The First Month

Written by Ellen Brown

After an exhausting but very successful and rewarding month of workshops, the Wayfarers have begun to settle into rehearsals for our own major productions and concerts — the first in line being our One Thousand Years concert. This features music from one thousand years of European music. We have been busy rehearsing many choral works and instrumental pieces. Some of us are even trying out Judy’s precious crumhorns. Over the last week, countless hidden talents have been unveiled. Many of us (myself included) have had to dust off our recorders and practise. Will is a constant source of musical ability. He deftly handled the cello — sightreading music during one rehearsal after not having played for over ten years. He is a one-man band, and we would very much like him to play all the instruments, even if he has to use his feet!

By far the most exciting part of this second chapter has been blocking scenes for The Ring Bearer. Whether it’s creating the soundscape of The Old Forest or embodying the movements of a hobbit, we’re really engaging our bodies to explore the realm of physical theatre. In one scene, we have a forest of living, creaking trees who capture our main characters. To make the most of this, Katrina lifts Manuka into her branches and then flips her upside down out of the tree. Manuka does a great job remembering her lines as the blood rushes to her head!

Kia and Gen have been fantastic in their directions, particularly in their choreography of the elf dances. We incorporate the gestures and movements of eurythmy, which for some has been a new concept to explore.

It has been with the collaboration of a large group of directors that we have seen the blocking and staging of almost the entire play over the last week. Everyone is greatly enriched by the experience of bringing The Ring Bearer to the stage, and we all hope it’s going to be a fabulous production.

Now that the date of our first concert is drawing near, we have momentarily moved from the stage to choir stalls to revisit our repertoire. We are preparing pieces from as early as the 12th century. Some of these works feature a dance such as the pavane. This morning, the sun was reaching out to us from the garden, and so, on Judy’s command, we burst from the house and spilled into the courtyard to sing, play and dance to Belle Qui Tiens Ma Vie. As strings, voices and recorders swelled in harmonious sound, a line of couples elegantly stepped out a courtly dance. In the dappled shade of the trees, it was a timeless experience.

Back in the rehearsal room, London streets were filled with The Cries of London. Men and women of all ages and backgrounds milled about, selling and offering their wares. We put on our best Cockney accents and most mournful expressions as we sang to imaginary passers-by. Occasionally, Judy would hold up her hand, glaring accusingly at the soprano section and reprimand, “No, that’s no good, Ellen — you sound far too healthy!” The Wayfarers are, on the whole, having far too much fun hamming up this piece. It’s been most entertaining to work on.

As part of publicising ourselves and what we’re up to this year, we had a photographer come to our rehearsal to take some snaps. We pulled out our most interesting instruments (like the chrotta, crumhorns and psaltery) and played through Orientis Partibus. It was a challenge to play handbells and sing in harmony at the same time. I’m sure that by the time we get to the concert in two weeks, such multitasking will be only too easy.

On Friday, we found ourselves, yet again, in the courtyard, this time playing a mediaeval/renaissance instrumental piece. We formed long lines of wind, strings and percussion players and, under direction and demonstration from Judy, hopped, skipped and jumped along the path. Much to our amusement, the tune was veiled by various squeaks and giggles as we tried to play, hop and skip simultaneously. I can assure you that it is, by no means, as easy as it sounds. We also felt a little bit ridiculous to be prancing around the front yard. Any passers-by, I’m sure, would have gawked and laughed in delight and amusement at the scene. It was a fantastic way to break up rehearsals, and there was many a glittering eye and cheeky grin as we made our way back indoors.