Maggie’s Top (Festive) Picks!

In her final blog of the series, Turner Sims Front of House Manager Maggie gives us her top festive picks to enjoy over the Christmas holidays!

It is Saturday morning, 10am, and I am sitting once again in the Box Office, my temporary space since it’s been closed to the public, behind our new Perspex Covid-preventive screen, feeling a little like a lizard in its tank and listening to pianist Cordelia Williams, warming up for her recording session today. Tim is also here, setting up his cameras for a bit of filming, so, what with our three Joanna MacGregor livestreamed piano concerts tomorrow, there is a quite a bit of musical action in the building this weekend – and hoorah for that, I say!

The new 9ft Christmas tree has arrived as well and is lying in a box over there, waiting to be constructed and decorated by Daniel, Turner Sims’ own Yuletide elf, before our four Christmas gigs next week. And after that…well, after that it is Christmas, I guess, and we will all go our separate ways for a week or two and celebrate as much as we can.

There’s been no staff dinner down The Crown this year, for obvious reasons, and most of us will have to miss seeing some of the family members we normally see, as will you all, I’m sure. Still, at least it will bring about the end of what has been a difficult year, to say the least, and herald in one that promises some recovery.

So, whilst we can’t offer you our full range of Christmas activity, I have been nosing around to see what I can find going on elsewhere. I mentioned Tim Garland’s ‘Winter Encounters’ gigs in my last blog, I think, but it’s worth bringing them up again as the second concert on the 20th features a Turner Sims favourite, Liane Carroll, while the concert on the 27th has Ayanna Witter-Johnson, who you will have seen if you followed my lead in a former blog to the Channel Four ‘Sing It Loud, Black and Proud’ programme with Ashley Henry. Both concerts also feature British jazz pianist, Jason Rebello and, of course, Tim himself. To buy tickets for the concerts, head over to Tim’s website and, to tempt you, get a load of this video of Ayanna’s brilliant cello/vocal version of Roxanne:

Other Turner Sims regulars with a Christmas concert in the offing are Lau, who are doing a livestream of songs from their new album Folk Songs on December 20th, tickets available here.

Kris Drever from the band, will also be joining hugely popular Scottish accordionist and sit-down comedian, Phil Cunningham for his Christmas Songbook shows on the 19th and 23rd. Phil, who normally takes his annual Christmas show out on the road, has adapted to the times and is going online this year with, along with Kris, special guests Karen Matheson from Capercaille, vocalist Eddi Reader, guitarist Ian Carr, bassist Kevin McGuire, John McCusker on fiddle and The Songbook Brass Ensemble. You can buy access to each concert for £15, or both for £25 and, once you have purchased them, you can play them until December 27th, thereby supplying you with a plenitude of festive frivolity. You can also get a signed CD, bag, tea towel and/or APRON for your loved ones! Phew!
Tickets available here.

Talking of fantastic gifts and where to buy them…if you want to buy someone (or yourself) a REALLY unusual present, take a look at the Who Gives A Frock website, where a bunch of female musicians such as Cara Dillon, Mari Wilson, Clare Grogan, Hazel O’Connor and many more have donated clothes, jewellery and shoes to be auctioned for The Intensive Care Society. Starting bids range from £30-£300 and the winners get sent the item from the ladies themselves, along with a personal handwritten letter. Beverley Craven’s donated lots of dresses and a necklace to it too so you could console yourself for having to wait until June to see her live by swanning around in one of her frocks instead!

If buying Cara Dillon’s blouse isn’t enough for you, she and husband Sam Lakeman will be doing some virtual carolling on December 20th to make up for not being able to do their usual festive show. If you follow her on Spotify and subscribe to her mailing list, you are in with a chance of winning a one to one Zoom call with a short meet and greet and carols… Details can be found on her website here.

Cordelia’s just come out for a well-deserved tea break and told me more about what she’s recording in there. It’s music for a CD called Night Light, expressing the varying feelings ranging from hopefulness to hopelessness experienced throughout the night; an idea conceived during the sleep deprived period after her last child was born. She’s hoping it will be out by the summer and It will be available on SOMM Recordings, as her other albums are.

And while on the subject of female pianists, if you’re a fan of Mitsuko Uchida, and I know that many of you are, you may like to know that she’s doing a concert for the Wigmore Hall on the 16th December, four days before her 72nd birthday. She will be playing Schubert’s Piano Sonata in C, D840 ‘Reliquie’ and the Fantasy Sonata in G, D894. Concerts are free to stream and available for 30 days.

If you want something a bit more festive, you won’t get much more Christmassy than Handel’s Messiah, which, this year, is being live-streamed from the Barbican with the full baroque orchestra and choir of the Academy of Ancient Music, who are joined by soloists Rowan Pierce, Iestyn Davies, Ben Johnson and Ashley Riches. A standard streaming ticket costs £12.50.

Perhaps you would like to help Turner Sims’ community partner Wessex Cancer Trust, they are holding a virtual fundraiser on New Year’s Day to raise money for their free bus services which transport hundreds of Isle Of Wight cancer patients to their mainland hospital appointments. It’s called the Virtual Daisy Bus Dip and ALL YOU HAVE TO DO (if you are completely barking) is engage with freezing cold water in some form or another, such as a dip in the sea, a hosing down in the garden or by chucking a bucket of cold water over your head – presumably getting your family and friends to pay for the pleasure of knowing that you’ve done it.

Alternatively, of course, you could just make a donation!

They also have a little blog on their website suggesting gifts for people living with cancer too.

Christmas Appeal 2020 – JustGiving

So that brings me to the end of today’s blog. It is Saturday evening by now, everyone’s packing up and going off into the night and I’ve got to get myself to Sainsbury’s pronto – there’s nothing in my fridge but a veggie sausage and half a tomato and I need more fuel than that for another action packed day tomorrow. Three concerts in one day? It’s practically the Edinburgh Festival! If you can’t join us tomorrow, you can buy access to the concerts up until midnight on Sunday 20th December.

The recording seems to have gone well anyway and Cordelia looks pleased, if exhausted. The Steinway hasn’t had quite this much attention for a while so we’d better put his lid down and get him off to sleep too.

I have two Christmas gifts to give you. One is that if you mix cherry brandy into a Snowball (advocaat and lemonade for the uninitiated) it tastes like an alcoholic trifle, and the other is my favourite Christmas song (or, possibly, the only one I can tolerate). You will have to click on the link to find out what it is….

Hope to see some of you this week but, if I don’t, I will see you next year.

Have a lovely Christmas,


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