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Proms 2009: Duets & Ukes

June 10, 2009

The muffin making definitely paid off. I succeeded in distracting myself from the inevitable anxiety associated with the prospect of filming a series of piano duets with relative strangers for a BBC Proms website film.

I also had a suitable gift to present the sometimes perplexed looking contributors after they’d finished at the piano and shortly before they made a dash for the door. There’s footage which proves their surprise (or maybe it’s relief it was all over) not to mention the inevitable footage of me fluffing lines and all of us collapsing in laughter. It was definitely a special experience. 

The whole process (both last week’s shoot on Monday 1 June and the repeat shoot for the stragglers the following week) didn’t necessarily go all swimmingly. There was the thorny issue of some technical problems experienced during the all-too brief but oh-so exciting time we had Radio 4 announcer Charlotte Green in the studio. I was a thick sauce on the floor when she was around mostly because she is, quite frankly, an absolute star and someone who should be made a Dame immediately for her contribution to radio and specifically for her infectious laughter.

Sadly however, those technical problems (not discovered until the same evening when we went to look over the footage we had obtained during the day) proved insurmountable. Our hastily rearranged re-shoot for tomorrow now looks like it definitely won’t happen thanks to Mr Bob Crow and his tube strike. I’m sure he won’t feel the pang of guilt about it the same way I did when I first realised we hadn’t got any of Charlotte’s fabulous contribution on tape. 

At 10.10am on Monday 8 June (50 minutes before we were due to start shooting again with John Shea, Radio 4 announcer Zeb Soanes and Catherine from the Proms Office, there was a strong possibility that technical problems in the studio itself would result in us having to postpone the shoot. With bookings for studios having to be made weeks in advance, there was a real chance we’d miss our window to record the duets. Three people who’d come in especially would have to be turned away and I and the cameraman would have to lug the heavy equipment back into storage without having used it. 

As with all things (no – it’s not exciting – it’s really quite stressful) I received a call at the last minute to say all was well and yes we could use the studio after all. And thus by the end of the second shoot I could proudly (if a little wearily) confirm that I had played the secondo part to Faure’s Dolly Suite a total of 25 times. No surprises then to discover that Faure’s Dolly Suite is quite a way down my top fifty list of favourite tunes. I am, quite frankly, sick of it and I’ve yet to start editing the material together. It did however go a whole lot more successfully than I thought it might when I wrote the previous post

There are other things to concentrate on before that piano duet edit can begin however. The day after tomorrow sees me trekking back to my old school with a cameraman in tow to find out whether and (if so) how we inspire young people to take an interest in classical music. Do we train them up first and then expose them in a Tune A Day kind of way or do we throw caution to the wind and play anything and everything and which is taken to and which is discarded. And, more to the point, can I persuade them to like some music I’ve grown rather partial to in recent years? And, most pertinently of all, what do they make of Handel ? I am preparing myself for the worst.

And if that wasn’t enough, news that the BBC Proms website has launched their special Ukulele self-training online video wotnot for anyone who fancies taking a shot at taking part in a mass audience participation event linked to the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain Prom on Tuesday 18 August. And when that’s done the Proms will almost be upon us. Time is running away. Thank God I’ve got a train journey tomorrow to go over the brochure again and order my season ticket.

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