Hello everyone! Here is another new post for you all. As you all know, I love musicals and theatre and I am always up for seeing new shows. Just recently I have been hearing talk of an up and coming new musical which has been in the making for several years. I am really excited about this one as I think it is a moving story with a wonderful score to accompany it. The soundtrack has been produced by someone I believe in massively and who has been mentioned in previous posts – Simon Grieff at SimGProductions.
‘Silenced by injustice – from the scaffold truth will roar!’ I don’t know if many or any of you have heard of Christopher Orton or Robert Gould? They are the brains behind this production. Titled ‘My Land’s Shore’ it is set in Wales in 1831 and based on a true story. I was lucky enough to speak to Robert Gould, one of the writers of this wonderful piece, in order to find out more.
Could you tell me where your inspiration for the story came from? Is it a true story?
Yes, the show is based on actual characters and events. It’s actually one of the most famous stories in the social history of Wales – set during the infamous Merthyr Rising of 1831, when a young miner named Richard Lewis (aka Dic Penderyn) became the first Welsh working class martyr. We have, of course, embellished the show with other fictional characters and opened things up with a love triangle, etc to make it less of a history lesson and more of a musical!
It was always intended as a musical. Although I am a historian (and former history teacher) and a playwright, I am a lyricist more than anything else and my interests as a writer are primarily in writing for musical theatre. And Chris (Orton) set out from the outset to write a musical a number of years before he and I began working on it together.
For those who do not know the show, what is it about?
My Land’s Shore is set in Merthyr in 1831, when the town was the industrial heartland of Britain and when the nationwide campaign for Reform of Parliament and growing localized social unrest turned into a riot that was brutally suppressed by the authorities. In the aftermath of the Merthyr Rising, Richard Lewis (aka “Dic Penderyn”), an ordinary man of conviction and integrity carried along by the wheels of history in extraordinary times, became the first martyr of the Welsh working class. Now he – and a number of other characters both real and fictional – become the central characters in our musical tale of conflict, social injustice, moral dilemmas, love, guilt and heartbreak – an epic musical gift from the musical nation of Wales to the world!
Chris began writing the show basically because he felt there was a need for a Welsh songwriter to create a musical with a Welsh theme and he wrote the book, music & lyrics and then managed to stage a concert in London while he was at the Royal Academy of Music. I met Chris in January 2006 and we began work on another show. A few months later he showed me what he had written for My Land’s Shore and we began working together on developing it further.
How long has the show been in the making?
Around 10 years! Chris wrote his original draft back when he was a student. I came on board in 2006 – and it has been a long but exciting road to get the show to the point it is at now. I re-wrote and re-structured Chris’s original draft, cutting songs, rewriting lyrics for some songs and writing new lyrics which Chris then composed music for. We staged a concert of the rewritten version in Cardiff in 2007 and then performed another major rewrite. We recorded a studio cast album which was released by SimG Records in February 2012 and we’ve continued rewriting even after that, with some new songs written after the release of the album.
In the current West End climate of musical theatre when most shows tend to be either long-running shows, revivals or juke-box musicals – My Land’s Shore is an original musical with a brand new score. Chris’s music is gloriously stunning. But it also has themes which have a universal appeal and an emotional core which we believe will touch anyone who sees and hears it. George Stiles and Anthony Drewe very graciously wrote in their endorsement of the studio cast album: “Orton and Gould have written a soaring, passionate and hauntingly melodic score for a story which, though set in 1831, has a resonance and relevance in today’s Eurozone era.”
To listen to some sound bites from the score please visit: http://www.mylandsshoremusical.com/images/MLS_Bkd.jpg
There has recently been a Workshop – how did that go? How have your performers (many well known) responded to the show? And what are your future plans?
Yes, we work-shopped the show at RADA for 2 weeks in January – rewriting as we went along! Working with a wonderful director (Tim Welton) and an amazing cast of actors helped us to find flaws in the show and to discover what needed to be cut and/or added. At the end of the workshop we presented the show to an invited industry audience.
We have been blessed to have worked with some of the best actors/singers working in musical theatre in the UK – both on the album and in the workshop – and have been overwhelmed by the way they have responded to the material. They have all come to believe in My Land’s Shore as passionately as Chris and I do.
As for the future, to begin with – more rewrites! After that, it really depends on the response to the workshop performance. We need a producer & investors to start believing in the show and help us to take it to the next level – and hopefully to a full scale production.
There is a song taken from the show and recorded by Killian Donnelly, which is not on the soundtrack. Is there a reason for this?
This is a simple one lol – it had not been written when we recorded the album! In one of the rewrites I substantially built up the character of Irish miner Sean, which included writing a lyric for a solo number for him, which Chris then composed music for. As Killian had sung Sean’s part in a couple of songs on the album, Chris asked him if he would record Air For A Wise Celtic Fool. Killian did an awesome job on the recording and also when he performed the song “live” at the Giggin4Good concert at the Actors’ Church last October. And Ryan Gibb, who played Sean in the workshop, did a superb job on the song too. As for its placement in the show, it actually changed during rewrites while we did the workshop! As things stand now it comes during the Riot scene, after Play With War.
See Killian’s Air For A Wise Celtic Fool here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0HnLM0jFfA&playnext=1&list=PLFE91345F76F9BD53&feature=results_video
Do you guys have a favourite song from the score?
That’s a tough one – my favourite keeps changing lol (and Chris’s may be different to mine!). At one point it was definitely Love On The Edge Of Our Tears (when Chris first played and sung it to me after he’d composed the music to my lyrics I was pretty emotional on hearing how beautiful the music was). Then perhaps Air For A Wise Celtic Fool took over as my new favourite. Now it’s a toss-up between that and the latest song we wrote shortly before the workshop as a replacement for Make Wales Proud. It’s called A Lonely Voice – and every time the amazing Will Barratt and our awesome male ensemble sung it during the workshop, it blew me away.
I truly believe that this show should be on the West End so please, please take some time out to at least have a listen to this score. It is haunting, moving and beautifully written. The story contains everything you could want in a show and I would love to see more support for this production. The soundtrack features Andy Hockley, Jonathan Williams, Rhiannon-Sarah Porter and Alexis James alongside others and all who have taken part, whether for the soundtrack or the workshop have developed a huge passion for it.
To find out more about the show please take a look at the following links:
http://www.facebook.com/mylandsshore – from here you can link to iTunes to purchase the album or download Air For A Wise Celtic Fool
Follow My Land’s Shore on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/MyLandsShore
As ever, please go to http://www.simongreiff.com/simgproductions/Records/My_Land’s_Shore.html to purchase the album and to see some reviews.
As they say in Les Miserables – ‘We need a sign to rally the people, to call them to arms and to bring them in line… ‘ Well, this is your sign, and this is me rallying the people! If you are interested in the show in any way please do get in touch with Robert or Chris as all support would be most welcome. I really hope you are all feeling as enthusiastic as I am about this and I really believe we can make it happen. Once again I must give the most enormous thanks to Bob Gould who took time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions. Massive appreciation and gratitude to you Sir.
So as ever, Keep Dreaming,