As a child I was never a big fan of musicals. A friend once took me to see ‘Return of the Forbidden planet’ and I was distinctly underwhelmed. I even remember cringing a few times during the performance. The one exception was Les Misérables. In 1995 whilst stopping at a friend’s house we happened upon the televised 10th anniversary concert. I was blown away by the music and just had to get the double CD for my 18th birthday. I’ve still not yet managed to get to a live performance of the show, but in remains on my list of must sees, and since taking up the piano it has been an ambition to try to master some of my favourite tunes from it.
For those that don’t know the story behind the music, it was written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, and originally recorded as a concept album. It was then adapted for the French stage in 1980, although this production only ran for 3 months. However it was Cameron Mackintosh who brought the show to the UK and the wider audience. The music was also reworked to tighten it up and to fit it in to the new production. Recent years have seen a resurgence of the music, after Susan Boyle became a worldwide sensation with her rendition of ‘I dreamed a dream’, and the 2010 25th anniversary concerts featuring Alfie Bow and Matt Lucas sold out the O2 Arena twice.
I love to listen to Thénardier’s ‘Master of the House’, although I don’t feel it lends itself to the piano like some of my other favourites. ‘On my own’ appeals to my romantic side, the arrangement I have, starts with a tinkling sweet introduction high up on the piano, before going into the main verses. There is a key change two-thirds of the way through, but instead of heralding in a change of dynamic, the tune essentially repeats what’s come before but in a new key. This is no power ballad!
As already mentioned ‘I dreamed a dream’ is known the world over. I love the wistful opening verse, which is repeated a second time around to maximize the effect. The middle part of the tune is in the same key but with the addition of some accidentals to change the sound and dynamics of the piece. The best bit for me though, starts at the key change in bar 31. Here the singer can really belt out the main theme of the song, and here is where the full power of the piano comes into it’s own. It feels for me as a culmination of everything the song has been building up to, and I really like to play it at full-on forte.
I’m hoping to get them to a stage where I’m able to perform it in front of the others. In January my piano teacher is likely to have another soirée for her adult learners, so I think it would be great to play a medley of Les Mis. I’d like to include ‘Bring him home’ in this, and I had a quick look at this tonight and it seems like I should be able to learn it in time, so will post soon how I’m getting on with it.