As much a gigging musician as a theatre practitioner, I am frequently called upon to work with musicians and composers from the recording/performance side of the industry, working with them to realise ideas in a theatre context. I am ideally placed to understand both disciplines, producing work which fulfills the demands of the chosen medium, whilst allowing the musical personality of musicians to speak to the full.
Working with Music Director Liam Robinson, composer/lyricist Anais Mitchell, and orchestrators Tood Sickafoose and Michael Chorney, I worked as copyist and transcriber for the show. Using audio demos which required transcription, notation was shared with orchestrators via paper, pdf and Sibelius, whose work I then collated into updated scores and parts.
A multi-faceted process in many stages then, from initial demos to vocal scores through band parts and a comprehensive piano/conductor pad and Broadway run. The project involved near constant revision and communication between composer/vocal arranger/orchestrators.
3000 bars of score were transcribed. Working with a highly developed sense of time and rhythmic precision, composer Anais Mitchell inhabited her characters and phrased in ways particular to many of the lead cast members. As such, my transcriptions had to convey her rhythmic specifics on the level of the character to ensure meaning and musicality remained intact.
I remained with the show for its Broadway transfer, which garnered deserved multiple Tony awards and critical acclaim.
This was a show where the usual method of using a rehearsal pianist in weeks of rehearsal was not going to work: the nature of the afrobeat style meant that repeated vamps and loops in percussion and guitars would not be properly realised using usual theatre methods. A more creative solution using programming was proposed by the National.
I was brought in to spec-up and program a system that stage management could use in rehearsal in lieu of a rehearsal pianist, and get the cast used to taking cues in time. I used Ableton Live to program the show's musical cues, and was able to teach stage managers how to trigger the ends of vamps and cue new sections very quickly.
Using a touchpad controller, stage management was running music in rehearsals, auditions and bring-backs for weeks. We were able to alter tempos to run at slower tempos, isolate instruments, and get the cast used to hearing the much more specific instrumentation that would have involved a big change in sonics and familiarity at the crucial moment when the band joined the process.
An ever-enjoyable collaboration with music supervisor/arranger Tom Deering, I provided updated keyboard programming for the critically acclaimed Regent's Park Open Air production of JCS.
Briefed to remain as close to the 1970 roots of the piece as a period concept album, I hired, provided and programmed to move a reasonable distance from the 90s 'orchestra on a keyboard' aesthetic that has remained prevalant in a certain strand of musical theatre orchestration. A real Hammond, electric piano, live analogue synth and judicious resampling into Mainstage meant a hugely colourful sound pallete was created for the show, involving warm and fat analogue pads, larger-than-life string sections and psychedelic touches like theremin and mellotron.
Aided by a strong ensemble and a monsterously good mix and rig by Nick Lidster at Regent's Park, the overall tone of the show's 'in the round' and progressive message was actively helped by our work to situate it in a more 'authentic' time and place.