SINBAD THE SAILOR & THE STORIES OF SCHEHERAZADE
With James Mayhew and the Orchestra of the Music Makers, conducted by Chan Tze Law.
I promised exciting news… and it doesn’t get much better than this. The Cheltenham Music Festival has asked me to work with a magnificent international orchestra from Singapore. They are called The Orchestra of the Music Makers and the music they requested is Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov – one of my all time favourites and music used at the most recent concert I did with the de Havilland Philharmonic in Hatfield.
So I will be dusting down my costume and brushing up words and pictures for Cheltenham this summer. The concert takes place in the beautifully refurbished Town Hall in Cheltenham on Saturday July 7th at 12 Noon.
If you are not familiar with the Family Concerts I’ve been involved in, they combine live music, storytelling and art in a unique way. The orchestra will play a complete performance of Rimsky-Korsakov’s masterpiece and each section will be introduced with carefully researched stories. But what really draws the audience in is the art. It’s a tight-rope walk for me, but I love it too. I get to stand on stage with a huge orchestra and paint along. This representation of the score in a visual way helps children find a way into the music, for the illustration is projected onto a screen so everyone can see it grow before their eyes.
The Orchestra of the Music Makers is a recently formed orchestra of young, dazzlingly talented musicians from Singapore, and has been gathering superb reviews. They are performing several concerts in Cheltenham for this year’s festival, which marks their European debut. How proud I am to be part of it all!
CLICK HERE to visit their impressive website, with snippets of their recordings!
This, then, is an extraordinary opportunity for your children to hear a world class orchestra, hear exciting stories from the Arabian Nights and to see LIVE art being created simultaneously. And all for the price of a trip to the cinema!
There will be an opportunity to win an original illustration created during the concert, and I’ll stay at the end to sign books too.
So I hope very much you will come along and meet this wonderful orchestra from the Far East, at this fun filled and exciting concert. There will be tales of princesses and pomegranates, genies and monsters and fabulous fairytale cities. Come along and be carried away on a magic flying carpet of stories, music and art…
Priority booking for this really exciting event opens on MONDAY 27th of February, and public booking opens on MONDAY MARCH 5th.
Tickets £8 BOX OFFICE: 0844 880 8094
Sunday, 5 February 2012
A memory: I am sitting with my class drawing. We are not in school but outside and it’s raining. And we are using something I have never used before, called pen and ink. It’s not my usual teacher. I’m in year 5 or 6, and I have this scratchy pen and a bottle of black ink. And I am drawing bricks. Drawing and drawing, lines of bricks. Now windows. Now roof tiles. I am drawing The Rookery, the birthplace of David Copperfield in the novel by Charles Dickens, which was in a certain “Blunderstone” village, easily recognisable as Blundeston. And it was in this same tiny Suffolk village that I lived from the age of four until around twenty.
Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday is celebrated this week, reminding me of the last major Dickens celebration - the 100th anniversary of his death in 1970. Blundeston responded with a Dickensian festival which I can just remember, although I can only have been 6 years old. And I remember it mainly because of a large trampoline on the village playing field, an unheard of excitement! But also for a pageant of Dickensian characters and a real horsecoach trundling past our house. Everyone dressed up, and yes, that really is a picture of me, in 1970, as David Copperfield.
Although I didn’t read the novel when young – David Copperfield is long book and includes all sorts of “grown up” sin, such as fallen women and imprisonment - I suppose, without knowing it, a layer of awareness of the value of books and the written word was implanted that day, at the festival and through the landmarks associated with the story. I learned to appreciate the village – the Rookery, of course, The Plough pub, from where Barkis the Carrier set off for Gt. Yarmouth. And the village sign, carved in wood, depicting young David Copperfield himself, beside the church, with its famous flinted round tower, and sundial, so beautifully remembered by Copperfield:
“There is nothing half so green that I know anywhere, as the grass of that churchyard; nothing half so shady as its trees; nothing half so quiet as its tombstones. The sheep are feeding there, when I kneel up, early in the morning, in my little bed in a closet within my mother's room, to look out at it; and I see the red light shining on the sun-dial, and think within myself, 'Is the sun-dial glad, I wonder, that it can tell the time again?'”
My primary school was right next to that very churchyard. Whilst not exactly Dickensian, it was not a happy place; the cane and the slipper were regularly applied by the staff back in the 1960s. But at least the teachers introduced me to pen and ink. I can smell the inks now… And such colours! As well as drawing Dickensian landmarks, we also used them to create stained glass windows, on greaseproof paper, inspired by the windows in the church.
Years later I set up a dark room and photographed some of these land marks (my drawings are long lost). Between the Rookery and the church was a curious round wall – a pound for stray sheep. Inside the church it was always quiet and peaceful and I remember sitting at evensong, on a summer’s evening, listening to birds singing, the late sun lighting up the plain walls, and enjoying the tuneful repetition of hymns. I loved their stories too. Phrases like “For those in peril on the sea!” thrilled and frightened me as much as “The Lord is my Shepherd” still moves me.
My parents moved away about the time I went off to Art College. I have never been back to Blundeston, but I find I still dream of the house where I grew up, the trees I played in, the gardens, my bedroom, my den, shared with my sister Kate. The surrounding fields and quarries, the contorted hedgerows, ancient and twisted and hollow inside, were a wonderful playground and it was a landscape, full of stories for anyone with a little imagination.
This year, with Charles Dickens celebrated everywhere, Blundeston (with both good and bad memories), is calling me.
Perhaps this is the year to return to my old haunts… and put a few ghosts to bed.
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