Sunday, 30 September 2012


Wow! It's about 2am, I'm a bit pissed and I've just eaten a lovely beigel from my favourite cake shop on Brick Lane. 

This evening was a proper triumph and I had an extraordinary time. I don't really know where to start. We were blessed by the weather. Truly blessed. The one day of unbroken sunshine we've had all week and a full moon which shone like an enormous spotlight in the sky. 

Everyone did their bit. Rob did the lighting, John did sound, Penny's John built scaffolding rigs. We had a satellite truck, 4 cameramen, a mini bar...

My task today, apart from delivering a speech at the start of proceedings, was to vision mix the cameras. I'd never done it before and the rehearsal was a disaster with no sound and at one point all the cameras working from the wrong shot lists. Thank God for our mentor, Jonathan Haswell, who kept geeing me up and telling me everything would work out.

When it came to the show itself, I was able to really immerse myself in the task and was pretty proud of myself for managing to vision mix an entire classical music concert with no training whatsoever! Sure, I made a few mistakes along the way, but not so many that you'd think the vision mixing was being done by someone who was about to be awarded a Jim'll Fix it badge! 

The choir were remarkable. They looked stunning and performed with great emotion. Conductor Sam was awesome; "visual gold," said Jonathan, "if in doubt cut to Sam." Apparently someone watched the broadcast in New Zealand. Someone else in Texas. People in Scotland and Yorkshire...

The audience was filled with friends and family members. Brother Tim and John came down from Manchester as a surprise. I was so so touched. Cousins Matt, Boo and Bridgit were there. My parents. My outlaws. Brother Edward and Sascha. A very pregnant Philippa. Fiona. Cindy. Nicky and Jo. Members of the Fleet Singers. Singers from Oranges and Lemons. PK. Janie and Nathan's lot. Mez. Lisa and Mark, whose son the work is dedicated to. I felt so lucky. 

I think I may remember the event as a series of perfect vignettes. Nigel's face singing his solo in the Gradual. The sunset as the audience arrived. Cindy's vintage dress in the front row of the audience. Jonathan throwing his arms around me at the end of the broadcast and saying "seriously well done." The perfection of the Agnus Dei. The church in the middle of the cemetery lit up against an electric blue sky.  Ian singing the Pie Jesu. The sight of Tina being swamped by people trying to buy CDs afterwards. Yasi's family arriving. The avenue of balloons with luggage labels attached in memory of the friends and family of audience members. Watching a girl releasing her balloon at the end of the night and shining a torch on it as it disappeared into the night sky. "Who was the luggage label dedicated to?" I asked her. "My first husband," she said. "He died in a plane crash." 

The choir gave me the most wonderful present; a plaque, like a tiny gravestone, engraved to say,"The London Requiem 29.09.12." I felt proud, loved and radiantly happy. 

The most special moment of all came as I walked with Nathan's sister, Sam to the main gate at Abney Park cemetery. As we walked through the avenue of helium balloons, I stopped and unhooked one at random from its mooring. Nathan had done the same when he arrived at the gate a few minutes later. He read the luggage label on his ,"Bob Birchnall." He released the balloon, repeating Bob's name. We both wondered who Bob was. 

I looked down at the luggage label on my balloon for the first time, and my heart skipped a beat; "for Betty Brice and Frances Bland - you are gone yet you are often still here x x" Fiona's grandmothers. Big Nana and Little Nana. I'd known them both and spent many a happy hour in their company in my teenage years. And here they were, on a luggage label, on a balloon I'd selected at random from a row of hundreds of balloons. It's these kinds of stories which have made the London Requiem a remarkable experience, and I can think of no better end to the journey. 

I've just retired to the bedroom to have a little cry. Tears of nostalgia. Tears of happiness. Tears of great relief. We did it. We really did it. 

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