Back By Popular Demand

Those of you who came to ‘Bike to The Future’ last year will have seen the multi-talented Rob Whale in all his glory. Rest assured, this time he’ll be properly dressed!

Want to See More?

If you weren’t there, you may be wondering what I’m on about. Suffice to say, wearing his Lycra cycling gear, some of Rob’s outstanding features were somewhat enhanced by the stage lighting. Which – apparently – some found rather distracting.

But enough of that. Rob is a hugely talented musician: violinist, composer, arranger, pianist, bassist, guitarist – and, of course, keen cyclist. Rob made a late appearance in last year’s show and many audience members suggested they’d like to see more of him. (How much more of him could you possibly want to see?!)

Small Instrument – Big Impact

So, whereas his visual impact may be a little restrained this time around, Rob will be onstage throughout the set. And, in addition to the violin and harmony vocals he provided last time, he will now also be playing ukulele bass. Yes – you read that correctly ukelele bass.

There’s a reason for choosing this diminutive instrument to provide a little more bottom end – so to speak. And that is that Rob will be accompanying me throughout my cycle tour, of which our appearance in Making a Song & Dance is a part. Carrying a full-scale bass guitar, together with the rest of the gear, would be out of the question. Hence the ukulele.

When you see Rob in action, you’ll be surprised at what a big impact such a small instrument can have (behave!).

Icing On The Cake

And there’s more…

Last year, we had the amazing Martin Craddick join us on guitar for the show’s finale at the Old Theatre Royal. This time around, we have another mystery guest. Oh yes. But I won’t be revealing their identity.

Suffice to say we’ve appeared together before and recently recorded – in another band setting – at one of the UK’s most iconic studios. When you see them perform, I think you’ll agree they provide the icing on the cake, as far as this show is concerned. And there really is only one way to find out whether you agree.

You know what to do…

Book now

Making a Song & Dance (‘2020 Vision’ and ‘Bike to The Future’ double-header) at Burdall’s Yard, Bath event tickets from TicketSource

Let’s Get Things Moving

Last week, I told you a little about the dance piece ‘2020 Vision’ – the opening act of ‘Making a Song & Dance’. Now I’d like to introduce you to the facilitator of that piece: the multi-talented Kara Herbert

In Retreat

Kara has been dancing for more years than would be polite to mention. I suspect she has a portrait in the attic, as you’d never guess quite how long. And her eternal youthfulness may have something to do with all the hours of yoga she puts in.

My other dance collaborators and I often joke, when Kara doesn’t appear at one of our meetings, that she’s probably on an island somewhere. No, Kara’s not some millionaire play-person: she goes to said islands to work (… and play a bit). The work in question is running yoga retreats. Which – as mentioned – clearly work. For Kara, at least.

Education, Education, Education

When not on an island, Kara runs regular contemporary dance sessions in Bath. These are open to all, though the standard is high and dancers are expected to stretch themselves (geddit?). In fact, some of her regulars will be appearing in 2020 Vision, so you’ll get to see just how accomplished they are.

Other strings to Kara’s bow are working with the elderly and school pupils. In fact, keeping people of all ages and abilities moving is her driving passion. So, Kara really is the ideal person to facilitate the movement element of Making a Song & Dance. And I’m delighted to have her aboard.

Structured Improvisation

Last week, Kara and I spent some time at Burdall’s Yard to plan-out how the dance will work within the space. As you may remember, this will be improvised during workshops on the day of the performance. Rest assured, we have thoroughly planned the structure, so that it will deliver a coherent, developed, yet spontaneous experience for both participants and audience.

Alongside Kara’s students will be current and former students of Bath Spa’s amazing undergraduate and post-graduate Dance courses. These are joined by students of physical theatre, some local practising dancers and one or two less experienced – yet enthusiastic – participants. And this blend of styles and abilities is key to what we hope to achieve.

Where ‘Audience’ Ends & ‘Performer’ Begins

As with my previous shows, I’m keen to explore the dynamic between audience and performer. I would argue that, in any good show, each is equally important and all are participants. This doesn’t mean audiences need to be put into an uncomfortable situation. Rather, they are encouraged to be actively present and engaged.

In this instance, the piece will allow for a degree of active participation on the part of audience members. However, this is by no means a requirement. None of us likes to be coerced or manipulated and we certainly won’t be aiming for that with 2020 Vision.

And don’t forget, the second half will be a straight forward ‘gig’. Then you’ll really be able to let go. More of which later…

Being There

But, in order for this to be a performance at all, it does require an audience. So can I please urge you to book your tickets now? We’ve made advanced booking cheaper for you. And, for structural reasons, it will be really useful to know in advance how many to expect.

The space is genuinely limited, so we are hoping for a sell-out. That being the case, there won’t be tickets on the door. So please do book early and secure your spot.

Sales pitch over… for now 😊.

Thank you.

Book now

Making a Song & Dance (‘2020 Vision’ and ‘Bike to The Future’ double-header) at Burdall’s Yard, Bath event tickets from TicketSource

Time To Connect

I explained before how the sound-scape ‘2020 Vision’ came into being (here). Let’s now see how this will form the basis for an improvised dance performance at this year’s Bath Fringe.

Community Collaboration          

One of the great things about putting on these shows has been the opportunity to collaborate with the wider artistic community in and around Bath. In particular, Bath Spa University has been a great source of support and student participants. And this time is no exception.

The university has vibrant dance, drama and music departments. In previous shows, I have worked with members of the student choir and their leader Francis Faux, as well as undergraduate dance students. This time, current and former dance and acting students will be joining members of other local groups and societies.

Fresh, Improvised & Engaging

The piece will be workshopped on the day of the performance, then presented for your edification that evening. So, the movement will be fresh, improvised and engaging. You, the audience, will be in among the action. You may even be moved (excuse the pun) to join in!

But don’t let that frighten you. You may have noticed I’ve avoided the words ‘audience participation’. This is clearly anathema to some and can conjure images of cloying, enforced ‘fun’. Rest assured there’ll be none of that (cloying, I mean 😊)!

Collective Experience

The point of the piece is to explore our need for connection. And this especially in the light of recent collective experience. So, nobody will be made to feel uncomfortable. You can sit back and enjoy the ride, or get involved, as you wish.

I’m confident the soundtrack alone will sweep you away into a place of contemplation, with moments of humour, darkness and reflection. Coupled with the close-up movement, this will be a unique and immersive experience. Intrigued? You should be.

Who’s The Mummy in The Photo?

Well, that’s me, of course. We wanted to present an image for Making a Song & Dance that combines its two halves. I won’t actually be singing during the dance. That comes later.

It’s really a show of two halves. The first, as described, an immersive soundscape and dance improvisation. The second will be a fairly straight forward ‘gig’. I’ll write a little more about that shortly but suffice to say, it will feature songs and stories that take forward the themes of connection and collective action.

The Future Keeps On Coming

If you came to last year’s Bike to The Future, you’ll be familiar with some of the songs. And you’ll have met my more talented half, Rob Whale. By popular demand, Rob will be performing throughout the set this time, rather than just at the end. Perhaps more importantly, he’ll also be properly dressed. And there may also be the odd guest appearance. By which, I mean the appearance of an odd guest.

Our contribution to Making a Song & Dance forms part of this year’s Bike to The Future tour. This sees us cycling from Bath to Shindig Festival (near Ilminster), back – via Frome – for this show then on to Pembrokeshire. We’ll then return – once again – to Bath, before finishing at a little party on a farm in Pilton, Somerset.

Book now

Making a Song & Dance (‘2020 Vision’ and ‘Bike to The Future’ double-header) at Burdall’s Yard, Bath event tickets from TicketSource

And Now For Something Completely Different…

2020 Vision - Brian Madigan. Making a Song & Dance, Burdell's Yard, Bath, May 31st.

A local reviewer – who shall remain nameless (I’ll call him ‘Steve’) – wrote of my Fringe show last year “Perhaps the high concept would go better with the more abstract instrumental pieces which are [Brian’s] bread & butter output as a working composer”… OK Steve – you asked for it!

2020 Vision

Remember 2020? I’m sure you do. Well, for me, it started with a request from artist Natasha Parker-Edwards to create a soundscape for her installation ‘Roar & Pelting’. This was to be presented that summer but, sadly, went the way of so many things during the pandemic. I’d already done much of the work before the show had to be axed, so decided to complete my composition regardless.

The soundscape was created using multiple voice recordings. Originally, Natasha and I were each going to interview people from our respective networks of friends, family and associates. From these, I would craft a sound collage that would provide the backdrop to her visual works. In the event, we had to send out the questions and ask our contacts to record themselves. Which, actually, provided a useful starting point.

No Filters

Participants were invited to record their responses on first reading our questions, with no preparation or planning and using whatever means they had available. This generated a variety of monologues, each with distinct acoustic characteristics and wildly varied interpretations of the subjects raised. But what instantly struck me was that it was often the little asides between coherent phrases that were most interesting.

So, I set about isolating the ‘good bits’, superimposing these upon one another. And what then fascinated me was how the brain immediately makes connections between these disparate voices. We innately want to make sense of things and create a narrative, even where one doesn’t exist.

I then made myself a set of rules for how these voice clips could be repeated, looped and grouped in order to build a complete work. In addition, piano, synthesizers and beats were used to enhance the colour, dynamics and rhythms of the voices. Originally, the whole piece lasted two hours, twenty minutes and was to be played as a continuous loop throughout the show. But then something happened…

Tipping Point

Curator Anna Novakov approached me in 2022, to ask whether I would like to contribute to an audio installation for Bath Fringe Arts. Titled ‘Tipping Point’, this was a meditation on our collectively precarious situation, post-Covid, in the face of multiple global threats. I explained about my lockdown-interview-generated piece and Anna agreed this would be a perfect fit.

Except it wasn’t. The pieces for inclusion within Tipping Point were limited to a maximum 50 minutes’ duration. So, I set about cutting down my epic soundscape to meet this stipulation. And something quite magical happened. Using the rules I’d set myself in the original creation of what had now become ‘2020 Vision’, I found that the 50-minute cut-off created an extraordinarily satisfying – and poignant – end to the piece.

Want to Know?

If you didn’t make it along to last year’s Tipping Point and want to know how it does end there’s some good news. 2020 Vision will form the first half of a double-header – titled ‘Making a Song & Dance’ – at this year’s Fringe. The soundscape will underscore a unique, immersive dance improvisation at Bath Fringe’s newest venue, Burdall’s Yard, on Wednesday 31st May.

To book your tickets, please use the link below. I’ll explain a little more about the dance itself in a future post. And reveal what the second half of this double-header will be. Or – of you can’t wait for those – click through to the booking page and find out!…

Book now

Making a Song & Dance (‘2020 Vision’ and ‘Bike to The Future’ double-header) at Burdall’s Yard, Bath event tickets from TicketSource

I’ve Thought of a Sequel!

You didn’t think the fun would end there, did you?  Oh no.

This year sees the premier of the follow-up to ‘Think of a Song’, which I have imaginatively titled ‘Think of a Sequel’.

If you were at the first show and would like to relive the agony/ecstasy/indifference it induced – or if you weren’t there and would like to take a voyeuristic look – then please click here. But look: now there’s more…

So What’s New This Year?

Well, this time around, I have enlisted the help of some first-rate musicians to fill the silences for you. Back into the breech will be the inimitable improviser/guitarist/composer/genius that is Paul Bradley. Alongside him will be the astonishing talents of drummer/percussionist/Gas Giant/wearer-of-shite-shirts Tony Orrell. And last but by no mean least is the ethereal oboist/percussionist/multi-instrumentalist/bear-foot-globe-trotter James Watts.

To say that these are three of the most affordable and available musicians I could find would be to tell the truth. But not only that! They are actually each hugely respected talents in their own field.

Meet the (A)Team

Paul Bradley, you will know from the first show, is the brains behind Organelles, Three Cane Whale and more besides. Renowned for his freewheeling improvisations, Paul is a hard man to pin down in terms of style or genre but you may want to think Frank Zappa meets John Williams and Pat  Metheny (and kicks the sh*t out of both of them).

Tony Orrell is notoriously one half of Gas Giants, alongside Will Gregory (of Goldfrapp fame). But he is much more besides, being the go-to drummer for jazz combos throughout the South West. Tony is an astonishingly expressive player with a flare for improvisation, which is how we originally met, back in the late 90s. Tony was commissioned to lead a series of free-improvisation sessions that culminated in Fringe performances around Bath in a variety of unlikely locations. Yours truly took part on a cobbled-together portable percussion rig and a battered flute.

James Watts is a very-much in-demand oboist, who also has a penchant for world music and a thirst for travel. He brings a multitude of influences to the party and is well-versed in the art of improvisation. James is well known in the area as champion of reed instruments among young students. He is an early music specialist, a classical soloist, producer, arranger and all-round lover of all things noisy and/or reedy.

Sublime Support

As I go to press, I don’t have any specific information for you on Jim Gallagher, who will provide the opening performance for Think of a Sequel. However, I have known Jim for many years and seen him perform at (indeed on) various stages over that time. His songs are beautiful, ethereal, engaging and at times other-worldly, all of which adjectives apply to the man himself.

Something of an enigma, Jim is someone who very much treads his own path. Having spent time in California during the 1960s, it is very possible that a part of him never really returned. Or that is the impression sometimes given. So, as you can surmise, Jim is a shoo-in for this show. He will set the tone and we will follow…

Put it In Your Diary!

Now, don’t come running to me saying you didn’t know this was happening. The date is booked for June 6th. The venue, as for ‘Think of a Song’, will be the Old Theatre Royal Bath (details available here). This space has a certain magic to it, which lent itself perfectly to the first show and will – I am sure – do the same once again.

I will be posting updates as more info becomes available (like actual information on the other performers), so stay tuned. Once tickets are available, the links to book will go live on this site and I will be sending out emails to those unfortunate enough to be captive on my list (but with an opt-out of course).

Any Questions?

Of course you have. Feel free to get in touch at I should love to hear from you.