Monday, 1 November 2010


So, this is a guest entry again.  My second of the year.  I should first explain why I'm standing in for Benjamin today.
He is somewhere on the M11, I suspect, driving back home from Cambridge with studio producer, Julian, after another exhausting day recording the Motet.
He started the day in Limehouse, the usual home of the recording sessions, indeed the home of most recording sessions of Benjamin's music over the past five or six years.
I was there myself, only yesterday, with the rest of the musical theatre choir, laying down our sections of the piece.  I had high hopes for us.  Having sat through many of the other sessions over the past few days, and seen how many people have seemed to think that they can just wing it when they get to the mic, then watching them fall apart, as they realise that that is just not feasible (not by any means everyone, but enough to send Benjamin to the brink of a nervous breakdown as hour by hour, time trickles past), and having myself done a lot of homework, and knowing the standard of the singers we had in our group, I thought it would be a breeze.  Sadly, it was not to be, and we worked for a full extra hour after we were due to have finished, and I'm ashamed to say that some bits were still rather scrappy.  I was, however, rather pleased, when I recorded one of my solo lines, and nailed it in one take.  Benjamin made me do another, just because he wasn't happy with the concept of someone managing to get it right first time, but even he had to admit that I had!  I felt proud.

Back to today, and he started out with the Navy boys.  I only have sketchy details as to how it went, so I'll leave him to tell you about it. He was also joined at the studio by close friend Fiona, who mercifully was able to step in to record the most important lines that poor Nic has been unable to do.  Apparently, she is still desperately ill, and pretty much bed-bound.  Get well soon, Nic!

After this, he and Julian headed off in the car to Cambridge in order to work for a second session with the Magdalene College Choir, who had had such a trouble time last week.  The last I heard, they were back in the car on their way home, but Benjamin assured me that there was no way he was going to make it back in time to write and post this blog, and so would I do it?  So here I am.

It's been a bit of a weekend for me.  Not only did I spend all of Sunday in the studio, Saturday for me was an epic jaunt up to Manchester, to do a surprise singing gig at a wedding.  Now, I wouldn't normally desribe a little hop to Manchester as an epic jaunt, but on Saturday, that's exactly what it turned out to be.  I was driving the three of us who were going to be singing up the M1, and we got snarled in a horrendous tailback.  While waiting to move on, several fire engines screamed past us on the hard shoulder, so it was clear that something pretty awful had happened up ahead.  When we got to the accident site, some 40 minutes later, the car involved was actually on its roof! I sent a silent prayer that everyone had got out safely, and we carried on our way.

Imagine my horror, then, when halfway up the M6, we found ourselves once again, stationary.  I couldn't believe it.  Another accident, another double lane closure, and this time it took us 45 minutes to travel precisely three miles.  That's an average speed of 4mph!  By this time there was no way we were going to get to Manchester in time to do a sound check, but luckily, we had the CD of backing tracks in the car with us, so were able to have a good sing song, and get our voices ready.

It got worse: when we eventually found the hotel, in Central Manchester, we were told that there was no car park, and that we'd have to go to an NCP job some way away.  We were just getting later and later.

As suspected, there was no time to do any kind os soundcheck, as by the time we arrived, the wedding guests were already milling around, and the element of surprise would have been totally ruined if they has seen or heard us rehearsing.  We were going to have to fly by the seats of our pants, and hope for the best.

As it turned out, they were a fantastic bunch of people to sing for, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the gig. We got a massive standing ovation at the end of Nessun Dorma, which always brings the house down, but this was something else!  I absolutely love singing at weddings.  There is always so much good feeling in the room, and people genuinely want to have a good time.  These kinds of people are easy to entertain.

The trials of the day were nowhere near over though, as on the way home, a short section of the M56 had been closed for resurfacing, and we found ourselves on the most ridiculous diversion you can possibly imagine!

Now, I know road works are inconvenient at the best of times, but sometimes, the people who plan these things need shooting!  Not only did the diversion take us miles back the way we had already come, towards Manchester, but we were taken so far from where we had started that I was scared we had gone wrong somewhere along the way.  Nope! Every few miles, there would be a yellow sign by the side of the road, with a black arrow, and the word "Diversion" on it, assuring us that we were indeed going the way these planners intended us to.  But I thought, "Hang on, this is the M62 to Leeds.  This can't be right."

Suddenly, halfway along the M62, just at the point where I was sure I had missed a turn of some way back, there was one final sign, telling us, "Diversion Ends."  Pardon my ignorance, and call me old fashioned, but surely, the point of a diversion is to take you around whatever obstruction has spawned the diversion in the first place, and deliver you safely back on your original route?  This had done nothing of the sort.  It was as if the planners had said to themselves, "Oh, let's just get them as far from Manchester as we can, then they wont be our problem any more!"  Ridiculous.

So we continued all the way to Leeds, and came home down the M1.  All in all, I was driving for about 9 hours on Saturday.  Utter madness. I'd complain, but 1) who to? and 2) who'd care?

On this day 350 years ago, Samuel also did a lot of travelling.  He and William Pen rode out early to William Batten's house, and were shown "many great rarities," including a chair, known as "king Harry's Chair," that when you sat on it, you could be constrained in it with irons.  Some sort of torture chair I assume, but one that apparently, "makes good sport!"

They were joined over dinner by Samuel's old school chum, Mr Christmas.  Sam was a bit concerned that he would remember some anti-royal statement that Sam himself had made as a boy, but apparently all was well, and Mr Christmas had left the school before the offending remark had been made.  Phew!  It's telling that he would be worried so long after the event, particularly in the light of his current status.  No one, it seemed was above punishment for such things, and it must have made for a very uneasy life indeed, constantly afraid that your past slights might come back to haunt you in very real ways.

They rode home in the moonlight, "it being about 9 o'clock before we got home."

Thanks for reading.  I hope I've kept the blog in good hands in Benjamin's absence.  More from him tomorrow, and perhaps, more form me another time.