Lizzie Ball: From violin to vocals

Photographer: David Redfern

In a place alive with the faith of worshipers, where stone walls and wooden pews reign supreme, a small ensemble of musicians play beneath a stunning glass window.

A bass player caresses his instrument like a man in love.  The nimble fingers of a pianist dance across the keys like a card shark hiding the magic number.

A woman enters in a white, sleeveless summer frock that fits her slender physique like a glove.  She seems a tennis pro, who suddenly decided to put down her racket in exchange for a microphone.

When she sings, her voice is smooth and sultry, and tells her story.  Her name is Lizzie Ball.

Before long, she switches instruments – from voice to violin, from violin back to voice back to violin again.  All eyes in the crowd are on her.

And while this humbling scene is one the audience might expect to see again and again, they would be wise to always imagine Ball at the centre.

There is an air about her that fills the room.  She is magnetic, immensely talented and down to earth.

The Orchestra of Life

One of Ball’s greatest mentors is Nigel Kennedy, who recently chose her to head his Orchestra of Life.

When Ball was ten, her mother took her to see the well known Kennedy in her local town of Sheffield.  Ball was rooted to her seat.

“I remember gripping the rail in front of me from the balcony and looking at this crazy guy, with his hair and facial expressions and just thinking, He’s amazing!

About 15 years later, she met Kennedy at Ronnie Scott’s and decided to tell him how much he meant to her as a role model.

Kennedy and his wife eventually developed a friendship with Ball and asked her to fulfil the role of leader of the Orchestra of Life, a musical ensemble which Kennedy put together earlier this year.

“It was an amazing moment, because I think it felt like karmically it was the right point for us to work together.   So I was really delighted when he approached me.  It’s been just great.  Every minute you work with him, you learn something new.”

Violin with vocals

No one ever pushed Ball into becoming a violinist.  It’s something she wanted from the age of seven.

After obtaining a music degree from Cambridge, she began making a living by playing the violin.

During a jam session, one night, with friends, Ball began to sing accompanied by a guitar.   Everyone was surprised at her natural ability and urged her to pursue it.

“To me it was something that I had always done in my own time, in the shower or with my Mum.  Strangely, I never considered singing as a career move.  It just hadn’t ever been an option for me.  Eventually, I took it a bit more seriously by trying to get to a similar level as I am with the violin.  It’s helped me to think very differently about the violin as well.  Suddenly there’s a new aspect – everything is broadened.”

The Lizzie Ball Band

Ball’s father is a jazz pianist, so she grew up listening to Herbie Hancock, Julian Joseph, Ella Fitzgerald and other greats, which explains in part, why the classical violinist has gravitated so strongly toward jazz.

The vocalist also attributes her love of jazz to her mother’s eclectic taste in music and the fact that they lived near Sheffield during a time when the town was ripe with Northern bands.

Playing in various bands from quite a young age, Ball performed with orchestra members and also joined them when they played in their own bands.

“I was probably about 15 years old, in a pub that was a really cool venue for music in Sheffield.  I remember walking out and being nervous, but literally just going for it – throwing myself in the deep end.  From there, I continued trying to improvise a bit.  And during my lessons I was told to transcribe jazz music, which is a really good way to get those colours and flavours in your harmonic language, so you’re not thinking in a straight classical way.  Jazz is a blank page; it’s just amazing.”

Ball’s eclectic background caused her to eventually create a band of her own.  The Lizzie Ball Band is made up of a skilled and diverse group of colleagues from Ball’s classical background and regular performers at Ronnie Scotts, including jazz guitarist Nick Meier, pianist James Pearson, drummer Chris Dagley, percussionist James Turner, and double bass players Rory Dempsey and Sam Burgess.

Staying grounded as an artist

Ball believes that it’s important to stay positive and to engage in activities that improves one’s outlook on life.

Photographer: David Redfern

The artist works in projects designed to help stigmatised children channel their energies in a healthy and rewarding way.  One of them, Britten Sinfonia’s project, sponsors a live gig in which the children perform.  The young students also get the opportunity to work with Ball and other artists on music projects, improving their self-confidence.

Self-confidence is an important aspect to being an artist, according to Ball.  The violinist warns against self-deprecation, which she often feels is present in England.

“There has to be a certain amount of humility, but always a pride in what you do.  It’s important for artists to get outside of England and experience other things in the world.”

As a violinist, vocalist, and leader of a band and an orchestra – music seems to permeate every aspect of Lizzie Ball’s life.  Yet, this seems as much a labour of love for the artist as it is a career.

“I think it’s very important that music still retains its true nature and we don’t get completely motivated by business.”

With incredible focus and self-discipline, she continues to embrace the world of music she was introduced to in her childhood.  Music lovers would be wise to watch out for Ball over the next couple of years.  Her dynamic personality and unwavering passion has already secured her status as a principal player in the genres of jazz and classical music.

Lizzie Ball will be performing Bachs Chaconne for solo violin with 4 vocal part accompaniment with New York Polyphony in Oslo Cathedral on August 7th at 7 30pm.

She will also be performing with the Urban Soul Orchestra in London and the South of France on the 2nd, 4th, 20th, and the 27th through the 29th of August.

‘Over the Edge’ debuts at the Barbican

Last night at the Barbican, the dance show ‘Over the Edge’ debuted to a packed audience.

A diverse group of young performers entered the stage with what was sure to be a delightful display of raw urban talent.

After all, hot new street dancing groups have become more well-known to the mainstream public ever since Diversity won ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ last year.

Yet, while Over the Edge was without a doubt a flawless exhibition of technical ability and talent, it lacked passion.

Though the audience applauded vigorously after each segment of the show, it was painfully apparent that the crowd’s enthusiasm seemed based upon each dancer’s ability to krump and pop with the best of ’em, rather than an ability to engender any emotion at all.

So what happened?

The show was an interesting array of choreographed segments that seemed orchestrated to tantalise the audience.

To some degree, this attempt was highly successful – especially in segments like ‘My Alien Abduction’, which used lighting and a large projection screen to create the illusion that the players were on a spaceship being forced to move in unusual ways.

These segments were the perfect formats to feature abstract dance moves that are often associated with various types of street dancing.

However, like a lot of street dancing, so much of the show seemed focused on profiling individuals rather than the group as one fluid moving unit.

Yet, the more obvious problem was the lack of connection to the audience.  It was clear that this talented dance troupe was having a great deal of fun on the stage, but the audience wasn’t included.

The lack of passion in the music is perhaps partly responsible for the lack of passion in the dancing.  A techno-jamboree, it certainly was – but the music wasn’t the least bit emotive, which strongly affected the entire show.

Though it might be interesting to see what this young and talented group might be like after several more performances, Over the Edge is – at least for now – coming up a bit short.

Over the Edge is a production of  Boy Blue Entertainment and will be shown at the Barbican until 25th July.

George H. Choat: A young actor’s positive approach

When George H. Choat sat down in front of me in a neighbourhood coffee shop, I knew that I was about to have an experience. 

If star quality does indeed exist, Choat has it in considerable abundance.

Twenty-seven years old, dark-haired and with a Brooklyn accent so distinct that I half expected Joe Pesci and Bobby De Niro to come join our table and buy drinks for the house, the young actor carries himself with a hefty amount of self-respect.

My questions about the struggles of a young NY-raised actor living in the competitive city of London bounced off of his chest as if they were bullets and he was Superman.

‘You could say there’s a certain amount of competition out there, but you have to focus on you.  I know and except that with massive action comes massive results. It’s counter-productive to focus on competition all the time.’

Choat finds the inspiration to do what he does through his great passion for the arts.  Having had utilised his skills musically for a while, he was told by friends and family that he had a proclivity for acting.  It wasn’t long before he made the decision to change direction.

Staying positive

As a young actor in London, Choat seems to have none of the angst or fear that others of his ilk are often inundated with. Instead, with piercing brown eyes and squared shoulders, he relayed the aspects of his life that allow him to maintain an incredible attitude of positivity and confidence.

His inspirations are not surprising. 

‘The day Michael Jackson died, the world came to a stop for a week.  It was a massive lost. He was the personification of doing something at its greatest level.’

Denzel Washington is also one of Choat’s most respected mentors because of the star’s respect for his craft.

‘He has such a good energy as an actor.  I find him such a great inspiration because in all of the roles that he has played, he studies the art deeply. He becomes emotionally involved with his characters.”

So much of the ‘good energy’ that Choat attributes to Washington is mirrored in the composed, intensity of Choat himself. Still, he doesn’t ignore the nuts and bolts of the acting business.

Choat thinks it’s important for an actor to look out for what’s new, like casting websites, so that it isn’t necessary to rely solely on an agent.  He also believes in the importance of surrounding himself with positive people.

‘Words are important and I believe that words have sometimes boosted people or held them back. In order to combat a negative environment, you have to develop positive habits.’

The young actor builds up his defenses with healthy eating, exercise and relaxation.  With an almost Zen-like quality, he seems ready for anything.  I have no doubt that the term ‘watch this space’ was created with people like Choat in mind.

To learn more about George H. Choat, click here.

ALISN: A resource for young artists

No one expects to leave university with an art degree and immediately land a place in a major gallery.

Anna Bleeker, Jordan Dalladay-Simpson & Iavor Lubomirov

In London, one of the most art-focused cities in the world, there are far more artists than opportunities.

Yet, through a combination of open-mindedness and insight, two artists were motivated to look outside of the art world for a little help.

Iavor Lubomirov and Jordan Dalladay-Simpson, frustrated with the political framework that had become a consistent part of the art world, began knocking on the doors of property developers.

“When you live in a difficult world, it’s easy to forget how much joy it can give a property developer to join in the journey,” said Dalladay-Simpson.  “In a way, a property developer is an artist too.”

ALISN was born

Their persistence paid off and ALISN inevitably was born.  ALISN, which stands for Artist-Led Initiatives Support Network, is an organisation, which focuses on arranging

Iavor Lubomirov's work with paper

exhibitions for students and recent graduates of art school.

This collaborative effort is non-profit and encourages a sense of community by focusing on the art and the artist.

“For us,” said Anna Bleeker, one of ALISN’s coordinators, “art is about getting together with friends.”

This is achieved mainly through the donating of a space by the owner of a property after and, even sometimes during, a refurbishment.

Lubomirov, who believes that there simply aren’t enough people creating opportunities outside of the art world, sees these donations and collaborative efforts as an essential part of the process.

“How do you continue as an artist and keep Bohemian principles?  There are many collectives around London, squat spaces, cafe’s… Exhibiting art does not necessarily mean being in a gallery.”

Stephanie Batiste's 'Light Fitting + Bulb'

An exhibition of paper

One of ALISN’s most recent efforts, was on 26 June, which showed the works of Stephanie Batiste and Lubomirov himself.

Lubomirov, working solely with paper, combined his knowledge of Mathematics with creative vision.  The precise detail in his works gives an added dimension and depth. The way the flat sheets are combined, forces the viewer to consider volume.

Stephanie Batiste's 'Radio + Plug Socket'

Batiste’s works are equally compelling.  Her three-dimensional models are so accurate that one of the visitors of the exhibition couldn’t understand why the light hanging from the ceiling wasn’t turned on, until someone explained to him that it was made entirely out of paper cards.

The exhibition was a testimony to the level of creativity and talent that exists amongst young artists in London.

This joint intellectual effort continues in upcoming exhibitions like Daryl Brown’s ‘The Judo Series’ at The Magnificent Basement located at 128 Farringdon Road on 24th July from 7:00pm to 9:30pm.

If you are an artist or someone interested in art and wish to meet other art enthusiasts, ALISN urges you to get in touch by visiting http://www.alisn.org

Short Film Showcase at the Prince Charles Cinema

Overtime, a short film debuted for one night only at the Prince Charles Cinema Friday night.

The night at the Charles paid homage to the brilliance and creativity of young film graduates, who were given the opportunity to show the best of their work.

Yet, no one owned the night like young Director / Screen Writer Chris Smyth, who’s short film was the last to be shown, but certainly not the least.

Overtime is the story of an office worker, haunted by images of his impending death.

In true short film fashion, Smyth managed to tell a story using very few words.  The visual images, though set in the darkness of an empty office at night, were sharp, well-angled and appropriately gloomy.

This edgy rendition of a psychological thriller places Smyth categorically as one to watch for.

Other Notable Films in the Showcase

Film still from Chris Smyth's 'Overtime'

Other notably well done shorts were Ashley Walker’s My Hands are My Voice, a short documentary about English actress Caroline Parker’s fight against stereotypes associated with disabled people in Britain.

Une Clope, by Sean Phillips, was also a nicely shot, humourous piece.  And Chloe’s Dollhouse by Yasra Jaleel and Bonnie Kim had a surprising surreal quality.

The new age and often exotic sounds of Torfinnur Jákupsson’s music was a lovely edition to the showcase’s interludes.