“Mark my words; this release of this funny, clever, independently produced sitcom marks a quietly significant moment in British radio comedy, when the BBC networks stopped being the only conduit by which top-rank young writers and actors got their wares to market. It’s not that podcast sitcoms haven’t been made before; it’s that this one is, for the first time, as good as anything you’d hear on Radio 4. Created by a 27-year-old writer called David K Barnes, it’s set on the small (and, I should point out, fictional) Channel Island of Piffling, and centres upon Rudyard Funn (Felix Trench), the stiff-necked director of the island’s only funeral home – who’s seriously put out by the arrival of a dashing, instantly popular new undertaker called Eric (Tom Crowley). Highly recommended.”
Pete Naughton, The Daily Telegraph 24 October 2015
Elsewhere, lead writer David K. Barnes was recently interviewed on BBC Radio Jersey and BBC Radio Guernsey. Actor Andy Secombe, who plays Reverend Wavering in the series, also discussed the series on BBC Cornwall. You can listen to their interviews here.
The series one finale, Episode 8 ‘The Trial of Rudyard’, will be released this Thursday. The previous episode was a bit of a cliffhanger…
Rudyard Funn runs a funeral home on the island of piffling. It used to be the only one. It isn’t anymore.
When sexy, new undertaker Eric Chapman sets up shop across the road, Rudyard is thrown into a spiral of envy, obsession and mania, from which he – and the island – may never recover.
With his frustrated sister Antigone, dogsbody Georgie, and a mouse called Madeleine, will Rudyard ever defeat his impossibly charming rival?
Wooden Overcoats is the first full-studio podcast sitcom in the UK or abroad. Created by a previously unknown team of rising talent, the show is written by five of the UK’s best new comic writers (including Royal Court playwright Cordelia Lynn and Shock Treatment stage writer Tom Crowley), features an original orchestral score, and includes some of the biggest names in British comedy.
I was invited to compose the music by John Wakefield, a dear friend and a wonderful radio producer. Here’s the end theme:
“We’ll get the body in the coffin in the ground ON TIME!”
The music was lots of fun to write. I enjoy the challenge of writing music to constraints. With soundtracks each note has to be necessary, focused and precise in what it conveys. No change there, then. But capturing the essence of a place, a mood, a person, for me requires a lot of thought and experimentation. The process reminds me not to hold onto material unnecessarily. Luckily, I’ve not been precious about material for a long time. What’s more, I had helpful support from John, who I had worked with before on award-winning radio drama The New World Order.
John, co-producer Andy Goddard and I discussed at length the peculiarities of Piffling village, nuances of the characters, and the story arc of the series. We agreed that music would be sparse throughout to maintain a naturalistic feel and augment the absurdity of the comedy. I just needed to get the theme right first.
I sent John and Andy six ideas for the main theme, all involving an organ for that funereal feel. Once that was there, I made a number of variations: short cues that could be dotted around the series. I then wrote extended diegetic cues for specific scenes (ep 2 Funeral Jazz Band, ep 3 French New Wave film soundtrack, ep 5 Mexican restaurant Mariachi band…). There was also some special non-diegetic cues for episodes 7 and 8 – but you’ll have to listen to find out why.
We recorded the whole soundtrack in a day at the University of York in the reverberant Jack Lyons Hall. It was a real pleasure to work with John and Andy, both highly skilled professionals who have done a super job mastering the music. I was also lucky to have brilliant musicians in the Piffling Philharmonic:
Trumpet – Patrick Jones
Trombone – Ollie Pickup
Organ – Thomas Dewey
Piano – Jin Hyung Lim
Percussion – Sarah Holmes
Mandolin – Karl Kramer
Guitars – Carlo Estolano & Ben Clark
Violin – Dan Hodd
Cello – William Descrettes
Composer/Conductor – James Whittle
Recording Engineer (Music) – Jethro Bagust
Wooden Overcoats features some of the biggest established and rising names in British comedy, including Belinda Lang, Andy Secombe, Ciara Baxendale, Andy Hamilton, Julia Deakin, Thom Tuck, Max Olesker, Catriona Knox and Paul Putner.
Each 30 minute episode will be released weekly over eight weeks from 24 September, as a podcast available from iTunes, Stitcher, the Windows Store, or wherever you download podcasts.
Wooden Overcoats was created, developed and produced by a core production team of five Brixton-based independent comedy professionals in their 20s. Despite being comparatively unknown, and without the backing of any of the major and established comedy production companies, they have created 8 x 30 minute instalments of radio comedy that rival the professional standard of any of their industry contemporaries. This would not have been possible without the dedication and efforts of the 45 actors, musicians, writers and technicians who helped them. They all gave their time for free, out of enthusiasm for the quality of the scripts and the passion of the team. Wooden Overcoats stands as a testament to the enterprising spirit of young talent in the UK arts industry today.
Starring Felix Trench, Beth Eyre, Tom Crowley, Ciara Baxendale and Belinda Lang
Written by David K. Barnes, Tom Crowley, Christopher Hogg, Cordelia Lynn and T.A. Woodsmith
Directed by Andy Goddard and John Wakefield
Music composed by James Whittle
An Audioscribble Production
SLAP (‘Salacious Live Alternative Performance’) is a new platform that supports and programmes experimental dance, theatre, live art, music and film in a range of performance events in York.
The SLAPmoves prize “is all about emerging art from the next generation of pioneering talent. SLAP has invited recent graduates and final year students (of dance/theatre/film whose themes of focus are based upon ‘movement’) to submit proposals of new work.
“Throughout the evening you will have the chance to see our shortlisted artists and works, an eclectic mix of dance, live art, film and music. Showcasing not only local talent but international artists. The audience also has a say in who is deserving of the prize.
“The successful artist or company will then be offered a place in Yorkshire Dance’s spring platform dedicated to the region’s most exciting emerging talent, taking place in May. The artist will also receive studio space, a one-to-one meeting with a producer, artistic mentoring and technical support.”
The shortlisted artists are:
Arnold & Whittle
Joshua Hubbard & Anton Hinchliffe
Since November 2014 I have been collaborating with performer and dancer Katharina Arnold on a new devised theatre work, Touch Tales, which will soon have its first performances in Leeds and York.
The first performance is on Thursday 26th February, at 7.30pm, at NEWK, a platform in Leeds for sharing new live performance work, hosted by LAB (Live Art Bistro).
On Tuesday 3rd March we will give a Composer’s Seminar at the University of York Music Department. After performing the piece, we will lead a discussion on it and the collaborative process.
Katharina and I first connected through working together as artists-in-residence on the Impossible Lecture Retreat at Beacons Festival 2014 . Our collaboration grew from our mutual interest in making interdisciplinary work that challenges perceptions of our respective artistic disciplines. We started making Touch Tales after Katharina completed an MA in Performance at Leeds Beckett University.
Arnold & Whittle: Touch Tales
“If the cello had hands it would play itself. Since it has none, it has only one wish: to be played, to sound, to sing – to do what it is supposed to.”
What makes touch loving, embracing, manipulative, neglecting, abusive? Does the cello want to be played? Is it used without its permission – does it provoke with its curves?
In this piece blurring the typical roles of dancer and musician, interweaving stories examine different forms of touch to reflect on the consequences of actions.
Last November I made my conducting debut at Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (HCMF) in two separate concerts featuring premieres of works by Naomi Pinnock and Ji Sun Yang.
HCMF//2015: Monday Shorts. Miniaturised Concertos St Paul’s Hall, 24th November 2014
This concert was also a HCMF debut for the University of York’s Chimera Ensemble. We collaborated with solo pianists Kate Halsall and Fumiko Miyachi to premiere Always again by Naomi Pinnock, and perform Philip Cashian‘s Furor (featuring electronics by Peiman Khosravi).
HCMF//2015: Next Wave, Concert 2 Phipp’s Hall, 27th November
As part of Next Wave, a Higher Education commissioning project partnered by Sound and Music and NMC, I conducted the world premiere of a chamber ensemble version of KAIROI by Ji Sun Yang.
I am pleased to announce that I have been selected to write a new work for Dr K Sextet and soprano Lesley Jane Rogers as part of their Pierrot Project.
Dr K Sextet invited composers to set poems used in Schoenberg’s 8 Brettl-Lieder for a Pierrot-plus line-up: soprano, flutes, clarinets, percussion, piano, violin and cello. The new songs will be premièred as part of a Kabarett-themed performance at Club Inégales on 22nd January 2015, alongside the first part of Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire, in the first of the ‘Pierrot Pop-Ups’ concert series.
Schoenberg wrote the 8 Brettl-Lieder in 1901 whilst working as musical director at the Überbrettl: the German cabaret movement of artists and writers that emulated the French ‘Chat noir’, but were characterised more by political satire and gallows humour. This literary identity certainly doesn’t keep the Brettl-Lieder from being witty, playful and full of raucous double-entendre.
I will be setting one of the more risqué poems of the collection: Der genügsame Liebhaber, “The Easily Satisfied Lover” by Hugo Salus. I am looking forward to seeing what can be done with the full ensemble for it…
On 19th October I am giving a paper at the 5th International ‘Music on Stage’ conference, titled,
‘”The thing comes alive”:
theatricalising the concert hall in Remains of Elmet’
Here’s my abstract:
‘Live musical performance is inherently visual. Whether or not consciously directed or perceived by the performer or audience member, what is heard can be affected by what is seen. By recognising the site and physical presence of a musician on stage, all live music can be seen as a form of theatre.
‘Composers such as Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Maxwell Davies and Jeremy Dale Roberts (plus many others) have prescribed directions that theatricalise musical performance. These include the spatialisation and movement of performers, identification of character, and instruction for non-musical action. More recent works, such as Rising (2010) by Roger Marsh, employ a collaborative devising process whereby the performers create the music and theatre. My compositional research is developing a devising process that integrates music and theatre, both composed and improvised, in order to communicate a narrative.
‘I will discuss this approach regarding a recent music-theatre concerto: Remains of Elmet for viola-vocalist, instruments and choir, setting Ted Hughes poetry, and devised with performer Victoria Bernath. It will detail challenges and observations of creating visual metaphors to complement music that we found during the work’s composition, devising workshops and final rehearsals, as illustrated by video clips of the premiere (May 2013).’