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Novel Approach To Music-Making, by Nadine Bateman
June 2008

Louis de Bernières wrote a book called Captain Gorilla's Mandarin. At least, that's what the author claims one excited fan once said to him.

It was one of a number of entertaining stories and personal memories he shared with the audience last night during a lively evening of music and humour at the Square Tower in Old Portsmouth.

De Bernières made his name in the mid-1990s, following the success of his Bestselling novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which was turned into a film in 2001, starring Nicolas Cage and Penélope Cruz.

But he is also a versatile and accomplished musician, as he demonstrated when he joined the Antonius Players at the Square Tower as part of the Portsmouth Festivities.

As well as the mandolin, he plays the acoustic guitar, the banjo, the clarinet, the bouzouki, and something he claims is 'a dead armadillo.'

'I shall start with this,' he said, tapping his mandolin, 'an instrument I'm associated with for some reason,' he joked.

The author and musician appeared onstage with the awesomely talented Antonius Players flute trio.

Louis de Bernières entertained with wit and intelligence, reading light-hearted poetry – mostly written by his dad - and telling amusing anecdotes.

Clearly a gifted mimic, he recited a poem he'd written about the people he grew up with, and another about falling in love late in life. And he told how his dad wrote one for his mum about her garden in West Wittering.

His banter with the group's founder, Ilone Antonius-Jones, was clearly the result of a fond rapport between two dear, old friends.

The band played a range of music as a quartet, a trio and a duet. Renaissance to ragtime, polka and tarantella, even a Simon and Garfunkel cover and a Pavarotti favourite: each was played with precision, passion and joy.

For an encore, they played a rousing version of Portsmouth, aided by the audience.

'Portsmouth people love a bit of participation,' said Louis de Bernières saucily as he and the Antonius Players handed out bells, maracas and other percussion instruments to the audience.

We certainly did last night.

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