Starting the Score – Flood, Part 3: ‘To The Sea’

Set from Flood Part 2 (Malcolm Johnson Photography)

I’ve started the score for the next instalment of Slung Low‘s Flood this week. ‘To The Sea’ is part 3 of the year-long project for Hull City of Culture.

Flood: To The Sea will be broadcast on BBC2 on Saturday, 12th August at 9pm. It’s live theatre, and the action takes place on and in the water of Victoria Dock, with several floating sets, pyrotechnics, and a beautiful, brutal script by James Phillips.

The story follows some of the characters who survived from part 2, Abundance, a show that played to audiences in April. In that show, we told the tale of the end of the world. Next, in Part 3, To The Sea, tells the story of what happens after.

Alan (director), Matt (sound designer and engineer) and I met on Monday at the Twisted Burger Diner in Sheffield to talk about the details in the score’s tone, purpose and scale; the schedule and technical/technological stuff. We discussed strategy for meeting the challenges of a piece of theatre to be broadcast on television. We also ate copious amounts of fried and baked vegan brunch goods***.

Now* I’m sat in the studio looking at that Monday meeting scrawl on the script, reminding myself of the score for parts 1** and 2 of the show, seeing what to cannibalise and where we need brand new material. It’s clear from the worlds the script inhabits that we’ll need a substantial amount of new material. Hopefully (!) how we incorporate the original themes and motifs from Parts 1 and 2 of Flood should prove fertile ground for some very interesting experiments when we head, in Part 3, back To The Sea…

*aside from writing this blog post. Classic displacement activity, Fenoughty.

**Watch Flood part 1: From The Sea here

***Thank you Twisted Burger Company for opening your lovely new diner not 25 minutes walk from my door. This vegan is very happy.

Image by Malcolm Johnson Photography for Slung Low

Theatre: Flood, Partus, and Late Nights in the Studio

Composing Music for Theatre with A Hot Chocolate In The Music Studio

My site got hacked and my last post about quitting Facebook at New Year got overwritten. Probably for the best really, it wasn’t that exciting.

What is exciting is all the new work that’s going on at HF studio HQ!! Sort of, anyway…

I’ve been working late evenings this week to get two theatre project scores out the door…


Flood, a show about the end of the world as we know it, is in production *right now this very second* by Slung Low. Here’s the teaser:

Made of four parts spread over a year, I’ve just finished the score for Part 1, a gorgeous short film about the very start of the story of Flood. It comes out on Monday.

Parts 2 and 4 are headphone, site-specific theatre pieces. Massive, ambitious, set on the water…! Part 3 is a BBC TV special. This show is huge (deep breaths, deep breaths…).


Partus is a show about childbirth in all its bloody glory, made by Third Angel. It’s touring from next Monday and I’m off to see the preview tonight. I’m taking a dear, and heavily pregnant, friend with me. I hope it’s not too terrifying!

JK – it’s a rather lovely and balanced piece of theatre about the expectations, the exhaustion, the euphoria, the shock, the sadness, and the stupidly long shifts. From the point of view of mothers and health professionals, there are stories of love, fear, joy, resilience and bravery. It played last year at The Crucible Studio, and this year it’s retooled, refocussed. There’s also a brand-spanking new song I co-wrote with one of the maker-performers, the the comedy genius that is Laura Lindsey.

Here’s the trailer with another of the awesome maker-performers, Stacey Sampson...

I’m still off of Facebook. I didn’t delete my account entirely, just deactivated it; I *might* have been developing a smidgeon of an addiction, and it was making me, in Sheffield parlance, a bit mardy. I missed it a bit to begin with but now I’m not sure I need to go back on it. I’m happier without it.

And speaking of happier, how great is the Headspace app? I’ve a *slight* tendency towards manic-anxiety-stress-catastrophising (I mean though, who doesn’t) and 10 minutes a day of sitting non-judgementally with my thoughts and breath is proving surprisingly effective at mitigating it. I’ve tried meditation on and off in the past but never took to a regular practise. Especially right now as I’m gearing up for a month of solid scoring for Part 2 of Flood. Mindfulness ftw.

New Year, New Work

Before I go headlong into burying my cortex in Flood music, for the next week or so I’m creating a few sound and music elements for two new projects: a mobile game and an online educational product, both of which will hopefully (touch wood) lead to similar work later down the line.

an empty road in the desert

A lot of my work is now repeat business with the same handful of companies (with whom I bloody love working and hope to do so ad infinitum); however, these recent two are new to me, and cultivating new client relationships is rather a nice way to keep your business and creativity on its toes.

Working with new directors is always an interesting process; exploring and conjuring a common language to properly understand their sound and music requirements is a brilliant workout for the grey matter.

It encourages necessitates a kind of mindfulness or more conscious awareness, not only of the (sometimes habitual) processes I go through to elicit a brief and then continue the conversation of drafting and feedback, but also of the actual composition procedure itself. The whys and wherefores of putting one note after or above another, the emotional and practical effect of these simple sounds, the need for or lack of complexity, ambiguity and complexity… assumptions I’ve made in the past through working with familiar people just don’t apply here. And so I have to start from scratch. Beginner’s mind.

And hopefully, what with a change being as good as a rest and all that, when I do return to Flood my neuronal workout will have a built a few more interesting creative pathways for me to draw on to score that behemoth of a show. Fingers crossed.

Happy New Year 2017, The Year That Hull Floods!

Happy New Year! How are your resolutions going? Politics is proving pretty disturbing at the moment so I’m burying my head in the sand work for now… and for the foreseeable, as 2017 is fairly solidly booked up work-wise already, which is a relief in unstable economic times, and also so that I can legitimately ignore the horrors of the daily news cycle guilt-free. Not that I really need an excuse: it gets more depressing everyday. Though sometimes it’s like a traffic accident, and you just. can’t. look. away….

sea and sky

There… that’s better.

After starting the year with a week tying up a few loose ends on an early score for Red Star‘s latest animation, I’ve just started prepping work on Flood, an epic beast of a 4-part show for Hull’s City of Culture, which includes two site-specific headphone shows and some other ridiculously fun film bits. Flood is being produced by Slung Low and is beyond ambitious in its scale, telling a gorgeous and particularly timely story.  I cannot wait to see these shows up-and-running, never mind putting them in front of an audience.

So far, I’ve roughly plotted cues on the first headphone show, I think I’ve got the bones of a theme and I’ve really got to get started on a song, as those two bits of tune will probably inform the rest of the music, one way or another. So, obvs, I’ve gone for classic displacement* activity and decided to update the blog…

Flood is the story is what happens ‘when the waters come’. It’s set in a near future, the same world as The White Whale’ (2014). I would love to tell you more because it’s so exciting but I might wreck some finely tuned promotional schedule so I’ll leave it at that for now. Sign up to Slung Low’s newsletter and you’ll be informed when box office starts selling tickets! Go do it now!

*always use your procrastinating tendencies productively. In other news, my studio has been surprisingly tidy of late.

It Happened Here and Writing for the Sake Of It

A Map of Holbeck, a Pen and an MP3 Player with Headphones on a Bench
It Happened Here is a Slung Low audio/installation adventure set in Holbeck, Leeds, which opened in August 2016. 

It Happened Here was a surprisingly freeing project to work on; usually my work is underscoring dialogue or action, either as live theatre or onscreen, and synchronisation with these events is a high priority – synchronisation of tone, emotion, pace, volume and complexity. This synchronisation can be quite strict, as in the case of much of my animation work, or fairly fluid in the case of promenade theatre. Nonetheless, there are always ‘sync-points’ to hit.

In It Happened Here, there were spaces in the script where music happened; however, the only brief for each section was simply a title, and sometimes a little description from one of the characters on how they felt about that particular title (attempting not to give away any spoilers here!).

Even the durations were deliberately left quite vague – for all but one movement of music, they were somewhere between 1 and 3 1/2 minutes for each.

So… the music was to last as long as I (or the music, I’m still never quite sure) wanted.

I haven’t written like this in years. Even when I sketch themes for work in advance of a show or in pre-production for a film based on the script or a director’s brief, each sketch will be under a minute in length, and it’ll get to the point pretty quickly. None of this developing of motifs or gentle building atmosphere that you often need to do under dialogue or onscreen action.

Part of me was a little wary of having such a free brief. I like to bounce and push against the boundaries of a specific project’s requirements – those restrictions force a level of creativity that really gets the grey matter firing in quite an addicting way. It’s a problem solving exercise – how do I fit the music into a specific time frame, synchronising to specific moments, whilst still creating something that could still be described (sometimes in the broadest definition) as a coherent musical piece. And I do love a problem solving exercise, I think it’s just how I’m wired…

In summary – those sync-points are a handy little crutch, a pre-arranged structure on which to hang the tunes. It Happened Here was different – no crutches at all (apart from one little bit of underscored dialogue towards the end, but… spoilers! Sorreeee.).

I wasn’t surprised (after the first day of writing some really dire stuff that will never see the light of day, essential part of the process and all that etc. etc.) to find that I really relished the opportunity to just write.

One of the most common question I get asked is whether I write just for myself; not for a brief or a project or a commission but just for the hell of it, I’ve-got-a-tune-in-my-head-that-I-gotta-get-down situation.

I don’t. I wonder if that’s sad sometimes… I used to when I was younger – in my teens and early 20s, I’d write violin duets for my sister and I, and pieces that might make there way onto demo CDs… but even for these two random examples there appears to be purpose. This music had a function outside of existing just for its own sake (violin duets = social, demo music = finding work), so maybe I’ve never just written just to write – an interesting revelation to me just typing this out.

In chatting with a lovely new friend very recently, he suggested that it’s because I might prefer to be involved in (or at least instigate) something bigger than just myself and my tunes, and that it was more rewarding to me to have the piece be in service of, and add value to, that bigger thing. Maybe he’s right.

Anyways, less of the psychoanalysis and back to It Happened Here – it was chuffing glorious to write with such a free brief and I enjoyed it immensely… making me think I could seek out similar opportunities in future, something with a purpose above and beyond itself – in this case working with my fave people, the promotion and inclusion of an oft-overlooked part of Leeds, and entertaining a wide, diverse and on-going group of people – but with a much looser requirement for synchronisation. Maybe. We’ll see.

It’s designed to be listened to whilst wandering the environs of Holbeck so, if you’re ever at The HUB for a show or whatever, do add in an extra hour or so before to do the tour.

Alternatively, you can listen to it elsewhere and it’ll still make sense. Download it to your phone or mp3 player of choice and listen at your leisure…

The lovely John Hunter wrote it, the quiet technical genius of Matt Angove recorded and sound designed it, and logistical organisational heroes Alan Lane and Sally Proctor produced it. Direction was a magnificent all-hands-on-deck scenario on this occasion and I received brilliant notes and feedback from all concerned (big thanks you guys 🙂 ).

I took the pictures. Please don’t nick them. Not that you would, obvs. See more of them here.


Two New Shows In Leeds and a Chattering Monkey

Cymbal Banging Monkey

For the next month or so I’m working on two new pieces of theatre in Leeds. They’re completely unrelated, but my gigs do have a tendency to clump geographically, as random things are apt to. I try not to read anything into it but my irrational neo-cortex doesn’t half like inferring deep meaning into patterns where there are none… but I digress…

Blackthorn plays at the West Yorkshire Playhouse from 13-17th September; so, this week, based on the initial brief from director Jacqui Holness-Martin and the script by Charley Miles, I’m sketching a few ideas for music styles or themes… which is a fancy way of saying that I’m throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.

I’ve got three quite stylistically different sketches already written, with potential ideas for two more. It’s an odd process of plucking notions from thin air and trying to pin it down with the synths and samplers I’ve already got, or concocting ambiences and atmospheres that may or may not make it into the palette of the show’s sound design, all the while trying to head off that niggling, insistent, internal voice that likes to state, upon hearing the first tentative note, in no uncertain terms, that it’s, “shit and no-one would want to listen to it never mind it being completely inappropriate for the show and did you even read the brief and maybe you should go and make a cuppa and have a biscuit and really think about what you’ve done with your life-“. And so on.

Then, ignoring the chatter, I’ll write a few more notes and harmonies and add another instrument or three and she starts to come around, that, “maybe it’s not so bad and actually it’s quite nice and maybe you could take it off on a tangent here-“. What a chattering little monkey that inner voice is. Bless.

Then next week, for two weeks, I’m working with Slung Low on It Happened Here, an audio tour/installation around Holbeck, launched on 17th September. The audio is completely pre-recorded dialogue, sound and music. It’ll be available to download and listen to as you are led by the story on a walking tour of Holbeck – and in theory it could also be a standalone radio play of sorts (no pressure for the lovely writer, John Hunter, then!). Though the launch isn’t ’til the 17th, the bulk of my work must be finished by the 26th August after which I’m back on Blackthorn, so I don’t have time to mess around – I’m very much looking forward to ignoring that nay-saying little voice. No second-guessing allowed as we’ve got to hit the ground running!

Back to Blackthorn and rehearsals for two-and-a-bit weeks and then the show is on – first night is the 13th. It’s a beautiful debut script, gentle and funny and contemporary all at the same time, so should be a joy to work on. That little chattering monkey better take a back seat ‘cos I’ll have even less time for her.

After that there’s a couple of days grace just in case It Happened Here needs any last minute tweaks before launch, and then… me and Ms Monkey Chatter can get back to nattering.

Image by FHgitarre

Rest, Reset, Regroup, Recharge

The evening concert for the National Commemoration of the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme on 1st of July went to plan and was well-received. Phew!

A photo posted by Heather F (@hethfen1) on

I may write more on it later… though now, for me, is all about taking a bit of time to rest and recharge the batteries. To be honest, I took a couple of days off directly after the show finished before going back to work. I thought that would do the trick. Boy was I wrong! Though I did get through some work – a pitch for a cartoon miniseries and a budget for another little thing, it was more of a slog than it should have been. I’ve bitten the bullet and given myself this week off to see if that helps.

After powering through the last couple of months on the Somme project, fatigue snuck up on me and the creative well is running a bit dry. Politics, world news, the state of the climate… Right now, the world is travelling a touch too fast for me to keep up. I need to pause and regroup for just a little while longer so as to return ready for the next adventure!

Though I still find myself at the computer, pottering in the studio, attacking that mountainous paper pile of receipts. It’s quite hard to do just… nothing. Hopefully this slower pace with do the trick though – focussing on things other than what the next note or rhythm or modulation should be. Maybe a change is as good as a rest?

National Commemoration of the Battle of The Somme

I’m in the middle of composing the music for a small section of the concert that will commemorate the First World War Battle of the Somme in Heaton Park, Manchester, in the evening of 1st July.

The concert will feature a children’s choir, the Halle Orchestra, Lemn Sissay reading a new poem commissioned for the evening. The part I’m working on is a new dance piece that explores hope, idealism, fear, excitement leading into the horror and brutality of war. A tall order!

The music is currently in its second draft and it’s been an interesting challenge to bring all of these emotions and ideas into one coherent piece that lasts for 14 minutes. It’s certainly one of the longer single pieces I’ve written for a theatrical event that isn’t an ambient underscore (in Slung Low’s shows these kinds of underscores are commonplace, usually to accompany large groups of audience members from one location to another). It’s way more front and centre – hopefully more a partner with the dancers and other elements than an accompaniment; and, because of this, it’s a more involved, more intricate and more crafted piece of work.

Ultimately the piece is in service of something way greater than itself – a commemoration of the largest battle of World War I on the Western Front,which killed or wounded more than one million men – one of the bloodiest battles in human history.



How This Introvert Learned to Love Being In A Live Performance – 15 Minutes Live 2016

15 Minutes Live 2016 Rehearsal15 Minutes Live by Slung Low, which played this year at The Holbeck (previously Holbeck Working Men’s Club), Leeds, was an awful lot of fun. More than I was expecting! I’m trying to pick apart why, and here are my thoughts. Is it just that I’m older and wiser, I’m working with friends, I’m far less caffeinated than I used to be? Maybe all these reasons and more…

The first 15 Minutes Live was performed in 2011 and since then (5 years ago) it’s become a streamlined operation. Originally we took a week to rehearse; now we’re at two days, including time for rehearsing the band and the dress rehearsal.

15 Minutes Live is a live radio play experience – radio plays presented as theatre, performed with scripts in hand and recorded for archive and posterity. There are five plays, each around the 15 Minute mark, and I think this time we had 11 performers over all the shows. It’s really rather a lovely and laid-back way to spend a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.

There is live foley, the sound design art that gives us a popped balloon if a gun is fired and all the other background sounds called for in a script. There’s a five-piece band, some of whom double or triple up performing different instruments (drums/percussion/glockenspiel, clarinet/saxophone, violin, cello and piano/french horn/melodica), MD’ed by me. If we cock up the recording, say, an actor fluffs a line, or kicks over a mic, or we in the band mess up a cue, we keep performing the play ’til its end and then go back and record that little bit again.

15 Minutes Live 2016 Rehearsals

In previous years, I’ve always found the live part of this job, for me, particularly taxing. I’m elated at the end of it, the relief that I’ve got through it in one piece. I LOVE being behind the scenes; I’m even ok with calling some of the live elements in a show (like the choir in some of Converging Paths), but I’ve never been overly comfortable in front of an audience. Even as a violinist, I was plenty content in the trio playing for weddings and other functions – we were glorified background music for the most part. I never got used to solo performances. I have nightmares about them occasionally, even now, and I can count the number of times I’ve picked up that poor, neglected instrument in the last few years on three fingers (that’s three, btw).

Something changed in this last show though. Maybe I’m just getting older and more mellow. My hair’s certainly getting greyer. Whilst there was still a frisson of nervous energy, somehow I’d managed to reframe the experience as exciting rather than rabbit-pinned-in-the-headlights petrifying. It was no longer just a valuable, challenging experience, something that was character-building; I was actually reeeeally looking forward to it.

I spent what felt like a long time composing the music for this – three weeks is unnecessary long for the number of minutes of score. But it was way more enjoyable, and my work days were short, I had most of my weekends free, and I was always fresh and ready to sit down and really work on the music, seeing obvious ways in which previous work should progress, change or be edited, then ready to stop and spend the rest of the day on recharging pursuits (biking, baking, the usual) rather than slogging away hour after hour always with a deadline becoming the primary motivation. The latter is not the reason I went into this business in the first place, after all (even though, on occasion, that deadline becomes an essential tool to forcing the decision-making process).

The music got sent off to the band (for any feedback they might have, like whether or not it was actually playable) a whole week before the show, a first for me to be that early. During that next week, I mentally rehearsed the score a few times daily before the first rehearsal. Conducting does not come naturally to me and there are times that my head is counting in 3 and the baton counts in 4… However, I imagined it going well; and also envisaged where it might go wrong, and how I might have contingencies for mistakes.

The band’s rehearsal didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would. These people are all pros – always employ people who are better than you; it makes life so much easier. Also, most of these guys have been with me since the second show, one since the first. They all know the drill well enough by now, they know my easy(!) film-musical stylings and I know their proclivities: who’s happy with improvisation, who likes a challenge.

Quick conversations leading up to the show with some of these chaps over Facebook messenger or email about options and possibilites for instrumentation and orchestration were easy, and the fun of writing for the group always came to the forefront of my experience – the pianist/french hornist even bought a new instrument (a melodica) in time for the show. Now that’s commitment.

15 Minutes Live 2016 Rehearsals

Between the last 15 Minutes show I worked on in 2013 and this most recent one, I somehow stopped drinking caffeinated drinks – its not a moral thing or anything and I certainly wouldn’t consider it a vice. It just makes me act and feel just a bit weird, jittery, scattered – I’m very sensitive to it, as I’ve heard is pretty common for introverts. I don’t need it to stay awake, and in fact I’m more awake, focussed and, crucially, function better later in the day without it. I don’t get such extreme highs and lows and life feels loads calmer since I kicked it.

I definitely had more consistent energy resources available to me through the whole on-site rehearsal process than I’ve had in previous years… (except for after I’d had seconds of Hansa’s takeaway curry just before the dress rehearsal. Possibly a mistake. A very tasty mistake. But I got a second wind after a couple of hours, yay! and phew!). It was most noticeable during the performance – at no point did my energy wane and the 2-and-a-half-hour show just flew by. In previous years I’d blame excessive fatigue down to being around people for too long. Just didn’t happen on this occasion (’til the Monday after, but that’s post-show elation come-down for you!).

There’s a rough and ready feel to the show, appropriate to this working men’s club environment. We’ll make mistakes, but it’s ok, we can got back and re-record those bits, and the audience is in on the magic – it’s actually exciting that rather than a polished sleight-of-hand we all get to see behind the scenes!

There’s a contentedness I feel with this particular group and format that isn’t surprising though – I’ve worked with the producing team and some of the cast for over a decade now, others for almost as long. It is bloody lovely to make shows with your mates, you know? Is it purely the familiarity creating an air of security, a safe place to take more risks? There’s also feeling that we’re all in this together, and we’re including the audience in our gang.

Honestly… I just don’t know. All I know is that I didn’t feel nervous, I felt excited and behind that was a strange calm that knew it would all be ok on a deep, visceral level (not the usual intellectual ‘of course it’ll all be fine… f**&&*^^%k!’). We were all looking out for each other – we’d all bring our A-game and if one of us happened to stumble the rest would be there to pick us up.

tl;dr? I got old, I worked smart, I rehearsed, I quit caffeine, I work with excellent and lovely people. Can these be the reasons I enjoyed actually performing this particular show…?

Maybe. Though I do sometimes wish I’d stop over-analysing these things and learn to appreciate them for the joy that they are. Plus it was pretty sunny over most of the weekend and that usually does it for me. So it was probably that. Glad I got that sorted, then.

All photographs Copyright © H. Fenoughty 2016

Birthing Partus – Writing Music for Devised Theatre

January was all about Third Angel‘s Partus and in February I worked on the preliminary score for Red Star‘s latest 3D animation. An excellent, varied and challenging start to the year in all the right ways.

I’m now starting to think about the latest edition of 15 Minutes Live – on at The Holbeck, Leeds, 10th April, 2016. Exactly a month today! There are 5 short radio plays, and I’ve 3 scripts already with two arriving as and when. The show is still a long way off, and I really don’t need to start working on it yet, but as an excessively paranoid type I like to get started, prepped and organised as early as humanly possible (though I did take a delightful week-and-a-half off between the last project and getting going on this), especially on shows with a live music element.

Partus - Birth in all its Bloody Glory posterIn contrast, Partus was a huge departure from my usual, uber-prepared way of working. One likes to squirrel oneself away in the studio for the bulk of work time actually planning, plotting, writing (for the purposes of work, I’m the most introverted person I know and possibly you’ll ever meet without realising it – I manage it to my own advantage well mwahahaha… ahem) peppering as necessary with meetings and rehearsals and general out-and-about time.

The more I can restrict face-time to the essential information-gathering and idea-collaborating environments, the more efficient and effective those times are, and the more time I get for proper experimentation in the studio, rather than drawing on past, effective – but sometimes cliched – motifs and chord progressions, instrumentation and sound design.


Deep-thinking, alone time is my most valuable resource for getting the right music for the job written on time.

Though I do like to mix it up when the opportunity arises, as such an opportunity did indeed arise in Partus, a devised piece by Third Angel about, “birth in all its bloody glory.”

The four-week process was split around Christmas – two weeks before, two weeks off for the holidays and then two weeks finalising with the first show on the Friday, into a run lasting a week or so. In a complete break from character, I spent a large portion of those four weeks in the rehearsal room with the rest of the team.

I do love a script when it comes to theatre work. Those words on the page fill me with optimism (usually), hope (always) and a clear vision of where to go next – or at least what the gaps are in my knowledge that need filling in order to get the music progressing. Then there’s the feeling that we’re all ‘on the same page’. We all have a clear and common point of reference. A new script will also give me a healthy terror of a ‘what-the-eff-am-I-going-to-write’ variety, but we won’t go there just yet.

Primarily, with a script, or even just a synopsis or scene breakdown, I can work out the purpose of the music, where it sits with the sound design, and the characters’ journeys. With music, we travel through time and space and into the deepest recesses of the human emotional journey – of both the characters, and more importantly the audience.

Though I don’t need it at the beginning of the process, there will come a point during the schedule where I may start to fret if the structure of the script hasn’t been defined and formalised – because I know how long it takes me to come up with ideas, write them, get them performed by the computer or people in time for delivery on time. And there is nothing that pisses me off more than not delivering work on time (ok there are lots of things but it’s at least up there in the top ten).

With this devised work, Partus, on day 1 there’s by definition no script, no scene breakdown, no synopsis. There’s a huge bank of research from mothers, fathers, midwives, nurses and other health workers… but there are no predefined characters, no arcs, no 3- or 5- or 7-act structure. Though it’s unsettling, it’s also quite liberating – I feel like I’ve a long enough lead up to the show to enjoy this not-knowing phase, and (hopefully not misplaced) faith that I’ll get the job done someway, somehow.

It’s an intriguing process, one I don’t normally get to see (and haven’t in many years, not since the early days of Slung Low) and not normally one I want or need to. I’ve a tendency to start scoring in my head immediately I see something that might need it, before allowing the process to weed out the chaff and develop what’s left into something more mature and worthwhile – that may not need music at all.

On this occasion, working with a company new to me on a topic that wouldn’t normally be on my radar, I decided to see what would happen if I worked differently, by necessity – there wasn’t really any other way to do it. It was lovely to be in the devising room and see the process in action, though long days were incredibly draining and later in those first two weeks I did have to catch myself from getting a little antsy for a brief or a structure of some kind.

“It’s all part of the process, you can’t rush it,” I’d tell myself.

“Well I’ll be rushing at the end if I don’t get some sort of structure RIGHT NOW,” I’d reply.

“Jeez, chill your beans,” would be my witty retort.

And so on, etc etc.

Eventually, a little time after New Year, the show coalesced into something tangible. Very few of the preliminary sketches I’d made during the Christmas break made it into the final score wholesale, but there was plenty of raw material if time got short… which it did, and that raw material got used and abused! The structure shifted substantially during those final few days before the first performance, though the ‘bricks’ of those structures and some of the narrative themes always remained consistent. We always had something to build on, and I usually had musical material to draw on as we swapped things around.

It was a challenging and exhausting process with some brilliant ladies (and gents!) creating a show on an enormous and emotive topic that was very well received. We made it! There’s something in that feeling – mostly relief and disbelief – but also of having finished a marathon at sprint speed and the endorphins have just kicked in…

This process has made me more open to different ways of working, and also confirmed how best I like to work given the right conditions. I’ll not stop loving the script as a universal concept, and I won’t stop pushing for one in some form by the point I’ll definitely need one to deliver the music on time (in fact, now I think I might be slightly more pushy…).

However, needs must as the devil drives, and if it’s to work with good people on worthwhile topics and interesting projects, I’m not too old a dog to learn new ways of working. Just to mix it up a touch, now and then. Give the grey matter a little jiggle to wake it up.

Now back to marking up these 15 Minutes Live scripts for cues. Wonder what the final two scripts will hold in store…*


**jk Alan and the writers 😉

Saving Christmas Penguins, Theatrical Soundtracks and Other News

It’s turning out to be rather a lovely end to 2015 – Both Emergency Story Penguin and 59 Minutes to Save Christmas are playing concurrently at The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. It’s a bit surreal to see billboard advertisements for it dotted around the city centre but I’m attempting to deal with it without squealing each time I encounter one.

I’ve also joined the Third Angel team on Partus, a show about childbirth in all its bloody glory, that’ll play in the Crucible Studio in January, which means that, including Camelot: The Shining City, I’ll have been involved with four shows at this venue, five including The Straight Man at Moor Theatre Delicatessen, in my hometown in the space of 6 months. This trend doesn’t half make me smile and I’m very much hoping it continues into the new year…

Both soundtracks are available for Emergency Story Penguin and 59 Minutes to Save Christmas on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon, Google Play etc, so get streaming/downloading if you want to continue the magic of each of these brilliant kids’ shows.

Happy Holidays everyone! 🎄🎉🎊

See you in 2016 🙂