Sunday, 22 May 2011

Royalty, Reality and Royalties

Evenin’ all.

This is my second run at doing a blog lately. I tried to write one just after we did our Buckingham Palace show, and then realized it was so full of the very recent Buckingham Palace thing, that it dominated the blog, and risked being indiscreet or self- aggrandising. Now with another week’s distance I feel I can write a blog that is more balanced and covers more subjects.

Yes indeed, we have been working on the show at Buckingham Palace for quite a few months, and it did become all-consuming. No-one (that I know or with whom I sympathise) would ever begrudge doing things for The Queen; it’s always a huge pleasure and I’ve been lucky to have been involved in some thrilling Royal events at Buckingham Palace or elsewhere. The people who run the Household, from the lowliest chambermaid to the Master Of The Household are all so welcoming and “normal” that you just feel like a friend or colleague going about a job, but surrounded by such layers of history and goodwill. The first few times I went there it was a bit like recording at Abbey Road for the first few times. You would (and still do) wonder if the valve U47 microphone you are using was the one used by John Lennon on “All You Need Is Love” – and it probably was. Similarly, you pass a painting given by Queen Victoria to the love of her life, Prince Albert, and you feel an electric charge of emotion and sympathy, not to mention admiration for the painter’s work.

We had been asked (Craig Hassall, MD, English National Ballet) and I, to co-produce an event as a focal point for a reception, given by Her Majesty, to celebrate young people in the performing arts. The Queen often celebrates various sectors, whether agriculture, industry or even the music business (I attended one such reception a few years back). Usually it’s just a drinks reception but often with a related event on the same day. In this case, we were asked to do a 30 minute show in the palace ballroom for The Queen, The Duke Of Edinburgh, other senior royals and 450 guests from all stratas and ranks of the Performing Arts community.

I’ll cut to the chase before this blog starts to compete in length with the more detailed one which I discarded last week!

I won’t say it was easy putting it together. We wanted to achieve the right mixture , between let’s say “High” art and, - well, normal everyday art – which I would contend (and which was proven on that Monday) can be every bit as “High” in its artistic effect and the techniques and dedication required to perform it at its best. I’ve nearly broken my promise not to give a long account of the putting together of this show, so I’ll skid to a halt in a minute if you don’t mind (or even if you do). Let’s just say that the three artistic directors (Justin Way, Royal Opera House, -overall director), Luc Mollinger (freelance, associate director) and myself – (general all-round collaborator and Musical director) did manage, over a number of months to rally a large number of volunteers to be either orchestra players , crew, lighting, sound, chorus, corps-de-ballet, stars , stage managers, runners. The show was fast moving and such a buzz to perform. I conducted the Docklands Sinfonia (about 55 piece, young orchestra) – and we themed the show around Romeo and Juliet – using Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev (with ENB performance) “West Side Story” – with Jo McElderry and the National Youth Music Theatre chorus, plus a sensational street dance section performed by Flawless, with Alleviate, Sara-Jane Skeete and rapper Ironik. There were also acting performances by distinguished players including Tamsin Egerton and Anne Reid MBE, and we finished off with Rumer singing Taylor Swift’s “Love Story”. The show was introduced with a speech by Dame Kiri te Kanawa.

There are some pictures at the following sites:

Meanwhile, I have been flitting in and out of Europe to catch the Katie Melua “House” tour on its triumphant run around Germany, France, Belgium Portugal, the UK and now off to Scandinavia. Katie is singing better than ever, after her “breakdown” which had caused postponement of the tour from the Autumn. She’s been getting the best reviews she’s ever had, pleasing existing fans and converting doubters (usually who had never seen her perform “live” before) along the way.

That was a full-on job, funnily enough! Earlier blogs will give more detail, but a lot of time and preparation went into it, both musically and visually – all at the same time as the above Buckingham Palace activities. Add to that the enormous planning it is taking to coax the Wombles from their burrow and get them ready for their forthcomng Glastonbury appearanvce - together with even grander plans for their future- and you might get some small clue as to the manic nature of my life at the moment. The above three projects don’t even come close to describing it. Add Caro Emerald, (who I can now announce is poised to crash into the UK top ten of the album charts this week, on Dramatico Records) Sarah Blasko, Gurrumul, TD Lind, Marianne Faithfull and Asa – to name only six Dramatico artists requiring tight focus at the moment, - oh, and putting together a new Media company to raise finance for our own ambitious film, TV and stage exploits. For the Caro Emerald success, - apart from thanking Caro and her team themselves, I need to thank Andrew Bowles, our Managing Director at Dramatico, for driving the whole project along. It’s a great feeling when things go right– which I promise you, is not always the case. While I’m thanking people individually I should say a special “thanks” to Jody Hardy, our Head Of Events, for her steely and superlative handling of the Palace project from start to finish, or “from GO to WHOAH” as my wife says.

It all sounds a bit too much, doesn’t it?

Well, nothing changes. I guess I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it. When I stop enjoying it I’ll stop doing it.

This Thursday, after ELEVEN wasted or delayed court hearings, a close friend of mine was acquitted of a stupid charge of spitting at someone on the Underground at Waterloo. This man – after working with me for over 5 years, has never even once used a swear word in my presence, and is the most courteous and well-mannered person I know. For him to have committed an assault like that is inconceivable, and I was called as a character witness. Thankfully – after a farce of incompetence by the Crown Prosecution Service, their barrister turned up without his file (having lost it) and the complainant was out of the country on holiday and just didn’t turn up– resulting in a huge waste of our time and massive costs for the CPS. It really does beggar belief. The only regret was that we weren’t able to prove in court RESOUNDINGLY that he didn’t do it. The case was just thrown out, albeit after more than a year of worrying and waiting on my friend’s behalf. Somehow, the CCTV footage that my friend had begged to see (to prove his innocence) had gone missing – the police had somehow failed to download it. I wonder why!

My daughter is home at the moment from Boston where she is studying music. She’s making up for lost time and hitting the town with a vengeance.

This weekend I was Grandpa, looking after one of my two six-year-old grand-daughters (I have two, one by each of my elder daughters) – if you are trying to work it out, bear in mind that I was a child bride the first time around!

That’s it for another month or so – unless I get hot under the collar or jubilant about something.

Oh yes. I’ve just remembered I am both of those things about the Hargreaves Report. Jubilant that his recommendations are that there should be no (mis-described) “fair use” clause in UK copyright law, unlike US law, - (to help Google take over the World at the expense of copyright owners) and hot under the collar about proposals for a copyright exemption for “Parody and Pastiche” – so you can change people’s lyrics and tunes without waiting until they are out of copyright. It’s the first step on a dark and dangerous road to the complete decay of copyright . Anyway – the effort goes on.

Re super-injunctions and their breach on Twitter and the web generally, the Lord Chief Justice recently said that he hoped that ways could be found to “curtail the misuse of modern technology” which was “totally out of control”. Thank goodness for a voice of reason. It also applies to illegal downloading, - and governments who don’t realise the need to chase after this horse that has already bolted from the stable will regret it – on behalf of their citizens one day. Modernists say the web is a great opportunity, and it is. It is an opportunity to steal copyright material and to libel innocent people with little fear of reproach. I admit it is also wonderful thing. It’s like a car. It can get you to places, but it can also run people over and kill them. It’s the latter aspect that hasn’t been properly dealt with, and it isn’t just music theft I’m talking about. There are many other misuses emerging. We have to get sensible about this before the REAL judgement day (as distinct from that hilarious rich preacher in the States who said we would all die in an earthquake at 6pm yesterday)!

Wow, that was a good rant. I think I’ll go for a lttle lie down now.

Lots of love,


PS. I thought the Royal Wedding was fab. He should have kissed her for about a second longer, though.

PPS. I'm flattered by the attentions of some online "followers" setting up a campaign for me to be considered for an honour. I'd be a liar if I didn't say I think we'd all secretly love to be honoured, but (a) there are others far more deserving and b) even if I was eligible, I think a web campaign is likely to be counter-productive. I'm not being ungrateful. I hope you understand. For those who may presume I have played a part in instigating the campaign, I haven't!

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