Mmm Hmmm & HUG Mastermind Verity Standen – Interview
Composer, performer, musical director, Bristolian.
Verity Standen fans, rejoice! Spring, once sprung, will be very kind indeed with not one but two of Verity’s projects arriving in London…
Ahead of runs of Edinburgh Festival hit HUG (April 2-5 | Southbank Centre | £8) and brand new show Mmm Hmmm (March 19-21 | Battersea Arts Centre | £12), we caught up with Ms Standen herself and bombarded her with questions…
It’s an exciting Spring for London-based Verity Standen stalkers! First up is a cappella song theatre piece Mmm Hmmm at BAC – what can you tell us about that?
Mmm Hmmm is a series of miniature musical worlds. Within each one, I’m trying to hold up a magnifying glass to moments of everyday life – moments that we might all identify with: drinking a cup of tea, for instance, or desperately apologising, or failing to find the words to say what we mean. The show explores the awkward, funny, tender, surprising, human feelings we experience every day. All of that, I hope, with just three a cappella voices.
We HEART the BAC – is it a venue you enjoy working at?
It is super lovely, whether you’re staying for a month in the artist bedrooms or just popping in for a cup of tea, you feel very welcome. And I love their bold, eclectic programme.
HUG was a big success in Edinburgh last year (★★★★½ – To Do List) – for Londoners trapped within the M25, what can they expect?
Very simply, twenty-five audience members enter a room, choose a seat and blindfold themselves. Then twenty-five singers enter the room. As the music builds, each audience member is hugged by a singer.
We call it a choral sound bath. I want it to feel like stepping inside a piece of music… what each person takes from it is entirely personal, shaped by the experience of sound and touch working together.
What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on so far & why? (Yes, you MUST pick your favourite child!)
Ooof!! What a question. I worked as Musical Director on a wonderful big immersive show about 5 years ago called ‘Cart Macabre‘. We made the show in the Old Vic Tunnels, where the Vault Festival now takes place. It was when I had just graduated from University. To compose vocal music for such an incredible space and acoustic was so exciting; it really helped me to discover how far you can push the boundaries of the human voice.
Who inspires you?
Helen Chadwick, Meredith Monk, Bobby Baker, Bobby McFerrin, Orlando Gough, Jocelyn Pook… to name but a few.
You’re based in Bristol – we’ll be there soon for the IBT15 Bristol International Festival. Any tips on things to do, places to visit, murky spots to avoid (or murky spots to enjoy!)?
Yes IBT looks great – Look out for the wonderful-sounding piece Flood Plans by the ace Jo Hellier. I’m slightly biased as she is one of my HUG singers. But her shows are beautiful so I can wholeheartedly recommend that. And of course the Fog Bridge – it’s not everyday you get to experience something like that.
What are your favourite places to go in London?
I find the V&A Museum a really relaxing environment to be in. When I lived in London I would often take myself there to sit and pontificate on projects and life. I love the smell! Also the Wellcome Collection, they always have fab exhibitions and great cakes.
What are your favourite free or cheap things to do in London?
I love to wander around the Royal Festival Hall, listening to the sounds of scores of people meeting and working and playing. Then out to the food market for lunch.
What’s on your To Do List for the rest of 2015?
I head off on tour with Mmm Hmmm and HUG in March and April, which I’m really excited about. I am also writing the music for a new play with Bristol Old Vic, which will be performed in schools across the southwest.
Artichoke’s project ‘Temple’ with David Best looks spectacular – if I can get over to Northern Ireland I would love to see that.