This opera lark is a weird thing. When I was writing Puddle Wonderful I talked to the librettist, James Johnson, he wrote the words, I wrote the music, there was a bit of tooing and froing between us while I was writing, it was handed to the players, conductor and director and it happened. Yes there were arguments, people annoyed at decisions that they weren’t happy about but everyone was there to do their thing as best as they can which sometimes is beyond the understand of the other people trying to do their thing, hence the arguments, but everything came together and the evenings it was performed I and everyone else couldn’t have been happier.
This time it’s completely different. Not that everyone isn’t trying to do their thing to their fullest, they are, there are just less people involved. The first performance had the ensemble, singers, conductor, director, lighting tech, marketing person, composer and librettist, this time there is the ensemble, singers, conductor and Jason, Thom and I trying to fill in for all the other rolls. So completely different and a little more weight on our inexperienced shoulders.
Today I am talking to my singers about blocking. This is something I’ve only every experienced once before, during the first performance, and it mostly consisted of me sitting at the back of the room watching and occasionally saying “yea that seems grand” because I really had no idea what was going on. This time I have to talk to the three singers about what I want it to look like, Barbara Walton, Catrin Pryce-Jones and Claire Thompson all have more experience in this area than I do! The other interesting/worrying thing is that Musa doesn’t have a stage – it is a bar/restaurant. This means I can’t simply borrow ideas from other shows I’ve seen “I want you to act like they did in act 1 of X” I have to do everything from scratch.
After a few hours of thinking, sketching and writing I’ve come up with an outline of actions, movements and general placement in the room of the singers for each bit of the piece. I’ve also solidified the characters of the singers. You might think that that should have been done long ago but because the singers are three strands of the same person they don’t have definite characters in the text, it is their movements that will give them shape. My worry with what I have come up with is that there is too much and it won’t be physically possible to do what I’ve been thinking in the time constraints of the piece but I’m hoping that the singers experience will help when I sit down with them later.
Three months have gone by and not even one update, I feel ashamed of myself considering the amount that has happened.
October saw the continuation of rehearsals for the opera, there was quite a lot of stress and a few arguments that had to be calmed down but eventually it all worked well for the concert in November. Really happy with how Puddle Wonderful went and managed to get a, rather bad quality, recording of the last night which is up here. All four operas were well received, we didn’t fill the place but I think there was about 300 came over the three nights. The week after that the second Queen’s Composers’ Concert happened. The hall was about 3/4 filled (which again I was really happy with). Afterwards I got quite a few emails congratulating me on the concert. Again the performance of Untitled went really well, though up until the last two rehearsals it wasn’t quite coming together so I had to step in and flail my arms about in some kind of uniform pattern and tempo, this helped make it an excellent performance.
After this concert there was a rather large feeling of emptiness upon realising I had no planned performances planned. This swiftly changed when I joined, and was made secretary of, the Irish Composers Collective. Due to this group I now have a performance of Imagined Notes (22nd February) and of an as yet unwritten violin and cello duo on the 22nd of March both of which will be in the National Concert Hall in Dublin. Two days after the latter concert will be the third Queen’s Composers’ Concert, and the final one organised by me. For this concert I’m conducting The Space Within, a septet written last year for my final composition. It will be my last Composers’ Concert because as of September I will be in Glasgow Collage of Music studying MMus in composition. Finally at some point within the next few months I’ll be getting a performance of a soprano and guitar piece called Rain, with words by Edward Thomas, written for Becca Hopkins and Declan Keenan. Hopefully more concerts will come my way soon but I think thats a decent amount to be going on with. Though I’m starting to think of organising an ICC concert in Belfast before the end of the summer but that is still a very hazy idea.
I think thats a brief catchup of everything thats happened for anyone thats interested.
Had my first rehearsal yesterday of Quartet No. 1 went really well, really happy with the players I have :). Though one of them couldn’t make it, he was flying over the Irish sea at the time so a decent enough excuse. Really happy with the way the rehearsal went, the players seem to have a good grip of it so feeling a lot better with the concert looming in 12 days….12 days?!!! Have more rehearsals planned but still 12 days?!!?!
Got a bit of advertising done for it though, www.cmc.ie have it on their site and getting some posters made up to put around Queen’s and maybe Belfast in general. Might try and get some flyers put into the newly referbished Ulster Hall, which looks really really good! If you get a chance go and have a look about, it is still the Ulster Hall but a lot more vibrent seating plan makes a lot more sense as well. Anyway getting side tracked… need to do some more advertising for the concert some how, would like a decent amount of people to come along to it. New music needs to be heard no point playing to an empty hall. Any suggestions on advertising anyone?
My aim for this weekend was to get at least one piece finished and I managed to do it with time to spare for another. I got Catherine’s trumpet solo done and sent to her. Just a short piano and trumpet piece, quite jazzy but quite short.
The other piece I’ve got to make a decent start on is for the Queen’s Music society. They are planning to put on an informal concert some time soon and have asked me to write something for Double Bass, Cello, Bass Guitar, Piano, Mezzo and timp. It’s a weird ensemble but could be interesting. Again its just going to be a short piece, probably about 2mins long or so, but being asked to write a piece is still being asked to write a piece.
Got the first rehearsal of my quartet this week, concerts only in about three weeks! Though CMC have agreed to advertise it on their site, they should mean a decent amount of advertisement and maybe a few more people coming to it.
Also in other news, I’ve got my inter-rail tickets booked! Away for a month over the summer and will probably do random updates on this.