Sunday, 6 December 2015

CD Review: Heart of Winter

“It’s 5.30 in the morning and I’ve realised my boyfriend is a prick”

Tim Connor’s musical The Stationmaster (with book by Susannah Pearse) recently had a starring role in the From Page to Stage season at the Tristan Bates Theatre and there’s now another opportunity to listen to his work with the CD release of Heart of Winter, a new one-woman song cycle. Produced by Auburn Jam Records and with story and dramaturgy by Lia Buddle, it continues the strong showcasing of new and interesting British musical theatre writing.

Heart of Winter tells the story of Kate, a Northern primary school teacher in her mid-twenties picking up the pieces after the end of a 3 year relationship and from the very beginning of ‘Opening’, Connor’s forthright way with a lyric gives a brilliant sense of Kate as a character (the parental advisory note should most definitely be heeded!). Yes she’s hurting but she’s astute enough to know that this is just a phase, something to be worked through and Buddle’s story takes us vividly through the various stages of mourning a relationship.

From buy-one-get-one free offers on Ben and Jerry’s, the return to the comforts of the maternal embrace, and the determination to never trust another man again, 2014 Stephen Sondheim Society Student Performer of the Year Award winner Corrine Priest gives a powerfully characterful performance of a woman struggling with life’s disappointments and battling to get back on her feet. She’s clearly a gifted singer but there’s something special about the comic skills she displays here, whether in talking about her pupils (‘Back To School’) or the frustrations that only a mother can provoke (‘Mum Makes It Better’). 

The solo piano of Connor’s accompaniment belies the complexity of his tuneful score. Influences are drawn from the likes of Sondheim and Jason Robert Brown but lightly worn, this very much sounds like Connor coming into his own as a songwriter. There’s great value in the more humourous numbers ('The Driving Lesson' in particular) but the more reflective, melancholy songs are what stand out – tracks like the soaring ‘Better Off Alone’ and ‘Colour In My Cheeks’ sound glorious in Priest’s hands and encapsulate the musical perfectly – no matter how cold and hard the winter, spring will always come eventually.

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