The Little Mermaid at the British Academy Literature Week

Following on from the successful performances in Liverpool and London for the Being Human Festival 2016, the Liverpool Players have been invited to return to the capital and show their live storytelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic once again. This time it will be courtesy of the esteemed and historic British Academy at their Literature Week 2017,  an event that explores the evolution of literature across time, culture, language and form. Our performance will be on the 20th May at 10-11 Carlton House Terrace.

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The performance will take place at the British Academy’s headquarters at 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London.

Late last year we released an audiobook version of our Little Mermaid adaptation and then the standalone soundtrack followed – now available on Bandcamp. It is a retelling that sticks close to the original story and Madelaine Smart’s enchanting performance is bound to be a hit with young children and anyone with a taste for the fantastical. My accompanying orchestral score ebbs and flows throughout the journey, hoping to whisk the audience away to our fictional realm.

Once again this will be a free event, so if you’re in London and looking for a fun and insightful journey into the worlds of classic literature for you and/or some little ones, then hurry and book your tickets for the 20th May 2017!

BOOK YOUR FREE TICKETS ON THE EVENT PAGE

Oh and take a gander at The Liverpool Players new website whilst you’re at it!

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The Little Mermaid at The Walker Gallery, Liverpool, for Being Human 2016.

The Little Mermaid – audiobook released

Earlier this year I worked with The Liverpool Players and storyteller Madelaine Smart to create music for their live performance of The Little Mermaid – you can read a bit more about it in my 2016 roundup. We had several great performances at the Being Human Festival launch (for which the show was originally commissioned)  at Senate House, London and at The Walker Gallery, Liverpool, but it looks like there will be more in 2017 as well.

The past week or so, we’ve put together an audiobook version of the performance that’s perfect for kids and parents looking to get lost in the fantastical world of Hans Christian Anderson’s mermaids. We’ve been truer to the original than the Disney version, and there’s something to be said for this adaptation’s messages of selflessness and the pitfalls of being swept up in a wishful fairytale ending. It was great fun writing music to this as the tale treads the lines of innocence, hope and fear very neatly, and I got a bit lost myself in how magical we wanted it to be for our younger audience members – not least in part to Madelaine’s enchanting solo performance.

It’s a totally free audiobook brought to you from the national festival of the humanities – Being Human – and The Liverpool Players, so if you’ve got some little’uns who might enjoy a mermaid tale over the holiday season then give it a listen.

End of 2016 Roundup

I’m back! Though in truth I’ve never really been away. It’s just that proceedings have been disorderly over the past few months because I’ve had limited access to the internet (until now, hooray!) and that’s mostly due to the process of moving house – an arduous affair that had me in limbo far longer than I expected. So here’s a quick round up of everything that’s happened since my last post and what will be happening before the end of the year.

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A highlight of the year – Glossom playing our London debut at Brixton East, 12.11.16

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‘Bisclavret’ phase 2 – The Audio Play

After a successful day of performances on 14th November at The Walker Art Gallery, The Liverpool Players decided to take their production of Marie de France’s Bisclavret one step further and put together an audio-only version of the play. After creating the music and sounds for the live show, I too had been thinking whether these existing resources could be reapplied somehow, so it was a perfect opportunity to try my hand at something new.

When I was younger I used to listen to many stories and theatrical adaptations on cassette tapes lent from our local library (or library lorry). One of their key draws for me was their clever use of sound to create an involving and immersive listening experience. Rather than simply being narrated, these stories were accompanied by effects and dialogue within their appropriate spaces – forests, houses or caves, all kinds of adventure would come to life through the audio alone. This rediscovery of a childhood pastime was doubly helpful considering that the live show had a younger audience in mind, so the audio play could follow suit.

Although all the recording for the dialogue was completed in my studio, I did a lot of work with convolution reverb (like Cubase’s REVerence), which uses impulses responses recorded in real-world spaces to create lifelike recreations of natural reverb. I experimented with impulse responses from stone and wooden rooms of varying sizes to try and give an edge of authenticity to where these characters were supposed to be interacting. I also played with low reverb/high early reflections settings to produce an ‘outdoors’ sound for the forest scenes. All this, in conjunction with modest combinations of sound effects, was to create an overall ‘sound world’ for a play that had not been written with a purely auditory experience in mind. This was a first for me, and a very intriguing production to be involved with – props to Sarah Peverley whose idea it was in the first place.

How do you think it turned out?

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The performances took place in the Medieval and Renaissance area of the gallery, right in front of the magnificent ‘Triumph of Fortitude’ tapestry – originally woven around 1525.

‘Bisclavret’ at Being Human 2015 – a festival of the humanities – 14th Nov

If you reach back into the intervallic archive of my blog (which is to say, 2 posts ago but back in July), you’ll have your memory jogged that I’ve been writing some more music for The Liverpool University Players. In fact, I recently finished the score for the Players’ latest production of Bisclavret – a 12th Century Breton lai by Marie de France. The show tells the tale of the titular character and his questionable wife who learns that he is living a double life as a werewolf and conspires to trap him in his lupine form.

Furthermore, Bisclavret is being performed at Liverpool’s wonderful Walker Gallery which is hosting the event as part of Being Human – a nationwide festival of the humanities running from the 12th to the 22nd of November. It promises to be an exploration to the fringes of humanity, delving into supernatural worlds and fantastical creatures within medieval literature and seeking relevance to our everyday lives. Plus, the play will be preceded by a talk from Prof Sarah Peverley.

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As for the music – once again I have been trying my hand at a delicate balance between authenticity and creativity. Though it is a short production, I’ve taken what opportunities I can (along with input from the rest of the lovely crew) to develop some clear themes using traditional European instrumentation from the medieval period. For example, during the feast there is a rather rousing number for lute, harp, recorder, accordion and percussion inspired by pre-Middle Ages Breton dances being reinterpreted by contemporary artists, like Orlulas. And of course, much like with Untold, there is a light touch of modern production and ambience to give a sense of something old being discovered and re-imagined for today’s audience.

It’s worth mentioning that my duties extended to sound design this time around. During the planning stages, we were discussing how to navigate a limited performance space and minimal scenery whilst maintaining a strong sense of place and time throughout. I suggested that the use of audio beyond just music would help conjure up the appropriate mental images – and so set about creating some soundscapes to complete the picture of a medieval interior, a forest, a feast etc etc. Once again it has been a pleasure to work with the Players and Sarah Peverley and I can’t wait to see the final performance. The event is free, so if you’re in Liverpool, feel like some thought provoking period drama, and want to be part of a nationwide event on what it means to be human, then the Walker Gallery is the place to be on Saturday 14th November.

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Photo from rehearsal: Bisclavret in werewolf form.

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Photo from rehearsal: the man and his conniving wife.

The Music of The Canterbury Tales – mini documentary

The Liverpool University Players worked with videographer and editor Sarah Pollitt to create this film about how we created the music for their production of The Canterbury Tales. Featuring interviews with myself and producer/harpist Sarah Peverley, we discuss authenticity, collaboration and realisation in this short documentary.

 

Learn more about the production in this online version of the show’s programme.

The Canterbury Tales – my second foray into theatre

(Originally posted on 7th March 2014)

It’s great to be working again with the passionate theatre community of the University of Liverpool. Some of you may remember the otherworldly Goblin Market put on by award-winning LUDS and my eerie Balalaika-infused score that went with it. Well, this time they’re teaming up with The Liverpool University Players to put on Chaucer’s Middle English classic The Canterbury Tales and I was invited on board to write some music for them once more. That means familiar faces! So I’ll be collaborating with harpist Sarah Peverley again (who is helping produce the show), as well as Director Rio Matchett and Musical Director Darren Begley.

The Canterbury Tales follows a group of pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St Thomas Becket as they take each other on in a story-telling contest.

It was quickly decided to keep the instrumentation simple – I was to draw from a small selection of forces to create a medieval palette for the show and the plan involved having musicians on stage, delivering the score diegetically. Originally we tried to get a hold of a lute for me to play, but ended up settling on a Psaltery which I was to pick up, learn to play, and then compose for within the space of a matter of weeks, complimenting the rest of the lineup consisting of an Irish Flute, Bodhran, Harp and vocals. As a result, the compositions are generally very simple, making use of the dorian-mode style of the medieval era and ensuring that vocal pieces reflect the base comical nature of the text. When you’ve got cast members singing ‘I have a gentil cock’ then it’s best not to get too pretentious with your writing. Inspiration came from traditional English and Celtic Folk songs as well as contemporary recordings (thank you psalterygirl!) and I found myself developing a newfound respect for the proto-Renaissance compositions that were emerging in the Middle and High Medieval period.

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