Titanic Memories


The Singing Librarian as Harold Bride, Wireless Operator...

The Singing Librarian as Harold Bride, Wireless Operator...

So another show has come to an end, and it must be time for another blog post about many months of rehearsals and a few days of performances. This was a very special show for a number of reasons, and certainly one that cast, crew and audiences will remember for quite some time. Herne Bay Operatic Society should be justly proud of this production, even if audience numbers were not quite as high as had been hoped for – feedback from those who attended was amazing. In no particular order, here are some of the memories I shall take away with me:

Happy Birthday. It was my 30th birthday on the day of our dress rehearsal. Having had a lovely day in company with lovely people, I arrived at the theatre ready to get on with the business of hair, make-up, microphone, costume, photo shoot and all the rest of it. This was interrupted by the appearance of a delicious chocolate cake, and later by a rendition of the obligatory song by cast and crew, accompanied by our fantastic 19-piece orchestra which was lovely, but blew away any hope I foolishly had of keeping quiet about it! I was later presented with a card signed by the company and a lovely warm ‘Titanic the Musical’ sweatshirt.

Band Call. Our orchestra, as mentioned above, was large and absolutely fantastic.  The sound they made from the very beginning of the band call, the first time they ever rehearsed together, absolutely blew us away.  Titanic‘s score is not at all easy (more on that in future posts) and they navigated it with ease, creating both beautiful and exhilarating moments.  Our musical director, brought in at the last minute due to various issues we’d been having, was amazing as well, pulling out all the stops to create a beautiful, rich sound.  We had been quite worried about the whole show coming together, but the band call was an immense encouragement as the wonderful orchestrations, played by an equally wonderful orchestra, washed over us.

Kit Bag. I fashioned my own luggage for the show, as the props team were struggling to find enough kit bags to go around the number of characters who needed them.  Six hours in company with a cheap bed sheet, much thread, a couple of needles and three needle-threaders produced a work of something vaguely resembling art, which made it on to stage for all of three or four minutes, mostly hidden by being slung over my shoulder (as shown in the photo above).  I was pleasantly surprised that it made it through the week intact, though it did sometimes have an argument with the black tabs in the wings, making progress on to stage a tad more difficult than it should have been.

A solo-type duet. My key scene took place in the radio room, where I (or rather, wireless operator Harold Bride), sent a telegram for one of the stokers.  This telegram was dramatised in the form of a song, where he sang his proposal to his sweetheart, and Bride then sang about his own feelings, the way in which the telegraph enables him to connect to the world around him in a quite amazing way.  As the two of them join together in song, weaving their tunes around one another, neither one pays any attention to the other, utterly lost in their own worlds.  It is the most beautiful duet I have ever sung, and will surely be the only one I ever sing where each of us act as though we’re singing a solo, given the lack of interaction.  This number, ‘The Proposal/The Night Is Alive’ is also possibly the best bit of Titanic‘s score.  It’s always nice to nab one of the best songs!  It was even nicer to be paired with a fellow singer of such great talent (and a nice guy to boot!), which made singing it an even greater pleasure.

Crewing. As part of a campaign to keep myself busy, I volunteered to help with scene changes where possible.  This seemed sensible because I was often off stage, I was wearing a very dark costume and I have done backstage work at the theatre before.  Sorting out the first class dining saloon, the third-class quarters, the radio room and the grand salon was good fun (even if I did apparently nearly get hit on the head by part of the ship during one performance), livened up by minor panics caused by missing champagne glasses, recalcitrant lifebelts and a light that simply refused to fade.  I also helped with a quick change for one of the other performances and sang lustily into the offstage mic. to boost the chorus numbers I was not involved with, which eventually led to me conducting the first class passengers in the wings for one number, as they could not see either the conductor or the monitor.

Swinging. As has become traditional (again, perhaps more on this in a later post), I filled in for sundry missing people in rehearsals, covering first and second class passengers and various members of the crew from the bellboy to the lookout and the quartermaster to the captain.  The rehearsal where I drifted through the final scene of act one playing two characters in addition to  my own was a particularly memorable one for me.

New people. With a cast of sixty plus crew and orchestra, there were inevitably quite a number of people involved who I had never met before.  It took a long time to get to know everyone, but by the end a great sense of family developed among the company and I met some great new people including several that I really very much hope to work with again in the very near future.

Moments. The whole production, from the roller-coaster ride of the rehearsals to the excitement and emotion of the performances, will stay with me for some time, but some moments will live on longer than other.  Second Officer Lightoller taking “the liberty of arousing the passengers” in one rehearsal; Benjamin Guggenheim asking the chief steward “why have the injuns stopped?”; Mr Astor’s beautifully well-behaved dog patiently waiting in the wings during the scene where the ladies boarded the lifeboats; getting my wireless equipment tangled up with my uniform; battling with my collar’s constant bids for freedom; colliding noisily with a parcan lantern in the wings; the night that the survivors played an accidental game of hot potato with a model of the sunken ship; Caroline Neville’s scream of anguish as she was parted from her husband-to-be; the unpredictable path of an out-of-control tea trolley…

So many moments shared with around 100 people intimately involved, plus however many sat, watched and applauded.  A special show and a special production.

  1. Happy Birthday, Singing Librarian! That must have been amazing when the orchestra started playing you Happy Birthday, and that is a great photo too, my dad used to wear a uniform very similar to that to work. I wish I lived in England because I would have come and seen Titanic, it sounds brilliant, and as though it was a great experience to be involved in.

  2. Thanks, Helen. If you do get a chance to experience a production of Titanic (composer Maury Yeston, just in case there are others), go! It’s a marvellous show. Such an honour to be involved with it, and I shall now start trying to catch other productions of it!

    • Libby
    • November 22nd, 2008

    I’ve read your Titanic posts with interest – I’m in a production of it in Henley on Thames this week. I think you guys nabbed the set we wanted!! It’s an amazing show, and a privilege to be a part of. I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I am doing.

  3. Hey, that’s a nice photo! Would you like to put it in the friend’s photo gallery at ‘the other place’?

    Oh, and belated Happy Birthday! 🙂

  4. If I can manage to find it again after all this time, then that sounds like a good idea, Az.

    Libby, I hope you’re not suffering too badly from the post-Titanic blues.

  5. I could just copy it from here if you like.

  1. April 14th, 2012

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