Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Principia - Paralympic Opening Ceremony

"If you want to know what I do - look up!"

If, like millions of others, you've just watched the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics, here's a short note (written at or around the time it happened), of how it came to be for me...

July 3rd

By the time this is published, I'll be done. However I'm writing this as I go along to record my London 2012 ceremonies experience.

I'm singing at the opening ceremony for the Paralympics (which will just have happened by the time you read this). I collected the sheet music and rehearsal CD last night. Someone from my choir said that I'll thoroughly enjoy singing the pieces...

There are two items for Segment: 89-CHOIR B 

Principia - commissioned for the opening ceremony of London 2012 Paralympic Games (composer and lyricist currently unknown - it's not on the sheet music); and

The National Anthem - as arranged for Chorus and Orchestra by Benjamin Britten for the Leeds Festival 1961.

So, Principia. Wow! It's "out there" in more sense than one. Xfe finds it too modern (but I think he didn't realise it's part of a larger whole). 

I find it inspiring, thrilling and moving.

So, what is it about? Well it seems to be named after Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica,  ("Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy" often referred to as simply the Principia), a work in three books by Sir Isaac Newton, first published 5 July 1687. 

"The 'Principia' deals primarily with massive bodies in motion, initially under a variety of conditions and hypothetical laws of force in both non-resisting and resisting media, thus offering criteria to decide, by observations, which laws of force are operating in phenomena that may be observed. It attempts to cover hypothetical or possible motions both of celestial bodies and of terrestrial projectiles. It explores difficult problems of motions perturbed by multiple attractive forces. Its third and final book deals with the interpretation of observations about the movements of planets and their satellites. It shows how astronomical observations prove the inverse square law of gravitation (to an accuracy that was high by the standards of Newton's time); offers estimates of relative masses for the known giant planets and for the Earth and the Sun; defines the very slow motion of the Sun relative to the solar-system barycenter; shows how the theory of gravity can account for irregularities in the motion of the Moon; identifies the oblateness of the figure of the Earth; accounts approximately for marine tides including phenomena of spring and neap tides by the perturbing (and varying) gravitational attractions of the Sun and Moon on the Earth's waters; explains the precession of the equinoxes as an effect of the gravitational attraction of the Moon on the Earth's equatorial bulge; and gives theoretical basis for numerous phenomena about comets and their elongated, near-parabolic orbits."
 (from wikipedia).

Celestial bodies, athletes, greatness beyond humanity...

"...We shine the torch beyond this world
We shine across the boundaries of time..."

Tuesday 10 July 

Had my costume fitting. Blue trousers, shirt and DM boots (I think will be blue, too). I hope we get to keep - the boots would be great to use again, if not a memento.

Got my cast card and London 2012 Volunteer Oyster card...

Wednesday 25 July

As a volunteer I was given a ticket for the dress rehearsal of the Olympic opening ceremony. Until now we've held our breath - what will London 2012 bring? Will we be the poor cousin of Beijing?


Very happily, I can say on the strength of what I saw tonight, certainly not!!

Sunday 5 August

Well, nothing more has happened, until today. We had a recording session to put down the tracks. It was a little back to front though - all I've done is listen to the rehearsal track for Principia. I can't read music.

The recording was at AIR Studios in Hampstead. It did feel a little back to front given we had to record the Britten version of God Save The Queen (my voice part is so different from what I'm accustomed to) and I didn't know the music.

The added complication of not reading music compounded the problem when some notes changed from what they were "to a minum[?]", and the like, whatever that is.

After the experience I realised that with the software they use, it matters little how we sound - they can make it sound however they need it!

We did two takes of each piece, then learned a new thing and recorded it immediately.

Andy Murray wins Olympic gold!

Sunday 19 August

Made in Dagenham! Our first rehearsal. The day starts of too hot we're wilting. And burning in the 30C sunshine.

The relief when the rain comes...

This rehearsal is all about placement and movement. But we do get to hear over the FM radio transmitters that we will have the recoding of Principia, with the added extra of the LSO.

Oh, and there's lots of standing around waiting.

Monday 20 August

Our first stadium rehearsal. We still don't know what the show is about, although for the first time yesterday we got small glimpses of what else was happening. We have the purple "choir" bibs. I saw readers, seagull, wheelbarrow to name but a few.

But first I have to go elsewhere to get my Olympic Park accreditation.

The sun is still shining, but the park is empty. Strange to see it so.

The field of play inside the Stadium looks undone, and there's plenty going on - tech, scenery, performers....

Where we were placed yesterday depends on our numbers, assigned by order of arrival at the Dagenham rehearsal. But some of us are given new numbers in the 400+ category and told to stay back. I'm not one of them, but I know they will be for the small group for v1 of God Save The Queen.

There is of course lots of standing around.

Though, fortunately, it's not raining. These are props. Another set of bibs - this time "Umbrella" cast.

Darkness descends, and things get exciting when the lights come on.

Then it's time to go to our "vom" - the vomitory being the stadium entrance. Our choir (of over 400) is split into two "shards". I'm in vom 1, the others in vom 3, split diagonally.

Standing there we see some of the props for the first time, many as of yet unfinished. As I said we still don't know the theme, but I see things to suggest "physics". Oh, and might Miranda Hart be making an appearance I wonder?

The thrill I'm feeling as the music blasts out. I get it! We're part of the very opening section, after the 'ella, 'ella and those amazing aerial performers (some of whom are pretty fit - in the HOT sense).

Then I hear Stephen Hawking - and the music again, amazing - it feels so spectacular, I could cry. The noise is booming - I know from my experience at the opening ceremony of the Olympics' dress rehearsal that TV gets nowhere near replicating the sound of the stadium, not the live experience.

Friday 24 August

We're back at the stadium this morning. An 8.30 call means I've had to take a half day. We sit in the stadium, with our Olympic meal bag (a sandwich - one of a choice of 3 of the day, a cereal bar, a small tin of pringles and an apple). An apple. Hmmm - I wonder if there's a little humour as, looking around, there are plenty apples of different sizes to be seen.

Anyway, more waiting around. We don't start until just before 11am, despite the 8.30am call (which was changed to 9am, although I didn't get the message).

Saturday 25 August

A full day - 10am to 6pm.

Today we experience the "dressing room" - or rather the cast holding area. There are two huge temporary buildings to the south side of the stadium. We're the largest individual performing group (approximately 450), and part of the first segment. I still don't know, though, what happens after our section. So far we've only met the "Umbrella" performers.

I am a number, not a person. Everything is assigned by reference to my bib, so that's my very own space, where I find the most anticipated part of my costume.

Then, it's off to vom 1 to make a start to the day.

We do our stuff, and again, after our part, we are free to go. However, by now I do know that the theme of the show is Enlightenment, which makes perfect sense given everything that I see and hear around me - props, narration, characters.

We finish early - just after 4pm.

Sunday 26 August

Today's forecast is good. Tomorrow's not so. As a result we're going to have a full dress rehearsal today. Our 13h00 to 23h30 rehearsal is however put back by a couple of hours until 3pm, so there's more hanging around. At 3pm we get fitted for a harness, and then after 40 mins we're told we are free until 7.30pm. So, a group of us head off to Westfield for some beers...

We get a text just before 6pm that we are needed for a costume adjustment...

Hmm, even with our cool DMs (slight variation, but mainly self-coloured matt "smurf" blue; the green and patent here are because the feet in question are too big/too wide for the made to order matt blue) we really are the poor relations when it comes to costume.

Two and a half beers later, we're back to get ready. Dressed and harnessed up, I go off to find a pal, and I realise that in terms of costume we really are the poor relations...

Here's my pal Artjoms, who is one of the wheelbarrow boys (dancing with apples, 5-4-3-2-1-CRUNCH).

Mark and I later discover that the "tree guys/forrest men" appear to have been chosen for their physical build - the majority of them really are pleasing on the eye.


Not so true however for their female counterparts resembling somewhere in between a Klingon/Queen of the Borg crossover.

Then there's more hanging around...

Until we're on our way back to the stadium.

It's not a great photo, but the guy standing here in purple (he has an artificial right leg, full length) is extremely hot and most of my group have been admiring him. He was one of the aerial umbrella performers you saw, from memory with a yellow umbrella,  in the air on his own rather than under one of the big umbrellas!



1 comment:

Stephen Chapman said...

I thought about writing lots in this comment box about how amazing your experience has been etc etc etc.

How about I sum it up in one word?



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