White Horse Opera Spring Concert


White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert, at the Town Hall in Devizes; a review


On Friday night, I went to see White Horse Opera’s Spring Concert in the Town Hall.

White Horse Opera formed in 1990, with the aim of bringing high quality opera at affordable prices to Devizes and the surrounding area.  Since 1990 they have performed over 20 operas, including Aida, La Boheme, and Carmen, and in October they will be putting on Mozart’s intriguing opera, The Magic Flute.

One always hopes that these things are going to be good, in the full knowledge that amateur productions are seldom flawless.

I end up sat next to Andy Fawthrop.  Andy is, like myself, a cynical poet.  It could be an interesting night.

Stage set.  Grand paintings in golden frames.  Glittering chandeliers.  One pianist (Tony James), one Musical Director (Roland Melia – check out his impressive international CV), eleven sopranos, four altos, four tenors, and four basses (all dressed to kill), three quarters of an audience (more publicity next time, people), two cynical poets, and a programme of Mozart, Mendelssohn, madrigals, Stanford, Rossini, Donizetti, and little bits of Bizet.

They start with ‘Down by the Sally Gardens’.  Sweet.  Then Morley’s ‘Now is the month of Maying’.  Lively.  Then Stanford’s ‘Bluebird’, sung by Jessica Phillips.  Oh.  I look at Andy.  Andy looks at me.  A tear has sprung unexpectedly to my eye.  That’s beautiful.  So pure.  Quality.

And so it goes on.  ‘Fair Phyllis I Saw’, and ‘The Silver Swan’, and then, from The Magic Flute, a superb solo from Lisa House in ‘Love I Fear Has Gone Forever’, Charles Leeming’s deep and resounding ‘Sarastro’s Aria’, and to end the first half, Barbara Gompels, singing ‘The Queen of the Night Aria’ from The Magic Flute.

Now there’s a test of a soprano, if ever there was one.  Andy has raised an eyebrow, and I am overwhelmed by Barbara’s magnificent performance of such an intricate song.  Amazing.

By the interval Andy and I are stunned into silence. Neither of us can find anything to be cynical about.  It’s unusual, and I have to go out and have a cigarette to get over it.

The second half starts and ends with The Magic Flute, and there’s a lot of chorus action.  Stephen Grimshaw gives an expressive rendition of ‘Monostatos’ Aria’, and Barbara sings ‘Micaela’s Aria’ from Carmen (White Horse Opera are touring Carmen this year, and you can book them, you know.  Just saying).

Then it’s ‘The Chorus of Fairies’ from Midsummer’s Dream (nice wands), ‘Chorus Maria Stuarda’, ‘Chorus Santo Imen’, and Donizetti’s ‘Chorus L’Elisir d’Amore’ (bit of surreptitious jigging in the audience to this one – steady), a lot of cheerful hey-nonnying in Stanford’s ‘Sigh No More’, from Much Ado About Nothing, and then Bizet’s ‘Carmen Chorus’ (pinch me, are people actually tapping their feet?), and, finally, ‘The Magic Flute Chorus’.

I look at Andy.  Andy looks at me.  Both of us raise an eyebrow.  That was superb, and neither of us have a single bad word to say about it.  The individual performances were impressive (I’d like to give Chrissie Higgs a mention for her contribution), the whole chorus worked well together, there was a liveliness to the whole thing, and the acoustics in the Town Hall were wonderful.  Andy remarks afterwards on the quality of the pianist, and that the simple and unfussy arrangements complemented the singers perfectly.  Everyone seems to have enjoyed it, and lots of people look pleased.

On the way out, I accost a random stranger, and pester him for a quote.  ‘A lovely, relaxed, and charming evening’ he says, smiling.

It really was very good indeed.

When I was a kid my neighbours rang up my parents and politely requested that I desist practicing ‘Toreador’ on the piano.  From that point on, until White Horse Opera’s ‘Iolanthe’ last year, I have enthusiastically given opera a miss.

I think White Horse Opera may have changed my mind.

I look forward to The Magic Flute.


© Gail Foster 12th March 2018


The Cynic Speaks of Love


A Sonnet for Cynics for Valentine’s Day


The Cynic speaks of Love; What lie is this

But lust dressed up in silky swathes of lace

In pretty words, and promises of bliss

Come pouting in her petticoats, her face

All flushed with rouge and scarlet on a smile

With kohl around her cold come-hither eyes

Come lie with me, my love, a little while

She’ll say, and pat the bed, and part her thighs

And flash her stocking tops gone all awry

And secret places oh so sweetly blessed

And you’ll believe, the Cynic said, as I

Who once was by her magic so possessed

In Love, when she is nothing but a whore

That’s forty quid, she said, and that’s the door


© Gail Foster 14th February 2018

They Fought For You, Have You Forgot?

Shall I vote or not?

She died for you, have you forgot

Who fought for you so you can say

Shall I vote or not today?


Shall I vote or not?

She fought for you to have the choice

To use your vote, and use your voice

Or stay at home today


Shall I vote or not?

What sister are you who forgets

The suffering of suffragettes

So you can vote today?


Shall I vote or not?

They fought for you, do you forget

The women who don’t have it yet

The vote, or yet a say?


Shall I vote or not?

What, woman, are you mad or what

They fought for you, have you forgot

The price they had to pay?


Shall I vote or not?

My sister, listen, hear the sound

Of hooves of thunder on the ground

Lest we forget the day


Shall I vote or not?

They fought for you, have you forgot

Who fought for you so you can say

Shall I vote or not today?


© Gail Foster 6th February 2018


Orion and The Moon

IMG_2751-02 - Copy

A Villanelle


Come catch me then, Orion, if you can

We’ve played this game before.  I play to win

I am the moon and you are just a man

The same old same old game since time began

We’ve started, so we’ll finish.  Let’s begin

Come catch me then, Orion, if you can

Some lesser constellations also ran

I left them all stood standing in a spin

I am the moon and you are just a man

A man of stars, a huntsman, fiercer than

The lot of them, with finer light within

Come catch me then, Orion, if you can

Come chase me cross the spaces in the span

Before the night grows old and darkness thin

I am the moon and you are just a man

All stars must fall according to the plan

Before the morning I will have you sin

Come catch me then, Orion, if you can

I am the moon and you are just a man


© Gail Foster 30th January 2018



Button Wars

Little Trumpy stomped his foot
‘Look what Sloppy Steve has put!’
He said, and spitting out a sweet
Went red, and did another tweet

Little Trumpy’s button glowed
As from his tiny fingers flowed
Such foolish words as children sing
In playgrounds when they’re bullying

Little Trumpy, he’s the boy
Just William crossed with Fauntleroy
And Violet, the spoilt chick
Who thcreamed and thcreamed till she was thick

And Little Kim. What can I say
Like who’d want him to come to play
Imagine games of pass the parcel
‘OK Kim, you win’ (you arsehole)

God save us from these little boys!
Their tantrums, and exploding toys!
‘Say, my Dad’s bigger than your Dad’
‘My button’s bigger, and it’s rad’

Call the Nanny! Raise a shout!
Is Poppins anywhere about?
Or anyone who, without fear
Can clip the fat boys round the ear?

Tell them that it isn’t clever!
Send them to their beds, whatever!
Or maybe make a little chart
To stick gold stars on when they fart!

Adults are in classrooms taught
That wars are in theatres fought
And not by little kids at play
Who trash the nursery each day

I do despair. Damn, what’s to do
They’ve barely learned to hold their poo
But wait for one to chuck his ball
Out of his pram, and fuck us all

© Gail Foster 6th January 2018




IMG_7152-1 - Copy

A statue of Ceres watches over Devizes from the top of the Corn Exchange…


My name is Ceres, Goddess of the Corn

I stand above the Market Place and stare

With stony face, half dressed, and with a horn

Towards the North, the hill, the over there

I’ve lovely hair, but long the days have passed

When men admired the firmness of my rack

I’m old, and to be fair I can’t be arsed

Once had one’s day is never coming back

I’ve sewn my seed, been fertilised, and borne

My little birds and thrown them to the skies

Seen men come to the Market Cross to mourn

Seen marryings, and mayhem in The Vize

I’m old, but oh I see, from up on high

The secret things, the glory of the sky


© Gail Foster 5th January 2018


Burning Angels; Winter Solstice, 2017


for the Druids of Avebury, and my muse


So many kings of old have come to me

At midnight, in the winter, at the still

In crowns of holly, clothed with mystery

Come riding proudly down from yonder hill

With torches flaming, salamander eyes

Ablaze with ancient summers full of lust

And I have had them all within my thighs

And I have turned them all to ice and dust

Except for he who keeps my fires alight

When darkness falls too deep to understand

Who lies with me all winter, till the night

Recedes, and spring returns to seed the land

With him I make, beneath the mistletoe

The burning shapes of angels in the snow


© Gail Foster 16th December 2017