REVIEW: John Law at the Athenaeum, May 22

John Law performed at the Athenaeum as part of the 2017 Bury Festival programme
John Law performed at the Athenaeum as part of the 2017 Bury Festival programme
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This year’s Bury St Edmunds Festival has once again invited ‘creative critics’ to review a number of performances.

In an effort to encourage youngsters to engage with art and celebrate their voices, the festival has partnered with several schools to capture the experiences of their Year 5 pupils in writing. Below are a selection of reviews of Monday’s John Law show at the Athenaeum by students at Glade Primary in Brandon and All Saints in Newmarket.

The lights grew dark, the chandeliers disappeared and the magic started. On this sparkling Monday, Year 5 travelled to the dreamy Athenaeum where music came alive; a breath-taking experience. It was so magnificent that no words can explain with this wonderful piece of art. As the black, sleek classical piano opened, the tension filled me right up to the brim. All the thoughts twirled as a hurricane in my mind. The lights dimmed and all of John Law’s thoughts went thought his shoulders, glided down his arms and landed on his fingertips, which frolicked on the keys like autumn leaves gliding on the air. The beautifully carved pillars and spotless mirrors gave the performance a classic and original vibe. The tempo and tone each had a delicate action of their own on the screen. The music was living on the bright screen with bodies that appeared and disappeared with every note. The room seemed to whisper with the music. The black and white checkers board floor winked in the spotlight with delight. I thoroughly enjoyed every note and for every unique song there was a different story. He possessed every key that he played and expressed all his emotions through the piece. I really enjoyed it too but, as I’ve noticed, other people thought it was slightly too long. I think they could cut out a couple of variations and add more tension to replace them. Everyone ought to go and see his magnificent performance.

By Bianca Cadar, All Saints pupil

The performance was very classical and the seats were very comfy. John Law is an extraordinary pianist but at the start it was a little bit boring but towards the end it got quite exciting. Also, there were some hypnotising slides on the projector although the slide were very confusing. Our school teacher fell asleep during variation 13 to variation 24. In addition, the booster seats were very uncomfortable and were too big for the seats. This made it difficult for children to sit still or be comfortable. John Law’s performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations was faultless and I can see why he is internationally acclaimed as a pianist. However, this style of music is not to my taste. Many people in the audience found it difficult to maintain their concentration. One adult even commented that she found it challenging. This probably wasn’t helped by the mistiming of the projector (the images didn’t seem to go with the music) and the heat in the auditorium; it was a warm evening and the room was stuffy. Finally, although I appreciate the skill of this artist, I would not choose to go again and don’t think this was a suitable venue for the performance.

By Poppy Cash and Tia Burton, Glade pupils

As we entered the Athenaeum, I felt a sense of brightness as if I stepped into an older era, like the Victorians. The detail, design and the patterns came together. Although the painting was dull, it suited the style of building. The way the floor tiles were made me think I was on a giant chess board from ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ – my own version of wizard’s chess! The famous pianist performed pieces like ‘When the Wind Whispers’ and ‘Summertime’. Thirty variations followed that were sandwiched between an opening and a closing. They consisted of circles containing black, white, blue and yellow that shrank and grew. This was illuminating and very trippy! My emotions weren’t very positive as the music went on for approximately an hour and a half. The music didn’t have a large effect on me as it sounded mainly the same the whole time. It made me feel a bit uninterested and somewhat tired. Despite the negative comments, the way he moved his feet, hands and neck were exceptional! He closed his eyes as he performed which was astonishing. His fingers were like flashes of lightning! After the closing, we all stood to applause. I would recommend it for adults but possibly not again for children.

By Natasha Cutter, All Saints pupil

I was pleased to attend the performance of Bach’s Goldberg Variations by jazz pianist John Law as part of the Bury Festival. I saw a dark room as I was going in the venue, also I saw an epic grand piano. I felt very conscious and live because it was an extremely interesting performance, because every time the music went quick the man moved his head and felt like he was in the music himself. As the music became higher, the keys were getting lower. It meant quite a lot to me because I completely love music and I like doing music all the time especially when I’m sad and alone. I like to play music in my head when I don’t have an instrument. I think I was very welcomed to the venue. At times the music would start to get very fast and get intense because when it got really fast I pictured an image in my head, of a fox chasing a rabbit which kept getting caught in bushes and the fox had to climb and jump over. It was a good experience and more people should have a chance to see this incredible performance.

By Ross Hurst, Glade pupil

As soon as I entered, the full impressiveness of the building dawned on me. I entered a ballroom with amazing chandeliers and steps like the one in Beauty and the Beast. In the middle was a magnificent, black, glossy grand piano. As John Law entered in his black suit, the room fell silent as if a spell had been cast upon us. First, he played a couple of pieces of his own (In the Summertime and When the Wind Blows) and, when I closed my eyes, a picture formed in my mind. For example, I thought of lonely days filled with broken friendships. Next, the lights dimmed and a projector came on, filling the room with a strange shadow. The opening was a humming noise with a hypnotising picture controlling by the visual jockey (VJ), David Daniels. Once the variations started, John Law hunched his shoulders and moved his whole body as he began to play. There were many crescendos and diminuendos as the tempo varied. Finally, it ended. To be honest, I think it was meant to be targeted for over 16 year olds because I found it difficult to sit still and the light hurt my eyes. Other than that, I enjoyed it. I would recommend this to any old piano players looking for tips. To improve, I would have us all seeing his hands on the screen so see how quickly they moved to the tempo.

By Bethany Wood, All Saints pupil