JANA PHILLIPS, ENO Baylis Project Manager

In this film, Laurence Cummings, Messiah conductor, chats to Community Ensemble member, Martin Wyatt. Martin works at the Handel House museum so he knows a great deal about Handel and about this oratorio!

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MAUREEN GORDON, Community Ensemble Participant

Getting to know people from all walks of life and having a laugh together……..

One thousand flights of stairs to our dressing room… that how it feels anyway. The pounds are falling off!!!  Trying to navigate my way around the rabbit warren of backstage and feeling anxious that I might get lost and miss my cue. Funnily enough, others have had dreams about me forgetting to go on stage too………

Arriving at the Coliseum – for the first day – and trying to take in the sheer scale of the massive stage and the myriad (so it seems) of people everywhere. Then we were sitting in the theatre watching the first part of the production, when some of the community ensemble came on stage.  The rest of us were sitting thinking we should be there. They had forgotten to call us. That was funny!!!

Finding out that we are all in the same boat; no-one knew what was going on either and where they should be, including the chorus. We have got used to changes, changes.

Now we have been performing for a few days, so what was strange has become more familiar. What an experience being on stage the last few nights has been: especially during the Hallelujah Chorus – wonderful, powerful and profound.  6 performances down, three to go.

My family came, the constant questions ensued. What were you doing on the stage? Why were you all lying around? I thought you would be singing. Why is there a tree in it? What did they mean when they sang that? And I thought it was straightforward. I get it. My 7 year old niece summed it up, “It was good but loud”…

It has been great to be part of Messiah…

JANA PHILLIPS, ENO Baylis Project Manager

Community Ensemble member, Joyia Fitch, chats to Deborah Warner about Messiah and donkeys (!)

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Standstill in the wings…

December 5, 2009

HOWARD HARDACRE, Community Ensemble Participant

There are some really magical moments in this production and the one that I am drawn to night after night is the opening of Act III. At this point ‘the theatre’ is all around me, as the strength of the performance extends into the wings. The complete hubbub of the wings is at a standstill. Only a few people linger here now.

For the past few nights I have watched from stage left, but tonight I witnessed it from stage right. The proximity of the acting of the hospital scene touches the ether around us. I watch the attentive nurses through the golden-lined shadows of an actor and a dancer. Through the jet black flats and banks of silhouetted lighting and against the lights from stage left which are blinding in the distance, I can see the bed and the scene plays out. It’s a sombre moment and filled with reflection and poignancy. The nurses leave the stage and we all stand silently together…It’s a really privileged position.

Backstage and Party photos!

December 4, 2009

JANA PHILLIPS, ENO Baylis Project Manager

I’ve just been having a look at the photos on the “Messiah 09 Community Ensemble” Facebook page.

There are some lovely snaps and I thought I’d post a few here…

ALISON PORTER, Community Ensemble Participant

It’s all gone a bit quiet, adrenaline levels have stabilised and repetition has ironed out the clunky bits. Complacency is now the thing most likely to trip us up, a couple of incidents involving a chair and a crib remind me that the inanimate objects are still out to get us. I’m also wondering why appearing in front of 2000 people is proving far less scary than facing 20. I think it’s something to do with distance, I’m afraid of heights but have no trouble looking out of an airplane window and it seems to be the same with the scale of things viewed from the Coliseum stage.

No one seems to be writing much at the moment; apart from the critics that is. They all have different opinions of course but it’s interesting to see what they’ve picked up on. Maybe we should issue some complimentary opera glasses to the one who described me in my primary teacher role as ‘he’ – I knew the baggy jeans weren’t particularly flattering but mistaking me for a man, hey that’s going too far.

I watched a kind of X Factor for artists on the television last night where the piece of public art work selected by the expert panel was the one liked least by the public – this made me wonder; if the public like something the critics don’t like does this mean the public has no taste or that the critics have too much? Anyway I’m glad this production doesn’t try to tell anyone what is good for them.

Apart from the critics there’s the dreaded flu virus stalking the dressing room, taking another victim every evening. We still have seven performances to go so we’re going to need some true grit and Lemsip to see us through. Jill has been peddling throat sweets and comfort (she was a primary school teacher in real life) and Barbara has been generous with her herbal remedies. At least we don’t have to sing or dance like others in the cast, although it’s hard not to cough with all those candles. I’m still feeling a bit fragile but once the train journey and fight through the commuters is over, the Coliseum is warm and friendly and beginning to feel like home…. and the soup is pretty good too.

Now we’re in business!

November 28, 2009

JOYIA FITCH, Community Ensemble Participant

I have a bit of the jitters all day, I think we all do. OK, I’m in a large ensemble & I should feel totally safe… but the adrenaline is running. It’s opening night!

I have a bit of time to kill before our call time at the Coli. As I get off the 176, I look up at the spinning, lit-up dome of the Coliseum & the busy peopled area outside. This makes it feel real. Instead of going straight there I head into the National Portrait Gallery practically opposite. I need some calm & this is one of my favourite places in London for that. I locate a Handel portrait (2nd floor, room 12 if you want to check it out too…) & I just sit on the bench right there looking at him. I take in his chubby, rosy cheeks and the score of ‘Messiah’ depicted right there beside him… how appropriate. A nice, quiet moment before taking a hop, skip, jump over the road to realise his wondrous work on stage.

I think opening night went well; nice & smooth. Nothing could have prepared me for the energy of 2,400 faces staring back at me, I will never forget that moment. My cheeks are roasting red & I’m alive. Good job I’m not singing because for ‘Amen’ with all the glitter falling practically takes my breath away. The chorus are on full power… now we’re in business. I’m intrigued to see how it will develop even deeper over the next 8 shows. There’s a pang of sadness too as it feels like it’ll be over in a heartbeat. And the applause, the applause almost knocks you over, audience standing ovation (they loved it). We’ve been getting some lovely reviews too…

And we’re all getting to know each other backstage, the ensemble, the chorus, the dancers & soloists. Oh and our stage managers – what an on-the-ball job that is, we’re so reliant on them for the seemless flow. There’s a moment every night when little Max touches my shoulder, I love that moment, what an astounding little boy.

Now lets get on with the run, lets let it fly.


Ps. Oh and that TV? I got it on the mark (give or take an inch). Phew…