A British composer's ambitious quest to premier a requiem in the highly atmospheric Abney Park cemetery by lantern light.
Friday, 8 January 2010
It struck me last night that if I truly want to raise money for my project, and genuinely am a card-carrying child of the 1980s, I need a totalizer. I didn’t grow up on a diet of Blue Peter and Northamptonshire village fetes for nothing. Obviously, I can’t process old stamps and bottle tops, so don’t start sending me your useless junk, but I can reveal that last night, just after I’d finished my blog, I had my first pledge of proper cash. Drum roll. Fireworks. £500... And from a Pepys Club member! That’s the equivalent of 16 Joey Deacon Bring and Buy sales.
This wonderful piece of news means that I can launch the world’s first Pepys-o-meter... It’s even got a little bit coloured in to show where we are and how far we have to go. I feel so proud.
That little confidence boost sent me into a frenzy of activity this morning. I contacted the Arts Council, the Royal Navy, Sir Cameron Mackintosh, The London Museum and a few other art lovers who’d enjoyed Oranges and Lemons and I figured might know some people who might know some people who might know some wealthy people. The Arts Council are changing their application process, which means there’ll be zero activity on that front in February and March. If I’m to get money from them in time, I need to rush in my application in the next few days.
I’m currently sitting on a tube heading home from the centre of London. I wonder what Pepys would have made of the tube. Nathan and I have just been to see the press night of Legally Blonde, the new musical starring Duncan off of Blue. I saw the show on Broadway, and this felt like a low rent version, but it was charming escapism and Sheridan Smith put in a very likeable performance as Reece Witherspoon. Her Valley Girl seemed a touch more Manhattan than Malibu, and her wig looked a bit like hay, but it was a treat to hear a score than felt like it was written rather than chewed and spat out onto the back of a postage stamp. I was hoping the tiny dog/dishcloth featured in the show would wee all over the stage, or get kicked into the orchestra pit, but sadly it remained intact throughout!
En route to the theatre I walked past the lovely blind lady who busks opera at Tottenham Court Road, and felt somehow that she would be the kind of thing that Pepys would have found familiar in his London. What I can guarantee is that Pepys never experienced anything like the gays of Old Compton Street who were parading in all their bovine glory tonight. As one of them walked past me, cussing me with his long lashes; it struck me that I probably should have made more of an effort – especially going to a premier. I’m unshaven, my hair looks like a halo and I’m wearing something that resembles a brown bag. I feel like a hairy balloon wrapped in man-made fibres.
The 8th January 1660 was a Sunday, and Pepys, being at that time (at least outwardly) the good Puritan, went to church twice. The early years of his diary are peppered with comments about the sermons he sat (and often slept) through. He also used church as a court for his favourite game; lady watching. There was often at least one pretty young thing who caught his fancy. And he didn’t stop at window shopping. He crossed the line many times. On one occasion he was attacked by a terrified girl armed with a pin. Pepys, you see, was a recidivist groper!
The weather (like today) was still freezing across London and for the first time we read a fairly pitiful account of quite how poor the Pepyses were: “From thence to my father's to dinner, where I found my wife, who was forced to dine there, we not having one coal of fire in the house, and it being very hard frosty weather”.
Composer and television director. Recent works include: A Symphony for Yorkshire (winner of 3 RTS Awards and a Prix de Circom), Tyne and Wear Metro: The Musical (winner of a Gillard award), The Pepys Motet, The London Requiem, Songs from Hattersley, A1: The Road Musical (nominated for a Grierson Award), Watford Gap: The Musical, Coventry Market: The Musical (nominated for a SONY award and recipient of two Gillard awards) and Oranges and Lemons, which features every bell in every London church mentioned in the nursery rhyme.