THE ROAD TO RAVENSEAT – A TABLE READ OF TWO HATS by Bella Barlow
In September, I got the opportunity to have a first ‘table read’ of a brand new musical I’m working on: ‘Ravenseat’. It was a wonderful opportunity to finally hear some of the book, music and lyrics together. It was also the first chance we had had to get all of the creatives in the same room, as much of our collaboration had so far been remotely due to schedules and varying locations across England! It was therefore, the first time I got to meet our incredible lyricist – the wonderful Pam Ayers. Pam is an incredible poet, who’s work I have often laughed out loud at and has conjured up beautiful images in my mind’s creation through her words. So, I was a little nervous that I, as the composer, was going to hear her first thoughts and see her reactions to the music I had written for her lyrics. There was such a buzz in the room as we all piled into the wonderful black-box studio space at The Harrogate Theatre with all the fantastic actors taking their seats.
My role for the day was really a tale of two hats. One hat was my role as the composer for the day, but my other hat, for the table-read was also to be the Musical Director. This brought a whole new level of excitement but also added a demand of something a little extra. The musical director hat demanded the skill of teaching, listening, and bringing out the phrases and characters throughout the music and performances. Knowing how much we wanted to try and achieve felt like a huge marathon ahead. But also, as I sat behind the piano as MD, I still had my composer hat on – the one where I was trying to see the show from a little further away – not right up close to the musical dots! I wanted to see, and hear, how the music was working within the dialogue, how the music and lyrics weaved together, and how the characters and their storylines were brought to the forefront and into focus, whilst supporting the other characters within the story.
It was such an exciting day –It went in a flash of an eye really, many notes were played! We heard the newly written music and how it danced with Pam’s wonderful lyrics. We got to hear the voices of the individual characters, the actors being so generous with their skills and taking risks - giving them the freedom to explore new choices within our current working creation. It was exhilarating to push through both roles. To look at the big picture and think, here is a Musical that will be about people, like you and I, and nature. How one can look after the other. How the ‘Road to Ravenseat’ may not always be a clear path, or a smooth ride, but our characters will push through the journey. As, I imagine, we all do, as we navigate wearing our many hats in our many roles in life*.
*Bella Barlow is an international composer in (mostly) the Musical Theatre Artform, but she loves writing for huge full scale orchestras, choirs, film, and little people. She has worked internationally as a composer and performer including New York, Italy and Hong Kong. She currently wears an additional hat of ‘working mum’. The working and the mum part sometimes seem to not quite fit on the same head at the same time, but the craft of writing seems all the more richer with the little people. And here they are making some wonderful tunes.