Friday, 23 January 2015

Barnstormer

The walk up to Hove Station from Fiona's flat was wonderful this morning. Crisp, wintry sunlight made the stucco-fronted buildings glow a mysterious shade of yellow and the sea resembled a Monet painting, all pastel shades with chalky accents.

Today has been exhausting. We focussed on two songs; Barnbow Lassies, and the show's title song, Brass, which is a curiously fragile piece, which needed a great deal more sonic help than I'd initially expected. Brass had the slowest incubation period of any of the songs from the musical. So many of the others came ready formed in my mind, but Brass required an almost painstaking amount of care and attention. It was like creating a statuette out of soap stone; a little nip here, a tuck there. I'd put it away, return to it a week later and thin out an orchestration or make a chord more subtle or impressionist. We were still tinkering with it on the last day of rehearsals. I think all of this has made it less robust than the other numbers. Bad intonation really shows up and there were some painful moments when we listened back to some of the orchestral takes. I continue to insist on hearing the music we've recorded without any reverb or equalising. That just masks the problems which need to be solved

Barnbow Lassies, by comparison, is a mega-barnstormer, which was clearly a great favourite with the performers. It flies off the page and was already sounding fabulous by the time I left this evening.

I treated PK to a fry-up for lunch, and we went to a greasy spoon run by a dour-faced Scottish man in sub-zero temperatures. We sat and ate with our costs buttoned up. The food was delicious, but he did nothing to turn the Scottish surly, austerity-loving stereotype on its head.

By contrast, as I walked through St Pancras International station on my way home, I was confronted by two stereotype-busting young black men who were playing classical music on two of the pianos they leave around the station for passers by to tinkle on. I've always approved of those pianos - particularly when they're being played well, and not thumped at by some small child whose mother has run out of ways to otherwise entertain him. They used to be all over London, many were outside in squares, and, in some instances, on the street. I think they're a genuine way of bringing music to the masses. They cheer me up every time I pass one.

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