A Poor Reflection On A Great Man’s Career.

Over the last weekend, I was lucky enough to be asked back to Wells Cathedral to sing with my old school choir as my choir master went into semi-retirement at the end of this school year. Philip had already suggested before the weekend commenced that I do a speech as part of a slot for his “do” in the cathedral on the Saturday night but it wasn’t until the day of the do that he asked me to present him with a replica of the trophy we won in 2008. So I cobbled the following together during the Evensong prayers and readings on the Saturday night. (None of these photos are mine, I nicked them off facebook back in 2010 on my last official tour. I think they are all James Blay’s and/or Ellen Rawlins’ I hope you guys don’t mind me using them.)

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I think just about everyone who has returned on this trip has made some sort of remark about how difficult we find it to call Phil… Phil. No matter how much he tells, corrects and reprimands us when we call him Mr. Formstone, we can’t seem to shake it. And I think it really goes to show just how deep our respect and love is for him and all that he has done for us during our time in the choir.

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Right, I’ll get on with the bit that I wrote during Evensong this evening now. Philip Formstone is someone I have known for years, my first choir tour was here to Wells back when I was just a tot and my Dad, Colin was the choir’s chaplain. I can’t say I remember much of the trip personally or that I can share many memories but there is photographic proof and I’m sure my parents will be able to bore you with stories at your request.

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Much like many of you here I have grown up through the choir, I started in year seven, just eleven years old as the annoying, blonde treble and have since sung in the grandest of English Cathedrals and the lowliest of football stadiums. In fact it was in the centre circle of the RICOH arena that we did a haunting rendition of ‘play up sky blues’ and got booed as we came off the pitch by the Stoke City FC fans but my abiding memory of that day, and indeed many events, will be of Phil stood on the centre circle atop his trusty Safeway box. Where would we be without it eh? Each of these experiences, no matter where the performance took place, created a bond between those involved and another memory of hard work paying off.

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But in all of my twenty two years – and I’m sure some of you here have clocked up nearly three times that – I have not met anyone who has had a hand in inspiring more children and young adults into singing. I’m pretty sure the BBC’s Gareth Malone should always be billed as “Gareth Malone: A younger slightly less hip Mr. Formstone”.

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It was with a glad heart that I received the news that Philip is staying with the choir throughout his retirement because neither the choir nor M1 would be quite the same if they did not form The Kingdom of Phil.

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It was in 2008 that all of Philip’s hard work and brilliance was recognised on a national stage when, at the third time of asking, he led the choir through the valley of defeat so that we would fear no Rugby School for he was with us. We were victorious and were crowned Songs of Praise School Choir of the Year 2008  to be set upon the right hand of Aled and Basil Mead. And so, it is without further ado that I would like to present Phil with this perfect replica of our 2008 trophy (made by the same artist as the original). Philip, Mr F. … Formy, let this be a permanent reminder to you of all of your time with Blue Coat School and may I take the liberty of speaking for all of us here tonight and those who cannot be with us as I say “Thank you” from the bottom of our hearts for being the incredible inspiration and ever steady hand on the rudder of Coventry Blue Coat School Choir.

So, if you’d all like to stand with me and raise a toast to Philip Formstone – Choir Master Extraordinaire.

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Some .GIFs to Guffaw at.

So we took some time out of our busy lives recently to go and have some fun at Thorpe Park. Sort of as some time away from the maddening crowd but also to celebrate the end of our second year. It was really nice. Just what I needed really. The perfect time with my bestest friends. Obviously, I took my camera and took some cool shots that work well if you run them together so I used a .gif generator at http://imgflip.com/gifgenerator to create these three. This is the first time I’ve made .gifs so they were a bit of an experiment. I think I need a little more time between each image, they move a bit fast. Particularly the bottom one, but it was a really fast roller coaster… Ah well, enjoy anyway. Happy Days.

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Killing Time

Yesterday I performed Love And Money by Dennis Kelly at the Bristol Pear with Platform 49. I wrote the following whilst onstage. Enjoy!

Okay, this blog post is purely functional. I am sat onstage as a pre-set actor and I have to be typing at my Laptop while the audience settle themselves into position. The reason for this is that the first scene of this play I am writing and sending emails to my French friend and so for the scene to make sense and so that it doesn’t look like I’m just sat like a ninny I am typing inanely long sentences to stay in character.

To be perfectly honest I am a little nervous about this play for the wrong reasons. I have been struggling to learn lines for one of the scenes which is something I have never had a problem with before. So hopefully it’ll go well but I can’t be sure and I hate that to be honest. It’s just a cross your fingers, hope and launch into it moment.

Shit. A load of my friends are in the audience. I didn’t think they would all be coming at the same time as my parents. Now the pressure is mounting a bit more. I’m not the sort who usually gets nervous to be honest. I’ll get butterflies but that’s fine. I can handle butterflies. The other difference is that this is a play, not a musical. A musical is different. I can do Musicals no problem. Plays are different, it’s more raw. You can’t rely on the music to help your performance along if you’re having a bad show. It’s all on you and how you are doing. That’s a bit scary. So is the fact that there are a lot more people here than I expected to be. I mean obviously we’ve been plugging the show all over social media and to our friends and stuff but you never know how well the show will do until the doors open and you’ve launched into the performance week. For this show though, it’s just one day with a matinee and an evening performance. Matinee not Manatee.

[Side note: At this point the music faded and I started to perform the first one of our two today. The following was written during the 7:30 show’s pre-set.]

To be honest having to kill time isn’t something I’m overly used to having to do. I have this tendency to say yes to everything. This play is a great example. Before I had even finished IPP (A project for my degree) which was running at the same time as Chess (a project for not my degree) and starting to take over as president of GMTG I was approached to audition for this wonderful, independent production of Love and Money which has honestly been one of the most stressful things I’ve done.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed it too, there have been some great moments and the cast are wonderful but I’ve had about 2 weeks where this has been the main focus, and even then it took the back seat at times due to other things I had to do. This has meant that there were times when I was really struggling with my lines which is horrible because I have never had that problem before. All it took was for me to sort it out was putting the same amount of hours into line learning as I would over 6 weeks into 2 weeks so some late nights and lots of listening to my own voice on recordings of scenes as I fall asleep but I’m there now.

I’m pre-set for the second performance now. I had a burger for dinner. I also have Roger the Rover from home now to transport everyone down to Guilford on Tuesday. I’m really really looking forward to that. Because I’ve been so busy over the last few weeks, I’ve not really seen Hattie, Hannah and Bruce who are my three bestest friends. So spending time with them and Caroline away from Birmingham and doing fun fun fun fun things with no essay stress or anything else will be just the best. 🙂

I’m starting to run out of things to say unfortunately. We’re already 5 mins late. I just want to start so that we can get on with it. Wah. Urgh. Spleegle. Blarp. Ah well… Oooft. Just taken a look at the audience. It’s massive! Well, massive for here, it wouldn’t take up three rows at the Palladium, but we;re only in a tiny little pub in an upstairs room. Start out small eh?

I apologise for the length of this post but I have to just keep typing away until it’s time for me to start. I open the play don’t ya know!? I feel sorry for Amy and Paul, they are preset now for their scene which is scene two. Poor guys.

Ooop. Music’s fading out so it’ll be about time we got on with it…. See you on the other side.

Timing.

Isn’t it a funny thing? It can be the difference between the perfect cheese soufflé and a burnt mess or between your big solo sounding right or being a beat and a half behind the band or sitting working things through with someone that means a lot to you and ending up writing a blog about timing as the dawn chorus starts.

Timing is a lady dog. It can create perfect moments that you cherish but can also leave you feeling raw and hard done by. If you know me well enough you’ll know full well that I blame myself and have apologised for the timing being a female hound even though I had as little control over it as anybody else.

Timing means that beautiful things can be created but the passing of time usually leaves them tarnished and shadows of their former selves. When you find something you think is untarnishable you try desperately to cling on to it. But then Timing’s best friend Distance comes in to have her turn. When something unfair happens to someone who didn’t deserve it the phrase “wrong time, wrong place” is often banded about and yes, it can be pretty annoying if that is the case for you. However, it is all the more painful if you get half of it right so “right time, wrong place” for example but the killer is the mirror of that: “right place, wrong time”. Either of those may well send shivers down a lot of people’s spines as they recall the “what could have been” moments in their life and it’s these moments that sting the hardest if you’re anything like me.

As my blog from yesterday morning said, the future is a scary place. When you finish reading this blog you don’t know what will befall you as you step into the next room or outside and that can suck. But hey, what’s life without it’s little surprises and massive disappointments? If I’ve learnt one thing tonight it’s that I want stuff to be clear cut and I’m not great at living in the moment. I was supposed to be getting an early night and learning my lines for Sunday. Ah well. Chin up. Happy Days.

The Future Can Be A Scary Place.

I’m sat in Costa at The Guild and fancied writing a blog. I don’t even know what I’m going to say yet. We’ll just see how it goes. There’s not many people here this morning, a couple of people at the computers, a cute old couple sat on the sofas and a table of three. This table is a lovely mix of ethnicities, 3 middle(ish) aged people, there’s one lady who has the typical British, overbearing, teethy smile, wide eyes and patronising head tilt as she chats to her colleagues. She reminds me of a Primary school head teacher who is talking to year 6 pupils.

I had my committee hand over meeting this morning. So I’m guessing I’m now officially the President of GMTG. Which is kind of bizarre. I mean, it’s been so long in the making since the AGM when I was elected that it seems weird that it’s finally the time. Weirrrrrd! So looking forward to next year we’ve already (11:11, just made a wish) chosen our first term show for next year. Spring Awakening will be Springing all over the Deb Hall which is very exciting. It’s not a show I now all that well so I’ll be spending my summer getting to know the show and the characters and that sort of thing so we can hold some workshops for those who wish to audition. We do have some lovely ideas for next year. I’m really excited for what we might be able to do with the society in the next year. Lots of work over the summer to start getting stuff together and all of that. I’m also hoping to get a job. I’ve done some applying to companies for summer jobs but I’ve not heard anything back. I hope I can find a job in Birmingham, makes traveling to and from the guild for stuff next year a lot easier. Plus, I need to earn some money to pay for the house I’m living in next year! Waaah! I need money!

I dunno why but I’ve not been feeling great the last couple of days. Perhaps it’s cos I’ve not slept much or because I’m so flipping busy or because I’ve not been eating properly. But that said I’ve had a nice couple of days spending time with friends I haven’t seen in a long time. They were visiting Birmingham for a friend’s birthday party and I hadn’t seen Emma since this time last year. Lots of meals and time spent together meeting new people from her home, and seeing Anna and Issy from Uni who I don’t see very often at all. It’s been good to spend a few days with different people but I have missed seeing my usual gang.

Love and Money is on Sunday. If you’re in Birmingham and fancy seeing a new theatre company’s first production then come to the Bristol Pear in Selly Oak at either 2:30 or 7:30 on Sunday and see us perform. I’m really struggling with lines for one scene but it’ll be good fun at least.

Off to Guilford in a couple of days for a few nights to see the gang and go to Thorpe Park. That’s going to be such a nice way to end what has been quite a stressful year. Happy Days.

A Reaffirmation.

Two posts in a week, goodness, anyone would think I was taking this blogging thing seriously. Thanks to those of you who read Tuesday’s blog, it’s nice to see that people are interested in stuff I want to say. Don’t forget to rate the posts at the top of the page so I know at a glance the sort of thing you like and the sort of thing you don’t. That doesn’t mean I’m going to tailor my posts to your whim reader, no no, this blog is mostly for me but it’s nice to know if you think I’m crap at this or not.

So Wednesday was a pretty good day my sheets were dry and after sleeping on a naked mattress I was keen to redress my bed. That meant up early and then off I went to The Guild of Students to rehearse for an upcoming production of Love and Money. We started with a really good discussion about our characters and then Andi and I went to practise lines for our scene which was good but then we ran it with our assistant director who changed the staging after watching it through once. She also gave us an exercise to try based on a Stanislavskian technique where by we decided what our character’s first emotion was as the scene started. For me, it was ‘sick with worry’  so she sent us off for five minutes so that we could get into this state before we began the scene. Now, this can be quite dangerous for actors as it can affect you quite severely, particularly if you draw on your real life for things that worry you or make you sad. Fortunately with acting exercises I am able to separate them from my real life events and just create an emotion from nowhere. That sounds really egotistical and big headed but I don’t mean it like that. So after my five minutes was up I re-entered our rehearsal space and began the scene as is in the script. It was the best we’d ever done it.

It’s because of moments like this that I want to go into this profession. I know it’s hard and competitive but I am more than willing to put up with all of that if just once a year I get a moment like that, a gloriously perfect moment of theatre where everything just feels right. I cannot express how amazing something like that is to an actor, it just completely justifies your reasons for wanting this mad job in the first place.

I had a lovely evening today meeting new people and catching up with friends I have only communicated electronically with for about a year. Should see them a bit more tomorrow too. I may write a blog from the mini forum I have to go to at the guild tomorrow depending on how boring it is… We’ll see. Happy Days.

It’s Been Too Long.

Hello, blimey it’s been a long time. I don’t know what’s made me start this up again, I just have. I don’t really know a lot at the moment, everything seems to be a bit up in the air. I think this year at Uni has taken it’s toll on me a little, I must say that all in all this year has left me feeling a little fragile and out of place but it has been a rather good year in some aspects. Along the way I have done all sorts of exciting things within my course and down at the guild. Since last writing, I have actually finished my second year of Uni. I have worked on 4 shows with one more to come next week, done all of the lectures and necessary work for the course, been in a musical, and been elected to become next year’s president of GMTG. (Sidenote: GMTG is the Musical Theatre society down at The Guild of Students)

It’s obviously had it’s ups and downs, mostly ups I think but the odd down has often got to me much more than it should. I have met some great people, made and lost friends as well as tightened the bonds between those that mean the most to me. For those of you that follow me on Twitter ( @ThomUdall91 if you don’t) or Facebook then you’ve probably been able to keep an eye on me if you wanted.

This is becoming a bit of a wanky post isn’t it? Sorry about that. Let me tell you something a bit more interesting… We did Chess. Yes, Chess. Not the black and white board game with origins no one can be sure of. Well, actually, we did kind of but we sang about it. Okay. It’s a musical if you didn’t know. Written by the powerhouses behind all of the Abba hits with the lyrics of Sir Tim Rice, it’s about Cold War politics and it’s based around the world chess championship. Sounds dull right? Wrong. I’d like to say it’s a light hearted romp through some of the most devastating politics the world has seen but it’s not. It’s an almost through sung musical with a story line that is quite tricky to follow. In fact if it wasn’t for the fact that the music is incredible, this musical would have probably been a massive flop. It does have some amazing musical numbers including ‘I Know Him So Well’ and ‘Anthem’. The characters are also pretty spectacular, it’s not a 2D musical like some I’ve seen. You can’t put this show on without getting obsessed with the profiles and individual stories of the characters and the motivations they have. It’s brilliantly written and from the feedback our production received,  we did it justice at least.

I have to say that Chess is a musical I knew fairly well, mostly because of the incredible music but the story (once you’ve worked it out) is pretty damn good too. So to be involved was a delight. As I looked around the room at the first rehearsal, all I could think was ‘Damn this is a good looking cast, what the bloody hell am I doing here!?’ but as the rehearsals took their course I felt a little more secure.  What follows is a list of some of my favourite memories of Chess done in bullet points because it is 2:16am as I’m writing this.

  • Getting in in the first place, even though I didn’t get the main part that I auditioned for.
  • Banter with the cast.
  • Singing ‘Confrontation’ from Les Miserables with one of the Co-Directors.
  • ‘Chess Club’- a week of intensive rehearsals.
  • Singing along to all of the non-chorus numbers in the dressing room during show week.
  • Singing random songs in the dressing room during the interval with people and coming out with some incredible harmonies between us.
  • Failing to be sexy in ‘One Night In Bangkok’.
  • Meeting new people.
  • The uber sexy dancers. We had a dance chorus for this show and my goodness! I think I was a little bit in love with every single one of them within moments of watching their first dance rehearsal.
  • The after show party. Sitting on the top landing with two friends just drunkenly chatting about nothing in particular and eating pizza.
  • Lior Sayada. He is a beautiful man and we grew really close during this process I hope we don’t lose contact.
  • Our Co-Director’s “Why did you lie to me?” pep talk at the awful dress rehearsal.
  • Our Profile Photos we had for publicising the show.
  • A plethora of other stuff that reading this list when I’m old will remind me of.

I’ve watched my way through quite a bit of TV. Homeland series 1 & 2, Elementary, The Hour, Doctor Who, Community series 1-4, Big Bang Theory, New Girl, Castle, The Mentalist and I’m 3 episodes in to Awkward. If anyone has any suggestions of something I should watch feel free to tweet or comment below.

I feel like I should reward you for reading this far so as in previous posts, you get half a gold star for reading to the end, the other half can be awarded when you comment below. Happy Days.

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