This month we follow the journey of a passionate, war torn, emotional story – from book to film, play to musical stage show, radio to TV series, and eventually to Heyford Singers’ spring concert 2020.
‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862, is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century. It was originally divided into five volumes, each volume then divided into several books, totalling 365 chapters! It is a blazing pageant of life and death at the barricades of the political and social revolution in nineteenth century France. The story follows the life of Jean Valjean, released after serving 19 years in jail for having stolen a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. He later breaks parole, and police inspector, Javert, determines to hunt him down and return him to prison. Factor in beggars, factory workers, “ladies of the night”, a bishop, an innkeeper and his wife, a young child, rebellious students, the police and young lovers, and the ingredients are set for a truly emotional, turbulent, and epic story. Victor Hugo drew his inspiration for the book from what he saw and heard in Paris, recording impressions in his diary. In 1846, he witnessed an altercation between an old woman scavenging through rubbish and a street urchin; he personally gathered information about working-class people’s wages and living standards, about life in a convent, the toil and drudgery of different industries, the battle worn lives of those who had recently fought at Waterloo.
Thirty five years after the book’s initial publication the Lumiere Brothers made a short film of ‘Les Miserables’; the film industry then seized upon this epic story, resulting in over 50 versions having since been made for the screen!
In 1985 The RSC and the theatre impresario, Cameron Macintosh joined forces to produce a musical stage show of ‘Les Miserables’, and the music, songs and dance sequences took the story into a new dimension. Those who have seen the stage show will remember how the music surges through the theatre as chairs, tables, cartwheels and barrels are used to create the changing sets. Rousing songs such as “Red and Black”, “Do You Hear The People Sing” feature beside the tear jerking “I Dreamed a Dream” and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”. There are many more memorable songs and tunes.
In December 2012, the world’s longest-running musical was brought to the big screen in Tom Hooper’s sweeping and spectacular interpretation of Victor Hugo’s epic tale, although the general consensus was that no amount of cinematic spectacle could replace a live stage performance.
In 2015 the BBC commissioned ‘Les Miserables’ as a radio drama with Joss Ackland and Roger Allam, 25 episodes lasting nearly six hours in total, and during which the many themes were explored in the greatest detail.
At the start of 2019 there was the long awaited BBC serialisation of ‘Les Miserables’, directed by Andrew Davies and starring Dominic West, David Oyelowo and Lily Collins. The six hourly episodes enabled a very long and complicated book to unwind slowly so that viewers could appreciate the true scope of the events ……… without being distracted by the songs!
Maybe you have read the book, seen the stage show, listened to the radio series, or watched a film of ‘Les Miserables’? We each have our particular preference for the way that the story is told.
Heyford Singers humble contribution to this inspiring story is to perform a few of the wonderful songs from the musical version during our forthcoming spring concert, entitled “LET US ENTERTAIN YOU” on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th May. We do hope that you will be able to join us, and continue along the journey of this most wonderful story …… ‘Les Miserables’
If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:
alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.