BILL BARCLAY, American composer, director, writer, conductor and actor, is the Director of Music at Shakespeare’s Globe where he has collaborated on over 75 productions and 150 concerts since 2011. Recent original scores for the Globe include Romeo & Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, and Hamlet Globe to Globe, a tour to every country on earth. Broadway and West End credits as Music Supervisor include Twelfth Night, Richard III, and Farinelli and the King, all starring Mark Rylance. Bill has adapted, written, directed, and/or produced concerts for a wide array of venues including The Hollywood Bowl, The Barbican Centre, Buckingham Palace, Shakespeare’s Globe, Teatro a Mil (South America’s largest theatre festival), The British Film Institute and The Tanglewood Music Centre. An award-winning composer and sound designer, his original music has been performed live in 197 countries, 42 US states, the Olympic Torch and for several heads of state including President Barack Obama.
Bill has been collaborating with The Boston Symphony Orchestra since 2006 as a stage director, writer, adaptor, and producer, and in 2016 he created original performances with actors and orchestra for the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Last autumn Bill launched the record label Globe Music with the widely lauded Songs from Our Ancestors featuring tenor Ian Bostridge and guitarist Xuefei Yang. The label’s third offering, Mali in Oak, was named Top of the World in Songlines Magazine this spring. As a published writer, he is co-editor of Shakespeare, Music, and Performance (Cambridge University Press), and The Jon Lipsky Play Collection Vol. I & II (Smith & Kraus). As an actor, Bill is a winner of a Fox Foundation Resident Actor Fellowship, the largest grant for actors in the United States, and has been a member of the acting company of three theatres – Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA, the Actors Shakespeare Project in Boston (also Artistic Associate), and The Mercury Theatre in Colchester, England.
Major international collaborators include conductors Andris Nelsons, Charles Dutoit, Trevor Pinnock, Bramwell Tovey, and Sakari Oramo; soloists Yo-Yo Ma, John Williams, Angela Hewitt, Jordi Savall and Alison Balsom; actors Mark Rylance, John Douglas Thompson, John Krasinski and Eve Best; ensembles The Boston Symphony, LA Phil, BBC SO, City of London Sinfonia, Silk Road Ensemble, Barokksolistene, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Brodsky Quartet and Aurora Orchestra; theatre makers Emma Rice, Rinde Eckert, Dominic Dromgoole, Tina Packer, Irina Brook, and many others. Bill created a robust and renowned Candlelit Concert series in the Globe’s Sam Wanamaker Playhouse featuring musicians from six continents and a broad array of musical genres and partners including The London Jazz Festival, BBC Proms, Radio 6 DJ Lauren Laverne and this summer’s Festival of Indian Independence.
An academic researcher and speaker, last year Bill lectured at King’s College London, The World Shakespeare Congress, The University of Hull, and has previously given his dynamic lecture performance Muse on Fire: Shakespeare & The Music of the Spheres dozens of times on three continents. 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 and been a guest lecturer at Harvard 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