The joy of making it up

February 18, 2013


Impropera – photo by Julian Macedo

There’s nothing like walking out on stage not knowing what you’re going to play. For many of us classically trained musos this a nightmare we’ve all had in troubled nights’ sleeps… and yet, when you get used to doing it, it’s the greatest drug in the world.

I’m lucky to work with the best improvisers I know, whether in Not So Silent Movies… or the extraordinary Impropera.

Impropera improvise operas on suggestions from the audience. It’s surreal and hilarious. We just had a performance last week which I wanted to share with you here. The pianist Anthony Ingle is a genius. I use the word literally & with no hyperbole. He is a genius. I’ve said it again.


Anthony Ingle – photo by Julian Macedo

On the night, we were asked to make a set of variations on a theme from the audience – La Vie en Rose, in the style of three different composers, Dufay, Mozart and Gershwin. Anthony is able to pull melody, harmony, phrasing and structure from thin air – I get to noodle around on top (that’s the easy bit!). The rush of goosebumps when it clicks is crazy. When it goes wrong, it goes properly wrong.

Being strong & wrong and being quite happy about it is (I’m convinced) the key to being totally comfortable on stage.

Well, here’s the improv. This is all on the fly with no preparation… so be kind! This is recorded from the end of the Dufay bit on an iPhone in the audience, so it’s not great quality, but you’ll get the idea..!

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