Come and Sing – The Creation

It’s been a while since I did any ‘proper’ singing, so I was both delighted at the thought of another “Come and Sing” day and nervous as to whether I’d be up to the task. This was yet again with The Bach Choir but the time the piece was The Creation by Haydn.

Before the day I did my usual preparation, making sure that I had the score and working through it. I was pleased to discover that there was no splitting the choir into eight (as those parts are always tricky) but less pleased with Haydn’s definition of an alto. Really, there are some notes that should be left to the sopranos, did he not read the memo? He also throws in some fairly tricky fugal sections with several different variants of the same phrase.

On the day I put my worries aside determined to just do my best. I picked a good seat with a clear view of the conductor (once again the wonderful David Hill) and a Bach Chorister next to me (arrive early for these things, it pays off). The vocal warm up was fun and a real work out for the brain as well as the voice in places.

Then we settled down to work through the piece. We rehearsed chorus by chorus. David picking apart things into tiny details in places, simple things like breathing early (so you don’t come in late) or working to get the sound smooth and flowing. It was wonderful to work on making it sound beautiful. I felt an incredible sense of focus, with no other thoughts than the music (a musical ‘deep hack mode’ if you like).

And then rehearsals over, we were ready to perform for our select audience who, sitting at the front, were the centre of attention. They even got a round of applause. Once we started singing though, I was focused on the music, the conductor and not fluffing too many bits. Without soloists, so doing only the choruses, the time rushed by. So much so that we were treated to an impromptu duet of the opening with Philip Scriven on the organ and David Hill on the piano. Then it was time for us to sing the last chorus and our day was over.

Well, almost over, as it turned out there was a chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ to sing to David in celebration of his upcoming ‘big’ birthday. Then it really was time to go home.

Yet again, an amazing, enjoyable, educational day.

 

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The Verse Of Sergeant Cadwallader

The Unexpected GuestSo tonight we open in Chesham with “The Unexpected Guest” by Agatha Christie.

I am playing a dreamy poetical Welsh police sergeant who is, naturally, investigating a mysterious murder. Aside from reading poetry (not the first time I’ve done that in a play recently) I am also caught writing it, but the audience is delivered no more than a couplet of this (fine?) poem.
I was given a challenge (by James of course) to finish the poem and I have done so in a way I think my character would have created it.

Of course, if you want to know who the murderer actually is…well you’ll have to see the show because I am certainly not going to tell you.

November Mists

Tis misty in November
But seldom in December,
The fogs that fill the valleys soon disperse.
After the mists of midnight
They fade away in sunlight
Only to be replaced with something worse.

The deeds of men inspected
Too dark to be reflected
Are revealed to us when the fog has gone.
We seek the true solution
To give people resolution
And let the injured parties lives move on.

© Sergeant Cadwallader (CMB)

Me, The Stage Manager?

Already CalmI’d never expected to ever be a stage manager. When you work on shows with someone who is an experienced and awesome stage manager then it’s a job that is definitely not available. Plus I’m actually quite happy just moving chairs and tables, making pictures crooked or cleaning blood* off the set and leaving the responsibilities to somebody else.

But when James couldn’t go to the Loxwood Joust this year, and it was suggested that I could stand in for him as stage manager, looking after a few artists on a little stage in the middle of  a woodland, I found myself saying “Yes”. After all, I know the festival already, know my way about a stage and best of all I could get advice and instructions direct from the expert.

So nervously I set off on a Friday night with a new tent, a clock and a clipboard with the running order and detailed instructions attached. My instructions said I needed to acquire a broom and inspecting my domain on arrival I could see that I did, as the stewards were laying out straw bales in the woodland and using the stage as (sorry) a staging post. Still, it was getting dark, so I put my worries aside (mostly) and went to the bar for some mead.

Early the next morning I hung up my clock backstage with a copy of the running order and went in search of the broom. That found, I made a start by sweeping the copious amounts of straw off the stage. Feeling I had now claimed my territory, I settled in to do my job. By midday I had met everyone performing on my stage that weekend and the sound guy (who had the harder job), made a “No Entry” sign and told countless (not many, I just wasn’t counting them) people not to come backstage and, most importantly, got the first act on stage successfully. With some surprise, I realised I actually could do this and somehow my earlier nerves had evaporated. Perhaps I was just too busy keeping track of the time.

Still like all theatre jobs, it evolved over the four days of the festival until I was also plugging in microphones, laying out tambourines and hunting for the juggler’s balls**. All this in a (surprising) glow of calm confidence, and no, it wasn’t just the result of the mead.

Next year I have no doubt James will be back to reclaim his stage and of course he’ll do an even better job than I did, but for once I have been the stage manager and I loved every second.

*Fake obviously. Unless someone really upset the SM…

**Crystal balls. He threw them off stage when he’d finished juggling with them. What did you think I meant?

Goodbye

GoodbyeThis poem was written for a very special lady. I had felt the need to write something anyway but when I learned that she too used to write poetry then it seemed even more important to put something into words.

When someone dies, the funeral is a chance to say goodbye. When it is the funeral of somebody you have never had the chance to meet, then goodbye becomes something more.

Goodbye

Today I have to say goodbye,
A life so precious has gone by.
I’ll meet folk they used to know,
Today goodbye means Hello.

I’m travelling to a far off city
Unknown to me, but quaint and pretty.
This is the place that they called home,
Today goodbye means Hello.

I’m learning now about their life
Poetess and devoted wife,
Friends who miss her kindness shown,
Today goodbye means Hello.

A lady I never got to meet
But who has shaped one close to me,
And so for their loss I will cry,
Today Hello must mean Goodbye.

© CMB

The Humber Bridge

I’d never seen the Humber bridge before. It’s an amazing structure. The main span is 1410 metres. The towers are 155 metres tall and they are 36mm further apart at the top than the bottom to allow for the curvature of the Earth (at least that’s what the information boards around the area tell you).

We stopped for a look on our way into Hull.

We saw it again on Sunday when we returned for a second photo-shoot with Spencer Tunick, and before we went home we managed to find time for a walk across it too.Humber Bridge

 

Seeing Hull

When you come to a city the first challenge is finding your way around. We were lucky when we visited Kingston-upon-Hull recently to be part of a group of fellow tourists and friendly locals who went on a walking tour of part of this lovely city.
We met up in Queen’s Gardens, leaving unneeded possessions for safekeeping and from there we all walked through to the Rosebowl fountain.
“It looks like a ship’s wheel”, we were told.
Then we marched up Alfred Gelder Street to Lowgate.
“What’s this big building?” asked one person*.
“It’s the Guildhall” the locals helpfully replied.
From there we walked towards the old town and up to the Scale Lane Bridge; notable for being the only bridge where pedestrians can stay on it while it opens. We were a large group but some of us were fortunate enough to be able to make our way on to the far end of the bridge and how kind of them to open it especially for us.
Our tour then done we made our way back to Queen’s Gardens to collect bags before heading back to our hotel for a shower and then searching out some breakfast.

...leave nothing but footprints (in B3 paint).

…leave nothing but footprints (in B3 paint).

Perhaps I forgot to mention though, that this tour started at four o’clock in the morning and we were naked and painted a rather fetching shade of turquoise (in our case ‘B3’) throughout; for we were part of the “Sea of Hull”. A nude art installation by photographer and artist Spencer Tunick commissioned for Hull as part of the UK city of culture 2017. The largest so far in the UK, with 3,200 participants.

I know there are lots of pictures on the internet, so many accounts already describing how it felt. So how did it feel for me? I hadn’t worried about getting naked but I had worried (laugh if you know me) about my lack of worry. I wondered if I’d find I’d misjudged myself when it came to it. It turns out I hadn’t.

I wasn’t oblivious to the careful way the whole thing was set up either. We were repeatedly asked not to get naked until told to. Partly I’m sure in order to avoid public order offences, however also it meant that once final instructions on painting ourselves had been given and we’d been given clear instructions to be as quick as possible, when the order to strip came there was a mass scramble to get out of our clothes. We were given no time to think about what we were doing. By the time we had leisure to look round we were part of a sea of naked blue people filling the park.
It felt perfectly normal to be honest. For once I felt completely at home in a crowd, accepted, we were all together. Even leading the march down Alfred Gelder street chatting to Spencer’s assistant Steve (“Steeeve”) was surreally normal.

It was a truly fantastic experience; to be part of something amazing, beautiful and so, so much fun. I’m glad to have discovered a wonderful city, full of friendly people. I certainly learned some new things too. For instance:

  • Hull has some fantastic city clocks (and when nobody is wearing a watch they are the only way to keep any sense of time).
  • Penguin huddles work to keep people warm too.
  • Body paint is surprisingly hard to remove from some places (but coconut oil helps).
  • Also, if you ever wondered what it felt like to be the little mermaid then try walking barefoot on the Scale Lane Bridge. Ouch.

We’ll be back of course, when the art gallery reopens to see the art we helped create. Until then…

We are #SeaOfHull

*that was Spencer Tunick of course. He was giving us directions relative to it.

Bilbao (with Tram)

In our recent visit to Spain we decided to drive out to Bilbao to have a look around. I always enjoy a chance to see a new city and to ride on a new tram and this was a decidedly modern tram.

Bilbao

From Depart To Arrive Route
Uribitarte 18:09 Arriaga 18:15 A

Plus of course there were lots of things to see.

Donostia – Day and Night

Donostia - DayWe went to Spain, for the second time driving (yes, all the way) to San Sebastián (or Donostia depending on your affiliation). With an apartment on the ninth floor of the building, overlooking the river, there was the chance to get a couple of nice photographs of the view.

Donostia - Night

Hay Fever – Show Roundup

It’s such a fearful play.
– It’s a marvellous part.

While I have mentioned this show already, it certainly deserves a post to itself.

It was suggested* to me that I go to the audition for this, which was being put on by a group I knew nothing of but was reasonably nearby.

To my amazement I walked away with a part, playing ‘Sorel’ the daughter of the retired actress (Deja vu anyone)?

What a lovely opportunity to work with the most friendly and welcoming people, to improve my Parisian geography (the Rue Saint-Honoré does not lead into the Place de la Concorde) and to have the fun of being a stroppy and rather sarcastic teenager every night.

The set was wobbly but functional (and importantly the staircase was rock solid) and looked great. The costumes were lovely (I had two beautiful dresses and got to wear my silky pyjamas in act three) and thankfully there was a lovely makeup lady to make sure we all looked great.

Thanks too, to the Stage Manager, particularly for their liberal use of white gaffer tape and ever entertaining dressing room calls. It was all much appreciated.

What fun then to act in such a wonderful play.
Of course, while the cast were wonderful and the audience clearly appreciative they reserved the biggest laugh every night for the comedy moment with the barometer, a feat of comedic timing performed by the youngest member of the crew (who may just happen to be my daughter).

So what a wonderful time, putting on a great play, and how lovely to make new friends, who were so welcoming to the very shy newcomer to the group.

©Michael Pitt-Payne

©Michael Pitt-Payne

*Insisted is far more accurate. But James dragged me to the auditions and got made Stage Manager for his trouble, so that seems fair. 😉

 

A Tale of Two Sets

See How They Run

See How They Run

Have you seen the one about the retired actress, with the French doors and the staircase?

I was recently asked to do props for a delightful farce featuring a retired actress, several members of the clergy and an escaped German soldier. The play (See How They Run) features a charming set comprising of a living room with French doors, a staircase and doors on each side.
The show was fantastic, funny and great fun to work on. I’d never done props before but I thoroughly enjoyed myself and the cast were all great to work with.

While all this was going on I was simultaneously rehearsing for another play. This one featuring a retired actress, her family and their several houseguests. The play (Hay Fever) features a startlingly similar set.

Hay Fever

Hay Fever

The deja vu was heightened by the appearance of a barometer on each set, and the astonishingly similar sounding door bell (blame the sound engineer/stage manager respectively).

Further parallels within each play include the rehearsal of part of another play within it, the mention of “If” and…well I could go on.

Double the fun for a busy but satisfying month.