Buxton Festival Fringe 2009:
Buxton Methodist Church, Tuesday 21 July
The subject matter may seem an unusual topic for a musical
tribute, but the style and content of this presentation
brought history and literature alive in equal measure.
This is a great example of bold new writing; only at the end
of the show were we told that this had been a "first
performance". The audience were quite taken aback by this,
having been captivated by the skill and professionalism of
So what is the "legacy"?
Val Wiseman (Best British Jazz Vocalist 2008) took us on a
journey through the lives of the Brontė children and their
parents, painting a vivid and atmospheric picture of life
and death at The Parsonage in Haworth. The focus was on
Emily, Anne, Charlotte and Branwell. Patrick Brontė (the
father) was acknowledged clearly as providing a stimulating
literary environment for his children (as well as a box or
two of toy soldiers). The mother and two other sisters were
mentioned, albeit briefly.
The lives and losses of this family were reflected in the
lives and losses of characters developed in their poetry and
from their novels. Brian Dee (composer of this original
music and distinguished broadcaster and musician) took Val
Wiseman's words and tied together the frustration in Agnes
Grey, the duplicity of Blanche Ingram and the mixed emotions
of Jane Eyre (along with many others) in a mesmerising
The commentary Val provided between the songs allowed easy
access to the Brontė stories, even if you are not a fully
qualified Brontėphile. Her enthusiasm for the "Hidden
Mysteries" of the enduring themes portrayed in the novels,
art and poetry was more than enough to transport the
audience to the Moors (and Brussels) on a rather wet Tuesday
Taking a style of pure "cabaret" is where Val excelled. Her
captivating stage presence and multi-layered interpretations
were pure joy. Whether reciting Anne's poetry or making a
social commentary on the reaction to increased industrial
development and its impact on job opportunities, Val gave
the themes a sharp, modern relevance. Moving between the
"highs" and "lows" of the family fortune gave Val the
opportunity to explore her full range of musical stage
Accompaniment was by the Brontė Legacy trio (www.brontelegacy.com).
It was clear that the trio shared the enthusiasm of Val and
Brian for the themes being developed.
Overall this is a wonderful, fresh and entertaining tribute
to the rich heritage of the Brontės, brought to us by some
of the most accomplished musicians you are likely to find.