Monday, 23 November 2009
My congratulations to everyone at Samuel Lucas School in Hitchin. Earlier this year they invited me to be their artist-in-residence for their Take One Picture project. This is the annual National Gallery scheme, where each year a single painting from their collection is chosen. Notes and training days are offered to teachers who wish to participate in the programme, and outstanding projects get exhibited at the National Gallery itself.
This year the painting was The Umbrellas by Renoir, and you can read about the work we produced in an earlier post (Click here). I was so excited to hear that Samuel Lucas School has been short-listed and will be visit by personel from the gallery in December. That means Le Theatre de Renoir has to be rebuilt! And the play rehearsed and put on again. But it will be so great if the work goes to London - the children and staff worked so hard, they deserve to be successful. Time to pull out all the stops... and I'll go along to help if I can. Wish them luck!
Monday, 9 November 2009
With the Children's Concert with the de Havilland Philharmonic Orchestra over, I can now begin to relax into my next book, Ella Bella Ballerina and Swan Lake. The intense rehearsals, the nerves, the filthy pit of a studio are all gone. My floors are washed, the CD of music is replaced and it's time to move on. But first I must just linger a little on the memory of yesterday which is something I'll cherish for a very long time. Really it's dream come true and, as the orchestra leader remarked, probably a unique way of introducing children to classical music.
The music, beautifully performed by the orchestra under Robin Browning (a fantastic colleague) was just wonderful. To be up on stage, surrounded by these musicians, to feel the boards shake with their sound, is sometimes almost overwhelming. The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius was an almost transcendental experience, the icy haunting music perfectly capturing a bleak Nordic landscape. To have the honour of painting along to this music and to retell such wonderful stories as The Swan, and Baba Yaga, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Peer Gynt and Night on a Bare Mountain, was unforgettable.
There are no photographs of the actual concert, but here is a quick snap of a small section of the stage set up for the performance, just before it began. I paint at the easel you can see, which is hard enough but made harder because it is at a particular angle for the camera. This then projects the paintings onto a huge screen behind the orchestra. Below are preliminary pictures for The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Peer Gynt. The first was the hardest; the picture had to change as the music told the story, almost like an animation. But Peer Gynt's Mountain King caused a few problems as well. I had only two minutes or so in which to paint something and in my enthusiasm I sprayed half the orchestra (and their valuable instruments) in emulsion paint! This was during the final rehearsal. I tried to restrain myself during the performance, but Grieg overwhelmed me and it was the audience who got caught out this time!
Now, I may be the one on stage taking a bow and getting bunches of flowers and compliments, but all of this couldn't happen without my colleagues and friends at the theatre who hold it all together. To Natalie, Nadine, James, Lucy, Gabby and co; And Maureen Irving of the St Alban's Children's Book Group, whose vision this was: Thank you one and all... I couldn't have done it without you!. The idea of children going home humming Dukas or Saint-Saens...or dreaming up their own pictures. That's what it's all about. I am proud of what we all achieved together. As the concert was, once again, sold out I am optimistic we'll be doing a new one next year. Now...what shall we perform? Any suggestions?