International Children's Games Gala
Every year for the past 21 years (with one exception) Coventry have sent city children to compete in the International Children's Games. A mini Olympics if you like, for children between twelve and fifteen. Indeed in 2005, Coventry hosted the games. In 2017 the games are being held in the city of Kaunas in Lithuania. Attending these events costs money, (hence the one exception - in Australia) so as part of the fundraising efforts there was a gala concert at the Albany Theatre in Coventry. The show was comprised of different dances troupes (of which more a little later) intermingled with a number of high class singing acts.
The first singer was Charlie Blackwood, a fairly new recruit to the Big Help Music stable, although he has had some experience of the music industry already. An ex-member of two boy bands, District 12 and Unscripted, Coventry lad Charlie is now embarking on a solo career. He performed three numbers, James Arthur's "Say you won't let go" and Ed Sheeran's "Castle on the hill". This personable young man has a good voice and he plays guitar to accompany himself. His third number "Crash and burn" initially released by country artist Thomas Rhett, got off to a dramatic start. Charlie had just placed his guitar on it's stand when it suddenly fell over. It was still "live" on the amp so produced a more than adequate "crash" but luckily it didn't burn. I look forward to seeing more of this artist in the coming weeks.
Sabine Sarbu is a member of the "Albany Young Producers" although initially from Romania, is now fully integrated on to the Coventry theatrical scene. She delighted us with her version of the Bob Dylan song, "Make you feel my love."
Lucy May Gee is a twenty year old influenced by Country and Pop music. Having been singing for ten years and studied at Access to Music at the age of sixteen, she sang a song about hope made famous by Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, "The Climb" It contains the inspirational line "The chances I'm taking sometimes might knock me down but no, I'm not breaking" which is an apt metaphor for someone trying to make it in the music industry.
Karina Bikerniece, with her striking red hair and I suspect, her Latvian dress, is studying in Coventry at the moment delved into the Amy Winehouse songbook for "Back to Black". She has been featured on radio in Riga with her band. She clearly has an eye for a good song without being stymied by sticking to one style, because her second song was "Can't take my eyes off you" credited to Frankie Valli, although most people would know the Andy Williams version.
The second half was opened by the Coventry Youth Jazz Orchestra. This considerable band has five saxophone players, two trombones and three trumpets as well as the backline of drums, guitar, keyboards and bass guitar. What a fine sound they make! You would never believe that they are teenagers. Their number "Dancing Queen" showed off their skills on the individual instruments and combine to make an impressive whole. This was the sort of band that I would go and dance to in my youth, I loved it.
The band were joined on stage by Ffion Rebecca another of the BHM artists under development. She and the band exhibited their jazz interests with "My Funny Valentine" and "Georgia." In the latter, there is a long instrumental break. Ffion remained centre stage moving sinuously in her elegant long gown to the music. Perhaps it would have been better stage craft to have moved slightly to one side to allow the band full exposure before re-establishing herself front and centre for the coda. These things come in time after all. she is only sixteen. Ffion, this sunny vibrant girl then continued with two self penned songs from her just released EP "Hidden Beauty" which has been delivered of a cool jazzy orchestration, and "Two Baby Birds". This EP which although already on the market, entering the blues chart at number two and staying there for several days, will be officially floated at a big launch party in St Ives Cambridgeshire on March 4th.
Fourteen year old Kellimarie Willis is a Coventry girl (Ryton on Dunsmore actually) who also has an EP launch coming up. The Rialto in Spon End will be the venue on Friday 24th March. Furthermore she is currently one of the young stars taking part in "Got what it takes?" being broadcast on CBBC. This show goes through to the early summer when the final takes place. She certainly went to town for this concert appearing in a sparkling playsuit, which together with a sparkly guitar strap attached to a new sparkly electric guitar, made for a dazzling and eye catching image. She sang four songs all of which she wrote herself. "Better on my own." was followed by "Under the same stars" which was about her fellow contestants on the TV show. "You're not mine" with typically mature lyrics that are found in her songs preceded "You without me" as her final number.
Yet another Big Help Music artist who has and EP launch coming up is Tazmin Barnes. This is a girl who loves space in which to move. The large stage at the Albany Theatre gave her ample scope to express her self. Tazmin grew up in China and was part of the Delinquent Aces Rock Band for 4 years until moving back to the UK in 2014. She also is fluent in Mandarin. In March 2015, when she was thirteen, Tazmin took part in the National Singing Competition Teenstar UK and finished Runner Up in her Pre-Teens Category. She was also awarded a Drama Scholarship and was cast as the lead role in a production of 'The Ash Girl'. Her EP is currently available for pre-order on I-tunes and is launched on March 17th., for which pre sales are looking good. Tazmin's set all of which feature on the EP, started with one of her own "Where did the love go" followed by another "Same old Keys". Tazmin looked the part of the rock star on her sparkly crop top and silver boots as she covered Lady Gaga's "Million Reasons". It was good to see her unconfined by stage equipment and whilst she sang her last number, "Trapped", being the title of the EP, the video of the song played on the screen behind her. It was a very effective way to close the show. The staff at Strawhouse Studios should be commended for a VT which has both impact and synchronicity.
Although I was primarily there for the musicians, there were several dance troupes displaying many different styles of dance in the show, from Street to Modern Ballet and all things in between. They all shared one thing, absolute precision in collective movement, I was astounded at the quality. I was in the front row and I didn't see a single foot out of place. The costumes were not those I would have associated with an amateur show, they were much better than that. The fact that the girls in the troupes all had their hair done in the same styles also gave an air of professionalism. I am no expert on dance, so my remarks will of necessity, be brief.
Street Mix Youth Theatre and Dance Academy opened the show with a delightful excerpt from their longer show, "One day in Wonderland" The leading characters carried off their roles with confidence and charm. It was a lovely start to the show. just to show their versatility, they later did a jazz dance.
The next troupe who appeared were Base Dance, who did a short rendition for "Beauty & the Beast" with a superb pas de deux from the leading pair. They later danced a piece based on Tarzan and another based on street dance with the skills that that style demands to a Beatles song "Can't buy me love".
Perhaps showing my age, my favourite dance act, taking nothing from any of the others, were the Coventry City College students who performed a jazz cum swing dance. This was my era, which is perhaps why I liked it so much. I recognised some Lindy Hop moves that I was once able to perform myself!
Caitlin Gee (related to Lucy May perhaps?) royally entertained us with a really well acted monologue, being so much more that it sounds, as she took two parts in a quite dramatic few minutes. Jodie Dickson who is a marketing assistant at the theatre performed a contemporary dance piece to add to the variety on offer.
Rhapsody School of Dance did two dramatic acro dances, building and dismantling human pyramids in rapid form. I feared for some of the topmost dancers, but they were assured and confident as they were in their tumbling which was very fast and skilful. They later did a scene from Cats entitled "Jellicles" which was very effective.
Irish dance as popularised by Riverdance then took over the stage in the form of Elite Dance Academy during which they performed the impossible sounding feat of changing their shoes in mid number from soft to hard. That must have taken some organising. Later they did a captivating 20's style dance in their flapper dresses. Their third and final offering was entitled "Dancing on my own" with the guys dressed in black making a striking contrast to the girls in vivid red. It was rhythmic and beautiful.
Dance from another continent was the subject of the Bharathanataya Fusion Group and their dance "Chitra Kalaimanram" This was both engaging and exquisite. As one who has only seen flaky videos on Youtube of Asian dance it was a delight to see and enjoy it live. seven dancers in colourful costumes entirely in unison.
It was a thoroughly entertaining show and a good night out. The Albany Theatre is a somewhat underused asset, it was good to see this production being such a success. It is to be hoped that there will be many more in the future. There was a restriction on audience members capturing images on their own equipment because of the inclusion in the cast of minors. Therefore I am obliged to Helen Walker of BHM who supplied the photographs.