First Published: February 2003
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.

With Nicole Kidman up for Best Actress her portrayal of Virginia Woolf just one of the many Oscar nominations for the stunning new film The Hours, attention is once more focused on the novelist and her circle of friends known as the Bloomsbury set. A new CD Woolf - A Portrait In Song is a collection of contemporary songs inspired by the life and times of this remarkable woman.
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


search | site info | site map | new this week | outuk offers | home | outspoken | more



  UK gay lads | Gay news UK | Gay travel and holidays UK | UK & London gay scene

OutUK features the latest gay news, advice, entertainment and information together with gay guides to cities and holiday destinations around the UK, Europe and the rest of the world. There are hundreds of galleries of photos and videos of the sexiest gay guys plus intimate personal profiles of thousands of gay lads from all around the UK.