Categories
Clameur Matthew Pollard Music This Concert Will Fall In Love With You

Glen Capra

Glen Capra, photo by Adrian Turner

Like many of his friends, I was distressed to learn of Glen Capra’s death on 29th August in Greece. I was one of a group who regularly went for beers in The Evening Star with Glen when he made one of his regular visits back to Brighton after he had settled in Kavala.

Glen was a considerate and sensitive man, who was passionate about his relationships, music, art and life. This makes the fact that he took his own life extremely hard to take. Close friends, especially Richard Gibson, were in frequent touch with him before he died. He had been depressed and disoriented after his short marriage had abruptly ended. His death was a shock for everyone, and texts I’d had from him a few days earlier showed no sign of what was to come.

I watched Glen perform on many occasions in the UK and in Greece. He was a sensitive accompanist and wonderful pianist with a particular passion for Rachmaninov.

A little over nine years ago, Glen and I met through our mutual friend the composer Matthew Pollard. Matt and I were collaborating on a project that was to become This Concert Will Fall In Love With You — later recorded with additional material as the CD Clameur and Glen was Matt’s first choice to play piano. Matt and Glen had were old friends, performing together in the Tacet Ensemble and The Rainbow Chorus for example. Matt also wrote three linked compositions called Three Portraits for Poet and Piano, which Glen and I performed in its premiere in 2012.

Clameur written my Matthew Pollard and Peter Kenny featuring Glen Capra on piano.

For me it was the start of a friendship that would endure until now. Glen was a thoroughly good bloke, who was hugely liked by a great many people. I will miss him.

Below is a YouTube video of Minotaur, one of the Three Portraits for Poet and Piano by Matt Pollard with Glen on piano and me doing the words.

Featuring Glen Capra on piano, Minotaur by Matthew Pollard and Peter Kenny

Categories
Clameur Matthew Pollard Music Performance Poetry This Concert Will Fall In Love With You

The story of your eyes

Matt003.JPG
Matt Pollard conducts The Tacet Ensemble, with Peter Kenny

Met up with my great friend Matt Pollard recently, with whom I collaborated on the high concept piece This Concert Will Fall In Love With You in the Brighton Fringe back in 2010.

It was a strange idea in retrospect, that a concert could be haunted by an entity with a voice who fell in love with the audience, only to be left brokenhearted as the concert finished and the audience departed.

Naively, I thought that by combining contemporary classical music with poetry you’d double your audience. While we had a more than healthy turnout for our three concerts, the area of the Venn diagram where lovers of poetry and new classical music overlapped was pretty small. I wrote highly-charged prose poetry monologues, and Matt put them to some utterly exquisite music.  I also decided, quite rationally of course, that dressing up as a Victorian undertaker was a good idea. I was convinced that the piece was a melodrama, and so dressed accordingly.

I’m still very proud of this work, and working with Matt was an education. Through his enthusiasm I listened to all kinds of music I would never have otherwise encountered. Some time later we recorded the piece and made the world’s worst selling CD from it, called Clameur.

If you have a moment, listen to this, one of the tracks from the album, called ‘the story of your eyes’. If you’d like to hear the rest of the work, it’s on Spotify under Pollard & Kenny. The words are below.

The story of your eyes

Because you are still here, I choose to tell you now that your eyes are beautiful.
To me, they are your supreme feature. When you gaze at me, I come to life.

It’s as if I called out, like a poet in a storm, and suddenly you tumbled wingless from the sky just to see me.

Your fascinated eyes inspire me; they have seen unimaginable things, and now I live among them in the cinema of your mind.

But when you look away, my love, darkness advances. For I believe that beams of light shine from your eyes. And just to be seen by you is to bask in perfect light.

I adore the colour of your eyes, but I love your pupils even more. I watch them dilate, excited by the dark. Or I see them contract to pinpoints when you are led into uncertainty, our tracks melting behind us in the paper-white snow.

I gaze back at you now, transfixed by your eyes and their flecked perfection.

Categories
A Glass of Nothing Theatre

How to get the best from the Brighton Fringe

IMG_2790
Beth outside The Theatre Box a week or so before we started our run

To my surprise, I was recently asked if I had any advice for putting a show on in the Brighton Fringe, after A Glass of Nothing went down so well. So I thought I’d share some learnings here.

Back in 2010 my pal Matthew Pollard and I took a show called This Concert Will Fall In Love With You, to the Fringe. Although that show was a success, here’s what Beth and I did differently this year (having learned from this earlier experience). I should warn you that some of these practical points are statements of the bleeding obvious:

  • Venue is vital – earmark your venue ahead of time. Beth visited The Warren’s Theatre Box last year and loved it. So we knew where we wanted and went out to get it. By attending  the Brighton Fringe venue pitch presentation some time before the official launch, we were able to corner the lovely Otherplace people behind The Warren and  secure a slot at the Theatre Box early. Knowing where we were going to be doing our thing in advance was hugely beneficial both in early rehearsals, and when I was finishing the script. Due to The Warren’s good organisation our shows had great publicity, and attracted reviewers. The venue was easy for people to find when they came to the show, and was close to Brighton Station.
  • Trusting the people you work with is all important – Beth and I are an unusual team in that she is my stepdaughter. The fact that we know and trust each other is a great platform to start work, especially something potentially risky. In my previous experience This Concert Will Fall In Love With You I was similarly blessed by having a collaborator Matt, who I completely trusted too. Without trust I’m not sure how you can do it.
  • Getting an audience – putting on a new show is a risk. Luckily the four people involved all had different friend groups and were all based in Brighton, so we had quite  a few friends and acquaintances attend our shows. But there were also a good number of people who none of us knew. Being in the Fringe programme  is a must (although I don’t find it the easiest publication to navigate). Also being online with both the Fringe and Otherplace websites, and using social media, old fashioned flyers and posters all contributed to winning an audience. The combination of this somehow resulted in us filling our house for three mid-week nights.
  • Own your own definition of success.  I think it is important to know what success looks like for you as a person or a company. For me, as a pessimist, it was if we could get more than an audience of 25 people each night. In reality we managed 60-70 a night. But once the ticket sales  crept past my pessimistic low I was able to focus all my neuroses on what was happening on stage. For the four of us involved in A Glass of Nothing, it was highly successful. As well as the play itself winning four-star reviews, and warm acclaim from the audiences, Kitty got an agent, Dylan was able launch himself as an actor, and Beth showed herself as the truly fine and courageous comedy actress I know her to be. For me, as writer, it was a much-needed confidence boost too.
  • Don’t let it stop there. This one is all important. Don’t let it all end with one run. We are in discussions with a director to work with us on its next staging. Brighton Blonde Productions will definitely stage this play again, and work on new ones.
  • Just do it. Finally I think if you’re ho-humming over whether you should do a Fringe show or not, if you believe in your ideas I say just go for it. There’s no learning curve steeper than staging your work in front of a paying audience. Of course it is a risk, but one that makes you feel alive.

 

Categories
Design Music

Wonderfully ingored

813bea9f-0d3e-4aab-9985-a86358f31988-811x1020

To be ignored by a piece of art is an amazing possibility. I came across this article in The Guardian about a book with facial recognition software built in. According to the article it is “Designed by Thijs Biersteker of digital entrepreneurs Moore has created a book jacket that will open only when a reader shows no judgment”.

I have always been attracted to the idea of a sentient piece of art. For example, when I wrote, with Matthew Pollard, the piece, This Concert Will Fall In Love With You, we envisaged a piece of music haunted by a sentience that was aware of its audience, which gradually became heartbroken as it realised that the music would end, and the audience leave. This interaction explicitly acknowledges the fact the audience exists and is listening.

I love the idea that a work of art can choose to withhold its engagement, to ignore you as a person might, really appealling.

Pollard & Kenny CD now well and truly launched

The evening at the Unitarian Church was a success. The CD is now well and truly launched, and is also available for download as you can see in the panel alongside. It will also be available on Amazon and iTunes in due course.

At our gig at the Brighton Unitarian Church we were excellently supported by The Shakespeare Trio. I love the intricate interplay between their guitars.

Matt was pleased with Three Portraits for Poet and Piano. In performing them I had to hang onto Glen’s nodded cues for grim death. But I managed to get through these without slipping up, which was something of a triumph.

Clameur was sung really well by the new The Brighton Choral Project. I find it very moving to hear my words about Guernsey being sung this way, especially since my Mother was in the audience who also loves that place.

Finally we went into our This Concert Will Fall In Love With You epic. Matt and I very pleased with how this went. I thought Cem on violin played a blinder. Had the choir flanking me backstage for the last few variations. At one or two points it was aurally like having angels on my shoulders.

Below a shot from the rafters with the whole lineup for This Concert Will Fall In Love With You. Left to right Glen Capra on piano, at the back me in the grey jacket flanked by Matt’s new choir The Brighton Choral Project, in front of us, Adam Bushell on vibraphone, Cem Muhurrem on violin, Tom Norrell on marimba, and Matt Pollard with his back to the camera conducting us all.

Clameur: The Words

After some humming and hawing Matt and I decided not to include the words as part of the CD packaging. However the booklet is available as a free download on the Pollard & Kenny site.

It contains all the words for This Concert Will Fall In Love With You, Clameur and Minotaur.

Categories
Clameur Matthew Pollard Music

Recording Clameur

Writing this a week after the recording sessions for the CD Matt and I are putting together. We recorded the tracks in St Michael and All Angel’s church in Brighton, which was the same venue that we premiered the main piece This Concert Will Fall In Love With You in the Brighton Festival Fringe in May 2010. Matt was in love with the acoustics there, and our recording engineer Simon Scardanelli loved the sound there too, and made a point of recording the silence which for all kinds of philosophical reasons I loved. I remember when we first performed the piece marvelling at how the sound from Adam’s vibraphone being bowed hung in the air for seconds, like a giant wineglass being rung with a wet finger.

Musicians were Cem Muhurram, on violin, Glem Capra on piano, Tom Norrell on marimba, and Adam Bushell on vibraphone (and marimba on Clameur track). I noticed that Adam had brought a patch of carpet to stand on. Matt and I had socked feet to prevent floor squeaks. This could not prevent the odd car going past or, this being Brighton, the yarps of stray seagulls.

The recording went smoothly, and the playing was splendid on This Concert. We doubled back at took various takes, but this was very different to how I’d read about how rock bands record. As everyone knew what we were peforming and knew our pieces we sailed through it. The choir, present in the last few variations, were sounding confident too. I had naturally been rather anxious about my own part, but I was pleased with how my performance went. Simon gave me some kind of vintage microphone which made my voice sound better, and I had a slight sore throat too, which may have worked in my favour. However we’ll have to hear what we have when Matt and I start the editing process with Simon in a couple of weeks.

The two choral pieces Found, and Clameur were then recorded, while I ran through Minotaur with Glen. This was literally a last minute piece, Matt had finished the score for the morning of the rehearsal, after we’d talked about it a couple of weeks ago. By 9:00pm everyone was a bit shattered, and all of us were all quite keen to get to the pub. Full of a slightly crazed energy, Glen and I did Minotaur in one take, which for a novice like me was exhilarating. And what we recorded was the first time the piece had ever been played right through.

Next steps are to work with Simon and start to create a definitive sound for the CD. I have also been working on designing the cover, employing some photos that were taken by the excellent Adrian Turner at our final pre-recording rehearsal.

Categories
Clameur Matthew Pollard Music

It’s ‘Clameur’

So Matt and I have agreed our CD will be called Clameur. This is the title of one of the choral pieces Matt based on my poem of the same name, which appeared in A Guernsey Double. Clameur means a cry or plea, and there is an ancient legal procedure still extant in Guernsey law called Clameur de haro. But the idea of a heartfelt cry certainly fits the empassioned nature of the main piece This concert will fall in love with you too.

Matt has begun to rehearse the choir for the three choral pieces. They have already started tackling Clameur and Adam. Last night we got together with Cem Muharren (violin), Adam Bushell (vibraphone), Tom Norrell (Marimba) and Glen Capra (piano) for our first pre-recording rehearsal for the longest piece This concert will fall in love with you. I was a bit twitchy beforehand as it is a year since we performed it for three nights only. But although a bit rusty, I felt I was picked up the threads fairly well and mostly finding my cues.

As ever a humbling and fascinating process working with professional musicians. Although everyone was relaxed and cheery, nobody messed about and biffed straight into it. I find it exhilarating, and a good antidote to the often solitary life of a writer.

Pollard & Kenny CD preparations

Beginning to get things ready for the recording of our CD. Matt has been tying musicians down to rehearsal dates, which is a tricky and difficult job. I meanwhile have been reviewing the words of This Concert Will Fall in Love With You and making a few minor tweaks.

The CD will have four pieces on it “This concert…” which has a theme and 12 variations. And three choral pieces: Found, written originally for the Rainbow Chorus, which they are recording for their own CD. Our version will have different instrumentation. Then there isClameur, a setting of my poem from A Guernsey Double which Matt has turned into a fascinating two-movement piece starting with angularity and vocal representations of being on the tube train, which later resolves into gorgeousness.

The final piece started life as a choral exercise, Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis. This translates as And on earth peace, good will toward men which Matt told me is something of a standard text for choral pieces.

I am beginning to love the music which has a brooding, ambiguous quality. Listening to the soundfile gave me a strong vision of leaves for some reason. And lately I have become keen on listening to the sound of wind through trees. I have rewritten the piece, and have called it Adam, and sent it to Matt to see what the maestro makes of it. This is our first piece where the music came first, so it will be interesting to see if I can demonstrate as much sensitivity as Matt has.

We’re also thinking about a name for the CD too. This concert will fall in love with you, is rather long, This CD will fall in love with you too crassly commercial perhaps. I like Clameur, but I am still unsure.

Rehearsals start next month. I can’t wait.

Categories
Clameur Matthew Pollard Music

Recording ‘This concert will fall in love with you’

We now have a date, 2nd July, for recording This concert will fall in love with you.

We will record the piece where it was originally performed in St Michael and All Angels church as the accoustics were fabulous there. The sound pooled and hung in the air, which due to the Matt’s instrumentation of marimba, vibraphone, piano and violin means the notes seem to hang in the air for a long time. It sounds beautiful. Luckily the Tacet Ensemble members have agreed to be on the recording too. I am so excited by this.

Interestingly weather might be a factor and if it is really windy this could affect the recording or lend it an unpredictable atmosphere. I can’t wait for the recording to be in the bag so people can hear how beautifully it worked, and how it repays hearing again.