Sunday, 10 June 2012


I can’t write much today. It's late, and I should be in bed. The rain is pattering on the roof, my feet are wet, I smell like an old man, but I’m ecstatically happy. The Rebel Chorus, the choir who will be singing The London Requiem are, in a single phrase, shit hot. We had our first rehearsal this afternoon, and there was a moment that I actually cried! Yeah, yeah – I know, I cry all the time, but not usually in a first rehearsal. First rehearsals are normally way too stressful to be moving. The girls in the choir were singing the big melody in the Gradual and Tract, in glorious four-part harmony, and I was feeling proud and excited and moved – and then hot-eyed. I genuinely think there’s perfection to be had in that there group, and I can’t wait to see where the journey takes us.

We’ve already started to bond very well as a group. Many of the performers know at least one other person there, which always helps. Some are partners, some live together, some studied together, some are best friends, some are new friends. There was lots of laughter, and Sam, the conductor, was epically brilliant. I just put my feet up, really, and plonked a few duff notes on the piano from time to time – occasionally chipping in with the odd anecdote about where I'd found various graves.

We did our photo shoot for the album art-work with my favourite photographer, Gabrielle Motola. Everyone looked superb, having come equipped with a little token to hold that reminded them of a loved one who’d died. Some of the stories that emerged were both heart-warming and deeply upsetting. I felt proud that everyone felt they could share.
Gaby and the choir girls...

In the morning we filmed sequences at Abney Park cemetery, and the sun shone constantly. Rebecca from the choir was doing pieces to camera, presenting a little package about the fifth movement of the work, her glorious corn-coloured hair glowing in the sunlight. We were lucky enough to be able to film some sequences within the ruined chapel in the middle of the park, which is deeply atmospheric.

Yesterday I did two things for the first time in at least ten years:

1)      I sharpened pencils with a proper pencil sharpener. I don’t use pencils any more – and when I do, I usually sharpen them with a knife – or my teeth!

2)      I used a tape machine! First I couldn’t get the tape inside the player (I felt like an old lady trying to use a mouse) and then I couldn’t work out why nothing was playing. I’d forgotten that tapes have two sides.

How quickly technology becomes redundant.

350 years ago, Pepys went shopping for books. He decided to buy a book called The King’s Works, a sort of spiritual autobiography purported to have been written by Charles I shortly before he was beheaded, but changed his mind, resolving to save the money instead.

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