Celebrating Benjamin Britten

noyes fluddSo, it’s still LGBT History month, and it’s also Benjamin Britten’s centenary so what better way to celebrate the magnificence of BB’s unapologetic gayness and talent than to sing in Noye’s Fludd?

A. has had an ambition to sing some Britten for many the long year so we were thrilled when we heard that our regular singing venue, Blackheath Halls were doing Noye’s Fludd Directed by James Hurley.

There isn’t a vast amount of singing for the adult chorus to do (although there is plenty of ark building!), as the majority of the choral work and six of the principals are taken by children. Apart from the three hymns (Lord Jesus Think on Me, For Those in Peril on the Sea and the Tallis canon) we have only a few Kirie’s and hallelujahs and a short piece as the animals disembark as the flood recedes. However our brief moment is thrilling: all the children and sopranos are singing hallelujahs, and us tenors sing the bottom line of the principals’ verse, which cuts through all the pretty stuff gloriously.

Our orchestra sound superb, with  each section in turn – trumpets, recorders, strings, piano/organ, hand bells and in particular percussion getting an opportunity to shine, which they do. I’m getting a huge amount of pleasure from just listening to them nail the rhythms and comedy moments, and the moving discords of the flood: Mrs Noye’s delivery of the slap round the chops to her husband, the dove crooning encouragingly, the tea-cup first drips of rain. Nick Jenkins has every reason to be proud of them, and I think Mr Britten would be pleased with them too.  The fact that some of the orchestra are smaller than their instruments makes no difference, they aren’t good-for-their-age, these are talented musicians and performers: I look forward to being able to say ‘I worked with her/him when …’ when they are famous.

The design (by Rachel Szmukler) is huge fun with the animal masks for the children a delight of recycled plastic bottles and spoons. A special mention for the  giraffes, who act their ears and horns off, disapproving of Mrs Noye, anxious of the waves, consoling Mr Noye and fascinated by the other animals. the fact that their ears flap with such dignity is a massive assistance.

Atmospheric lighting from Ben Pickersgill makes our flood refugees; shelter effectively dreary and murky, and the children have produced some really stylish pictures for our wall of ‘missing’ family and pets, and images of animals floods and arks. The piles of dead TVs, sleeping bags and suitcases create a suitably chaotic impression, and teething problems with the overly ambitious building of the seating for the audience are now resolved.

We are privileged to be working with Matthew Rose and Clarissa Meek (Mr & Mrs Noye) who aren’t a bit worried about getting physical as they climb about arks and giant water tanks.

A special mention for Mrs Noye’s ‘gossips’, who wield their umbrellas with wit and panache and sing beautifully, and Lawrence Wallington as Voice of God, by turns sinister and kindly, directing his angelic property men to bring up the flood of sleeping bags, or deliver the dove back to Noye’s waiting hands.

Sorry to get you all enthusiastic, because unfortunately the shows are all sold out!