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Come and have a go if you think you're bard enough
Gavin Friday’s been a Virgin Prune and a glam cabaret torch singer, he’s done Brecht and Weill, and most recently stole the show at Hal Willner’s Leonard Cohen tribute concert Came So Far For Beauty.
Peter Murphy, 21 Feb 2007
But at the end of this month Gavin Friday will be taking on William Shakespeare in Nothing Like The Sun – The Sonnets, under the auspices of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
"How this came about was I worked with Gavin Bryars about a year and a half ago on the Sinking Of The Titanic and we got on really well and talked about doing something more.
“I had this crazy idea to do a musical version of the Stations Of The Cross, which is still in the pipeline. But late last year, just around the time of the Leonard Cohen thing, Gavin rang me. For some reason, the Queen has commissioned that all of Shakespeare’s works be recorded in Great Britain this year, and the Royal Shakespeare company and the Royal Opera House commissioned Gavin Bryars to take on the duty of performing the sonnets in a more innovative way.
“Gavin decided he was going to write an original 40 or 50 minute piece of classically based music over which 10 to 12 sonnets will be performed, that’s the main part of the show. But for the first half of the show he decided to commission four contemporary singers to reinterpret a love sonnet of their choice, in their own way, and he would arrange it. He approached Antony Hegarty, Liz Fraser, Natalie Merchant and me.
“So I rummaged through the sonnets, and what I found is that it could take you maybe five or six days to understand what the fuck they’re about! You almost have to get them into your bloodstream subliminally, and then you’re walking down the road and you go, ‘That’s what it’s about.’ So I picked Sonnet XL, and I did a very simple demo of it, quite minimal and intimate. I decided to go against the whole bravado of how Shakespeare’s work is put across. I really believe when you listen to the words, they’re so profoundly beautiful and intimate, there’s no way they were written to be performed in that Laurence Olivier way. So I brought it right down almost into that erotic Shag Tobacco sentiment, and got very melodic in that final couplet, went out there very much into ‘Angel’ falsetto territory, where the orchestra really pushes in.