ACM Opens Flagship Recording Studio in Guildford

The Executive Chairman of the ACADEMY OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC (ACM) in Surrey UK — Kainne Clements — today opened a new state-of-the-art recording facility on its Guildford campus.

Ribbon-cutting by Executive Chairman of the ACADEMY OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC

The new Rodboro Studio will be used by ACM’s world-class tutors for lectures, workshops and master-classes, such as their annual Audio Production Event (APE).

When the studio isn’t used by teaching staff, all ACM Guildford students will have the opportunity to reserve the space. The facility will be open to students 5 days a week and until midnight. Staff will be available to support students.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, visitors at the event saw the first-ever audio production made at the studio — a song recorded by the 4-piece Guildford band KISSED AND CROWNED who made an inaugural recording in the live room with members of the ACM ELECTRON CHOIR under the direction of Kaya Herstad Carney.

The first-ever audio production, a song recorded by the 4-piece band KISSED AND CROWNED [Kyle Elliott] shown here with Electron Choir… image @neilmach 2018 ©
The Grammy Award-winning Liam Nolan engineered the recording.

The Guildford studio reflects the quality of the largest studio installation in Europe: The Metropolis Studios based in Chiswick, London. Kainne Clements is also co-owner of Metropolis.

Sound engineer Liam Nolan [Adele, Jess Glynne, Calvin Harris] gave a demonstration of the new facilities and said: “It’s a great space, great gear, great microphones, great desk — very similar to what we have at Metropolis — and it’s going to be a fantastic new studio for the students to use...”

ACM has been building sustainable and long-lasting careers for students in all corners of the creative industries since 1995. With a pioneering approach to education, ACM’s “Learning by doing” mantra enables a totally immersive experience for students and ensures they are connected directly with the industry through dedicated workshops and teaching in a real-world setting.

Facilities such as the new flagship studio in Surrey, along with the real-world experience offered by its Industry Link department, mean that ACM students receive an unparalleled learning experience. The ACM aims to increase the number of students from 1800 to 2000 students during 2018.

Words & Pictures: @neilmach 2018 ©


Control Room ACM – with Grammy Award-winning engineer Liam Nolan. Photo Credit: @neilmach 2018 ©

SCHOOL OF ROCK by Magna Carta School

SCHOOL OF ROCK is a rock musical with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Glenn Slater and a book by Julian Fellowes, based on the 2003 musical comedy film released by Paramount and starring Jack Black and Joan Cusack.

This week we went to see the excellent production of the musical by The Performing and Visual Arts Faculty at the Magna Carta School, at Thorpe Road Staines, directed by Danny Gwynne, with Helen Claringbull’s musical direction and choreography by Riannon Stygal.

The musical follows the adventures of Dewey Finn, a jobless rock singer and guitarist who claims to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious high school…

The musical follows the adventures of Dewey Finn, a jobless rock singer and guitarist who claims to be a substitute teacher at a prestigious high school.

After identifying the musical talent in his students, Dewey forms a band of fifth-grade students, in an attempt to win the next Battle of the Bands contest and “stick it” to his ex bandmates.

The musical at Magna Carta began with a hilarious performance by the band “No Vacancy” who are about to shelve their guitarist, Dewey, because he keeps upstaging the lead singer.

After the show we first meet Ned Schneebly, and his dominant wife/girlfriend Patty Di Marco at their pad. This is where Dewey crashes, rent-free. Patty wants Dewey out, but he receives a call from the private school at Horace Green who wants to hire Ned as a substitute teacher (“a temp?”) and Dewey sees there is a possibility of making some bucks (to pay his dues) so he plans to impersonate his friend and take “the gig.”

At Horace Green we first meet with the slightly testy Rosalie Mullins.

She sings the school anthem “Here at Horace Green” and we find she’s fussy about behaviour, competitiveness and quality.

In comes the disreputable Dewey character (pretending to be Mr. Schneebly) “Just call me Mister S...” He is not only doubtful but also lazy. “Got anything to eat?” he asks one kid. “Got any money? Go to Subway and get me something,” he yells.

Soon after this, though, he hears the kids playing in the school orchestra, and their relationship develops: the deficient teacher and the too-good-to-be-true, goodie-two-shoed, teacher’s-pets. He gets them to “Stick it to the Man”  (Miss Mullins is the man… Donald Trump is the man...”) and they  teach him determination  and resilience.

One of the best scenes in the Magna Carta production was when Dewey discovers that Miss Mullins is a secret fan of Stevie Nicks and takes her to a coffee shop where she confesses (over beer) that she is a nightmare… and that’s why nobody likes her. This scene gives us the first inkling there’s electricity between them. A frisson that came over well in this great show.

Poppy Williams who played Tomika (vocals) was the definition of proficiency. Her soul-filled voice filled the auditorium and was worth waiting for.

Lanky Alistair Scott (Zack, the guitarist) was also perfect on the night, uptight, tense & nervy, that is until he “stuck it to the man” (in this case, his Dad) and liberated himself through rock music. A great performance.

Amy Young (Katie on bass) was perhaps not so studiously inclined as her character in the movie, the Magna Carta version of the character was zesty and more polished. We liked this version a lot…

Daisy Lee and Sali Adams (Shonelle and Marcy) were exemplary, as was Umar Aunghareeta (playing Lawrence on keys) and Sammy Austin (playing Freddie on drums.) But perhaps more could have been done with Dylan Oak’s character (Billy the stylist) and Ella Clark (Summer, the manager.) Both were great actors but their roles were underutilized (in our opinion) — but these are minor quibbles.

just fantabulisticcal

Great acclaim should go to the children who played the parts of the parents of students.

Each one played a superior and memorable cameo role.

And the ensemble and the orchestra was just fantabulisticcal!

Of course, the stand-out performance of the night was from Dewey Finn, played by Sebastian Hobden. He owned the stage — left, right and centre — our only comment being: “I wish he’d calm down and settle.” Jack Black was unflustered in this role, a calm influence on the kids and his  half-asleep attitude and laid-back kinda style was commanding. But Sebastian opted to interpret the character entirely differently — as a spring-heeled cat on a hot-tin roof, with uncontrolled levels of untapped ever-fermenting energy. At times we just wanted him to be tackled to the ground by the crew. God love him!  You couldn’t fault his  earnestness.

The most notable performance was that of Katie Mack, who played Miss Mullins. She didn’t put a foot nor finger wrong. She sang with controlled emotion, spoke with excellent articulation and gave a very credible portrayal of the dispassionate and distant school principal who has an (invisible) heart of the liquid honey.

Big thanks must also go to the TMCS PVA Faculty, the entire production team (especially Lily Warnes for her excellent stage management) and the hairdressing and makeup teams, as well as everyone who made this show such a magical success.

Five Stars!

Words:  @neilmach 2018 ©


STEVE WHALLEY — Live at Staines Riverside Club

Here at AD PONTES we always said that STEVE WHALLEY is the zen master of cathartic liberation.

Steve Whalley – an interpretation that was incredibly perfect. Picture by @neilmach 2017 ©

There is no nonsense or schmaltz in his show, oh no!

He will tear your emotions apart before healing you with a frenzy of dramatic soul & rock numbers from the song books of heroes like Tom Waits and Dylan.

And at Staines Riverside Club last night, after an excellent start that included a stylish Leon Russell type “Youngblood” Steve tried some new material.

In fact he even produced a special guitar for the Ry Cooder number — Vigilante Man.

This is a dangerous tool ...” he alerted the audience. “I have to keep it set to stun, otherwise it will cause some serious damage...”

His interpretation was incredibly perfect. And although we know that Steve’s one of the best vocalists on the circuit, it was clear from this number that we shouldn’t underestimate his guitar skills either… His blues-picking and finger slides were remarkable.

Steve with Tat Whalley – Tat Whalley… ” he eclipsed my achievements many times” Picture by @neilmach 2017 ©

The incredible rhythmc finger-picking skills were evident again on the “Kingston Trio” style Bahamian folk song John B. Sails [aka Sloop John B.]

It was a sensational way to end a memorable night.

With his son Tat Whalley on bass (he eclipsed my achievements many times) and Bruvvers/Meal Ticket drummer Chris Hunt [he taught me everything I ever needed to know about music] this was one of the best concerts of the year.

And the amazing thing is that Steve suffered a nasty head-cold head all night long. And complained, often, “ I cannot hear a damn thing...”

We can’t imagine how good this would have been if Steve had been in ship-shape condition and didn’t feel “so broke up...”

If you missed the show, regularly visit the STAINES RIVERSIDE club for quality live music [every other Thursday] and most weekends. Please support your local live music venue.

Words & Pictures: @neilmach 2017 ©



Last night at the wonderful Staines Riverside Club we witnessed rare magic when WILLY FINLAYSON AND THE HURTERS came to town bringing their smooth quality rock and soft ‘n’ soulful covers.

The last time we saw Willy in Staines was with his band project HALF MEAL TICKET, then with Steve Simpson (now in retirement) and Dean Barnes (much missed.)

Edinburgh born Willy is a talented guitarist, composer and extraordinary vocalist and he fronted Bees Make Honey (1974 ) and later the famous country rock band Meal Ticket. They provided the theme for the brilliant play-for-today “Dominick Hide”.

Willy Finlayson – Carnation-cream and tobacco voice…

In staines The Hurters played songs like the award-winning “She Will Be Loved” [Maroon 5] with its insistent chorus.

These were emotionally rendered, and even at times perhaps overwrought. Though Willy’s smouldering carnation-cream and tobacco voice helped  alleviate any anguish.

Classy blues numbers, such as “Crazy ‘Bout An Automobile (Every Woman I Know)” (Ry Cooder, 1980) had good rebound and veritable trim.

And for the many upbeat numbers (Bruce Springsteen is a favourite songwriter) Willy provided eloquent slur to go with that amazing golden brogue.

Dave Colquhoun – bullets of masculinity and power…

The great revelation of the night was the “new” guitarist Dave Colquhoun.

Dave is actually an experienced session man, currently with Rick Wakeman’s band.

He has his own band projects and previously worked with Go West, Paul Young, Belinda Carlisle, T’pau, Bananarama and, of course, Bucks Fizz.

Dave added bullets of masculinity and power to ballads such as “Hungry Heart” or dark twists of sadness or tiny bee stings of articulation… In other words, he provided nuance and fragrance to every soulful song. Such was his impressive play that he earned  several bravos of his own during the evening.

Tempo was provided by acclaimed blues bassist Malcolm Hoskins who was a firm and steadfast rhythmic-energy maker.

Towards the end of the evening we were treated to a few songs from “surprise guest” LIZA MARSHALL.

Her husky chocolate-syrup voice always wins applause, and her smooth song-choice included the singalong gospel number “People Get Ready” [Curtis Mayfield 1965.] This allowed Dave to express his more imaginative and jazzy side.

As usual, a very fine evening of quality musical entertainment in Staines.

Words & Images: @neilmach 2017 ©



Rocking Hippie Party in Shepperton — LAUGHING STOCK FESTIVAL

The wonderful Jagger family of Shepperton again organized a super fun-packed day of music, peace and love in the Laughing Waters this weekend.

Remarkably, the sun managed to shine for the afternoon…

The wonderful Jagger family of Shepperton organized a super fun-packed day of music, peace & love…

The first LAUGHING STOCK FESTIVAL was held in 2005, when the Jagger family invited a few friends for a summer picnic by the river.

The event has grown over the years and raises funds for charities such as the Diabetes Society, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Eagle Radio Trust and Woking and Sam Beare Hospice.

The Woking and Sam Beare Hospice provides inpatient and community care to approximately 1,400 patients each year. They looked after Linda Jagger’s dad when he got very sick.

The hospice hopes to raise an additional £1.9m to deliver a new hospice service in the heart of Surrey that will be support generations to come.

JJ band – squelchy blues and authentic rhythm and blues…

The party started with some chilled sounds from Heids with acoustic support from the Jagger family’s own function & party outfit — the JJ BAND.

They also played a gladdening and cheerful full-electric set later in the day.

The full band comprises of Linda and Heidi on vocals, JJ and Al on guitars and with Byron and Tim providing the powerhouse bass and drums.

The outfit plays squelchy blues and authentic rhythm and blues, plus breathtaking soul and crackling pop. You can check them out at The Red Lion, Shepperton on Sunday 27th August.

Rifftakers – street-rock boogaloos…

Next up were THE RIFFTAKERS who play their own rhythm and blues brand in the tradition of The Rolling Stones and Yardbirds.

With fuzzy guitars, dynamic beats and party vibes, their street-rock boogaloos, accelerated rhythms and energetic performances provided the motivating force of the afternoon and soon the revelers rose from ground-sheets and picnic chairs to dance in unison.

Next was the super-smooth and super-efficient 8-piece GROOVELINE offering jazz, acid jazz, soul and disco  and who played a swish and dishy collection of funky hits culminating in the wonderful “Blame It on the Boogie” — got to be everyone’s favourite uptempo party-time number.

Grooveline – swish and dishy…

It was Grooveline singer Amy Nicholls’ last appearance with the band (for a while, any-ways) and bass-player Adam was taken sick [we wish him an early recovery] so he was replaced “last minute.”

After a very successful auction and raffle the three-piece roots band MANTIC MUDDLERS, from Petersfield, Hampshire, played some home-style, unfussy blue-grass and rhythm & soul numbers with exuberance and joy.

The lads will be playing the Victorious Festival in Portsmouth on 25th August. You should check them out…

The festival welcomed back the immensely talented local 5-piece rock-reggae band TREE HOUSE FIRE.

Tree House Fire – sonic damage deep down in your Mondongos —

This band are always a big hit, with bouncy, boom-boom songs and a bass line that walks impulsively down-the-line.

At Shepperton they delivered their lumpy, low-noted ditties, intrepid vocals and giddy-paced rhythms with verve and panache.

As we said before, this band causes, “sonic damage deep down in your Mondongos —”

We’ve often thought that experiencing the !DAFT!  cover band is as pleasurable as playing on a kids bouncy-castle wearing nothing but clotted cream…

Their hi-energy rock-covers are salacious & stimulating and at Shepperton the band played an unrestrained, rip-roaringly successful set that magnificently complemented  all the high-jinks and romping frolics at Laughing Water.

!Daft! — a celebratory mix of modern garage rock, post-punk and guitar pop rock…

Their delivery and execution was superb. No wonder they are  justifiably known as the best party band on the circuit.

Their celebratory mix of modern garage rock, post-punk and guitar pop rock is influenced by mid-1980s indie bands — but they easily and successfully turn their hands to garage rock, rock ‘n’ roll and even country when the time is right. And the band’s instinctive ability to “read the crowd” and recognize what is best to keep an audience on their feet is the hallmark of their success.

This was another gleeful and jubilant affair at Laughing Stock

A day of beads and feathers, flower power and gentle people — and, of course, lots ‘n’ lots of love.


Words & Images by @neilmach 2017 ©

Mantic Muddlers – exuberance and joy…

STACEY CRONIN + Asylum Affair at Staines Riverside Club

It’s been a while since the “Harlech Hurricane” sashayed her stuff on the Staines stage, accompanied by her conspicuously talented bandmates.

But this week we again enjoyed the power and potency of Asylum Affair with Stacey Cronin on lead vocals as they played their evocative power-ballads to an eager crowd at Staines pre-eminent music venue, the Riverside Club.

The line-up included John Lawrence (guitar) Gar Lando (drums) Colin Payne (bass guitar) and “the claw”     aka Mark ‘Wilko’ Wilkinson who recently “broke his arm” so couldn’t provide us with any sax on the evening but nevertheless still wizzed the keyboards.

The eighties make you feel nostalgic just thinking about them — and the charm of songs from that era live on in our hearts. Who does not love Belinda Carlisle, Whitesnake, Foreigner and The Bangles?

Songs are accompanied by sensitive organ ripples, flexible bass waves and foamy ridges of guitar…@neilmach 2017 ©

So Stacey sings lusty songs about breaking up and/or uncontrollable longing and all her hearty canzones are  accompanied by sensitive organ ripples, flexible bass waves and foamy ridges of guitar.

Some songs have been removed from the set-list since the last time we saw the band play in Staines…

However many of our favorites, such as “Love Is a Battlefield” (Holly Knight with Mike Chapman and made famous by Pat Benatar) have survived the cull and demonstrate the extraordinary power and finesse of Stacey. She has a distinctively soft, warm and raspy voice of sandalwood & bourbon whiskey.

A new number is “Stop!” the Sam Brown song (Brown, Sutton, and Brody 1988) brought with it with layers of sentiment. This was overwrought, almost highly-strung — and had a sense of neurosis surrounding it. The performance at Staines was so frenzied and nuanced that it left Stacey exhausted. She collapsed in a corner to recover while the band played a musical number.

Their old bossa nova piece “Parisienne Walkways” has been replaced with another number that allows the band to show off their expertise and effectiveness. It’s been traded for the funkier “Let’s Dance” (Bowie, 1983) with John pulling-off the Stevie Ray Vaughan solo at the end with flair and confidence.

the band showed off their expertise and effectiveness…
Here John Lawrence w Colin Payne @neilmach 2017 ©

Soon after “Alone” – the ‘Heart’ chart hit – written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly – Stacey announced that “We’ll play the ‘other’ Heart song too…” — thus neatly summarizing the Wilson sisters career.

So the band lunged into the next head rush song with enthusiasm. We were reminded of the low tones of Grace Slick (perhaps not surprising, since the Starship’s trooper was known for contributing to Heart’s recordings) and also the flavor of Steve Nicks

Never Tear Us Apart” (INXS 1988) was another superlative addition to the repertoire, with drama and passion in each corner and layer-upon-layer of ritzy synth.

Stacey Cronin and Asylum Affair at Staines Riverside Club @neilmach 2017 ©

Perhaps most enjoyed were the Fleetwood Mac songs, and especially “The Chain” from Rumours (1977) with its well-known instrumental section associated with Formula One.   And “Rhiannon” a first-half closer — taken from the predecessor album, Fleetwood Mac (1975.)

Purple Rain” (Prince, 1984) in the second half – also gave room for John’s extended solo.

And this time the ‘Giant of the Bass’ Colin stayed in his seat (he’s still recovering from a medical procedure, we wish him a full recovery) but managed to provide undoubted fervour and gusto to the rhythms along with the über-talented Gar Lando on drums.

This was a dazzling and magnificent concert with Stacey as radiant and charming as always and the band playing at its very best.

Intoxication and rhapsody in every heartbeat.

Words & Images: @neilmach 2017 ©


SKUNK ANANSIE — Scholarship Recipient Announced at ACM

In June it was reported by AD PONTES that The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) in Guildford, Surrey had announced the launch of their first ever SKUNK ANANSIE SCHOLARSHIP.

The recipient of this prestigious award receives a fully funded place on one of the academy’s reputable degree courses, worth up to £27,000…

The recipient of the prestigious award would receive a fully funded place on one of the academy’s reputable degree courses, worth up to £27,000.

The ACM have now announced that CYREEZ LEWIS will be the first ever recipient of the exclusive scholarship. Cyreez will receive his entire three-year Vocal Degree programme, fully funded at the Academy’s London campus.

After an intense judging process, Skunk Anansie, their management, and ACM tutors agreed that Cyreez Lewis should be awarded this prestigious prize.

Skin, vocalist in Skunk Anansie, had this to say, “Cyreez’s performance really resonated with me. You could feel his drive and passion which reminded me of why I first got into music. It’s fantastic to be able to offer Cyreez this opportunity in partnership with ACM and I believe it will make a real difference in his career. I’m really looking forward to seeing Cyreez progress as a vocalist and can’t wait to see the bright future that lays ahead of him...”

Chosen for his talent and dedication, Skunk Anansie were pleased to award CYREEZ LEWIS

Chosen for his talent and dedication, Skunk Anansie were pleased to award such a deserving candidate with the first ever Scholarship in their name.

As one of the most successful UK charting bands pioneering British Rock, Skunk Anansie have a wealth of musical experience under their belt making them ideal role models for the next generation of the music industry housed at ACM.

Ace, the guitarist in Skunk Anansie and ACM’s Head of Creative Industry Development, broke the news to Cyreez who was ecstatic to have received the inaugural award, “It was brilliant to break the news to Cyreez…” said Ace. “He was clearly over the moon and it feels great to make such a difference to this talented musician’s life. I’m really excited to get started on working with Cyreez in my Industry Link role at ACM this September…

Cyreez said: “Winning the scholarship means the world to me, I am so grateful, excited and privileged that I was chosen as the winner, thank you. Music is all I want to do with the rest of my life and winning the Scholarship gives me the chance to write, produce and share my music with the world. I play keyboard, guitar and use the loop pedal to record my backing sound, so the opportunity that the Scholarship has provided me with will give me the chance to improve and become the best I can be. I look forward to my time at ACM and cannot wait to learn from some of the best tutors and just do what I love doing daily.”

ACM has been building sustainable, long-lasting careers in the music industry for over 22 years. With campuses in Guildford, London and, new for September 2017, Birmingham, the Academy prides itself on delivering a unique approach to education which focuses on learning by doing. Looking for hard work and passion, ACM is proud to now offer more than £100,000 worth of Scholarships to ensure that their sought-after courses are more accessible than ever.

Limited spaces are still available at ACM’s Guildford, London and Birmingham campuses for study this September, to find out more or apply through Clearing please call the Admissions team on: 01483 500 841



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