Tish Tindall (known as The Fabulous TT) is a Scottish composer that has made a name for herself in musical theater. Tindall was born in Glasgow and grew up in Aberdeenshire. The Scottish performer has a array of talent in variety of musical instruments and is accomplished on piano, cello, guitar and percussion as well as vocals. She is comfortable on stage and has a commanding presence. Along with Diane Aspinall, Tish co-founded the Scottish Performing Arts College and Theatre School Lossie Entertainment Academy, which helps to teach the next generation of musicians.
My Mum and Dad rented a piano for me when I was 8. The piano was unveiled in the spare room on Christmas morning! I put my fingers on the keys and cried like a baby…my mum said “you’ll never be lonely if you have your music. That day I composed my first piece – thinking on that I should really put it on Piano Fifty – the 2019 version of course!!!! The piano was eventually moved into the lounge – now I could listen to TV themes and play them on the piano ….A Country Practice was my first – I loved that Australian TV theme!!!”
Then when I was 11 I remember using my radio cassette player to record Chi Mai (the theme music to The Life and Times of David Lloyd George) by Ennio Morricone. I used to spend hours locked in the bathroom (tears running down my face) conducting the track as if the musicians were in there with me!!! I could see all the sounds entwining right in front of me and the more I immersed my self in it, the more I longed to be a part of it.
As I got older, I became hugely in awe of the complex simplicity of massive pop hits like MacArthur Park by Jimmy Webb, Bright Eyes by Mike Batt, Vincent by Don McLean and Sunshine on My Shoulders by John Denver. As my musical theatre passion grew, so did my desire to explore the art of producing the unexpected phrase – Sondheim was all around me. (I had graduated to conducting Barbara Streisand in the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon by then!!!!!!)
By this point I was beginning to realize that I could play instantly, a simple version of what I could hear – as soon as I heard it. As my keyboard skills developed I explored more complex chord structures. This really opened my ears and of course my eyes….you can imagine the sounds I could see in front of me then!!!!!!!!!
When you sit down to compose are there any routines you following that help get your creativeness flowing?
My mind is constantly composing – CONSTANTLY! Even when I’m teaching or (more disconcertingly) taking a rehearsal! I don’t know where the words or the melodies come from. I think the best way to describe it is that when I sit at the piano and start to play, I am downloading it from my head and my heart!!!!!
How old were you when you first read Robert Burns’ work?
I remember being part of a Burns poetry competition in Primary School.
What was it about poet Robert Burns that inspired you to create a musical?
It was David Gest that inspired me to write the musical. To be honest with you, I didn’t know much about Robert Burns until I started researching for my first meeting with David Gest. That’s the most bizarre thing about this incredibly bizarre story – I’m a Scottish Lassie and David Gest was the reason I wrote a show about Robert Burns!!!!
When I started to research however, I was completely blown away by the work Robert created in his 37 years on this earth. The man was a genius and from the moment I started writing the musical, I knew I was completely and utterly blessed to have the chance to tell his story. Robert Burns is worth billions to the Scottish economy, his face is on our £10 note BUT like so many of history’s creative masters, he died a pauper, with a debt of £10.
That’s an irony I find too hard to bear
If Robert Burns could see your musical, what would you hope he’d say from watching it?
Years ago, a gentleman came to see me to ask if I had ever been in the vaults in the Grand Masonic Lodge in Edinburgh. The answer was no!
He kept asking me the same question, had I been in the vaults? Did I know anyone who had been in the vaults? Could I have seen the manuscripts?
The answers was still the same – NO!
So eventually the gentleman said – ok, where did you get the words for your script/songs…you are not using Robert’s words (apart from a few lines of his poetry)?
So I said – ME!
So he said – when Robert Burns became a Mason, he signed the documents and wrote some words beside his signature…those words are the last line in your script. It read ‘You Have To Look Back To See The Way Forward.’
So…. I hope that – as mad as it seems, that Robert has given me his blessing for my 21st century theatrical version of his life.
I hope he understands, that all I’m trying to do, is bring his life and works (and the international impact they have had) to a wider audience, for more than just one day a year. Our words are centuries apart but I can hear them in my heart.
As a composer, is it harder composing a musical for someone known like Robert Burns?
Absolutely – although this has been my biggest platform as a composer, it has also been my biggest insecurity. I remember reading a comment online about the show and it’s backstory….”Liza Minelli’s ex (David Gest) Wacko Jacko (Michael Jackson) and somebody nobody has ever heard of (me)”!!!!
Maybe you have to be ‘heard of’ to be credible? Who knows – I didn’t ask for this opportunity – it was presented to me and I ran with it and will continue to do so. That’s my pledge to Robert Burns and that is my pride of worth.
We’ve seen Hamilton take off in popularity. Do you think audiences will take to a musical about Robert Burns?
Audiences do, in very same way – I just need that one break to get the show to a wider audience.
There is a huge connection here. Burns and Hamilton were born just 4 years and 14 days apart! Hamilton and Burns both influenced Abraham Lincoln.
Maybe one day (as they did with Hamilton) the Obamas will invite the cast of Robert Burns The Musical over to their house to perform!
What challenges did you face while working on the musical about Robert Burns?
I didn’t want it to focus on Robert’s reputation as a womaniser and a drunk. I knew I had to focus on his genius and his creative magnetism. I knew I had to tell the story in a 21st century kind of way. This story is my interpretation of his life and works. It not an historical account. For ‘real Burns enthusiasts’, my creative approach may not be their liking, but they enjoy the show. For people who have never heard of Robert Burns, the show seems to give them the reason to find out more about him.
How would you describe the Robert Burns musical?
…a gift and a reminder to us all that sometimes…you have to look back to see the way forward.
What advice would you give a new composer?
You are good enough, just write those melodies that you hear in your heart. Let your head process them and give them to you – writing is a gift.
Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers who may be interested in composing?
If you can hear it – you have already created it, don’t be held back by your own insecurities. As my mum said, you will never be lonely if you have music.
“Valley of the Kings” and other music by The Fabulous TT are available on Apple Music:
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