Sunday 14 January 2018

A musical interlude....

In these dank, drear days of January, what could be better than a short musical interlude - or should I perhaps say a literary one?

There are many children's books (and adult ones too) that feature dolls houses, either as the central character, or as part of the background scenery.   There is a delightful discussion to be found on the subject on the Dollshouses Past and Present website.  And here you can see a few of the book covers....

Some of these books have been made into enchanting films - my favourite is probably the ballet based on The Tale of Two Bad Mice, by Beatrix Potter.    

One of the most prolific writers to feature dolls and dolls houses was Rumer Godden.   

Many of her adult novels were made into films and one of the best known of her dolls house books was turned into a children's TV series,  "Tottie - The Story of a Doll's House"- a somewhat sinister series in fact.....

Her daughter wrote of the book "Mother loved the miniature and her first children’s book was The Dolls’ House, first published in 1947. She wanted to see if she could set a murder story in to a dolls’ house and see if anyone would notice – no one did!"

Judging by the below the line comments on the short YouTube clip from the TV series, Rumer may have hidden the murder successfully, but a generation of children were definitely affected by the evil Marchpane!   

It is possible to source the whole DVD from a site dedicated to the wonderful Oliver Postgate and Peter Firman, the creators of Small Films which produced so many of the programmes that lit up our childhood.  For a trip down memory-lane, take a look at Charlie Brooker's moving tribute to Oliver himself.

This post was triggered by my discovering that Tottie and her house had been immortalised not just in film, but in song.  Alison Burns, songmaker, community choir and workshop leader from Scotland, wrote the song specifically for a choir she runs - the Cairn Chorus, who are based in the village of Moniaive, where Rumer Godden lived.

The house featured in the Cairn Chorus video belongs to Rumer Godden's daughter, Jane Flutter, who a couple of years ago wrote a brief memoir of her mother for Virago books.   There is even speculation that the doll in the film may be the original Tottie!  Or perhaps the orginal Tottie from the 1980s BBC series?

Ali Burns wrote an introduction to the musical score - my thanks to her for sending it to me, along with other inside information: 

The story takes place in a children's playroom, perhaps on the rug or maybe inside a cardboard box, where the Plantaganet family of dolls-house sized dolls are being stored until their owners, Emily and Charlotte manage to persuade their father to buy them a real dolls-house. 

The conversation here takes place between Mr Plantaganet and Tottie, one of his 'children' and the sensible member of the family. Apple (Tottie's brother) and Birdie (Tottie's mother) are also listening in and I like to imagine that Darner the dog is close by as well.

The Plantaganets do eventually get their happy ending when Emily and Charotte and are given the exact same dolls house that Tottie describes in this song. It is handed down from Emily and Charlotte's Great Aunt who had inherited it from her Great-Great Aunt Laura who had owned it when Tottie first lived in it.

The men (tenors and bass) are 'Mr Plantaganet', the Altos are 'Tottie' while the women tenors are the narrator.

So here, without more ado, is a very different way of looking into a dolls house - I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!