Monday, 30 May 2016

Carmen - The Musical

Today is the first day of the week we've been working towards since at least January - though behind the scenes, work has been going on much longer than that. Rehearsals began in January, though, so for the majority, that was when it all started.

Carmen - the Musical: all your favourite tunes from the opera with none of the tedious recitative. And it's in English. Audiences have been slow to commit, but finally ticket sales have reached an almost acceptable level (though we will still make a loss).

From a director's point of view (or, at least, co-director), that's not my problem. My/our problem has been making the show fantastic. Which it should be. However, once the orchestra starts and the curtain goes up, it's pretty much out of our control. We can only hope.... So here is a poem I wrote back in March, that sort of sums it up. For those who don't understand the final stanza, you must have missed all the BCOS Lego-oriented publicity posts on Facebook. And get a ticket. It will be fab.

Unspoken rehearsal fears from a director

Our Carmen is a voluptuous Sevillano siren,
coy looks from the corner of her eye
leading every soldier on
and several women.

Don Jose is debonair; he dithers between
home goodness and luscious temptation,
his high notes rivalling theirs,
his despair palpable.

Gorgeous Escamillo flirts with the entire cast,
trailing them all in his bloody wake.
He acts the bar-room braggart,
a disguised gentleman.

Even the cigarette girls are assigned characters,
gang membership to feed their later fight,
backgrounds they can animate,
gossip silently shared.

PR on Facebook, though, is full of Lego figures,
their features frozen, a yellow grimace
for comic effect. For now.
Stage-fright can do strange things.

© Nikki Fine
March 2016

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Shopping military-fashion

It's the second half of May. It's raining. It's the UK. And I'm wondering if I should switch the heating back on....

Unseasonal weather is becoming the norm these days. Unless summer was the three days of warmth and sunshine we had a fortnight ago, and autumn has just started early. Either way, I'm beginning to regret chucking out all the overly large winter clothes I had in the wardrobe.

Yes, they were too big for me. Yes, I am in the fortunate position of being able to afford to buy replacements in more suitable sizes. But are there any warm clothes in the shops? Retailers seem locked, despite the weather, in the traditional seasonal cycle. By the time they finally get round to putting more autumnal clothes out on the racks, I could have knitted myself a jumper (and I'm a very slow knitter). It doesn't help that I am restricted somewhat in the local shops available, and risking the traffic complications of the nearest city fills me with dread.

However, I have a shopping trip to a mega-metropolis planned, going on the train. The operative word here is 'planned'. I am already looking online at which shops will available, trying to work out what to look for where, based largely on their web-presence. But this seems terribly clinical. It's not the same as the browsing round the shops I used to do years and years ago, when I had little or no money and it was nearly all window-shopping. This is more like a military campaign, although my shopping partner-in-crime and I have not yet worked out where we're going for lunch, or even at what time. Perhaps she has already decided that we won't stop for lunch.

At least if I compile a list of requirements and expectations before heading out, I may actually acquire some of them. Though I shall be surprised if I manage to find some decent winter clothing...

Saturday, 7 May 2016

What your musical tastes say about your personality

A recent item on BBC Breakfast looked at how our tastes in music reflect our personality. The guest, who was promoting his book, had asked the four presenters (two on the sofa, the weather and the business) to make a list of their top 10 favourite tracks. He then commented on their personalities, based on the songs chosen, without knowing who had given which list. The presenters didn't seem unhappy about it.

Now, it may just be me, but I would have thought that one's taste in music must obviously reflect one's personality to some extent, so the initial premise was not of much interest to me. The harder thing to contemplate was my top 10 favourite tracks. So much depends on my mood! However, I've given it some thought, and I present, in no particular order and sometimes with illuminating comment, my current top 10 (ask me again when it's cold and pouring with rain and the list will probably be different)....

1. Eurythmics - Right By Your Side. Upbeat song, almost impossible not to sing along with it, and the steel drum instrumentation just brings in a warm Caribbean feeling as well.

2. Pharrell Williams - Happy. Daft lyrics, but almost contagious upbeat rhythm; waiting at traffic lights, I'm pretty certain adjacent drivers have wondered what on earth I'm doing as I clap and click along with it in addition to the singing. Sedentary dancing almost (and you all know I don't dance).

3. Peter Gabriel - Signal to Noise. The first part, with the lyrics, is fairly unremarkable, but once the instrumental starts, with the strings gradually getting higher, the volume needs to be turned up full so that the sound can completely envelop you. Just fabulous!

4. Arvo Part - Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten. This is grief in an audible form, physically heart-wrenching. The funereal bell, the slow cascading strings, this is another one for full volume, though possibly not appropriate party music....

5. Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody. The first Queen song I got to know was 'Killer Queen', which I also love, but this one has great lyrics *and* some musical complexity. 

6. Genesis - Mad Man Moon. It was around when I discovered this song that I realised that for me, good lyrics were important as well as good music. 

7. Durufle - Agnus Dei. This was first time I had come across a really good alto solo line in a requiem, so much so that I've already told people I want it playing at my funeral. Planning ahead, folks!

8. Stephen Schwarz - For Good. This duet from Wicked is not only a beautiful song, but has achieved a personal resonance for me, listening to it on the way back from the funeral of an old friend and hearing the lyric "you'll be with me, like a handprint on my heart." I've got past the tears now, but I think of him every time I hear the song still, with one of those good pains.

9. Fats Waller (and others) - Ain't Misbehavin'. Another song with personal resonance, I surprise- serenaded Rod at our renewal of vows with this song, complete with harp accompaniment (kudos to the harpist, all those accidentals were a pain for her!). He's away again at the moment, so check out those lyrics, dear: No one to talk with, all by myself, No one to walk with, I'm happy on the shelf, Ain't misbehavin', savin' my love for you. (I'm not including the cats in this.)

10. David Bowie - Life on Mars. Nearly anything by David Bowie would make the list, and some days I could easily compile a list entirely of David Bowie, but today, I'm picking this one. 

So that's the current list. What does that say about my personality, I wonder. Probably that I should be on medication, but maybe tomorrow's list would be ok....