The Elephant in the Room

Last night was the second rehearsal for The Guerillas, and even after a long Monday there was a visible energy that filled the Discovery Centre where we rehearsed. Being able to go from work to an evening of wonder is an amazing thing. It’s like the beginning of another day. Although it’s nighttime by five o’clock now.

Anyway, what could be cooler than spending a night at the museum?

Maybe that’s what made it so magical, when we finally got into the Manchester Gallery. It felt like ti was about to come to life. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Once we were in the Discovery Centre, armed with our travel mugs of tea (Anna Bunney knows us too well), we met Tim the filmmaker. It sometimes makes people a bit awkward knowing they’re on camera, but not last night. There was a buzz in the room. We went through the warm-ups – stretching, funny faces, strange noises – and then we were straight into it. We started with Manchester Made, the chorus of which we learned on Sunday. I still can’t get over how beautifully crafted that song is. Simple – as all good things are – and yet with points of harmony that give you goosebumps. Singing was on point. As it should be.

The Discovery Centre is full of animals – mostly domestic, I guess – like geese and squirrels and foxes. One goose was rather judgemtnal, I think. And there was a squirrel that was half finished. A thing of nightmares. Anyway, some had been taxidermied in the Victorian era. We were singing surrounded by all these things completely frozen in time. And I guess we were as well. Nothing quite highlights the timelessness of song like singing in a museum.

And then it was time to move upstairs. The Manchester Gallery, as the name suggests, is filled with things found and seen in Manchester. It’s brilliant. When you live in Manchester, or even visit the place, with all its technology and skyscrapers and progressiveness, it’s easy to forget that it has a history. And I don’t mean the grainy black-and-white photos that we see quite a lot of. We came here with the Romans.

There are some amazing artefacts on display. A stone altar, one of only three to survive from Roman Manchester and bearing the first inscription to be found since the nineteenth century, found in a rubbish pit. Two thousand years old. Romans. It’s mindblowing. An ornate curved Sikh blade, handed in during the knife amnesty. Red deer antlers. Peppered moths. A capybara. Manchester made.

And in the centre of it all, the elephant.

A skeleton, obviously, but an elephant none the less. If I remember what Dan and Sarah told us at the workshop, Maharajah the elephant was walked down to Belle Vue froim Edinburgh when one of the zoos closed down. He was meant to travel by train, but he destroyed his carriage so alternative arrangements had to be made. It definitely would have been a sight to behold. And there we were, surrounded by an incredible history of our city, singing.

I won’t tell you exactly what we did – that would spoil the surprise – but it was very, very cool.

There’s a point in the song, one of choruses, where we all stand together and sing. When we did it last night there was something magical about it. The words and the music were tangible, you could see them in the air, feel them thrumming through the floor. And I closed my eyes and listened and felt and tasted the music, and it’s as if I was staring at a sunset, at the sea, at infinite possibilities. That feeling you get somewhere between your heart and your stomach. You feel like you could fly.

And I think, if we had tried last night, we would have soared.

We went back downstairs to start learning the third and final song. This one wouldn’t feel out of place on an ELO album. I imagine that if there was a music video, it would feature us floating between planets. We’re going to work more on it on Sunday.

The film will be about ten minutes long and will no doubt catapult us into Hollywood stardom.

I can’t wait for performance weekend. You should be there.

We’re doing something wonderful.

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