Monday, 22 February 2010

St Mary's in Ham-ony

Since starting at St Mary's (which seems like forever ago now) I have had a lot of requests for singing lessons or group choir sessions, and finally I've been able to do something towards that. The Wednesday singing workshops have been running this term and have been great fun! Music is so important to me, particularly singing and this has been a great way to get my fill. Since Arabian Nights has finished I have found myself steeped in music and singing at every turn and I love it!

I have been arranging a lot of music for the singing workshops as I've gone along, and I've really enjoyed the range. The Flying Pickets, Survivors Eye of the Tiger, Paul Simon and Britney Spears, as well as some classic gospel and acapella songs. Theres been a rich tapestry and the students seem to have been enjoying it. What's great is there willingness to try new things and sing new songs, which is the blessing in any choir.

But the singing workshops have only been the beginning of this musical marathon I find myself running. Since November I have been looking for Community Choirs in the local area to take part in an event organised for Ham House's 400th birthday. Since then the event has grown even bigger with the inclusion of a community groups procession organised by our 3rd Year St Mary's Drama in the Community Students. So far they've been very impressive in there work ethic as well as the results and I'm enjoying working with my singing team - Zoe, Ed and Rachel.

Only last week Zoe and I visited a choir in the Vineyard Church in Richmond, lead by Ruth Fenton. After an hour and a half of singing it was clear how much people enjoy the singing they do and gain so much from it. Not only the singing, but the sense of community and cohesion it brings. It's a social gathering as much as anything else. But also an amazing amount of talent, choir leaders and participants. People who give so much of their time for the love of what they do, and this is what will make the event at Ham House such a success.

It has lead me to learn even more about myself however, and this has been really interesting. I've worked on my own for so long, and taken charge of every aspect of a project that it's been strange having other people to work with again. I am enjoying it and the whole team are working very hard, but I've never had a support team, a sounding board, a work partner. Throughout all my directing I've never had an assistant, not because I am amazingly good, I've just never felt good enough to ask anyone.

When working on your own you make mistakes, but it's easy to cover them up. If you want to have a week off you can, as long as you work twice as hard the week after. At every point you know exactly what has been done and what needs to be done. To give some of the responsibility has been liberating beyond measure, but does take a certain outlook to make it work.

All I can say is it's been good so far - harmony has been achieved throughout - musically and communicatively. Long may the music at St Mary's continue............

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

One Thousand and One Nights (since my last blog)

Ok. So I appreciate that not making a virtual contirbution since before Christmas is positively an age in the blogosphere, but sooooo much has happened. As a treat I will endeavour to make this as interesting and fun as I can.

This week saw the opening of 'Arabian Nights', and also sees the beginning of me trying to reclaim my life back on a social level. Most of my blog tardiness can be denoted to the show, with an intense rehearsal schedule, technical meetings and talking about the show endlessly to anyone who will listen. But to anyone who came to see the show last night I hope they thought it was worth it?? The students did their best performance yet and I hope that they continue their good run into tonights proceedings.

But I am not writing this blog in order to discuss the finer points of the production but more to talk about what I have learnt about myself throughout this time. The results have been more than startling and I have kept mental notes of these transitions as they happen.

I have directed before; student shows, amateur shows and with professional companies and every time I have the same sense of dread and foreboding when going into a project. Of course the usual excitement is also present, sprinkled with enthusiasm, but still this inner feeling remains. Directing a play is like flying a plane and the engine cutting out. Once started you can't stop, you must just keep going and hope that you land on a cotton wool factory - and hope to goodness you don't land on a bomb factory. And, much like all plane crashes (oh yes, this extended metaphor still has life in it) you don't know where you're going to land until you're really near the ground. It never fails to surprise me the momentum at which a production moves along, and you have to make sure that you're going with it or be left behind.

As an actor I have worked with directors who have let the play go too far without them, and when they try to sneak back in they find it impossible. I have also worked with directors that are so 'on top' of what's going on it's hard to get any creative fulfilment as one of the performers. But saying 'I will not be like those directors' proves as futile as saying 'I will not grow up to be my mother' - we both have the same face, sarcastic repertoire and an anal fascination with cleanliness. But more importantly she was my female role maodel and showed me what it is to be a woman; in the same way that all the past directors I have worked with have taught me about how to direct.

I caught myself working with this group of actors sometimes and knowing that if I did it again I would try something different. But overarching all this uncertainty was a deep rooted belief that everything was going to be ok. The play was good, the music and live musicians was great, the students are being challeenged and I was working on a show that truly reflected what working with me as a director is like - slap-dash and random but also with discipline and fun.

As I watched the show I felt like the last few months have melted away and all I have left are new skills as a director, new ideas as an educator and a show which I, and my students can be proud of. I hope anyone who comes to see it this week agrees.