Well it’s been a long while since I last wrote so some explanations are required. Just over a year ago when I stopped writing this blog I was going through some personal challenges and felt the blog had been acting as a kind of therapy. I then, almost overnight, found it all too much and just stopped along with participation in all social media. So I apologise to anyone who thought I had died, or far worse, retired. I have done neither and don’t intend to, at least for the foreseeable future.
So the news is that I am now back to normal (whatever that is) and I have been asked over the summer by a number of friends and erstwhile blog readers to start again. It’s taken a while but I have decided to listen and to restart the blog so this first one will try and sum up some of summer 2017. I will then try to keep you all informed weekly about the strange and wonderful life I live and the adventures of a travelling showman and two little dogs caught up in the twenty-first century.
Summing up a year in one page is totally impossible so this will probably have to be spread over a few episodes. I couldn’t sum up the year without mentioning Martin Orbidans who became a close friend and collaborator during the year so let’s begin with him.
To set the story properly we have to go back to June of 2015 and what I had hoped to be a wonderful new chapter in the history of Mr Alexander as artistic director of Ilfracombe Victorian Celebration. Of course those who have read the story will know that liaison ended abruptly in antagonism and antipathy, but the one good thing to come out of it was my meeting Martin.
Ilfracombe has a sweet little High Street, or perhaps what was once a sweet little High Street, having succumbed like many to the decline brought about by the out of town shopping spaces where most of us now buy our stuff. It has a little walk through arcade; a Victorian-style market which has a number of people occupying booths and doing their small scale trading. I happened to be walking through it during the Celebration and heard a piano being played. There was something about the quality of the playing that attracted me so I followed my ears and found a man in a striped blazer paying songs from some of my favourite musical shows. There was no-one there so I stopped to chat to him and that’s how it all began.
Martin had learned piano from his mother and was one of those children who was musically gifted and had the good fortune to have that gift recognised and encouraged. Like me he had experienced an unhappy time at school and took refuge in music. Later he joined the Royal Marines as a musician and travelled the world and was commissioned to be the cocktail pianist aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, including the time when the yacht was used by Charles and Diana for their honeymoon base.
How he ended up in the little tatty Victorian market is a long story but we got on well from the start and a winter of emailing saw him out on the road with me for some of the key summer events playing a range of music on a range of keyboards sitting in a red gazebo alongside my stage.
Those who have heard him with me will testify as to how brilliant he is at improvising as well as playing from medleys of marches (reflecting his military heritage) to tunes from shows and musicals. Having a live accompanist at those gigs has changed the style of my performance and the audiences have enjoyed the performance relationship between us as we have rehearsed and performed new shows through the summer.
I have worked with many people in performance over the years and although I had reached a point where I felt I wanted only to be a solo performer, working with Martin opened my eyes again to the potential of working with others and meant that when I met the Old Time Rags, a dance/one man band combo from Leeds I immediately saw the potential of expanding Mr Alexander’s Travelling Show even further. More about them next time.
It’s good to be back on a road near you,