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Bluedot Festival - Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, 21/7/2022....24/7/2022

  by Shirley Procter

published: 31 / 7 / 2022

Bluedot Festival - Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, 21/7/2022....24/7/2022

HANNAH PEEL AND THE PARAORCHESTRA = THURSDAY 21st JULY Well, here I am again, at one of my favourite festivals, Bluedot at Jodrell Bank. For anyone who doesn’t know this festival, it’s a small, science-based festival, with great music! The Thursday evening opens the festival every year with a performance by the Hallé Orchestra with a feature artist performing, but not this year! They’re performing with Bjork on Sunday, so it’s a different orchestra tonight. It’s Mercury Prize nominated Hannah Peel and the Paraorchestra. Charles Hazelwood is conducting, and tells us that the Paraorchestra is a new breed of orchestra, a mix of musicians who are disabled and some who are not. “Forty of us are disabled people,” he continues, telling us that he first came across Hannah on YouTube, where he found a video of her performing ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell with a musical box: He then met with Hannah, over coffee, and the result is their new collective album, ‘The Unfolding’. There is a slow opening with what sounds like violins, plus something throbbing. Hannah’s voice sweeps over the soundscape. She has a powerful vibrato, and seems to be singing without words. The sound is beautiful. Her vocal range is really wide, and the sounds she is making are quite haunting. The violins start again, playing long, drawn out notes, with the throbbing sound playing at least one octave below. They echo the sounds Hannah has been making. Suddenly, a clarinet starts playing several notes over and over, and a synthesizer joins in in the background, echoing the notes. This feels very experimental and beautiful. Then more instruments join in, and Hannah sings one note over and over. A bass drum starts beating out, as Hannah’s voice climbs the register. Drums and cymbals join in, and the sound swells. Her voice carries one note, over and over. The sound is amazing! The next piece starts with drums beating loudly, with a bass clarinet playing a single note. It turns into a cacophony of sounds, with what sounds like cowbells, something I can’t identify, violins and the bass clarinet all playing together. It shouldn’t work, but it really does! Hannah speaks over the music. This music is like nothing I’ve heard before, it’s utterly incredible! Hannah’s voice with the instruments echoing her magnify the sound so well. Now, there’s Hannah, a violin, a double bass playing the same notes, then harmonising and echoing each other, creating a soundscape that is so beautiful. “Thank you so much,” says Hannah. “Seeing as it’s a festival, I thought I’d get out a music box. I went to Wythenshawe and played a gig using my music box. We’re going to play a little number called ‘Blue Monday” for you.” Wth the plinky plonky sounds of a music box, and beautiful harmonies. I think this goes down so much better than a pub in Wythenshawe with only two people in it! Next up, the cymbals and drum feature, with the bass clarinet playing again, a faster piece than the ones before. The instruments make a roaring sound, then switch to a fast beat. This is different to everything that’s gone before, is much more up tempo, and features the drums so much more. It stops suddenly, and the crowd roar their approval. Next is a lighter sounding tune that shows Hannah’s vocal range beautifully. It then explodes with drums hammering out a strong beat, with instruments and Hannah’s voice weaving in and out. There are violins and clarinet playing, and then the drums come back even stronger than before. Hannah’s voice climbs higher and higher over the instruments. Hannah thanks us, thanks the orchestra and thanks Bluedot for hosting them. The last tune in the main set is ‘Heartcloud’. This starts with keyboards and flute. It’s beautiful; the music draws you in. Then the drums and bass clarinet join in, Hannah’s voice echoes the tune from the keyboards, then rises higher above it, harmonising. The sound quietens, with the tune playing more slowly on a double bass with Hannah harmonising over it. Violins play, echoing her; they stop, and it’s back to the bass clarinet, then the violins come back over the bass clarinet. Next, Hannah sings ‘Tainted Love’, played with a music box. She tells us that it was just for us! They then play ‘Emergency Nature’. Lots of percussion builds a driving beat, then a synth plays over the percussion. Hannah harmonises above the instruments, no words, just sounds. Suddenly the beat and sound changes to something much harsher, then it builds into a crescendo, the beat getting stronger and stronger, then it suddenly stops! Hannah tells us, “The last tune is a thank you to everyone on stage.” It starts with Hannah speaking over music, listing the people playing instruments: Recorders, flutes, B-flat clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, synths, electronics, cellos, double bass, percussion, drums, and the conductor, Charles Hazelwood. The music picks up, with each instrument playing as she names them. This is like nothing I’ve ever heard before. It’s strange, incredible, beautiful, evocative music; I utterly, utterly love it! GROOVE ARMADA - FRIDAY 22ND JULY Groove Armada charge onto the stage in a huge ball of energy. The stage is lit brightly with white and blue spotlights, and looks amazing! There are bubble machines and balloons in the crowd being thrown into the spotlights. The female vocalist asks for the space cadets to wave, and the spotlights shine on them, as they play ‘Girls Say’. The song ends and the crowd goes wild! Next up is ‘I Won’t Kneel’; the white spotlights roam amongst the crowd. This is followed by a change in singer, this time, a bloke singing ‘Look Me in the Eye, Sister’. The lights have changed to red and white, with some gold and white flashing lights. The whole crowd is bouncing, with their hands in the air, including on the accessible platform! There’s a change in singer again, back to the first woman again, singing ‘My Friend Mutya’. The stage lighting changes again, with blue lights at the back of the stage, white spots at the front. She asks us “Bluedot, are you going to join in?” “Whenever I’m down. I call on you my friend”, the crowd sings. Keyboards open up the next song, ‘Edge of the Horizon’, while the lighting is magenta Oh, wow! There are images being projected onto the Lovell telescope! This hasn’t happened for a few years, as it was in need of to repair. It was repaired during lockdown. Laser lights shoot out above our heads as the beat of ‘Paper Romance’ thuds out. The lighting is fantastic! The telescope has a heart shape projected in it, with a circuit board pattern. An aside – I’m on the accessible [latform as I’m disabled, and use a mobility scooter to get around, as I can’t walk very far. I’ve now kicked two photographers and a videographer off the accessible platform. Why do they think it’s okay to come on a facility for disabled people, just because they can get “better“ pictures? It makes me so angry,,, Ooh, the stage is flooded in red lights, as the keyboards start to play ‘Easy’. The lighting is brilliant, the projections on the telescope fab! The song finishes and the crowd roars! Next up, there is the male vocalist again, singing ‘Love Sweet Around’. There are more lasers, this time blue and green shooting out over the heads of the crowd, with a skull projected on the telescope, wearing headphones and sunglasses! The stage is filled with red lighting again. The lighting switches to red and magenta stripes, with white spotlights, the keyboards are pounding out the tune, drums hammering out the beat. Everyone is dancing for ‘I See You Baby’. Lots of people have bubbles, and as they float up into the sky they catch the laser lights, and look so pretty! Next up, is ‘Get Down’ This is a really high energy set, has everyone jumping The next tune has the crowd cheering from the first few notes. A trombone starts playing. WHat a beautiful sound! It’s in a loop with just a couple of seconds delay. That sounded amazing! The stage is flooded in blue light, with some white parallel lines dropping down the back of the stage, changing to myriad tiny lights piercing the sky as a techno beat takes off, with a strong bass beat. The crowd raise their hands in approval! We’re told “It’s the Groove Armada sound!” The trombone is back again, along with the male vocalist; the whole field is jumping!! Everywhere I look people have their hands in the air, while they jump along with the beat. The set finishes, and the crowd go wild! JIM AL KHALILI -SATURDAY 22ND JULY Just to show you the variety of Bluedot, I’m now at a talk by Jim Al Khalili. He’s talking about time travel. Real time travel, not science fiction time travel. He’s explaining why travelling close to the speed of light, that when you return to Earth more time has elapsed on Earth than when you’ve experienced whilst travelling. Now he’s explaining that time travels more slowly when the gravitational field is stronger, like in the film ‘Interstellar’. He tells us that time travel into the future can happen; we just need to build a rocket that can travel close to the speed of light or that can travel close to a black hole. Time travel into the past is much trickier. Stephen Hawking didn’t think it possible, because where are the time travellers? There’s a flaw in this argument, as the time travellers could be keeping a low profile! Also, who would want to come back to now? We could use wormholes. Wormholes are really called star gates! Einstein developed a theory in the 1930s (with someone called Rosen) that became the Einstein Rosen bridge, connecting two wormholes. It was left alone as a theory, until Carl Sagan wrote the manuscript for ‘Contact’. He sent his script to a physicist, Kit Thorne, who developed the black hole theory that allows two black holes to connect. Kit Thorne then developed this theory, but at this point it became a bit too complicated for me to follow! Kit was the producer on ‘Interstellar’.! So, maybe ‘Stargate’ got it right all those years ago! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stargate_(device) BJORK AND THE HALLE ORCHESTRA - SUNDAY 24TH JULY Well, I’m back on the very crowded accessible platform, waiting for Björk and the Hallé Orchestra to come on stage, and watching the Lovell Telescope turn around to face us, ready to have lights projected onto it during the gig. At last, the rain has stopped - it’s been a very damp weekend at Jodrell Bank! There’s an announcement about not taking photos or videos, as Björk doesn’t like it and wants people to appreciate the performance through their eyes, not through a lens. The Hallé Orchestra walk on to cheers from the crowd, followed by the conductor to more cheers. Then from the left-hand side of the stage, Björk walks on to tumultuous cheers from the crowd. She opens with a slow song, ‘Stonemilker’ with the strings playing in harmony in the background. She tells us “Thank you”, when the song finishes, then the next song \’Aurora” starts, with violins playing pizzicato, then other strings joining in, playing the same notes as Björk is singing. There is no particular lighting, just a red glow at the back of the stage, and it’s not dark yet, so nothing is on the telescope yet. The next song ‘Come to Me’ starts again with more pizzicato violins, then single stroke notes, then full playing. The orchestra perfectly complements Björk’sw voice! Next up is ‘Lionsong’, another slower tune. Then, the double bass starts playing, as Björk starts singing ‘I’ve Seen It All’. The violins and cellos join in, all playing a different tune to that which Björk is singing but completely complimenting her vocals yet again. It looks like there’s only the string section of the orchestra here, as I can’t hear any other instruments playing. The sounds they’re making are beautiful, and work so well with Björk’s voice. ‘History of Touche’ is next. It’s another slow song. This one seems so sad. The strings are playing quite mournfully alongside Björk’s voice. She says “Thank you” when the song finishes, then the orchestra immediately start the next tune with low tones from the violins. Björk starts singing, and the violins pitch changes, higher, slower. It’s;“Black Lake’; the lighting changes from red to blue in the background, with blue lights above the stage, with Björk often in the dark as she walks around the stage - the spotlight doesn't follow her. The coordination between Björk and the orchestra is phenomenal; they echo her. The harmonies sweep round and round her voice. This is definitely not a pop gig, it’s almost operatic in tone, emotion and sound. She thanks us again, and immediately a violin starts replaying part of the previous tune, this time playing the lyric line. It stops, and Björk tells us we are a wonderful audience. The next tune starts, with the cellos playing. It’s ‘Hunter’. The stage is now bathed in purple with white uplights and the back of the stage back to deep pink now. The person next to me is a big Björk fan,. She asks me if this is all new material, as she’d been hoping for some older stuff! I’m a bit relieved, as I’ve not recognised anything yet! Her voice so suits orchestral music. It is full of drama, emotion. ‘You’ve Been Flirting Again’ starts. People recognise this one! The next song starts with very dramatic violins, then picked cellos, then Björk joins in; it’s ‘Isobel’. The violins echo the tune when Björk isn’t singing, getting quieter as the song ends. It is a beautiful song. Another song starts with more again of the echo refrain between Björk and the violins, it’s ‘Bachelorette’. Now it’s the double bass and cellos playing, a low contrast to Björk’s voice. Now the violins come in, playing high notes above her voice. Then they stop, the double bass swooping back in, as Björk’s voice sings and scatters words over them. Björk briefly leaves the stage, the strings play, and then she returns for her encore. She thanks us, and tells us that this will be the last tune. It’s ‘Overture’ and is very strange, with the cellos sounding juddery, sharp and staccato. Björk’s voice is all over the place, making all sorts of sounds, as the cellos judder more and more, higher and higher, then suddenly stop. This was amazing! I’ve never seen Björk live before, didn’t know what to expect, but this certainly wasn’t it! I did not expect such a polished performance, a performance that surpassed my expectations. The contrast between Björk’s voice and the strings of the Hallé Orchestra was spectacular, and it worked so well. Photographs of Groover Armada www.twambley.com

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Bluedot Festival - Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, 21/7/2022....24/7/2022

Bluedot Festival - Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, 21/7/2022....24/7/2022

Bluedot Festival - Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, 21/7/2022....24/7/2022

Bluedot Festival - Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, 21/7/2022....24/7/2022

Bluedot Festival - Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, 21/7/2022....24/7/2022

Bluedot Festival - Jodrell Bank, Cheshire, 21/7/2022....24/7/2022

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Shirley Procter profiles some of her favpurite acts at this year's four-day Bluedot Festival.


Profile (2018)
Bluedot Festival - Profile
Shirley Proctor and Amanda J Window preview this year's Blue Dot Festival, which merging music, science, art and culture, takes place in Cheshire between Thursday 19th and Sunday 22nd July and includes on its line=up Chemical Brothers, the Flaming Lips and Future Islands.


Photoscapes 3 (2022)
Bluedot Festival - Photoscapes 3
Andrew Twambley in the third of three 'Photoscapes' from the Bluedot Festival photographs some of is acts.
Photoscapes 2 (2022)
Photoscapes 1 (2022)

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