Richard Wilcocks writes -
Keeping the Flame Alive
Friday 25 September
Lyrics by Val Wiseman
Music composed by Brian Dee
Featuring the Brontë Legacy Musicians
The show was in just the right venue: Val Wiseman, at the mike beneath gothic arches, made frequent references to her musings on Patrick Brontë, about how he would have walked where she walked in Dewsbury Minster, about what he might think of the music. Her personal engagement (dating back to childhood) was total, which resulted in her effectively bringing to life through narrative and song such characters as Blanche Ingram from Jane Eyre, Helen Huntingdon from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Catherine Earnshaw from Wuthering Heights. There were many references to and quotes from Brontë texts in her lyrics (I particularly liked her take on Blanche), and she explained all the contexts more than adequately for the benefit of those in the audience who might not be as fully acquainted with the poetry and the novels as herself.
"Some critics described the novels of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell as 'brutal', 'coarse' and 'wicked'," she told us. "But the appetite of the reading public to obtain books written by them was insatiable......
For the next piece, I want you to imagine Jane, who has left that brutal Clergy Daughters School, not long after her arrival at Thornfield, feeling the first strong feelings of love for Mr Rochester, who......" and so on.
The singing, as might be expected from the Best British Jazz Vocalist 2008, was superb - dramatic and presented with a beautiful flourish. Regretfully, I did not get to see the tribute stage show 'Lady Sings the Blues', in which she portrayed Billie Holiday - but I am certain that the acclaim she received was very well deserved, because she oozes presence. The music composed by the illustrious Brian Dee was excellent, too. He was on one of the two keyboards alongside bass and drums.
It was a wonderful climax for Dewsbury's commemoration of the arrival of Patrick Brontë two hundred years ago. It should be experienced elsewhere -
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