Thursday, 6 March 2008

Anyone hiring?

No, I'm not looking for a new job (having only just finally moved within commuting distance of the one I have now). The title is about a family trip to the musicals a couple of weeks ago. I've already blogged about this event indirectly, as it's why Eco Sis, Munchkin Granny and Granny T came to visit and got fed muffins and pancakes, but I wanted a proper run-up to writing about it.

Music and musicals were a big feature of our childhood. We had a collection of favourites on video, generally missing the first ten minutes or so due to general videotaping incompetence, and we watched them endlessly. We also had a lot of musical soundtracks on tape, which we listened to (and sang along with) ad nauseum in the car. We even put on our own shows of these musicals - Joseph, Half a Sixpence (which I tried to record when it was on a few years ago, and managed to miss the start of AGAIN. I am doomed never to see the first few scenes), Fiddler on the Roof, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music... But there was one which we loved utterly without ever actually having seen it. This was The Hired Man, which Munchkin Granny and Munchkin Gramps had gone to see on their own, but had brought us back the soundtrack on tape. We listened to it and sang along to it so often that we probably forgot we hadn't seen it ourselves A couple of years ago Kiwi Sis and I made a pact that we would see it together some time, so it was with slightly mixed feelings that I saw a production of it advertised just before she left. The rest of us rallied, however, and went to see it with her in our minds.

Eco Sis and I agreed in advance that if the singing wasn't up to much we would stand up and join in, but fortunately there was no risk of that. It was a local amateur production but it was absolutely brilliant, and the singing was of such a high standard that it was pretty amazing to think that the actors had other day jobs. The songs were mainly wonderfully familiar, with just a few that evidently hadn't made it on to our tape to keep us on our toes. I hadn't realised how much of the story takes place outside the songs, though, so there were a few surprises and 'aaah, that's how that works' moments. It's the story of a family of agricultural labourers in north-west England over the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century. They start off on the land, move to the town where the husband becomes a miner (you can see why this story appeals to a historian of industrialising England), leaving only to serve in World War One. Much against the wife's wishes, their son follows his father first into the mines and then to the front where he is killed in action. The story ends with the central couple recovering their closeness and moving back to the land, where the wife dies tragically young, and her husband once again hires himself out as a labourer. The original story was written (somewhat unexpectedly) by Melvin Bragg, and is strangely little known as a musical. It deserves much more attention though, as it's a wonderful story. Eco Sis sang the songs all the way home, reminding me of when she danced all the way back to the car from a trip to a ballet when we were very little (I was less embarrassed this time.) I went straight on to ebay the next day to look for the soundtrack. No luck, but I've ordered the book as a stopgap. The old tape is definitely still around somewhere, unless Kiwi Sis snaffled it off to New Zealand, in which case she can listen to it and think of us, and teach The Munchkin all the songs, too.


This is a bit of a family post, so apologies to anyone else who might be reading this. I have some muffin-y, bread-y posts planned for the next few days, but in the meantime, here is my alpha-male pook with his alpha-male Scientist (yes, that is The Scientist's hand).

1 comment:

Munchkin Granny said...

actually we stood waiting for a bus as I recall whilst you pleaded with
me to get her to stop acting out the Lowry ballet. I was very impressed
and she was oblivious
x M-Granny