News Nicola Benedetti has criticised the state of music teaching in Britain

Acclaimed violinist criticises music teaching in the UK

Suede, Royal Albert Hall, London

Brett Anderson and the gang reminded us just how brilliant they were in an astonishing one-off reunion concert for charity

Them Crooked Vultures, Royal Albert Hall, London

Birds of a feather rock together

Cirque du Soleil: Varekai, Royal Albert Hall, London

This flying circus has its own sun and talent to burn

Varekai, Royal Albert Hall, London

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Cirque du Soleil has become the biggest brand in world circus. "Brand" is the word, because there's something very corporate about this Canadian company's approach to circus. The performers are spectacular: Varekai includes some astonishing feats, from intricate balancing acts to Russian swings. The framing show is blandly predictable.

Singer Martha Wainwright thanks NHS for saving premature baby

Singer Martha Wainwright thanked NHS medics today for saving her premature baby's life.

A Not So Silent Night, Royal Albert Hall, London

The chestnuts are roasting just outside the gates of Hyde Park and inside the Royal Albert Hall the family McGarrigle, or Wainwright, depending on which way you want to look at it, that dysfunctional lot, are gathered for a festive sing-along. Kate McGarrigle – mother, writer of haunting, plaintive folk songs – is the linchpin tonight, and that's probably how it should be. It was McGarrigle, after all, who nurtured Rufus and Martha Wainwright after the breakdown of her marriage to the folk luminary Loudon Wainwright III.

Yusuf, Royal Albert Hall, London

Back on stage and still top Cat

Madness, Oasis, Swindon<br/>
Wainwright Family, Royal Albert Hall, London

Even after three decades, Madness can get everyone jumping to their greatest hits &ndash; while still coming out with great albums

Not the Messiah (He's A Very Naughty Boy), Royal Albert Hall, London

Python worship hard to Handel

Elton John, Royal Albert Hall, London

I'm raising money for a new organ," Elton announces in his archest Carry On voice, near the beginning of this three-hour charity show in aid of the Royal Academy of Music's fund for that very instrument. Such generosity on Elton's part, from a man who can also be self-indulgent to Louis XIV extremes, is of a piece with the contradictions which power him. He has spent much of the past decade helping young musicians more directly, pushing rising hopefuls from Ryan Adams to the Scissor Sisters, and, ever since Songs from the West Coast (2001), has concentrated on re-establishing his own artistic credentials since his pop-hit power finally wilted. But the blowsy sentiment of a "Candle in the Wind" is always just a breath away.

Last Night Of The Poms, Royal Albert Hall, London

Having shrunk dramatically from 13 dates to only five, one wonders if this could have been Barry Humphries' first and last Night of the Poms. Fortunately for British audiences they have not been completely denied the opportunity to see Humphries, the celebrated 75-year-old Australian comedian whose career has spanned over 50 years. Unfortunately, the show that he has reprised shortchanges fans of the real essence of his legendary comedy characters Sir Les Patterson and Dame Edna Everage.

Prom 76: The Last Night of the Proms, Royal Albert Hall, London

So it’s come to this: Jiri Belohlavek, Principal Conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, demoted to playing vacuum cleaner while his Principal Guest Conductor, David Robertson, gets to preside over “Land of Hope and Glory”? Allow me to explain.

Prom 69: Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra/ Chailly, Royal Albert Hall, London

Not bringing Mendelssohn to the Proms was never an option for the Leipzig Gewandhaus in this the composer’s bicentennial year.

Prom 68, Northern Sinfonia/McGegan, Royal Albert Hall, London

Two things are often forgotten about the ‘Messiah: that it was actually written for Easter, not Christmas, and that its original audience would have been very well-heeled - seats at ten shillings and sixpence were the equivalent of top-price opera seats today.

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

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Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there