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In “Tess – A Herstory (Phase the Third… Phase? Check out Hardy’s novel for the reason)”, composer Michael Blore reflects on his initially slow musical progress and a personal tragedy.
“Aside from the “love that book” response and having the long-standing ambition, there were other reasons for wanting to take on “Tess”. One of these was its theme of love and loss. It chimed with me because of the experience of losing my partner, John, in 2000. I had written “Trekkin” for him and we were planning on the next musical venture together when he so tragically and unexpectedly died. It is true to say that writing a musical was for me then unfinished business.
My composing “Tess” was also being encouraged on the home front by my civil partner (another John!). His reaction on hearing this news? “Yeah… that could work”. Not being one for moments of gushing excitement, it was encouragement indeed from someone who had spent most of his life either acting in or directing musicals and knew a thing or two about what it takes for a show to be successful.
So it was with high hopes and trepidation (as well as some degree of emotion) that I took along some songs for Mike to listen to at our very first planning meeting (April 18th 2013 for all the a-Tess-ciondas among you). We’d agreed beforehand that if my compositional style didn’t match his vision of the sound world for the show then “Tess” would be a non-starter. He was after music with heart to support his writing that, as he described, was all “head”. His reaction to my songs? He had a tear. Result! We were as one. “Tess” would be a musical in a classically Romantic style with a majestic score full of lush harmonies and beautiful (as well as hopefully memorable) melodies. Blimey! Now I had to write the thing!
I was buzzing with ideas. Most of those springing from long walks with my two dogs, Jack and Tess (yes, really – though she was born way before our musical baby was conceived). However, all musical ideas were kept in check as we set about shaping the story and characters to fit our theatrical purposes. There was another reason for initially slow musical progress. Life. I had a job – as an actor – and was about to begin rehearsals on a play to tour the UK.
Still, the dog-walking song was taking shape and gained an encouraging “That’s nice” from John when I first played it to him. The song? “In My Hand”. Oddly enough, having the “Hello to Tess” song quickly led on to sketches for her farewell number, which would become “Guardian Angel”. In hindsight, having the finale mapped out from the outset was a great help in planning the whole route of the show’s musical journey.
The next few months were taken up with sketches for a dairymaids number and by July I had drafted a setting of the Lord’s Prayer, but Tessie time was very limited as I was now on tour with the play “Up4aMeet?”. I was beginning to wonder whether this was going to be too much of a commitment for me. There was no pressure from Mike, just my own sense of bitten-off-more-than-I-could-chew. Then while on tour, I got the news that my partner John had been taken to hospital. Within 5 days, he died. My life and that of “Tess” was about to change forever.
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Next time on d'Blog… Love songs and Australia.
INTERVIEW WITH A COMPOSER
ANOTHER MICHAEL'S STORY
THE LAST 5 MONTHS
LONDON STUDIO DAYS
A DAIRYMAID'S DIARY
IN THE STUDIO WITH TAM MUTU
THE ADVENTURE ROLLS ON
IT'S PRE-PRODUCTION TIME!
WHERE ARE ALL THE D'BLOGS?
A HERSTORY (THE FINAL PHASE)
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 4TH)
THE LYRICIST SPEAKS
RECORDING TESS - THE SINGER
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 3RD)
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 2ND)
A HERSTORY (PHASE THE 1ST)
REVIEWS & REVELATIONS
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT ALEC
ONE HELLO IS HOW IT STARTS