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written & devised by Rhiannon Drake

ft. the poetry of Byron & Shelley and music by Beethoven & Schubert

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The Year Without A Summer

a new musical

Based on real events...

The year is 1816. The eruption of Mount Tambora has caused widespread climate change & famine. Amidst the devastation, a gang of England's greatest writers create their masterpieces...

An actor-musician show, following the lives of  several much-loved 19th century writers & characters.

Contemporary themes & sounds collide with the world of the Romantics. 

A blend of  original musical theatre songs (composed by Rhiannon Drake),  contemporary, loop-based tunes & well-known 1816 compositions by Beethoven & Schubert.

Recorded in 2017 at

Transformer Studios, London.

Composed & devised by

Rhiannon Drake.

Produced by  Andrea Adriano.

Performers listed below.

the plot

the plot

the concept

the music

the demo

musical highlights
best enjoyed through headphones
10 minute taster of entire show
loving you
goldner schein
goldner schein reprise
in it for the chase
hymn to intellectual beauty
waking dream
mad & bad & dangerous to know
so we'll go no more a roving
young, brilliant & handsome
for the rest of the music & song context, please see below
The Lobby Loungers (Opening) - Byron, Polidori, Susan, Annabella & Ensemble
Characters: Byron, Polidori, Susan, Annabella & Ensemble
Timeline: Spring 1816, following the eruption of Mount Tambora
Plot:  The show opens with a brief portrayal of recent events; the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia and the widespread devastation that followed. 
      A young man, Polidori, then welcomes the audience with a quick Beethoven tune on the grand piano in a London theatre lobby. Theatre-goers & lobby-loungers pour into the lobby following his performance, whilst Byron flirts with Susan Boyce, an actress who has just performed at the theatre. They dance together, ending with a kiss. Gate-crashing the party, Annabella (Byron's wife) discovers their liaison. The ensemble watch as the chaos unfolds and Annabella confronts Byron.
Setting: The lobby of a well-known London theatre 
Music: 'The Lobby Loungers' (Opening) is an original song by Rhiannon Drake, using contemporary loops and selections from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.28, Movements 1 and 4.
track one
Singers: Eddy Smith, Kathryn Brewer, Aemilia Owen & Ensemble
Goldner Schein - Madame Durrell, Byron, Polidori & Ensemble
Characters: Madame Durrell, Byron, Polidori & Ensemble 
Plot: Byron & Polidori begin their journey to Geneva, starting in England and travelling through France and Germany. In London, Madame Durrell washes her clothes in the street whilst singing a hopeful tune (Schubert's 'Goldner Schein'), eventually joined by other local women. Whilst many try to stay positive, others are not so happy with their situation, rioting and demonstrating in the streets... In France, Byron & Polidori are able to have a little fun before things there also turn violent. Finally, they reach their friends in Geneva.
Setting: Outside Byron's home, Soho 
Music: 'Goldner Schein' is a piece of Schubert lieder, written in May 1816. It is used and adapted at several points throughout the show, mixed with contemporary loops and other themes. Translations (from German) by Rhiannon Drake.
track two
Timeline: The morning after the night before
Singers: Rebecca Thorn, Calum Melville, Eddy Smith, Terry Burns & Ensemble
Goldner Schein Reprise - Polidori & Harriet
Characters: Polidori & Harriet 
Timeline: June 1816, Polidori & Byron have nearly reached Villa Diodati
Plot: Polidori reflects on his journey to Geneva with Byron, ad-libbing around the main motif from Schubert's 'Goldner Schein'. Back in London, Harriet sings her children to sleep, introducing 'Harriet's Theme', which reoccurs throughout the show.

Setting: Harriet's home in London & Lake Geneva
Music: 'Goldner Schein' is a piece of Schubert lieder, written in May 1816. It is used and adapted at several points throughout the show, mixed with contemporary loops and other themes. Translations (from German) by Rhiannon Drake.
track three
Singers: Calum Melville, Rhiannon Drake
Villa Diodati - Byron, Percy & Mary Shelley, Polidori & Claire Clairmont
Characters: Byron, Percy & Mary Shelley, Polidori & Claire
Timeline: The first day at the Villa Diodati, Geneva
Plot: Following their arrival in Geneva, Byron, Polidori and 'the gang' look forward to the summer ahead. Full of excitement and happiness, they sing about their new home... the Villa Diodati!
Setting: The Villa Diodati
Music: 'Villa Diodati' is an original song by Rhiannon Drake, using contemporary loops. With an up-beat funk/pop sound, the characters are free to ad-lib around the main melody, whilst much of the instrumentation is performed live on stage by the actors.
track four
Singers: Eddy Smith, Katie Jay, Lauren Harvey, Tom Grant, Calum Melville
Loving You - Susan, Annabella & Harriet
Characters: Susan, Annabella & Harriet
Timeline: June 1816, evening
Plot:  Reflecting on their lost loves, the three women contemplate their feelings during and after their failed relationships. Susan reflects on her brief affair with Annabella's husband, Byron, who has run off to Geneva, whilst Harriet and Annabella consider the damage their husbands have caused them. All three women conclude that, whilst they thought they needed their 'men' to help them feel strong, they are now even stronger on their own.
Setting: Back in London, split across the three women's homes
track five
Singers: Kathryn Brewer, Aemilia Owen & Rhiannon Drake
Music: 'Loving You' is an original song by Rhiannon Drake; a female trio with a contemporary musical theatre/pop sound.
Mad & Bad & Dangerous To Know - Byron, Claire & Ensemble Women
Characters: Byron, Claire & Ensemble
Timeline: June 1816, evening
Plot:  Soon after arriving in Geneva, Byron tries to seduce Claire Clairmont by showing-off about his romantic prowess in London. At first she is hesitant but, with some persuasion, Byron succeeds. This track is influenced by Lady Caroline Lamb's statement that Byron was 'Mad, bad and dangerous to know'. 
Setting: The Villa Diodati
track six
Music: 'Mad & Bad & Dangerous To Know' is an original song by Rhiannon Drake, using contemporary loops and melodic motifs from Beethoven's Piano Sonata No 28 in A major Op 101 mvt 3. 
Singers: Eddy Smith, Lauren Harvey & Ensemble
What A Beautiful Sunset - Ensemble, J.M.W. Turner & Susan
Characters: J.M.W. Turner, Susan, Harriet & Ensemble
Timeline: June 1816, Sunset
Plot:  The famous painter J.M.W. Turner sets to work creating his depiction of one of the glorious sunsets typical of 1816. (These were the result of the dust & particles present in the atmosphere as a result of the volcanic eruption.) Wealthy Londoners celebrate the beautiful views, seemingly oblivious of those who are suffering most as a result of the increasing famine. 
Setting: A bridge on the River Thames
track seven
Music: Original lyrics by Rhiannon Drake, set to the Allegro from Schubert's Symphony No.5, layered over contemporary beats.
Singers: Terry Burns, Kathryn Brewer, Rhiannon Drake & Ensemble
Hymn To Intellectual Beauty - Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont & Ensemble
Characters: Percy, Mary, Claire & Ensemble
Timeline: June 1816
Plot:  After an evening of heavy drinking & opium-taking, Percy Shelley performs his much-loved poem, 'Hymn To Intellectual Beauty', to his friends and colleagues. Featured mid-way through the first act, the song represents the first time 'the gang' celebrate their lives together as hedonistic writers and poets.
Setting: The Villa Diodati
track eight
Music: 'Hymn To Intellectual Beauty' is an original song by Rhiannon Drake, using contemporary loops and lyrics taken from Percy Shelley's poem of the same title. An up-beat number, the music begins with a rock sound, transforming into a dance track as the night wares on. By the end of the song, Shelley is left 'slamming' his poem over the beat, wildly entertaining his friends.
Singers: Tom Grant, Katie Jay, Lauren Harvey & Ensemble
Hymn To Intellectual Beauty Reprise - Ensemble Women & Harriet
Characters: Ensemble Women & Harriet 
Timeline: June 1816
Plot: Taken ill, Susan discovers she is pregnant. Harriet takes her in, caring for her until her death. Harriet sings Susan to sleep...
Setting: London, at Harriet's home
track nine
Poetry excerpts: Hymn To Intellectual Beauty (Shelley, 1816)
Singers: Kathryn Brewer, Aemilia Owen & Rhiannon Drake
Ghost Story - Byron, Percy & Mary Shelley, Claire & Polidori
Characters: Byron, Percy, Polidori, Mary & Claire
Timeline: June 1816
Plot:  Following a typical evening of entertainment & drinking at the Villa Diodati, 'the gang' dare each other to write the best ghost stories they are capable of, inspiring some of the greatest works of literature ever written...
Setting: The Villa Diodati, evening
track ten
Music: 'Ghost Story' features original lyrics by Rhiannon Drake, set to music from Beethoven's Sonata No.27 in E minor Op.90.
Singers: Lauren Harvey, Katie Jones, Tom Grant, Calum Melville & Eddy Smith
Waking Dream - Mary & Ensemble
Characters: Mary & Ensemble 
Timeline: June 1816
Plot: 'Waking Dream' features towards the end of the first act. Waking up from a terrifying dream (represented by the 'nightmare' music at the start of the track, featuring Beethoven's Sonata No.27 in E minor Op.90), Mary is haunted by the image of a man she's seen in her dream. Encouraged by the people in her nightmare, she notes down her visions, which will eventually form the basis of her most famous work, 'Frankenstein'.
Setting: Mary's bedroom, the Villa Diodati
track eleven
Singers: Katie Jones & Ensemble
Music: 'Waking Dream' is an original song by Rhiannon Drake, using contemporary loops, as well as motifs from Beethoven's Sonata No.27 in E minor Op.90.
Snow In June - Ensemble
Characters: Ensemble
Timeline: June 1816
Plot: The ensemble sing about the disturbing phenomenon of 'Snow In June';  all parts of society deal with the ongoing effects of the volcanic eruption.
Music: Original lyrics by Rhiannon Drake, set to samples from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.28, Movement 1.
Setting: London town
track twelve
Singers: Ensemble
Young, Brilliant & Handsome - Madame Durrell, Harriet & the Ensemble
Characters: Madame Durrell, Harriet & Ensemble 
Timeline: July 1816
Plot: Having been abandoned by Polidori before he left for Geneva, Madame Durrell is determined to move on and empower herself. Harriet, on the other hand, is struggling to forget Percy, having not heard from him in months. Looking after his children alone is taking its toll.
Setting: Outside Madame Durrell's brothel on a summer's night in London 
track thirteen
Singers: Rebecca Thorn & Ensemble 
Darkness - Byron
Characters: Byron & Ensemble 
Timeline: August 1816
Plot: Struggling to cope with 'the pall of darkness' that has taken over his world, Byron tells the story of the last man on earth in his poem 'Darkness'. Written in Geneva during the summer of 1816, this poem was thought to represent Byron's mental state at the time. It features in the second act, as Byron tries to understand the mistakes he has made and what the future holds for him. 
Setting: Byron's room, Villa Diodati
track fourteen
Music: 'Darkness' is an original song by Rhiannon Drake, using contemporary loops and lyrics taken from Byron's poem 'Darkness', written in 1816. The role of Byron has a rockier/rougher sound than many of the more traditional musical theatre roles in the piece, representing his unique character. There is also a rap element to this number, with Byron 'poetry slamming' over the beat at points.
Poetry excerpts: Darkness (Byron, 1816)
Singers: Eddy Smith & Ensemble 
In It For The Chase - Harriet
Characters: Harriet
Timeline: September 1816
Plot: 'In It For The Chase' is a female torch song, featured in the second act and performed by Harriet Shelley (Percy's estranged wife). Harriet feels abandoned and alone, caring for their children in London, whilst Percy enjoys his new life with Mary in Geneva. After months apart, Harriet finally hears from Percy... asking for funds to support his new lifestyle. Full of both anger and love for Percy, she confronts the conflict inside her.
Setting:  On a bridge in London
track fifteen
Singers: Rhiannon Drake 
Music: 'In It For The Chase' is an original song by Rhiannon Drake. One of the few solo numbers in the show, it is a contemporary take on the traditional musical theatre 'torch song'.
So We'll Go No More A Roving - Byron, Percy & Mary Shelley, Polidori & Claire Clairmont
Characters: Byron, Percy, Mary, Polidori & Claire 
Timeline: October 1816
Plot: Having come to the end of their long summer together, 'the gang' part mid-way through the second act. Percy & Mary decide they will return to London with Polidori & Claire, who is now pregnant with Byron's child. Byron refuses to return with them, choosing to move to France to pursue his writing.
Setting: Villa Diodati
track sixteen
Music: 'So We'll Go No More A Roving' is a poem written by Lord Byron in early 1817. Here it is set to an original melody by Rhiannon Drake, over the top of contemporary loops.
Singers: Eddy Smith, Tom Grant, Katie Jay, Calum Melville & Lauren Harvey 
Fare Thee Well - Harriet, Byron, Polidori, Percy & Mary Shelley, Claire Clairmont and the Vicar
Characters: Byron, Percy, Mary, Polidori, Claire & Ensemble
Timeline: Christmas, 1816
Plot: The show begins to conclude with a musical setting of Byron's poem 'Fare Thee Well', during which several events occur in a London church. First a funeral, then a wedding and finally a christening... By the end of the song 'the gang' have truly parted and are coming to terms with their new futures.
Setting: London & France
track seventeen
Music: 'Fare Thee Well' is an 1816 poem written by Lord Byron. It is set to an original tune by Rhiannon Drake, accompanied by contemporary loops.
Singers: Eddy Smith, Tom Grant, Katie Jay, Calum Melville, Lauren Harvey
& Terry Burns

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