Monday, 18 July 2011

Rehearsal in the Old Royal Naval College

Sort of a moment of truth today.
Does the CD work live?
Nick's and Matt's arrangements on the album use about 30 different instruments and effects (by which I mean real antique car horns, klaxons...) including accordion, cello, harp, ukulele, piccolo, congas, flexatone, spoons, violin, banjo, guitars, bouzouki, clarinets, double bass, souzaphone...! To tour some of these songs we're going to have to make do with less. So Matt's been head down doing touring arrangements for a week and this was our first chance to try them out. We met at the Old Royal Naval College, now Trinity College of Music, and we had a room right next to the Thames. It looked as if we could be flooded if it decided to rise. Wonderful old posters of Granville Bantock's bigger works were framed on the wall, including one called "Ali Baba". I'd like to sing in THAT.
We started with "Yours". The parts were handed round and instruments tuned. I got my recording device out for the sake of study later. Reckoned I'd start recording on the 3rd run-through of each piece; no need to waste the memory card on rough tryouts.
Nick counted "one, two, a-one two three four..." and this shimmering, magic perfection just sort of floated down as everyone started playing, absolutely, beautifully together. I scrambled to press the 'record' button. We ran through "Always", "Button Up Your Overcoat", "Come to the Fair", "Did You Ever See a Dream Walking", "Honeysuckle and the Bee", and "Can't Help Singing".
The answer, in any case, to the question at the top is YES. We are ready. Bring on the gigs. Bring on the ocean liners, the Orient Express Salon Concert carriage with its velvet and brocade, bring on the shopping malls. Get us accompanying the sipping of the tea, the cocktails, the dancing of stylishly-shod feet. Neither the stillness of an attentive concert audience or the rowdyness of a lot of costumed re-enactors and their idling Spitfires will faze us. Here's a heads-up to community theatres across the land: we are ready for you, and you will kick yourselves if you don't get in there now!!

Later, Andrea the lovely pianist and I went looking for 1930s-style dresses. I have quite a few, and Andrea has an array of beautiful black frocks, but she has none in colour. Collaborative pianists (one no longer says 'accompanist') are still expected to wear black in case the diva changes her mind at the last minute and, quel horreur, ends up clashing with, or wearing the same colour as, the girl at the piano. Once, when Andrea felt she simply had to brighten up her world and put on a little pink silk jacket for someone's audition about a year ago, the panel reprimanded her. In any case, Andrea's colour-ship has come into harbour!
The high street is awash with historical pastiche. All decades are here. Except in the matter of hem-length. It's to-the-floor or above-the-knee only. Maxi or mini. So many maxi-dresses out there these days that Victoria Station on a Saturday looks like the biggest Stepford Wives theme-party in history. Drowning in discounted Monsoon silk chiffon, it came to us in a flash: buy maxi, shorten to taste! Or rather, to 30s fashion-plate.

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