Interesting times

It’s been a busy six months since I last wrote here, not least with the birth of a lovely new baby daughter, Cecilia. The MCS drama calendar has been as packed as ever, with an interesting adaptation of Shelley’s translation of Euripides’ ‘Cyclops’ back in October, followed by a fantastic production of ‘Guys and Dolls’ before Christmas. In January it was ‘Emil and the Detectives’ and this week we put on Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia’, which surely ranks as one of the best plays of the last fifty years, even if the Maths is well beyond me… I fear Coronavirus may put a stop to our next few plays, but we’ll soldier on and see what happens. It feels a bit like the phoney war at the moment, waiting for the impact of the virus to really kick in. My heart goes out to fellow musicians and those in the theatre world who will lose a lot of their audience when restrictions begin in earnest.

Speaking of which… last night Manouche Etcetera played to great acclaim at Tap Social, a new and very exciting bar/brewery in our end of town (unusually!) – we had a ball, and there was some really lovely feedback from the audience, most of whom were Manouche virgins. It was great to play in such a buzzing atmosphere where we had to battle with the noise to make our presence felt: all the more satisfying when, increasingly, it began to feel like a concert where pretty much everyone was listening (or at least pretending to). We’ve got some fun festivals lined up in the summer, so do sign up to the mailing list.

I wrote a children’s story over Christmas based on an idea I’ve had for a while. ‘The Black Violin’ follows the adventures of (you guessed it) a violin which is nearly destroyed in a workshop fire. Here’s the opening:

‘Let me tell you about my life. It has been a long life – over four hundred years they say, though I lost count soon after the third century. I do not remember the moment of my creation, any more than you remember being born. But I do recall the first noises: the church bells of San Pietro and the rattle of wheels over the cobbles outside Signor Firelli’s workshop. Then the tap-tappety-tap of his hammer and the gentle rhythm of the lathe, like the sea lapping on a shore. Next there came the unforgettable sensation of being varnished for the very first time. I have been varnished perhaps a dozen times in my long life, but that first coat is the one I remember: the feel of the stuff seeping into me, the warm glow spreading like a girl’s blush at her first dance. That alone was enough to make me love my maker, old Signor Firelli. But then, once the varnish had dried, to leave me shining like a proud chestnut horse, he took me gently in his hands and made me sing for the first time. Oh, the joy of being awoken from that deep sleep! The bow was nothing special, just one that Signor Firelli happened to have lying around. But she seemed to realise that here was the greatest moment of her life, and her hair stroked my strings and I sang for sheer happiness! Not beautifully, I admit, for my master was a craftsmen more than a musician. But I sang with all the joy of a newly-varnished violin played by a violin-maker who realises that he has crafted a very superior instrument.

‘You would make my fortune, if only I could bear to part with you’, said Signor Firelli, who was too kind to be a good man of business. ‘You sing like a bird. No – like an angel. Neither too shrill nor too deep, neither pretty nor rough. But with your soul.’ And he held me up to the soft light of his candle to admire me better, as well he might. How I must have looked that night, crafted from the finest maple wood, with my chestnut glow and fiery tiger-stripes across my curved back.

That was before the terrible accident.’

I’ll be approaching publishers when I get a chance, but if nothing else happens my children enjoyed it, which is what counts!

So it’s business as usual, except schools may well be closed over the next couple of weeks. On the bright side, I might get more writing done!

The boys strutting their stuff in ‘Guys and Dolls’


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