BILL BARCLAY, American composer, director, writer and performer, creates at the fulcrum of musical and theatrical arts. He is the Director of Music at Shakespeare’s Globe, where he has composed Romeo & Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, Twelfth Night, Merchant of Venice, Emilia, and Hamlet Globe-to-Globe. He has produced music for over 80 productions and 150 concerts since 2011.
His original music has been performed live in 197 countries, 42 US states, for President Obama, the English Royal Family, the Olympic Torch, at the UN, Buckingham Palace and in refugee camps in Jordan and Calais.
Bill’s specialty genre is concert theatre, creating theatrical stories in concert settings. He is the regular stage director for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, having recently mounted his original adaptations of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Andris Nelsons, Stravinsky’s Soldier’s Tale with Charles Dutoit, Peer Gynt with Ken-David Masur, The Magic Flute and Peter and the Wolf. He created Shakespeare at the Bowl for the LA Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl conducted by Bramwell Tovey, and Antony & Cleopatra with the BBC Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican with Sakari Oramo. His noted Candlelit Concerts series at the Globe feature interdisciplinary storytelling through major collaborations, including The Sixteen, The English Concert, OAE, BBC Proms, London Jazz Festival, Portishead, Radio 6’s Lauren Laverne, with guest curators including John Williams, Trevor Pinnock, the Brodsky Quartet, and Anoushka Shankar.
As a Broadway and West End Music Supervisor Bill’s credits include Twelfth Night, Richard III, and Farinelli and the King all starring Mark Rylance. He has created scores for the British Film Institute and The Tanglewood Music Center, and is the founder of Globe Music, the Globe’s own record label, lauded by the BBC (Album of the Year nomination), the Royal Philharmonic Society, and Songlines (Top of the World, 2016). An accomplished pianist and singer, Bill recently conducted the City of London Sinfonia and La Orquesta Clasica on tour in Chile. His new album as conductor is King of Ghosts featuring sarod master Soumik Datta. This year he collaborates with Max Richter on an original period string arrangement of Four Seasons Recomposed with the puppetry masters Gyre & Gimble (War Horse). He was recently Music Director and pianist for Australian cabaret comedienne Meow Meow’s show Apocalpyse Meow.
A regular contributor to the Guardian, Bill recently published Shakespeare, Music, and Performance for Cambridge University Press, and the Jon Lipsky Play Anthology for Smith & Kraus. He has lectured on the Music of the Spheres on three continents. Prior to the Globe, he held 10-year engagements as composer, actor, and director with both Shakespeare & Company and the Actors’ Shakespeare Project.
He is a lauded actor, having won a Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship, the largest grant for actors in the US, and a Boston Globe Scholarship Competition. His directorial debut was the New England premiere of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens in 2010, followed by the only production of Comedy of Errors featuring two sets of identical twins. He trained in Bali, holds an MFA from Boston University, and has held artist residencies at universities throughout the US.
Other major collaborators include Yo-Yo Ma, Jordi Savall, Alison Balsom, Iestyn Davies and Andreas Scholl; actors John Douglas Thompson, Roger Allam, Eve Best and John Krasinski; the Royal Opera House, City of London Sinfonia, Silk Road Ensemble, Barokksolistene, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and Aurora Orchestra; theatre makers Emma Rice, Kasper Holten, Daniel Kramer, John Dove, Rinde Eckert, Dominic Dromgoole, Tina Packer, Irina Brook, Kristen Linklater and many others. In 2016 he conducted and music edited a new score for the BFI: Play On! Shakespeare in Silent Cinema. His musical Call of the Wild has been produced four times and toured the US with the National Players.
An academic researcher and speaker, last year Bill lectured at King’s College London, The World Shakespeare Congress, The Royal Anthropological Institute, Tanglewood and Harvard University. In the US, he held Artist Residencies for directing, composing, or conducting at Columbia University, the University of Connecticut, Purdue University, Brandeis University, the University of Wisconsin and the University of Virginia. He taught acting at Emerson College and Boston University.
Bill has composed on three occasions for His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His concert programming has won a Royal Philharmonic Society Award and he is the recipient of several awards, grants, and residencies. Bill studied conducting with Isaiah Jackson and composition with Robert Wilson, graduated from Vassar College in 2003, trained as an actor at the National Theatre Institute, Dell’Arte, and Shakespeare & Company, and earned his Master of Fine Arts at Boston University in 2007.
Bill playing the Balinese gender with his teachers in Bali.
Shakespeare Aloud, or Billy Does Willy as my friends like to call it, chronicles my attempt to read the entire canon of William Shakespeare out loud and in public. I play all the parts and aim to have an experience of his words out loud in the most accurate chronology possible. Along the way I am tracking and exploring several musical instances in the text. The project began by imagining a new book that could be a practical guide to all of Shakespeare’s many musics: the myriad songs and dances in the canon, the roles of various musician characters, the all-too-frequent uses of music as metaphor throughout the plays, the reliance on the Music of the Spheres as a cultural belief, the many instruments called for and described in the plays, Shakespeare’s great knowledge of music theory, and finally, the musicality of the verse. This last bit is without question the thorniest, and has presented great issues to ponder. But how does one address the musicality of speaking without being prescriptive? I thought the only good way to start would be to read (in most cases re-read) the whole canon again to track WS’s development as a poet. And in order – why not? It soon became obvious this task should be done out loud, as Shakespeare’s audiences went to hear plays, not see them, and after all I’m looking for the musicality of language. Then I thought, (and here is where I may be taking it too far) I should really do this in public. And a friend suggested that no one would believe that I did the whole thing unless I taped it. Suddenly, a blog was born that has me skipping all over the planet, reading bits wherever I can, and taking my show (stunt) on the road to perplex a growing number of previously unbothered people.
How musicality supports clarity of thought.
With great homage to Shakespeare, the master word inventor, I have imagined a completely made-up word that summarizes the single concept I am pursuing by reading the canon aloud. I call it musiclarity. Prosody is probably the closest Webster word here, but it means little to most people, and meant little or nothing to Shakespeare (it doth not appear in the plays). ‘Prosody’ as defined and used, typically encompasses all the elements of musicality in poetry – meter, rhythm, rhyming, assonance/consonance, and other aural thrills. [Etymology: mid-15c., from L. prosodia, from Gk. prosoidia “song sung to music,” also “accent, modulation,” from pros “to” + oide “song, poem.”]
Musiclarity is using the sounds and rhythms of the language to serve the clarity of thought. Language is musical – sublime poetry can take us closer to a musical experience – closer to absolute music. It must be noted, probably often, that I am not interested in making anything prescriptive – no ‘how to’ here. The thoughts are the goals here, not the music, or even the musicality. The way words sound and our experience of saying and hearing them unconsciously serve our thoughts every day – it’s why many famous four letter words are so darn fun to say. But to be sure, this is not to control how the words sound – good musiclarity does not mean pretty, or beautiful, or mellifluous. If your audience is really getting the point, you must be doing just fine. Musiclarity can define the style and character of a passage and expand its wonder in performance.
O THE PLACES…
My methodology is essentially simple and straight forward. I will read each scene in order (see order below), and wherever I am in the world I will plug along, reading in a different place each time. Yorick, my quietly skulking friend, is with me at every reading and is my witness and only prop. I began at Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, and have finished the first play mostly in Europe, reading scenes in London (in front of Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, in front of the statue of Oliver Cromwell, and in front of Buckingham Palace), in Paris (Eiffel Tower, Notre Damn, along the Seine), Geneva (in front of the United Nations building, in a treehouse), and have finished this opening parade lap in Boston. Serendipity, which in my case is the marriage of great location with scene (and occasionally weather), has already occurred and I find this truly exciting. I’m using facebook to post the best videos of random and curious interactions.
I am self-funded, and though I have no drive to start a Kickstarter or other campaign to cover my costs, I hereby express my zeal and eagerness to invite anyone who would like Shakespeare Aloud to involve them, their family, their theatre company, stage, lovely gardens, etc., to contact me and we can arrange travel to your destination. Have a grandfather with an upcoming birthday who loves Shakespeare? Want your Shakespeare company to be represented along with Shakespeare’s Globe, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Shakespeare & Company in Massachusetts? You can contact me here.
See Bill’s SIGNIFICANT PROJECTS BY YEAR