By Tim Lane
As I write we’re at the beginning of the third of nine rehearsal days for An Honest Gentleman and things are looking good! As musical director my focus is on making sure the music is doing all the things it should be doing but already I seem to have been incorporated into the onstage action.
The luxury of having had a week of development last year is really paying off now because we’re lucky enough to have the same cast and they already know the songs. In fact when we had the first proper singing session yesterday morning everyone knew their parts and were singing beautifully from the start, it felt a bit like “getting the band back together” for a new tour after a long lay off.
Yesterday we worked hard on all seven numbers looking at the blocking and really polishing the delivery. The music in this show is deliberately stripped down; three, (sometimes four), voices and an acoustic guitar so it’s important to get each song clear and punchy, particularly bearing in mind the fact that we won’t be using amplification in most of the venues. Voice production and projection are vital in making sure everything can be heard without voices being strained. Our next task will be to work on the characterization in the songs but today singing voices are being rested. I will spend today mostly looking for places where incidental music will enhance the action and add those extra little allusions and clues.
Last night I was writing programme notes and I found myself giving the musical choices and decisions for this production proper consideration. From the outset, when Cords and I first began writing we knew we wanted to use more songs than has previously been the case with Stuff of Dreams shows and I was clear in my mind that I wanted the music to have the feel of English traditional folk music. Having toyed with the idea of using existing material I ultimately decided to compose new songs influenced by folk music and in writing programme notes I had to explain why. The answer is that it helps set the period in which the action takes place and that folk music is all about storytelling which is one of the main functions of the musical element in this show.
The thing is, these reasons or justifications weren’t explicit in the initial choice; it was a much more instinctive decision. It felt right and I knew it would work and work well but it was only later that I was able to see how why this might be. This is often the way with any creative endeavour I undertake, the first step is instinct and the trick is to learn to trust it. I firmly believe that my subconscious knows what it’s doing when it comes to making stuff. Later I can look at at what’s been made and understand why and how it works while the old subconscious nips off down the pub or puts its feet up in front of the telly.
Tomorrow we’ll continue to work on individual scenes with me continuing to develop the overall score ready for a run on Friday.