The Gods of the Theatre were smiling on us this Sunday as the clouds parted over Windsor and brought us a warm, sunny day for our Garden Party. Once again, David and Pat Oldcorn welcomed around 80 members to their beautiful Thameside home just up the river from the centre of Windsor. There, they hosted a perfect afternoon of delicious food, flowing wine and a concert featuring some of brightest young musical-theatre talent.
The Garden Party has been a regular – if not always annual – feature in the Sondheim Society calendar, and it’s certainly one that many of the members look forward to. This year was no exception, and as always, the Oldcorns made everyone feel at home. Joining us were some of the latest crop of new graduates from the Royal Academy of Music’s Musical Theatre course, plus a younger student just about to enter the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s MT course.
The party is a great way for new members to meet their fellow Sondheimites, and for those more-established members to reacquaint themselves with the group. All to often at Society theatre visits, there’s not a lot of interaction, so the Garden Party gives us all a chance to say hello in a leisurely fashion.
Pat organised a delicious buffet, while David was left to source the wines, served up by our Chairman Craig Glenday, ably assisted by a glamorous assistant in the shape of Trustee David Lardi. Another Trustee, Quay Chu, manned the merchandise stall, which was this year more replete than ever, thanks to a generous bequest left by Bill Prowting. The aim, as with the Michael Darling collection, is to donate any takings from the sale of Bill’s estate to SSSSPOTY, so we’re indebted to Lynne Chapman for organising the raffle and selling so many tickets.
The concert was the highlight of the afternoon. Those who caught the Royal Academy of Music’s production of Sweeney Todd recently at the Theatre Royal Stratford East may only just have recognised some of the faces, as they certainly scrubbed up better than their blood- and filth-soaked creations on stage last week! Thanks to David Oldcorn’s long-time relationship with RAM, those taking part were Elissa Churchill, Judith von Orelli, Becky Harrison, Victoria Blackburn, Johan Berg and Tao (Tim) Deng. They were joined by soon-to-be-student Duncan Shelton, and led from the piano by the ever-reliable Trevor Defford and Stephen Dickinson. Thanks to both of our pianists for all their help with the day.
A particular treat was hearing “They Ask Me Why I Believe in You”, which Sondheim wrote for an unproduced half-hour television play in 1956 called “I Believe in You”. Every year for the Garden Party, David Oldcorn writes to Steve asking if he can provide something a bit different – a new song, perhaps!, or some interesting piece of juvenalia – and Steve duly replied with this little gem, written in the style of Harold Arlen and sung sweetly by Elissa Churchill (who had played Mrs Lovett in RAM’s showcase).
The mini concert came to a close – as per Garden Party tradition – with a group singalong of, aptly enough, “Sunday” from Sunday in the Park with George. Thankfully the students were in much stronger voice than the members, so it actually sounded impressive! The tradition of altering the last verse was also maintained… “Members strolling through the trees/ Like a small suburban park/ In a garden by the river / On a special Sondheim Sunday…” (with apologies to Mr Sondheim!)The full set list is below, followed by a gallery of photos from the day.
Song – Singer
"Giants in the Sky" – Duncan
"I Know Things Now" – Victoria
"It Takes Two" – Judith & Tim
"Growing Up" – Becky
"There Is No Other Way" – Tim & Johan
"The Road You Didn’t Take" – Judith
"By the Sea" – Elissa
"Not While I’m Around" – Duncan
"I Believe In You" – Elissa & Johan
"Happiness" – Victoria & Johan
"The Glamorous Life" – Elissa
"In Praise of Women" – Johan
"Loving You" – Victoria
"Old Friends/Like It Was" – Becky
"Being Alive" – Duncan
"Everybody Loves Louis" – Judith
"Finishing the Hat" – Elissa
"Sunday" – Company (and audience!)