The CD features the voice of
Helen Chappelle performing songs co-written and produced by Roger G.Taylor who's
been telling OutUK's Mike Gray about Woolf.
Play Lady Dance from Woolf
OutUK: What attracted you to Virginia Woolf as your subject?
Roger: As an art lover as well as a songwriter I first came across the name of
Vanessa Bell, discovered she was Woolf's sister and so read a biography by
her nephew Quentin Bell. I was touched by the life she had led, mainly at
first by the closeness of this group of friends, now known as the Bloomsbury
group, regardless of gender or sexual preference. And it's important to note they
were all friends long before they all achieved their individual fame or notoriety,
and not because of it - a testament to true friendship. Obviously the fact that several of the
friends were living as out gay men fascinated me, especially during a time
when it was still very much frowned upon and was illegal. Their letters to
each other are camp, funny, acidic and very real documents of the times they lived in.
Their inter-relations were fascinating ... Virginia's love affair with Vita Sackville-West,
and the peripheral characters such as Lady Ottoline Morrell and Dora Carrington, equally
interesting and outrageous. And all the way through Virginia Woolf seemed to be a
central character and I became totally immersed in her life and relations.
OutUK: Was it her life, or her novels which attracted you most?
Roger: Most definitely the life. I have read the novels as part of my interest
and research and find some wonderful and some extremely difficult. I think
you have to try and get into Woolf's mind set and pattern to truly appreciate the
beauty of her prose. But the life is there to examine and assess and compare with
through her letters and diaries and countless books about her.
OutUK: What were the most challenging aspects?
Roger: I had read about Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury group for pleasure for
many years and after the decision was made to write a musical 'portrait' of her
I found I had to re-read almost everything to then think about the incidents and
episodes in her life in terms of lyrics - a completely different way of reading.
But challenging as it was it was always a huge pleasure. As a songwriter you are
often required to just come up with a song or a lyrical idea, and very often another take on
'love'. So to be able to write songs about very real incidents and feelings such
as Virginia's recurring mental illness (Voices In My Head), her fear of
writing (The Right Words) or her love for her sister (Sister Of Mine) and Vita
Sackville-West (Could This Be Love, Don't Lead Me On) and to write such a catchy
camp song such as Yes, about gay Lytton Strachey's proposal of marriage, was pure
pleasure and so refreshing. While projects such as this are always open to criticism
as the film The Hours is now experiencing, we were eager to present what we thought
were the important aspects of her life. This is a portrait and we have presented
our idea of the woman, not just literary genius and high priestess of Bloomsbury.
OutUK: Some reviewers have already said it would make the basis of a musical ...
what do you think?
Roger: I think they are absolutely right and the whole CD was written with this end
in mind. It would make the most wonderful 'evening/event/concert'. I don't
see it as an all-dancing, all-singing type of Lloyd Webber type of show.
The songs have such a specific atmosphere to each subject and I think this
should be reflected in the way the songs are presented on the stage. Moves are now
being made in this direction and I really do feel that Theatreland is ready for
a new and refreshing take on the musical and Woolf is a perfect vehicle.
Cameron Mackintosh has said that Helen Chappelle, who sings as Woolf on the
CD, has one of the greatest musical voices he has ever heard.
Woolf - A Portrait In Song is available by mail order from
The Hours reviewed in OutUK's Now Playing
The History Of Bloomsbury