The Society was honoured this Sunday to be invited to a masterclass held by renowned musical director and Sondheim proponent Gareth Valentine. The afternoon session, held in the Pigeon Loft of London's Arts Theatre, was hosted by Associated Studios, a leading British performing-arts academy, and involved 11 students of musical theatre.
We were pleased to be able to cover the cost of one of the students, 18-year-old Conor Quinn, who sang last and took on the challenge of performing "Being Alive"!
Gareth will be known to Sondheim fans as the MD for Sam Mendes' unforgettable production of Company at the Donmar with Adrian Lester and the incomparable Sheila Gish; Michael Grandage's Merrily We Roll Along, also at the Donmar; Into The Woods at Regent's Park; and the three UK Sondheim birthday galas, including Hey, Old Friends!, the 85th birthday concert produced by the Society at Theatre Royal Drury Lane.
His ability to convert a so-so performance into a dazzling one in just 10 minutes was immediately on show this Sunday as he tackled the 11 students' songs. From my point of view as a non-singer, he appeared to work wonders on these lucky students, each time finding exactly what was needed to convert the performances and elevate them to something wonderful and much more "audition-ready".
Following the masterclass – which was accompanied by MD Dean Austin at the keyboard – the students had a 15-minute Q&A, which I'll post up here once it's transcribed.
"It was amazing," said Conor afterwards. "I chose 'Being Alive' because it's a great tenor song, and I enjoyed seeing Company recently. I learned today that for Sondheim, it's all about the words, and I hope I was able to find the subtlety in what he wanted to achieve. I learnt a lot!"
"The students were lovely, and very lively!" said Gareth. "They sang the Sondheim repertoire, beautifully in most cases. And where not, I hope we were able to ameliorate what they were doing! The most important thing – the overarching thing – was that it was a lot of fun."
Associated Studios is one of Britain’s leading Performing Arts Academies, dedicated to providing top-level training in Musical Theatre and Opera for aspiring performers who have the potential and ability to pursue a professional career. Associated Studios provides uniquely tailored training, with greater attention to the practical needs of its students in terms of flexibility and finance than any other UK Drama school. Diploma courses are written to allow students to continue supporting themselves through part-time work, whilst participating in a rigorous training schedule led by eminent industry professionals from the West End and abroad. Not only our Diplomas, but also our part-time Foundation and Advanced courses have been designed to cover all aspects of vocational training, and have produced some of the best performers working in the industry today.