April 22nd, 2012

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Prom Praise: You Raise Me Up


The four friends from Emperor and Galilean - Agathon, Peter, Julian a nd Gregory (left to right).
Photo credit: http://www.andrew-scott-online.com/

Today (Saturday 21 April) Prom Praise took place at the Royal Albert Hall. It was a celebration of 40 years of the All Souls Orchestra.

The concert included a very powerful rendition of "You Raise Me Up" by Jonathan Veira. With profuse apologies to All Souls and Jonathan Veira it was not, however, as powerful or as moving as the John Barrowman rendition I heard at the London Palladium in November 2011! John Barrowman has a much stronger and more powerful voice, he sings it with family photos playing onto a screen as a backdrop, and he sings it for particular people and clearly has them in his mind when he sings so you can see it comes straight from the heart; John's version reduced me to tears. If you want to see what all the fuss is about there are numerous versions of John singing "You raise me up" on youtube - take your pick of them!

"You Raise Me Up" is a song that means a lot to me and I am dedicating the song below and the photo above (which means the world to me) to the myriad of people who have helped me in a multiplicity of ways over the last year (they know who they are because I have told them!).

You Raise Me Up
Lyrics by Brendan Graham, Music by Rolf Lovland

When I am down and oh my soul, so weary.
When troubles come and my heart burdened be.
Then I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit a while with me.

There is no life - no life without its hunger.
Each restless heart beats so imperfectly.
But when you come and I am filled with wonder,
Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains.
You raise me up, so to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders.
You raise me up to more than I can be.

© 2001 Universal Music Norway / Acorn Music, Ireland

Prom Praise overall was excellent and I really enjoyed it. Last year Prom Praise was one of the first All Souls events that I attended way back in April 2011 only a month after I had started going to All Souls. My honest feedback was that Prom Praise was "better than Frankenstein"; those who know me will know that I could not have paid All Souls a greater compliment! I have CDs of several previous Prom Praise concerts and they are all excellent. So you know what to do - try it out next year!

I would like to give a special shout out to Keith and Kristyn Getty who were one of the many special guests at Prom Praise today.

Keith & Kristyn Getty
Photo credit: http://www.todayschristianmusic.com/artists/keith-kristyn-getty/photos/keith-kristyn-getty-promo-pic/

I had never heard any of Keith Getty's hymns before I started attending All Souls, but once I heard them I fell in love with them. Lyrics are very important to me, and the lyrics in a Getty hymn are all powerful, capable of carrying all before them. Particular favourites of mine are "In Christ Alone", "The Power of the Cross", "See, What a Morning", and "O Church, Arise". You can hear what I am talking about by buying their CD on Amazon (I bought it today and am listening to it now!):
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Senior Anglican Clergy: “Church should rejoice” over equal marriage

Photo credit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9218079/Church-of-England-should-rejoice-over-gay-marriage-Bishops-say.html

Cut and pasted from the Pink News:

A group of leading clergymen of the Anglican Church have, in a letter to the Times, said that equal marriage is a cause to celebrate, and that the Church of England has “nothing to fear” on account of extending marriage to same-sex couples.

Follow the link to read the full story and also the letter in full:

Raks's Reaction. Simple. Thank you God!
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"I Am What I Am", John Barrowman

John Barrowman also sang this number at the London Palladium back in November 2011. It is his anthem. His performance of the number, and the passion and feeling behind it, blew me away. The song is, and always has been, a real inspiration to me, and I back the lyrics 100%. John says that this song is about being proud "of who you are, and what you do and what you look like".

Photo credit: http://greginhollywood.com/afternoon-greg-two-spirits-is-a-moving-outfest-film-john-barrowman-dazzles-in-drag-8484

Cut and pasted from Wikipedia:

"I am what I am" is a song originally introduced in the Broadway musical La Cage aux Folles. The song is the finale number of the musical's first act and performed by the character of Albin Mougeotte. The song was composed in 1983 by Jerry Herman, an openly gay man. "I am what I am" has become a rallying cry of the Gay Pride movement.

Lyrics reproduced in full:

I am what I am

I am what I am
I am my own special creation.
So come take a look,
Give me the hook or the ovation.
It's my world that I want to have a little pride in,
My world, and it's not a place I have to hide in.
Life's not worth a damn
'Til you can say, "Hey world, I am what I am".
I am what I am,
I don't want praise, I don't want pity.
I bang my own drum,
Some think it's noise, I think it's pretty.
And so what, if I love each feather and each spangle,
Why not try to see things from a different angle?
Your life is a sham 'til you can shout out loud
I am what I am!
I am what I am
And what I am needs no excuses.
I deal my own deck
Sometimes the ace, sometimes the deuces.
There's one life, and it's no return and no deposit;
One life, so it's time to open up your closet.
Life's not worth a damn 'til you can say,
"Hey world, I am what I am!".
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John Barrowman, Hampton Court Palace Festival

Photo credit: http://www.hamptoncourtpalacefestival.com/artists/john_barrowman/

Unfortunately, this is now well and truly out of my price range, but I am happily recommending it to everyone on the basis of the John Barrowman show that I saw at the London Palladium in November 2011. John's show is very personal, it is uplifting and inspirational. It is founded on the fact that he is an openly gay man, and very proud to be so. If you are going along, have fun!

I can recommend the venue 100%. I saw James Blunt there last year, when my financial position was a lot better than it is now (!), and the venue was first rate.

Cut and pasted from the Hampton Court Palace Festival Website:

John Barrowman, Sunday 24 June 2012

We are delighted to announce that for our 20th Anniversary we have added an extra show – the fantastic John Barrowman will close celebrations on Sunday 24th June!

John Barrowman is an Entertainer with a capital E. As singer, actor and TV personality he is well known for his West End musical roles in ‘Anything Goes’, ’Miss Saigon’, ‘Phantom of the Opera’ and ‘La Cage Aux Folles’, for hosting his own BBC entertainment show ‘Tonight’s The Night’, judge on talent shows ‘How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?’ and ‘I’d Do Anything’, as well as his outstanding role of Captain Jack Harkness in ‘Doctor Who’ and the hugely popular spin-off series ‘Torchwood’.

After the phenomenal success of four solo albums and accompanying tours, John returns to the concert stage, making Hampton Court Palace Festival his only London appearance this year. With a full band and dancers, John Barrowman will provide a spectacular finale to our 20th birthday celebrations!

Follow the link for all the details and to book tickets:
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Mark Lawson talks to Felicity Kendal

Felicity Kendal and Bill Nighy, Arcadia
Photo credit: http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/showbiz/i251928/ds-icons-felicity-kendal-in-arcadia.html

Cut and pasted from the BBC Website:

Mark Lawson talks to Felicity Kendal, Sunday 22 April, 22:25pm BBC4

Mark Lawson talks to Felicity Kendal about her childhood in India and returning to the UK in the 1960s to become one of the best-loved actors of her generation. In a career that has spanned over six decades, she talks about travelling through the Far East with her family's classical theatre company, her hugely popular role in the BBC TV series The Good Life and her subsequent award-winning theatre work. Kendal also talks candidly about her private life, including how she coped with tabloid headlines when her relationship with Tom Stoppard came under media scrutiny.

To read the full story follow the link:

If you like this and want to delve deeper, I am recommending "White Cargo", her memoir of her early life. I have the audiobook and it is OUTSTANDING. You can buy it on Amazon here:

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The King and the Playwright: A Jacobean History, BBC4

Photo credit: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00qhsr5

I have no insider information on this, and I have not seen a preview, but I am recommending it purely because it is the BBC, and it is an intelligent insight into Shakespeare, and the History, Politics and Religion of the Jacobean Age. What more could you want?

Cut and pasted from the BBC Website:

The King and the Playwright: A Jacobean History
Monday 23 April 9pm, BBC4

The King and the Playwright is a three-part BBC4 series, written and presented by world-renowned American scholar Professor James Shapiro who re-examines the work of Shakespeare during the troubled first decade of the reign of King James I.

Beginning with Shakespeare's first Jacobean play, Measure for Measure, James Shapiro moves us from Queen Elizabeth I's time to the dark and complex reign of the brilliant but flawed King James.

It was an age of upheaval, plot and violent social change. Yet it stimulated unprecedented cultural creativity. The theatre was buzzing with great writing but this is also a period when we get the King James Bible, the Union Jack and November 5th bonfires.

Episode 1: Incertainties

American scholar James Shapiro begins with the anxious mood of 1603 when a new dynasty came to power. Puritans, plague, an extravagant gift to a Spanish diplomatic delegation, and a new British coin called the Unite all feature in Shapiro's rich and fascinating history of a troubled time which saw an extraordinary creative outpouring.

Shakespeare Unlocked

The King and the Playwright is part of the BBC's "Shakespeare Unlocked" Season. Shakespeare Unlocked, part of the BBC’s contribution to the London 2012 Festival, is a celebration across TV, radio and online of the life and work of William Shakespeare.

From April to July, the BBC in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the British Museum and the World Shakespeare Festival will explore how one man captured so much about what it means to be human.

Full details can be found here:
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Third Star, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, available on BBC iPlayer for a limited period only

Photographer: Jamie Stoker
Photo credit: http://www.benedictcumberbatch.co.uk/third-star-photos/

Third Star, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, is now available for free viewing legitimately on the BBC iPlayer for a limited time only (until next Saturday - 28 April). Watch it here:

Benedict Cumberbatch, JJ Field, Tom Burke and Adam Robertson star in this emotional comedy about four young men on an ill-advised camping trip along the Pembrokeshire coast.

Directed by Bafta winner Hattie Dalton and written by Vaughan Sivell, the film tells the story of James, a dying young man on a mission to his favourite place on earth - Barafundle Bay - before it's too late. With the help of his three closest friends, he sets off on a journey of a lifetime.

This is a link to a review I like by Kate Muir in The Times:

And a short but pithy review from my favourite paper for Arts coverage The Telegraph:

Raks's Reaction

I really love this film and I took it straight to my heart. I cannot recommend it highly enough.


I saw Third Star 3 times at the cinema last Summer, over the course of 3 weeks, when I was at a particular stage in my life. I rewatched it on DVD last month, trying to be objective. The film is MIND-BLOWING. I love the four friends, their friendships, the scenery, the music, the little incidents on their roadtrip, the Directorial choices, and all four performances are very strong.

What struck me most was that Benedict in real life is full of life and energy and looks healthy. In Third Star, he looks so thin and frail and ethereal and vulnerable and - quite literally - as though he is at death's door.

His performance in the film is - as expected - heart-breaking. He really conveys the anger and frustration and sadness of someone who has unexpectedly - against their will and hope - run out of time.

The film is sold as being about male friendship and terminal cancer which it is, but it is also about something else which I won't reveal as that would be a major spoiler! Anyway, I thought the film was excellent as it looks at a range of serious subjects in a thought-provoking way.

Photographer: Jamie Stoker
Photo credit: http://benedictcumberbatch.co.uk/third-star-photos/
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Edward Scissorhands, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre

Photo credit: http://quizilla.teennick.com/polls/10298826/which-tim-burton-movie-is-better

This is one of my top three favourite films of all time. It stars Johnny Depp as Edward and is directed by Tim Burton. Johnny Depp's performance in the film has to be seen to be believed, and Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest, and Vincent Price all give stand-out performances in the film. The music by Danny Elfman is very powerful.

It came out in 1990, when I was at University, and it moved me profoundly. It was all about someone who was different, entering society for the first time. How at first he is welcomed, but then things start to go wrong, friends fall away, and he is left alone and isolated, feeling alone and unloved. It just broke my heart.

As a slightly weird and geeky young person, who had "unusual" interests for a student (ie not drinking, not ever in a relationship), and who ended up going to the cinema and the theatre on her own all the time, I felt a real empathy and a connection with Edward. I still do. I know the film and the character are also both deeply personal to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp; that comes out in the film very strongly.

The film is being screened this Autumn at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. It is very expensive for a film screening, and it is outdoors so we are completely dependent on the weather holding, but I really want to see this film again on a big screen as part of a shared experience so I am going. Follow the link for the full details, including the trailer, and to book tickets:

If you don't want to spend so much money, or you don't want to rely on the weather, or you don't live in London, you can rent the DVD or buy it on Amazon:

Photo credit: http://www.virginmedia.com/movies/features/strangest-characters.php

Cut and pasted from Wikipedia:

Edward Scissorhands is a 1990 American romantic fantasy film directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp. The film shows the story of an artificial man named Edward, an unfinished creation, who has scissors for hands. Edward is taken in by a suburban family and falls in love with their teenage daughter Kim. Both Burton and Elfman consider Edward Scissorhands their most personal and favourite work.