Towards the Moon at the Citz

I had a fantastic opportunity a couple of weeks ago that ended up being a bizarre week of fun, panic and creative juice-flowing. I'm just back from holiday so haven't had a chance to write about it yet, but here goes.

Sooooo I was lucky enough to be invited to develop my musical 'Towards the Moon' at the world famous Citizen's theatre in Glasgow under the direction of the artistic director Dominic Hill.  Three musicals were to be developed that week so it was me alongside Deacon Blue frontman Ricky Ross and The Thick of It actor Paul Higgin's musical about a community choir and the fantastically talented Hilary Brooks who was creating a piece based on a 1960's film.

Dominic had organised a fantastic cast for me and it was decided that we would showcase 6 or 7 of the songs with a bit of narration in-between.  The showcase would be to the ATG group who own a number of large theatres throughout Britain, they are looking for new musicals and have come up North to find one!

We had limited time to rehearse so I decided to sing the part of Bobby, this was at first no bother - I wrote the songs, recorded them and knew them inside out.  Little did I think lack of recent performance experience would creep in, but anyways, more on that later.  I got down to some serious scoring so that the cast and musical director had something to go on.  This is something I am decidedly rubbish at, but I fought through and got something vaguely resembling my songs down on paper.

Scoring Towards the Moon
 The first part of the week consisted of note bashing, looking at some lines that didn't quite work, moving notes about, changing keys etc. before we moved more into making the work feel a little more nuanced, bringing out some of the details and what have you.  It was very odd to be directed and not be the director, the songs are really tricky to sing so it was a challenge to get all the technical stuff (like singing in tune!) correct whilst also working with the director's notes.  But this is what performing is all about, multi-tasking whilst making it look effortless and - when hitting those high notes - painless!

The piano getting tuned before the band arrive
We got a band in for the final couple of days and this really started to push the show onto a new level.  I've never heard the songs with a full live band and it was exciting to hear how they all came together.  It was also surprising what songs people reacted to the most.  Oddly two songs that I knocked off very quickly (and weren't even written for the Fringe version last year) seemed to be the ones that people responded to the most - there's something in that I reckon, too much thought seems to kill a good idea dead!  A love song to Greenock (yes I know that sounds weird) called 'Home' seemed to go down the best.  Here is a recording of it here, the song has developed since I did this but it gives you an idea:

The theme of stars and the river Clyde runs right through the piece, so I tried to wrap both elements up in this song, it did the trick of making people think about their own homes in a nostalgic haze.

Another song that people really enjoyed was 'The Publisher's Song' which was sung by the fantastic actor George Costigan (credits too many to mention, read about him here!).  He absolutely nailed it and was incredibly supportive throughout the whole process, not afraid to challenge me when necessary and to give me a wee perk up when my knees were trembling with fear!  At first I found it strange for the song to go down so well. I wrote it so quickly that I actually couldn't remember how to play it when it was suggested it should be part of the showcase, but it was absolutely the right decision to include it and it just goes to show how important it is to have outside sources advising you, as I would want to go for the songs that took me ages to create, not because they were better but because they made me work harder!  This song is also one of the few pure 'musical theatre' songs in the show, so it showed a different side to the piece.

The actual performance didn't quite go as smoothly as I would have hoped. The performers alongside me were all terrific. But it has been a long time since I sang live, especially in a high pressure environment, and it was a bizarre feeling when my voice felt absolutely fine but the sheer force of nerves must have been affecting me in some way and things didn't quite come out as smooth as I hoped.  Still, I think the ATG people got a good sense of the songs and I was told that it ended up sounding a little more 'rock'n'roll' than it should have but that was no bad thing!

The quality of the other musicals was fantastic and it was a great privilege just to be in that room with world-class performers, directors and writers.  Here's hoping it will all lead somewhere, but even if it doesn't it was great to be involved and I learned a lot in the process.

Just after I finished this blog I received a DVD of the event, my singing wasn't quite as croaky as it felt at the time!  Here's a song called 'Is This It':


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