Our weekly column devoted to the spectacular 2018 production of Chester Mystery Plays at the Cathedral is this week written by guitarist Mike Riley who writes about the role of music in the Plays
Outside on the grass on a lovely spring morning, having our photograph taken under the trees, we are the musicians making up the band for the 2018 Chester Mystery Plays.
I can see guitars, clarinets, recorders, a violin, a cello, concertinas, an accordion, a hurdy-gurdy, bodhran, a Celtic harp and yes, a full drum kit.
Such is the diversity of instruments which make up our merry band.
Back inside, leaving the beautiful morning (is that a good title for a song) behind, all seems organised chaos.
Actors, chorus members, and musicians are all milling around but eventually we gather in our small room and set up our instruments.
Today, under the guidance of musical director Matt Baker, we’re going to go through the music for the first half in some detail.
The journey started just over two months ago when we all came together for the first time to bring Matt’s wonderful music to life.
Some of us had done this before, for others it would be their first time.
Coming from all walks of life, there would be some extremely accomplished amateur musicians and it felt like a real privilege to be making music with them.
For those of us who had been in the last Mystery Plays, we knew that this would be an evolving process.
What music we started with in February would not be what the public would hear in June in the Cathedral.
Bits would be added, bits would be taken away. Depending on the nuances of the script, instruments would be added where Matt felt they would be most effective - ‘This would sound good on the cello’, ‘We could have the guitars after the clarinets’.
There would be a lot of tweaking to be done.
We are tentative at first, just concentrating on getting the notes right. But gradually it begins to take shape.
And we become more confident under Matt’s guidance. No-one is ever criticised for getting it wrong.
There are many plays, ranging from the Creation, through to the Nativity and ultimately to the Crucifixion and Resurrection, and Matt has written the music to reflect the mood in each scene.
It will complement the script, a kind of symbiosis which will eventually provide a wonderful fusion of sound and vision in the magnificent Chester Cathedral.
At times moving, at times stirring, at times exciting, but always fun, the music will weave a beautiful thread through the whole tapestry of the Plays.
The young musicians have joined us to help swell our ranks. They are very enthusiastic and are a breath of fresh air.
Without giving any musical secrets away, suffice it to say that they are extensively involved in the Antichrist scene. Not to be missed!
The Chester Mystery Plays will be performed at Chester Cathedral from June 27-July 14.
Tickets are available from www.chestermysteryplays.com, by telephone 01244 500959 or in person at the Chester Cathedral box office.