HerStory: a conductor’s perspective

Nicola Wydenbach

20th August 2019 had been looming in my diary. Although rehearsals had started, the piece, HerStory: The Catchpole Chronicles was still being composed by CoLab composer Amy Mallett. I had had seen some of the work but not all. I had been to some of the rehearsals but not every single one. I had not seen any of the dance that had been devised or met all the participants, and two of the musicians were new too.

We would be performing a workshop performance in an Open Session in front of a paying audience in the beautiful Britten Pears Recital Room at Snape Maltings. The purpose was to test some of the artistic ideas on front of an audience to see if they worked as concepts. Would it be too much to have animation? Would singing and dancing at the same time be possible for people living with Parkinson’s? Did the story arc make sense?

From my persective, there were so many variables that might not work. Would the dancing fit with the singing, would the singers know the songs and be heard….the list was as long as my arm. So I just did not think about it all. I decide to not worry about things I could not control. I decided to take everything as it came. After all, this piece was about the performers, the people with Parkinson’s developing and creating and exploring.

And do you know what happened……..every single member of the company, every single performer exceeded expectations. It was supposed to be a ‘scratch’ performance but we more or less delivered a full showing of all the composed material. The level of artistry and commitment would have made any professional proud. it was a powerful and moving performance that will stay with me forever.