Norfolk and Norwich Festival Diary: Friday May 15

Ian CollinsTonight we reach a major milestone in the long history of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival - and another coup for modern music in Britain - with a Theatre Royal piano recital.Ian Collins

Tonight we reach a major milestone in the long history of the Norfolk and Norwich Festival - and another coup for modern music in Britain - with a Theatre Royal piano recital.

The pianist is Philip Glass, and he will be playing his recent Etudes alongside a selection of what are now classic compositions.

Born in Baltimore, in 1937, Glass was the son of a record store owner, who educated himself in music via unsold discs, before studying mathematics and philosophy - as well as composition - in Paris, with the legendary Nadia Boulanger.

Over the last 50 years he has emerged as one of the most prolific, wide-ranging and influential composers of our time - penning pieces for his own musical group, as well as operas, musical theatre works, eight symphonies, eight concertos, solo works and string quartets. Plus film scores from Koyaanisqatsi (aired at Cinema City on Wednesday) to the Oscar-nominated The Hours and Notes on a Scandal.

Controversially described as 'a minimalist' Philip Glass calls himself 'a classicist' composer of 'music with repetitive structure'. To me his meditative and mesmerising works make him the heir to Bach.

His collaborators - among a multitude of artist, writer, musician and director friends - include Richard Serra, Doris Lessing, Ravi Shankar, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Woody Allen, David Byrne, Laurie Anderson (a star of last year's festival) and Patti Smith.

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Now living in New York and Nova Scotia, this creative and spiritual explorer describes himself as 'a Jewish-Taoist-Hindu-Toltec-Buddhist'.

A world of marvellous music comes to Norwich this evening by way of one man and a piano.

t Today festive series of Royal Academy of Music lunchtime recitals at Norwich Assembly House ends on a high note… before an evening encore in Yarmouth which promises to be pure magic.

The five-member group Rare Theatrical - two violins, viola da gamba, theorbo and singer - specialise in music from the 17th century and their current programme, called The Triumph of Peace, comprises works from the era, and the very court, of Charles I.

The title is deeply ironic for a terrible time which saw both the European Thirty Years' War and a civil conflict which may have killed as many as one in ten of our population before ending 360 years ago with the abolition of the monarchy and the beheading of the ousted king.

There will be laments and battle pieces by composers such as Christopher Simpson, John Jenkins and Nicholas Lanier.

And what makes the Yarmouth airing so special - besides its being rather longer than the lunchtime programme - is that the concert takes place in the very room where the execution of Charles I is said to have been plotted.

The historic merchant's house - almost lost to us in the philistine 1970s, and now rescued as the National Trust's Elizabethan House Museum - can hold an audience of only 40, being so crowded with ancient ghosts.

Tickets cost just �7.

t In the Spiegeltent from 10.30pm tonight it's Mat Fraser's Burlesque Night - a very late evening of crazy cabaret by Britain's best-known disabled performer, whose Born Freak documentary from 2002 was a shocking and touching history of freak shows and disabled performance.

The star of Unarmed and Dangerous is also a fixture in Coney Island's Sideshows by the Seashow, part of the Superfreak Weekender party which is odd even by New York standards. He's also a past winner of the UK Erotic Award for Best Male Striptease Artist and an ongoing Sealo the Sealboy.

You have been warned…

Mat's burlesque troupe includes blind pianist Derek Paravicini ('a marvellous pair of musical ears' raves Jools Holland), The Two Wrongies (reputed to do a great nude synchronised swimming act), Korea's hurly-burly Fancy Chance, Diva Hollywood, The Bears, XXXX-rated disabled comedian Liz Carr and Ekaterina Sknarina.

Ms Sknarina was a Soviet child gymnast before liberating herself and being crowned Miss Coney Island in 2007, by which point she was already a favourite target of the Great Throwdini (the world's fastest knife thrower) and favourite stage squeeze of Orangina, the Albino Python.

Now she is billed as the world's first contortionist aerialist fashion designer burlesque artiste…

Come (to the cabaret, old chum) dressed to impress or just your usual mess. Prize for best costume.

t There's nowhere better to shelter from a downpour than the Levity III Luminarium tent in Chapelfield Gardens.

From 3pm-8pm today and tomorrow and 11am-8pm on Saturday, the walk-through-colour-sculpture will be open for brilliant and beguiling business.

The hypnotic impact of natural light pouring through a thin membrane of coloured PVC works come rain or shine, bringing a glow or a dazzle to the air.

In fact this full-immersion-in-pigment tent works in all weathers, save for really high winds when it will be closed just to be on the safe side.

t The festival really wouldn't swing without a huge cast of stalwart helpers and partners -and here's just a few great group(ie)s… the Amaretto delicatessen (Spiegeltent caterer), Adnams, Kettle Foods, Luminaire Extraordinaire, the boutique hotel 38 St Giles and also the George Hotel. And while the official Festival Club is now in the Tent of Mirrors in Chapelfield Gardens, the Norwich Playhouse and Cinema City bars are also vital and vibrant social centres as are the continental-flavoured Frank's Bar and the Birdcage.

t Final reminder that whenever a headlining event is officially sold out, as with Philip Glass this evening, return tickets are almost always available on the door 30 minutes before the show is due to begin.

t There are so many arts attractions in Norfolk in May, that it is good fun to dive under the festival umbrella and then out again for exciting exhibitions such as… Voicing Visions: Painting, Sculpture and Poetry. This is the spring exhibition of Norwich Twenty Group in collaboration with a chapter of East Anglian writers. It's at St Margaret's Church in St Benedict's Street until May 23. Free entry.


1pm Royal Academy of Music: Rare Theatricall, Assembly House.

3pm-8pm Levity III, Luminarium, Chapelfield Gardens.

7.30pm Rare Theatricall, Yarmouth Hippodrome.

8pm Philip Glass, Theatre Royal. SOLD OUT.

8pm Les Grooms: King Arthur, Spiegeltent, Chapelfield Gardens.

10.30pm Mat Fraser: Burlesque Night, Spiegeltent.

Festival brochures are still available from 01603 877750, or your nearest tourist information office. To book tickets call 01603 766400 or visit the website.


Today's two-for-one hot ticket offer is for the latest date by festival favourites Les Grooms - that's French for The Bellboys. But in fact they blow their own trumpets in every sense. Now their high-octane operatic operation is focused on a very special big birthday tribute to the English composer Henry Purcell, and the fabulous tale of love, war and magic that is King Arthur. To secure a pair of half-price seats for this show, as Camelot comes to the Spiegeltent in Chapelfield Gardens, call the festival box office - 01603 766400 - before noon.