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Q & A with… Jan Carey, creator of “Author, Composer, Soldier of a Sort”

By October 19, 2015No Comments

Jan Carey is the writer/compiler of “AUTHOR, COMPOSER, SOLDIER OF A SORT”. She is also playing the role of Marion Scott in this performance.

Jan Trained at the GSM&D, and has appeared in an extensive range of TV and film from I Claudius to Downton Abbey, as well as performing in Spring and Port Wine, The Cherry Orchard and Pygmalion in the West End.

What initially led you to the story of Ivor and Marion?

I sang his best known song “Sleep” when I was a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. When a biography of Ivor Gurney was published and later, his letters, I couldn’t wait to find out more about him and Marion Scott – two extraordinary characters who lived through such a dramatic period of history.

What is it about their relationship that convinced you it would make for a good piece of theatre?

The sweep of their story is a gift – a great friendship between two people from very different backgrounds which takes them through war, madness, joy, adversity. We tell their story through his songs and poetry and their letters and memories.

The friendship between these two contrasting characters is a curious one, considering their circumstances and backgrounds. What are some of the key things they have in common do you think?

I think the main thing they have in common is their passion for music and the written word and their need to communicate this to others.

How did you go about selecting the various extracts for the piece?

With difficulty – there is so much to choose from. When the first biography of Ivor Gurney appeared and then his letters, I was hooked! And who was this older woman Marion Scott to whom he wrote these amazing ‘stream of consciousness’ letters and to whom he sent his work? The great tenor Ian Partridge – who sang Gurney for me originally – read the first draft. He said it would last at least 5 ½ hours! Then a few years ago a biography of them both was published… Yes, with great difficulty!

This is a reworked version of a performance you have staged before. How does this production differ from the one you have staged previously?

The first version which we played some years ago at the Purcell Room and festivals around England, ran two hours plus an interval. This final version is 1hr 20mins straight through. The only characters are Ivor Gurney and Marion Scott. Marion Scott has always intrigued me and only in the last few years has a great deal more about her come to light through a new biography. So this version is much more about their friendship and its outcome. A tighter story.

Have you worked with Thomas and Andrew before?

No I haven’t. When I was working on the script I knew that ideally that one person should both play and sing Ivor Gurney. Thomas was at the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music where he was taught by Ian Partridge. He and Andrew – who is also an organist and conductor – come as a packet – how lucky is that!?

Marion Scott has been described as “the first female music critic” Can you tell us more about that?

It’s a marvelous co-incidence that the film Suffragette has just come out. Marion Scott was a true champion for the rights of equality for women musicians at the time when the suffragette movement grew. She had the drive and passion to break the boundaries of male dominance in the professional music world. She was a greatly admired musicologist and performer. She never stopped working for what she believed in. Being wealthy, of course helped. First woman music critic – a triumph – tho’ as she said, it was some time before her name appeared along side her criticisms!

In your opinion, what are the things about Gloucestershire that inspire Ivor?

He had an absolute passion for the River Severn and the hills and valley of the Cotswolds – his roots – and all its history especially its Roman history. It was a place he would always returned to, either in reality or in his mind and imagination, when he needed it. His first book of poems, Severn and Somme, was almost entirely written when he was fighting in the trenches in the First World War. The valley of the Somme was a continual reminder of the home for which he longed. The tragedy at he end of his life, was that for medical reasons, he was sent far away.

You are about to bring “Author, Composer, Soldier of a sort” to Omnibus. What are you most looking forward to?

I hope that by bringing the performance/recital to Omnibus, people who have never heard of Ivor Gurney will be amazed that they haven’t, and that they will have been introduced to an extraordinary life enhancing man with the double talent of poet and composer, who had the great good fortune to meet a woman who had absolute faith in his ability. It is a great story of which so little is known.

“Author, Composer, Soldier of a Sort” is on Sunday 1 November at 4.30pm. Tickets £15 | £12 concessions.

More information and book tickets here


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