Reviews

Composition
Music for Radio
Music for Theatre
Conducting
Performance

Composition

on Touch tales
“A performance punctuated by audience participation, poignancy and a darker undercurrent of jealousy and desire: a must see.”
(Michelle Dee, SLAPmoves review)

SLAPmoves Judges feedback:
• “immediately drawing the audience in… the audience feel at ease as to what experience and themes we were about to share.
• “Your openness is welcoming and lovely to watch.”
• “I like the idea of what is appropriate touch and treatment of an instrument against a person.”
• “Lovely and heart warming”

on That’s Yer Lot!
“The vibrancy and accessibility of the work has potential to engage with young audiences who might not ordinarily engage with traditional theatre”
(Amy Letman, West Yorkshire Playhouse)

on Rat Race
“Whittle’s witty homage to Le Grand Départ, Rat Race, was virtually a mini-concerto for electric guitar (the fluent Twm Dylan), its continuous stages evoking freewheeling, uphill struggle, and revolutions.”
(Martin Dreyer, York Press)

on this piece gets more magical every time someone writes ill of it
“pure music theatre…merriment”
(Martin Dreyer, York Press)

on shambles
“I even saw something, the nature of which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, Shambles by James Whittle and Rowena Jacobs. Music-theatre. What the hell is that? I didn’t know either, but I’ve always loved watching the body language of musicians – and in this case, the body language became the performance.”
(Izzy Brittain, Champion Up North)

on ‘For who digs hills because they do aspire’
“highly theatrical”
(Rian Evans, The Guardian)

“‘For Who Digs Hills Because They Do Aspire’ provoked a mixed response. On the one hand, the piece suffered from all the faults of works that set out to inject so-called humour and rule-breaking into the new music arena, but conversely, its interpreters did possess a degree of committed enthusiasm that carried it off, particularly as the work neared its climax, some of the players having made their way down the aisles, eventually grouping into a scabrous kind of Brechtian chorus, clustered at the front of the stage area.”
(Martin Longley, All About Jazz)

on Remains of Elmet
“a rich, ambitious work full of creative ideas. The piece radiated energy and engagement, capturing the strangely haunting, elemental tone of Ted Hughes’s imagery.”
(Steve Crowther, York Press)

on Brainbow mouse
“a very accessible piece of installation art with a nice conceit that fully exploits the instruments and their dynamic range. It was performed with humour and panache and the performers maintained the tension of the piece throughout… an example of how a simple idea can be transformed into a delightfully witty and satisfying performance.”
(Alan Gillott, One&Other York)

on wishes for the cloths of Heaven
“endearing and tender”
(Alan Gillott, One&Other York)

Music for Radio

on Wooden Overcoats
• “Inspired comedy” (The Times)

• “A quietly significant moment in British radio comedy…
Highly recommended.” (The Daily Telegraph)

• “It’s fab.” (The Observer)

on The New World Order soundtrack

• “impressive…the score is used sparingly…when beautifully performed string music is introduced, it serves only to enhance emotion and highlight important revelations.”
(Elisabeth Shuker, The Yorker)

• “the devastating score…really adds to the play in its most important situations.”
(Tom Bonnington, YorkVision)

• “a dramatic instrumental underscore…pivotal moments are enhanced by appropriate music…providing that extra tension, tenderness or drama that the key scenes need”
(Ben Bason, independent URY Speech Team reviewer)

Student Radio Awards 2012 Judges anonymous comments:
• “The score and sfx really bring to life the drama and emotion of the story. Loved the battle scene in particular. This certainly does sound like a radio version of a Hollywood blockbuster.”

• “This is obviously an ambitious and grand production, huge in scope… the music is compelling.”

• “Strong acting and characters… The SFX and music are well connected and done very well.”

• “High production values with original music, good performances and effects.”

• “Technically very strong… Particularly good battle scene. Music – very impressive. Performances – very good.”

• “Tremendously ambitious project, impressively realised. Music, effects and performances all of high standard, combined to powerful effect. It took me into a world both fantastic and horribly real, and held me throughout”

• “Hugely ambitious and brilliantly done. Well written, performed and produced. A stand-out winner.”

on The More Beautiful Game soundtrack
Student Radio Awards 2011 Judges anonymous comments:
• “The theme and use of music is inspired and really makes this entry stand out. Some lovely, genuinely funny lines and good well-rounded characters.”

• “Music is cleverly different and charming.”

• “Really good collaborative programme, with the written material bringing out the effort that’s gone into this – getting music specially composed and recording in different sites. And a great very original concept too.”

Music for Theatre

on Medea fragments
“…brilliantly surrounded by music provided by James Whittle and his three-piece band…providing an eerie counterpart to the text, colouring it and increasing the drama and tension in the atmosphere of every scene, assisting some very seamless transitions…particularly impressive.”
(Paul Virides, YorkVision)

“James Whittle, Peter Keenan and Duncan Fermor provide a score attuned to the piece in a way only musicians working with skill and openness through a rehearsal process can, and for this deserve high praise. Their work holds the show as one and lifts its best moments to their maximum. Their instrumental decisions and use of light motifs [sic] have their roots in the play’s traditions, but their often unusual performance a distinctively modern leaning.”
(Tom Vickers, Nouse)

Conducting

“…a tour de force of dazzling rhythms in Louis Andriessen’s Workers Union further proved how crisply LME responded to Whittle’s clear-cut direction.”
(Martin Dreyer, York Press, on Late Music Ensemble ‘Remembering Steve Martland’, 5/7/14)

“Whittle…under whose excellent conducting the musicians of Hera’s List achieved a tight ensemble”
(Rachel Coombes, British Theatre Guide, on Eve Harrison’s chamber opera Hera’s List, 2-3/8/12)

Performance

“brilliantly performed by James Whittle. This was a demanding piece for both the performer and audience. The structure of the piece was clear and harmonically interesting even if the composer demanded visits to the bridge from time to time.”
(Alan Gillott, One&Other York, on the premiere of Kristoffer To’s ‘In the Distance’)