Thursday, 27 November 2008

Triple Bill/Royal Ballet

White noise has never sounded so lyrical in Wayne McGregor's new work for the Royal Ballet, Infra. I haven't read the programme notes yet, probably won't, but I think it's about the bleaching out of emotions amid the hurly-burly of the everyday and yet underneath passion rages away. Graceful and lovely, it really was. So too was the first piece in this triple bill, Voluntaries choreographed by the late Glen Tetley. Set to Poulenc's Organ Concerto, Tetley matched the music's idiosyncratic ebb and flow beautifully, alluding to the organ's fair ground qualities (whether intended by Poulenc or not) with nods to the carousel, as did the large multi-coloured circle that loomed over the stage as the dancers burst into life below.

Friday, 21 November 2008

The South Bank Show/Messiah (4)

Another day on the road. Early start, arrive Leeds. We think we've got the Leeds Museum to ourselves but then David Miliband turns up with a huge entourage. We decamp to coffee bar. Stale croissants all round. Return just as Milipede is leaving. Interview Henry from the Sacred Wing who reminds us of the museum's past life as a civic theatre. He used to play the tuba here but discovered the joys of singing and has never looked back. Move on to Huddersfield where we take over David's house. David is the Huddersfield Choral Soc's longest serving member - fifty years no less! We'll catch up with him later at the Choral's rehearsal. We're moved to a different hotel, straight out of Alan Partridge. Odd, lots of avant-gardey musicians here from Holland - it's the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival. Quaker school tomorrow. Lots of different stories - I think we'll be ok.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

The South Bank Show/Messiah (3)

Greetings from Hebden Bridge. This is our fourth trip up to Yorks for the above. Our initial plans go to pot almost the moment we arrive. We were supposed to spend the day with one of the tenors from Keighley Vocal Union. But soon after Sheffield we're told the poor guy is in hospital, ironic really given he's one of the younger members of the choir. Still, fleet footed as is necessary in this television business, we change course for the picturesque village of Bradley near Keighley where we meet Frank Smith, the KVU's choir master. He's just come down off the moor when we roll up and he is promptly sent back up again by yours truly so we can get some pretties of the surrounding area. It's stunningly beautiful. Frank does everything asked for him. It looks good although I'm worried it might come across as an advert for pensions. Later we film Frank and the choir rehearse Messiah. Nice and friendly. The next morning - this morning - we film Caroline from Huddersfield Choral teaching children from Denholme Primary School. She gets them to warm up with a the words 'chicken tikka chicken tikka'. I might suggest that one to Highbury Chamber Choir. Later, and quite unexpectedly, we're allowed to film at a former Methodist chapel in Keighley which is now a mosque. The elders there couldn't have been more helpful as we interview Ruth, one of KVU's sops, about her memories of hearing the Messiah in that building when she was a little girl. Gradually this programme/film seems to be acquiring a few themes and ideas that we can build on. Trouble is, do we have the time and budget?

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Eternal Light, Dance Rambert/Sadler's Wells

Howard Goodall's Eternal Light - A Requiem was commissioned for the twentieth anniversary of London Musici, Rambert Dance's associate orchestra. Seeped in the English choral tradition, as one would expect from an ex-chorister, Howard's Requiem calls on two choirs, two soloists and orchestra making it one of his longest and most substantial compositions to date. Whether its highly melodic accessibility is to every body's taste, Eternal Light will surely have no difficulties surviving as a stand alone piece in the concert hall. The problems arise with it as a vehicle for a dance company as demonstrated at Sadler's Wells last night. For hard as the excellent Rambert dancers tried, the music's soft-focus never really allowed the choreographer, Mark Baldwin, to dig deeper than the merely pretty. Bordering as it did at times on the cliched, the whole evening had a bit of a West Endy feel to it. Nothing wrong with that, but is that what Dance Rambert's for?

Sunday, 9 November 2008

The South Bank Show/Messiah (2)

Back in Yorkshire for the Messiah South Bank Show. Quite tricky this programme because I haven't yet got a clear idea of where it's going. There's nothing unusual in that and I enjoy the challenge. What I do know is that it will feature at least two choirs from West Yorkshire: Huddersfield Choral Society ('The Choral'), Keighley Vocal Union and, fingers crossed, the Sacred Wing, a gay and lesbian choir from Leeds. The latter is in some doubt because some of its members are reluctant to be on TV. I do hope they consent - I want to show how Handel's masterpiece speaks to everyone. We arrive on Friday evening and after a quick recce in Huddersfield's fine town hall , we make our way to Greenhead School where the Huddersfield Choral rehearse. What a sound they make. We film a good deal of the rehearsal that is taken by the excellent Joe Cullen. After the break we interview a small selection of chorus members - we picked the ones we thought gave the most illuminating answers to the questionnaire we sent out. It's good stuff - everyone we speak to has a different story about their experiences singing the Messiah. The next morning we're over in the Keighley area to film four couples who sing with the Keighley Vocal Union. The scenery contrasts nicely with Huddersfield. Everyone we meet greets us with tea and cake and charming reminiscences of singing Messiah. Lots of nice material but the next challenge is to develop this into a narrative that lasts 50'. Much to do.