A very special performance by one of the world's leading contemporary musicians was given to a small festival crowd in near-freezing conditions in a muddy field outside Marlborough at the weekend.
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Arts & Entertainment
Charles Owen (pictured) is an internationally renowned concert pianist, but his first experience of appearing before an audience was in Marlborough when he was nineteen. Since then he’s played for Marlborough audiences fourteen times.
Now he’s Professor of Piano at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and wants to give some his best pupils the chance to share in the Marlborough audience experience. So, working with Nick Maurice and with David Du Croz of the St Peter’s Trust, a new music feast has been planned.
A unique series of recitals will showcase some of the new generation of virtuoso concert pianists.
From June this year through to June next year five star pupils aged between fifteen and twenty-six and a group of Suzuki students will have the chance to follow in Charles Owen’s steps and play at St Peter’s – on the newly restored piano. The series will open with a concert by Charles Owen on Sunday, June 17.
Charles Owen is certain that his Marlborough concerts gave a tremendous start to his career. And he has been able to play programmes here before his big recitals – giving Marlborough audiences sneak previews of his national and international performances.
He has a busy diary: in March he has recitals in Rome, Teramo, Arezzo, Trinity College, Cambridge and the University of Leicester. At St Peter’s Church in June he will be playing Schumann’s Carnaval and JS Bach’s Goldberg Variations. You can get a sneak preview at www.charlesowen.net
The concerts will raise funds for two Marlborough-based charities the Marlborough Brandt Group (MBG) and BUILD. MBG looks after the town’s link with Gunjur in The Gambia and supports development projects there – such as malaria eradication, health education and employment for women. BUILD is a national organisation encouraging links and partnerships between communities and institutions – from schools to hospitals to local authorities – in the United Kingdom with communities and institutions in other countries.
Five of Charles Owen’s students will be playing in the series:
Mai Charissa Tran Ringrose who was born in 1996, started playing in France aged five and continued studying when her family moved to Thailand. She now studies at the music conservatoire in Vannes as well as with Charles Owen. At her recital on Sunday, December 16 she will be playing Beethoven Chopin, Faure and Mendelssohn.
Mishka Rushdie Momen plays on Sunday, February 17 – her recital includes Beethoven’s Six Bagatelles, a Schubert sonata, Ravel and Chopin. Mishka was the youngest pupil to be accepted at the Purcell School and is now a postgraduate student at the Guildhall School. She won the Chopin Prize at the EU piano competition and in 2003 took first prize in the Leschetizky Concerto Competition in New York.
There’s more about Mishka here
John Paul Ekins’ recital is on Sunday, April 14, 2013. He graduated with First Class Honours from the Royal College of Music in 2009, won a scholarship to study under Charles Owen at the Guildhall School and graduated from there last year with Master of Performance (Distinction.) He will play Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, Mozart’s C minor Fantasy and Scriabin’s 4th Piano Sonata.
Check out John Paul’s website here
The series’ finale will bring a group of seven young Suzuki piano students from London to St Peter’s on Sunday, June 30, 2013. Aged between five and fifteen they will represent the next generation of Britain’s concert pianists.
Tickets for each recital in this major new series will go on sale six weeks before the event at:
* The White Horse Bookshop (136 High Street, Marlborough, SN8 1HN),
* Sound Knowledge (22 Hughenden Yard, High Street, Marlborough, SN8 1LT)
or from the Marlborough Brandt Group (01672 861116 or The Dutch Barn, The Upper Office, Elm Tree Park, Manton, SN8 1PS with SAE.)
Tickets are £10 for the Charles Owen concert and £5 for each of the other concerts in the series. In addition there will be a retiring collection for the two charities.
(Charles Owen photograph is copyright John Batten Photography.)
The Theatre on the Hill, at the heart of the new St John’s school on Granham Hill, is now in its second season and thriving. This Autumn and into 2012 the theatre is offering with a full and varied programme of events appealing to all manner of tastes.
Well-known names, including BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards double winners Show of Hands (pictured left), described by The Independent as “a class act”, and a touring West-End style show Let’s Do The Twist are certain to attract large audiences. But the top selling show this autumn will undoubtedly be the St John’s student production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.
The 350-seat theatre is growing in popularity among a diverse and eclectic range of theatre companies and performers from across the UK, as well as providing a venue for performances and events for local community groups.
In addition to school productions, the star turn of the autumn season will probably be Let’s Do the Twist on October 14. The show has been described as an “electrifying” showcase for music from the greatest musical stars of the 1950s and 60s Rock ‘n’ Roll era wrapped up in a Happy Days family-style feel. This hugely successful show has already been snapped up by impresario Bill Kenwright for a week at the Theatre Royal in Windsor.
Kate O’Connor, Events Organiser at St John’s, expects this to be a sell-out evening. “We are very lucky to have been able to get a date in Marlborough on their tour. I’m sure it is going to be a fun filled, lively evening”
Other highlights of the season include Show of Hands on October 26, organised by Marlborough Folk Roots as part of a tour which culminates in a concert at the Royal Albert Hall in April next year. The phenomenally popular duo Steve Knightley and Phil Beer hail from rock backgrounds but today their engaging music dips and dives through roots, rock, blues, country and traditional genres to make an unmistakable signature sound played out on a wealth of instruments from slide guitar to mandocello, fiddle to South American cuatro.
Theatrical performances include the highly acclaimed Icarus Theatre Collective with their bold and exciting performance of Macbeth November 16 and Proteus Theatre Company’s Arabian Nights on January 27, a magical journey to the Far East in the company of Scheherazade.
Other musical events include the Celebration Band in aid of St John’s Ambulance defibrillator appeal.
Other regular events at the Theatre on the Hill include Marlborough Downs Movies screenings of Winnie the Pooh on September 9, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, on October 7, Kung Fu Panda 2 on November 11 and Mr Popper’s Penguins on January 13, and monthly Friday night ‘Open Mic’ evenings.
Since the St John’s building opened in December 2009 Headteacher Dr Patrick Hazlewood has been keen that the building becomes far more than just a school and that its range of facilities is used by everyone: “It is good to see the building so well used every evening and weekend, not only by the range of events in the theatre, but also by the many people taking part in sports activities, line dancing, ballet classes and adult education” explained Dr Hazlewood. “It is exciting for us to be able to bring such a wide range of events and shows to the area and to see the popularity of our theatre growing all the time”
Details of performances and how to buy tickets can be found on the “Theatre on the Hill” pages of the St John’s website www.stjohns.wilts.sch.uk
He is your father, a Marlborough schoolmaster who can be strict and stern, but a dad nevertheless who takes you on wild adventures on his beaten up boat and introduces excitement into your life.
At the same time, he is an author, who scribbles away at every chance – and suddenly enjoys world-wide fame, is heaped with praise, wins the Nobel Prize for literature and is knighted by the Queen.
Judy Carver has had a difficult time coming to terms with the death of Sir William Golding, famed author of Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors, and when he died in 1993 was asked by his publishers Faber to consider writing a memoir.
And only now – next week in fact – The Children of Lovers, her poignant tribute to her father in the centenary year of his birth, finally appears.
"I’d often wondered, even before my father’s death, if I would be able to write anything about him,” she tells me. “I spent years, probably six or seven, writing and rewriting, and doing research into his life, as well as talking to people who knew him. Eventually, I realised that I was trying to write a biography of him, and this task was something that should be done by someone else. John Carey agreed to undertake the biography and has of course produced a brilliant one."
“We are tremendously lucky. I was lucky in particular, because I realised that once there was a biography I was free to write my own more personal account, one not tied to a chronological frame."
“I did indeed want to provide a family perspective, and to come to terms with the past. I also wanted to tell the story of my brother David and myself, and David was generous in letting me do that."
“After my father’s death, there was a large amount of management connected with his works and with my parents’ wills. All of that distracted me, but it also meant I was relieved to get to actual writing, which of course is not always the case.”
Then, almost emulating her father, she reveals: “I did it when I could, any time of day and in any place. There are many cafés in which I’ve written it, many trains – even buses.”
Returning to Marlborough – she now lives in Bristol – helped revive her memories of the family house at No 29 The Green, which her father described as “three slumped storeys’ of lath and plaster, with a crazily gabled porch”, which is now adorned with a commemorative plaque.
"I’ve always loved coming back to Marlborough,” she says. “As soon as I had a car of my own, I would make sure my trips between home and Oxford included Marlborough, together with a nostalgic wander round familiar landmarks."
“I climbed into St Mary’s Churchyard once with my brother, and we gazed over the wall into the garden of 29 The Green.” Some critics claim that her father had a dark side that made him a difficult man who argued too much, but she doesn’t totally accept that. Indeed, John Carey’s biography painted him as a many-sided figure, a family man, a reclusive depressive who suffered from fears and phobias and considered himself 'a monster'. However, some of the press coverage did have a very particular emphasis.
“I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that some people have rather harped n his darker side,” she admits. “People are complicated – and I have tried to give an honest and therefore complicated picture of him."
“But part of that picture is his kindness and generosity, and his humour. I wish that could be given as much prominence as the darker aspects."
“But it’s human nature to want people to be all one thing or all the other, all sweet or all sour. My father himself, in his writing, tried over and over again to show how we are a mixture.”
And while some claim that Marlborough has truly recognised the genius in its midst, Judy is content.
“Marlborough has done several things to commemorate my father,” she points out. “There is the lovely plaque on the wall of No 29. There is also a Golding Avenue among some newish roads off the Bath Road."
“And he was asked back to St John’s Comprehensive. I think they asked him to give prizes or possibly a speech". St John’s was formerly Marlborough Grammar School, his old school, as well as the one his father taught at.
“It’s true that not all of my father’s memories of his home town were happy – I expect that’s true for most people – and I noticed he was curiously unwilling to revisit it."
“His past was very powerful to him and very present in his mind, and I expect he was unwilling to re-experience many of his memories, or even perhaps to risk blunting those memories with newer ones. He felt the deaths of his parents very deeply. He told me it had taken him thirty years to get over those deaths.”
Now Judy is enjoying a new experience, talking at literary festivals about her memoir, as she did at the Oxford festival alongside biographer John Carey, John Gray and Penelope Lively.
And she will repeating the “extraordinary experience” at the forthcoming Marlborough Festival of Literature, which runs from September 22 to 25.
“I found it all fascinating,” she says. “We had a wonderful audience, very responsive and tremendously well-informed. Interestingly, given that many people think of Golding as quite a dark novelist, there was a lot of laughter.
“He would have been pleased about that – he was actually a very funny man." The Golding event involved showing parts of two BBC documentaries about him – and I did find that both strange and acutely moving, seeing my relatively young father striding across Salisbury Cathedral Close or Old Sarum.
“And there were some lovely shots of our boat Wild Rose, which I was delighted to see.”
Adam Sisman, biographer of John le Carré
----EXCLUSIVE---- to Marlborough News Online
No doubt it was the perfect spot to discuss the perfect spy, a pub tucked away from prying eyes at Manton, just down the road from Marlborough.
And with a name like the Outside Chance, it might well have appeared in the pages of John le Carré’s novels of espionage and betrayal, deception and deadly deeds that have enthralled millions of dedicated readers.
For Manton was where the acclaimed biographer Adam Sisman met up for lunch with political journalist turned successful novelist Robert Harris, and gently plotted about which of them was to write the biography of David John Moore Cornwell.
That is the real name of John le Carré, smash hit author of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy and a succession of admired novels, 21 so far, that have become celebrated films and TV adaptations.
Now snowy-haired and approaching 80 in October, he has invited Adam Sisman, now a citizen of Bath after once living on the other side of Hampstead Heath, where le Carré has his London home, to delve into his fascinating secret past.
The aim – to write the definitive, independent and unmolested biography – that Sisman proposed calling A Life Unmasked.
“David suggested another title – Cover Story,” Adam recalls amusingly of one of their first assignations with le Carré in a Hampstead pub.
And he ruefully adds: “I am aware that a biography of le Carré presents particular problems because so much of his life has been spent concealing himself, both as a spy and a ‘fabulator’. But I am nonetheless confident of uncovering the man behind the disguises.”
He is well experienced in the long haul – Bloomsbury plan to publish on the 50th anniversary of the Spy Who Come in from the Cold in 2014 – having produced a highly praised biography last summer of the controversial historian Hugh Trevor-Roper. He is also the author of earlier works on AJP Taylor, Boswell and the friendship between Wordsworth and Coleridge.
But he had rivals in the field when it came to le Carré.
Some 20 years ago, the political journalist and novelist Robert Harris, who lives at Kintbury, signed a contract for an unauthorised biography of le Carré, who asked for it to appear after his death.
Harris’ researches led him to interview le Carré’s now late first wife, they gave him access to previously unseen correspondence, and he wrote some 30,000 words in note form.
Then another writer, Graham Lord, proposed his own expose version on the former British intelligence officer – he served as a member of the diplomatic corps in our embassies in Bonn and Hamburg -- whose inside knowledge of espionage has given his novels such vivid authenticity.
Lord, now living in the Caribbean, backed down when le Carré challenged him. Meanwhile, Harris took off on another track, developing his own very successful career as the author of Fatherland, Pompeii and The Ghost Writer, declaring that his le Carré was more or less on permanent hold.
And, supreme surprise, when Sisman came to lunch with Harris at the Outside Chance, in Manton, it was Harris himself who suggested to Sisman that he should try to lift the lid on the Berlin Wall spy and creator of Smiley’s People and The Perfect Spy.
“Robert and I are friends, not rivals,” 57-year-old Adam now reveals. “I am a huge admirer of his work, and he has written very kind reviews of two of my books. We often talk to each other about what we’re doing.
“I had been contemplating a life of le Carré for years and we have discussed it together several times. About a year ago, after I finished my biography of Hugh Trevor-Roper, I had lunch with Robert, and it was he who encouraged me to approach David Cornwell.
“So I wrote to him.”
It was a pivotal moment for Adam, who joined the horde of le Carré fans after reading The Spy Who Came in from the Cold when only 12 or 13, seeing Richard Burton and Claire Bloom in the movie version, and reading his novels, often more than once, Tinker, Tailor at least a dozen times.
“One of his secrets is a superbly accurate ear for the way people speak – as good as that of any other English writer in my opinion,” he insists, describing Tinker Tailor as “a superbly constructed novel, rich and satisfying, peopled by wonderfully vivid characters.”
On his part, le Carré admired his Trevor-Roper biography. “And he decided – and importantly his wife Jane too -- that I would be an appropriate person to write his life,” says Adam with evident satisfaction.
“He has given me exclusive access to his archive, to himself, and to the important people in his life – ‘the keys to the kingdom’, as his agent put it. Nevertheless, we agreed that we both wanted to have an arms’ length arrangement, so that I will have a free hand and David will not have control over what I write.”
That means trips to the Bodleian Library at Oxford, where le Carré has deposited his manuscripts – he handwrites every word, corrects it and then his wife, Jane, types it up – and also to Cornwall, where le Carré’s extensive personal papers are stored.
He plans to visit Sherborne, the public school in Dorset from which le Carré’s ran away during a fraught, unhappy childhood, and will go to Eton, where le Carré taught for two years after coming down from Oxford with a first class degree with honours in modern languages.
There is a list too of interviewees that grows in number virtually daily.
“And I shall have to go round the world, to America, to Russia, to Germany and Switzerland,” he adds, almost with glee at the prospect of spying on the once master spywriter whose fiction has fascinated millions, all the settings of them in actual places he has visited.
There are also le Carré’s four sons, three from his first marriage, to meet as well.
“When David told them that I was writing this biography, his son said: ‘Oh good! -- we shall all be able to find out from it what you’re really like,’” Adam subversively reveals.
He is indeed the beneficiary of an outside chance.
Centenary editions of his bestselling novels Lord of the Flies and The Inheritors are to be published by Faber to mark the 100 years since the birth of William Golding, Marlborough’s sole Nobel prize-winner.
The special editions will carry a golden stamp announcing the anniversary, and will have new, specially commissioned introductions. One is by Stephen King, author of The Shining, who has written the introduction to Lord of the Flies, originally published in 1954.
And Professor John Carey, author of the major Golding biography, published two years ago, has written the introduction to The Inheritors.
This was Golding's second novel, first published in 1955, with a plot that revolves around the extinction of the last tribe of Neanderthals. Both centenary editions will appear on August 4 as paperbacks costing only £7.99 each.
Golding, who lived on The Green, Marlborough, where there is a commemorative plaque on his house, was an unknown schoolmaster, who wrote in school breaks. The Lord of the Flies was rejected by numerous publishers before being picked from the reject pile at Faber.
"It is always a thrill to find a reason to look again at William Golding's fiction, and the centenary year offers just this opportunity," Hannah Griffiths, director of Faber’s paperbacks, tells The Bookseller.
"Stephen King and John Carey have written wonderful introductions, and Neil Gower's inspired new illustrations for these editions make a beautiful addition to Golding's design history".
"Golding is a phenomenal Nobel Prize-winning author, but people think of one book . . . We are trying to give the reader a cue to say, 'if you love that, you'll love this, too."
Faber is also publishing a memoir by Golding's daughter, Judy Carver, next month called The Children of Lovers. It tells of her experiences growing up as her father became a famous novelist, as well as her adult reflections on his work.
She will be returning to Marlborough in September to talk about her memories at the Marlborough Literary Festival.
Faber will be backing the new editions and celebrating the anniversary year with publicity and a consumer campaign, with a display of Golding's manuscripts also to be on show at the Bodleian Library from 5 to November 23. The display will include the Lord of the Flies manuscript, with other exhibits drawn from previously unseen archives held by Faber and the Bodleian's collections.
Golding, also a poet and playwright, won the Booker Prize in 1980, was made a Nobel laureate in 1983 and was knighted by the Queen in 1988. He died in 1993, aged 81.
Yolanda Brown, appearing at the Jazz Festival
Recession or not, Marlborough’s International Jazz Festival is already providing evidence that in tough times people want to forget their troubles and enjoy themselves – even listening to the blues.
The weekend July event, selected by the Sunday Times as one of the five best festivals in Britain, has lost only one of its sponsors due to the economic downturn. “But we’ve actually gained three considerable new ones,” revealed Nick Fogg, founder and organiser of the festival.
“I had been thinking that it would be an achievement to get even close to last year’s sponsorship figure. But we’re up on that figure, not by megabucks but enough to give us a sponsorship income of £80,000.”
That is almost half of the £180,000 cost of the festival, whose main sponsors are the Marlborough-based financial investment firm of Brewin Dolphin, whom former Marlborough mayor Mr Fogg describes as “one of our most loyal supporters.”
And he added: “When the Sunday Times picked us out a few years back, it was absolutely fascinating to know that our ticket prices were about a third or a quarter of the other four festivals. So we are really value for money.
“We’re not totally recession proof but we’ve certainly not been torpedoed by the recession so far. We are already getting loads of inquiries and selling tickets before we have even officially launched the festival.”
But while ticket prices have been pegged for the past three years, they have gone up this time. “We had to,” explained Mr Fogg. “But you can still see the whole weekend for £60 and the highest price of £25 for a stroller ticket to see all the events on the Saturday.”
Surprisingly, Mr Fogg is not a born jazz lover, having originally launched a general music festival in 1986, during his first term as Mayor, only to discover that promoting classical music events was the surest way to lose money.
“Opera is even a safer bet,” he recalled. “It became obvious that a jazz festival fitted best into the topography of the town. And the jazz festival has grown by a process of evolution over the past 12 years. This year’s will hopefully be the biggest ever.”
One of the major attractions among a galaxy of international performers will be 37-year-old Clare Teal, Britain’s top jazz singer. She is the only jazz artist in recent times to have had a CD in the Top Twenty and twice been winner of the Singer of the Year prize at the British Jazz Awards.
Also on the bill is the American pianist Darius Brubeck and his trio and Frances Ruffelle, the Tony award winning star of Les Miserables, will be there with her septet, along with saxophonist Yolanda Brown, twice winner of the prestigious MOBO award.
And it is a truly international affair, the jazz performers coming from no fewer than 24 different countries, ranging from Argentina, Chile and Italy to Russia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The festival dates are July 15, 16 and 17. For full details of the programme – and tickets – see Marlborough Jazz Festival website.