Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Jane Eyre in Jeans

Are you “breaking the ice in the morning, scared what the references say?”

David Scott Crawford, Chicago singer-songwriter has penned a new genre of music for his album Belle Époque. He calls it ‘Pop Nouveau.’ It gives him the opportunity to combine music with literature - two things he knows well. As an independent artist, Crawford finds his song themes from extraordinary places or, as in this case, remarkable people.

In “Jane Eyre in Jeans” Crawford weaves Charlotte Brontë’s beloved heroine through a pop/ballad melody of piano, bass, drums, guitar and even mandolin. Lines such as “You swallowed the storybook ending in a Styrofoam cup full of tea” paint a vivid picture of Jane’s world meshed with our own modern-day dilemmas. The result is what Chicago writer and art critic Lucia Mauro calls, “racy, maudlin and romantic.”

Belle Époque, meaning “Beautiful Era,” refers to the glorious late ninetieth/ early twentieth century period of France. The album hosts an array of literary references from the start of track one, including Millais’ Ophelia model Lizzie Siddall, portrayed in “A Merry Little Afternoon.” Oscar Wilde, Sarah Bernhardt and Jim Morrison make an appearance in track thirteen entitled “Père Lachaise,” the setting of France’s famous City of the Dead Cemetery. But it’s not all about death.

The sweeping poetic images we see when listening to this album, in part, stem from Crawford’s own experiences, living and traveling to several countries including Scotland, Libya, South America, Australia and England, combined with his passion for literature in historical context. His improvisational, compositional, and piano playing skills are all self-taught. Belle Époque was recorded at the Chicago Recording Company & Beachaus Studios in Chicago with Crawford on Steinway and Böesendorfer grand pianos.

The album was mixed in England by David Hentschel and mastered at Abbey Road Studios, London. It boasts collaborative artists such as string arrangements by Paul Buckmaster and guitar solos by Mark Goldenberg. Lisa McClowry provides gutsy backing vocals for “Jane Eyre in Jeans.”

For more information on Belle Époque and to listen to “Jane Eyre in Jeans” visit: www.davidscottcrawford.com or http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dscrawford.com

Belle Époque = Literature with Rock!

Kim Crawford

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Jane Eyre - The Musical - in Dorset

One of the South’s largest youth theatre companies has embarked on its most ambitious project yet, and it’s leaving nothing to chance. The Big Little Theatre School brings new levels of professionalism to its production of the Broadway show Jane Eyre - The Musical Drama with West End directors and state-of-the-art stage effects and set design.

John Caird (Les Miserables) and Paul Gordon’s musical adaptation of Charlotte Brontë’s classic tale of passion, tragedy and forgiveness won the show no less than five TONY award nominations on the occasion of its Broadway premier in 2000.

Now, some of the West End stars of tomorrow are bringing Brontë’s Gothic romance to life in one of the first performances to be staged here in the UK.

Directing is Graham Hubbard whose impressive achievements include directing West End productions of Amadeus, Sweeney Todd and Mack and Mabel. “The challenge of producing Jane Eyre - The Musical for Big Little was irresistible,” says Graham. “The company’s talent belies their age, and who better to bring Charlotte Brontë’s classic love story to a new generation than performers from that generation itself."

Musical Director Colin Billing of the London School of Musical Theatre has long been associated with The Big Little Theatre School. His professional credentials include musical direction of Beauty And The Beast, Beggar’s Opera and Creatures of The Night. “Forget everything you ever feared about youth productions," says Colin. “The huge vocal talent and natural acting ability of the cast is more than a match for the moving lyrics and sumptuous musical score.”

Natasha Barnes from Ringwood plays Jane Eyre. Now 17, she has progressed through the ranks of Big Little since the age of 6 and is no stranger to lead performances both amateur and professional. Her credits include the title role in The Diary of Anne Frank, Laurel in The Chalk Garden, Cosette in Les Miserables in Concert with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Hope in her school production of Anything Goes, Marta Von Trapp in The Sound of Music and the title role of Annie in Fastlane’s Touring company for the National Youth Music Theatre.
Natasha is operatically trained by Jon Andrew and works locally with him and the Silhouette Opera supporting local charities.

The part of Rochester is played by John Sandberg from Bournemouth who also has worked through the ranks of BLTS, becoming a prominent member of their ‘Vision’ Cabaret group. John recently performed as the lead, R.P McMurphy in One flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and has also received operatic training with Jon Andrew. John also played Seth/Shem as one of the few selected to perform in Children of Eden, the Steven Schwartz Broadway hit as produced and performed by BLTS in 2006.

A total cast of 45 young people, selected through auditions from the 250 strong main company are involved in bringing Jane Eyre – The Musical to the stage, and the production will benefit from 21st Century imagery and sensory set design to create an authentic feel for the period. The set has been designed to transport the audience seamlessly from the cold dormitories of Lowood School, through bleak English moorland, to the interior of a Gothic mansion. Superb costumes reflect the fashions of the 19th century by recreating authentic colours and fabrics from the Brontë era.

Broadway and West End musical theatre pedigree, soaring melodies, imaginative sets and contemporary innovation, lavish costumes, prodigious young talent and a classic love story by one of the most popular English writers of all time. It doesn’t get much better than that.

The Big Little Theatre School’s production of Jane Eyre – The Musical Drama is being staged at the Regent Centre, Christchurch, Dorset from April 11th – 14th. Tickets are available from the Regent Centre box office on 01202 499148.

Julie Barnes

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Parsonage Ceilidh

This is the poster for the fundraising ceilidh on 17 March. It is being organised by the Parsonage staff. Please come if you can. If you can't, please remember to raise your glass of whatever you fancy to the Brontës and all their ancestors on the Irish side.

Inspired - a reminder

We've told you about this before. Here it is again in slightly more detail. On Wednesday 7 March 2007 at 7.30pm in the West Lane Baptist Centre in Haworth, a panel discussion entitled Inspired - The Brontës' Influence will take place.

The Brontës’ influence on writers has persisted through to the present day and this event will bring together a number of established authors who have acknowledged a debt to the Brontës. A panel discussion will be led by Patsy Stoneman and will include;

Stevie Davies: Novelist, literary critic, biographer and historian. Her first novel Boy Blue (1987) won the Fawcett Society Book Prize and Closing the Book (1994) was longlisted for the Booker Prize. Her fifth novel, Four Dreamers and Emily was published in 1996 followed by The Web of Belonging (1997) which was adapted for television by Alan Plater. Her most recent novel Kith and Kin was longlisted for the Orange Prize 2004 and The Eyrie will be published in February 2007. Stevie Davies is Director of Creative Writing at University of Wales, Swansea.

Patricia Duncker: Patricia Duncker’s first novel Hallucinating Foucault (1996), won the Dillons First Fiction Award and the McKitterick Prize. She is the author of two further novels, James Miranda Barry (1999) and The Deadly Space Between (2002) and two collections of short fiction, Monsieur Shoushana’s Lemon Trees (1997) and Seven Tales of Sex and Death (2003). Her most recent novel is Miss Webster and Chérifiss. She is Professor of Creative Writing (Prose Fiction) at the University of East Anglia.

Michele Roberts: Michele Roberts is the author of twelve highly praised novels including The Mistressclass (2003) and Reader, I Married Him (2005). She has also published short stories, poetry and essays. She was shortlisted for the 1992 Booker Prize and won the WH Smith Literary Award in 1993. Michele Roberts is a former judge of the Booker Prize and is a regular book reviewer and broadcaster. She is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia.

Patsy Stoneman: Patsy Stoneman is an Emeritus Reader of the University of Hull. She has published widely on the Brontë novels, including the introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Wuthering Heights and essays in both the Oxford and Cambridge companions to the Brontës. Her major monograph is Brontë Transformations: the Cultural Dissemination of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. She has recently completed an illustrated edition of eight hitherto unknown Victorian stage plays based on Jane Eyre scheduled to appear in 2007.

Tickets for this event are £6.50 and should be booked in advance. For further details and bookings please contact the Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth, 01535 640194/ andrew.mccarthy@bronte.org.uk

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

John Brown's house

Visiting Haworth? Need a place to stay? The Brontë Spirit blog - www.brontespirit.blogspot.com - has an item which might be of interest to you: John Brown's House, aka The Sexton's House aka Haworth Church Cottage, can now be booked.

Visit the blogsite to find out more.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

A poem for Valentine's Day

Visitors' Book

Up to Haworth for the early spring –
As was our brief custom – to see
The snowdrops pester out the winter grief
Of the Parsonage and retrace songlines
In the slab bleak churchyard. A half-starved
Plath, you’d drawn all this in, drinking
Greedily an unworded recognition,
With the thirst of the thwarted, the held-back
And terraced; like the time in El Prado
When I found you weeping before Goya
Unable to say why. I pay my fiver
And go inside. A circus family, really,
In their freakishness; with their tiny
Feet and tiny books. A puff of wind
Could blow them down permanently
And did. You said you felt at home
Here, though you couldn’t say how.
On a table in the hallway, I see it now
And cannot resist the urge of recollection,
Leafing back through the neutral years
Until, sure enough, there they are
Witnessed by a motley decade
Of subsequent strangers: our signatures
In the Visitors Book. The giddy roll
Of my stomach at seeing your hand
Once more, the blinking out of reason
Then the slow, haunted smile to a spring-melt
Of memory. ‘MM’ and ‘MM’: the rapid
Pulse of a small creature short of breath.
You told me on the night of our first
Coupling that I’d be pushed away and
You were as good as your word. But
Before the madness and separation,
Before the Wide Sargasso Sea of your
Dark history opened up between us
An unbridgeable gap, we strode the wild moors
As right and wrong as any lovers.
Later, in the guesthouse, the landlord
Leads me to the same Room 7,
The chipper undertaker of blind ironies.
Our ghosts, aroused, turn to greet me:
A naked threesome splayed and open,
Lashed to the bed of unlinear time
In the room where you were last joyful,
In the space where last we were beautiful.

Martin Malone

A memento for Charles Lemon

A number of tributes to the late Charles Lemon MBE (see blog archive for January) have been made by those who knew him. A display which includes some of them, together with selected photographs, will be put up for Brontë Society members who attend the annual June Weekend in Haworth which begins on Friday 1 June. This one was sent by Maddalena de Leo in Italy:
Charles Lemon – a personal memento

I’ve just heard of Mr Charles Lemon’s death and although I never knew him in person, I would like to bear a personal witness of this wise man whose kindness and culture were evident even through paper.

In Autumn 1980 as a young student at university, my greatest dream was to have an article of mine published in Brontë Society Transactions, as the current Brontë Studies journal was then called. I had been a BS member since 1975 but nobody at Haworth knew me besides Mr Norman Raistrick, the Parsonage custodian, to whom every year I sent money by letter to renew my subscription. Being already interested in Charlotte’s Juvenilia and having read by chance the short tale Albion and Marina – at that time there was no popular edition of her early writings, let alone in Italy – I enthusiastically wrote a short article in English on the topic with my impressions and promptly sent it by mail to the editor, Mr Charles Lemon.

From that day, even if I was an unknown young student, I eagerly waited for an answer from him and surprisingly, after some time it came. In the letter Mr Lemon, who then lived in Bognor Regis, told me he needed to ‘refresh’ his ideas on Albion and Marina to be able to judge my writing so he kindly asked me to wait for a few weeks.

Meanwhile, the southern area of Italy where I then lived was hit by a terrible earthquake on 23 November and all changed around me - what a sad period! Also, John Lennon was shot in New York some twenty days later ….

Mr Lemon’s opinion came, as promised, with his moving concern on that Italian earthquake and I still keep his letter among my most treasured papers, hand-revised by him in many parts and with his own signature at the end. It contained a veiled refusal for the publication of my article but, I dare say, with a so kind and articulated discussion on Albion and Marina that it seemed to me better than an appreciation!

Maddalena De Leo
11th January 2007

Here’s the complete text of Mr Charles Lemon’s letter:

24 Burnham Avenue
Bognor Regis, West Sussex

19 December 1980

Dear Maddalena De Leo,

Since writing to you on 20th November I have been able to obtain a copy of ‘Albion and Marina’, but before writing on that subject I must express the hope that you have come safely through the dreadful earthquake which recently afflicted your part of Italy.

Having re-read ‘Albion and Marina’ I have been able to appreciate your comments which are both observant and well expressed. It is remarkable what a wealth of knowledge the young Brontës amassed through the teaching received at home (before they went out to school) and through the access they were permitted to the periodicals and newspapers at the Parsonage.

You have drawn attention to the way in which Charlotte in this little piece foreshadows some of the events in her novels – in particular the remarkable message from Rochester to Jane Eyre which travelled simultaneously across so many miles. Some Brontë scholars as you probably know argue that all the materials used in the Brontë novels are to be found in the Juvenilia.

The present story is, as you say, a fragment of Angria, an episode of relative tranquillity – abounding in human tension but at the same time without extremes of violence. This is an interesting point because you will see in this year’s Transactions a poem by Charlotte, hitherto unpublished, written on the back of a letter from Roe Head. The letter was written in 1832 but the poem was probably written when Charlotte was engaged on that part of the story when Zamorna was conquering the country.

The Byronic influence is clear but ‘Albion and Marina’ has other points of interest which would not be apparent to those unfamiliar to England. In particular attention can be drawn to Charlotte’s remarkable achievement, at the age of 14, in describing the country in the south of England, when she had scarcely ever left the limits of her remote village in Yorkshire. The result may not be entirely accurate but it reads very well! One is also entertained by the rapid transformation of the Duke of Strathelleraye’s residence from a ‘magnificent villa’ to a palace and then to a castle, all within the space of a few pages.

The difference of rank between the Duke and Sir Alured Angus is probably exaggerated by Charlotte. Both are gentlemen of title and the physician to a Duke is clearly someone highly placed in his profession who would have a number of equally important patients. His daughter therefore would have some claim to a place in society and her outstanding beauty would support such a claim.

I hope you will enjoy reading Transactions. With best wishes for the New Year,

Yours sincerely,

Charles Lemon

Sunday, 11 February 2007

Meeting in Milan

In Italy and reading this? Why not meet some of our Italian members on 24 February? You would be more than welcome!