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Armonico's double bill of tears and laughter; Classical.

Byline: PATSY FULLER

INNOVATIVE conductor Christopher Monks is celebrating a seven-year success story.

He is the driving force behind Armonico Consort, which started as a small group of singers in Warwickshire in 2001-and have never looked back.

They gave just nine concerts in their first year, but will be notching up more than 60 in 2008.

Besides their choirs, the ensemble have blossomed to include an orchestra, a hugely successful opera arm and a flourishing children's choir.

Last month, they gave 11 concerts, involving five different performances in just 14 days.

"It was very hard work, but great fun," says artistic director Christopher.

Armonico Consort are also playing a key role in the Warwick International Music Festival which opens next week.

Their orchestra and choir will be joining rising-star violinist Nicola Benedetti on Tuesday, performing Handel and Bach at the opening concert in St Mary's Church, Warwick.

The Warwick-based children's choir, AC Academy, will give their first public performance on Wednesday with the rhythm of African drummers at Holy Trinity Church, Leamington.

And on July 2, Armonico Consort Opera will be in action at Kings High School for girls with an unusual doublebill featuring Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, a comedy set to music by the 17th-century French composer Lully.

Christopher describes it as "a cross between Hyacinth Bucket and Del Boy" and believes it is the perfect work to counteract Purcell's tragic tale.

"No one wants a whole evening of morbid theatre. I like to go home on a summer evening smiling and I'm sure everyone else does too," he says.

Christopher is not surprised at how Armonico Consort have flourished and branched out. "We've had brilliant people on the team and we've all done what we've been good at," he says.

But there is a break in sight for the busy crew. Christopher, who lives in Moreton Morrell in south Warwickshire, and his wife Claire, are expecting their second baby on August 9. So, after taking their double opera bill to Worcester as part of the Three Choirs Festival in early August, the Armonico Consort diary is clear - at least until September.

Festival tickets on 01926 776438.

MUSICIANS at Warwick University are getting together to capture the spirit of TV's hit ballroom dance series.

Their evening of Not Strictly Come Dancing promises to be a glitzy night of music and dance at Warwick Arts Centre on Sunday. The finale will be a giant conga.

Earlier in the day, at 3.30pm, the university's symphony orchestra and chorus will be giving a concert featuring Shostakovich's 10th Symphony and Orff's Carmina Burana, with Lucy Griffiths and Paul McGrath on the podium.

Tickets 024 7652 4524.

THE Birmingham Symphonic Winds are also taking up the Strictly theme this weekend with Let's Dance, but Not Strictly, at the CBSO Centre, in Berkley Street, Birmingham at 7.30pm tomorrow.

Guy Woolfenden, hotfoot from the International Church Music Festival in Coventry, will guest conduct his own Bohemian Dances before the orchestra perform music from the Irish stage spectacular Riverdance.

Tickets 0121 780 3333.

THE Crystal Gospel Choir will be at Swanswell Park, Coventry, on Sunday from 2.30pm as part of Coventry City Council's Bands in the Park programme.

The lively group of 15 singers aim to offer a good mix of songs. Lee House, events co-ordinator for culture, leisure and libraries at the city council, said: "We know the beautiful setting coupled with beautiful voices, will be appreciated by the crowds at the concert."

CAPTION(S):

IN FINE VOICE... Armonico Consort Opera give performances of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (above and left) and Dido and Aeneas (below) on July 2. Pictures by James Adam. (Inset below) conductor Christopher Monks.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jun 20, 2008
Words:618
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