Kieran: Why I'm playing in Musical Chairs 2019

Three-time Edinburgh Comedy Award nominee Kieran Hodgson is taking up the Musical Chairs challenge this year, all in aid of Orchestras for All’s work supporting young people with complex lives. Learning the clarinet from scratch, Kieran will be joining a band of intrepid beginners and rusty amateurs for a day of music-making alongside young musicians and a team of professional orchestral tutors on 16 November at Westminster School. We spoke to Kieran to find out how he’s feeling about this year’s event, and why you should sign up to play alongside him. Click here to out more about Musical Chairs and sign up today!

Comedians should sign up because musical instruments make funny noises and also you could maybe write an Edinburgh show about it next year. I know I will!
— Kieran

This will be your third time at Musical Chairs, so you're now a real Musical Chairs veteran! What made you sign up for the 2019 event?

Discovering music is a never-ending experience: there's always a new piece to hear, a new musician to meet and, crucially, a new instrument to play! Musical Chairs gives amateurs and no-hopers like me the chance to explore the whole range of orchestral playing, and I dare say I will keep coming back for more until I'm playing the Ondes Martenot aged 80 and everyone's begging me to stop.

What has been your highlight from being involved in Musical Chairs in the past? Have you learned anything from your experience?

The timpani part in the Fanfare For The Common Man in 2018 was an unforgettable treat. As someone who's used to being safely anonymous in the strings, finding myself with a thwacking great drum and ordered to play fortissimo made my heart race and my arms tremble. But what a thrill to bash out those arpeggios and get a nod of approval from the conductor! Highly addictive. If I've learned anything from it it's that, for me, subtle musical expressiveness is less satisfying than making a really loud noise.

What instrument are you learning this year, why did you choose it and what is going to be the biggest challenge about learning it?

I'm taking on the clarinet this year, an instrument I've always believed to be one of the most beautiful and rich, with its extraordinarily mellow, rounded tone. At first I was worried about making it too shrill and squeaky, but it seems the biggest challenge will, if my early practising is anything to go by, be producing any sound at all. These 'reed' things – what's all that about?

How do you feel about the repertoire this year?

I love how varied and joyful it all is whilst still all managing to be in 4/4, for those of us whose brains do not cope well with time signature changes. As a comedian by trade, I'm particularly pleased to be playing the Anvil Chorus as it just makes me think of the Marx Brothers film 'A Night At The Opera'. If we don't switch into 'Take Me Out To Ball Game' halfway through I will be quite disappointed.

What is it about Orchestras for All that you like supporting?

Its determination to show that classical music is classless, that playing in an orchestra should be open to everyone and that music-making has benefits for young people and schools that go far, far beyond the rehearsals and the concert. Music might at times seem like a luxury but it is an essential component in all education and all human experience. Thank you, Orchestras for All for demonstrating that over and over again.

What advice would you give to someone considering signing up this year? Why should fellow comedians take up the challenge?

My advice to others would be: 'Ah, come on, give it a go!' And my advice to myself would be: 'Please do a bit more practice this time because leaving it to the last minute just makes the whole thing much scarier'. Comedians should sign up because musical instruments make funny noises and also you could maybe write an Edinburgh show about it next year. I know I will!

What are you waiting for?! Sign up today!