HARRY POTTER gets kids reading.
ASTERIX gets kids learning history.
Introducing THE OPUS POCUS...
Get kids listening to classical music!
SHEHERAZADE starring BRIAN BLESSED & RORY BREMNER is the first CD from THE OPUS POCUS - a new project I've created to introduce kids to the awe-inspiring soundworld of classical music through modern, witty, subversive, slapstick, action-packed, multimedia stories all very ingeniously set to the orchestral music as you can hear in the video above.
Starring BRIAN BLESSED:
...legendary actor, director and explorer, with a film and stage career that includes roles in Flash Gordon, Blackadder, Star Wars Episode 1 and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves amongst many others!
And RORY BREMNER:
...one of the UK's foremost satirical comedians and impressionists with a TV career that includes Spitting Image, Whose Line Is It Anyway? and his own long-running, award-winning show Bremner, Bird and Fortune.
This CD also features Jess Murphy as the plucky heroine SHEHERAZADE (Jess is currently in Alan Bennett's People at the National Theatre), Nigel Garton as an assortment of Wizards, Pirates & Guards! (Nigel's many roles have included Goran in the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang musical and Shimbleshanks in the West End show Cats) and Sam Morris as Grandma Dingley, the story's narrator (Sam is a Manchester based music teacher!). Plus it features The Orchestra too, and was conceived, written, directed and independently produced by myself (Matt Parry!) a musician and music teacher based in London, as the first part of a big idea I've been developing called THE OPUS POCUS.
As a result of self-releasing this CD in 2011, I was thrilled to get THE OPUS POCUS into development with EMI last year but then disaster struck - with their takeover by Universal Music it got shelved. Damn.
BUT YOU CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN INSTEAD!
In order to develop further what I hope you'll agree is an ingenious idea for kids, I need your help - don't worry, you'll get lots in return! By pledging money to this project we'll be able to transform this CD into a graphic novel - but then potentially much more beyond - which will give you this CD and graphic novel PLUS some brilliant ring tones of BRIAN BLESSED and RORY BREMNER delivering hilarious lines from the script...
"I SHOULD BEAT YOUR PINK BUTTOCKS YOU LYING LITTLE MONKEY!!"
HOW KICKSTARTER WORKS:
The way Kickstarter works is simply that if you pre-order the graphic novel this provides us with the funds to make it, and we'll give it to you once produced, or some other goodies that you can choose from the pledge amounts in the right-hand column. But we only get the funding if the target amount is reached (and you won't get charged unless this happens), but on the other hand if we surpass this funding target then we can use this extra money to do loads more with the project (called stretch goals). So if you like this project and want to be a part of making it happen, PLEDGE NOW! and persuade your family, friends and colleagues to do the same! This spreads the word, gets the momentum going, and gives us a great chance of achieving a much bigger idea with THE OPUS POCUS!
And you get to smugly say that you were there first!
OKAY, SO WHAT'S THE BIG IDEA?!
To transform the great works of classical music into funny, action-packed, multimedia stories so that kids absorb this music simply by following the story.
WHY? Because classical music is really good for children: their imaginations, their emotions & their listening skills, and because it leads them into playing in an orchestra, one of the most profoundly collaborative social experiences there is.
REALLY? Yes. I've seen all this first hand from my teaching experience, from leading music workshops in primary schools, and also from performing in hundreds of children's concerts and shows myself.
AND YOUR IDEA WORKS? Yes I think so. I've tested it on my students, my friends' kids, and twice in a school playing it to classrooms who had to fill out a questionnaire about it. Plus a couple of the reviewers tested it on some children as part of their reviews and found the same positive results BUT I think I can keep improving it and I want to make feedback and research integral to its development.
AND WHY WOULD KIDS BE INTERESTED? We already know that kids love classical music. Any fan of films like Star Wars, Harry Potter & Batman does too: these films wouldn't be what they are without their classical music soundtracks. This tells us that a really strong way to engage kids with this music is through stories and images, which is exactly what my project is about.
WHY WOULD "CLASSICAL MUSIC" BE INTERESTED? Because it desperately needs to generate new audiences. It's been struggling with a decline for years now, despite it having all the brilliant qualities mentioned above, and kids are the best solution since they'll support classical music the longest!
WHAT'S THE GOVERNMENT DOING ABOUT ALL THIS? They're making it worse. Through their cuts to music services, to the arts in general, and through attempting to diminish the status of music within education (google 'music ebacc') they could deny a whole generation exposure to this incredible, life-affirming art form.
WHAT ABOUT THE BIG RECORD LABELS? They're also not helping. Either they can't financially, or they won't because they appear to have depressing views on the value of classical music for children. I know this, I've talked to them. But some good label execs did try to make this happen, and shared my view that classical music needs a modern, flagship, commercial children's product - with top names like Brian Blessed & Rory Bremner attached - if it's really to make an impact on a new generation of young listeners.
SO, KICKSTARTER? Yes. It lets a music teacher like me, who is passionate about a big idea, bypass the government and the big record labels and go straight to like-minded people who want to support it. But remember it's not a donation: you're getting the finished product in return. And you're also being a part of making it happen.
ANY BIGGER IDEAS? A modern day series of films like Disney's Fantasia (which was made in 1940) but with a script too - Fantasia was only images and music (though 'only' is rather understating its genius). Imagine what Pixar could do with this idea (which I've copyrighted by the way)?! Harry Potter gets millions of kids reading, THE OPUS POCUS can get them listening to classical music too.
AND WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THE BABOON? Don't worry, Brian Blessed keeps him in check. But remember, if you like this idea PLEDGE NOW, AND PERSUADE YOUR FRIENDS, FAMILY & COLLEAGUES TO JOIN IN! It will not happen otherwise.
HERE'S A SUMMARY OF WHAT YOU GET FOR YOUR PLEDGES:
£5 - MP3 ring tone / alarm call from Brian: "I SHOULD BEAT YOUR PINK BUTTOCKS YOU LYING LITTLE MONKEY!!"
£7 - A second MP3 ring tone / alarm call from Brian! "NOOOO!! NOOOO!!"
£10 - High quality digital download of the orchestral music: Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade
£12 - Depending on how many other people pledge, either a 12, 24, 36 or 42 page digital graphic novel & cover to accompany the music & story, beautifully illustrated by Faye Simms!
£15 - This digital graphic novel plus the story set to music as an MP3
£20 - This digital graphic novel, the story set to music MP3 plus a selection of ring tone MP3s from Brian Blessed & Rory Bremner
£25 - All of the £20 pledge plus an extra special ring tone MP3 from Brian: "SAY HAIRY BABOON ONE MORE TIME AND I SHALL HAVE TO GIVE YOU A SPANKING!!"
£50 - All of the £25 pledge except it will be the physical CD rather than an MP3 of the story & music.
£75 - All of the £50 pledge except that Brian or Rory will sign the CD!
£100 - All of the £75 pledge except that Brian or Rory will also write a personal message for you too!
And remember if you like this idea and want to be a part of making it happen, PLEDGE NOW! and tell your friends & family to do the same! This spreads the word, gets the momentum going, and gives us a great chance of achieving a much bigger idea with THE OPUS POCUS!
Have I said this already? THAT'S BECAUSE IT'S SO IMPORTANT!! (Thanks!)
AND NOW IN MORE DETAIL:
The CD is a subversive take on the 1001 Arabian Nights, set to one of the greatest pieces of classical music ever written: Scheherazade by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. It involves Sultans (Brian), Pirates (Rory), Princesses (Jess), Wizards (Nigel), Genies (Sam) and a hapless Prince who keeps getting transformed into a Baboon, and has then fallen out with Brian Blessed... not an enviable position to be in.
Producing a graphic novel to accompany the CD, in both a digital version and as a traditional paperback comic book, is a small step towards achieving much bigger plans with THE OPUS POCUS, which include a musical ebook, an interactive website, a creative musical app, some kids' workshops and an incredible live show. I think this calls for a contents table.
- 1. ABOUT ME & PROJECT HISTORY
- 2. THE GRAPHIC NOVEL CONCEPT
- 3. THE TALENT
- 4. ITS COSTS
- 5. AND YOUR PLEDGE REWARDS: finished novel, CDs, ring tones etc
- 6. FURTHER PLANS - THE GRAPHIC NOVEL
- 7. FURTHER PLANS - THE OPUS POCUS
- 8. PRESS REVIEWS & LINKS
1. SO WHO'S BEHIND THIS MONKEY BUSINESS?
My name's Matt, I'm a professional trombonist and a music teacher, I came up with this idea and I write the stories plus do whatever else is needed to produce this stuff.
THE HORRIBLE HISTORIES APPROACH TO CLASSICAL MUSIC:
I first thought it all up as a student at the Royal Academy of Music, where I was struck by major concerns within the world of classical music about dwindling audiences and general low engagement of the public with classical music, particularly children. A shame given that this is some of the most tectonic, subtle and hallucinogenic music on the planet, and really should be completely accessible to all. At the same time I had a creative idea of taking the existing great works of classical music and writing scripts to perfectly interweave with this music so that it becomes some sort of incredible soundtrack to a story, or a film, or a play. But also, in order to grab a child's attention, these scripts should have a modern and witty edge - like The Simpson's, Shrek, or Asterix - or perhaps the best example of what I'm trying to do with classical music is Terry Deary's brilliant Horrible Histories series - stealthily educational content hidden behind some bonkers comedy.
TEACHING CLASSICAL MUSIC TO CHILDREN:
I've worked as an instrumental brass teacher and a primary school music workshop leader alongside playing the trombone for over ten years now and have seen first hand how classical music enriches children's lives. Not only does it expand their imaginations, help them process emotions and help to develop listening skills, but it also leads children into participating in one of the most profound collaborative experiences there is - playing in an orchestra. This has all the emotional intensity of a high octane sporting event with the difference that in an orchestra everyone participates and no-one loses. Interestingly we already know that children love classical music. Indeed any fan of films like Star Wars, Harry Potter or Batman does too since these films wouldn't be what they are without their classical music soundtracks. What this shows us is that a really strong way to engage children with classical music is through epic stories and imagination, which is what this project is all about.
THE STORY WITH EMI, UNIVERSAL AND SONY:
I produced and self-funded this first CD to combine all these ideas, calling upon the generous help of many musician, actor and designer friends. I then approached Brian Blessed's and Rory Bremner's agents - both Brian and Rory said yes straight away leaving me completely chuffed that so many brilliant people were prepared to get involved, not least these two huge names who were willing to put their faith into a small, indie project like this simply because they liked the sound of it. Then more great news followed: as a result of this release I was thrilled to get the project into development with EMI last year. But then... it was scuppered with the takeover by Universal Music due to budgets being frozen and then key personnel working on this project leaving the company. I had already been through a similar experience with Sony a couple of years earlier with a pilot version I created in 2008, and so I've started to think that the major record labels are not the best funding option for a project like this.
THE STORY CONTINUES WITH KICKSTARTER?
Kickstarter, however, could prove to be a different story, and it'd be great to demonstrate with this project that creatives no longer need the big record labels - instead they can appeal directly to the smart, discerning, savvy, cutting edge and handsome audience on Kickstarter (that's you!), and get their dreams realised through sourcing the wisdom of crowds...
HOW KICKSTARTER WORKS:
For anyone new to Kickstarter, the way it works is simply that if you pledge some money towards this graphic novel then we'll give you the finished product once produced, or some other goodies as detailed in the pledge amounts in the right-hand column. But we only get the funding if the target amount is reached (and you won't get charged unless this happens), but on the other hand if we surpass this funding target then we can use this extra money to do loads more with the project (called stretch goals) So please forward this to any family and friends that might also want to hear a combination of Brian Blessed, Rory Bremner, classical music and baboons...
2. THE GRAPHIC NOVEL CONCEPT
MUSIC + IMAGES = AWESOME x BABOONS
The funding target will let us create a digital graphic novel to accompany the musical story, which will also provide loads of images for the interactive app, new website, musical ebooks and animated baboons (as in cartoon ones, not excited ones), and if we significantly surpass this target then we can also do a physical print run of the novel BUT the big plan is to do some kids workshops and live shows - with animated baboons (as in someone in a costume ...still keeping the real ones out of this), and link this to some new musical tuition ideas, but whilst other funding options for most of this is fairly accessible it's a bit harder to raise the money for the illustrations (very labour intensive, expensive publishing costs etc...)
...BUT I STRONGLY BELIEVE THIS TO BE A CRUCIAL PART OF THE PROJECT...
It gives kids a visual reference whilst they work their way through these quite substantial audio productions, involving epic musical journeys, plus it promotes the idea that listening to music can stimulate your imagination, which I think is a very good thing for young brains in general, and probably old ones too.
...AND HOW MUCH ILLUSTRATION WE PRODUCE IS UP TO YOU GOOD PLEDGERS OF KICKSTARTER...
The full novel is intended to be 42 pages, full colour, A4 size (like the Asterix comics), and include 6 pages of info about the composer, the music and the instruments. It'll be aimed at 7-10 years which is the age kids usually start thinking about playing a musical instrument (although I've got friends' kids as young as 4 listening to the CD as a bedtime story). However to get the project going we're doing a Kickstarter campaign for the first chapter of a total of three, which will be 12 pages long.
....BUT THE MORE YOU PLEDGE THE MORE ILLUSTRATIONS WE'LL, ER, DREDGE...?
If we surpass the funding target the first two stretch goals will be the second and third chapters, with stretch goal no 3 being the educational pages at the end, and whilst it'll be produced in a digital format first, stretch goal no 4 will be to do a full print run, and beyond that it'll be the new website, app, workshops, live show etc, and perhaps we can even start work on the next Ingeniously Musical Tale from THE OPUS POCUS...
3. ALRIGHT, WHO'S THE TALENT?
For the original CD cover (all the samples above) we had Jonny Duddle provide the artwork (The Pirate Cruncher and The Pirates Next Door, plus he did the character design for The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists) but he's massively in demand with lots of epic projects so I started looking around for the sort of talent to live up to Jonny's precedent and found a fantastic young illustrator called Faye Simms, who's recently been published by Templar (The Practical Princess Guide with Aleksei Bitskoff). Faye is really interested in exploring the graphic novel medium and you can see how great she is from the samples interspersed below - to me her work has beautiful textures, lots of smart comedy, and a richness of colour that all really reflect the story and the orchestral sound it's embedded in:
Also on board are a great editor, Catherine Coe, and top designer, Mandy Norman, who have huge experience and very enviable reputations in children's publishing. Have a look at their website & blog here (and check out more of Faye's work at www.tintreas.co.uk):
4. ...AND HOW MUCH DO THEY COST??
As I'm sure the kickstarter community knows, producing a graphic novel is a lengthy and labour intensive enterprise (though uniquely rewarding…) hence the budget required of £9k to:
- pay these three very talented professionals for around three months, creating 12 glorious, full colour, A4 pages and a cover (70% of costs).
- pass on royalties to the orchestra and actors for effectively selling their work in return for these pledges (20% of costs)
- fund the pledge fulfillment and pay the kickstarter fees plus VAT (10% of costs).
I've detailed the funding required for the stretch goals further down - please note I am not taking any fees or royalties myself and it's been completely self-funded so far. Am doing this all for the love...
...PLUS 116 MUSICIANS, 5 ACTORS, AND MORE FOLKS BESIDES, ALL DOING IT FOR THE LOVE...
The underlying concept is to approach classical music with an irreverent, subversive and exciting sense of humour whilst still respecting the music's original form and orchestration. There's no horrific pop drum beats or rubbishy synthesized strings in any of this Opus. But we classical musicians passionately believe that this music should be accessible to anyone and everyone, hence I was able to persuade 116 top young professional musicians got together in London to make this recording of Scheherazade for modest royalty payments only. And three more actors - Jess Murphy, Sam Morris and Nigel Garton - did the same for all the other voices, plus more folks were involved besides: Aaron Jones did the graphic design, JTWebStudio the webdesign and all the voices were recorded at Stakeout Studios. And if you're a classical music fan and want to hear the unadulterated music as well then I've catered for that in one of the pledges. Here's a little taster medley - the orchestra was conducted by Greg Arrowsmith, the solo violin & orchestra leader was Sarah Sexton, the orchestra recording engineers were Prozone Music Recordings, and the whole thing was mastered by Andrew Smillie:
Plus we also recorded Swan Lake and Peer Gynt too - they're the next Ingeniously Musical Tales from THE OPUS POCUS that I want to make...
5. YOUR REWARDS
"Yeah this is all fine but I want more of the BRIAN BLESSED and RORY BREMNER baboon shouting stuff…"
That's completely understandable. And you can have it. All you need to do is pledge. Pledge like there's no tomorrow. Then tell all your mates to do the same. Then pray that there is a tomorrow so that you can actually get what you pledged for. Here's the sketch:
For different amounts of pledges you can have copies of the graphic novel, the music, the musical story and the limited edition CD - including some that will be signed and personally messaged by Brian Blessed and Rory Bremner... BUT ALSO YOU CAN HAVE MP3s OF BRIAN & RORY DELIVERING SOME OF THEIR BEST LINES FROM THE SCRIPT! These will be edited to be just the solo voice on a loop without the music or any other voices, unlike the examples below (which you might just nick otherwise!). Thus they can be used for ring tones, alarm clocks, warning sirens, cheery-up-moment snippets, or whatever else you want...
"I SHOULD BEAT YOUR PINK BUTTOCKS YOU LYING LITTLE MONKEY!!"
"WHO'S YOUR HAIRIEST PIRATE?!"
"FOR ALLAH'S SAKE MAN PUT SOME CLOTHES ON!"
"Using my bravery, my cunning, and to a lesser extent my hairiness, I shall make rich men of you all!"
...plus a final BLESSED BELTER for you higher spenders:
WITH THIS AS A RING TONE YOU'LL BE THE ENVY OF ALL YOUR MATES (EXCEPT FOR THE ONES WHO YOU FORWARDED THIS TO). I'LL STOP SHOUTING NOW
6. WHAT'S THE SKETCH WITH THE FIRST STRETCH GOALS?
Further plans - the graphic novel.
A) So say we've reached our £9k goal and all got chapter 1 in the bag, but what happens next in the story...? Another £8k will guarantee you find out over 12 pages in chapter 2!
B) ...but, er, what happens after chapter 2?? ...it ends on a cliffhanger!! ...what is to be done about this??!! Relax... pledge some more and we'll have the full 36 page story completed for a further £8k.
C) ...but really there's more to it: another £4k will add 6 extra pages at the end of the novel to provide some info about the music, composer and orchestra. It would be nice to lead kids into this more educational stuff via the bonkers story experience.
D) And doing a physical print run is next. It's frustrating that printing costs are so high hence my reluctance to include them in the initial target, but this is obviously a very desirable next step and I'll work out the figures and include some new pledges for this if it starts to look likely.
7. AND WHAT'S THE SKETCH WITH THE STRETCHED STRETCH GOALS?!
Further plans - THE OPUS POCUS
And finally... I'm putting together applications for grants and a little bit of commercial investment for the musical ebooks, website, apps, live shows (starring Brian Blessed & Rory Bremner), kids workshops and further recordings & stories, a lot of which would use the illustrations created here. Whilst I'm looking for other options for funding all of this, if Kickstarter explodes slightly then this could really help progress things, maybe even make the other funding unnecessary. I'll see how it goes but could well start adding more pledge rewards if this starts looking possible, and of course current pledgers will be the first to know of any developments...
NB I mean 'explodes' in a good way i.e. not like one of the wizards in the story.
YOU KNOW HOW THIS KICKSTARTER THING WORKS! PLEASE FORWARD IN A NON-DODGY-CHAIN-EMAIL-FACEBOOK-TWITTER-TYPE-FASHION TO FRIENDS & FAMILY...
This is REALLY important. I cant generate bigger press about this project until it has some significant grassroots support to it. I'm guessing if you've read this far this could include you. If so it's vital that you pledge now and persuade family, friends and colleagues to do the same. It's the only way you'll get the finished product, you'll make the big ideas happen, and you'll be a part of it something special right from the start! (And you'll have made a friend for life...!)
That's it for now - but
I'm completely available for questions and comments - and I'll keep this
all updated - if things are going well I'll start adding more
baboon-based musical goodies to give away - fingers crossed we might
publish and start on the next tale very soon. There's currently funding cuts in the UK for music
services and the arts in general, the effects of which could deny a
generation of children access to this fantastic music. This project is
trying to do its part to combat this but it needs a bit of cash to get
it off the ground. Hope you can help.
Thanks a million for taking the time to look in - please forward this to friends, relatives and loved ones - plus any baboons that don't fall into those three categories.
8. WHAT PEOPLE HAVE SAID ABOUT THIS PROJECT:
"Truly wonderful" - Louise Ellis-Barrett, Editor, Armadillo Magazine
"Brian Blessed is a masterstroke." - Rory Bremner on his co-star in an interview for BBC Music Magazine, ClassicalMusic.com (the website of BBC Music Magazine)
"A recording to warm the heart of any parent or teacher." - Melanie Spanswick, Soundfreakz.com
"This proved a successful trial of teaching the music to very young children." - Alison Karlin, Bachtrack.com
"It's hard not to admire the ingenuity." - Graham Rickson, TheArtsDesk.com
"My favourite bit was when the Kalendar got turned into a baboon" - Elliott (aged 9), Eaton House The Manor Prep School, Clapham, London.
BRIAN BLESSED said: "The script had me chuckling from start to finish, but I was also struck by how original the concept was: a children's story written to perfectly overlay an entire symphony (and Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade is one of my favourites, by the way) as an exciting introduction to classical music. Ingeniously musical indeed!"
RORY BREMNER said: "I loved being involved with this project - the idea of setting a funny and fast-moving script to the original music was inspired, creating a lively and engaging experience that I've rarely experienced in classical music productions for a younger audience. It could become a kind of ’Peter and the Wolf‘ for a new generation."
Risks and challenges
To my mind the only real risk is the timescale for Faye to complete this work - for reasons beyond our control there could be delays - but if the funding's in place then we can't see how it won't be completed at some point, and most likely to our schedule of Aug for the initial 12 pages, Oct for the next 12, and Dec for the full 42 (a nice Xmas present!), should we get this funding to start May / June. I've completed the story already as a CD, we've got some very experienced professionals in place for the design and editing, Faye's already had the experience of being published by Templar, and she has an agent to help manage things - it's all in safe hands!
For myself to fulfill pledges it's simply a case of distributing a load of mp3s and pdfs (very straightforward), posting 250 CDs maximum, plus Brian Blessed and Rory Bremner are fully on board in supporting this with doing 10 signed / messaged CDs each. And in terms of finance I've managed plenty of arts projects before.
If we get into the funding realms of musical ebooks, apps, website redevelopment then we've an experienced web-team in place with a great company called therapy-box.co.uk who I've been preparing this with for some time now. For the kids' workshops I've huge experience with this having worked for many years for a music workshop company in the UK, and conducted literally 100s of workshops over the years. For the live show we've also everything prepared and a very experienced team in place: musical director, lighting & sound design, sets hire, marketing, plus the 100 or so musicians I've already employed for making the CD! We just need the funding for all of this...
Any concerns / suggestions / ideas from potential pledgers please just get in touch.
MattLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.
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