What’s On at LSO St. Luke’s this Christmas

Nicole T Raleigh

Ah, December – month of the perpetual serenade of Christmas carols (or, if you’re really unlucky, non-stop rotation of the seasonal pop classics). Nonetheless, speaking of ‘classics’, if you find yourself wondering how to fill these long, dark and chilly nights in the City with something that provides just that touch more culture and memorability, then why not turn to LSO St. Luke’s to see what’s on their calendar of events this final month of 2018? Even better, why not consider the highlights One City has noted below: London really does have a little bit of everything, musically speaking, after all.

1. Romanian Rhapsody with Sir Simon Rattle (Sunday 16th December @ 7pm & Tuesday 18th December @ 7.30pm, Barbican Hall)

Sure to be a night to remember this winter, with Sir Simon conducting Leonidas Kavakos through Brahms’ wonderful Violin Concerto, through Debussy’s travelogue of France and Spain, his Images, and – la pièce de résistance, here supported by the Romanian Cultural Institute – through Enescu’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1. All are performed with the help (of course) of the London Symphony Orchestra. These pieces are seldom programmed side by side, and yet – duly adhering to the ethos of Sir Simon’s Roots and Origins series – all were inspired by folk tradition. Indeed, Brahms’ Violin Concerto is an homage not only to the virtuoso violinist Joseph Joachim (for whom it was written), but to Budapest and the gypsy musical tradition of Hungary at large. Tickets start at £16, though £5 concessions and £10 wildcard tickets are also available.

2. Bernstein 100: Candide (Saturday 8th December @ 3pm & Sunday 9th December @ 7pm, Barbican Hall)

In this semi-staged performance of Bernstein’s “riotous satirical operetta”, directed by Garnett Bruce and conducted by the renowned Marin Alsop, Leonardo Capalbo takes the titular role in the genius work of the composer. A truncated overview of the plot? War comes to Westphalia; previously blissful ignoramus Candide embarks on a global voyage replete with melodrama; throw in also “man-eating sharks, duelling sultans and swindling con-artists” for a true Sinbad element on the stage. The performance brings to a close the centennial celebrations of Leonard Bernstein, by whom Alsop himself was mentored. Tickets from £16 to £56.

3. Half Six Fix: Jazz Roots (Wednesday 12th December @ 6.30pm, Barbican Hall)

And finally, if you can’t quite decide between your genres, seriously consider opting for this one-off performance of musical greats. Another evening conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, the LSO supports piano duo artists Katia and Marielle Labèque in the UK premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s Nazareno, here arranged by Gonzalo Grau (on percussions on the night). The Argentinian tango and jazz sounds meld to perfection with especial support from brass, percussion, and cello. Also on the programme is Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto and Bernstein’s Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs. Both blending jazz with classical for a true Twentieth Century sound. Half Six Fix is a new concept from the LSO where you may enjoy a drink in your seat and digitally explore programme notes. Tickets from £12 to £36.

What’s On at The Bridewell Theatre this Christmas

Nicole T Raleigh

The Bridewell Theatre, part of the St. Bride Foundation located off Fleet Street, can always be counted upon to offer a taste of that something a little bit unusual. So, this year, as the panic starts to set in surrounding bookings made, or rather not, and you start to realise that so very many things have sold out – why opt for the same old, same old when it comes to choosing holiday entertainment for you and yours? Instead, pick from The Bridewell’s curious seasonal selection. You won’t be disappointed.

1. Aladdin (2nd December to 8th December @ 7.30pm; Saturday matinees @ 1.30pm & 4pm)

Yes, yes, we might have said ‘different’, but this is not just any pantomime; this is City of London-based pantomime. Twisting away from Disney-centric lyrics to include favourites from The Greatest Showman, Hamilton, and Annie to boot, this musical tale of love found on the journey from rags to riches (with a generous helping of genie, of course), might very well keep you laughing (and singing) well into the New Year. Presented by City Academy, the cast is split between a Monday Company and Tuesday Company, each performing on alternate days of the week. Tickets cost £18 and are available here. A whole new world…

2. Last Days: The London Showing (10th December @ 7.30pm ONLY)

Both devised and directed by Tim Albery, the Young Artists of the National Opera Studio are here conducted by David Cowan for Last Days, a performance which marks the close of the centenary of the end of the WWI. The musical programme on offer follows the path from “the gaiety of pre-war Europe’s nightclubs into an apocalyptic vision of the War’s outbreak”, portrayed via the works of artists such as “Berg, Satie, E E Cummings, Elgar, Butterworth and Gurney” and more. Part of the Imperial War Museum’s First World War Centenary, the evening is supported by members of the orchestra of Opera North. Tickets cost £22 (£16 concessions) and are available here.

3. Edith in the Dark (21st and 22nd December @ 7.30pm)

Phillip Meeks’ play is here directed by Adam Morley and performed by the Baroque Theatre Company. We promised you a little something different – and here indeed it is. Focussing on the darker side of Christmas, if you will, this is a “supernatural journey into the disturbing, dark and supernatural imaginings of celebrated children’s author Edith Nesbit”. You might have heard of her… The Railway Children? Five Children and It? Thought so.
Set in Nesbit’s attic writing room with only an unknown guest and her own housekeeper for company, as Edith reads aloud one of her early horror stories, it becomes clear that someone within that room is most definitely hiding something sinister; something deadly. The Public Reviews declared it “A delicate balance of tongue-in-cheek and heart-in-mouth”. Certainly, a Christmas drama of ‘haunting’ proportions, tickets cost £14 (concessions £12) and are available here.

Have yourselves a cultural little Christmas, everyone: make it a Bridewell Christmas.

REX Welcomes Fortnum & Masons – Winkleman Turns on the Lights

Nicole T Raleigh

If November has you already all aglow with nostalgia for that particular forthcoming holiday in December (what’s it called again…?), then be sure to bookmark Wednesday 21st November in your diary, hurry to highlight in pen the day upon the calendar; for the Christmas tree lights are being lit at the Royal Exchange and, further, a new Fortnum & Masons will be celebrating within. Twinkling lights? Check. Potential presents galore? Check. You couldn’t keep us away! Sleigh bells ring…

With a magnificent tree decked out resplendently by F&M itself, the luxurious lights upon the 25ft spruce will be switched to illumination by “Guest of Honour”, the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing Presenter Claudia Winkleman, with all festivities beginning at 6pm (what point fairylights in the daytime, eh?). This will include carolling by the East London Chorus, and the serving of complimentary mulled wine, hot chocolate, and minced pies to attendant crowds by F&M’s “iconic red coated staff”. Sounds perfectly fancy and Christmassy to our liking. Bring on the indulgent “seasonal ambience”, please.

From there, the crowd is to be invited into REX’s iconic central courtyard for pop-up Christmas shopping and aptly seasonal masterclasses (think wreath-making, for one thing – due to here be taught by well-known London florist Jamie Aston). However, the celebration is essentially all about bidding adieu to those establishments of old that had become synonymous with a visit to REX – to The Gallery, to the Grand Café, and to the Threadneedle Bar – welcoming in their stead Fortnum & Masons.

Open Monday through Saturday, Grind is your go-to for that morning pick-me-up (whether it be caffeine or a vibrant juice), as well as an after-hours, sneaky-yet-satisfying coffee-infused cocktail, too. Nevertheless, generally within the central courtyard of REX in the weeks to come there will be a rolling schedule of new pop-ups, including Christian Louboutin’s men’s shoes and women’s capsule collection, and leather goods – a product also to be sold by Bucklesbury & More when they, um, pop-up, so to speak.

Emma Bunton turns on the Christmas Tree lights at The Royal Exchange in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 22nd, 2017. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/PA Wire.

But, of course, the key shopping experience of 21st November lay within the bounds of the evening’s grand opening of the new Fortnum & Masons within REX itself. Whether it be something sparkly from Tiffany & Co., or something more satisfying on a gastronomic level in the form of F&M’s renowned festive hampers, or even something as elegantly simple as divine stationery from Smythsons (if you’re keen on penmanship, you’ll know the beacon of an option for you…) – as ever, F&M offers something quite literally for everyone.

That includes corporate shopping, in addition to personal. Tailored gifting services are available from boutiques such as Penhaligon’s, Sage Brown, and Smokers Paradise London – all very old school sounding, but oh so very classically luxurious. Halcyon Days also offers such services for festive gratitude to clients. Self-explanatory.

Emma Bunton turns on the Christmas Tree lights at The Royal Exchange in London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday November 22nd, 2017. Photo credit should read: Matt Crossick/PA Wire.

Please note that when you arrive (in time for the 6pm start of it all), it is requested that you gather on the front steps on the western side of the Royal Exchange.

With thanks and, of course, optimistically snow-strewn seasonal tidings.

The Lord Mayor’s Show – A Celebration of Modern London

Nicole T Raleigh

Otherwise known as London’s “Big Day Out”, this year’s Lord Mayor’s Show marks the 803rd year of the celebratory event of the city as she stands in her modern guise (and the 691st election of a Lord Mayor for the City). Nonetheless, the newly elected Lord Mayor of London, Peter Estlin’s progression to “the distant village of Westminster” will have changed very little in that considerable time, though his means of transport to swearing his loyalty to the Crown could take multiple forms, it having varied within that period, of course – from rowing to riding to simple marching, and beyond.

On 10th November this year, make sure that you and your loved ones be in and around Bank, St. Paul’s, and the Royal Courts from 11am on what is hopefully to turn out to be a very fine Saturday of the autumnal season, in order to soak up this “unique spectacle of pageantry and pomp”.

Led by the Band of HM Royal Marines (HMS Collingwood), the running order of the procession is a list gargantuan (and far too lengthy to go into detail here). Nonetheless, highlights include fifth in line, the Royal Marines Reserve (City of London), which were founded under a mile from the procession’s start and are celebrating their own 70th anniversary this year; forty-second in line, the Blenheim Chalcot, who follow through the Lord Mayor’s 2018 theme of ‘Shaping Tomorrow’s City Today’, and bring to a wider audience (i.e. the young) the key roles automation and AI play and will play in careers of today and the near future; as well as ninety-third in line, Create, the UK’s leading charity to empower lives through the creative arts. In short, a little bit of something for everyone.

That’s not to say, out of the one hundred and forty-eight taking part in the Lord Mayor’s Show, there aren’t others worthy of mention too, but this blog is short and the day itself will exemplify its own promise. What should be mentioned – if there yet be space available – are the two grandstand stalls outside St. Paul’s for more comfortable viewing of the procession. Tickets cost £40.00.

Please be aware that every road within the City of London is closed for the day, and every parking space too, due to security concerns. Tube and train services will be the only means of transport to stations along the event route. Bank is middle ground, while St. Paul’s is the stop for the outward leg. Return-wise, Blackfriars and Mansion House are what you’ll be looking for.

However, aside from the procession, Paternoster Square and the St. Paul’s area will be offering a festive fair, art installations, street theatre, and artisanal food stalls, while Bloomberg Arcade near Mansion House will err on the side of the technological bent of the Lord Mayor’s message in 2018.

©Clive Totman 2017 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Moral rights asserted: Must credit / byline photographer. LEGAL NOTICE: Image is licensed for EDITORIAL USE ONLY . It is the sole responsibility of the distributor/client/user/publisher to seek all permissions/releases BEFORE USE.

Melvyn Bragg perhaps summed up the spirit of the show best in his introduction to the anniversary book on its 800th year:

“The Lord Mayor’s Show enthusiastically embraces the Shakespearean view of life, a particularly English phenomenon founded in literature by the London Poet Chaucer, and described by another London author Dickens as “streaky bacon” […we…] put the comic and the tragic against each other, we do coarse and we do grandeur. We do bawdy and we do elegance. In the first two or three hundred years after his death Shakespeare was heavily criticised by Classicists especially in France for this mixture. Well, the Lord Mayor’s Show perpetuates it. There is splendour and there is a knees-up.

We’ll be there for both.

Best Green Spaces in the City for an Autumn Stroll

Nicole T Raleigh

“Green” may be somewhat of a wishful word choice at this time of year, and perhaps unsatisfactory too, given the glorious golden palette and its myriad burnished hues that autumn permits arboreal landscapes (when intermittent blue skies allow, amidst the low-hung lingering days of drizzly grey). However, whichever choice of adjective or pick of colour you opt for, it could be said that such can be enjoyed throughout the British Isles at this time of year. Nonetheless, there is a special beauty, a particular magic (if you will) that lay in strolling through an unexpected pocket of Nature in the City. Therein lay an intake-of-breath and sigh-pleasure moment indeed (amidst the hustle and bustle and general technological whirl of urban life). Here are One City’s favourites this October:

1. St. Andrew’s Gardens

Right off Gray’s Inn Road and Wren Street, St. Andrew’s Gardens “are laid out as two rectangular lawns bisected by a central path with mature London planes and an ancient weeping ash” – a perfect setting for an autumn stroll (whether that be hand in hand with a significant other or alone, who’s to say?). What we do know is that with the addition of its “granite drinking fountain and a small red brick lodge date from the C19th”, this is not a green space to be sniffed at when craving somewhere particularly non-urban in the big city.

2. Postman’s Park

Amble a little north of St. Paul’s Cathedral and you’ll find yourself (eventually) at Postman’s Park. Surrounded quite literally by “Little Britain, Aldersgate Street, St. Martin’s Le Grand, King Edward Street, and the site of the former headquarters of the General Post Office”, it is (as you might expect) one of the largest of the City of London’s parks. And it’s wonderful for an autumnal ambulation, if you’re of a mind to chance the temperamental British climate. We know we are (what be the purpose of a handbag brolly otherwise?).

3. Fann Street (or Barbican) Wildlife Garden

A Grade II-listed Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, not only is Fann Street Wildlife Life Garden a truly peaceful sanctuary of a green City space to get lost in at any time of year, let alone the season of mists, but this delightful spot has won awards for its promotion of biodiversity within the urban bounds of London’s City self at large. Bravo, Barbican.

4. Cleary Garden

Named after Fred Cleary – an inspiring individual who was most instrumental in populating the Square Mile with Nature, be that the simple planting of new trees or the development of gardens from where before nothing was. The purpose was to eradicate all signs of the Blitz after WWII; to heal the urban landscape and set about tending to the spirits of the City’s inhabitants. For years it stood as Cleary’s vision has formed it, but in 2007 “the garden underwent major re-refurbishment as the Loire Valley Wines Legacy Garden with vines and aromatic plants evoking the wines of the Loire region”. It really is delightful, whether you be an oenophile or not!