An unforgettable experience

November 19, 2009

AMY MACPHERSON, Community Ensemble Participant

Last night was the first time I’d rehearsed on stage at the Coliseum in costume, and oh my goodness it’s all extremely exciting. Lying on the beautiful mirrored floor of the stage for one scene, looking up at the soaring dome of the Coliseum above me, hearing the chorus singing all around us – it’s all adding up to be an unforgettable experience.

I am quite childishly delighted to have my own special seat in the dressing room with my name on the mirror! The backstage world of calls over the tannoy, dressers and wardrobe assistants, waiting in the wings and getting glimpses of the onstage action between our scenes, the rabbit warren of rooms and staircases – it’s all fascinating.

The only thing that strikes me as a shame is that I’ll never get to see what the show looks like from out in the audience – but that is a small price to pay!

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Hyper-alertness required

November 4, 2009

AMY MACPHERSON, Community Ensemble Participant

Last night was our second ‘proper’ rehearsal and for the first time I really felt that the work we’ve been doing with Joyce, who has been running through group movement exercises with us, are starting to pay off. I’ve also realised how much concentration is involved in just being part of a group, staying aware of all the other members and what they are doing, and moving in and around each other while using the full space available. It probably sounds pretty easy but actually it is not – there’s a sort of hyper-alertness required that also needs to look natural and unforced. Joyce started out last night by taking us through some ‘availability’ exercises – making us aware of how posture and tiny little changes in body position can trigger reactions in other parts of our body. We split into pairs and took turns gently moving each other’s heads while standing in different ways – I hadn’t realised that standing with your knees locked, or looking at a fixed point in the room, can make your head practically unmovable even though you are not consciously holding it still. The body can be a very mysterious machine. In some ways these exercises remind me of Qigong, which is a movement-based Chinese meditation practice.

By the end of rehearsal we had moved into some specific stage-based movements, and I probably can’t say too much about the actual stage directions but it really feels like things are starting to click into place already. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Being involved in this production has made me more curious about the music of Messiah. Of course I knew and loved the Hallelujah Chorus and some other big choral numbers but other parts of the work were quite unfamiliar to me – especially the arias. However, the little bits of music that we hear at rehearsal – and the wonderful solos we have generously had performed for us – have really got under my skin. The other night I found a recording of Messiah on Spotify and have been listening to it a fair bit – I particularly enjoy “Every Valley Shall be Exalted”. The music seems increasingly less like a series of beautiful ornate baroque flourishes and more warm and human each time I hear it. The surface beauty is still there but I think I am getting a more rounded understanding of and appreciation for the music – perhaps being involved in this show is changing the way I listen.

I read an interview with the artist David Hockney over the weekend in which he said that Messiah was great for playing at top volume while driving through the American desert. I can’t drive and I’ve never been to the desert, but I think I know what he means.

21 to 73!

October 22, 2009

AMY MACPHERSON, Community Ensemble Participant

Well the first meeting of the community ensemble has taken place and it was great to see the faces of all the people who I’ll be sharing this experience with. After quite a few name-learning games and fun movement activities the group dynamic is really starting to establish itself. One of the most interesting exercises was when we formed ourselves into a line from youngest to oldest – we range from 21 to 73. It’s great that such a spectrum of ages is included. I think our community ensemble is a great bunch of people and I’m really looking forward to getting to know everyone more as rehearsals begin in earnest.

It was a real treat when we had a performance by John Mark, one of the soloists in the production, as a special ‘reward’ for our efforts on the night. He sang a piece from Messiah and everyone was absolutely rapt. It was a special experience to hear such amazing singing at close quarters, and really brought home the fact that we’re going to actually be a part of this production. So exciting!