There’s always a buzz in the air the first day of any new Academic Year as the new students arrive at University but this year as I walked into The London College of Music, (where I regularly lecture) ...the chaos was palpable ‘cause over the summer the whole layout which had been under construction for the last couple of years was now complete and everything was ‘new’, the recording studios, concert halls , radio station...absolutely fabulous!
Any portion of the building that hadn’t been ‘rebuilt’ had been refurbished and the paint work was all shiny and new.
It had also been decided to renumber the rooms.....and here’s where I learned my first lesson of the day. Always do a reconisence trip to find out where you are going.
After dashing around my ‘old’ stamping ground and trying to calculate my whereabouts in relation to the new, I finally found a group of forty students hanging about outside a lecture hall and said to them, ‘Do you happen to be waiting for your lecturer to turn up for a ...Music and Enterprise lecture?’
Happily they were and happily for me too it gave me my opening line for my lecture....
‘Don’t assume that because you are being taught by someone who has had many years experience of the Music Industry that they know everything...’cause it’s through listening to you and discussing your fresh ideas that I’ve managed to carry on for long...so thanks.
THE DRUMMER BOY OF WATERLOO is a new children’s opera, commissioned for the two hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. The photos here are by David Herman from the production by Jubilee Opera.... the world premiere.
The opera tells the story of Edward Drew a young lad, who was apprenticed to work in a northern textile mill when his mother died. He’d never known his father, but his father was a soldier, who’d gone to fight Napoleon in France.
Life was not easy at the mill and the children often had to work more than ten hours a day but eventually Edward made friends and settled down.
There was music in him, and the machines had rhythm of their own. Inside his head that rhythm didn’t stop even when the machines did. Edward could often be found drumming on anything he could find from crates to tabletops.
When Edward heard that the army needed boys to send drum signals on the battlefield, and that he would be suitable, he was very excited. However, the mill owner had other ideas; to him, the children were simply machinery to be worked until they were of no more use.
How Edward escaped, and what happened to him at Waterloo, is the story of this opera.
"Megg Nicol and David Stoll have composed an attractive and highly effective work that deserves to find a secure place in the repertory of children’s opera. Everyone involved in this auspicious world premier is to be warmly congratulated." Gareth Jones - East Anglian Daily Times
"...Megg and David have created a work which, I'm sure, will enter the repertoire and will be enjoyed by performers and audiences alike for years to come” Chris Butler - Head of Publishing & Rights for the Music Sales Group
"The music is skilfully composed, with a variety of styles and an acute sense of what will work on stage" Gareth Jones - East Anglian Daily Times
"We (Jubilee Opera) were very proud and honoured to be able to give The Drummer Boy his first outing" Jenni Wake-Walker (Director)
David and I were highly delighted when Jubilee Opera said that they would like to stage our opera as their main production of 2015. The opera was written very much with a company such as Jubilee Opera in mind. However to have it staged in the Jubilee Hall with such a prestigious company was a delight
“The Jubilee Hall in Aldeburgh, Suffolk has become well known for staging the first performances of some well -known operas. The premières of Britten’s opera A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Little Sweep..... Appropriate then, that the première of Jubilee Opera’s Little Drummer Boy of Waterloo by Megg Nicol and David Stoll should also première in this theatre”. Martyn Harrison - Seen and Heard International
It was the iconic image of a ‘drummer boy’ that can be found in many cultures right into the 19th Century that first caught our imagination when we came to writing the opera. Who were those boys? Where did they come from?
As we began to learn that the drum was seen as an important part of battlefield communication, with different drum patterns being used to signal commands to the soldiers in the field, the idea of writing about a drummer boy became irresistible. It was then our drummer boy took on a life beyond the battlefield.
Edward was apprenticed just like them from the Poor House, yet he ended up as a Drummer Boy Mascot for the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. This made him a hero in their eyes...
It was also great to see the Waterloo Committee take an interest in what we were doing too and they really enjoyed the production.
“It was wonderful to see a sold out audience for The Drummer Boy of Waterloo. The play, the sets, costumes and music were all first class, as was the singing and acting, and you all deserve a huge congratulation for creating a great show!” Alice D Berkeley (Waterloo Committee)
Our working day , whilst writing THE DRUMMER BOY OF WATERLOO, always started with tea for me, coffee for David and a quick chat and catch up. Then before starting to write anything new we would sing through the opera playing all the parts ourselves until we arrived at the section we wanted to work on... improvising and feeling our way to an emotional response from our characters. What were they thinking now? How should we express it?
This practice actually stood us in good stead since David and I performed it all, just the two of us, ‘ Karoke’ style to Jeni- Wake Walker the Director of Jubilee Opera and Ann Barkway in the office of Novellos when it was being considered for this years production in November...and happily they liked it!
All photos on this page courtesy of David Hermon