Sunday, 7 November 2010

Introducing... The Pepys Motet

I'm sitting in the kitchen of Helen's stunning house in Cambridge. I'm trying to make myself a cup of tea but can't work out if the thing I'm filling with water is a kettle or a fancy water filtering machine. I'm being watched by two delightful fluffy kittens, one of whom I'm going to put in my pocket when I leave.

Helen has done her house beautifully. Every room looks perfect. She's obviously incredibly proud of it, and I'm not at all surprised. It's in a stunning part of town and it's a really good house. I'm envious!

We came third in the quiz last night. The last round was a wipeout round, which meant if you submitted a wrong answer to any of the questions, you'd score zero. You could, however, opt not to put an answer at all, but for every question you got right, you'd get double points. Having ascertained that we weren't in the lead, we decided to go for the high risk strategy... And were wiped out! Which singer became the first American artist to be invited to sing a James Bond song? We put Louis Armstrong. The answer was Nancy Sinatra.

Had we played it safe, we'd have won the whole thing! There's a lesson in there somewhere...

From about 4pm, when Helen and I arrived in Thaxted, we did nothing but eat. Beautiful soup by the fireside in my parents' house, crisps and nibbles at the quiz, an almost inedible vegetarian chile in the interval and my own weight in chocolate which seemed to just fall into my mouth. I woke up with stomach gripes. Another valuable lesson learnt!

These few days away have done me a great deal of good. A bit of space away from the motet has made me realise quite how far towards madness, and let's face it, absolute dullness, I've been heading over the last couple if weeks. I'd be hugely surprised if anyone was still reading these dark, aggressive, self-indulgent entries.

All that changes today. The old Benjamin has returned.

Melt down aside, and with a couple of lie-ins under my belt, I'm finally in a place where I can acknowledge that we have already achieved the impossible with this work, and have it in us to rock the live performance. As evidence of this, and as an exclusive for all the readers of this blog who have journeyed with me over the past 300 days, I offer you Movement Four of The Pepys Motet: The Great Fire of London. Listen to it on headphones for the best sonic experience, but beware... It's hugely dynamic and gets very loud towards the middle! I'd love to know your thoughts, and look forward to hearing them...

Here it is

November 7th, 1660, and Pepys was summonsed by Sandwich, who seemed to want to crow (all be in in secrecy) about the fact that the King had offered him the whopping sum of £4000 a year for the rest of his life. I can't remember the rule of thumb for converting 17th Century money into today's figures, but frankly, if someone offered ME 4k a year for the rest of my life, I'd be pretty chuffed, so I'm sure Sandwich was thrilled! So thrilled, in fact, that the William Lawe song book and several violins were called for, and an afternoon was spent making sweet music. Joy!


  1. Really glad you are feeling better! Can't wait to hear the motet. Merielx

  2. You have GOT to be pleased with that!! It sounds fantastic :-)

  3. Wow... that's really impressive. Looking forward to hearing the piece in its entirety!

  4. Wow! Your hard work has paid off.
    I listened to your sample in bed last night and in my car on the way to work. It really brightened up my morning. The singers sounded wonderful and the story came to life and was told in such a short time(loved the bit about the pigeons and burying the wine).
    I wish I could be in London for the live performance but will have to wait until it's relased by some other means. You are going to release it aren't you?

  5. Amazing stuff, Benjamin. So moving to hear Pepys's words in this way and so dramatic, I could almost feel the flames...

  6. You have done magic. I lived in Berkeley California years ago when a wild fire started in the hills above the city. It burnt for days and consumed entire neighborhoods including several places I had lived. The Movement brought back a rather distressing shudder of memory of that time. You have captured the experience as if you were there yourself and translated it, and this is the magic part, into music.
    When will it be performed? Have I missed it?

  7. You haven't missed it. It will be performed at St Olave's Church on November 25th - but it's invitation only, so if you do want to come - and this applies to anyone else reading this blog - email Tamara at and see if you can wing one!

  8. Ben

    Just listened, marvellous piece of work, beautiful, frightening and moving. Wish I could be in London for the performance rather than in Hull. Hope to see you soon. All the best to you and Nathan. Mick and the Circus Envy lads.

  9. fabulously powerful piece again. Well done. can't wait to hear the whole thing.