Summer in the city

What a glorious few weeks! Today saw the first cloudy day in virtually a month, and although the poor garden looks pretty Saharan as a result, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed basking in the sunshine during my half-term sabbatical. Oxford on a summer’s day is frankly unbeatable, and I was lucky enough to spend a good portion of the last few weeks rehearsing outside for our Arts Festival production of ‘Much Ado about Nothing’. In between rehearsals we played catch, swam, climbed trees and chased geese off our stage. The show itself went down a storm and some Upper Sixth veterans put in tremendous final performances (Harry, our Claudio, reckoned on having notched up seventeen plays in his time at MCS). Alex and Flora, fresh from ‘Private Lives’ shenanigans, were a perfect Beatrice and Benedick, while some new talent emerged to make this is a really fun show all round.

My sabbatical passed rapidly and enjoyably in a rapid stream of events, all rather last minute. I performed with three other staff at the Parents’ Ball, piecing together a Bond medley, and being upstaged in the Czardas by Tim Elton, a great maths-teacher-friend and musician who played the tune on his cheeks, of all things. We then danced the night away with some very jolly guests, who will never seem quite the same at school Parent’s Evenings… Next up was a skit I was asked to write and direct about some eminent Old Boys; for which I asked back as actors some less eminent but more amenable (and alive) recent Old Boys. ‘Heavenly Old Waynfletes’ was the title, which says it all: imagine Thomas More, William Waynflete and other Tudor worthies rubbing shoulders with Ivor Novello and WWI heroes in heaven. On the topic of WWI heroes, we also had a day of filming for our commemorative project in November, setting up interviews with some of the pupils who are helping piece the script together from archive research.

Manouche Etcetera played to a packed house in Sandy’s, a fantastic new venue in town. One lady had her fingers in her ears the whole time, but otherwise we went down very well and have been asked back to play at their London bar too, which is exciting. We’ve played a few times at Kazbar, where – with the roof rolled back to reveal the starry night sky – one could genuinely believe oneself to be playing jazz in some corner of Casablanca. Here’s our opening number at Sandy’s, ‘Niska Banja!’

And straight after the end of term we were into rehearsals for my new musical, Swing Heil! With a cast of eight (largely ex-pupils) and running time of 70 minutes this is much more of a studio piece than my last three, and I was keen to try something different. My sabbatical was largely spent writing this, and it was very refreshing having time during the day to sit at the piano and compose, sometimes with the baby perched beside me in her bouncy chair. We’re premiering the show at the Old Fire Station in August, with Manouche Etcetera performing as the band, and after a week of rehearsals it’s looking very exciting… buy your tickets here and read more about the show on our new website

Swing Heil - Copy

Yesterday I was asked at the last minute by a friend to help with a summer school workshop. We had to keep eight American teenagers amused for two hours, using the theme of ‘afternoon tea’. We taught them a relevant musical hall ditty, a couple of jazz standards, and then got them dancing to ‘Tea for Two’: they were astoundingly game, and one boy, Sky, looked touchingly delighted when he discovered that he could indeed sing and dance. A star is born… Speaking of which, Margot continues to amass a fan-club of mothers and small children. She doesn’t seem to mind the heat and rather enjoyed watching ‘Much Ado’ with my other children. Her early reactions to my Swing Heil compositions don’t suggest a deep-seated love of musical theatre, but she certainly has a good pair of lungs.




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