Venues, grand and otherwise

From the pub to the convent

Over the last few weeks I’ve been involved in a number of performances in a bewildering range of venues. Poetry readings in pubs, my latest play in a National Trust property, choral Dvorak in a 14th century convent (pictured) and jazz under the watchful eye of Yehudi Menuhin. That’s what I call a summer!

But which worked? They all did, in different ways. The pub was hot and crowded and the poetry was enthusiastically received. Leith Hill Place provided a sumptuous backdrop for the opening of ‘Sex is Another Language – the life, lusts and loves of Elizabeth Taylor’ and the Convent de Cristo in Tomar was a truly atmospheric setting for our performance of Dvorak, Gounod and Miguel. Back home, Jazz Academy was held in the Yehudi Menuhin school, with the nightly Jazz Club and end of week concert in their Recital Room, a rather more intimate venue.

Two types of music

It was Duke Ellington who said ‘There are simply two types of music. Good music and the other kind.’ I spent two intensive weeks of music and neither was the ‘other kind’. The Zezeres Arts Festival put together a challenging programme in a very short space of time and demanded a level of professionalism from amateur singers which challenged and inspired. And exhausted. But, buoyed by local wine and heavy handed gin and tonics, we rose to the occasion, even to the Czech, a language which never uses a vowel when three consonants will do.

And what to say about Jazz Academy? Another gathering of dedicated amateurs, guided by a team of professional tutors whose gifts extended beyond their undoubted musicality and ability to make music and included the gifts of teaching, inspiring and of drawing out the best from the various ensembles, improvisation and instrument groups. It can be daunting to attend these intensive weeks but it’s very rewarding. Are professionals in other walks of life as giving and encouraging as in music? I somehow doubt it. But then maybe I’m biased.

What I do know is how much the JA attendees owe to the tutor groups, how much choral singers owe to good MDs and how lucky I am to benefit from both. I’m also reminded of what a privilege it is to share music with other enthusiasts. A great bunch of people – two great bunches of people.

And now it’s back to making sure the next performances of ‘Sex is Another Language’  get produced and marketed properly. Having put together a 5* show with great director and cast (another privilege for a humble playwright), we get good audiences. Next shows are on October 24th and 25th just outside Dorking and  26th in Islington   Details on and tickets etc on


Tony Earnshaw

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