I’m currently sitting on a child’s booster seat in the back of the stalls in the Palladium (seat V10 to be precise), with my laptop and assorted musical paraphernalia balanced on a wooden board laid over rows T and U, watching twenty leprechauns in bright green wigs dancing round two giant toadstools. Despite the last month of long hours and late nights, I’m not hallucinating – I’m in a tech rehearsal for ‘I Can’t Sing!: The X-Factor Musical’, where I’m assistant orchestrator. We moved into the theatre in early February: the stalls have been taken over by different creative teams, clustered in different areas.
The stalls in the Palladium during tech
I began work on the show with orchestrator Chris Egan last Summer, compiling the vocal score and keeping it up to date during rehearsals. This is a big undertaking with a new musical as the creative team make constant changes right up until the show officially opens – it certainly is a truism that musicals aren’t written but re-written! Because so much changes during rehearsals, the orchestration happens late in the process, otherwise time is wasted working on songs that are cut and underscoring that changes. We had a series of band calls last week, and the sitzprobe on Saturday evening – it was really exciting to finally hear the cast and the band together.
A band call – in the bar!
I’d never thought about orchestration as a career until I started collaborating with other composers on my MA course at Goldsmiths. I loved it – the balance of possibilities and constraints involved in bringing somebody else’s music to life is really exciting creatively – and I started researching the industry and gaining as much practical experience as I could. As with any freelance job, the importance of both recognition and financial support at the beginning of your career can’t be underestimated, and I was thrilled to be awarded an Emerging Excellence Award from Help Musicians UK.
I’m using the award to travel to Minnesota to work with American folk musicians and singers to workshop and showcase ‘Van Winkle: a folk musical’, a fantastic piece of new musical theatre on which I'm collaborating with the writer Caroline Wigmore. Van Winkle was part of the recent ‘From Page to Stage’ showcase at the Landor Theatre, and we have just released a concept album, so being able to take it to the US is an unmissable opportunity.
Caroline and me at the Van Winkle Page to Stage showcase with the wonderful cast, director Simon Greiff and MD Inga Davis-Rutter.
I feel privileged to be working with and learning from some of the top people in the industry on some amazing projects and incredibly lucky to have the support of Help Musicians UK – thank you!
If you wish to find out more about what I’m up to, please visit my website.