The Night Shift

An empty venue ready for the rehearsal

A day in the life of The Night Shift from Ceri’s perspective:

It’s 9.30am on Friday 24th June, It’s been a looooong week:  Monday Dublin, Tuesday Royal Festival Hall, Wednesday and Thursday catching up and meetings – and that’s just for me!  I assume it’s been worse for the players who also had Glyndebourne rehearsals on the intervening days… Anyway, I should be absolutely exhausted and dreading the prospect of working until at least 12am this evening, but I’m not – this is what we sometimes call “The Night Shift effect”.  (editor – different to the ‘Night Shift hangover…)

I of course love working at all OAE concerts, but for me the Night Shift is something quite special, even if they are at least 10 times harder work – especially in a non-traditional concert venue such as Village Underground (no fixed stage, lights, music stands, seats, air-con, changing rooms – you get the picture). So much of Friday felt like venturing into the unknown, a new venue, new acoustics, not sure we’d all fit on stage, not sure if the musicians would be able to cope with the lack of dressing space, chilling areas (aka green room) etc.

Here is a timetable of my day on Friday and how I made it to 12am still full of beans.

9.30 Arrive at office after early morning gym session – going to need those endorphins to get me thorough today I can tell you.

10.00 Quick staff meeting just to make sure everyone is up to speed with all the arrangements and aware of their responsibilities tonight.

10.30 Pop down to Kings Place Music Foundation to pick up the lit stands (i.e.music stands with lights attached – for the darker ambience we use for The Night Shift) we’re borrowing for this evening

11-14.30 Spend the morning catching up on emails, trying to avoid over-consumption of coffee and generally finding I am not being able to focus on something happening in 6 months time, when we’ve got an event tonight!

A quick lunch in the office (very pleased managed to bring a packed one today) and at 14.30 Myself, Georgina andNatalie pack up a large people carrier with the 15 lit stands (thanks to the help of the others) and head off to Village Underground.  Taxi driver doesn’t believe that they will fit in the cab – we on the other hand know from last years concert at Wiltons Music Hall that they absolutely will – its all about the way you pack em!

The Night Shift

Support act Remix on stage

15.00 Arrive at Village Underground and help Natalie set up for the pre-event support act rehearsal.

16.00 Rehearsal starts so Georgina and myself take the opportunity to scout the local area looking for the nearest restaurant and places to find coffee – that WILL be the players first question on arrival (that and ‘where are the toilets?’). We also pop to the shop for some refreshments for players to put in their dressing rooms – lets just say the facilities are basic – we are in a warehouse so that’s to be expected…

17.00 Rehearsal finishes and now that Philippa our Orchestra Manager has arrived we organise the stage for the OAE’s rehearsal – It’s a tight fit and thank goodness the players will all stand to perform.  Let’s hope the harpsichordist wont fall off the front of the stage…  There is also an opportunity to test the eventual stage lighting for the concert.  We can’t have the stand lights on during the rehearsal as there isn’t enough time to charge them again before the concert, and I’m paranoid that the batteries won’t last. We certainly don’t want the players stands to be plunged into darkness midway through the technically challenging accompaniment to Da Tempeste!

Presenter Alistair has arrived now too and we make sure that he has a quick chat with director Ally and soloist Elin so they’re all ready for up to speed on the chatty parts of the show.  We also have some hilarious moments trying to work out how Elin and Alistair are going to get on and off the stage. It’s quite a way off the floor, and Elin is very pleased she opted for trousers today…

During the rehearsal we also negotiate with the crew over a suitable place for instrument cases to be left during the performance given the dressing rooms are next door and in true London style it is pouring down in June. Carrying a priceless violin in the mid-summer rain?? I don’t think so.

19.15 The rehearsal finishes and players are led next door, whilst we re-set the stage again for the support act. The post-show DJ also arrives to test his kit and sound.

19.30  The audience begin to arrive and we have the usual hopes and fears about how many people are going to turn up this evening!

The Night Shift

A packed venue

20.00 The support act starts! I manage to listen to most of the event, whilst some of my lovely colleagues whisk off to Pizza East to bring us back some dinner.

20.40 Pre-event over and stage needs re-setting again! This is the LAST time. Alistair tells the audience what we’re up to, it’s not usual that at an OAE concert the audience will watch us do all of this, but then I guess it would be normal at a rock gig! The audience is really building now, and there is excitement from my colleagues that loads of people will be here to enjoy the event – we’re all victims of ‘The Night Shift effect’ today.  I did manage to pop next door too and scoff my refuelling dinner 🙂

20.50 players make their way into the main space, unpack and get ready to go on stage – they literally have to fight their way through the crowds to get to the stage – amazing.  Seeing as someone has helpfully removed (again) Elin and Alistairs chairs they both decide to sit on the floor with the audience during the performance – what troopers!

21.00-22.15 Passes in a blur of stunning music and insightful witty banter.  The first time I looked at my watch to check we were all going to time and it was 10pm!

The Night Shift

Orchestra on stage

22.15 Perfectly timed concert. Time to relax and enjoy the DJ?  Yep, but not for a bit – first it’s time to pack up the stands ready for their cab back to the office.  Have discovered we can use the exit by the stage to avoid taking them through the crowds.  I go out front to wait for the cab and it is still pouring down – great!  The cab arrives and not being quite able to describe where the back entrance is we jump in the cab and redirect the driver round the block. Erm and I hope when we did an illegal right turn no one noticed… Anyway, thanks to everyone who helped pack up the stands in the peeing rain and also to Philippa and Clare who whisked them straight back to Kings Place and unloaded in the rain at the other end.

22.40 A quick tidy up of the dressing rooms

22.45 Back into the main space to enjoy the DJ, and finally a G&T which hardly hit the sides…

00.15 Last punters leave – all looking like they had a fab time – Definitely time for my bed 🙂

(editor – you forgot the clean-up and the search for a taxi home in the rain!)

A long day – but loved every second of it, and most of all seeing how many people enjoyed the concert – what a venue.  Hard work but ‘The Night Shift effect’ got us through it!

Ceri Jones, Projects Director

(all pics by Joe Plommer. See the full set over on The Night Shift’s Facebook page, or wait and we’ll post more next week here!)