Archive for Music

Let’s push for a set of UK postage stamps to honour David Bowie

ziggystarduststampBack in 2010 the Royal Mail released a set of 10 special stamps featuring classic British album covers including David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed, New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies and Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head.

Just 12 special stamp sets are produced each year. “The thing about stamps is that they are 1-inch works of art,” said Philip Parker, the Head of Stamp Policy for Royal Mail. “And thinking about this we thought that the old 12-inch vinyl cover is a great work of art. We thought putting them on stamps would be a great way to celebrate this art form.”

There is now a petition to get David Bowie a royal mail stamp range all of his own. Here at Counter Culture we think that’s a great idea. We think it would be a superb way to commemorate his life and work. The petition was started by a Bowie fan and can be found at:…

At the time of writing 7,899 people had signed it. Come on Bowie fans we can do better than that!

Full list of album-cover stamps issued in 2010:
• David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
• Blur’s Parklife
• The Clash’s London Calling
• Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head
• Led Zeppelin’s IV
• New Order’s Power, Corruption and Lies
• Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells
• Pink Floyd’s The Division Bell
• Primal Scream’s Screamadelica
• The Rolling Stones’ Let it Bleed


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CQAF Festival Marquee, Customs House Square, Belfast. May 3rd 2016

As he gets older, the Bard of Salford looks more and more cadaverous. John Cooper Clarke’s wry observation, “As you can see, I’ve been piling on the pounds” won one of the biggest laughs of the evening. Most folk I know have never heard of him, so I wasJohn Cooper Clarke pleasantly surprised to see the venue packed almost to capacity.

The huge audience in the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival Marquee had already been warmed up by another Mancunian poet, Mike Garry, who entertained them with a mixture of shrewd observational comedy and heartbreaking pathos. The most memorable item was Pay as you Go, a poem about a young girl who had been inveigled by a conniving boyfriend into ‘sexting’ him intimate pictures of herself. He then betrayed her trust by posting them on line. It was powerful stuff.

With a non-stop rapid-fire line of patter, John Cooper Clarke launched into a series of old favourites; Beasley Street and its gentrified update, Beasley Boulevard; Twat, ending with the full and unexpurgated version of Evidently Chickentown, made famous in an episode of the Sopranos (albeit in a toned down form).

Due acknowledgment was given to the Sinn Féin president, Gerry Adams TD, who a couple of days earlier had tweeted his appreciation of the Tarantino movie Django Unchained, by describing himself as a ‘Ballymurphy Nigger’. This storm of universal disapproval and outrage – some of it may even have been genuine – that broke over him was still fresh in everyone’s mind. To the delight of the audience, Cooper Clarke dedicated his upbeat rendition of Some Cunt Used the N-Word in the Sinn Féin president’s honour.

Cooper Clarke is rude, irreverent, iconoclastic and at times profane. He manages to be all this and also very, very funny – even when you can see a mile off where he’s going or what he’s going to say.

The Bard of Salford is touring throughout the UK and Ireland during the month of June. If he comes to your town, go and see this show.

**** Four stars.

David Kerr

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Weill at Heart: Bremner sings the cabaret songs of Kurt Weill

Aug 8-22, 17:30
The Jazz Bar
1a Chambers Street, EH1 1HR
Tickets: £8.00, concession £6.00
tickets at

bremnerRight from the get go you can tell that Bremner is passionate about the songs of Kurt Weill. The programme I was handed on entry says that Bremner:

“became aware of Kurt Weill’s music around the time I was sticking safety pins in my leather jacket and leaping into the mosh pit to dance to bands like the Dead Kennedys and the Subhumans. I knew nothing about Germany between the wars, or the social turmoil that produced artists like Weill, Brecht, Otto Dix or Max Beckmann. Something in his music resonated with me. Since then, I’ve been entranced by the music of Kurt Weill throughout my adult life. I’ve sung his songs in lovely concert halls and in dark dilapidated saloons. I’ve sung his music with rock bands and with classical string quartets. I’ve never grown tired of these marvellous songs.”

Bremner’s performance encompasses music written by Weill in both Germany and the United States. I was more familar with his German work so it was fascinating to be introduced to songs like Lonely House, Stranger Here Myself and Moon Faced Starry Eyed written in the US. Bremner switched from light to dark in a heartbeat. I loved Stranger Here Myself which Bremner performed walking amidst the audience.

Bremner brought out in his short commentaries between songs how positive Weill was in many of his songs (like One Life to Live) despite having faced dark times. He told us that the music and a quote from Weill had inspired and motivated him in his own adversities.

When he sang Mack the Knife and Pirate Jenny the audience lit-up to these old favourites.

David Patrick on Piano and the Sax player were extremely accomplished and worth listening to in their own right.

Reviewed by Patrick Harrington

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24-29 August 2015
Time: 1715
Duration: 50 mins
Venue: SpaceTriplex

sophiejugeAs we entered the theatre Jazz musicians played Caravan I had come to see Muse a fascinating telling of the story of Jean Ross, the inspiration for the character Sally Bowles in Cabaret. Sophie Juge plays Jean Ross who tells us her story through drama and music. The music is great including such classics as Mad About the Boy, Alabama Song and Love for Sale.

In Cabaret and ‘Goodbye to Berlin’, the book by Isherwood (who lodged in the same house in 30s Berlin) the story of ‘Sally Bowles’ ends abruptly. In real life Ross continued to have a series of lovers. In fact one lover, Eric Maschwitz, wrote These Foolish Things about Ross after the end of their affair. Ross was also a political journalist who reported from the front-lines in the Spanish Civil War and married Claud Cockburn who wrote for the Daily Worker (and also had a column in Private Eye for many years). She was a life-long Communist. Juge Performs the anti-fascist El Quinto Regimento to illustrate this part of the life of Ross.

This is a great story with a passionate, expressive and skilful performance from Juge. I highly recommend it. It is on at the Fringe till the 29th. Try and catch it!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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Harry Hamilton and his Swing Band – The American Songbook

Harry Hamilton and his Swing Band – The American Songbook

I CAN’T SING, dance or play any type of musical instrument. Indeed, when I try to sing most people think that I’m mucking about and don’t believe me when I say that I’m actually trying to hit a note! If I tried to dance I’d end up in my local Accident and Emergency – assuming it hasn’t already been closed by government cuts. And when it comes to playing anything all I can do is make a bit of a racket with a couple of spoons or a comb and some tissue paper.

However, I’m not too sure if spoons, a comb and tissue paper actually qualify as musical instruments. Indeed, if my life depended on singing, dancing or playing anything I’d have been dead and buried many years ago!

Despite all of this, I really love music. Living without a TV wouldn’t really be a problem for me, but I just couldn’t imagine living without music. I think that, to some degree, all of us associate particular songs with memories of family and friends. Maybe that’s one reason why music stirs the sole and certain songs really do get under the skin.

I’m also a bit of a geek when it comes to learning about different genres of music. I love to discover how one form of music is linked to another – particularly how and when they developed. The same goes for individual songs. I always want to know who wrote what, when it was written and what the inspiration was.

With all this in mind I was really looking forward to seeing the excellent Harry Hamilton and his Swing Band (a brilliant eight-piece band known as the Birdland Big Band) performing a show called The American Songbook. The show was being held in the equally excellent Courtyard Theatre in Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim.

I was looking forward to the gig for two main reasons. Firstly, Harry Hamilton has successfully carved out a name for himself as the lead singer of Flash Harry. My wife and I have seen them several times and they’re probably one of the best Queen tribute bands you’re ever likely to see. However, I’ve always wanted to see and hear how he’d perform – not as Freddie Mercury but as himself.

Secondly, whilst I’m not fantastically into every artist who comes under the umbrella of the ‘American Songbook’, I recognise the importance of this musical genre. The advertising material accompanying the gig put this into perspective noting:

“Join Harry Hamilton and his swing band as they take you on a musical journey through a century of American music. This innovative collection of popular music showcases the many “Great” Songs from the soundtrack of the 20th Century. From the classics of the Great American masters like Gershwin or Cole Porter, via the ’50’s most popular hits, to Motown and the newest chapter with songs from recent hit-makes, including Michael Bublé, Ray Charles and Billy Joel.”

The gig was in two parts (and started bang on time – surely a first for Ulster!) with the first half being slightly more formal than the second. This was subtly reflected in the way Harry Hamilton presented himself. In the first half he wore a dark suit, tuxedo shirt with wing tip collar and dickie bow and in the second half he’d changed into double denim.

I loved the way he set the scene for the whole gig by explaining that ‘The American Songbook’ (sometimes called the ‘Great American Songbook’) generally refers to a collection of the most important and influential American popular songs of the 20th century. They can be found in theatre and film and were written from the 1920s through the 1950s.

Harry Hamilton also gave a brief insight into his childhood. He noted that his father was in a Showband and that he grew up in a house full of music, all of which made a great impression. Given this background it’s probably no surprise that he also turned towards music in such a way.

This laid back approach to explaining his musical influences – and the information that he provided about each song – meant that he had the packed audience hanging on to his every word. I particularly liked the way he used humour to introduce some of the songs. I’ve found some music ‘experts’ come across as bores who look down on those who aren’t as informed about a particular song or artist as they are.

But what about the songs themselves?

To be honest, Harry Hamilton sang that many both my wife and I lost count of what we’d heard! The whole gig simply consisted of hit after hit after hit. And all were pulled off to a tee. However, we were able to agree on some of the highlights of the evening. These included Frank Sinatra’s classic Fly Me To The Moon, American Trilogy made famous by Elvis Presley (and a song that always makes us both cry – and many others judging by the sniffing and wiping of eyes from other members of the audience!)

Other highlights included Georgia On My Mind made famous by Ray Charles, I’m A Believer which was written and originally recorded by Neil Diamond but effectively ‘owned’ by the Monkees. Also in there were Superstition and Sir Duke written and performed by Stevie Wonder – the latter as a tribute to the legendary composer, pianist and bandleader, Duke Ellington.

We also loved his take on one of Don McLean’s most famous songs, American Pie. Recorded in1971, it commemorates the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J. P. Richardson (aka ‘The Big Bopper’) in a plane crash in early 1953. Harry Hamilton’s vocal range was also given a great workout when he sang Roy Orbison’s operatic ballad, In Dreams. He explained the complexity of the Big O’s song which – according to Wikipedia – “has a unique structure in seven musical movements in which Orbison sings through two octaves, beyond the range of most rock and roll singers.”

One real stand out moment of the evening came towards the end of the first half of the gig. Here Harry Hamilton’s father joined him in a duet. As noted earlier, his father had been in a Showband and still had a great voice plus a mischevious twinkle in his eye – something that has been passed onto his son. Together they performed a brilliant version of Mac the Knife (which started life as Die Moritat von Mackie Messer, composed by Kurt Weill) made famous by Bobby Darin.

As well as talking about – and performing – the American Songbook, Harry Hamilton enjoyed some great banter with both the audience and his band. The three piece brass section – as well as being excellent musicians – seemed to be having a whale of a time. They seemed to spend half their time laughing and joking. At times they were in absolute stiches – so much so that I wondered how they would be able to stop laughing in time to play their instruments or provide backing vocals.

If you’d like a couple of hours of top notch entertainment and would like to learn a lot about music at the same time, check out Harry Hamilton and his Swing Band. They’re still on tour throughout Ulster. Catch him if you can.

O CHECK OUT this promotional video for Harry Hamilton and his Swing Band – The American Songbook

O CHECK OUT Flash Harry’s Facebook page which also provides some information on Harry Hamilton’s American Songbook show

Reviewed by John Field

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CD Review: Made in Oakland

troublemakerfile004Trouble Maker

“Trouble Maker have been knocking East Bay punks flat with their aggressive hardcore punk sound and real-life lyrics. Think Fear, think Agnostic Front (pre-metal days), think that great local hardcore band you loved in 1986.”  -AlternativeTentacles-


This is formidable hardcore brilliance.  The mix on this is great, the vocals are right up front and in your face, the drums are thundering and drive it down the highway like a GTO with all barrels blazing, the guitars sear right through the rest and into your soul.   Yes this CD is scorching.

The Made in Oakland CD is a collection of the band’s new material and includes songs from the 2009 unreleased Smash Hits with some material thrown in from 2003’s Fist Impression.  Currently, Trouble Maker are writing new material and they will be playing the Gilman in Berkley CA on October 18th with the English Dogs.

Trouble Maker were always one of my absolute favourite bands to tour and do live gigs with.  They always were intense, vociferous and great guys to boot, fun as hell.  Trouble Maker are one of the bands that to me, best represent the diversity that is West Coast hardcore.  Not a band to ever fall into the generic hardcore punk abyss, these guys are a Mack Truck barreling down the highway at full speed playing chicken in your headlights.

zpfile001Saturday Night – Saturday Night is a great fist pumping sing along with a hint of Oi.  Complain is full of crispy-crunchy goodness and surprise hooks as it burns rubber around the curves and lays out on the stretches, while I Don’t Care is tight and powerful.  Liquor Store is a sing-along drinking song perfect to start off your Friday night partay. And the hits keep coming on this one, Alcoholic is a rock powerhouse with great melody and Poser, well the intro into Poser reminds me of old 80s buttrock bands.  The beginning of this one takes me back to a time in Portland back in the early 80s, when we punks were hanging out at a rocker party, and typical little trouble maker that I was then, I walked up to the biggest poser in the place with his flowing golden locks. I grabbed and hacked off a handful of his God-like ‘Do’ thereby eliminating his Rock God spandex powers.  As we wandered out of the party a few minutes later, it broke out into an all-out bar room brawl with 2x4s… and that is what this song breaks into after the pretty intro.  Sheer Trouble Making Punk Rock madness.  Outstanding.

zpfile000Rough House – another heavyweight sing along ditty.  Jekyll & Hyde – Chunky goodness that is melodic as hell with excellent lyrics which is what Trouble Maker do best.  All Fed Up – This one reminds me a bit of early Minor Threat.  Outta Control – Tight and fast, again epic West Coast hard-core sound here.  Bad Attitude – This starts with a most excellent bass line and the vocals are riding a tight and winding curve holding on for dear life..  Then it drives straight into a wall of guitar hell that just takes you higher. Another one that you can’t help but sing along to.  This is one of my top favourites on this CD.  Sex with the Ex – another melodic ditty full of in your face hard-core.  Your Scene – More melodic brilliance from the lads, this one’s danceable for all your little Mohawk spike encrusted leather jacket poseurs..  I love the sentiments on this one and it perfectly describes my own complaints about the sad state that some punk has degenerated into.

Trouble Maker – Not one to finish on a light note, Trouble Maker is an impressive hard edged annihilating finale to this CD.  Get yours and play it. LOUD.

Reviewed by Rosdaughr

Track listing:

  1. No Regrets
    This is Oakland
    3. Saturday Night
    4. Never Quit
    5. Hit & Run
    6. Complain
    7. I Don’t Care
    8. Liquor Store
    9. Alcoholic
    10. Poser
    11. Rough House
    12. Jekyll & Hyde
    13. All Fed Up
    14. Outta Control
    15. Power Trip
    16. Dirty Cop
    17. Bad Attitude
    18. Sex with the Ex
    19. Cause for Alarm
    20. Your Scene
    21. Trouble Maker








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The Dolls Of New Albion, A Steampunk Opera

What may please does not content 
all resolves but never ends
all that comforts is not true
all you love does not love you

Clockwork Hart performed the Dolls Of New Albion at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year. They performed the opera at theSpace @ Venue45 on Jeffrey Street, Edinburgh, (Venue 45) between the 11th and 16th of August.
A Steampunk Opera is a 90 minute, 4 Act story which follows four generations of McAlistairs in the fantastical city of New Albion. This was a stage musical adaption of Paul Shapera’s album of the same name, a musical in four acts which follows the different generations of the star-crossed McAlistair family. It opens with lonely scientist Annabelle who revives her dead love Jasper in true Frankenstein panache. She places her love in a life sized mechanical doll and it is this ill-fated action which sets into motion a downward spiral of melancholic consequences which transform New Albion forever. As generations pass, the dead roam the city. This is a story of love and sacrifice.

I enjoyed this intense performance held in a fairly intimate space. The actors gave a praiseworthy performance, the narrator was ardent and the doll was charmingly forlorn. The dancing was curiously appealing and well suited to the nature and feel of the musical. I enjoyed the story and the manner in which the narrator gave us her rendition of it. The cast was solid and enjoyable to watch. I feel the song in the first act sung by Annabel (Annabel’s Lament) went on a bit too long and cut into the flow of the musical perhaps the line ‘you could have been my angel’ was just repeated too many times, but I found myself wishing that particular song would end. This is not a criticism of the performers, but the construction of the song. Having said that I don’t dislike the song and I enjoyed most of the songs in the musical despite this.

I do have some constructive comments about a couple of technical issues with the performance and stage setting. Firstly, the singers weren’t mic’d however the backing instruments seemed amplified and the venue’s acoustics did not sufficiently carry the voices over the top of the volume of the backing musicians. I would have like to have heard them sing with microphones so that their voices carried loud and clear over the music. This made it a little difficult to follow the story and I had to pay very close attention to follow it. This is a good production and I hope they take this critique to heart so they can try to address it in the future, as they have done a noteworthy job on this musical.
The cast was:

Narrator – Steph Masucci
Jasper – Jack Taylor
Annabelle/Amelia – Emma Fleming
Edgar/Byron – Jamie Loyn
Fay/Priscilla – Heather Young
Solider 7285 – Lily Hannant
Dancers – Mattias Carlberg and Fillip Hartelius

Reviewed by Rosdaughr

Here is a little synopsis about the Steampunk Opera’s characters:

Annabel McAlistair – The third song of the musical opens with Annabel in her private lab where she is attempting to animate a mannequin/doll. Annabel is a bit of a mad scientist, but she exhibits an intense loneliness. According to her background notes, she was raised by Ayn Rand obsessed parents who prized achievement over the development of social relationships. Annabel was discouraged from social bonding on nobodies and after she had risen to the stop of her field in science she would be able to socially bond with other greats in her field. Because of this Annabel has developed a rich inner fantasy life where she fancies she is having a romantic relationship and this is her only way of fulfilling herself emotionally. Her feelings of self-worth are intimately tied with her level of achievement. While she does not necessarily agree with her parents’ philosophies, she is a product of them nonetheless. Annabel spent her awkward college years basically on her own however she was deeply in love with a boy named Jasper from a distance of course. He was scarcely aware of her. After 2 years, she finally gets a chance to spend one romantic evening with him, although he is frustratingly betrothed to another. After this Annabel gets expelled from school because of disagreements with her professors. She has a theory and she is stealing corpses to test it. Her parents were perfectly pleased, believing that any individual of any great potential must inevitably conflict and be shunned by a mediocre world. However, they die within a year of Annabel’s expulsion.
She is left with a large property with a lab and a large sum of money and with this she performs endless experiments. This isolation does not feed her self-worth and she becomes troubled instead of ultimately content.

Over the years she keeps tabs on Jasper and is shocked to learn of his death. However she has been experimenting and she believes she can bring him back to life in the body of a doll.

Edgar McAlistair arrives in the 2nd Act. Edgar is Annabel’s son. She eventually married. Edgar grew up far more enamoured of his mother than his meek and boring father. In fact he worshipped her. Because she used to lock herself in her lab for days on end, she became like a drug for her son who sought her attentions.
Annabel died when Edgar was 11 after which his father raised him. However the loss of his mother is unbearable to Edgar. Unlike other adolescents, Edgar is very focused and rigidly monogamous. In his 20s he meets Fay, an exceptionally bright young woman. Edgar’s attractiveness, intelligence and unswerving loyalty were the right combination for her and they fall in love and remain together for several years.

Edgar has no idea what to do with himself. While he has an ability for tactical brilliance he is not able to become interested in a task for any length of time. This drives Fay crazy and is a problem in their relationship.

As much as Fay loves him, over time this becomes a cancer in her
heart towards him. She eventually meets someone new and abandons Edgar for him.

Jasper, The Dead Guy – appears in all four Acts and is present in all four generations which the show encompasses. Jasper who dies before the Opera ever begins. Jasper hails from a well respected family, once extremely well off but now not so much. Jasper is pressured to restore the family’s respect but he doesn’t care about this. He has other plans and falls out with his family over this. He has an arranged marriage which he is obligated to, although he met Annabel just prior to this taking place, although he soon forgets her. His marriage is an unhappy one, his wife is vain and shallow. She is not interested in Jasper’s interests and is only focused on restoring both their familie’s fortunes. Eventually Jasper becomes a stockbroker but sabatoges himself due to resentments he holds on his mother and wife. The only bright light in his life is the birth of his daughter Fay. And he dies while she is young.
He is somewhat surprised and not very pleased when Annabel brings him back from the dead. He is even less pleased when Edgar brings him back again later, but is calmed when he realises he can see his daughter again.

Byron McAlistair is the son of Edgar and Fay, growing up with enormous wealth. Byron loves his mother but despises his father. Edgar ended up together due to some nasty coercion on Edgar’s part and the marriage is failing as does her fondness for him. It is his mother Fay who convinces him the awful marriage is the fault of Edgar, his father.

Byron has found no contentment in his wealthy upbringing and is passionately rebellious against his father’s world, which he would love to tear down. Like most angry young men, he sees a world full of hypocrisy and greed, the Voodoo-punk subculture is perfect for him and he immerses himself in it completely.

Jasper, the doll that Edgar brought back for Fay and who is also the man that Annabelle originally brought back, was Byron’s closest childhood companion and his attachment to his Doll Jasper is unhealthy.

Naturally, in Byron’s love for Jasper is wrapped up his misplaced love for his father. Unable to love his father out of resentment, Jasper’s hyper passivity is the perfect antithesis to his father’s active power and influence.

Jasper’s inability to show love back despite that Byron knows he’s in there is like a drug to Byron. Thru the voodoopunk movement Byron can find communication not only symbolically of Jasper, but with a mind blowing array of archetypal spirits. Byron obsesses over Jasper and his voodoopunk movement. He never has a real boyfriend and his interest in men is purely sexual, never forming any type of intimate or emotional bonding. Byron is charismatic however he is not actually close with anyone. Only Amelia considers him a friend.

Amelia is perhaps the only (living) person other than his mother Byron has ever formed any sort of true in depth emotional intimacy with. He cannot sustain this and can never be what Amelia is seeking and this ultimately leads to their downfall.

All your intentions take their toll
All you hate enthralls your soul
When you win you sometimes lose
And all you love does not love you

Priscilla McAlistair – Final Act.

Priscilla McAlistair is the daughter of Byron and his trophy wife, Charlotte. Although gay, as a popular politician it was in Byron’s best interest to be married, and Charlotte was willing. She was not blind at all to Byron’s lack of sexual interest in her, he could give her a child, which she wanted very much. A child and a secure, posh environment to raise it in.

During Act 3 the city suffered a large amount of damage and order was restored by the imposition of martial law, which was never lifted. This was of course the very thing Byron had been decrying and railing about. He became even more rabid and it was while Priscilla was only a toddler that the police came to “ask him some questions” one day. He never returned and Priscilla never really knew him.

Charlotte raised Priscilla on her own, but became more nervous, fragile, and finally unhinged as time went on. After taking away her husband, the police not only watched her closely, but applied a great of deal of pressure and intimidation on her at every turn.
Thus Priscilla grew up with no father figure, an increasingly nervous and lonely mother, and in isolation. She had Jasper the Doll. She found him snooping about the large manor house. She finds him when she is around 11 and became attached to him. He was her primary friend and she had few friends outside. She spends her days shut in a house with a nervous mother and a harsh martial environment outside. Jasper served as his friend and father figure. Jasper is actually Priscilla’s great grandfather and she is the first McAlistair he has any real emotional attachment for.
Priscilla has a keen intellect and is self-taught. She is a happy recluse, favours fantasy and the company of a dead mechanical doll. Her mother is carted away to a mental institute while Priscilla remains in the house with Jasper to keep her company. They begin to play cards to pass the time.

Listen to Act 1 you can download the tracks for £1 on this link


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