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An interesting by-product of all this was education -- and how we learnt, in various chats from members of the group, about scordatura tuning, end pins and dendro-chronology tests for cellos (Angela's was made in 1725 from a tree cut down in 1538 -- amazing that these dates can be so accurate), that a Simphonie (by Jean-Marie LeClair) might only be twenty seven seconds long, and about J S Bach being not particularly fond of the recorder (which didn't stop Red Priest arranging and playing some Bach).

This full and well-balanced evening's entertainment ended with another of Red Priest's crazier arrangements -- a Fantasy on Corelli's La Folia, which takes the piece to new jazzy and sleazy contemporary extremes, and from which the group has gained a certain notoriety, not least from the appearance of a few bars of Elgar's Cello Concerto. I have to report that (unlike Robert Anderson in his recent M&V CD review) my ears and brain were less shocked by the transition from Corelli to Elgar than by what happened immediately after this -- from Elgar to a hypnotic Indian-sounding number!

Thriving with a strong community atmosphere, despite our lean times generally, The Roses Theatre at Tewkesbury should be congratulated for promoting not only Red Priest, but an impressively wide spectrum of arts events, including film, ballet, plays, pantomimes, comedy, musicals, jazz, rock, puppetry, lectures and slide shows. Music events in June 2003 include Tewkesbury Town Band ('Brass Plays The Proms'), The Pasadena Roof Orchestra and Justin Pearson's Locrian Ensemble ('Last Night of the Proms'). There's also, in a switch from Red Priest to the Red Planet, an appearance by science and astronomy personality Patrick Moore (known also for his cameo appearances in classical concerts), with a lecture and slide show entitled 'Mars: The Next Frontier'.

Meanwhile, our baroque masked crusaders tour on, remaining (wisely) on this planet, their 2003 schedule encompassing Italy (where, presumably, they'll be learning to develop those Corelli-like eyeballs, red as fire) and the USA (where the group is apparently even more of a sensation than here in the UK), as well as visits to Australia, Belgium, Canada and Norway. Red Priest tours two programmes: Nightmare in Venice, a Baroque Fantasy, as performed in Tewkesbury, and a programme based on Vivaldi's Four Seasons, from which, as an encore, we were treated to Spring Dance, an intriguing taster. I was sorry only not to hear and see Piers Adams play two recorders at once, as he does, apparently, in the Recorder Concerto written specially for him by David Bedford.

Red Priest
Red Priest

CDs are available on Dorian -- the previously-mentioned M&V review has short sound extracts -- but for the complete package, book to hear and see the group live, and why not indulge in some musical evangelism by inviting all your friends who have yet to discover serious music? With such an active and continuous touring schedule, it can't be too long before Red Priest appears on a darkened stage somewhere near you.

Copyright © 1 June 2003 Keith Bramich, Worcestershire, UK






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