5th in the queue. Prince at Ronnie Scott’s

Telegraph Music or @TeleMusicNews was asking readers to share their reviews about Prince’s Hit and Run Tour. As a fan who had queued for over 16 hours on that infamous Monday outside Ronnie Scott’s, I felt that I was more than qualified to share my experiences of the night that Prince performed at Ronnie Scott’s. Unfortunately my review was heavily edited by the Telegraph, so here is the full unedited version.


As I was getting up 5am this morning, I was trying to justify going to see an artist that I had already seen countless times before and twice already on this particular tour, once at the Electric Ballroom and the other at Kings Place.  However, the news of Prince performing at Ronnie Scott’s was a mouth-watering prospect and an opportunity that I was certainly not going to miss.

I was expecting something a little out of the ordinary from this band at such an iconic venue and Prince and 3rdEyeGirl did not disappoint. In fact, far from it.

I arrived at Ronnie’s at 6:45am and was 5th in the queue. 16 hours later the celebrities arrived, often hidden by umbrellas from the hoarding paparazzi. I’m not convinced that majority of these celebrities were even remotely interested in the music. Hoards of genuine fans had queued early to come and see Prince and it was clearly painful for them to watch these celebrities waltz into Ronnie Scotts who perhaps would have not bothered to attend had it not been for an oversize guest list.  I doubt they even paid the £35.

Funnier still were the various glamorous women trying to deceive their way in with fantastic one-liners “..I’m looking for Dave the electrician..” or  “.. Do you know Matt?…”. The queue pounced on these ruthlessly, repeating the question at some volume to those standing behind. Safe to say, they were refused entry.

Lets leave these celebrities to their red carpet events and their award ceremonies and the fans to the artists they pay money to go and see.

I was one of the lucky 200 or so that got inside, or indeed one of the few that snatched a front row spot, right in front of the “Symbol” stand. Soon I forgot all about the mayhem and chaos that ensued outside or that Kate Moss and Cara Delevingne (who?) were probably sitting behind a pillar somewhere in the flanks of Ronnie Scott’s and enjoyed a set that was nothing less than sensational.  Prince and 3rdEyeGirl were immediately joined on stage by Marcus Anderson on saxophone and EWI (pronounced EE-WEE) to produce one awesome unit that was befitting of such a venue.  After that, the funky sounds just kept coming with tracks such as CoolYou Saw the Whole of the Moon and a beautiful rendition of one of my personal favorites, How Come You don’t Call Me Anymore?  The hour and a half set ended with a Purple Rain encore. It was a fantastic night from my point of view but I know, after speaking to the fans still outside, that many only saw the last few songs because it took so long to get everyone in.

Craig Stratton



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Life in the Background…

Downton Abbey series III

When I was at University, a colleague of mine asked me to put a string quartet together for the film    Blue Ice (1992).  I was the only one in that quartet that could actually play a string instrument, but we were miming so who was going to know right?  From that moment on, I was  pretty much hooked on this kind of work and decided to add it to the rather eclectic life as a freelance musician.

Actually one of the first jobs I did wasn’t music related at all but was for a typical tabloid magazine that you could read cover to cover whilst waiting for your dentist appointment. It was one of those cheap picture stories that must have been true. I figured that from thenceforth my career as an extra, or in fact, to use the politically correct term  a Supporting Artist, could only ascend! I took pretty much all sorts of jobs musical or non musical including teachers, policeman, scientists, hooligans and even dead bodies.  The latter was a pretty grim experience as we filmed the scene for Silent Witness in a real morgue in London. They basically covered me from head to toe in various shades of bruised blue to get the effect of death. In the scene I had to lie dead still (if you pardon the expression) on a white slab in a medical lecture hall in front of trainee doctors. I always dreaded this kind of job as I found it difficult not to laugh. Dead funny though.

Nikto in the Pod Hanger. Episode 1

Literally the day I got back from my violin studies in Prague, I got the call to be an alien in Star Wars, The Phantom Menace, Episode 1.  As you can imagine, it was a boyhood dream come true. Whatever I was going to be doing that week could quite frankly wait. I remember going to the costume fitting with three other guys and seeing row after row of incredible hand made masks and characters that we recognised form the original films.  We were like kids in a candy store. One of us spotted Greedo and we all made a bee-line like crazy children to try on Greedo’s head. “I wanna be Greedo… I wanna be Greedo!!”  The head just didn’t fit me and I was so disappointed. I mean, you would be too, right? I was allocated the mask of a new character, a Nikto (who were a reptilian humanoid species from the planet Kintan in the Si’Klaata Cluster, for all you nerds out there).

There’s a lot of hanging around on set so much time was spent along the large corridors of Leavesden Studios on roller skates that a friend had brought along.

Nikto before pod race, Episode 1, The Phantom Menace

The biggest memory for me on Star Wars was wondering around a packed canteen one afternoon for lunch and finding the last seat in the dining hall next to a girl who I spent the next 45 minutes or so chatting. I was still wearing my costume, but without alien mask and gloves, and she asked me which character I was playing in the film, to which I answered rather proudly “…a Nikto” Of course I politely returned the question to which she replied ” Queen Amidala….”

on the set of Bridget Jones.

I got the chance to spend a couple of weeks working on Bridget Jones’s Diary in 2000 as background in all the office scenes. These were filmed at Shepperton Studios in South West London. Meeting Renee Zellweger and making tea with her in polystyrene cups on set was fun. At the end of the shoot, I did managed to get this rather poor quality photo of us! Not my most flattering photo I have to say.

Here I am in action on Bridget Jones…

Spot the yellow shirt!

Most of the background work is for UK television serials but it is nice when you are asked to use your skills on film. When I was first asked to play violin on film, I was really excited as finally I could get the chance to show off what I’d spent years training to do. Thus when I was asked to play violin in the film An Ideal Husband (1999) and serenade Minnie Driver in one scene, I immediately told all my friends and family to look out for my big moment. When the film came out I couldn’t believe that my scene had ended up on the cutting room floor.

One opportunity came when they wanted a pianist to perform a Chopin Nocturne on the UK hospital drama series, Holby City. I went for an audition in London expecting to perform in some hall on a decent piano, but typically someone had brought into the studio a banged up old clavinova which wasn’t very touch sensitive. Not only did they want this Nocturne, but in this particular episode, the character in question, Maddy, had been stabbed so they wanted me to play her ghost.  I’d spent many a time in my childhood running around with a white sheet over my head, so I sure as hell could do a ghost. Just for info, the music is live, although in some scenes I had to mime to my own backing track, recorded on the same instrument.

The chance came again to play in the series Hotel Babylon, where production wanted a cheesy violinist to again serenade a couple in a restaurant scene. At last, I was going to get to perform live on screen! During the filming, I played the romantic section from Ziguernerweisen by Sarasate.  Once again to my horror, when it came out, they over dubbed me with someone else playing Meditation by Massenet. Don’t you just love show biz? Years of scales and Kreutzer studies only to be dubbed.

Moving away from music, there were some memorable jobs including being a photographer at the ice palace on Die Another Day (2002).  I played a live portrait on Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009), and I did some stand in work as a Death Eater stand-in on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2011).  Still haven’t seen any of the Harry Potter movies, or indeed read the books. Shocking I know for all ye hard core Potter fans! More recently, I did a few days on Sherlock Holmes II as a soldier…

Quartet on Poirot

Over the years I have got a few musical groups together and worked on Miss Marple, Desperate Romantics, Midsomer Murders, Poirot and Foyles War. 

I seemed to be getting more luck on piano when once again I was asked to put a piano and cello duo together for       Miss Marple. Originally we were asked to produce a slow waltz for a ball room scene and would we come up with an arrangement of the Grand Waltz Brilliante by Chopin for the duo.  I mean seriously, for cello and piano?! I’m pretty sure when I used to play this piece, that it wasn’t particularly “slow” and completely unsuitable for ball room dancing.  In the end we settled for an arrangement of  the Waltz from Sleeping Beauty by Tchaikovsky. So here it is on Miss Marple.. You can just about see the back of my head.

Finally, here is a clip of some work I did as a naval officer in the BBC documentary film  “Hiroshima”.  It was supposed to be the USS Augusta, where president Truman received the news about the atom bomb falling on Hiroshima. This scene was filmed on the HMS Belfast stationed at Tower Bridge, London.

Downton Abbey III

Coming to a cinema near you….well… hopefully.

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I’m a sucker for movies and will happily talk myself into watching the box to avoid getting into any serious practise. Being a kid at heart I love those MARVEL films,                (nothing to do with a powder milk substitute). Well, there were two on simultaneously tonight, Batman  Begins, with Christian Bale in dire need of a                Bat-strepsil, and Ironman , a personal favourite of mine. To make procrastination worse, Clint Eastwood was in Unforgiven on another channel. I would have certainly felt the latter had I not dragged myself off the sofa and got into some 4-string action.

I always start with scales, usually with a metronome clicking in the background. Tonight I spent some time on just 1 or 2 scales, 4 octaves, running through the usual basic rhythms. I then like to revitalise particular study, in tonight’s case, a showdown with DONT Etude no.2.  It’s a great exercise for coordinating and connecting the right with the left hand. Again, I just take it in sections, and work with the metronome.

Been asked to play at a wedding in the Czech Republic later in July, so Bach will definitely be on the menu. Those unaccompanied sonatas are never easy so I personally find         pre-scale and study preparation a must..

Anyway, I am always telling my students that you only sound as good as the time you put into it. I better stay true to this myself and lay off those films… well, occasionally.

I do wish my metronome wouldn’t speed up.

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Back to school…

After a seemingly endless Easter holiday, I’m finally back at my teaching post. My young students fill me with entertaining stories of why they couldn’t practise.. One young lad couldn’t practise because, and I quote.. “.. I fell asleep at the piano..”  Another kid’s A string broke so was unable to practise all holiday. He didn’t know where to get another string. I told him he should try a shoe shop or a chemist, as they’re usually pretty reliable for that sort of thing.  And the day goes on…No doubt more to follow…

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1st Blog!

 People of the world…Listen to me!! This is my first blog so please go easy with me, it’s my first time.  I am a classical violinist and perform solo and chamber concerts where ever and whenever they want me. The freelance lifestyle is a question of waiting for the phone to ring! I have performed on countless tv and film productions, usually  appearing with some instrument in my hand on Holby City, Midsommer Murders, Fanny Hill and Foyles War.  I was an alien in Star Wars, Episode 1, The Phantom Menace.  I’ll keep you posted as those  come in!  An appearance on the new Downton Abbey series III coming up in the Autumn.


I play Violin, Banjo, Mandolin and (some) backing vocals with the country folk band      Pig Earth.. Check us out!  We had our Wembley Arena debut this year and have plenty of festivals and gigs coming up in 2012..Come and say HI!! Check us out here playing live on BBC Radio Cambridge last month

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