Friday 6th December, 2019
I played my first Christmas concert of the year on Saturday this week. It was still November! That’s a good indication of my next month, as I’ve booked in heaps of concerts since I decided I would take a year off from pantomime this year.
I’m always impressed the by the level of talent at X-entricity theatre group – and the auditions for their production of Shrek next year. The auditions are run very professionally and it’s a great opportunity for them to shine in a safe environment where they are nurtured in a very caring way by their creative team.
Back at the Emil Dale Academy, it was my final week and we presented the three projects I’ve been working on – URINETOWN, NINE and THE PAJAMA GAME. I was so grateful to the wonderful creatives that I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the process – Joel Montague, Dayle Hodge, Katie Beard, Jo Parsons, Jon-Scott Clark and Matthew Rowlands.
The students at The Emil Dale Academy have been phenomenal. They’ve worked so hard and responded so beautifully to everything that has been asked of them. I have had the best time working at this place – as a visiting staff member, you are cared for so much. I felt like I’d been part of the staff for years and I felt so valued there.
If you had described the amount of work I’d have done this week to me, I’d have expected to be on my knees by now. But the truth is, the work is so delightful that i can just keep going and going.
This weekend brings more auditions for the Watermill and the trip back to Wales where I’ll be excited to see some family and friends that I haven’t seen for months. There’s more concerts and auditions to come before Christmas – it’s the busiest time and I hope you are enjoying the build up!
Friday 29th November 2019
I always say it. I’ve had a great week. Aren’t you sick of the people who always say they’ve had a great week. I looked back and it looks like I’ve basically said that in every entry. But, you know, you have to take into consideration that I do something that I love every day. How can you fail to have a great week?
I played for more auditions for The Wicker Man for the Watermill Theatre this week. It was fascinating. The show will include Bunraku puppetry, which involves three people working the same puppet. Each auditionee had a free masterclass with Finn Caldwell, one of the original puppeteers for War Horse. This had the advantage of testing the auditionee’s capability to work in partnership with two other highly skilled puppeteers. It was fascinating, not just to watch the skill involved with the puppeteering, but also to see the immense talent of the two puppeteers who had something of a sixth sense that told them what the other person was going to do.
After further work with the students at Emil Dale, I was lucky enough to catch one of the final performances of Falsettos at The Other Palace. This trilogy of musicals by William Finn has a treasure trove of songs that are regularly used throughout auditions and it was glorious to be taken on a journey through this complex story of relationships.
My car is not ready yet, so I’ve had to give up and get a hire car. It’s much bigger than the car I normally drive and a little daunting. Hopefully my car will be ready for next week when I move from Hitchin to London to do some pantomime rehearsals!
Friday 22nd November 2019
It’s been another week – flat out. This week’s challenge has been in finding the good in every situation.
When I looked back on my weekend from last week, I hadn’t recorded any of it in my diary and, subsequently, could not remember what I had done on the weekend.
It was probably spent prepping – the showings at The Emil Dale Academy are in 2 weeks, and I’m doing some lovely arrangements for cello and clarinet/flute in order to make the musical sparkle just that little bit more. It’s so great to have the opportunity to get creative with productions.
I spent a lovely day at The National Science Museum in London on Monday. I learnt quite a lot about innovation and was thinking about how we, as humans, tend to reject discoveries in Science. Thinking particularly about those key times in History – when the earth was discovered to be a sphere, when we hadn’t proved Einstein’s relativity theory and, more recently, when we didn’t realise how big a problem climate change was for us.
I related it to thinking about new musical theatre styles and, historically, attitudes have been similar to groundbreaking work. Who would have guessed that Oklahoma! would be such a hit, with it’s new-fangled story-telling? How could we ever have guessed an historical novel by Victor Hugo would be so epically successful? And who would believe that hip hop music would be so popular in a musical about American political history?
I found myself broken down on the motorway this week. What was the good side of that? It gave me an hour to reflect on life whilst waiting for the recovery vehicle. It made me humble when people from the garage were kind to me on the phone. It made me consider how lucky I am to live a life where I can afford to have my own private transport.
Life’s full of little challenges and living it in all its ups and downs is the most worthwhile life of all!
Bring on the breakdowns!
Concerts and Travel
Friday 15th November 2019
My feeling this week is that holding so much music in your brain at one time is either really good for you or really bad for you. I can’t decide which but I can hum you any ensemble harmony from Nine, The Pajama Game or Urinetown as the projects continue at the Emil Dale Academy. For a small fee. And a hug.
There’s no escaping the feeling of being valued at Emil Dale Academy. I returned home for the WMTO concert, only to find a handwritten personal note of thanks from Emil. Quite honestly, the generosity and respect that I’ve experienced there has been overwhelming.
I always love a WMTO concert in Cwmbran. It’s our natural home, really, as we’ve been performing there for around 6 years and built up an extremely receptive audience. More capers with the musicians and singers were the order of the day but, enjoyable as that is, my first love with this orchestra is the exceptional musicianship and passion that goes into playing these musical theatre classics.
I’ve spent around 23 hours in my car this week. I’m not complaining – that’s 23 hours where I’ve been away from work and able to reflect on life and spend some time processing. And about 8 of those hours were spent with my best friend, Alex Jacobs. Even as I write this, I’m giggling at the ridiculous conversations we had and stories we told each other. I’m truly lucky to have a friend like him.
So many people to thank this week for so much stuff. People who volunteered for WMTO, people who saw me flagging and brought me tea, those who just went a little further than they needed to. I’ll never take for granted the dedication and kindness of the people who surround me.
Old Friends and New Faces
Friday 8th November 2019
I was delighted to meet the authors of The Wicker Husband this week and to play some of the music from the piece for the auditions. Rhys Jennings (Book) and Darren Clark (Music and Lyrics) have spent 6 years developing this piece, ready for its full realisation at The Watermill Theatre in March next year. I loved playing Darren’s music, and days like this really appeal to my love of new work in Musical Theatre.
It’s been a fast-paced week this week, particularly the return to The Emil Dale Academy, where I’ve taken on a third show – Urinetown. Although joining a project when it’s half way through rehearsals can be stressful, the first year degree student have put me at my ease. They had clearly rehearsed their material diligently in the two-week break and came to my first rehearsal with the wonderful director, Joel Montague, ready to finish the choreography. I took a moment this week to marvel how The Emil Dale Academy, after just ten years of trading, has managed to foster such a professional work ethic from its newest degree students. After six weeks of working on Nine and The Pajama Game at this Academy, I have seen first-hand the quality of this place, not just in the high level of work that goes on here, but the way that Emil Dale looks after his staff and students.
Preparation has been key to my life over the last week. The time spent with the scores of these three musicals has been invaluable to ensuring a successful delivery of creative input into these projects.
Preparation seems to all come at once. Every other spare minute I have had has been spent on study of the conductor score for The Welsh Musical Theatre Orchestra’s concert next Tuesday at The Congress Theatre. With plenty of challenging new material, and a very short rehearsal session with the musicians, it’s only in thorough preparation that the event will be the outstanding quality that the orchestra’s audiences have come to expect.
On return to London, I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet up with an old friend of mine, Craig Prutton. We had trained at GSA together, graduating in 2004, where we had been very close. However, as these were the days before social media (and limited internet, frankly) we had lost touch, with his first jobs being abroad. Most of the hour we had together was spent laughing at comical stories from our days at GSA, which never seemed to stop flowing. It’s amazing how a meeting with someone from a past part of your life can unlock so many joyful memories.
Friday 1 November 2019
While working with The Flyboys, it was great to hear the swing material and how they work with music such as pieces by the Beatles. I feel very lucky to have fixed some of the most talented musicians for this genre, including some new players as well as old. Fixing new musicians can be stressful, and often you have to choose people purely through recommendation, but once again I was able to find great additions for the group. It was also fun to see so many people who attended the show adorned in Halloween fancy dress, and I felt great in a new outfit I’ve recently bought as I’ve lost so much weight!
Working at Mountview is always an honour, and it was fantastic to see the work of the third-year students. Even though they were in the middle of production week with Guys and Dolls, they still managed to make excellent song choices and keep to the high standard of the school. I’m looking forward to following them for the rest of their third year and seeing their professional development! It was also a joy to see my old friend Neil Rutherford who was teaching the class with me. How lucky the students are to have his experience and generosity.
Next week I’ll be playing for auditions at the Watermill Theatre, which is famous for actors playing their own instruments. One piece of advice I’d give for anyone auditioning like this is to ensure that whatever you present on your instrument is a piece you know very well. This will help you to comfortably show off your skills, rather than learning something specifically for the audition. Keep it short, keep it within your comfort range, and make sure you can make it sound really stylish!
Headshots, Barnum and Stranger Swings
Friday 25 October 2019
A big hello and welcome to my blog! I hope to share with you some of the things happening in my life! This week I’ve had some new headshots taken by the fantastic Hywel N Williams Esq – I’m waiting for the final results, but there’s a sneak preview in the pictures for you!
I’ve also been working on a production of Barnum, with music by Cy Coleman. Barnum was one of my absolute favourite musicals as a kid. I used to watch the original Michael Crawford version on DVD day in, day out. I loved everything about it – the energy of the cast, how they were playing musical instruments as part of the ensemble (although I discovered later that they weren’t playing live), and how Michael Crawford went the extra mile for his role by learning how to do all the circus stunts himself, including tightrope walking, juggling and swinging from ropes. Imagine my delight, when ten years later (fine – twenty years later) I got to play these wonderful musical numbers!
This is the second time I’ve played the original orchestrations for this show. It calls for two separate piano parts, but for both, I’ve had to play both parts due to budget restraints. It’s a challenge but still very enjoyable.
Next week I’m looking forward to returning to teach some audition technique classes at Mountview Theatre Arts. I’m also working as fixer for The FlyBoys who are performing a new set called Stranger Swings in Newport – a Halloween-themed Swing concert at The Riverfront Theatre in Newport in South Wales.
I’ll be keeping this blog updated with what I’ve been up to in my personal life as well as in the wonderful world of musical directing. Enjoy the spooky celebrations and catch you next week!