Art Beat: Notes and musings from the arts scene as it emerges from lockdown

Sheridan Tongue, whose passion for music started while a pupil at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, returns to the Ulster Hall on Monday. Picture by Phil Sharp
Jane Hardy

I SOMETIMES ponder where the arts will go from here - having embraced modernism, sometimes they revert to conventional forms or just mix it up.

On a dark evening over Halloween, a happed up audience entered Victoria Park in Sydenham for Sylvan, the site-specific new show from Tinderbox.

Billed as Theatre of the Grotesque, a 20th century anti-naturalistic idea involving spectacle and extreme emotion, Jonathan M Daley's play grafted on an eco-message plus a failing marriage. And strobe lighting.

It's interesting that however new theatrical forms are, we often return to psychology and to our shared past.

Sheridan Tongue, noted TV and film composer, has been commissioned to write the opening piece to celebrate the Ulster Orchestra's 40 year collaboration with the BBC at a concert titled Fanfare for the Makers (BBC Radio 3 and Radio Ulster, November 11, 7.30pm).

Inspired by the ultimate optimism of Louis Macneice's Autumn Sequel, it's finally upbeat.

He says: "While this piece has moments of dissonance reflecting on the shadows of the pandemic, those darker times are pushed aside as we emerge from it, to a joyous celebration of life."

Yet some people have issues with modern classical, the discordant stuff.

Apparently Iris Murdoch, the late novelist with an Irish background, and her husband John Bayley used to say whenever a new work came on their radio, "That's another Harrison Birtwistle."

There's been an interesting Twitter skirmish in the ongoing culture war between so-called highbrow and popular art.

One of the old ways of getting at classical music and ballet lovers was by pointing out how privileged and flush you had to be to attend such an event.

Seats for Giselle at the Royal Opera House, for example, can go for £130 each. Yet Adele's much awaited Hyde Park gigs next year also have eyewatering listed prices, £90 for admission but £430 or so for the VIP Terrace.

To fans who can afford it, it will be worth it. Also this misses the point about who feels culturally comfortable in which arena.

There are, after all, only two types of music: Country and Western, if you're in Northern Ireland. Or good and bad.

It's nearly panto season and one sure sign is May McFettridge dusting off her doubles entendres.

This year, her appearance as Dame Gertie Dollop in Goldilocks at the Grand Opera House is particularly sweet as May (OK, John Linehan) bagged a Lifetime Achievement Award recently from The Ulster Tatler.

Mr Lineham started the act on cousin Eamonn Holmes's radio show back in the day, and deserves something for squeezing into those costumes year after glorious year. Not to mention his charity work.

He remains maverick, having a dig at the main sponsors on the night ("You have to be ugly to work there," which was patently untrue).

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