Národní divadlo – Opera in Prague

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I’ve been having quite a lot of adventures this year, and all of a sudden it’s been several months since I’ve written anything. I also went freelance a few months ago, and the positives are that I have much more time for travel. The negatives mean that what was previously a nice hobby feels like working for free in my spare time (by that I mean writing, not going on holiday!) Not all of my recent adventures have been musical, but so far this year I’ve managed to squeeze in trips to France, Denmark, Sweden and the Czech Republic. Continue reading

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Wilton’s Music Hall

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For most of my London life, I’ve lived to the east. Not trendy-Shoreditch-Hoxton-Dalston east, but sometimes-grimy-sometimes-shiny docklands-east. We aren’t exactly overflowing with cultural venues in this part of London (unless you count the O2 and given that the only thing I’ve ever seen there was ‘Walking with Dinosaurs’, it doesn’t quite fit in to this blog) but there is one little gem that deserves to be shouted about.

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I’ll be completely honest, to begin with I thought of Wilton’s as a nice bar because that’s all I’d really used it for (in fairness it wasn’t fully open the first time I visited). It was only last summer that I visited it for music purposes and got a full taste of what this little wonder had to offer.

Wilton’s is one of the only surviving original music halls, which it became in 1859. Before that, the building started life as terraced houses and a pub, before having a concert hall

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Wilton’s as it used to be (the Mahogany bar)

added. John Wilton bought it in the 1850s and enlarged the space, opening a ‘Magnificent New Music Hall’, though it only lasted until the 1880s. In 1888 it was bought and turned into a Methodist Mission – which had a sadly important role in this impoverished part of east London. The Mission lasted until the 1850s and then was left empty and was threatened with demolition. Campaigners, well, campaigned and the building became Grade I listed in the 1970s. Even in its unrepaired state, artists began to be drawn to it, and some performances began to be put on (and it was even used in a few music videos). The building began to be restored in 2012 and opened fully in 2015.

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So last summer, my friend suggested it as a nice place to go for a drink and listen to some music, and it really is! The spaces are wonderful – full of interesting historical features, with a great selection of drinks and also DELICIOUS pizzas. We went for Monday Night Music – a series of free performances in the bar, and it was lovely to sit, listen and soak up the atmosphere. We went in July and it was a warm night – it’s lovely because all the windows were open, and there was space to be outside at the front of the building. Quite different from most ‘London beer gardens’ i.e. standing on the pavement next to rush hour traffic.

eno paul bunyan - eno chorus (c) genevieve girling (2)-x2In September I then went to see English National Opera perform Britten’s Paul Bunyan in the auditorium. And it’s gorgeous! So atmospheric, and the production really made fantastic use of the space. (I wasn’t so sure about the opera itself, but the performance and the venue were brilliant). There’s something so beautiful about the way the whole place has been restored: it’s not been glossed over, there are rough edges and it’s basically all open brickwork. Wilton’s sells itself as a wedding venue too and it’s easy to see why – it’s a gorgeous, historical and cultural spot with just the right amount of hipster charm.

Wilton’s is definitely somewhere I’d recommend (and somewhere I’ll be visiting again), whether you’re looking for a performance, or just somewhere a bit different to have a drink and take in a bit of London’s cultural history.

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Wilton’s is on Grace’s alley, just off Cable Street. The nearest stations are Tower Gateway or Shadwell (DLR), or Tower Hill (underground). You can read more about Wilton’s history on their website, and find out about performances too.

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Mariinsky, music college, music street

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There’s been a lot of Russian connections this summer. Some fun – football, playing some Rachmaninoff at my latest concert. Some not so fun – basically everything else. With everyone jetting off on holiday and the news looking particularly scary, I’ve been trying to remember some of the cultural and musical moments from my trip to Russia last year. During our stay in St Petersburg I, of course, wanted to visit as many musical spots as possible, and luckily a whole bunch of them are collected together in one handy place! Continue reading

Wales Millennium Centre

 

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I went to my first opera aged 24 and I was convinced I would hate it (I’d already produced some student performances and played in some orchestras, but this was my first audience experience). I was studying for a postgrad in performance at music college and our very sensible tutors were very keen on us developing ‘portfolios’ just in case those careers as professional musicians didn’t quite work out. One of our tasks was to have a go at writing reviews, but being a poor student meant I wanted to find the cheapest event possible. With a friend we discovered £5 tickets for Welsh National Opera, so we toddled over to the Wales Millennium Centre to settle in for a performance of Puccini’s ToscaContinue reading

Swan Lake, Shostakovich and the Soviets

IMG_5826.JPG2017 is a pretty big year. Both me and Russia are marking big anniversaries. I celebrated a significant birthday, and Russia marked the centenary of the 1917 Revolution. So, you know, basically the same. I decided, ‘why not “celebrate” both’?! St Petersburg and Moscow were both places I’ve always wanted to visit, but they’re both a little more special (and distant) than a typical European city break / weekend-away, so it seemed ideal to combine the two anniversaries!

Continue reading