Tag Archives: performance

Theatre in the library

Elaine chats with Home Library Service users, Pimlico Library, December 2016Members of the Home Library Service, together with children from Pimlico Academy, enjoyed ‘A Christmas Carol’ performed by Librarian Theatre at Pimlico Library recently. It was a truly professional show – costumes, lighting, props, sound effects – all in the children’s library!

Afternoon tea after the performance was an opportunity to socialise too. Thanks to all the library staff for their help.

“Lovely to see the children and their interaction with the actors.”

“I found the Tiny Tim scene very emotional!”

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Improbable Impro

Church Street Library & Improbable Theatre present:
IMPRO FOR ELDERS & LIFEGAME – A Double Bill Performance
Funded by Arts Council England and Create Church Street

Impro for Elders flyer front  Impro for Elders flyer back

Church Street Library has proudly embarked on this fantastic adventure with award-winning Improbable Theatre. Impro For Elders is a free weekly drama group for older residents of the Church Street area. During ten weekly rehearsal sessions a well-assorted group of energetic and sharply witted ladies and gentlemen is working towards two public performances, created from scratch, based on the practice of Improvisation. It will be performed at our local theatre The Cockpit in a double bill with Improbable’s show Lifegame (details below).

In the very capable hands of Workshop Directors Andre Pink and Caroline Williams, the group is shaping their understanding of Improvisation, exploring some of the great pillars of this ancient practice, such as Space Awareness, Space Substance, Imagination, and Voice to name but a few. Going by what I have witnessed so far, they are certainly having a lot of fun! Paraphrasing Andre after his last session

‘the group is doing amazingly well! They are effortlessly playful, always willing to take risks, which is vital when improvising and moving together on stage’.

Some comments from the participants so far:

Tony:
“As the rehearsals go on we are now more aware of where we’re heading.”

Joy:
“It has been a very inspiring experience getting to know people with such fascinating lives. Most especially to witness a sense of trust developing within the group. It feels we’re now able to communicate with our own eyes and body.”

Peter:
“Overall, quite a powerful experience from meeting like-minded people to the various drama games which make me conscious of what I’m doing and perhaps my own identity.”

Considering only a few of the group have had some drama experience in their lives, whilst a couple of others performed as professional musicians, they are quickly learning how to use voice and movement to act out autobiographical stories, thoughts and ideas, whether sharing their own or conveying the ones of their fellow performers.

Lucy Foster, Improbable Participation Director and Impro For Elders’ co-project manager, defines improvisation as a tool for social change:

“It is a deeply democratic art form that fosters a sense of community and empowerment amongst its participants and audiences alike and, in an age of increasing digital complexity, is determinedly live.”

Through the initial stage of recruiting performers, Improbable has promised ‘the sessions will above all be fun with lots of theatre games and lots of laughing’ – well I can wholeheartedly confirm this has been fulfilled beyond every possible expectation! There is a lot of sparkle in the room and I trust the trailer will prove that.

(Filming by Debora Gambera and Susie Italiano, video editing by Lucy Foster)

Find out more and book tickets to one of the performances by visiting the Church Street Library events page.


IMPRO FOR ELDERS: The wisdom of making it up as you go along.
LIFEGAME: Part chat show, part impro show.
Lifegame has been performed around the world since 1998.  A different guest every show, a different show every night. In this special version of Lifegame, a member of the Impro For Elders group (also a resident of the Church Street area) will be the guest. What are the stories that only a Church Street local could tell? Join us to find out!

About Improbable
Lead by Artistic Directors Phelim McDermott and Lee Simpson, Improbable is a theatre company that defies categorization. It presents shows on every scale from sumptuous productions in the great opera houses to tiny improvisation gigs in the tiniest venues; it is at the forefront of arts activism through Open Space and creates groundbreaking participation work. At the heart of its practice is improvisation. Following the Eldership Project at The Southbank Centre in 2014, Improbable continues to explore improvising with older performers. In March 2017 a new show Lost Without Words at the National Theatre works with a company of older professional actors to teach them how to improvise.

[Debora]

 

The Force is with us

This has been a fantastic year for Westminster Music Library’s choir, Joint Force Singers. Since 2015 they have performed at prestigious venues and events from Lords MCC to Pimlico Proms, Westminster’s Community Awards to the magnificent Guards Chapel at Wellington Barracks. And it was at the Guards Chapel that our grand finale concert took place, a fitting climax to close a year of high achievement.

'Songs from my Homeland' - Joint Force Singers at the Guards Chapel, June 2016

The aim of our year-long project was to raise awareness of Westminster’s Armed Forces by encouraging collaboration with our local community. I can honestly say our choir has achieved this; it’s brought together local people with those who serve and have served their country, people who under normal circumstances probably would not have met. It’s an honour and a privilege to help and support our armed forces and their families, and bringing them together with our Westminster community to sing, make new friends, and most importantly to have a great time, is our way of giving just a little bit back.

This was to be no ordinary concert; having performed the week before at Pimlico Proms and the previous day at Westminster City Hall for the Armed Forces Week flag raising ceremony, everyone was “ready to rumble”. Emotions were running high, lasting friendships have been forged and there was definitely a feeling of army team sprirt – “let’s make this one special, people!”

Audience member with programme. 'Songs from my Homeland' - Joint Force Singers at the Guards Chapel, June 2016

Our choir was joined by the Victory Wind Quintet, musicians who have been working together for many years within the Guards Bands. Our Musical Director Ruairi had been busily arranging music for both choir and quintet to perform, but now rehearsals were over and it was time for the show to begin…

It will come as no surprise that with Ruairi’ s passion for folk music, the programme featured lots of his own arrangements of traditional songs: “Shenandoah”, (an American folk song), “Scarborough Fair” (featuring a terrific solo by one of our army choir members), and a rip-roaring version of “When the saints go marching in” accompanied by the quintet. But the highlight of the evening was the closing number, which naturally – Ruairi being Ruairi – had to involve some audience participation. For his arrangement of the classic Bill Withers song: “Lean on me”, we were encouraged to clap and stomp our way through the choruses while the singers gave full voice.

Ruairi conducts. 'Songs from my Homeland' - Joint Force Singers at the Guards Chapel, June 2016 Ruth addresses the audience. 'Songs from my Homeland' - Joint Force Singers at the Guards Chapel, June 2016

The choir took their bows and my closing words were accompanied by cheers, rapturous applause and even the odd tear.

It’s been a brilliant year for Joint Force Singers, we are grateful to Westminster’s Armed Forces Community Covenant for supporting us and for the invaluable help we’ve received from the staff at Wellington Barracks.

JFS logoBut above all we are grateful to our amazing choir, who achieved so much in such a short space of time; Joint Force Singers united Westminster’s Armed Forces and our local community in ways that went beyond the music.

[Ruth]

 

We’ve got a choir!

Strife, spirit and soul were the themes of Saturday lunchtime’s spectacular performance by Westminster Music Library’s own Joint Force Singers. Think choir concerts are boring? Joint Force Singers made us think again, with their showcase of music in a wide range of styles, periods and even languages!

Joint Force Singers concert at the Guards' Chapel, 19 March 2016

The impressive Guards’ Chapel at Wellington Barracks played host to this exciting event, and a large crowd of music devotees and casual fans alike were entertained and impressed for almost an hour as the choir presented the fruit of ten weeks’ hard labour. Under the directorship of Ruairi Glasheen, this group of singers from all walks of life had been meeting every week since Christmas in anticipation of Saturday’s performance, and we were delighted to see that their hard work had produced such brilliant music. Ruairi, ever charismatic, amused the audience between songs with anecdotes and jokes, and shared the fascinating historical background to some of the pieces, adding even more to our appreciation of the concert.

In true Joint Force Singers’ fashion, the choir had a surprise up their sleeve, and bewildered the audience by singing the opening song out of sight, taking advantage of the Guards’ Chapel’s excellent acoustics to capture our attention. All became clear, however, as, one by one, the choir appeared on stage, the music naturally rising in dynamic and excitement as more choir members materialised as if from nowhere. A dramatic crescendo led to a thrilling finish: as impactful an opening song as one could wish for. As Ruairi later explained, the haunting tune was in fact a Brazilian folk song.

Joint Force Singers concert, 19 March 2016

Since the choir’s formation a mere six months ago, they have sung in several concerts, and in front of many distinguished guests. As a community choir, the Joint Force Singers are committed to supporting local events and causes, as their presence at initiatives like Silver Sunday testifies, and they have hosted numerous successful workshops, sing-alongs and community events. This concert, however, was a chance for the choir to showcase some individual members’ talents, and a real highlight of the afternoon was hearing some beautiful soprano and alto solos by accomplished amateur singers. The choice of repertoire was clearly chosen with these singers in mind, and it was a pleasure to hear their talent so sensitively showcased.

Ruth Walters and Joint Force Singers - concert, 19 March 2016

As usual, Project Manager Ruth Walters from Westminster Music Library was in attendance to introduce the choir and say a few words about the Joint Force Singers project. Special thanks were given to Tim Heale, London Garrison Welfare Officer, whose partnership in this project has been so valued, and to Ruairi and Hélène for direction and accompaniment respectively! Such a team of committed individuals has been involved in the running of this project behind the scenes, and it was a wonderful opportunity to thank them for their hard work.

The choir presented us a whirlwind tour of musical styles – from Enya to Amazing Grace, and everything in between. My personal favourite was the closing number, a rendition of Carole King’s You’ve Got a Friend, for which the audience was invited to participate in the closing riff. A stunning way to end the concert, and the choir were rewarded with an enthusiastic standing ovation by the appreciative audience.

The audience - Joint Force Singers concert, 19 March 2016

The opportunity to mingle with the choir and enjoy a well-earned cup of tea was taken by many present, as our afternoon with the Joint Force Singers drew to a close. Six months in to the project, it is wonderful to reflect on how far the choir have come, and this Saturday’s concert was a real testimony to that. Westminster Music Library are proud to be the pioneers of this musical adventure, and we eagerly await the next six months!

[Jon]

St John’s Wood round up

Hanukkah fun at St John's Wood Library, December 2015There’s just been so much going on in St John’s Wood Library recently! And there’s much more to come.

Here’s a round up of a few highlights from recent weeks:

For Interfaith Week 2015, we hosted Sh. Kazi Luthfur Rahman, Imam at the London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, who gave a talk about the Quran. While discussing links to the previous revelations – Torah, Psalms and Gospels – the Imam also discussed some of the important teachings, as well as the history and origins of the Quran. There was an involved discussion, with the general consensus being that the library should organise more events regarding different religions and cultures.

'Time to Listen' poetry installation at St John's Wood Library, December 2015

Then, as part of a ‘tour’ of libraries, we welcomed Toni Stuart and her poetry installation Here to Listen. Toni describes herself as “a poet, performer, spoken word educator, festival curator from Cape Town, South Africa, currently in London, UK”. She stayed with St John’s Wood Library for two full days in early December, before moving on to do the same at Victoria Library and Westminster Reference Library later in the month. In silence, she listened to those who sat with her and told her their stories and what was on their mind. She then wrote poems about it. She describes her approach on her blog: Here to Listen, and you can read the poems written at St John’s Wood Library.

December was also the month for Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations, including arts and craft and face painting hosted by Imagethirst, who have been coming to St John’s Wood Library for several years, offering to do portrait photos of children for free. They sometimes host the whole party, sometimes they bring frames to decorate. This time they did some fabulous face paiting. Children (and parents, carers, this librarian and our volunteer Vivienne Levan) also made hanukkiot (hanukkia is the eight candled menora).

Christmas at St John's Wood Library 2015The Christmas parties were also a joy, with happy children receiving books as gifts, enjoying healthy snacks and having lots of fun, thanks to staff and volunteers alike.

The Monthly Meet Up continued with a visit from the Timeline Brass Ensemble performing some classic sounds of the season. This young and enthusiastic band made some heads turn on the street (yes, they were powerful!) so people came in from outside to enjoy the music. Others peeked through the windows and waved. It was a burst of lovely music that shook us up in a good way.

A lovely bit of continuity through the generations has led to our regular Storytime on Tuesday afternoons. For about 30 minutes – or as we prefer to measure it, several stories – Gavin Asher reads and acts for children.

Storytime with Gavin at St John's Wood LibraryIt is a treat and he is gaining a following. An avid reader, Gavin has been a very regular library member for a long time. His son Gino is now a teenager, but he basically grew up in the library. Gavin loved reading to Gino so much that he missed doing it and decided to share his joy of reading with other children and adults.
Join us next Tuesday!

And there’s much more to come – visit our Events page for details. We hope to see you at Tim Judah’s talk about Ukraine this evening!

[Ivana]

Improbable in Church Street Library

In October 2015, Church Street Library invited local children and young people (aged 11-18) to get involved in a new theatre activity. Library staff worked with Improbable theatre company, running workshops in improvisation, puppetry and show devising during November and December. At the end of the project the group put on a performance in – and about – the library:

At the end of the project, we asked the participants what they thought, here’s a selection of their responses to two of the questions:

What was your favourite thing about being involved in the project?
“The reaction of the audience during and after the performance; different from other drama lessons.”
“My favourite thing was performing”
“It makes me feel happy”
“The reaction of the audience”
“Really enjoyed the sessions and loved performing the play”

What have you learned from being involved in the project?
“More confidence in improvising and performing and in myself”
“I learned to be creative”
“I have learnt that it’s not so scary to be loud and confident”
“More confidence in myself”

They also had a ‘feedback wall’ to find out what the audience thought on the night:

The last word goes to Debora, a member of staff at Church Street Library and the key link between the theatre company, the library and the young people taking part:

Church Street Library with Improbable - audience feedback December 2015“What made it really special was seeing the library coming to life through this diverse approach; the connection between the performance and the library space, its usage, facilities and most poignantly its background.

The performers took the audience through this informative yet imaginative journey – incentivising them to become potential future users of libraries.”

[Debora]

A Joint Force Christmas

Last Tuesday’s Christmas showcase at Westminster Music Library was anything but a “Silent Night”, as our very own Joint Force Singers Choir gave their debut public performance in festive style.

JFS logoKeen followers of Westminster Music Library’s community events may already know about our flagship choir, whose activities so far have included interactive workshops in the Library, part of a special festive concert at Lord’s Cricket Ground, and joining some of the Garrison’s army musicians at The Wellington Barracks Christmas market.

Tuesday evening’s event, however, was particularly significant; this was the first concert put on exclusively by the choir and open to the public. As well as having a huge turnout from our local community, guests of honour included Tri-borough Director of Libraries Mike Clarke, London Garrison Welfare Officer Sergeant Tim Heale, Royal College of Music Chief Librarian Peter Linnitt, and Westminster Councillor Rachael Robathan, the City Council’s Armed Forces Champion.

Although the concert was organised by the Westminster Music Library Team, this was something of an opportunity for us to step down from our usual roles as performers and allow Joint Force Singers to take centre stage.

Joint Force Singers Christmas Concert at Westminster Music Library, December 2015

The Joint Force Singers Choir, formed just three months ago, presented the jam-packed library with a tasteful mixed programme of choral works and participatory carols. However this was no typical Christmas programme, alongside irresistible classics like Away in a Manger were some less familiar tunes. Would a typical carol concert contain rousing protest number The Diggers’ Song, or folk song Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier? No! – however, our Choir took these in their stride and the audience loved it. “Beautifully sung, an excellent and original programme, even the little children in the back row were in awe”, commented one attendee. We are proud that our choir stands out from others as being prepared to tackle unfamiliar pieces and challenge audience perceptions of what a Christmas concert should sound like.

Ruairi Glasheen on the bodhran - Joint Force Singers Christmas Concert at Westminster Music Library, December 2015Leading the choir with characteristic flair was Ruairi Glasheen. From day one Ruairi has been highly valued as the Joint Force Choir’s Musical Director, and Tuesday’s Christmas concert gave audience members a chance to see his natural charisma in action.

As well as coaching the choir week by week, choosing repertoire and conducting, Ruairi revealed he had another hidden talent: playing the bodhrán (* see below). Instead of conducting the first piece, he kept time with a constant drum beat, which not only brought The Diggers’ Song to life but also delighted the children in our audience.

We can by no means neglect to mention our faithful accompanist, Hélène. With the piano decked out in tinsel and fairy lights, her brilliant playing provided a steady anchor for our singers.

With such talented individuals leading our Choir, it is no surprise that they were on top form. My own personal favourite carol, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing was sung in perfect four-part harmony, and the brave sopranos who performed the descant part in the last verse deserve special mention. A yuletide classic – We wish you a merry Christmas was transformed into Merry Christmas Cha-Cha-Cha: a lively arrangement of this much loved Christmas song – the altered rhythms of which threw off any audience members attempting to join in, but were an impressive example of the choir’s accuracy of timing. For such a young choir, and with so many having no previous formal singing experience, the concert was hugely impressive, and a sure inspiration to our audience. Many commented afterwards that they couldn’t believe the Choir had only been rehearsing for just three months.  There are still a few places available in the Joint Forces Choir for anyone wishing to join – just email jointforcesingers@gmail.com. No singing experience required!

Joint Force Singers Christmas Concert at Westminster Music Library, December 2015

We are nearly half way through our year-long Joint Force Singers project, but fear not, we have many more exciting performances planned at prestigious venues across Westminster. For more information on the Choir and its background, take a look at this previous blog post. We are thrilled by the success of our Choir’s debut public performance, and are sure of great things to come. If they can put on a brilliant Christmas concert “in the bleak mid-winter”, they can do it any time of year.

[Jon]


*The bodhrán is a traditional Celtic frame drum; the cross braces and laminated rosewood strengthen the shell of this goatskin-covered instrument. The Irish word bodhrán, indicating a drum, is first mentioned in a translated English document in the 17th cent…wait a minute – visit the Music Library if you want to know more! [ed.]