Friday, 1 January 2010

And a happy New Year to you, too at 00.30

Blessed be to God, at the end of the last decade I was in very good health, except for a slight tenderness in my side, which I put down to clumsily rushing into a doorhandle at my friend Matt's house or possibly attempting to toboggan down Parliament Hill at 2 o'clock in the morning. Fortunately there was snow on the ground. Unfortunately I didn't have a toboggan.

In 2009 the condition of the State was thus. Viz the House of Commons, a load of wimps, desperate to stay in power at all costs and corrupt to the core. Most of the good people of Great Britain wish they'd go away, but most of us are too busy voting on the X factor to think of alternatives.

My own private condition very handsome. I live in Highgate with my partner, an actor called Nathan. Most of our neighbours are rich. We are poor, but content. I write music and work with communities across the country to create little pieces of documentary musical magic. At least I hope that's what we create.

The mission for 2010: To compose a 40-part motet based on Samuel Pepys' diary; that astonishing piece of literature which was started 350 years ago on this very day. What an incredible thought!

What is a 40-part motet? There aren't many of them in the musical canon, probably because you have to be mad to write one. The most famous is Spem In Alium by Thomas Tallis, which I think, by its title, must have something to do with onions. The lyrics might be a bit fancy, but it's an incredible piece of music, which almost makes me stop breathing. A motet is a choral work, usually based on a religious text. To me Pepys' Diary is a religious text.

My work will hopefully be performed at St Olave's Church in London; the church where Pepys worshipped and was buried.

I aim to have this work premiered by the end of the year, but in order for this to happen, I will need to raise a small sum of money and find 40 remarkable singers, from a wide range of traditions including gospel, folk, early music, musical theatre and opera. Each choir will respresent a different aspect of Samuel Pepys' character and life. They will sing direct passages from his diary. It's going to be a nightmare to organise on my own!

Am I capable of writing a 40-part motet? Who knows! Will I find funding in this recession-torn climate? I hope so! Will the project make me lose my mind? Probably!

This blog will accompany me on this ambitious and terrifying journey!

Likelihood of success: 50%
Likelihood of going mad during the process: 93%

And, with the sounds of ABBA's Happy New Year drifting in from next door, so to bed.


  1. I hope you do better than Benny Hill's 1961 version! (not too hard I suspect)

  2. in case you had forgotten!

    Benny Hill

    A shy young maid has took a room down at the Village Inn.
    Her bedside light is oh so bright and the curtains oh so thin.
    At nine o'clock, she enters her room, at half past nine, she sleeps.
    Lord Clarendon walks quickly on. but naughty Samuel Pepys.

    Oh we know it's right.
    It's in black and white.
    And it's all written down in his diary!

    I went to rent a ladie's house she handed me the key.
    She said, "It's to be let as it stands with all that you can see."
    "And are you to be left with the house?", said I in a saucy tone.
    She said, "I'm not to be let with the house, I'm to be left alone!"

    Oh we know it's right.
    It's in black and white.
    And it's all written down in his diary!

    Squire Pitt locked his wife in her chastity belt then climbed upon his horse.
    He left the key with the footman, lest he was killed in the wars.
    He'd not gone far when the footman shouted breathlessly.
    He said, "Squire Pitt, this key doesn't fit!" Squire Pitt said, "You're tellin' me!"

    Oh, we know it's right
    It's in black and white.
    And it's all written down in his diary!

    Halfway up a wall outside a castle in Traymere
    There is a sign that reads "The Duke Of Denby Was Born Here".
    I've traveled far and I've traveled wide but I never can recall
    Ever hearing of a Duke being born halfway up a wall!

    Oh, we know it's right
    It's in black and white.
    And it's all written down in his diary!

    Last Thursday morn, my wife gave birth to a lovely baby boy.
    As the doctor took me to see them my heart was filled with joy!
    When he said, "He's got your husband's nose", my wife looked quite suprised.
    She said, "That may be but you must agree he's got his father's eyes!"

    Oh, we know it's right
    It's in black and white.
    And it's all written down in his diary!