Friday, 22 June 2012

End of week two of rehearsals

Hello after a long break!

Well, by some miracle I actually finished the opera, even though it involved quite a few 19 hour days, including one particularly horrible one where I realised that rehearsal marks didn't match up between the vocal and full scores. But it all worked out well in the end and seeing the published scores helped to convince me that it was actually done! Finishing something this big was quite a bizarre feeling and I felt without purpose for quite a few days. I always get that feeling but this time it was particularly pronounced!

Anyway, so almost immediately the rehearsals started (the singers had had their scores for a few months as I wrote the community participation sections and did the orchestration last.

To be honest, when I finished the score, the last thing I wanted to think or hear about was Amy Johnson! But my enthusiasm has been totally revitalised by being in rehearsals. It's SO amazing to see people bring what was in my (and Adam's) head to life. More on this later. Also amazing to see all the things other than the words and music - as I type this I'm watching the lighting being plotted, and over the last week, when I've been practicing (I have to play the piano for the Friday performances) I've seen the set taking shape (designed by Hannah Sibai).

The instrumentalists are great, and everything is taking shape really quickly, in no small part down to Jonny Lo, the fabulous conductor working on this project. It's a wonderful feeling as a composer to feel that you don't really have to say anything in rehearsal because the conductor understands exactly what you are aiming at, and this is definitely the case with Jonny. I've learnt to be pessimistic at the beginning of orchestral rehearsals - no matter how good the musicians are (and they are very good!) the music always sounds a little muddy in the beginning stages - but then as the musicians get to know each other, and the music, and 'get' the music, as it were, then it's like a camera lens gradually focusing. You hear all the little details that were clear in your head, and that's when for me it gets really exciting!

And of course there are the wonderful singers: Natalie Raybould, David Pisaro and Rebecca Lea. They are truly inhabiting the characters now in ways that I could not of imagined. Natalie just becomes Amy on stage and all are utterly utterly convincing.

More later about other things....just the guilt of not posting for a while finally got to me!

Finally, this is a picture of me helping to transport percussion earlier today...good to do something practical after using up all my brain cells on the music!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

200 down, 200 to go...

So, I'm half way through annotating the score (putting in dynamics, articulations, bowings for the strings, slurs for the winds). Should be done by Friday. I really hope so!

Monday, 28 May 2012

Finished (kind of)

I put the last note in the opera this morning.

When I can bear to look at this computer screen again, perhaps tomorrow, I shall blog about it :)

I still have to put all the dynamics in the computer score, and there is still a lot of work to do, but, well, since the last post was entitled "Panic" I thought I should do this short update.

But first there is sun to be soaked up and perhaps a glass of wine to be drunk.

Monday, 14 May 2012


I am increasingly being overwhelmed by panic that I'm not going to be able to finish this opera. It's 381 pages and counting, and I've still got 8 minutes of music to write. It will get done, but as the deadline approaches there is still such a ridiculous amount of work to do. I think I'm also quite scared of finishing it: living with something this big for 7 months makes you intensely protective of your work and the thought of anybody not thinking 100% of it is utterly brilliant is quite hard to contemplate. That sounds very pretentious. I guess the thing is to just carry on...

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Back to feverish creativity today. Having immense fun with off beats, in the attempt to write some rather techno-y music for the entrance of a group of people listening to their iPhones. All is well...I think I may have just needed a break....

Utter uselessness

Hmm, well I knew it wouldn’t last....
The last two days have been utterly useless, and I’m hoping that by writing this blog post I’ll put some kind of line under it and just get on with things. For some reason I was kind of overtaken by a blind panic about finishing this opera, and so, logically I just decided to sleep for most of the day yesterday, and so far today have had to virtually force myself to sit at the piano, but I’ve not really lasted longer than 10 minutes at a time. It’s quite pathetic really. I’ve been unable to print in the last week because of my printer drum needing to be replaced, and me taking ages to order it (because of being inspired and not getting round to doing anything practical). I think psychologically, it’s going to be good to print out the whole score and see how much I’ve done, and how little there is left to do. Such a simple thing, rather stupid really, but I think it might get me going again. So I’m waiting eagerly for the postman to deliver it, hopefully today or tomorrow....
Anyway. Off to play a salsa gig tonight. Perhaps a complete change of musical scene will do me good and get me back on the right track. You always feels so pathetic though, when you waste a few days for no good reason at all, which only results in me having less time to finish something which still has a lot of work to be done on it. Ridiculous. 
Anyway, back to it...!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

On being tormented by folk tunes.

In the last few days I’ve been suffering from inadvertent-blurting-out-folk-song syndrome. They are just so stuck in my head I’m wondering if they’ll ever leave me. It was when I realised I’d been singing along with the beat of the car indicator that I realised it had got serious. 

This is largely due to the fact that in the last few days I’ve spent most of my days with the folk tunes that sword dancers dance to. In the opera there are three one minute sword dance sections (you can find more about sword dancing here, and see some here). 
I love this kind of work...I wanted to create interesting and quirky arrangements of the melodies, whilst still having them retain their character. I’ve managed to do sorts of things - layer three folk tunes on top of each other, one of which works at a canon of a crochet etc, and then, amazingly, the main folk tune that I’m using fits really well over a chorus that I wrote months ago (before I’d listened to the folk tune). I guess my interpretation of ‘fitting’ is slightly more relaxed than a lot of peoples, but I’m generally quite thrilled.
I think today I shall orchestrate this section...