Some times you deliver a job and never hear another word. This can be disconcerting. One minute you are intensely focussed on a mission. The next you are alone watching your child cycle off, without the trainer-wheels, suddenly redundant.
Other times it is very different.
Last week a finished copy of The Music of the Lord of the Rings Films arrived. The next day the author, Doug Adams, arrived in England. We had worked together so intensely over many months. Often under serious pressure. A mutual respect and friendship had developed. Would meeting in ‘real life’ be the same? And the mighty composer, Howard Shore who had gathered three Academy© Awards for his Tolkien Movie compositions. The next day would be the UK Publication Day and I was about to find out . . .
The venue was Chappell of Bond Street, which is in Wardour Street. Of course it is. Chappell’s is where you go to buy serious musical instruments from people who know one end of a Tuba from another. Downstairs is the sheet music section. As one often to be heard muttering darkly against the cloned retail outlets in our cities I feel I should, by turn, celebrate the very existence of such specialist havens of expertise, knowledge and craft. Thrilled they survive the relentless steam-roller of the bland. And I do.
Picture this. Pitch black 7pm on Monday and we could barely get in the shop. Strands of the disparate tribes of Tolkien Fans, Movies Fans and Music Fans threading together in an eager queue to hear Doug Adams and Howard Shore discuss the project and sign some their treasured books. We oozed through the throng, slid to the wings and lurked behind a speaker. And listened to the presentation as the poised, humble young author chatted carefully and informatively with this soft-spoken Canadian composer. Shore has worked with many of my favourite directors. Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Peter Jackson . . . Blimey!
Then I can only remember a bit of a blur. Doug recognised me from the inflated version of my avatar which is the reality and called me to the front for introduction. I got a round of applause! Hell, often the best you get is to be told is that the Sales Director’s mum thought you should have done it in green. Applause! Real applause from real readers who really care. Really. I bowed to the maestro and Doug and I hugged. On their gentle but firm insistence I said something about the design approach into the mike, Lord knows what, and we three signed many copies of the book – together.
The devil makes me do things sometimes at very proper events. And, later, I found such demonic possession commanding me to proffer the Susan Boyle Songbook to Mr Shore to sign. Fortunately he is a gracious man and there was much laughter.
It seems I got away with it as those very nice people from the distributors, Alfred Music, took us all for supper at The Langham Hotel, opposite what I think of as the British Embassy, BBC Broadcasting House. Conversation pinged from noise-cancelling headphones to Lennon & McCartney, from Radio 4 to the graphic beauty of music. Teenage cassette compilations, Thom Yorke, file-sharing, Apps and beyond.
Next morning, while Howard took rehearsal we had promised the morning to showing Doug and his lovely girlfriend, Jill Smith a sample of the delights of London. On the steps of St Paul’s Doug told me the news that the book had sold out on Amazon in UK & Germany on Day One. We took The Millennium Bridge to The Globe Theatre and Tate Modern. Chicagoans have stamina, I am here to testify, and love their coffee is infinite. The original instruments in The Globe exhibition were of great interest to Doug. And I love that it is just 50 yards from Joseph Beuys.
All good. And then it got better. Remember reading that a pianist that used to accompany old silent movies? Frantically fingering the keyboard as some hapless heroine was tied to the railway tracks by a nefarious villain? That night, in 2010, we were part of a sell-out audience at The Royal Albert Hall to witness the spectacle of a full screening of The Return of the King. Technicians kept the Voices and the Sound Effects but stripped out the Sound Track Music. And beneath the screen The London Philharmonic Orchestra plus male choir, children’s choir and soloists, some 250+, performing the full score live to screen. It blew my socks off!. My inner sceptic always wriggled at some of the most sentimental moments of the movie. But with the full impact of perfect live vocal presence the swell of the music transformed the saccharine to sweet moments. And I have to tell you that, at The Lighting of the Beacons, my heart filled-up with Shore’s Music, Alan Lee, John Howe, the Movie and the project with Doug in ways that any attempt to describe would only invite a cackling of derision from the cynical reader. And the tears rolled down my face.
At the Interval all I could do was stand and look around the impressive venue, vast audience, massed performers and just marvel at the epic scale of the whole thing. (Then we had Ben & Jerry’s – Chocolate Chip.) After the performance, and rapturous applause, Howard Shore & Doug Adams signed books into the night, The line stretched from Gate One to Gate Six. I had been asked to join them signing but it seemed strangely inappropriate and we slipped into the night. Tired, emotionally drained, happy with my wife, Sandy Nightingale.