About a month ago, I received an e-mail from Lila Palmer. She was looking for a pianist between 28 and 35 years of age, in possession of “serious classical chops” (direct quote) and who didn’t mind acting a bit funny on stage.
The reason she was looking for one such is that she’d written a libretto, which was in the process of being turned into a chamber opera, and which was to be performed as a workshop on the 16th of September.
The performance was to be at the Roman River Music Festival in Colchester, England, and she wondered if I’d be interested in being said pianist.
I asked her if she knew that I live in Holland.
She told me that they’d fly me in in if I wanted to join.
Case closed, basically.
I received the score a few days later. It was for a soprano (aforementioned Lila Palmer, because of course she can do everything), a tenor (Vasil Garvanliev), a cellist (James Whittle) and myself. It was seventeen pages long, written by composer Theo Jamieson and pretty damned cool, to be honest. There was a nifty ballet bit that required some serious practice, and some county parts that needed to be done rather rigidly to achieve the full awesome, but on average quite doable.
I practiced it during the course of the week, and all was well in the world.
Until, two days before my plane was to depart, I received another message from Lila saying “You mustn’t panic”.
The conversation that followed went a bit like this.
Me: “All right.”
Lila: “We’re going to show what we can.”
Lila: “Of course we don’t ask the impossible.”
Me: “Of course.”
Lila: “So seriously, no stress, it’ll be all right.”
Me: “Okay. I have a feeling I’m missing some information here. What’s happened?”
Lila: “Have you received the new score yet?”
Me: “….. new score?”
Theo, as it turned out, had only just finished the full score. My industriously practiced seventeen pages were only the first three acts of seven. The page count suddenly went up to fifty-one.
Cue “Inception" bwaahm.
I, like a good little mildly-autistic-piano-monkey, panicked and practiced the entire following day, taking breaks only to quietly hyperventilate in a corner and to write in the truly asinine things that I anticipated I wouldn’t have time for during rehearsal (like THIS IS AN F and COUNT TO FOUR and suchlike).
I played through it one last time on Thursday morning, figured “well, this is as ready as I’m going to get”, and got on a plane.
Having arrived in Colchester, I had a cup of tea in a pub (because when in England…) and went to the Mercury Theatre, which was to become our base camp for the next few days. Our rehearsal space was the Studio of the theatre; a lovely stage that can house an audience of about sixty. My piano was an upright painted grey, with whom I immediately became friends.
Theo arrived about an hour after me, and I think we got along very well from the start. I told him some of the issues I had with the hard bits, he offered suggestions on how to solve it, and eventually he just told me what he wanted it to sound like and gave me free reign on how to achieve that.
Miranda Cromwell, our director, joined us about twenty minutes later and confirmed that the rehearsal was to start at 16:00.
We found the chocolates that were left for us. I practiced some more and calmed down a little. James arrived, and we immediately decided to just try out the prologue a few times. Whilst we were fiddling with that, the singers dropped in.
It was 15:45 on Thursday the 14th of September.
To be continued in Part Two!