SES­SION shenani­gans

The stu­dio gui­tarist’s guide to hap­pi­ness and per­sonal ful­fil­ment, as re­lated to us by Mitch Dal­ton. This month we find our hero plead­ing, art for art’s sake...

Guitar Techniques - - INTRO -

It has oc­curred to me that in re­cent ar­ti­cles I may have given the mis­lead­ing im­pres­sion that the self-em­ployed pro­fes­sional gui­tarist’s life is com­posed mainly of a se­ries of highly re­mu­ner­ated cameos in which lit­tle work but much in­do­lent loaf­ing is done. Be­fore ini­ti­at­ing the main thread of this month’s bul­letin, I must dis­pel this (pos­si­bly self-per­pet­u­at­ing) il­lu­sion with the Trump-es­que re­tort “Fake News!” Hav­ing just re­turned from a 10-day arena tour fea­tur­ing the cin­e­matic im­age of a de­ceased vo­cal­ist who in­tones the catch phrase “Uh-Huh” with con­sid­er­ably more in­sight than his cur­rent pres­i­dent’s Twit­ter feed, I can vouch for the bru­tal na­ture of that itin­er­ary.

A kalei­do­scopic daily se­quence of dawn de­par­tures, trains, planes, ho­tel check-ins and outs, sound checks and three-hour con­certs re­sulted in my re­turn­ing home on the last night from the aes­thetic de­light that is The O2 Arena in a state of near col­lapse. Napoleon’s mishap dur­ing the away leg in Moscow may have been more chal­leng­ing back in the day, but as far as I’m aware none of that bedrag­gled bunch of de­featists left their vi­o­lin, their suit­case or their mu­sic be­hind through sheer fa­tigue dur­ing that frosty foul-up.

All of which is but a fee­ble at­tempt to of­fer some coun­ter­bal­ance to the tale that fol­lows, pos­si­bly the most un­usual episode in my var­ied ca­reer as a wan­der­ing min­strel. It started promis­ingly. A mes­sage from The Royal Opera House, invit­ing me to seven re­hearsals and five per­for­mances of a newly com­mis­sioned bal­let, The Wind, with mu­sic com­posed by Frank Moon and per­formed by The Opera House Orches­tra, natch.

Now I do un­der­stand that elitism isn’t for ev­ery­one (come on, this is com­edy gold; try to keep up) but there is some­thing spe­cial about work­ing within a build­ing of stun­ning grandeur, in the knowl­edge that ev­ery in­di­vid­ual with whom one comes into con­tact sits at the top of their pro­fes­sion and has worked their socks off to get there. Orches­tra, con­duc­tor, dancers, chore­og­ra­pher, set de­signer, com­poser. Not for­get­ting the guy that de­signed and built the unique wind ma­chine at the core of the pro­duc­tion. All bril­liant peo­ple. In short, it felt like a priv­i­lege to be a small part of so much tal­ent work­ing in tan­dem as I en­tered the enor­mous re­hearsal room deep in the bow­els of Covent Gar­den, on the first morn­ing’s run through.

Which is when things started to be­come a tad, er… el­lip­ti­cal. Nigel Bates, the supremely ef­fi­cient and re­as­sur­ingly ge­nial Mu­sic Ad­min­is­tra­tor for The Royal Bal­let was there to greet me and duly in­tro­duced me to Frank. It was im­me­di­ately clear to me that Mr Moon was no mug. The com­poser of this mag­num opus was busy set­ting up his gear in the midst of the full orches­tra. A bunch of com­put­ers, screens and soft­ware pro­grammes were all un­der­go­ing pre-flight checks prior to wind-off, as it were. As was his elec­tric vi­o­lin. And his elec­tric Do­bro. At this point I en­tered the out­skirts of Un­ease, a small sub­urb near Queasy Feel­ing. Be­fore I ar­rived at my fi­nal des­ti­na­tion, Mad Panic, I needed to as­cer­tain ex­actly what my role might in­volve in this high-end cre­ative en­deav­our. A quiet word was re­quired with the two main men. And pretty damn quick.

The ses­sion was sched­uled for 10am and it was now 9.50. At which point the story be­gan to un­fold. And not in a good way. I had been booked to play bot­tle­neck elec­tric gui­tar as a soloist in a quasi Ry Cooder ‘Paris Texas’ style, al­beit within the con­text of a com­plex mod­ernist or­ches­tral work. Due to a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors, in­clud­ing the on­go­ing de­vel­op­ment of the bal­let in a se­ries of work­shops, the un­cer­tainty of whether or not Frank felt com­fort­able per­form­ing the part live with an orches­tra, the can­cel­la­tion of the first re­hearsal a few weeks ear­lier due to the bal­let re­main­ing un­fin­ished and a bunch of other stuff, the ROH had seen fit to book me as Frank’s deputy. Just in case. I ex­plained that I didn’t play vi­o­lin. They said that they’d tape the part if nec­es­sary. I ex­plained that I didn’t play Do­bro. They said bot­tle­neck gui­tar was just fine. I ex­plained that I wasn’t a MIDI com­puter op­er­a­tor. They said they’d take care of it. I of­fered to give up the fee. They wouldn’t hear of it. Nev­er­the­less, Frank had de­cided that he would per­form the part in any case. As far as all in­volved were con­cerned, I didn’t have a job un­less the Moon­ster hap­pened to fall be­tween the wheels of a Lon­don Om­nibus on his way to work. Which thank­fully he didn’t.

And which is how I came to watch scenes of whirl­winds, rape and mur­der in Texas from a box at The Royal Opera House (six times), learn the score and pray for the con­tin­ued good health of one F Moon esq. And then wait at home for a text mes­sage from Nigel ev­ery evening at 5pm to in­form me that the star of the show was in­deed in the build­ing and that I was re­leased for the evening (five times). Rather oddly, I felt a vague sense of ca­ma­raderie with the Bat­tle Of Bri­tain pi­lots of back in the day. Mind you. A Spit­fire is nowhere near as dan­ger­ous as a bot­tle­neck Strat. Obvs.

…but money for Gawd’s sake.” (If you care to re­vert to the top of the page).

For more on Mitch and his mu­sic go to: www.mitch­dal­ton.co.uk

at this point i en­tered the out­skirts of un­ease, a small sub­urb near queasy Feel­ing

It’s not all fives­tar travel, caviar and cham­pagne, says our Mitch

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