Belfast Ensemble preparing for Conor Mitchell premier

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What an extraordinary privilege. I am sitting in the rehearsal room when two leading actors meet their orchestra for the very first time to prepare for the world premiere of a piece which has a sense of Edith Sitwell/William Walton’s Façade. It must be a terrifying experience for any actress to be exploring with the composer, orchestrator and director (same person) how to blend her voice with a completely different tribe of beings. Actor meet cello, tymp, piano, woodwind, violin, viola and keys – it is so much more complex than a first reading of a play with actors who have a common language.

This morning Kath and I flew into Belfast to see Conor Mitchell in rehearsal, after a space of three years not seeing this wonderful composer (and now playwright) at work. One of the company just said over tea break how immense it is to be in the room of a genius with so much going on, and coming out in creative bursts, from his head.

Sadly we will miss the premier of his two pieces at the Lyric Belfast on Wednesday, We’ll be back for the first new production of Conor/Ravenhill’s Ten Plagues (which premiered with Marc Almond at the Bridewell some years ago) on Sun Oct 8th.

It was in 2002 that Conor handed a small cassette tape through to Kath as we explored with a youth company the finding of a new composer to work on some new projects in Belfast and across Northern Ireland. Kath and Conor ran many workshops over the years, leading to their first major piece together Goblin Market which played Belfast, Edinburgh Festival, London, and is now produced by young companies through licensing.   His later work with Mark Ravenhill has included co-commissions with Aldeburgh Festival with Benjamin Britten and WH Auden as the other two writers!

And now, with his own Belfast Ensemble, support from the City Council, Arts Council and the amazing Lyric Belfast, he is a few days away from the premiere of this new double bill. And the two actors are tackling the Everest climb to reach a summit along with these consummate musicians for Part 2, joined by a solo performer for Part 1.

As we sit in a sunny church hall North of Belfast city for this first sitzprobe it is immediately clear of the mastery of writing, the two performers, the musicians, and the shared wonderful creativity.

If you are in Belfast on Wednesday – grab a ticket if you can.

Thank you Conor for renewing my joy at knowing you and your artistry.  Now the rehearsal starts again and more wonderful sounds waft over me as I put this blog up.

Chris Grady
Chris Grady is a creative and business life coach who has worked in arts and project management for more than 30 years, running marketing departments and creating festivals and theatres in Bristol, Plymouth, Edinburgh, Buxton, Keswick, London and Bury St Edmonds. He has also run the Vivian Ellis Prize for new musicals, and written Your Life in Theatre, a careers guide for all stages of your career. He is preparing an MA for Theatre Producers with Mountview Academy for Theatre Arts. Chris blogs about arts management at www.chrisgrady.org.
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Chris Grady
Chris Grady is a creative and business life coach who has worked in arts and project management for more than 30 years, running marketing departments and creating festivals and theatres in Bristol, Plymouth, Edinburgh, Buxton, Keswick, London and Bury St Edmonds. He has also run the Vivian Ellis Prize for new musicals, and written Your Life in Theatre, a careers guide for all stages of your career. He is preparing an MA for Theatre Producers with Mountview Academy for Theatre Arts. Chris blogs about arts management at www.chrisgrady.org.