Monday, 15 August 2011

Across the water

It’s been a long old day and we’ve been in a recording studio for much of it. Heaven knows how Fiona must be feeling, who was in Liege this morning and came to the studio directly from the Eurostar.

We were recording our pitch for a TV comedy series. Heaven knows if we’ll be successful. I assume some of the other writers who are pitching for the same job will have a great deal more experience when it comes to this kind of composing, and home studios designed to better bring it to life at this stage. What telly people like is a nice safe pair of hands, and though I consider mine to be the safest around, I reckon I might be perceived as more of a musicals man. Still, I’ve had a lot of fun in the process, and today, particularly, was an absolute blast.

At lunchtime, four female singers were clustered around a microphone pretending to be a choir of children, which has to be one of the most hysterical things I’ve ever witnessed. I’m not actually sure whether anyone listening would realise that it wasn’t children singing. They were utterly convincing and afterwards, not a single one of them could pick out their own voice within the kosher sound.

The laughter in the studio reached fever pitch with Fiona’s recorder solo... Yes, I scored the work to include a recorder. Why on earth wouldn’t I? It’s set in a school! Anyway, the only recorder I could find came from my parents’ house in Thaxted and seemed to have been partially eaten by a small child... so much, in fact, that Fiona was forced to disinfect it before she dared blow into it. “There’s bacteria on this from the 1970s!” she yelled...

Suffice to say, that, over time, the recorder had lost a little bit of its ability to play in tune, and after one take, which was almost a semi-tone sharp, Fiona uttered the immortal question “should I pull it out a bit?” There are very few people who would find this funny. It's not the sexual innuendo that we were lauging at. In fact, I suspect the only person reading this who will now be smiling is our old friend, Sam. It was the line we’d always hear in youth orchestras coming from the wind section. They’d play a solo - out of tune – and then someone, usually the conductor, would say; “try pulling it out a bit...” referring to the mouthpiece of the instrument, which is how most wind instruments are tuned. Anyway, in the context of a moth-eaten recorder, the line seemed hysterically funny, and Fiona and I howled uncontrollably with laughter, to the extent that the session came to a crashing halt.

Aside from my friends Ellie and Michelle, we were also lucky enough to be joined by Leanne Jones, who was the original Tracy Turnblatt in the West End production of Hair Spray. Nathan sent out a round-robin text to some of his friends and colleagues this morning when it looked like our choir of children might consist of me and my imaginary friend Ruth the Mong. Anyway, we were delighted when Leanne turned up. She's an Olivier Award winnning actress and she was particularly good at accessing her inner child!

We came home this evening, and I cooked for everyone.Whilst eating we watched a documentary about the Placebo World Tour, which, of course, is what Fiona has been doing for most of the past two years. It's a very beautiful film, and it was incredible to see Fiona playing in front of thousands of people in pretty much every country in the world!

After dinner I played her my Requiem... or what exists of my Requiem so far, and she made some very good comments, including the observation that my movement about Jacqueline du Pre doesn’t feel like part of the overall work. And she’s right. Of course it doesn’t mean that the piece doesn’t work in its own world, but not in the world of my Requiem, which I'm increasingly viewing as a sort of ocean, filled with tiny drowning people who are waving – desperate – but not expecting to be heard. It was quite astonishing, therefore, when I discovered that the last line of the entire piece – purely by chance – has turned out to be the text that I found on the gravestone of a former navy man; “you weathered the storm, reached harbour safely, horizon is peaceful. Ahoy!” And frankly, I can think of no better, or more uplifting message to leave an audience with at the end of what is bound to be a very upsetting experience.

And speaking of great navy men, young master Pepys (for let us not forget that he was just 27 at this stage of the diary) spend the day at the Privy Seal office in Whitehall doing, well, stuff. He lunched with Lady Sandwich, and was able to bring with him the good news that her husband, somewhere off the coast of Spain, had not yet died, and in fact, rumour had it that he'd fully recovered from whatever had been wrong with him. Seemingly trapped wind! Lady Sandwich was unconvinced. In those days rumours were often wrong. For all she knew, he was already dead... The definite good news, however, was that young master Sandwich, who had been close to death the day before, was now showing signs of recovery. The worst was over.

After lunch, Pepys went to The Opera, that swanky new theatre at Lincoln’s Inn, which was showing a new play, The Witts, by Sir William Davenant. The King and Duke of York were there. It had rapidly become the place to be seen, and by all accounts, The Witts was a thoroughly decent play, so no one was complaining.

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