Monday, 11 October 2010

Crying out for Desdemona

It is horrible to have to start a week feeling angry and stressed, but unfortunately the first email I read this morning was from a singer who’d told me more than six weeks ago that he was hugely interested in performing the Pepys Motet and just needed a little time to sort things in his diary. In the meantime I sent him 3 emails asking him to confirm this interest... but heard nothing. Eventually Nathan tracked him down on Facebook and told him it might be polite at least to let me know. The response arrived this morning: “I'd been biding my time because I wasn't sure if I would actually be able to do it. I realised after I first contacted you that the week of the concert is the week of Thanksgiving back in America AND my 10-year High School reunion... Best of luck with it though!”

It's kind of fair enough, but it took him six weeks to come up with the excuse! For future reference and if there are any performers or wannabe performers reading this; no one minds if you can’t do something, particularly if it’s unpaid, but if you're at all unsure, as the kids from Grange Hill once said; “just say no.” Preferably as soon as you can, because whilst you’re making up your mind, some director, producer or composer is going slowly mad!

It won’t surprise anyone to discover that the performer in question is a gospel singer and that once again I find myself back to the grindstone and running out of time at an alarming rate.

I’m sitting in a cafe in Greenwich, where I’m about to meet a potential female gospel singer. I suspect from her name that she is white; a concept I struggle with, but I suppose there’s no reason, other than gross stereotyping, that I should feel black people have the monopoly on gospel singing. The girl in question performs in a gospel choir and does “worship singing” at her church, which I assume is the WASP equivalent of gospel, so she’s probably as legitimate as any black person. She also studies at Trinity College in Greenwich, which is part of the Navy College there, and I suppose any link to the Navy – particularly in that part of the world – is worth a few Pepysian brownie points!

It's another beautiful day in London. Greenwhich looks stunning. I guess the world's not such a terrible place...
The11th October 1660, and Pepys spent the day in Westminster, by all accounts drinking and eating in pubs. He had a cow's udder for lunch, which sounds almost too hideous for words. For some reason I'm stuck with the mental picture of him eating a pair of washing up gloves!

In the afternoon he went to St James’ Park “where we observed the several engines at work to draw up water, with which sight I was very much pleased.” He particularly liked the engine which his great friend Ralph Greatorex had patented, which by his description would appear to have been based on the Archimedean Screw. I love the thought of all these early mechanical creations lined up in the park pumping water. It’s at times like that that I wonder what Pepys would have made of life in 21st Century London; the cars streaming past, the coffee machines, music on the radio, even bicycles and tea bags...

In the evening, Pepys went to the theatre to see The Merchant of Venice and seemed pleased enough with the performances, particularly that of the actor Nicholas Burt, who had last been seen in theatres before the Civil War as a child actor playing women’s roles! There was an incident when a “very pretty” woman sitting near Pepys in the theatre cried out in panic when Desdemona was smothered. I suppose many people in this era had never been to the theatre before and would find the whole experience highly believable and therefore deeply traumatic.

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