Written by Nick Payne
Directed by Elizabeth Swanson
Assistant directed by Jan Schneider
Designed by Áine O'Hara
Composed and musical-directed by Kim V Porcelli
Produced by the Lir Theatre, August 2014
The score featured seven discrete pieces of music, all of which were performed a cappella by a cast of five adults and two children. Several of the pieces utilised a single drum.
Singers/cast: Danielle Galligan (main soloist), Katie Honan, Úna Kavanagh, Gerard Lee, Robert Thompson, Ava and Ben
About the music:
When Elizabeth, Jan and I first met about the score, Elizabeth said: is it possible to have no tuned instruments on stage at all? Is it possible to be a cappella— I mean, really a cappella? We talked about how this was an almost insurmountable challenge, for singers to find notes out of thin air. But at the time I was singing in the Sacred Harp Singers of Dublin, a (really lovely) singing group that meets weekly to sing several-hundred-year-old four-part-harmony American folk music. In Sacred Harp singing, you tune songs not to a tuner or an instrument, but to your own comfort zone as a group. Typically you have a person, or a handful of people, who are comfortable finding starting pitches for songs, from which every harmony part in the song is reachable. It’s not important in Sacred Harp to be ‘in tune’, A440— it’s only important to be in tune with each other. So this is how we did this.
Danielle’s clear, shining voice was kind of the lynchpin of the writing for me. Once I knew we had at least one person who’d be able to find a pitch without being cued by an instrument, I knew I was free to write whatever.
I wrote the pieces, sang all the harmonies into a loop pedal, made demos of each song in this way, and gave mp3s to the cast. We didn’t use sheets or anything like that— we did it all by ear.
Danielle (who played Electra's sister Chrysothemis) had the incredible job of working to remember what it felt like in her body when she sang this note or that note, so that she’d be able to reproduce the feeling of singing the correct note, in the moment. Because, of course, onstage, during a performance, she couldn’t try this pitch or that— she had to open her mouth and, in one go, the right note had to come out. Not only did she hold the show together in this way, cueing everybody else, but she ended up singing in the exact key I’d composed the pieces in, 99% of the time. Her musical memory is outrageous. --Kim
Photograph: Instagram snapshot (by Kim) of part of the set, designed by Áine O'Hara