Kids Week Choir!

Friday 2nd August 2013

We report back on getting 100 young theatre lovers singing in the Kids Week Choir at Shakespeare's Globe. 

One of our biggest goals at Starling Arts is to see as many people as possible engaging with music and the arts. We love sharing our passion for music theatre with young people, in particular, which is why we were so excited to be part of the launch event of this year’s Kids Week, which took place at Shakespeare’s Globe on the 1st August.  

The Starling team with the Kids Week Choir (photo by Pamela Raith)

Our team led a lively show choir made up of one hundred young theatre lovers aged between the ages of eight and 12, who performed a specially prepared medley of West End favourites, each from shows featured in the Kids Week scheme. 

Official London Theatre said ‘the annual initiative, which offers a free child’s ticket for every full price ticket purchased, as well as an additional two children’s tickets at half price, offers families a chance to see an array of hit West End shows and take part in a wide range of special activities throughout the month of August.’

Starling Arts co-director Anna Shields arranged a medley featuring songs from hit musicals including We Will Rock You, The Sound Of Music, Matilda The Musical,Mamma Mia! and Les Misérables, which was performed to audience of friends and family at the end of the morning, complete with choreography. Joining the Starling team were facilitators Rebecca Bailey, Hannah Conway and Jamie Noar. 

Anna and Emily teach the medley (photo by Pamela Raith)

We were thrilled to be joined by lead cast members from some of our favourite West End shows including Les Misérables’ Carrie Hope Fletcher, Matilda The Musical’s Marc Antolin, Mamma Mia!’s Emma Crossley, Jersey Boys’ Jon Lee, Let It Be’s Iain Hornal and The Mousetrap’s Annabelle Brown. 

The stars joined in with the choir workshop and final performance, setting an incredible example for the young performers, staying behind afterwards, answering questions and signing autographs. For the participants to meet such inspiring performers up-close must have been both thrilling and inspiring, and this interaction will surely be a key part of instilling a life-long love of the arts in those children who took part. We hope that our attendees will go on to love future theatre trips (made much more affordable through schemes like Kids Week!) and to participate in the arts themselves throughout thier lives. 

Talking to the Kids Week team about the launch event, Fletcher, who earlier this year made her adult West End debut as Eponine following her performance as the character’s younger self more than a decade before, said: “It was brilliant! I did Kids Week when I was 11 or 12 and I remember being so inspired by the actors and actresses from the West End shows then. So to be a West End performer now and to come back and actually be the person to encourage these kids is an absolute honour.”

The Kids Week Choir (photo by Pamela Raith)

One of the event’s young participants, Evie Hind, said: “Today was very fun and our favourite song was [Matilda The Musical’s] Revolting Children… because we are revolting children.” When asked whether performing in today’s choir made the children want to take to the West End stage, the response was a resounding “yes”.

Kids Week said ‘There are still thousands of tickets on sale for the month-long promotion, which has now been bringing the magic of live theatre to children and their families for 16 years. To book tickets, visit www.kidsweek.co.uk

You can watch the ITV coverage of the event here.

 

What London Can Learn From the Tony Awards

'It's Bigger' exclaimed Neil Patrick Harris during the breathtaking opening of last night’s Tony Awards and my God it really was. The Tonys celebrate all things Broadway and, for a musical lover like me, are a great televised platform for the biggest new musical theatre productions to dazzle audiences with show-stopping medleys and a real taste of what they can see live on stage. While tearful acceptance speeches and awkward introductions always seem to labour awards ceremonies, it’s the entertainment segments of the Tonys which set this show above its awarding colleagues and which are a real lesson to London on how we could make the Olivier Awards something worthy of the primetime TV slot many of us think it deserves.

Read More

The Musical Theatre Voice

Emily reflects on the musical theatre voice in the mass music market

I was intrigued by the results of this poll in this week’s edition of The Stage newspaper:

Could a performer trained in musical theatre ever win the TV Talent show The Voice?

Nearly half, 48.1%, said No.

I’m shocked that so many answering this poll - especially given The Stage's readership of people working in the theatre industry – believe that someone whose training has been in Musical Theatre has a handicap. Does this type of vocal training somehow put singers at a disadvantage in a mainstream competition, against many other singers who may not have had any training at all? Or is it merely the public perception of the 'musical theatre voice' that leads the critics to question the musical star's ability to win? 

It’s clear that success in Musical Theatre hasn’t traditionally led to success in the pop world (although we can name many pop stars who’ve made the opposite move from the charts to the stage). On last year’s series of The Voice, millions of viewers watched Kerry Ellis, arguably the first lady of musical theatre in the UK, fail to catch the attention of the ‘coaches’. Her album Anthems released in 2010 didn't set the pop charts alight. Her disappointment might reflect that the musical theatre ‘voice’ isn’t one that naturally appeals to the mass pop market. Kerry admitted in the show’s interview footage that her decision to audition was ‘a risk’, but one that ‘could really change things’ for her. But as Tom Jones gave feedback that Kerry had obviously already made it with her successful career in musicals, he seemed to question that with such an impressive list of leading roles, there couldn’t be much Kerry be searching for with her singing. 

Kerry Ellis auditions for The Voice in 2012 - source: mirror.co.uk

Being a leading lady in the West End (and indeed Broadway!) would appear to be the pinnacle of a successful singing career, so what attracts singers already working on the stage to try for a TV show like The Voice? The resounding phrase used by the successful musical theatre singers auditioning for this year’s series has been a career as a recording artist.

Alex Buchanan, who has been appearing in Thriller Live, had the coaches battling for him, with Jessie J victoriously gaining him as one of her ‘artists’. However, according to the show’s BBC website, Alex has never had any training and sings Michael Jackson rather than Andrew Lloyd Webber.  So perhaps the musical theatre purists might argue he isn’t in the ‘trained in musical theatre’ category – perhaps Alex has a better chance as a result!

Another notable musical star making it to the ‘battle rounds’ this year is Liam Tamne, a recent Enjolras in Les Miserables, and alumni of both Wicked and Hairspray – who seems set on achieving his dream of becoming a recording artist. Tamne trained at Laine Theatre Arts - will this prevent him from being victorious in The VoiceWill.i.am look-alike Matt Henry is another musical theatre contender, with an impressive biog listing a number of roles and covers. Is there more than the call of a record contract that makes Liam and Matt want to hang up their jazz shoes for a place in the pop charts?

West End star Liam Tamne stands a chance of winning The Voice - source: bbc.co.uk

I can only speculate, but I’m sure attractions include: writing your own music; the creativity that replicating the same performance for up to 7 performances a week doesn’t fulfill; a very different kind of limelight; money; the next notch up on the fame level; swopping the dusty back stages and shared dressing rooms of the West End for fancy greenrooms and riders might be on the list. Perhaps it’s just a curiosity of making a different kind of music that attract auditionees – after all, many West End performers grow up with theatre schools and ‘Am Dram’ – pop doesn’t have the breadth of ‘training’, so it’s easy to see why so many musical singers stick to what they know.

Not every voice is a ‘recording voice’ capable of world fame, but I just can’t see a good reason why a singer originally trained in musical theatre can’t put their hand to a successful career as a ‘recording artist’. Musical singers are often the most flexible type - straddling different style for every show, and using strong vocal technique to get them through several shows a week. Whether a singer who has trained in musical theatre will win The Voice or not stands to be seen, but I hope that there is some sucess for these singers, who are brave pioneers, flying the flag for the talent in the musical theatre world. 

Emily 

We’d love to hear your thoughts - can a musical theatre singer win The Voice? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @starlingarts

Our choirs sing a combination of musical theatre, pop, rock and jazz. To find out more click here.