MIXTAPE: Lee Hall | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Playwright and screenwriter Lee Hall’s latest show, Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour contains a lot of his favourite music, here he tells us about his choices.

Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour is at Live Theatre from Thursday 1st until Saturday 24th October.

Pablo Casals – Prelude to the Bach Cello Suites

This is one of the most moving pieces of music I know.  It was probably originally written more as a set of exercises and had been pretty much lost until a 13 year old Pablo Casals discovered the sheet music. He spent a decade learning the pieces and when he started playing them in public caused a sensation, making them some of the most famous solo music ever written. Casals is a hero of mine.

Judie Tzuke – For You

Judie Tzuke was a female solo artist in the late 70s/early 80s. I think she was probably considered naff even then. I saw her do this at the City Hall in 1981 and thought it was amazing. It’s a very strange but haunting song.

ELO – Mr Blue Sky

I was never a huge ELO fan at the time. I think Jeff Lynne’s completely over the top production style was too much for me, but I defy anyone not to find Mr Blue Sky infectious. It’s as perfect a piece of pop as has ever been made. I always found them confusing as Jeff seemed always to be hiding behind a spaceship or dark glasses – which made me think that somehow these weren’t serious pop songs but…

ELO – Evil Woman

I saw a documentary about Jeff Lynne and he did loads of the ELO songs with just an acoustic guitar or with Richard Tandy on piano. They were incredible. I suddenly understood what I had been missing – the guy is a genius. I’d been looking at them the wrong way when I was a kid. Stripped of the big production they were perfect for the play I was working on so I got in touch with Jeff and asked if we could use them. He said yes.

ELO  – Wild West Hero

And we use loads of ELO but in very different arrangements. We use this one which is a very peculiar number on the Out Of The Blue album but is exquisite in our stripped down version, freighted with such longing. There’s a real connection in Scotland with Country and Western music and you could understand why working class people like Jeff from Birmingham had a real connection with the mythical idea of the ‘West’ – it’s a theme that pervades so much of the best 70’s pop and rock music.

Handel  – My Heart Is Inditing

I didn’t know this song, which I think is from one of the Coronation Anthems, but Handel I suppose was a bit of a Jeff Lynne of his day. He took London by storm with his operas – often featuring castrati – but his whole career imploded and for several years he couldn’t get arrested. This is a beautiful song. We use it in the show for a very weird striptease.

Bela Bartok – The Enchanting Song

This is a weird playlist but Bartok is another hero of mine. As a young man went off into villages and recorded all this folk music which he then used as the basis of his classical pieces for the rest of his life. Folk music is as intertwined with what we think of as classical music as to be inseparable. The older I’ve got the more I realise that the categorical distinctions we make between different genres are actually ways of obscuring what’s good and distinctive. I suppose understanding that has made me listen to what might have been pop music in previous centuries – and so a world of song I was always put off by has opened up.

From Pirates of Penzance – The Modern Major General  

This is hilarious. My next project is about a true story of a group of soldiers from the Borders who put on Gilbert and Sullivan operas in the trenches. There’s a brilliant clip on YouTube of this number when it was done in New York in the 80s in a version that starred Linda Ronstad! Look it up, it’s hilarious.

Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble

The first night I was in Glasgow rehearsing Taylor Swift came to town and I paid an enormous amount to a tout to see her. I have always loved her country-edged pop but had no idea I would be the oldest person there by about three decades. I did feel very uncomfortable. Taylor cannot dance but I do think she can write an excellent pop tune.

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