Tom Kerstens, Wigmore Hall, 27 May 2007

We were supposed to see someone else.  Was it Paco Pena?  Juan Martin? Yet another well-known guitarist?

Anyway, we weren’t supposed to see Tom Kerstens.

Had we known his relative quality, we’d have accepted the offer of our money back rather than persevered with a Sunday evening concert substitute.  But we thought, heck, give the fellow a try.  Oh dear.

Still, we’d had a corker of a month in the theatre and music department until this point.  Here’s the programme (yes, really) – let’s draw a veil.

Tom Kerstens

Ensemble La Fenice, A Pilgrimage To Santiago, St John’s Smith Square, 21 May 2007

Wow, we loved this concert.

The last of our visits to the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music that year, this one really inspired us.  It comprises religious baroque music from the places people would visit on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella.

The lovely Arianna Savall sang and played the renaissance harp.  She is the daughter of Jordi Savall and Montserrat Figueras.

So insired by this concert were we, that we made our own “pilgrimage to Santiago” the following spring, after visiting nephew Paul in Barcelona – click here for our pictures of Santiago.

Disappointing though, was the fact that we were unable to buy a recording of the music we heard.  All that was available for purchase on the night was mum and dad’s “Homenatge Al Misteri D’Elx – La Vespra” – interesting music but not the beautiful stuff we heard that night.

Surprised and delighted was I, therefore, to discover just now, while researching this blog piece, Ensemble La Fenice/Arianna Savall released a recording of the very stuff we heard that night, a mere four years after our concert.  I immediately purchased and downloaded the album and am listening to it as I write.  It really is lovely music.

Ensemble La Fenice

That Face, Polly Stenham, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, 19 May 2007

This turned out to be one of the hottest tickets in town for a while.  We didn’t realise it when we booked it.  We see a lot of productions upstairs and often enjoy plays there by young/as yet unknown playwrights.

Indeed, we normally see them early in a run, but nephew Paul had arranged to stay and said he’d like to go to the theatre with us, so we chose this play as “youthfully suitable” and so booked for a few weeks into the run.  Thus, by the time Paul came down to stay, he knew we’d got him a surprisingly hot ticket.

That Face – for Royal Court stub including several reviews click here – really is a super play and this was an excellent production.

Polly Stenham is a very talented young writer, although we now have the hindsight to wish that she had moved on from this “chamber play about dysfunctional families and damaged youngsters” genre – her subsequent plays so far (several years on) have all been echoes of similar. Still, this one subsequently transferred to the West End making Polly, at 21 by then, the youngest West End debutant since…maybe ever.  Michael Billington gushed – click here.

The whole cast was brilliant, but Lindsay Duncan stole the show, as you might expect.

Nephew Paul was very taken by the whole thing.  We had to explain that we don’t always pick quite such winners, especially when we go for the smaller stages and unknown writers.


England v West Indies at Lord’s Day 2, 18 May 2007

Went to this day at the test with Jeremy Smith, who headed up the Z/Yen business that was sold to Aon earlier that year.  Jeremy and his team were still working out of our offices at that time.

The weather was none too good for the start of that match.  They only got about half a day’s play the previous day, but we almost got a full quota.  England had been batting well and carried on doing so.  We saw Collingwood, Bell and Prior score tons.  This was back in the day, when people still said that Bell only scored tons when they didn’t really matter.

It was a batting pitch though – Lord’s was mostly those for a few years, I think it was because the new turf and drainage settled down and the pitches sort of died – some of the other grounds have suffered similarly a few years after putting in the modern drainage.

We had a very enjoyable day.  I recall Jeremy saying how, despite the pleasantness of actually attending, he feels that you can follow a cricket match more readily on the TV than at the ground. Possibly so; certainly back then before the ubiquitous big screens.

Match scorecard – click here.

Strangely, King Cricket just the other day (as I write in December 2015) reported on a streaker incident at Old Trafford, later in that series – click here. I attended the first two days of that Old Trafford test – report linked here. But the streak business reminds me that Lord’s is like a different world somehow – it’s a long time since we’ve seen a streaker at HQ. And on the rare occasions we get them, they look more genteel somehow than the “gentleman” who did the deed in Manchester – with thanks to Sam for digging out a better picture – here.

Big White Fog by Theodore Ward, Almeida Theatre, 12 May 2007

We rounded off a real culture vulture week by going to the Almeida Theatre to see Big White Fog.

The play is about Garveyism in the 1920s and 1930s, a subject about which I knew little and was pleased to learn more.

The Almeida Archive stub, linked above and here, summarises several of the excellent reviews this production justifiably received.  This is Michael Billington’s type of play, so no surprises he loved it, click here.

Michael Attenborough did a great job at the Almeida.  We probably saw at least half of the main theatre productions there during his tenure.



La Risonanza, St John’s Smith Square, 11 May 2007

Just two days after our last visit to the Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music, we’re back to see another.  Janie is a sucker for a countertenor and we are both suckers for visiting European baroque troupes we haven’t heard before.

Typically of SJSS and its artistes, the fabulously-named Fabio Bonizzoni can only sell us recordings of the Scarlatti stuff we heard performed by other people a couple of days ago.

Still, I buy that CD and some other La Risonanza stuff.  We were neither disappointed by the concert nor by the CDs.

Fabio and La Risonanza rock.  Guest singers Roberta Invernizzi, Emanuela Galli, Xavier Sabata also rock.

Well, they don’t rock, let’s be honest, they are baroque musicians, none of them rock.  But this was a really enjoyable concert.

Here’s the stuff they played us that night:

La Risonanza 11 May 2007

Don Domingo Scarlatti – An Anniversary Celebration (I) and (II), St John’s Smith Square, 9 May 2007

The Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music was a regular “must visit” for us for several years.  Sadly, the sponsorship ended (I think 2014 was the last year) so the festival is now a shadow of its former self.

On this evening, Janie and I attended both concerts; Carole Cerasi on the Harpsichord early evening and then London Baroque later.  Domingo Scarlatti was the theme (how did you guess?).

Both excellent gigs, well worth the long evening at SJSS.  The relevant extracts from the programme so you can see exactly what we heard are shown below.

Carole Cerasi 9 May 2007London Baroque 9 May 2007


Nan, John Masefield, Orange Tree Theatre, 5 May 2007

Very Orange Tree, this one.

Written in the Edwardian era.  Set 100 years or so before that.

Janie is usually unenthusiastic about these period pieces, but we have been supporters of the Orange Tree for a long time and tend to get withdrawal symptoms if we reject all of the period stuff.

Mostly Orange Tree regulars in the cast.  Auriol Smith directing, Sam Walters hovering around like an expectant father (we were there very early in the run).

Here’s the Orange Tree Archive to tell you all about it – click here.  Didn’t realise the archive went back this far – pleasant surprise to find this.  Even some headlines from the reviews – well done Orange Tree.

It was a very good production, this.  One of the better ones there.  Kate McGuiness was especially good in the lead.

Michael Billington was generous with his praise, but he does have a soft spot for the Orange Tree – click here.


Elling by Simon Bent, Bush Theatre, 4 May 2007

This was special.  We liked the sound of it.  We hadn’t heard of anyone to do with it.  As it happens, John Simm was well known, but for TV and therefore not to us.

Paul Miller has gone on to be the head honcho at the Orange Tree Theatre, where he is working wonders now (as I write in the mid teenies).

This is a great play and was a great production – click here for Bush archive.

The Stage loved it – click here.

Guardian loved it – click here.

Observer loved  it – click here.

We loved it.