The Cambridge Buskers Collection



Michael Copley (flutes); Dag Ingram (accordion)

DG 482 1785  (4 CDs)

TPT: 4 hours 55 minutes 16 seconds

reviewed by Neville Cohn


The Cambridge BuskersFar and away the most intriguing busker I’ve ever come across was in Cape Town when I was a child. He was an overweight man without arms, seated in a wheelchair with a wind-up gramophone and a tiny tin of needles on the ground just in front of him. His feet were bare.


Incredible as this must seem to those who have never experienced it, this remarkable figure used ten astonishingly versatile toes (of normal length) to extract a needle from the tin and insert it in the appropriate place in the gramophone arm. Then, with the 78rpm record whirling around on the turntable, he’d place the arm perfectly on the spinning shellac disc, an achievement invariably prompting applause and a mini-shower of coins from astonished onlookers.


More conventionally, Thomas Gould , a sensational young violinist, has busked in the London Underground. And Joshua Bell, another superb fiddler, also famously did a spot of busking in a Washington subway, an event that created headlines internationally.


Then there are the Cambridge Buskers, a duo who must surely go down as the most celebrated of all street musicians. Their LPs sold like hotcakes (still do, I understand) – and now they are on compact disc, a bumper 4CD pack.


How refreshing it is to listen to these fine musicians – and they are both very much at the top of their game whether on accordion, flute, recorder or crumhorn – sending up the classics in a most delightful, tongue-in-cheek way. This sort of thing is VERY difficult to bring off successfully – and it requires high artistry.


It is definitely not for beginners who would almost certainly discover how very easy it is to sound ham handed, earthbound, tasteless and crass in an initiative such as this.


But with the CB players wondrously on their musical toes, there’s not a hint of this. These two chaps know exactly what they are doing – and they do so beautifully in delightfully buoyant and engaging musicmaking. How easily this sort of musical sendup can sound tasteless and, worst of all, boring. No chance of that, I’m happy to say, with these two fellows.


Delightfully quirky – now sparking a chuckle, now a guffaw


It is only musicians who are thoroughly trained and experienced who can take on a challenge such as this – and make it work. As any famous movie comedian will say, it’s jolly hard to be funny The CB fellows, though, seem born to it with their zany expeditions through revered classics – anything from Flight (or might it have been Fight?) of the Valkyries to all of Beethoven ‘s nine symphonies crammed into 5 minutes by two chaps on a jolly romp through the classics. It’s an absolutely jolly wheeze, wouldn’t you say, by two musically madcap fellows?


It’s all jolly good fun as that light hearted wit Margaret Thatcher might have opined – and sure to give the apoplexy to those who believe that bringing humour to the classics borders on criminality.




Death at the Festival pp183 sc | Death in Titipu pp203 sc | Through a Brick Wall Darkly pp216 sc by Barbara Yates Rothwell


Trafford Publishing.


reviewed by Alice Woode


Now in her ninth decade, Barbara Yates Rothwell demonstrates an energy that is frankly extraordinary. At an age when many of her contemporaries are either dead or building tiny houses of sea shells, Yates Rothwell forges ahead. A mother of six, she founded and ran a school for a decade in the 1980s, she worked as music critic for The West Australian newspaper for ten years – and prior to settling in Australia, was Women’s Page editor for a large group of weekly papers in the UK.


In Death at the Festival, Rothwell is in familiar territory (that is, in a purely musical context). It focuses on the murder of two celebrated concert pianists who have turned up to take part in the festival. It’s a book that ought to be read by any and every musician who has played at one or other – or many – music festivals – and that goes for festival organisers as well. The reader is kept guessing until almost the very end.

It’s a thumping read.


If Death at the Festival focuses on professional musicians, Death in Titipu is peopled by those amateur musicians – both singers and instrumentalists – who for decades past have been the lifeblood of the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire as members of one or other of the many G&S societies in English-speaking environments around the globe.


It’s a fascinating whodunit. Titipu’s interpreter who is also the local school principal is done to death and as the police delve into the often murky backgrounds of some of the other players, unpleasant facts emerge, not least about Miss Teresa Glencosset, the principal of St Chedwyn’s school for girls; she is most definitely not nice.


It’s a real page turner. Don’t begin reading it at bedtime. The chances are that you’ll be so intrigued by the murky goings-on among the G&S crowd that you’ll carry on reading into the wee hours and stumble about groggily from tiredness the following day – as happened to me.

Through a Brick Wall Darkly is the antithesis of the whodunit. It’s a beautifully written story about adoption and the emotional minefield that has so often to be traversed by those involved in the process. It should be read by anyone contemplating adoption. Yates Rothwell offers a movingly sensitive, bittersweet tale about the effects the process can have on so many people. Depression, elation, regret, confusion, despair are so often the essence of the process. It’s a touching, at times desperately sad, story that ought to be read by anyone contemplating involvement in an adoption. Throughout, Yates Rothwell never puts a foot wrong in this beautifully considered book.

Book Review

Tartuffe (Moliere)

State Theatre

reviewed by Neville Cohn


To experience Black Swan Theatre’s frankly delightful production of Moliere’s timeless Tartuffe is as refreshing an entertainment as a cool shower on a very hot day.


With a gratifying sense of onward momentum and an entirely appropriate lightness of touch, Moliere’s play worked the magic that has made it a theatrical favourite for centuries. Pace is crucial here – and on this count director Kate Cherry could not be faulted.


This production of Tartuffe plays out against a very 21st-century background. The set is cleverly designed by Richard Roberts. It looks as if the play is set in, say, suburban Scarborough – and its neatness and polish are largely due to the efforts of the maid Dorine,  played delightfully by Emily Weir. Her role is a crucial one and she essays it as if it had been written especially for her.


The sons and father of the household, too, enter splendidly into the spirit of the play; it is theatrically spot-on.


As Tartuffe, Darren Gilshenin warrants the highest praise. He could not be faulted. This is the sort of characterisation that critics pray to experience but only very rarely encounter in reality. The timelessness of Moliere’s play is underscored by the visceral unpleasantness of Tartuffe, surely one of theatre’s most appalling, indeed disgusting, characters, a man who has made deception and hypocrisy a way of life, in fact an art form. His ability to lie and deceive is exceptional.

Cast.Tartuffe Image

Daniel James Grant

In the wonderfully capable hands and voice of Gilshenan, Tartuffe is given a face that faultlessly mirrors each nuance of this stomach-churning crook. Gilshenan hands us a Tartuffe who is the most revolting of hypocrites. The timelessness of Moliere’s play is assured by the playwright’s genius in bringing the vomitous Tartuffe to life; his visceral unpleasantness is limitless.


At one time or another, we have all encountered Tartuffe clones, those who exploit circumstances of the moment to advance their own interests which are invariably to the detriment of innocent others. And Moliere’s genius ensures that Tartuffe is as much of today as of the century in which the play was written.


Lighting, decor and garb – all this is of A1 quality – but the translation of the text into English – or rather its presentation –  is not always at the standard of these other theatrical high points. There was a lack of even flow; frequently words sounded stilted or awkward.

Royal Schools Music Club – a 90th birthday celebration



Callaway Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn


In many instances, people are now living years longer than was the case, say, a century ago. Many now survive to 90 years of age  – and older; it is no longer considered particularly remarkable. The opposite applies to music clubs. Most have died years ago. But there are exceptions – such as the Royal Schools Music Club which recently celebrated its 90th anniversary in fine style. If its birthday concert is anything to go by, there’s every reason to believe it will not only reach its centenary in glowing health but carry on its fine work further into the future.


This birthday celebration was a finely balanced offering: serious, profound material leavened by moments of brief, tongue-in-cheek frivolity. It was a delightful mix.


Lyn Garland: step forward and take a thoroughly deserved bow for a faultless ushering-in of the program with an account of a Faure Impromptu. I cannot recall hearing this fine pianist to better advantage, capturing, as she did flawlessly, the essence of this so-elusive music.


Shuan Hern Lee gave us a seldom heard, engaging Tchaikowsky miniature: Invitation to Trepak. Afterwards, he was joined by his father Yoon-Sen Lee in a version for piano duet of the same composer’s evergreen Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.


We also listened to a first performance of a charm-laden obeisance to the Romantic era: Holly Broadbent’s Sonata in A minor, played in high style by Paul Wright (violin) and Anna Sleptsova (piano). They also presented a fine reading of  Danza No 1 from de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat – and Sleptsova played Ukrainian Melody by compatriot Myroslav Skoryk as well as Rodion Shchedrin’s A la Albeniz, a cheeky obeisance to the great Spanish composer.


And there was, too, a charming interlude from the Palm Court era with Trio Apasionado playing Chaly by Andres Linetsky.


Whether frivolous or profoundly serious, this was a beautifully balanced presentation that throughout struck just the right note – pun intended!


By virtue of its ability to remain relevant – in a most meaningful and engaging way – the Royal Schools Music Club has not only survived (whereas almost all other music clubs in Australia have gone the way of the dodo) but shows no sign whatever of fading from the music scene. And that is as remarkable as it is heart-warming.

Blanca y Negra

Crooked Spire Coffee House, Midland

reviewed by Helga Sand

Fascinating flamenco finesse informed every moment of a traditional Farruca at the Crooked Spire Coffee House. It was an ideal curtainraiser for Nicole Levy and Karen Henderson to demonstrate their skill and style in this most attractive of flamenco dances. Impeccable footwork was a particularly pleasing feature.

There was a most attractively styled Solea por Bulerias and a no-less meaningful account of a Siguiriyas, each given a contemporary take on the traditional versions. In both instances, style, technique and a fine sense of line and rhythm gave point and meaning to these flamenco staples. Castanet playing was of fine standard. A concluding Alegrias, with a beautifully gowned Henderson and Levy striking in a Spanish trouser suit, did wonders in this most approachable of flamenco dance styles. Their performance would surely have charmed even the grumpiest of audience members.

Laurels aplenty to guitarist Kieran Ray who excelled on flamenco guitar. His playing, radiating authenticity and buttressed by an impeccable technique provided ideal accompaniments for the dancers. For much of the evening, mystifyingly, he was at times barely visible, a dim figure in the gloom, the very antithesis of his radiant playing. This aside, Sarah Levitt’s lighting design was everything one could have hoped for.

It is only very infrequently indeed that the violin is heard in a flamenco context so Stuart Robertson’s strongly emphatic playing was of particular interest – and Genevieve Wilkins and Jackson Vickery were both faultless on cajon.

Adding to the visual dimension of the production was the use of drawings of bullfighting and flamenco dancers, images of which were projected onto the rear of the stage. The originals, on sale, were displayed on the walls of the cafe area.

Having worked for decades as a reviewer in Perth, I can say that, compared to some of the hideously uncomfortable seating provided for audiences in too many local venues, the seats in the Crooked Spire theatre border on the heavenly.