09 May 2010 (gig)
28 May 2010
Tim Arnold is a rock musician, songwriter and composer from London. Hailing from a theatrical family and with a showbiz mother (60’s singer Polly Perkins), his bohemian childhood no doubt influenced his love for music from an early age. He signed with Sony and in the late 90’s he found success as the leader of Britpop band Jocasta. Later, he signed with Universal Music as a writer and producer and since 2006, he has independently released ten albums. He was also composer in residence for the 400th anniversary season of Shakespeare’s Globe and what’s more, Tim is a fully-fledged Bard, having completed the teachings of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. It is therefore little wonder that one day, a musical project would steer him back to the greatest Bard of them all, William Shakespeare.
While researching ideas for a new album, Tim asked renowned Shakespearean thespians Sir Ian McKellan, Sir Derek Jacobi, Pete Postletwaite, Richard Briers, Janet Suzman and Emma Thompson to identify a single theme from Shakespeare’s works. From the numerous responses he found the inspiration for his new album Sonnet 155. To quote Tim, 'Sonnet 155 is not about Shakespeare; it’s a response provoked by Shakespeare.'
Sonnet 155 is also a response provoked by stage and theatre, for it was recently performed twice at the Almeida Theatre in Islington to celebrate the release of the album with the tagline 'One rock band. One string quartet. Two opera singers. Three actors.’
The performance on May 9th featured Tom Arnold and his band as well as the aforementioned string quartet, opera singers Hannah Pedley and Jai Ramage and as for the actors, the Almeida was proud to welcome Richard Briers (The Good Life), Paul McGann (Withnail & I) and Lisa Dillon (Bright Young Things, Cranford).
It was a highly unusual experience, with the venue providing a cosy and intimate setting for a provocative re-imagining of Shakespeare’s themes through rock music and spoken word. If all this sounds rather serious and deeply intellectually boring, well, it was not! Au contraire, it was an entertaining and stimulating production that had words interwoven with the songs, sometimes spoken over music, sometimes over silence and sometimes with the lyrics.
The opening piece, Citrinitas, is based on an alchemical term used in the 16th Century, it stood for the dawning of the 'solar light’ inherent in one’s being. Fourteen pieces in total were performed, amongst them Flights Of Angels (inspired by Sir Ian McKellen’s letter on Shakespeare and the afterlife), Hurly Burly with text from 'Macbeth’, Act 1, Scene 1, Head And Hearts (inspired by Janet Suzman’s letter on 'Disguise as a means to uncovering the truth’), Sonnet 116, Sonnet 155, Star Crossed (inspired by 'Romeo and Juliet’) as well as The Falls Of A Sparrow (inspired by Sir Derek Jacobi’s letter including a passage from 'Hamlet’).
The album Sonnet 155 is a rock/classical crossover of eleven songs written and performed by Tim Arnold, which also re-interprets classical pieces of music by Mozart, Rimsky Korsakov and a co-write with composer Michael Nyman – all driven by Shakespearean themes. For those who missed out on the live performance in the Almeida, it is a worthy substitute. To paraphrase Shakespeare: 'You should live twice – in it and in my rhyme.'