The last couple of weeks has felt a little surreal.
Last autumn, I found out the school production that I’d be involved in at Twyford C of E High School this year, was going to be The School of Rock. I later found out why this was chosen. I was invited to see it in the West End by my friend early in 2018, and when I read the programme I saw that if a school wished to perform it, they could get free rights to do it if they applied before the end of 2017. This was one reason, the other being that it is an insanely good show. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. You can get £15 Band A tickets with the School of Rock Lottery (just google it). I have seen it 3 times now, and it won’t be my last time.
As we got closer to the performance at school, I was really looking forward to it, having been buzzing every time I left the West End shows, but then the pressure suddenly hit me, when very sadly the Musical Director fell ill 2 weeks before the show and it was quite clear within a few days that he wasn’t going to be back to direct the music for the show. So suddenly I was in charge. There was a lot to do, due to the fact that a lot of the time in the previous few weeks had been put to school examinations (as it rightly should), which left many tasks to be done. For me most importantly, getting the band together (the people were previously chosen), and getting them up to scratch.
I spent the entirety of last weekend writing notes in band parts to make the job as easy for them as possible as I needed to put my attention on the cast as we only got onto the stage the day before the opening night. I also noticed while doing this that for some reason, all the guitar parts had a recorder line written in, which as none of my guitarists played recorder left us with an almost unaccompanied couple of songs in the show, so I also spent hours over the weekend writing all three recorder parts into one part for me to play on the piano. I spent hours with the tech team sorting out patches for my piano late into the night, as this needed doing outside of normal rehearsal time, due to noise. The pressure for this job was more than I ever remember having. I worked solidly from 8:45am to 1:20am the day before the show opened to make sure everything musically was as prepared as possible. Some of you out there will say that amount of hours is nothing, but it is certainly something to me. On show nights, the pressure was still on, even though that’s normally the easy bit for me, because every performance, I was reading from two different scores at the same time, while playing piano, conducting, and pressing buttons to change sounds.
It paid off though. Because by the end of the last night of the show, I couldn’t have been prouder of the cast, band and tech team. They rocked the school. Myself and the pit band got to lean over the edge of our platform and watch the students onstage playing their own instruments at a professional level (they were all 11-12 years old). The audience were roaring their appreciation. This show couldn’t have been closer to West End quality and proved definitely why the Arts should be funded in schools.
The tech team was amazing. We had a revolving stage. We had so many microphones, that I couldn’t count them, and considering 95% of the team was made up of students, they were incredible.
I got the honour of working with a Pit Band that was made up of incredibly talented musicians, many who will go on to be professional musicians themselves within a few years.
The lead guy in the show was the star of the week for me. He held that show together, and he has been accepted into one of the best drama schools in the UK, Mount View. We will be seeing him on the West End in the future, I guarantee.
This has been one of the best experiences of my life and I look forward to seeing what the school produces next year for my 10th show with them. A huge thank you goes from me to the Director Louise and the Musical Director Jason, who I wish a speedy recovery.