The Sound of My Music: 1

As a project, I took the opening credits of HBO’s Game of Thrones and wrote my own tune to fit.  It was great fun to write – and this tune and orchestration came to me very easily.  Not so with some other projects – the results of which will follow soon.

As I say in the blurb on Soundcloud and YouTube this is no way a criticism of Ramin Djawadi’s own fine theme tune (and the rest of the score is great too).  Also, no copyright infringement intended.  🙂

Either listen to it on SoundCloud below or for the full effect check out the video on YouTube.  Enjoy!


My Favourite Things: 1

After the high-energy “Jerry Springer The Opera” recently at the Guildford School of Acting, I’ve been coming back down to earth aided in part by some sublime music and reading. The generosity in me wants me to share some of these things, so here they are:

"Home" by Marilynne Robinson

First up: one of my favourite books of all time, “Home” by Marilynne Robinson. Concerning a dying father, a caring unmarried daughter and the return of a prodigal son, the novel paints a picture of family loyalty, regrets and loneliness. This novel has one of my favourite quotes:

“I think hope is the worst thing in the world. I really do. It makes a fool of you while it lasts. And then when it’s gone, it’s like there’s nothing left of you at all . . . except what you can’t be rid of.”

A dagger straight to the heart!

Next up, and no less sad, is one of my favourite musicals of all time, “The Light In The Piazza“.

The Light In The Piazza

From the opening stirrings of the overture to the final song, “Fable”, we are transported to the romantic city of Florence to meet innocent Clara and her mother Margaret. As with Robinson’s “Home” it deals with a great deal of regret, but the difference here is a real hope that things can turn out alright if you give them a chance. Particular highlights from Adam Guettel’s beautiful score are, of course, the title song but then my all time favourite Ballad-for-Boys is “Love To Me”. Throughout this song we have the slightly awkward 5+4 time signature as Fabrizio tries to convince Clara that everything will be ok. Then it resolves beautifully into a regular 4/4 with the lines:

“This is how I know; this is what I see; this is love to me.”

And God help anyone who breathes in the middle of that last sentence! Those who have worked its me will understand my feelings on the matter!

I had the great privilege of seeing Lucy Schaufer and Caroline Sheen playing Margaret and Clara in the European premier a few years back, and their performances have stayed with me since. I recently read the novella on which the musical is based. It is no less haunting, though it has to be said that the intricacies of Guettel’s music and the deftness of his lyric writing bring the story great depth.

Get listening and reading, dear readers!

I was never far away…

…but now I’m back for a long overdue update!

It’s been a busy few months, though I’ve taken a (well earned, I like to think) rest from performing over the summer.

June saw me working with the wonderful Ian Talbot (OBE no less, and one-time artistic director of The Open Air Theatre in Regents Park) with a GSA production of Moll Flanders.  It featured a cast of MA Musical Theatre students, choreography from the ever delightful Rachael Kerridge and my own orchestrations for me on piano, a string trio plus woodwind.

Moll Flanders was quickly followed by a gala concert performance of Steven Luke Walker‘s musical version of Little Women.  Goodness, what a star-studded cast!  Gina Beck, Lisa-Anne Wood, Helenha Blackman, Nikki Davis-Jones, Sarah Lark and Shona Lindsay were our beautiful ladies. Jon Robyns, Norman Bowman and Daniel Boys were the strapping men.  And all these backed by an ensemble formed of GSA soon-to-be graduates and featuring Maeve Byrne in the finale song. Mark Shenton, theatre critic and passionate supporter of new musical theatre writing, hosted the evening.  What a team!  And all supported by my orchestrations of me on piano, a drummer and a string quintet including a real live double bass! (Again with the strings?!)

Things I learned: I am too old to do all-nighters!  I didn’t even stay for a wee wine at the end….!

I seem to do a lot of piano+string arrangements. Maybe it’s time for a change. Who fancies Sound of Music with a recorder choir? Or Sweeney Todd with penny whistle, didgeridoo and viola da gamba? Get in touch if you do…..!

So, then came the summer of my (dis)content!  I had to turn down a number of gigs, concerts and shows just so I could recharge my batteries and reacquaint myself with my loved ones!  During all this, of course, plots were hatching.  The most significant of all was the forming of the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company with long time friend and colleague Nick Wyschna. Our not-very-original idea was to bring the London fashion of using a room above a pub to the already bustling theatre scene of Guildford.  And it seems to have worked.  Our first production, Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years“, was seen by packed houses every night and we had some great reviews:

“In this snug, atmospheric space, a small but packed audience was treated to an intriguing first production from this new company, that has promised great things for the Guildford theatre scene.” (Guildford Dragon)

The Last Five Years

We even managed a cheeky appearance in the “Scene Around” pages in The Stage!

Our next production is being announced today (don’t tell Nick I’ve spilled the beans early!). It’s the debut play of young playwright Tom Wells: “Me, As A Penguin”. It was introduced to me by young actor Joseph Richardson who performed a monologue from it at an audition.  Well, it’s thoroughly charming – but not without a bite. I’m delighted to be producing it with our new company. Click here to go to our website.
We have major plans for 2013 (doesn’t everyone).  Get following the company through their e-newsletter by clicking here.
Well, dear reader (if you are still reading), that’s it for now.  Though I have so much more to tell you!!


Pop back soon.



The Glorious Ones

Following on from Ragtime last summer and Lucky Stiff earlier this year the Landor Theatre is producing another musical by Ahrens and Flaherty: The Glorious Ones.

The musical is set in 17th century Italy and features a troupe of travelling players – and the characters are a fictional “real live” original versions of the stock characters that became commedia dell’arte characters: Il Dottore, Pantalone and others.

The original novel is a treat – each chapter tells a different part of the story by a different character.  Ahrens and Flaherty have retained some of this set-up and so a sequence of set-pieces and vignettes illuminate the leading player, Flaminio Scala, and his struggle with the changing ways of theatre and with growing older.  The songs are great – full of energy and glorious details.  They are sharp and witty and with enough of a hint of the sounds and rhythms you may have heard back then.

Robert McWhir directs, Martin Thomas designs and wonderful lighting designs by Howard Hudson.  The cast is made up of Mike Christie, Peter Straker, Kate Brennan, Jodie Beth Meyer, Peter Gerald, Anouska Eaton and Christopher Berry.

I was delighted to be asked to provide the new arrangements for the five piece band – do let me know what you think.

Reviews are looking great.  Here are a couple of highlights:

“Kate Brennan’s beautifully buxom performance swells with personality and panache.” (Ian Foster, The Public Reviews)

“Musically, Niall Bailey’s orchestrations pare down the score, supporting rather than overpowering the cast/” (Josh Boyd-Rochford, Fourth Wall Magazine)

More reviews can be found here and here.

Do go along and see this great piece of theatre.  Visit the Landor website for tickets and more details.  Runs to 7th April 2012.

Spring Awakening

Guildford School of Acting‘s latest production featuring third year students is the wonderful Spring Awakening.  I am Musical Director – and will be leading the 8-piece band.  The show is directed by Charlotte Conquest and with amazing choreography by Stuart Winter our production promises to please.  It has been great to work on.  Terrific team.  Terrific cast.

We could have done with this book:

……but it isn’t out until March!! Still, I think we’re doing a grand job on our own.

There aren’t many tickets left so get booking – we open on Monday 20th February and our last performance is on Saturday 25th (evening performances at 7:30, a Saturday matinee at 2:30).  See you there.



Events update

Some details about forthcoming public appearances.  Remember, no autographs and NO photos. 🙂

What a joy it is to be working on Spring Awakening.  Our production – a GSA production featuring third year acting and musical theatre students – is directed by Charlotte Conquest and choreographed by Stuart Winter.  We’re three weeks into rehearsals and it’s coming together very nicely.

Tickets are selling well – so make sure you book yours soon.

Next up will be a star-studded cast singing the songs of Anderson and Petty at the fabulous Delfont Room at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London on 8th March 2012.  Joining me and the soloists is a great wee band plus there’ll be supporting vocals from Guildford School of Acting and Musical Theatre Academy students.  And it’s all to raise money for TheatreMAD – a charity that brings together actors, musicians and audiences from the theatre community to raise fund to support people living with HIV and AIDS.   As soon as tickets are on sale I’ll be letting you know!

And then….after that?  Another star-studded concert but this time of the wonderful songs of Steven Luke Walker for a new musical adaptation of a well-loved novel.  I’ll be MDing and orchestrating this one.  More details to come when it’s announced.