30 July 2014

Prometheus Drown'd and Airborne at Rosslyn Hill Chapel

I am going to try and make this not sound like stalking, but that is going to be difficult.

I first saw Clare McCaldin sing at a very good evening at the Tete a Tete Opera Festival in 2012. She was back the following year to perform Viviene which I liked so much that I went to see it again somewhere in Camden and yet again at the Linbury. I've spoken to her a few times and, of course, we've exchanged tweets. I'm a fan.

So when she announced that she would be performing Prometheus Drown'd I was obviously keen to see that. The piece, by Stephen McNeff, was an expansion of the work that Clare performed the first time that I saw her.

There were some hiccoughs along the way. Originally there was a Monday performance shown on the schedule and that suited me well but when I checked just a week or so before the performance it was not there and I had to do some frantic juggling of my calendar to free up the Wednesday. I went to something every evening the week and had to turn several other things down as well.

The next hassle was the location. I had been to Hampstead a few times before but it is not well served by public transport and go there normally involved a fair amount of walking, usually to/from the Hampstead Heath stop on the London Overground. This time I was working in Reading which meant travelling from Paddington. The various apps on my iPhone suggested that the best way to get there was to take a couple of trains to Finchley Road and then walk. What they did not say was that most of the walk was uphill.

Having finally found Rosslyn Hill Chapel I was rather keen on some beer and reasonably interested in some food. The pub sign next door was encouraging but that was a false hope as the pub was closed. I had to walk along way back up the hill to find another pub where a pint and a bucket of chips costs me the best part of £10.

I got back to Rosslyn Hill Chapel in good time for the performance which was helpfully not until 8:15pm. After very little thought I bagged a chair in the front row. I was on my own there for a little while and I was relieved when a few more people joined me just before the start.

There were two pieces on the programme and Prometheus Drown'd was on first.

This time Clare was joined by a narrator and a couple of actors but all the singing duties were still down to her.

The piece was as lyrical as I remembered the original being and through the new text I learned something more about Percy Bysshe Shelley, who is never going to be my specialist topic on Mastermind.

I found some of the lighting a little distracting. Clare sometimes sang with a strong white light on her from below. This was somewhat unflattering but it did give me a good view of her open mouth and I was able to study the mechanics of her singing style.

There was an interval and I helped myself to a glass of wine and had a bit of a look at the church. While minding my own business Clare came out and we had a little chat. She explained that all of the original work was in the new piece and that new bits had been added throughout.

Airborne after the break worked well with the first piece. It had a similar feel musically, helped by having the same musicians and conductor, and the mood of the story was similar too, i.e. there was death and sadness.

There were two young singers and they were both excellent.

I did not hang around long afterwards because there was nobody there to hang long afterwards with and I strolled fairly gently to Hampstead Heath station. There waiting for the train was a lady who had been near me in the front row so I started talking to her. In the end we talked about music all the way back to Kew, where she lives. It was a fitting end to a good evening.

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