A Christmas Carol combines the ghostly tale of miser Ebenezer Scrooge with a score of original songs inspired by the carols of a traditional Victorian Christmas. We have spoken with Nick Barstow, the composer of the songs of this wonderful musical that will be performed this Christmas in the Middle Temple Hall, a location well known to Dickens himself.
- Could you tell us about the songs and style of music in A Christmas Carol?
All the melodies in the show are based on Victorian carol tunes. Most will be familiar, but some may not be, and there’s around twenty different tunes woven into it altogether. They aren’t sung just as carols however; each tune has been rearranged with reworked with new lyrics so they are full of Dickensian wit and atmosphere. They really tell the story and create wonderful moments of drama.
- What can we expect from this production and the musical numbers?
We are lucky to have a fabulous cast of multi-talented actor-musicians. I’ve got so many instruments to play with, which is a novelty and a joy! All the actor-musician work comes from the idea of busking and street music, so expect lots of fiddle, flute, accordion and Salvation Army-style brass. Together with the ensemble vocals from our 16-strong cast, it makes such an amazing sound in Middle Temple Hall. It’s a good job they’ve just restored the roof or else I worry we’d lift it off!
- How was the process of creating the songs for A Christmas Carol? What inspired you?
Although the novella itself is very short, there are still some wonderful passages of description that create such a perfect, vivid image of Victorian London. Turning those descriptions into musical atmosphere was such fun. My favourite scenes are the ones most people forget and get cut from many adaptations – there’s a wonderful storybook scene where a Young Ebenezer meets Ali Baba and Robin Hood, and another where the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to a lighthouse and then out to sea. Turning those to music was a joy.
- A Christmas Carol has been seen already by over 7,000 people. How does the audience react and what are you hoping they will take away?
People are always surprised how fresh and original the story seems. Although everyone knows it well, everyone knows a specific version – everyone from Blackadder to the Muppets has had a go after all – and I think ours is perhaps the most faithful to the tone and spirit of the book just lifted to life with the music, stunning costumes and the amazing setting. It’s really special to take theatre out of a ‘theatre’ and create inside a proper historical space.
- This is a festive classic by Charles Dickens. What makes it so special and beloved by all generations?
The theme of the story will never grow old, and neither will Scrooge – as villainous as he is, everyone understands him. All of us know we can be kinder to each other, and all of us need to be reminded of the value of that every now and again. This story does so in such a magical way – I couldn’t imagine Christmas without it.
Antic Disposition’s A Christmas Carol runs at Middle Temple Hall from 22 – 30 December.