Our BBC Radio 4 programme, Pepys the Musician, exploring the post-diary musical life of Samuel Pepys, features the work of Dionysios on the manuscripts of Pepys’ household musician Cesare Morelli. Here he shares his story of how the documentary came to be and his thoughts about working with Overtone.
Making ‘Pepys the Musician’
Best known for his diary which documents some of the most turbulent and important years of British history, Samuel Pepys also kept a library—and life—full of music. Indeed, as the man said himself, ‘musique is the thing in life I love the most’. When studying for my master’s in Cambridge, I got in touch with Pepys librarian at Magdalene College and requested to see Pepys’ musical manuscripts. Nothing prepared me for the surprises in store.
Being myself a bass singer and an amateur lutenist I was delighted to stumble across an enormous collection of songs written by the little-known composer Cesare Morelli for bass voice and Baroque guitar in lute tablature. Most of them were never before published, recorded or performed. Without delay I decided to explore them further, sing them through, pick my favourite ones, and publish an anthology to allow more people to share my excitement.
Researching for this edition revealed many gripping tales from Pepys’ lesser-known post-diary period, the madness of the Popish plot, and amusing stories from the musical life of the court of the Merry Monarch. I soon thought that this could be an interesting idea for a radio documentary, and after publishing my anthology I pitched my idea for this programme to Anna and Adam from Overtone Productions.
From our first meeting they instantly shared my excitement for the project and with their expert advice helped me craft a bid for Radio 4. After countless drafts were floated forward and back between Anna and myself, the proposal was ready, and following a long nail-biting wait we finally got a positive response from the BBC!
The acceptance of our bid kick-started a long period during which we planned the outline and specifics of the documentary, invited specialists to be interviewed, arranged dates and venues for recordings, and put together a live concert of Morelli’s music.
Working with these accomplished radio producers was an incredible experience. I learned a lot about the whole process of creating a radio programme and the intricate conventions of the medium, and I gained invaluable elements of communication techniques which I will be using in my future professional life.
Faithful to her style of immersive radio documentaries, Anna’s editorial magic transformed many hours of audio footage from interviews, rehearsals and the concert into a beautifully crafted 30-minute, informative, entertaining programme. I really hope the listeners will enjoy it as much as I do.
I am really grateful to Overtone Productions for believing in my idea, sharing their talent, offering guidance and support, and for taking me to this exhilarating journey of making ‘Pepys the Musician’.