Working With Real Live Musicians

I’m in the middle of writing the score for Converging Paths: Darkness at the Sun Court. Epic does not even begin to describe it.

I have a 24 piece choir and am having a little too much fun than one should really have in their day job composing songs and underscore for the show. It’s a one-off, roughly an hour long and the cueing system is currently driving me a little potty (but in a good way, I rather like devising new, super-efficient systems. Am sad like that).

Since it’s appropriate for the themes of the show, I’m re-visiting the mini-requiem I composed for Beyond The Front Line as underscore. In BFL, the choir were pre-recorded with the wonderful Ros Hind performing solo soprano and violin alternately live during the finale of the show. In Sun Court, the choir are LIVE. I am attempting to remain calm about this but it is simultaneously making me beyond excited and terrified (as tends to be the case whenever we try something a little different in a new Slung Low show).

Excited because it’s just COOL. This choir, The 24, are awesome. Their sightreading is astonishing. This cuts rehearsal down to a tenth of what it would be if they had to learn it from memory. Their directors are seriously into new music and doing funky new theatrical stuff with the choir (v v handy in one of these contemporary theatre extravaganzas we love to do).

Terrified because I’m not entirely how we’re going to cue this beast of a score. I may have to do it live (and if there’s anything that scares me more than personally cueing a show live then I don’t know what it is). I’m doing my usual shtick of making infinitely loopable sections of score to take into account how variable the speed of performance can be, so am cannibalising little bits of the mini-requiem to keep it coherent and encouraging the choir to improvise with them (which we’ve tried a little before to excellent effect)… so the control freak in me has to let go a little. Also, I’m not conducting – The 24 have musical directors way better than me so that’s another level of control I have to pass on (honestly though, these chaps are such magnificent professionals that I’ve nothing to worry about). I have to make sure I support them in the best way possible – that they have enough information to do the job but not swamping them with extraneous material, and that they’ve enough rehearsal time on the day to get really comfortable with the music in situ and, most importantly, have fun with the experience. So… no pressure then.

Converging Paths: Darkness at the Sun Court, part of Coastival, will play at the Spa in Scarborough at 6pm on 11th February 2012. Tickets are free but booking is essential and you’re advised to book sooner rather than later… tickets are going fast!

My lovely friend and cartoonist extraordinaire, Emily Pithon is now blogging a new ‘toon every week. I first met Em as the talented actress in ‘Unquiet’ who sang one of my pieces live (poor thing), in the middle of a rather spooky graveyard in the middle of the night, as part of Anthology for the Liverpool Everyman in 2010 (The album of the score to Anthology is here).

Photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash