Gore, Scouse rhymes and a ‘devilishly’ good score: Corrie star to perform poem with Manchester orchestra

If you go down to the woods today you’re in for a big surprise, it is Halloween after all! 

But if you’d rather not venture out of doors to get your thrills this weekend, all is not lost – the dark woods will be brought to you.

Something spooky, special and altogether new will be making its debut on BBC Radio 2’s Friday Night is Music Night in honour of this scariest of holidays.

Craig Charles will be performing the world premiere of Scary Fairy, an epic poem set to music; his new collaboration with composer Iain Farrington and the Manchester-based BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

It might seem a bit of a leap to those of us whose earliest memories of Charles are his presenting stint on Robot Wars but many others will remember that he first found fame through his work as a teenage performance poet.

Scary Fairy was originally written as a bedtime story for Charles’ daughters but he admits that he made the story increasingly sinister as they grew up and became harder to scare.

Set in ‘The Dark Wood’, the poem is a reworking of the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood which is performed with panache by Charles who lovingly romps his way through his rollicking rhymes, accompanied by a devilishly good score.

The composer, Iain Farrington, was delighted to be asked to set such a challenging text to music, and admitted that he originally found Charles’ rapid delivery overwhelming.

“He’s a very quick narrator, he doesn’t hang around! I wrote the text all out from his recording because he doesn’t have a neat copy of his own poem; it’s all in his head,” he told MM.

“Craig’s rhymes are quite Scouse ones – he rhymes ‘scary’ and ‘early’ which isn’t an exact rhyme in any other accent, but it’s great! He totally makes his own text work, with such great delivery and comic timing.”

Farrington has worked on projects such as the Horrible Histories and Wallace and Gromit Proms and was the skilled pianist doing all the hard work alongside Mr Bean’s show-stealing appearance at the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Speaking about the complex nature of Scary Fairy’s musical score, he said: “We wanted to make something that wasn’t a generic film score, we wanted it to be dirty and grim to match the gore in the text – we didn’t want it to sound safe. “

But despite, in Craig Charles’ words, all the ‘snot, blood and gore’ in the piece, Scary Fairy also manages to be fantastic fun for its audience.

“We decided that every character would have a musical theme – Craig had the idea that Grandma should sound like a 1940’s Vera Lynn song and I liked the idea of the wolf being a funky type,” said Farrington.

“The wolf has elements of Craig’s sound world, groovy, funk and soul.”

Scary Fairy shares its villain with another very famous piece of music and spoken word; Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf.

Peter and the Wolf was a template for us – a narrator and an orchestra – but this has 10 times as much text in this piece, even though it’s the same length,” said the composer.

He is also hoping discerning listeners will be able to pick out some rather famous musical moments in his score.

He said: “Craig wanted colour and energy from the music and Simon Webb the Director of the BBC Phil suggested that the piece should have quotes from famous classical pieces.

“The poem is a play on a famous fairy tale, which references other fairy tales, so the music mirrors the referencing by quoting famous pieces of music.”

Audiences should listen out for Grieg’s Morning and The Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt and, when Scary Fairy trips up on some silver bells, Tchicovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Scary Fairy isn’t necessarily for kids, insists Farrington, but a fairy tale with bite.

“There are loads of concerts and pieces aimed at children and this one is not trying to be a children’s piece – the text isn’t patronising and neither is the music.

“But it’s something that we hope kids will get and enjoy but that adults will enjoy it too,” he said.

Whatever you are doing this Halloween, get yourself down to Charles’ Dark Wood and settle in for a fabulous, fun and frightening treat!

BBC Radio 2 – Friday October 30, 2015 at 8pm – Friday Night is Music Night.

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