Clare In The Cheap Seats

Follow Me Around The World Of Art

The Big Orchestras of Montreal

The Metropolitan Orchestra of Montreal has provided me with many hours of music excellence over the past year. The greatest accolade I can pay them is that they take their performances out into the surrounding areas of Montreal and not just stay at Place Des Arts. The ticket prices at PdA are ridiculous and many people are forced out of the market. A local church or similar setting along with adult prices of $22-$25 is far more reasonable and that is what I have done with my 4 performances.

Yannick Nézet-Séguin, the Artistic Director and Principal Conductor is a delight to watch. He brings such enthusiasm to the performance and you can see the respect he has for the musicians. I do find the whole conducting part to be way over my head in terms of what waving the baton actually does but I do know that after 2 performances by Yannick he seems to know what he is doing. He always looked so happy and relaxed on the stage, like he was having fun, and that conveyed itself to the Orchestra and those of us fortunate enough to be in the audience. I specifically remember watching the majority of the performances with a big grin on my face 🙂

Another person whom I have had the honour to watch perform twice is a young man by the name of Stéphane Tétreault, a Quebecois Cello prodigy with a very unique style. The passion he has for his instrument is clearly seen by his playing style and facial expressions. If you watch the clip below you will see what I mean. Here, and during the two performances I saw, he literally jumps out of his chair when he plays and you can almost see the music on his face. All this was rather surprising to me when I first saw him play back in December, classical music does have a reputation as a “upper class” activity and raw emotion is not something you usually associate with it, so in this regard, Stéphane was a joy to watch.

I have been to two other concerts by the Metropolitan with Philadelphia Conductor Cristian Măcelaru and a young Japanese-American Conductor called Kensho Watanabe. Yannick Nézet-Séguin provides a connection to both as he also conducts for the Philadelphia Orchestra and Kensho has just completed his training under his guidance in the US. The two concerts with were also a joy to listen to and I shall look out for them both if they ever visit Montreal.

The other major Orchestra in Montreal is of course the Symphony Orchestra and I have now been to two of their performances. Unlike the Metropolitain they do not venture out of Place des Arts and they their prices sadly reflect this. I will try to get to more of their performances but only if I can find a reasonably priced ticket.

The first concert I have to tell you about was back in February and featured that annoying but memorable ringtone William Tell Overture. It was quite an experience to hear such a famous piece of music played before me. Other pieces played during this concert were Symphony #5 by Mendelssohn, which I enjoyed.

and Concerto for Piano #1 by Brahms, which I enjoyed less. Not because it was not good, the guest Pianist was Emanuel Ax and he was great, it is just that found the notes to be too “harsh”. I do prefer the Violin/Viola and wind instruments to the keys. You can have a listen for yourself here.

My final concert was one from an absolute legend in the music and film industry. This man has been composing music and film scores for over 50 years. He has 3 Academy Award nominations and a host of other accolades and awards, his name is Philip Glass and his performance was outstanding. Two pieces stood out for me that evening. The first was Concerto Fantasy for Two Timpanists and Orchestra (2000), what a stunning piece that was.

The second was when Mr Glass himself took to the stage and performed his piece Mad Rush. I have been able to find the actual performance online as CBC recorded the event for one of their programmes. I am so glad I found this so I can see the close up of his hands as he plays. We were right up on the balcony, in the Cheap Seats  so you don’t get to witness the finer details of the performance.

That is everything for now.  I hope to get out to a few performances during the upcoming Jazz Festival (like last year) and to other venues showcasing musical talent.

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Music To My Ears

I am going to use this post to wrap up all the wonderful music I have been fortunate to witness from a few Orchestras and musicians based in Montreal (Met and Montreal orchestra post is here. The city is truly blessed with musical talent and here is what I have to share.

Christmas time is always a wonderful opportunity to get out and listen to some great live music and the run-up to Christmas 2014 was certainly no exception.

My first concert combined great music with the giving spirit of the season. The Lakeshore Concert Band held their Christmas Dessert Concert, which was a chance for those attending to support a local food bank and help those in need. I went to the store and stocked up on items that were requested and off I went with my box full of food. I was fortunate to sit next to the Wife of one of the musicians and she told me about how often they practice etc. As with when I have been to amateur theatre, the level of commitment shown by these people is nothing short of remarkable and they deserve every accolade put their way. The concert itself was a jolly affair with festive tunes that was topped off with a good old sing-a-long of Christmas Carols.

Baroque Christmas Around the World was the title of my next festival concert and it was simply amazing. I had never heard Baroque music before this evening and it showed me what I have been missing out on, the sound was just magical. What made it even more spectacular was the guest Soprano, Dawn Bailey. Her entrance into the church was stunning. I think everyone in the audience expected Dawn to arrive on the stage where the musicians were playing, instead she used the Church setup to her advantage. She began to sing behind the audience on the organ balcony. As her voice filled the Church she made her way down the stairs, then the aisle and onto the stage. Another guest joined the group for a later piece but I forget his name now. He was a young Iranian man who grew up here in Canada. He played a Persian drum; again I sadly forget the name and as with everyone else involved in this concert, he was marvelous. The name of the group is Ensemble Caprice and I will hopefully see them again one day.

Stewart Hall in Pointe Claire is my final location for this post. They host a wide variety of free concerts on a Sunday afternoon and I have the pleasure to share with you two recitals from November and February.

The last pieces of chamber music for clarinet and piano composed by Brahms was the delight that awaited me on a cold Sunday afternoon after work. Michael Westwood (Clarinet) and Gregory Millar (Piano) provided the entertainment as they played 3 pieces of music and shared their love knowledge and passion for these works. The next concert in February was by a very talented young man called Carl-Matthew Neher. This has been my favourite concert at Stewart Hall by far. Not only is Neher a very talented young man he also is a very good teacher. His pupils that day were the audience. The title of the concert was La Musique de l’eau (Water Music) and he took a great amount of time to explain (with short examples) of how the connection between water and music was represented in the pieces. I am not very talented when it comes to the actual construction of music, I go by what my ears enjoy so I felt I learnt a lot during the 2 hours and I am grateful to Carl-Matthew for giving the time to explain.

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Busy Busy Busy !

Again, I am very sorry for neglecting this Blog since April.  The upside is that I have plenty to tell you about.

I’ll start at the Montréal Symphony Orchestra where Mr Clare & I spent an evening listening to:

BRAHMS, Academic Overture
BARTÓK, Viola Concerto
VIVIER, Zipangu
BRAHMS, Symphony No. 3

Our seats where up in the God’s but I prefer that when watching an Orchestra as the sound travels plus you can see each musician playing their part.  From the programme I really enjoyed the Brahms, who doesn’t? I was not keen on the Vivier, sorry it just sounded like noise with too much going on at once and was too long.  I enjoyed the Bartók piece though it was a tad too long.  There must be something about long pieces of music that I don’t enjoy!  All that said, it was an enjoyable evening out at the Orchestra and it was great to finally hear some live music again, you can’t beat it.

Next I was off to the cinema again to catch the encore screening of King Lear starring the marvellous Simon Russell Beale (great Podcast HERE with more HERE from National Theatre Live).  Wow, what a fantastic performance from everyone involved.  I actually think that my lack of Shakespeare knowledge is to my benefit when I go to watch these plays, as I have no spoilers, I felt the same way when I watched the equally fantastic Othello earlier this year (EDIT – I have looked through my Blog and cannot believe I have not told you about this!)  There were EPIC performances by Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear and whilst this particular production had a modern day setting it was nothing less than brilliant.  It was because of this performance that I went back to watch King Lear.  I can honestly say that both of these plays have made we make me want to read the works of Shakespeare in the future, alas, too much to read / watch, so little time, but I will get there one day.

Fast cars in Parc Jean-Drapeau can mean only one thing, Grand Prix time in Montréal. We have both been fans of F1 was years but never took the plunge and attended a race. Now that we have one literally on our doorstep it seemed rude not to go and check out the action. The ticket prices meant it was cheaper to buy a 3-day pass so we missed nothing. It was quite an experience to hear the roar of the engines (and this year they have been turned down), smell the burning rubber and see just how fast these cars move. The best view was from the back row of our Grandstand as we could stand up on the bench and see pretty much all the way down the back straight. We had to arrive at the circuit when the gates opened in order to get these seats as it was unreserved. This meant having to get out of bed very early though this was the only downside to the weekend. I managed to get quite a few photos and they can be viewed at my Flickr

I have a few Criterion reviews to write up on so I will now say Au Revoir from this Blog.

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2014, The Story So Far

Oh my, I have so much to catch up on. I have been to my first Montreal play, been out and about with my camera and caught the National Ballet via the cinema. In between all the above I’ve managed to pack in lots of films.

I’ll start with my first venture into the world of Montreal theatre. I went to the Segal Theatre to watch The Seagull, a new version based on the play by Anton Chekhov. I found it to be an absolute marvel and for the price ($24) it was a bargain. I have bookmarked the theatre (along with a few others) and will keep an eye on their future productions.

My partner & I went to the local Botanical Gardens back in early March to visit the Butterfly exhibition. Butterflies have always fascinated me ever since I was a child. I find metamorphosis extraordinary and love the colours of all the different butterflies and moths. I have posted a few photos here but check out my Flickr page for the rest.



As I now live in Québec I have decided to learn French. Even with the Liberals regaining power in the Province, French is still an essential tool to living here. I am going to the YMCA and my course starts on 6 May for 7 weeks. Hopefully by the end of June I will have some grasp of the lingo.

As usual, I have been watching lots of films this year. I’ve even managed to catch a few at the cinema in addition to those at home. So far the highlights have been:

Nebraska (cinema)

Her (cinema)

Doctor Zhivago

25th Hour



A Single Man

The Wind Rises (cinema)

The Grand Budapest Hotel (cinema and my first winner from Wes Anderson. Ralph Fiennes is just marvellous)

Black Rain (Japanese title is Kuroi Ame)

I have also rewatched Deliverance & Gladiator, which are both immense films.

But the winner so far this year and the only film to score 10/10 is 12 Years A Slave. Whilst it is hard to watch in places, this film is an absolute “must-see”

Another reason I have been to the cinema was to watch the Ballet, yes the Ballet. Remember when I posted about the Arts being broadcast into cinemas across the world? Well I have been again, this time to watch Sleeping Beauty by the Royal Ballet. I had actually forgot about this performance so I missed the Live broadcast from the Royal Opera House. Thankfully they have an “Encore” screening and it was to this that I went on 13 April. The bonus for this performance was the fact that it did not cost me a cent; it was free! I collect points every time I visit Cineplex so with all films I have watched, the orders placed to buy DVD’s and movie rentals online, I had more than enough points to be able to exchange for a ticket. Hopefully it won’t be long until I have enough points for another free trip.

So what have I got coming up in the next few months?

Well I will be going back to the cinema in May to watch the National Theatre Live performance of King Lear. Later that month we have tickets to the Montréal Symphony Orchestra; details about the concert are here. There are a few films coming up over the next few months that I would like to go and see at the cinema and I have literally around 30 films recorded from the TV. And lets not forget all the Criterions I have to review. Enough to keep me busy and out of mischief 🙂

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Preston Proms – Jose Carreras & Katherine Jenkins

The evening started with a queue, a long queue that snaked its way between Avenham & Miller Park.  Nevertheless the time past quickly and soon enough we were heading into the fenced off area to find our spot.  The majority of people had brought folding chairs and blankets with them, a few even brought tables.  There was plenty of space and we managed to get right to the front, around 6ft from the stage barrier.  We were situated just to the left of the crowd, near the speakers.

After getting ourselves settled it was time to visit the Portaloo.  I must admit, there were plenty of them and they seemed clean enough.  I knew that a few others from where I work was going to be in the crowd and almost straight away I spotted (and heard) one group.  They in turn pointed out the rest to me.

The concert was due to start at 19.00 and they were, unusually, on time.  I am not going to talk in detail about the songs that were sang as we did not buy a programme, though I do know Katherine started with Halleluiah and also sang “Time To Say Goodbye”.  All I really can say it that each and every piece of music played was a delight to hear.  The power of Jose & Katherine’s voices to the perfect music from the Manchester Camerata Orchestra, all was a priviledge to witness live.

Time seemed to fly and before we knew it the fireworks were exploding above the stage.  I have taken away with me three new artists to explore, Carreras, Jenkins and Manchester Camerata Chamber Orchestra.  I very much doubt I will ever witness Jose live again but the 2 hours I saw on Friday night was plenty.  Maybe one day I will see Katherine again and I will be sure to keep an eye out for any Tour Dates.  As for the Orchestra, I am going to have a look at their schedule right now.

For my full set of photographs please view my Flickr Account


RAF Orchestra @ Bridgewater Hall

Now that I am back home for an extended period of time (no tennis to dash off to) I decided to have a look at the upcoming concerts at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.

The RAF in Concert seem to continue the spirit of Britain that has been flying high this summer so I thought it would be worth a look.  I am going to presume that it will be very similar to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic concert I went to at the Preston Guild Hall when I watched a tribute to John Williams (please see my Review here).

The concert is not until October but it is almost sold out which is a good sign.  I’ll write a review once I get back from the concert.

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Apologies & Catch-up

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I have been so busy recently travelling around watching tennis that my “art & film” hobbies have taken a bit of a back seat.

Fear not though, I have been watching films via Lovefilm and booked myself a few little trips (see my next post).

A selection of films I have watched:

Dr Strangelove – Sellers at his best
The Long Goodbye – Monica & Ross’ Dad gives a great performance
The Seventh Seal – Not easy to describe
Last Tango In Paris – Very interesting use of butter
The Sorrow & The Pity – Real documentary of wartime France
Flatliners – Would you?
The Mummy (1932) – This is what happens when you don’t do as you are told!
The Crimson Rivers – Good film
Life Is Beautiful – A film of Fatherly love to the limit
Annie Hall – A must-see
Platoon – Hard hitting film
The Apartment – How to get on the right side of the boss
The Odd Couple – How not to share an apartment
Metropolis – A film ahead of its time
Deliverance – Fantastic film that you must watch
Kiki’s Delivery Service – A heart warming film for all ages
Jean De Florette & Manon Des Sources – Greed always has a price
Houseboat – What a great way to live
Cape Fear – Bloody hell Gergory, just shoot him already!
Raging Bull – De Niro as a prize fighter
12 Angry Men – Wonderful film
The 400 Blows – Sometimes all they need is a little attention
Fistful Of Dollars – Hello Mr Man With No Name
Copycat – How easy is it to copy a killer
Witness For The Prosecution – Great film with a twist
The Son’s Room – Very moving film
Repo Man – Very 80’s
Au Revoir Les Enfants – Another very moving film
A Few Dollars More – Clint is back for more action
Days Of Wine & Roses – Epic tale of excess
Dogville – Very strange set
Pom Poko – Don’t mess with the racoons
Beyond A Reasonable Doubt – Keep copies of everything

I have also made a few trips to theatre etc.

I went to London in April and paid a visit to The Royal Opera House where I watched 3 short ballets (Polyphonia / Sweet Violets / Carbon Life) I enjoyed the first, the second was pretty decent too, the third was forgetable as well as painful on my eardrums.

Back home in Preston I went to the local Odeon to watch Rigoletto relayed live from the ROH. Excellent opera with great performances from all involved.

I subscribe to a service called SeeFilmFirst and every now and then I receive free offers to concerts or shows. I was offered a ticket to the Opera House in Manchester to watch a Musical called Vampirette. I had nothing better to do on the Saturday afternoon so I went along. What a riot! Great music and songs as well as story (based on the Addams family) They had the whole audience up dancing at the end.

Brass Festival at Bridgewater Hall was a whole day long event I attended. Whilst it was good I had seen a few of the bands before but at least it helped me decide who I like.

La Fille mai Gardee was another show watched at the cinema. This was a very colourful affair with a funny storyline. How they never got tangles up during the Maypole dance I’ll never know.

Jools Holland came to Preston in May so I dragged my partner along for a night of live music. Jools and the band did not disappoint playing their jazzy music that had people dancing in their seats.

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Where Have I Been?

To many different places is the answer.

I have watched many films, both at the cinema and at home. Have I told you that I am a member of Lovefilm? I have the unlimited package, 3 discs at home which is great value at £13.27 per month. I watch at least 4 films per week so I certainly get my money’s worth.

I have joined a new cinema, Picturehouse in Liverpool. It is very similar to the Cornerhouse in Manchester that I regularly visit. I am a member of the Times+ and they are running an offer of half price membership, £16 instead of £32. Considering that I recieve 3 free tickets is was worth the price. I also recieve a discount on all purchases as well as numerous other offers. If you are in the North West I recommend membership to both Cornerhouse & Picturehouse.

So what I have been up to?

I watched the new Werner Herzog Documentary – Into The Abyss. This was a pre-release screening @ Picturehouse that included an after film Q&A session with the man himself via link from London.

Interesting film that concentrated on a murder case in Texas. The documentary explores the people involved in the crime and the families left behind. It also looks at the use of the death penalty. For anyone interested in this subject Herzog currently has a TV series showing on Channel 4, Death Row. The previous 2 episodes are available here to watch.

Others films I have watched recently that I can recommend are:

In Darkness – Poland’s entry to the Oscars this year that follows a true story set in Lodz during WWII.

The Skin I Live In – Banderas stars in this excellent, if not slightly wacked out film with revenge at the core of his actions.

Ni Liv – Again a true story set during WWII but this time set in Norway as ordinary people help a man on a failed sabotage mission escape capture and to the safety of neutral Sweden.

Chocolat – A few of my friends needed a “girly chick flick” to cheer them up so we watched this lovely film set in a quiet French village that receives a rude awakening when a choclatier sweeps in and tempts them all during Lent.

The French Connection – I thought this was a great film with an great performance from Hackman. Lots of action and interaction with his partner that keep the pace thoughout. Nice car v subway train chase too 🙂

I went to see the BBC Philharmonic again at Bridgewater Hall for one of their “Reflections on Debussy” performances. As to be expected from the BBC this was a very enjoyable show with nice and delicate music played in perfect harmony.

Three ballets have been watched, Giselle at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool and Romeo & Juliet & Swan Lake at the Opera House in Manchester. Whilw I don’t always know the story or who is who I love to watch them dance, especially the men. I find their fast twirls and energetic moves very entrancing.

I return to Paris in May, where I watched my first ever ballet but alas there are no performances scheduled for the time I am in town 😦 The only show I could watch is the opera Barber of Seville but the ticket prices are silly at €90 so I shall pass.

Films/shows coming up include a free screening of Sideways courtesy of California Classics, a visit to Royal Opera House during my visit to London where I am watching a new performance of 3 short ballet’s. Rigoletto & La Fille Mal Gardee are two performances live from the National Theatre I shall be watching but via the Odeon cinema.

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The Film Music of John Williams: 80th Birthday Celebration Review

Wonderful, an absolutely wonderful evening. To hear many familiar & loved theme tunes, along with some unknown, played out live was a fantastic experience.

The show started with my up-most favorite theme tune, Star Wars. To hear this memorable piece of music played in front of me and to be able to see the instruments played was so exciting, I could almost picture the open credits of the film.

The next music was not by Williams but Bernard Herrmann with the theme to Citizen Kane. Quite bizarre as this film has just been delivered to me by Lovefilm. I have heard the music before watching the film.

The Lord of The Rings blockbuster The Two Towers, another film I have not seen was next. I tried to read the book as a child and that was enough to put me off the series for life!.

The next theme was a chance to check if it was safe to go into the sea, that’s right, it was Jaws. I always find myself looking around for a shark when I hear the opening bars of the music 🙂

At this point I had decided that I really have missed out on some classic film music. Close Encounters was next in two parts, the theme and the music towards the end of the film, which I have been told involves a “spaceship”.

Time for the Witches to take to the stage now with music from The Witches of Eastwick and the Dance of The Witches. And yes, this is another film i have not yet seen but I have added to my Lovefilm list.

Another blockbuster was next, a popular TV series from the 1960’s that has spawned multiple films though the decades, given us fearless warriors like the Klingon’s, the Borg Collective and boldly gone where no man has gone before. It was of course Star Trek.

We next went for a fly through the buildings of Manhattan as Superman takes Lois Lane on a trip. This was concluded with the theme tune. This also concluded the first half of the performance.

At the start of the second half we were introduced to a piece of music that Williams wrote for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Magic wands were waved and owl feather ruffled next as Hedwig’s Theme from the First Harry Potter film was played. I have read the book but will admit to only watching the first four films.

Another of my all time favorite films was next and another unforgettable tune, Raiders of The Lost Ark.

It was then time to find yourself an eye patch and parrot as we took to the high seas in the 2nd of the Pirates of The Caribbean franchise. Can’t say these films have ever appealed to me so this was yet another piece of music that I had never heard before.

“Hymn to the Fallen” from Saving Private Ryan was next and also the final piece of music that I was yet to hear.

Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List & E.T concluded the performance.

During the concert my mind kept wandering back to the same thought, John Williams certainly knows how to capture the heart & meaning of a film or scene and put it into music. When the film called for a more serious note you can feel this in the music. Equally so, when the film was about adventure, i.e Raiders of the Lost Ark the music is upbeat and you feel a part of film.

On the advert used for this concert Williams is described as “the greatest living composer”. After the two hours plus I spent listening to a catalogue I cannot disagree with this statement.

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The Film Music of John Williams: 80th Birthday Celebration Preview

I am really looking forward to this concert tonight. The Orchestra is the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Carl Davis.

Everyone knows a John Williams Theme tune. Tonight’s performance will include the following films:

Star Wars (my favorite)
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Magnificent Seven

and many more.

I really do hope that after the performance I have a very similar big smile on my face to the one I have now as I write this review.

Look out for my review in the next few days.

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