Bright, poised and overflowing with vivacity, this week saw the return of Classical Kicks to the Ronnie Scott’s stage.
Presenting “A Musical Trip from Bluegrass to Brian Wilson”, the ensemble performed a splendid fusion of musical styles and genres in a livestream performance hosted by the historic venue. From a fiery rendition of Piazzolla’s Libertango to a high-kicking Hoe-Down by Copland, traditional bluegrass songs and medleys by songwriting greats, there truly was something for everybody! The rich array of repertoire showed not only great consideration for their expansive digital audience but also captured the sheer versatility of the wonderful musicians on stage.
Since its formation in 2012, Classical Kicks have sought to bring classical music to a wider audience in a more relaxed context. They are a regular fixture of the upstairs venue at Ronnie Scott’s and continuously strive to break down the boundaries of what may be expected of classical music. Indeed, there is an argument to be made that by livestreaming, their ability to break down said barriers has only been enhanced, as they are made available to everyone and anyone for free!
Fronted by the formidable violinist and vocalist Lizzie Ball, the ensemble were remarkably responsive and their playful banter and conversation throughout gave the performance a real sense of atmosphere. From the smiles on their faces to the brilliantly glittery concert wear, it was obvious to the audience that they were enjoying themselves and the opportunity to perform together. Special mention must of course go to Ball whose ability to manoeuvre from piece to piece switching between singing, playing and presenting was truly a feat and a role she performed with finesse.
A particular favourite moment of the evening for me would have to be the gorgeous tribute to the late great jazz musicians Stephane Grappelli and George Shearing. The performance enabled Ball to showcase her flexible approach to playing and her artistic relationship with pianist James Pearson (Artistic Director of Ronnie Scott’s). Pearson’s arrangements were performed throughout the evening and his explanation of musical nuances from the piano really helped to drive the relaxed and innovative tone of the evening.
Furthermore, as someone who can practically recite the entire script to the iconic movie When Harry Met Sally, the arrangement of ‘It Had To Be You’ was absolutely flawless with the improvisatory sections adding an extra special flair to the famous track!
As an individual with self-diagnosed Zoom fatigue, I have often been reticent to venture into the world of livestreaming. However, it became very clear to me that having honed and embraced the medium since the start of the pandemic, Ronnie Scott’s have succeeded in generating a sense of vibrancy and excitement around their events. This is partly thanks to the excellent sound and picture quality that is far removed from your average video conference, but also due to the surprising liveliness of the virtual chat that runs alongside the livestream. It was wonderful to see how involved everyone at home was getting and to witness their involvement with the performance.
The whole gig is available to watch on Ronnie Scott’s YouTube Channel, as are many other brilliant previous livestreams hosted by the venue. Do check it out for a rip-roaring hour or so of musical delights, stunning musicianship with players throwing their absolute all into it and some wonderful stories of gigs gone by. An utterly delightful way to spend a Sunday evening!
Words by Hermione Kellow
Photo © Ronnie Scott’s YouTube