Monday, 23 March 2015

The Man in the Straw Hat

Tonight the Fleet Singers performed The Man in the Straw Hat at St Anne's Church on the bottom of Highgate West Hill. The concert was absolutely fabulous; more fabulous than I'd imagined it could be in my wildest dreams. The choir completely raised their game, everyone focused like crazy, and some beautiful music floated into the roof of the church, which was full to the absolute rafters.

We arrived at St Anne's to find Little Welsh Nathalie and Richard covering the walls with stunning pieces of art based on words and images from the libretto of the piece. It was so exciting to think that other people had been as inspired by the project as me, and amusing to think of Nathalie making all this art based on my composition in the flat below ours!

We rehearsed the strings in the afternoon. All but one were players I've worked with on many occasions in the past, and they were universally brilliant and very forgiving when the rehearsal slightly over ran.

The audience was full of friendly faces. My Mum, Dad, Brother, Brother-in-law, Mother-in-law, Sister-in-Law, plus Jem, Tina, Meriel and Meriel's Mum, who had come all the way up from Lewes especially to see the performance, which was just lovely. I also finally got to meet a very lovely gentleman who has followed my work for the last few years, and made trips to Leeds to see Brass as well as seeing all of my London shows. He's never said hello before, so I very much enjoyed meeting him.

Hilary, Abbie and David from the Rebel Chorus gave the choir a bit of extra oomph, and, in the absence of anyone else, I sang tenor, which is not exactly something I'm cut out to do. Singing tenor is hugely tiring if you're a bass! My voice held out, surprisingly, all the way through the rehearsals and right the way to the last note, which I literally couldn't get out!

At the end of the piece I was accosted by the smiley and highly charming people who live in 31, West Hill, which is the house in which Betjeman spent the majority of his formative years. One of the poems I set to music references 31, West Hill several times. In fact, it's pretty much the first and last words sung in the entire piece, so it was genuinely lovely to have them in the audience.

I spoke to the audience at the end if the show and encouraged them to donate to the Fleet Singers, pointing out that there are very few choirs who actually commission new music and how grateful composers like me are to people like them. They're always so chanting and fun to be with. I've had a ball working with them.

We caught last orders at the Bull and Last before heading back to Nathalie and Richard's flat where I had a vodka and coke and we listened to Rumours on a proper record player. I'd forgotten what a fine album that is. It's got an almost mystical quality. Or maybe that's the alcohol speaking!

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