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Musical Theatre Blind Date

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We are delighted to announce that the winner of our Musical Theatre Blind Date song writing competition was…

“London is Mine”
Music by Alice Morgan and lyrics by Ian Skelton.

The song based on Piccadilly Line station Kings Cross St Pancras was performed by Stiofan O’Doherty with Freddie Tapner on Piano, and followed the story of a young man arriving in London for the first time and making a huge change. The song was praised by our expert panel for it’s “clear sense of place, identity and journey and for the use of the chorus as a metaphor”.

Congratulations Alice & Ian! We hope this is the beginning of a great working relationship!

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The panel also Highly Commended “Piccadilly Circus” music by Stuart Barter & lyrics by Louise Ainsley. The song was performed by Ross William Wild with Freddie Tapner on piano and followed a young man spending a night on the streets on London around Piccadilly Circus. The panel said the song was “forward thinking with great tone and texture”.

So congratulations also to Stuart & Louise who have already promised us an entry into our Christmas song writing competition Xmas Factor!

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A huge thank you to all the writers that entered into Blind Date this time, particularly our finalists, we hope you found it a useful experience and that it leads to lots of other wonderful work.

Thank you also to all our performers, Stiofan O’Doherty, Stuart Turner, Jossie Brightwell, Tori Allen, Zac Hamilton, Oliver Mawdsley, Ross William Wild, Kirsty Malpass, Anya Hamilton, & Cameron Harle, to our Musical director Freddie Tapner, to our host Julie Atherton and to all the Iris Theatre staff and volunteers who made the night possible, to our industry panel, David James, Fadi Tavoukjian, Karen Rabinowitz, David Firman, James Hadley & Elliot Davis, and to everyone who came along to support the event.

Videos of all the Musical Theatre Blind Date 2015 songs can be found here.

Blind Date will be back!

 

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We are thrilled to announce that Musical Theatre Blind Date will be hosted by West End leading Julie Atherton.

Tickets for this special one off concert on Thursday 22nd October can be purchased here.

Theatre includes: Woman 1 in I love you you’re perfect now change (above the arts), Girl in Pure imagination (St James’ theatre) Janet Majors in Shock treatment (kings head), Therese Raquin in Therese Raquin (Finborough/park theatre), Claire in Ordinary Days (Finborough/Trafalgar Studios), Wanda in The Opinion Makers (Derby Theatre), Carrie in Another Way (Cockpit Theatre), French Teacher in Lift (Soho Theatre), Sister Mary Robert in Sister Act (UK Tour), Emily in The Hired Man (Leicester curve), Cinderella in Cinderella (Lyric Hammersmith), Kate/Lucy in Avenue Q (Noël Coward Theatre), Sophie in Mamma Mia! (Prince Edward Theatre), Serena in Fame (Aldwych Theatre & U.K. Tour), Mrs Gucci in Mrs Gucci (The Arts Theatre) Susan in Tick Tick Boom (Duchess), Cathy in The Last 5 Years(Haymarket & Duchess) Kat in Tomorrow Morning (Landor,) Charlotte in Through the Door (Trafalgar Studios), Fern in Charlotte’s Web (Polka theatre), Iris Bentley in Let Him Have Justice(Cochrane), Kolokolo bird in Just So (Chichester), Alice in Once Upon a Time at the Adelphi (Liverpool Playhouse), Minerva in Out of this world (Chichester) woman 1 in Little by Little(Arts Theatre)

Concerts include: First Things Last (Lincoln Centre, Broadway)  the inspiration awards (Cadagon hall), Partners in Crime (St. James’ Studio), westend recast (Phoenix theatre), You’ll never walk alone (Queens Theatre), A Spoonful of Stiles and Drewe (Her Majesty’s), Tempting Fate(St.James), Notes from New York (Donmar, Duchess, Apollo, Lyric), Christmas in New York (Palace Theatre),The Great British Musical in Concert (Criterion), Euro Pride (Royal Albert Hall), Night of 1000 voices (royal Albert hall),

Television includes: Otherworld (Bbc3), The Sound of Music Live (ITV), Barbara(Carlton) and Brainiacs (Sky 1). She also appeared on the Royal Variety Performance with Avenue Q along with Children in Need; Paul O’Grady Show; Challenge Anneka and Britain’s Got More Talent.

Radio includes: Big Cook Little Cook and I’m an Alien Beam Me Off Here for bbc 7.

Julie also starred in the Portrait of a Princess viral on You Tube, The news with worm (worm TV) and she has three solo albums – A Girl of Few Words, No Space For Air and her latest album RUSH OF LIFE.
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We catch up with Lyricist Julian Eaves, partnered with composer Patrick Stockbridge, to talk about their musical theatre song inspired by Holborn.

What is your song about?

A couple, two high-powered lawyers, meet in the corridors of legal power. She is doing very well, breaking through the glass ceiling, and – he fears – leaving him behind. Annoyed, he speaks his mind… and says far too much. She responds in kind. They both say things they will regret later. Have they just ruined everything they’ve been working for all these years…?

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What was your reaction to this year’s Blind Date theme, and your assigned station?

Being a HUGE fan of the London tube, in all its manifestations, I loved the concept from the start. It so happens that my first ‘real’ theatre job was at Holborn – our assigned stop: I was Assistant Music Director for an NYT production at the Jeannette Cochrane Theatre, a venue I subsequently worked in more often. So, there have been strong sentimental connections with the place ever since. I’ve always had a lot of friends who are lawyers, and the High Court has long held a fascination as the place where they get to do their amazing stuff.

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Why are you excited about Blind Date 2015?

Although I’ve done a lot of work as a composer, this is my FIRST pro-commission as a lyricist, and I’m cock-a-hoop about it. Of course, something may bring me back down to ground with a bump soon, but at the moment everything is very exciting and new!

How have your and Patrick’s ‘writing dates’ been going?

I have known – and admired – my collaborator, Patrick Stockbridge’s work since first discovering it more than a year ago, and feel that I already know him. Apart from being a brilliant composer, in so many different genres, he’s also a great song and show lyricist in his own right, and doesn’t really need me there, which is humbling. So, I’ve worked harder than ever – I hope – to earn my place in this partnership. (He may feel differently about this, but might be too polite to say anything.)

What style of song are you looking to create this year, and why?

The lyrics are aiming for ‘clarity’, with not too much fancy wordplay: and I want there to be a strong dramatic direction to the song. Patrick’s music has such drive and character, it speaks for itself. He’s reaching for a ‘contemporary music theatre’ style, and I like that: last night, I was at ‘Showstopper!’ and the Apollo Theatre was full of a young, hip crowd, as well as more seasoned theatregoers: that’s the wide audience we want to speak to.

Have you done anything like Blind Date before?

In a sense, this is new ground. However, in March 2015, I began working on David James’ ‘Book, Music and Lyrics’ Composers and Lyricists course, and have been doing a lot of collaborative work there. In June, I was part of Jenifer Toksvig’s ‘Tiny Shows’ event, which was all about collaboration in every conceivable form.

Are you staying safe with your song style or trying something new, and how?

I think we’re both completely open and flexible about how the project is developing and growing, as well as allowing ourselves to be surprised – and, we hope, delighted – by any unexpected outcomes. Ultimately, it’s the performers who get to present the song who really determine its final character, and we are so looking forward to working with the great artists Iris Theatre brings together on a project of this kind. We hope people will like the results.

Charles Garland and Noam Galperin take on the mysterious closed station of Aldwych. Charles gives us unique insight into the lyricists dilemma – when do you stop writing?

IS IT FINISHED? by Charles Garland

When do you hang up your pencil and say “It’s finished”?

I’ve never met a writer who was completely satisfied with his work. In fact, it has been suggested that if that should ever happen, that writer would never need to commit another word to paper – their life’s work would be done.

Jimmy Perry, the creator and co-writer of ‘Dad’s Army’ wrote the lyrics to the well-known and oft repeated signature song ‘Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler?’ (Music by Derek Taverner) It was immortalised by Bud Flanagan, the last thing he recorded before he died in 1968. Jimmy once told me how cross he was with himself because the emphasis in the line ‘Mister Brown goes off to town on the eight twenty-one’ is incorrectly on the definite article. He said ‘I notice it every time I hear it’. And now, so do I. How reassuring it is to know that everybody makes mistakes.

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However, there has to come a time when, often with some reluctance, a writer needs to admit that their creation is not likely to improve any more following the thirty-seventh re-write and nine weeks of tweaking. The old adage that ‘it’s better to travel hopefully than to arrive safely’ couldn’t be more appropriate. There’s safety in sitting in your own home or office, alone with your pencil. The fear, perhaps, is that when the novel, script, screenplay, libretto or lyric is handed over, it is open to criticism and dissection by whoever should chance upon it. How often have we heard the sarcastic comment ‘I could have written a better script than that’ (insert your own genre). This is particularly popular with television viewers who have seldom written more than a Christmas card since they left school with a C in English.

I finished what may be the final re-write of my lyric at five to two in the morning of delivery day. I realised that there were still several hours to go, but knew that, for now, it was time to call it a day (night).

We catch up with lyricist Alex Rubin and composer Nicola Jane Buttigieg about their heartfelt song – Living Statue – inspired by their Piccadilly Line stop – Covent Garden.

 

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How would you describe the song?

There is a man in Covent Garden who pretends to be a statue. If you drop some coins into his bucket, he’ll come alive and perform, but he never smiles. He waits beneath St. Paul’s clock everyday hoping the woman he loves will walk by and they will be reunited. Until then, he remains not quite alive, but as a living statue.

What vocal type are you having to perform the song?

A tenor-Baritone, the range of the song is F – F (I have written this up the octave on the vocal staff for ease of reading). I can however change the key of the song, should a solid Baritone voice-type be cast.

Alex tells us…

Working with Nicola has been wonderful! She is not only a talented composer, but great person to chat with. Our sessions tend to split time between working on our song and talking about writing, day jobs, and the differences between our home countries and England. The work we’ve done together is mostly discussion and planning, asking questions like: What’s the best way to tackle this subject? Would you call this a song of loss or of hope? How can we make use of the expansive sound in the church?

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As I’m in America, we have met solely by Skype which is a new challenge for me. Because of the time difference, our meetings were at odd hours for us both and technology sometimes got in the way buy refusing to work! But Nicola has been so on point with delivering music and presenting a clear musical idea, that I felt like I had plenty to work with.

It’s been a pleasure collaborating with such a fantastic artist and lovely human being!

 

Nicola tells us…


Working with Alex has been delightful! Collaborating periodically during online sessions has allowed us our own space to try different things, cut and paste and delete when appropriate in our own time, and also when able to focus at our best due to timezone differences.

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We started with a few simple passages of Alex’s lyrical ideas to create an atmosphere, from which I started to compose ‘micro-clip’ fragments of music, which were soon manipulated into sections of our song. Our song is now under development from its first draft. Could we ever have a band or orchestra at our disposal, our song has certainly developed some grander and softer sections that could easily build or deplete in instrumental timbre for dramatic effect.

We catch up with Stuart Barter and, Blind Date veteran, Louise Ainsley, getting the inside scoop on writing a show-stopping tune based on the theme of Piccadilly Circus.

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Stuart Tells Us

What was your reaction to this year’s Blind Date theme, and your assigned station?

A surprise. I didn’t know there would be a theme! Louise had plenty of lyric ideas for Piccadilly Station, and I think we were quite pleased to have it – rather than, say, Aldwych!

Why are you excited about Blind Date 2015?

I’ve never done it before, and don’t think I’ve ever met the other writers. It’s always exciting to work with and meet new people.

How you are your partners ‘writing dates’ been going?

Louise lives in Northumberland and I live in East London – so we’ve written our song entirely remotely! Louise has been sending drafts of lyrics and I’ve been sending back recordings of the song. Seems to have gone well – I think we’ve enjoyed it.

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What style of song are you looking to create this year, and why?

Our song is built around a guitar and loop-station, with repeating patterns slowly building up. I guess it’s ‘minimal-musical-theatre(!)’.

Have you done anything like Blind Date before?

Can’t say I have!

Are you staying safe with your song style or trying something new, and how?

I’ve never written music for guitar/loop-station and piano, and hopefully it doesn’t sound like a typical song from a show. We think we’re trying something a bit new – though they do say there are no more new ideas….

Louise tells us

I very much enjoyed my jaunt to London last Sunday (4th Oct Blind Date Workshop).  The run through of our song was very useful and it was great to meet so many wonderful people with a passion for theatre and writing songs- not least my writing partner Stuart! (because I live in Northumberland we hadn’t had a chance to meet before the workshop) and the fabulous team from Iris Theatre.  
We adjourned to The Nags Head afterwards for Guinness and crisps in the good company of Julian, Charles and Alice. 
 On the Monday morning I had just enough time before my train home to visit Piccadilly Circus, the colourful, chaotic, London landmark that myself and Stuart had the luck to be assigned for our Blind Date Piccadilly line station. I enjoyed the research and ended up with far more than I could use in one song (could be more to follow…)- stuff like Lord Shaftbury’s fountain, set up as a last charitable act, has run dry. 
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(Rain starts to fall in Piccadilly Circus…)
 Despite Sunday having been a warm sunny day, on the Monday it started to rain so I was able to take photos to illustrate some of the images that inspired the words of the song.  (Also included is a picture of Eros the tiny dancer on my finger.) (I had to draw the line at the images of me wearing Eros fountain as a hat…)
I am very much looking forward to the concert on 22nd October, (next week in fact!)  to hear how all the songs have developed and maybe meet a few more of the writers as well as those that I met last time. Good times!

We wish this pair the best of luck!

We speak to Simon Egerton, partnered with Joseph Finlay, about their writing experience, working on a show-stopping song about Leicester Square.

This has been writing at distance. Not a new concept but due to mutual commitments Joseph and haven’t met other than a brief introduction on Skype. That was enough to establish that Joseph preferred setting a lyric and I preferred writing a lyric pre setting so the ball was in my court to produce something.

Joseph said he’d prefer something not too heavy or at least with a sense of irony and I said I’d like to avoid a love affair and look at an age difference. As we had a duet for two women and Leicester Square, I started with mother and daughter.

 

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The first draft was essentially the first half of the narrative to see how it would work for the musical setting. Due to time constraints Joseph requested a simpler structure. The second draft was the same half of the narrative reformed. This was more clear for the rhythmic possibilities  so I carried on, sending the lyrics over without the final tag verse for Joseph to play with.

In fact the final stanza was sent soon after and before setting so Joseph could work on a complete lyric. He mailed back the completed score.

We made some minor tweaks for rhythm and slight alterations for voicing the end of the piece before submitting!

 

We wish the best of luck to the pair of them

 

 

Christine Croyden speaks to us about her experience of writing from across the other side of the world!

Unlike most of the artists matched for Blind Date at the Iris Theatre, composer Gavan Dale and I have not met because I live in Melbourne Australia and he lives in Bristol. So we’ve worked on our song, Can’t we feed the ducks instead? via a series of emails.

I am primarily a playwright and my lyrics always grow from whatever story I’m telling as dry lyrics. So, when we received our brief to write a song about Hyde Park Corner for a male duet I thought back to when I lived in London in the late eighties. In those days I’d get off at Hyde Park Corner on my way from South Kensington, and walk along the path by the Serpentine through the park to watch the free theatre at Speakers’ Corner. These were the Thatcher years so there were often crowds of angry people gathered there. More recently, I had to deliver a presentation about a musical I’m working on and, as I hate public speaking and the work means a great deal to me, I found myself very nervous.

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These two experiences somehow melded and the result is: ‘Can’t we feed the ducks instead?’ – a song about two young men on their way to Speakers’ Corner to deliver a manifesto when, while on the train, one of them gets cold feet. It is a duet and one singer is an Australian living in London and the other is English. They’re studying at university together and share similar political views. It’s a comic song with lots of teasing, irreverence and irony so the stage action is very important, and for this reason I hope two musical theatre actors who have experience with comedy, and appreciate the spirit of our song are available to perform it. I’m just sorry I can’t be in London to see the show on the 22nd of October.

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We wish these guys the best of luck!

We grab a chat with this year’s musical writing partners, Tamsin and Roman – who’s Piccadilly Line stop is Knightsbridge! Let’s see how they’ve handled the exciting challenge of creating a brand new musical theatre show-stopper.

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What was your reaction to this year’s Blind Date theme, and your assigned station?

I thought it was a brilliant idea.  Simple, but with so much scope!  I’d never really given Knightsbridge much thought beyond ‘Harrods really isn’t what it used to be, is it?’  But I found an 1878 history of the area online, which was full of fascinating details and anecdotes.  I discovered that a gratifyingly raffish history lurks behind the fancy facades of Cadogan Place and Belgrave Square.  The area contains a medieval plague pit, a lost river (the Wesbourne), the site of a gallows tree.  It was the last resting place of Henry VIII’s corpse.  It was a civil war battlefield.  And it was the haunt of bloodthirsty  Crusaders, ‘Draggletailed’ Revolutionaries, duelling aristocrats, nefarious landlords, footpads and highwaymen, celebrity stalkers, failed entrepreneurs, runaway brides, Jacobite assassains, Victorian speculators, Royal mistresses…

It was a pleasure splashing about in the history, and we had at least 10 songs we could have written, from the harassed girl who sources Exotic Pets for Harrods (in fact they’ve just closed down that department, but still…) to a woman who fell madly in (unrequited) love with the Duke of Wellington and stalked him for years.

But the question we finally decided to answer is simply ‘Who were the Knights of Knightsbridge?’ Legend has it that the name comes from two knights who duelled on Westbourne Bridge for the hand of a fair maiden, fell into the river and drowned under the weight of their armour.  Our brief was to write for a solo female voice, so we’re telling the maiden’s side of the story.

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Why are you excited about Blind Date 2015?

I love writing with new people and the challenge of something as random as this – pick a name out of a hat and see what happens – really appealed to me.  I came to the Blind Date 2014 showcase night on a whim, and was amazed by the variety of material inspired by the theme of the play.  I promised myself as I went out that I’d find the nerve to participate in a similar event one day, and here I am, 4 years later!  I’m really looking forward to hearing what everyone’s come up with – hope that our programme of songs will be as eclectic and entertaining as the last one was.

How you are your partners ‘writing dates’ been going?

Roman has been very patient!  We met up before I went off radar, and I warned him that I wouldn’t be as accessible as I’d like to be for the next fortnight.  But we had a great chat about all the different possible subjects I’d dug up, and narrowed it down to 3 or 4 we both liked, agreeing that I’d pick the one which one sparked the best idea for a song.

I was worried that I wasn’t leaving Roman much time to compose at the other end, and also that I might be too knackered to come up with anything decent in the few days we had left once I resurfaced, so I sent him another lyric I’d written which took a different angle on Knightsbridge than those we had discussed in our meeting, in which a blackmailing housekeeper describes the skullduggery going on behind closed doors in High Society.  (Title: ‘I Wouldn’t Have Missed It’.)   He’s done a beautifully witty setting of the lyric – so we’re ending up with two songs for the price of one!

Since a song specifically written by us together from scratch was the brief, I was still keen to deliver something on a theme we’d discussed together.  I finally had breathing space last week to write something (inspiration coming rather inconveniently at 2am) and send it over.  Roman very rightly came back saying that it was too long, so I cut it and tightened it, which definitely improved it.  And I’ve just heard the first draft of the tune!  It’s always an exciting moment when you hear a completed song for the first time, and I love what he’s done.  There’s a bit of polishing left to do, which we’ll probably finesse after the sing through on Sunday, but it’s well on the way now. Hurrah!

Good Luck guys! 

Mary Evans and Luke Bateman were matched up in Blind Date 2012. They won the Industry Panel Award for that event, and have since gone on to win the Audience Award in our Christmas songwriting competition, Xmas Factor, 2 years in a row.
In early 2015 Iris Theatre commissioned them to write their first full musical together. H.R.Haitch received a two week Arts Council England funded workshop, and after 2 hugely successful concert performances in May this year, we hope to take it to full production next spring.

 “It’s strange to think that a quirky competition I entered on a whim four years ago has had such an impact on my life. Through Work in Progress, I have met a fantastic collaborator and wonderful friend and we have gone on to have many wonderful experiences together. I also met Luke Bateman, but them’s the breaks…”

Mary Evans – Mary Evans