I write this on a train on Tuesday 31 October, three days after we showed Concerto with a full orchestra at the University of Leicester. The dust has now settled, the music stands and chairs have been returned to the backstage store at Attenborough Arts Centre, the scores will be posted back to the music library in Milan and the orchestra have gone back to their day jobs. But what hasn’t quite settled yet are the butterflies in my stomach. As Ryan wrote in the previous blogpost, it was incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to work with an orchestra. It has been my vision for a while since we started making the show a year ago. I have always imagined Concerto 2.0, an augmented version of Concerto, as an immersive concert. One of the audience members said to me on Saturday, ‘I felt like I was in the orchestra’. And here, where our journey began with the very first work-in-progress of Concerto last year, we were able to make it happen. It felt like we were performing in front of a mirror, our audience as an orchestra, seeing an actual orchestra looking back at them. Our distorted digital sound-scape echoing and colliding with the live classical music. Our words overlapping their sounds.
Paul Jenkins, the conductor who we interviewed as part of the process and whose voice features in the show, was instrumental in making this happen – no pun intended. John Kirby and Michaela Butter at Attenborough Arts Centre shared this vision and were keen to launch the venue’s new Autumn season with our performance of Concerto. As I type this, I am listening to an audio recording I made of the orchestra warming up, not tuning up in the traditional sense, but rather playing fragments of the music from the show. A French Horn practises Pavane pour une enfant defunte, an oboe plays Bolero, the stage manager talks about how we need to get the orchestra to rip up the manuscript, the pianist, Nicholas McCarthy, arrives and says hello to everyone, there is a hush when he starts to play the Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. And then the conductor asks everyone to be quiet as the rehearsal starts. It is a beautiful, impromptu recording of the creative process, like Janet Cardiff’s The Forty Part Motet or Robert Morris’ Box with the sound of its own making. I will play it tomorrow as the audience walk in when we show the original version of Concerto at Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton. It will foreshadow the soundtrack of the show. It will ghost the orchestra into our piece until we are able to work with one again in the not-too-distant future.
Image: Julian Hughes