Sunday, 11 July 2010

It's a wrap

We finished filming A Symphony for Yorkshire an hour ago, and I suppose I’m feeling rather strange and empty. It feels like the end of some kind of era and I hate the thought that I won’t be spending any more time with the surrogate family who've been my companions for so many exciting days. The filming process has been an extraordinary period of time with very few lows and countless highs. And the most amazing shot happened today. 60 musicians marched up a steep street in Sheffield, led by a group of police drummers and a troupe of majorettes. The coup de theatre, however, was the open-topped bus which followed behind them, crammed full of even more musicians and people with balloons and Yorkshire flags. Loads of well-wishers turned out to wave from the sides of the road and all had made a real effort to dress colourfully, bringing all manner of stuff with them including dogs, drums, surf boards and handmade Yorkshire flags. The shots looked magical. I felt ridiculously proud to hear my music playing so loud on a bank of speakers along the road and humbled that people had bothered, not just to tip up, but to learn their parts and play with so much gusto.

Later on we headed to the village of Millhouse Green, to film our male voice choir in their local pub. Yet again I found myself overwhelmed by the experience. At one point I started playing through movement four to try and get a level for sound and spontaneously the choir joined in, singing with an energy and commitment which blew me sideways. It is a real thrill for a composer to hear his music sung like that.

The final shot happened in Viaduct, a gay bar in Leeds. I suppose it felt all the more special because the location represents one of my part of this enormous and diverse community of Yorkshire. At one point I started to wonder how many of the 150 musicians who played in the symphony are gay. It’s easy enough to count the ethnic minorities or the women or to make calculations about peoples’ ages, but I suppose ours is one of the more invisible communities. It brings to mind the age old joke, “which is better? Being black or being gay? Being black because at least you don’t have to tell your parents...”

Our final shot was fronted by the wonderful Em Brulee, who snaked her way up a flight of stairs looking mysterious and glamorous in a 1950s sort of way. Em describes herself as a gay man in a woman’s body, so the location seemed perfect.

July 11th 1660 was a busy day for Pepys, during which he cheekily asserted his right to the house he wanted in the Navy Office complex. He’d been spurred on to take somewhat drastic action when he saw “a busy” fellow arrive to take possession of a house on behalf of Lord Berkeley, one of the new commissioners. There were only four more residences, so in a panic, Pepys rushed home, grabbed a pair of sheets, and knocked on the door of the house he fancied, only to find it occupied by one of the old guard who' lost their positions and were supposedly moving out. Pepys explained to the gentleman that he had come to live in his house and promptly spent the night there! I suppose, even back then, possession was 9/10ths of the law, and Pepys was desperate for the house no matter what.

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