Saturday 6 July 2013

The Reunion - memories of La Colombe and other diversions

Gounod's La Colombe was first performed at the Buxton Festival 30 years ago and three of the original cast members, Kathryn Harries, Linda Ormiston and Donald Maxwell got together for an hour of reminiscence and music, The Reunion, at the Pavilion Arts Centre in Buxton on Saturday 6 July 2013. Accompanied by Angela Livingstone on the piano, the event opened with Ormiston and Maxwell in a delightful rendition of Ah yes, I remember it well and you might have imagined that we were in for a gentle hour of music and memory, especially as a quite number of the audience had attended that production 30 years ago. Not a bit, there was a strong vein of anarchy delightfully running through the proceedings. The fourth member of the original cast, Adrian Thompson, was unable to be present as he is singing Mime in Wagner's Ring at Longborough Festival, so his presence was substituted with a straw stuffed dummy, with whom Harries sang, and danced, a duet (from Lehar's The Merry Widow).

Harries early experience with the children's TV programme Music Time was the excuse for a piece of community singing with the audience getting to sing Michael Finnigan, and This Old Man simultaneously (which they did with great gusto).

The general theme of the concert was songs about birds and animals, interspersed with stories about the original La Colombe, and other Buxton festival productions including Jason (with live sheep on stage), and another which included a donkey and cart. For songs we got Maxwell singing the Flanders and Swann number I'm a Gnu, and Maxwell and Ormiston in Tom Lehrer's anarchic Poisoning Pigeons in the Park. Whilst Ormiston sang a song about mating penguins which included both actions and penguin noises!

There were some more serious moments. Harries sang Delibes Filles de Cadiz, but humour prevailed. All three singers had a great way of communicating with the audience, and we certainly didn't need surtitles. One thing that did come across was that the performers seemed to having as much fun as the audience. And it was heartening that their reminiscences included memories of the friendships developed during the original run of La Colombe.

The final item was another animal themed one, Rossini's Cat Duet delightfully turned into a trio. It made for a wonderful lunch-time concert, and I look forward to the occasion 30 years hence when the present cast of La Colombe get together for their own reunion.

See our other coverage of Buxton Festival on this blog.

Elsewhere on this blog:

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