Gareth Valentine's Sondheim Masterclass

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.