17 October 2010

A certain slant of light

There is something about Autumn.

Writing about her native and beloved New England, Emily Dickinson mused upon the “certain slant of light” that exists in Autumn. Like her, that is what I love most about this time of year.

The morning air, as crisp and chilled as biting into a Granny Smith apple. The leaves turning shades of copper, amber and gold. This season is as blissful in olde England as it is in the New one.

I love this time year! The calm before the delightful Christmas holiday storm.

Barford is a hive of activity in Autumn, as the very serious preparations for Advent slowly get under way. My November Thanksgiving Dinners have now given way to October Harvest Suppers these days, and the main thrust of this November for me will be the annual Barford Music Hall.

The annual “Music Hall” truly launches our festive season into high spirits every year. Tickets for the “Music Hall” are hard to come by. Our first year here, we were unable to obtain tickets for neither love nor money!

‘Music Hall Ticket Day’ is no joke. Would-be punters form a lengthy, but orderly, queue outside Jane and Rod Scott’s home, with lawn chairs and coffee, at 7 a.m.! A normal enough sight for such acts as the Rolling Stones, or The Who, but perhaps a bit of a surprise for the likes of “Terry the Viking” and “The Great Baroloni” - Barford’s very own magician. (Surely, every English village has its own magician?)

To insure we have any chance of actually seeing the Music Hall this year, the DEB and I are auditioning to be in it.

The set-up is rather wacky, if I’m honest. We’ve been planning and rehearsing for about two weeks already. Music items on Tuesdays, Sketches/Acts on Thursdays. The pressure is on to get things memorized and costumes gathered. But, and here’s the kicker – auditions happen in early November.

Yes, it’s a sort of retroactive process. Essentially, one could work for weeks and weeks on an item (or items) gather the people-power, rustle up the garb and funny noses, only to find that your services, your acts, don’t make the cut and are, in fact, not needed at all, thank you very much!

Apparently, the Audition Panel is a bit fierce. It’s said they make the Simon Cowell look like the Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother! I’m not looking forward to this part of the proceedings…

The DEB and I have found a funny (well, we think it’s funny) sketch about a Dog and a Cat, that seems to have become a kind of humorous homage to our lives with Lucy and Lily.

We have also both been roped into a few musical numbers, and I have clearly lost my mind completely, and am attempting to lead a song-and-dance number from Cabaret. (Heaven help us!)

If we don’t make the grade, I shall be deeply disappointed, but there’s always next year. But who knows, it could be a case of “first time lucky”! Still, we have put so much time into already. And time always feels at a premium to me. If fact, we’ve got folks coming round this afternoon to work on a “Queen” Medley...All I can say is we’ll need to be done before Antiques Roadshow and Downton Abbey come on!

I shouldn’t complain, really, although this is a new holiday challenge for us, to be sure, it is also an incredible learning experience for me in the art of British comedy and the skills of the variety show (singing, dancing, comic sketches, &etc.). It is also a rare and intimate insight into a bygone, English art form.

In his play, The Entertainer, John Osbourne lamented to demise of the English music hall:

The music hall is dying, and with it, a significant part of England. Some of the heart of England has gone; something that once belonged to everyone, for this was truly a folk art.

- The Entertainer (1957)

Osbourne’s words were certainly prophetic, however, in my small corner of this green and pleasant land, the music hall tradition is still very much alive and well. And, it has become an integral part of what now makes this festive season so enjoyable and special to me.

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