Sunday, 22 March 2015

You'll always have a friend

I'm currently walking across the Isle of Dogs, with a straw boater in one hand, a computer bag hanging from my shoulder and an incredibly heavy 'cello strapped to my back, slightly wishing that I had a shorter journey home, for the sake of my back if nothing else!

It's been a long old day, which started with a gentle morning's work in Highgate and continued with a journey to Limehouse, where I had lunch in a greasy spoon before heading to DIN, Julian's recording studio at the end of Cable Street. I love DIN, probably more than any other recording studio that I've worked in. I love walking through the corridors of the complex it's in. I love the smells of plaster, damp and dope. More than anything, I love the fact that it's the site of so many musical adventures. It's where we recorded Blast, and Hampstead Heath: The Musical, and Coventry Market, Watford Gap, A1: The Road Musical, Metro: The Musical, and, more recently Our Gay Wedding. There are little pieces of me everywhere. Sometimes I'll happen upon a piece of sheet music from a previous session. One of the mugs by the sink used to belong to me. There's a bottle of vinegar I bought about six years ago on the shelf above the microwave. I have sweated more in that studio than any other place but the gym. It's been the site of crazy adrenaline rushes, mega low sugar hypos, tears, rows and much laughter.  This is where Julian and I were almost sent mad painstakingly inputting 2000 individual bell strikes into Oranges and Lemons, and where we over-ran by six hours during sessions for the first recording of the Pepys Motet. It's also where I found out that my friend Kevin had committed suicide, so it's been the site of a veritable revolving door of mini dramas. Someone once told me that Julian and I were like an old married couple. He's certainly been more than patient with me in the past.

Anyway, today, DIN was the setting for the last studio session on Brass. We timed out at the Pool on this particular track, and considering it's one of the best, if not THE best song in the show, not recording it was definitely not an option.

Five lads from the cast came to record it. Josef, Nate, Tom, Jake and Jack. Nathan kindly stepped in to do some ensemble vocals so that there were two singers on each part. It's also nice to have his dulcet tones in the mix on one of the songs; makes it all a little more personal, somehow.

We were joined in the studio by Nate's Mum, who made delicious chocolate chip cookies, and my Mum and Dad, who arrived carrying a straw boater for Nathan to wear whilst performing The Man in the Straw Hat tomorrow. Hence why I'm schlepping my way across London carrying, amongst everything else, a bashed-up straw hat!

Of course, nothing ever goes hugely smoothly in the course of a Benjamin Till session, and today's issue was a broken mass storage device (cue PK riding to our rescue through the virtual waves like a the most brilliantly-equipped sonic life boat man in the world.)

Anyway, disasters aside, the cast sang brilliantly and it felt like such a great number to finish things off with. The NYMT kids are such a brilliant bunch of young people. My Mum was hugely impressed by their conduct and talent. I've said it before, but anyone worrying that the future is not safe with the young people of today could do a lot worse than hanging out with the original cast of Brass. Conscientious, sparky, witty, intelligent... Bravo.

After the session I hung around in the studio and Julian very kindly recorded me singing a setting of a Shakespeare song I'm entering into a competition which, I suspect, will already have been won by someone else. I am rather suspicious of competitions ever since this year's Eurovision debacle. I added a bit of 'cello to the recording, for a touch of soul. I miss playing the 'cello and must do more of it. It struck me today how happy it makes me feel.

I hot-footed it to the DLR and travelled further East where I hooked up with the parents, Brother Edward and Sascha for a delicious and enormously filling meal at a restaurant in Canary Wharf, which Edward incredibly kindly paid for.  I'm not actually sure that any of us explicitly thanked him, which is unacceptable, so Ted, if you're reading this, many thanks. You're a Mensch.

I popped back to Ted and Sascha's to watch the last remaining Eurovision songs to be announced, which include Russia's effort, which is one one those sickening "hands across the world" peace and love songs, which, from Russia, just makes me want to throw up. The video is a saccharine affair with children and old people and married heterosexual couples kissing each other. Obviously no gays were featured in this message of hope because that would be illegal. I seem to remember that one of the lyrics is "we are all the same." Yeah right. Except the gays. And the Ukranians. Bleuggghh.

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