When I was given the opportunity to contribute to A Younger Theatre, I was excited. Not only because blogging is something that I havenʼt done before, but also because the project that Iʼm currently working on is about giving talented young people in the performing arts industry a platform to showcase themselves, and is also supporting an organisation which helps young people from more disadvantaged walks of life achieve their dream.
Iʼm the Assistant Musical Director and arranger for West End Unplugged on October 30th at Leicester Square Theatre, London, featuring a host of West End performers and up-and-coming talent. My job involves rehearsing with the singers, arranging music for the band, and writing lots of emails! The show is being produced by Tori Allen-Martin, with Musical Direction by Ellie Verkerk for Interval Productions – a production company that is passionate about promoting, supporting and giving new talent a voice. We are bringing a ʻLive Loungeʼ vibe to the West End, with a set list that includes mash ups, stripped back acoustic versions and complete re-workings of well known pop songs. The concert is in aid of My Generation, a charity that aims to break the cycle of poverty and crime through people-centered sustainable changes.
At the heart of the gig is a group of recent musical theatre graduates called the EnsemBELLES. There is something really special about them – they all have superb voices, resulting in a powerful sound when put together. The EnsemBELLES feature as soloists in their own right, and also as backing vocalists to our headliners which is really exciting, and great exposure for them as performers. We have been rehearsing with them since the beginning of October, working on some close harmony material including some fantastic Glee arrangements of popular songs. This is a challenge as these complex vocal arrangements are hard to pull off without the aid of click tracks and auto-tune so commonly used in the music industry.
Iʼve had a lot of fun taking pop songs and totally stripping them of their production and complex textures and then re-inventing the structure, chords and stylistic intention, resulting in organic and re-imagined versions of chart hits. We have mashed and morphed multiple songs together creating a fresh take on the harmonic framework of individual tracks, allowing tunes and lyrics from otherwise unrelated songs to be layered on top of each other, giving new meaning to the words being sung.
As is extremely usual for one-off gigs in the West End, the band will meet for the first time on the day of the show. This is the first time they will have seen the all of the music for the evening, and itʼs also the first time that the performers will sing with the band behind them. Up until now the singers have been rehearsing with a piano, note bashing and finalising song keys, structures and polishing the vocal arrangements. The songs were (and are still being) arranged for the band by Ellie and me. The band includes a string quartet which will really add to the acoustic and unplugged vibe of the gig. They are all fantastic musicians and I canʼt wait to put everything together for the first time on 30 October.
For more information about West End Unplugged and to book tickets, please visit the website, and to find out more about Interval Productions please visit its website. To learn about my current and past projects, please visit my website.