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Jeff Wayne's New Year Message

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Greetings For The New Year

Hello Everyone

It’s been quite a while since I posted a personal note, and with a new year looming, it seemed like a good time to write one.

For each of us, the last year will have, I’m sure, hold a range of memories – I hope mostly happy and exhilarating ones, although, and inevitably, living in the world we do, no one could have been left untouched by the many natural and man-made disasters, the economic gloom that has impacted on everyone other than the very lucky few, and closer to home, perhaps the loss of a loved one or very good friend.

Over 2011 I’ve experienced a mixed bag of the above, with some great highs as well as lows. But in a way, the lows were comforted by the highs, and the highs helped cope with the lows – that’s simply life, and it’s the same for everyone.

On the Martian Front (!) some of you may already know, over the last year, I and TWOTW team have been preparing two major new projects – a new recording and tour, all centred around the concept of The New Generation. Last November 18, both were announced at a media launch at Soan Hall in London.

OK, what exactly are these New Generation projects, and why?

Over the years, I was often asked how I’d approach composing and producing The War of The Worlds in today’s world, rather than the era of the mid 1970s, when disco was king of the dance floor, punk was the revolutionary music of the day and science fiction was being re-discovered in the movies and on TV.

I always answered ‘why fix what isn’t broken?.’ I was very proud of the Work and especially of all those who had contributed their varied talents to bring it to life - David Essex, Justin Hayward, Phil Lynott, Chris Thompson, Julie Covington, and of course, Richard Burton.

But what I never predicted was the extraordinary life my musical interpretation of HG Wells’ dark and visionary Victorian tale would have, both at home in the UK, as well as many countries around the world. And not just as a recording, but since 2006 via our multi-media arena tours that have given me the chance to bring to ‘life’ all that originally inspired the original recording.

As the years progressed, this same question kept returning, and it was soon after completing our UK and European tour in the summer of 2009, that I decided to re-visit HG’s novel and re-read our original script by Doreen Wayne. In fact, that script was at least twice as long as the version that made it to the final double album!

To a large extent many sections had been edited simply because we were living in the era of the vinyl disc, with a maximum recording time for each side of a disc. This amount was quite a bit shorter than the next format that arrived in the mid 1980s, the CD, and all that has followed within the digital world we now live in.

By the end of 2009 I was convinced that for future productions, some of the storylines and characters should be re-explored. It would also give me the chance to re-interpret my compositions with the production techniques of today, truly exciting from a musician’s point of view.

In reaching that decision I also felt that it had to work for ALL future productions – live productions, on the big screen for our continuing development of a feature animated film, and, of course, a new recording.

With many good reasons then to proceed with our New Generation productions, perhaps the greatest opportunity was revisiting the main character of George Herbert, The Journalist who ‘threads’ the story together.

And while it may have been the greatest opportunity, it was also the hardest decision to make because I knew that with a re-developed storyline, a new Journalist would have to be sought as Richard Burton’s original performance, was finite.

And whoever that person might turn out to be, he would have to be of no less stature and quality of voice than that of Richard – an incredibly tough act to follow.

A new tour for the Winter 2010 was already committed to, so it was decided to do preliminary work before that tour, and then once completed, we’d give ourselves around a 2-year gap to tackle these new productions.

With that plan in place, production began in earnest in January, 2011 and the first major task was to consider who might take up the ‘baton’ from Richard Burton.

Once again I have been fortunate with Liam Neeson agreeing to take on the role of The Journalist. After two weeks of recording and filming in NY last April, I believe audiences and listeners alike will find Liam’s interpretation no less compelling than Richard’s. He’s truly put his own stamp on it.

The new album consists of some new story and character development, as well as a new cast of Guest Artists. All, I believe, thread seamlessly into the existing score and story, including the retention of some of the more iconic sounds from the original recording.

And what can I tell you specifically about NewGen-Alive! without giving too much away?

Well, here’s a few facts about it.

On my original recording, and from 2006 when our arena tours began, Richard Burton’s ‘Sight and Sound’ performances contained 74 sequences. Liam Neeson’s contains 90.

Richard’s performance was seen in one way, as a 3D ‘talking head’. Liam will be seen in three:

* As an 11-foot high 3D holographic ‘head and shoulders’ as George Herbert, The Journalist recounts in 1904 his story of survival from the Martian invasion of Victorian England some six years earlier.

* Performing within CGI sequences seen on our 100-foot wide ’Animation Wall’. The marriage between live action filming integrated into our animated sequences is really compelling.

* Appearing in 3D holography in full body on centre stage, interacting with the show’s live performers. A triumph of technology with a remarkable performance by Mr. Neeson, and a world first in live entertainment!

The production will also have new ingredients as well as having the most iconic elements returning, although in some instances developed further, including:

* Our 3-tonne, 35-foot tall Martian Fighting Machine firing real flame Heat Rays at the audience as it ‘lands’ on centre stage, while scanning them with its bug-like eyes. And the climatic ending when it ‘incinerates’ our NASA controller in full view of the audience. All approved by Health and Safety btw!

* New special effects and our unique ‘levitation’ of Beth, Parson Nathaniel’s wife.

* Leaf drops over our audiences and surround sound that engulfs them, contributing to the all-encompassing experience that is The War of The Worlds.

* And more…

And of course, for me, conducting TWOTW, is one of those ‘highs’ I mentioned at the start of my note. Being on stage in the thick of it is truly exhilarating, seeing and hearing so many world-class performers and musicians interpret the score and story never fails to move me.

Finally, thank you sincerely to all those have given their loyal support. Without it, I wouldn’t be up on that podium! And to those who may discover TWOTW for the first time, I hope it will ‘hook’ you too, and be transported into our world, of The War of The Worlds.

Happy New Year.


Dec. 31, 2011

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