ‘I’m really not feeling ok’ which might sound like a scary thing to do, but by doing that, you are no longer alone. There is also an amazing out-of-hours mental health helpline by the charity SANE (sane.org.uk) if you don’t feel like you can speak to someone you know.”

Q. What is your go-to album or song to lift your spirits & make you feel good? “Got to be Real by Cheryl Lynn is my jam.”

Q. What is your first memory of music? “My early childhood memories of music are of rock vinyls playing at my dad’s (Thin Lizzy, AC/DC etc) – also Prince, Michael Jackson and soul music on repeat at my mum’s.”

Q. How did you feel about fame when you were young? And how do you feel about fame now? “I don’t think I ever really thought about fame when I was younger – the greats that I looked up to, I didn’t necessarily see them as famous, I was just so inspired by their talent. I also think the concept of fame was very different when I was younger – people that were ‘famous’ were very untouchable, you knew nothing of them apart from their art, and fast disposable fame didn’t really exist, whereas now, with social media, people really have an massive amount of access to a person’s life and personality. I guess it’s a necessary evil. I don’t think of myself as famous which probably helps me, and I’m so grateful to have people who love my music enough that would consider themselves a ‘fan’ of me, but if I could do my job without being famous, I’d definitely take that option!”

Q. How do you take care of your fantas1c voice? Anything you don’t eat or drink, or exercises etc? “I learnt very quickly after back to back tours that if I want to sing the way I want to sing every night I have to look after my voice, so I do an hour’s warm-up before a show and then a cool down after the show too. Even with that, if I don’t have days of complete voice rest built into the tour my voice completely cuts out for a few days, and it’s the worst feeling in the world as there’s nothing I can do to make it come back but wait and rest. It’s one of the most frustrating things about touring for me, so it’s a constant balancing act.”

Q. You have said you miss touring – having had some rest time, are you ready to go & perform live now? “I cannot wait! I’ve got some festivals lined up this summer and I’m really hoping they go ahead.”

Q. Is there an upcoming /lesser-known artist out there who you want to give a shout-out to & urge us all to listen to their music? “Shotty Horroh – I’ve been shouting from the rooftops about this artist for many years and I will continue to do so. He’s the best MC.”

Q. Rule of six time: who would be your dream party guests to hang out or have dinner/picnic with, living or dead, real or fictional? “Kurt Cobain, Jay Z, Elvis, Cillian Murphy, Ed Norton, William Wallace.”

Q. Do you have a favourite book? “My two favourite books are Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.”

Q. What were your favourite saviours of lockdown: i.e. things that made lockdown life better? “FIFA was massive for me during lockdown – I put my gamer tag on Twitter and my requests went crazy. From that I managed to find five guys who have become my really good friends. We spent the first lockdown speaking for hours and hours while playing FIFA every night. I’ve never even met any of them, but I speak to them nearly every day, and having that escapism was massive for me during lockdown.”

Q. If you could make one wish for the world, what would it be? “I’d wish that people would be kinder to each other. I don’t even think that’s that big an ask.”

Q. Is there anything on your horizon or future ambitions you can tell us about? “There’s some exciting acting roles coming up for me, but I might get sacked if I talk about it so you’ll have to ask me again next time!”

What have you missed?

Liz Nicholls

music

Here we are, a full year after lockdown was announced. Let’s face it, tempers feel a little bit frayed this week, which is natural, really, as we approach the final furlong towards (hopeful) freedom!

So we were wondering… what have you missed most over the last 12 months? Maybe it’s something you took for granted BC (before Covid). That coffee & cake break with workmates… Your routine hair appointment… Saturday sport.

Hospitality

As you know we’re raising a glass to our hospitality heroes with our R&A Good Cheer awards because eating & drinking while supporting our local pubs, restaurants, delicatessens is right up there at the top of our list. Watch this space for news of the winners soon!

Entertainment

Entertainment is another industry we salute, as we remain hopeful of the roadmap to freedom allowing us to enjoy theatre again. As Louise Chantal, co-director of The Oxford Playhouse puts it: “We miss our friends. I think of the scores of youngsters in our 17-25 Young Company, who were in their last week of a year’s preparation for their showcase production when we closed [in March 2020], and our long-standing amateur partners – Oxford Theatre Guild, Oxford Operatics and Opera Oxford – whose yearly extravaganzas at the Playhouse bring together hundreds of local people, from every possible background, to put on a show.

The Oxford Playhouse team, intermittently furloughed and each covering several people’s jobs, transferred all the participation and artist development programmes online (leading the march to digital nationally) and have worked with over 4,500 young people and community group members to ‘stay creative’ during lockdown. “We kept telling stories and supporting artists all through this crazy year,” says Louise.

Check out the Oxford Playhouse co-production of The Picture of Dorian Gray, starring Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley, and upcoming highlights.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve moved on from what felt like the world’s longest winter to all of the joys of spring

Festivals

With a summer of festivals shelved last spring, the idea of enjoying the pick of the area’s crop of get-togethers this summer feels like a dream… Boomtown near Winchester is tentatively set to go ahead in August, with tickets selling out this month.

“In the last couple of weeks, we’ve moved on from what felt like the world’s longest winter to all of the joys of spring and the collective excitement to reclaim the summer for hugging friends and family and dancing until our shoes fall off…” said the team.

“It’s still a long and rather complicated road to get there, but if we’re allowed to go ahead, words will never be able to fully describe the sheer love and energy that will radiate through this year’s fair.

The team behind Reading (and its northern sister festival Leeds) are also delighted to have sold out all tickets to eager festival-lovers, with Stormzy, Postmalone, Disclosure and Liam Gallagher ready to rock after a quiet year!

So…. what have you missed? Tell us on Twitter and we will be here to celebrate all of these returning joys with you!!!


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Jess Gillam chats about Investec 2021

Liz Nicholls

music

Jess Gillam tells us about music’s power to connect us and looks ahead to the Investec International Music Festival which will take place in Surrey Hills as soon as safely possible.

Music is intrinsic to our humanity. It has been a form of expression since the beginning of time and it has the power to unite, to console us and to bring light in what often seems like a broken world. Music can provide us with a space in which to exist, a place in which to be renewed and perhaps a moment of solace – which is what many people have needed throughout these bleak and uncertain times. Music can offer us the thing we are all longing for most: connection.

When my diary was wiped clean of concerts, workshops and performances pretty much overnight in the first lockdown, I wanted to try to find a way to unite people and provide a bit of that sense of belonging, identity and hope that music often gives us. So, I set up the Jess Gillam Virtual Scratch Orchestra – an online project publishing parts for different pieces (Let It Be by The Beatles, Where Are We Now by David Bowie and Sleigh Ride by Leroy Anderson) on my website.

Music can offer us the thing we are all longing for most: connection.

Anyone, of any ability, could send in a video of themselves playing along (with a click, of course, to keep us all in time!). We then created an orchestra out of all the videos and then I played along too. It was a big online party for musicians and we had just under 3,000 people aged between two and 95 participating over the three projects.

The response was absolutely fantastic from both participants and the audience, with many people commenting on how the project had given them a sense of community. Although technology can sometimes be endlessly frustrating, it really can (especially in these times) offer us a way to come together on a mass mission!

Thanks also to technology, I also released my second album, TIME, last year. We finished the recording four weeks before the first lockdown. The concept behind the album – to reflect the arc of energy in a passing day and to give listeners a moment away from a manic world seemed to become strangely more pertinent in the weeks to follow. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, the album could not be toured but I will perform some of the music from this album at the Investec International Music Festival which I’m excited about!

As we start to move towards a world in which live performances become possible again, I hope we’ll all cherish the direct sense of communication music can provide and that we have missed in recent times. I’ve been lucky enough to give a few concerts to live, socially distanced audiences and in an odd way, these have been some of the most memorable performance experiences of my life so far; the heightened sense of anticipation, communication and sharing in the halls has been so special. Nothing can replace the electrifying energy of live music, which is why I cannot wait to perform in Surrey!

For more details & updates on the 2021 Investec International Music Festival, please visit iimf.co.uk


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The Beatles: Get Back

Round & About

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Get Back is set to celebrate the iconic band’s influence

“The Beatles gave my generation their genius and their joy and they changed the world through their art,” says Nicholas Callaway, founder & publisher of Callaway Arts & Entertainment. “The creativity and inspiration expressed in this landmark book and in Peter Jackson’s film are as important and relevant today as ever.”

His company, along with Apple Corps Ltd. are set for the global publication of The Beatles: Get Back, the first official standalone book to be released by the band since international bestseller The Beatles Anthology.

The 240-page hardcover tells the story of The Beatles’ creation of their 1970 album, Let It Be, in their own words. You’re invited to travel back in time to January 1969, the beginning of The Beatles’ last year as a band. The “White Album” is still at number one in the charts, but the ever-prolific foursome regroup in London for a new project, initially titled Get Back. Over 21 days, first at Twickenham Film Studios and then at their own brand-new Apple Studios, with cameras and tape recorders documenting every day’s work, the band rehearse a huge number of songs, new and old, in preparation for what proves to be their final concert, which famously takes place on the rooftop of their own Apple Corps office building, bringing central London to a halt.

Legend now has it that these sessions were a grim time for a band falling apart, but, as acclaimed novelist Hanif Kureishi writes in his introduction: “In fact this was a productive time for them, when they created some of their best work. And it is here that we have the privilege of witnessing their early drafts, the mistakes, the drift and digressions, the boredom, the excitement, joyous jamming and sudden breakthroughs that led to the work we now know and admire.”

Presenting transcribed conversations drawn from over 120 recorded hours of the band’s studio sessions with hundreds of previously unpublished images, including photos by Ethan A. Russell and Linda McCartney, it also includes a foreword written by Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter Peter Jackson.

The book’s texts are edited by John Harris from original conversations between John, Paul, George and Ringo spanning three weeks of recording, culminating in The Beatles’ historic final rooftop concert. The release will be a special and essential companion to director Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back feature documentary film, set for theatrical release on August 27, 2021.

To watch the book trailer and find out more, visit thebeatles.com

Pre-order at lnk.to/thebeatlesgetbackbook

Big Wild Weekend

Round & About

music

Celebrate the summer solstice and Big Wild Weekend by getting closer to nature with the Wildlife Trusts from today (19th) to Sunday (21st).

As part of Surrey Wildlife Trust’s 30 Days Wild campaign, you can enjoy an evening of music hosted by Radio 1 DJ Cel Spellman and special guests, have your very own summer sleep-out under the stars and join the Big Wild Quiz.

The weekend will be kicked off with actor & Radio 1 DJ Cel Spellman, and special guests including KT Tunstall, Sophie Ellis-Bextor. More special guests stars to be announced on The Wildlife Trust’s Youtube channel.

On Saturday 20th people can take part by setting up a tent or hammock in the back garden or building a den in the living room. Try your hand at making moth traps, do some night-time wildlife watching and sleep under the stars on this special night, celebrating Surrey’s natural world and the longest day of the year. There will be prizes from Cotswold Outdoor, Learning Resources UK and Jordans Cereals for the best dens and camps.

The Big Wild Quiz on Sunday 21st will be hosted live by The Wildlife Trusts ambassador Sophie Pavelle and actor and podcast ‘Trees a Crowd’ host David Oakes on its Facebook page, with special appearances from the likes of Liz Bonnin. So get ready for four rounds of fun questions on nature, movies/books/TV, music and nature photos.

Jo Foat, communications officer at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said it offers something different for the weekend: “Every year for 30 Days Wild, we hold a Big Wild Weekend with hands on events and open days. We’ve adapted it this year so that everyone can still join in from home in whatever way they can. With music, events and activities to enjoy online, families can get involved and even enjoy a wild sleep out in a tent outside or an indoor den. So get back to nature, sleep under the stars, listen to the wildlife around you and wake up to a magnificent dawn chorus.”

Take part

To join in with the Big Wild Weekend see website and on social media.

Looking on the Bright Side

Round & About

music

Sing along and smile with Farnham group in aid of Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life couldn’t be more apt for the times we are living in with the promise of better days in the not-too-far-distant future.

We all need a bit of cheering up, and Farnham’s Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice has been starved of essential funds since scores of fundraising events were cancelled to comply with social distancing advice.

FAOS Musical Theatre Group has found a way to raise both our spirits and some money for the hospice and they invite you be their guests and take a front row seat at their virtual performance of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Business manager Nigel Morley said: “Most importantly, if you enjoy the performance, please show your appreciation not to us but at our JustGiving page for the Hospice. You can get there by clicking here

Watch FAOS Musical Theatre Group’s entertaining performance below

Don’t forget to sing along!

Save music venues campaign

Round & About

music

A new national campaign has been launched by Music Venue Trust to save hundreds of grassroots music venues at imminent risk of being closed down – permanently.

Without these independent venues the live music scene in the UK will die. These grassroots venues play a crucial role in the development of British music, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills. These venues also play a vital role in the cultural and economic vibrancy of any village, town or city.

Currently 556 venues are at risk including The Northcourt Centre, Abingdon; The Boileroom, Guildford and the Fiery Bird, Woking.

Artists will be performing ‘at home’ gigs in support of their local venues, chosen from a list of venues currently in crisis which can be found at the campaign website www.saveourvenues.co.uk.

Each venue will have their own fundraising page with a clear target of the funds it needs to raise to stay afloat throughout this difficult period. Once a target is reached any excess revenue will go to the central #saveourvenues fund to help the wider grassroots music venue community.

HOW CAN MUSIC FANS GET INVOLVED?

1. Donate to a specific venue’s fundraising page by clicking this link www.saveourvenues.co.uk to see a list of local venues that urgently need help.

2. Watch ‘at home’ shows by artists supporting the #saveourvenues campaign. Click here www.saveourvenues.co.uk to see a list of shows coming up.

3. Donate to the national #saveourvenues fund via the website www.saveourvenues.co.uk

4. Help spread the word on social media using the hashtag #saveourvenues and the campaign link www.saveourvenues.co.uk.

One of the main drivers of this initiative is the musician Frank Turner whose recent series of ‘Independent Venue Love’ shows for local venues raised thousands of pounds and provided a major inspiration for this campaign.

Turner said: “The UK live music industry is staring into the abyss right now. I’m not able to save the whole thing on my own, but I decided to do a series of livestream shows to raise money for specific independent venues that I know and love, and that are in serious risk of disappearing right now. The success of these shows demonstrated the love that exists between music fans and their favourite grassroots music venues so the #saveourvenues campaign is a brilliant way of building on that and hopefully giving artists and music fans a chance to get involved and play a big part in helping them survive.”

Music Venue Trust’s CEO Mark Davyd said: “Without the support of music fans and artists literally hundreds of the UK’s grassroots music venues could go out of business, never to return, in the coming months. Please help to save every single grassroots music venue in the UK so that it can reopen after this crisis and continue to be a home to our musicians and our communities.”

To find out more