Benjamin Till

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Benjamin Till (born 8 August 1974), is an English composer, director and film maker, who works in the field of through-composed musical documentary, where contributors often tell their stories through the medium of specially written song.

Early years[edit]

Till was born to Richard Till and Noelle Till (née Garner), in Oswestry, Shropshire, and spent much of his childhood in the Northamptonshire town of Higham Ferrers, attending the Ferrers School. He was also active in the Northamptonshire Music School, playing the cello in various youth orchestras and chamber ensembles.

Education[edit]

Till studied music and composition at The University of York, then trained on the directing course at London's Mountview Theatre School.

As a composer, Benjamin's work at York included, music for Arthur Miller's The Crucible, a lunchtime concert piece, based on text by Siegfried Sassoon entitled Golgotha, and the aforementioned The Black Cat. Also at York, Benjamin performed Eight Songs for a Mad King, a monodrama by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, where the singer needs to cover more than five octaves.

Till's directing credits during his time at Mountview included Lluïsa Cunillé's Libration (graduation piece), which was performed at the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden.

Composing[edit]

Oranges and Lemons[edit]

In early 2009, Till recorded all the bells mentioned in the nursery rhyme, Oranges and Lemons (two hundred bells in seventeen London churches), and wrote a piece of music to feature them all playing in harmony, alongside a choir of people who live or work in one of the areas around the churches. This twelve-minute composition, which included a staggering 4000 individual bell strikes was featured on BBC Radio 3's in Tune and the Today Programme[1] alongside in depth coverage by BBC London[2][3][4] (who sponsored the piece with Arts Council England). The piece received its premiere performance on 11 July 2009 at St. Mary le Bow Church, London.

Theatre work[edit]

Edinburgh Festival Fringe[edit]

Shows directed for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe include: Living Together, Falling Apart, (Roman Eagle Lodge, 1995); The Big Book for Girls, (1994 and 1995); and We Are Here, Are You There? (Bedlam Theatre, 1997).

Other theatre[edit]

Alice Through the Looking Glass (Fox Theatre, Palmers Green, 1996 and Blewbury Theatre, Oxfordshire, 2002 – Director, adaptor and composer), Someone Whistled an opera (Pleasance Theatre, May 1997 – Composer, director), An Evening of Opera Excerpts (Royal Theatre, Northampton, August 1997 – Director), Madam Butterfly (Royal Albert Hall and Tour, 1998 and 2000 – Assistant director), Aida (Royal Albert Hall and NIA, Jan–Mar 2001 – Assistant director), A Christmas Carol (Royal Festival Hall, December 2001 – Assistant director), Boy George's Taboo (West End, 2001–2003 – Resident director), Verdi's Macbeth (Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, 2002 – Assistant director), Little Lil (Hen and Chickens Theatre, May 2003 – Director), Little By Little (Arts Theatre, London, July 2004 – Director)

In 1997, Till was approached by playwright, Sir Arnold Wesker, to collaborate with him on a one-woman musical play that he had written in 1990. The piece was called Letter to a Daughter, and this was the UK premiere, opening at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, on Benjamin's birthday, 8 August 1998.

Film and television[edit]

Casting[edit]

From 2004 to 2006, Till worked as a casting assistant to casting director, Shaheen Baig, and worked on such films as Control, Notes on a Scandal, Brick Lane and 28 Weeks Later, the last of which he also worked closely with the two young leads, Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton.

BBC films[edit]

In early 2005, he submitted a pitch to BBC London News, who were looking for people to make a two-minute short film, on the subject of "Untold London." The pitch was for a musical film, featuring the different communities who use and enjoy Hampstead Heath. Benjamin was one of ten directors chosen to make their films,[5] and Hampstead Heath: The Musical was born. The film was nominated for a Royal Television Society award.[5]

BBC producer, Penny Wrout, then commissioned him to make a three-minute musical film for the Children in Need telethon,[5] showcasing the bizarre and wacky ways that people were raising money for the popular charity: the film was shown twice during the telethon in November that year.

The Busker Symphony[edit]

In 2006 he made four short films for Channel 4's Three-Minute Wonder season. The project was called The Busker Symphony, and a four-movement piece he composed was performed by buskers past and present at various locations around London. Each film featured one movement from the Symphony, variously entitled Andante, Adagio, Scherzo and Finalé: the films were broadcast in April 2006.

A1: The Road Musical[edit]

In April 2008, Till started work on his largest-scale project to date, A1: the Road Musical, again for Channel 4. The half-hour film was produced by Endemol, and followed a lorry driver's journey up the A1, from London to Edinburgh, during which he met various people along the way, who all tell their stories either in song, or set to a specially composed soundtrack.

The film starts with Londoners singing their thoughts while stuck in city traffic, then further up the road a young Polish man is introduced, he is deliberating whether or not to leave England and return to Poland, then a lady who was involved in a severe car accident and the mysterious stranger who helped her, a choir of ex-miners, lamenting the demise of the coal industry, a young man who lost his brother in an accident on the A1, two motorbikers railing at the government red tape that threatens to stifle people's independence and a Berwick-upon-Tweed resident who is campaigning to have the Scottish border redrawn, to make his town part of Scotland, where he feels it rightly belongs.

The film was broadcast on 29 August 2008, and became the fourth most-praised programme aired on Channel 4 that month, based on telephone calls to the station, to congratulate the makers.[6]

Coventry Market: The Musical[edit]

On 4 November 2008, BBC Coventry and Warwickshire screened the premiere of Coventry Market: The Musical,[7] a film made by Till to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the town's indoor market. Drawing on the whole community surrounding the market, and those who work in it or patronise it, the film spawned a large multi-platform project, with many radio hours dedicated to its creation, and the stories of some of those featured in it, as well as online blogs[8] and news documentaries shown in the region.

Tyne & Wear Metro: The Musical[edit]

On 24 March 2011, BBC Look North, premiered Tills latest musical masterpiece, Metro the Musical.[9] Celebrating 30 years of carrying the North-Eastern community from the busy epicentre of Monument to the sunny coast of Tynemouth, or the bustling runways of Newcastle Airport. With a strong cast of 180, all of whom have worked or been passengers since 1980. Sharing their stories. A must see musical for the whole family.

Radio[edit]

Till worked with long-term friend, Sir Arnold Wesker, again in 2007, when he was asked to write the featured song (to Wesker's lyrics) and incidental music for Wesker's radio play, The Rocking Horse, commissioned by the BBC World Service to celebrate their own, and Wesker's, 75th birthday.[10] The play was aired in November 2007.

Other information and personal life[edit]

Benjamin has spent a good deal of the last seven years working on a new musical, entitled Blast, developing it firstly as a stage project, and then adapting his own script for film. There is a demo recording of the show, featuring, among others, Little Britain star, Matt Lucas.

Till married his partner, actor Nathan Taylor on 29 March 2014, the first day that same-sex marriage was legal in England and Wales. Their marriage ceremony was performed as a musical, which aired on Channel 4 as Our Gay Wedding: The Musical on 31 March 2014.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ www.bbc.co.uk – Today Programme Today Programme – Coverage of Oranges and Lemons
  2. ^ www.bbc.co.uk – BBC London online BBC London – Coverage of Oranges and Lemons
  3. ^ www.bbc.co.uk – BBC News BBC News – Coverage of Oranges and Lemons
  4. ^ www.bbc.co.uk – BBC News BBC News – Coverage of Oranges and Lemons
  5. ^ a b c www.bbc.co.uk – Untold London Untold London Success Stories
  6. ^ Broadcastnow.com Details of the top ten most praised programmes shown on Channel 4 in August 2008
  7. ^ www.bbc.co.uk – Coventry Market: The Musical Film Premiere
  8. ^ Coventry Market Blog, Diary for the Coventry Market: The Musical project.
  9. ^ [1] Metro The Musical Premiere
  10. ^ www.bbc.co.uk BBC World Service – 2007, 75th Anniversary
  11. ^ Power, Ed. "Our Gay Wedding: The Musical, Channel 4, review". The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. Retrieved 4 April 2014. 

External links[edit]