Wow. Where did 2022 go? Today is Halloween and I thought I’d better recap a very busy year. Who’d have thought that having a major employment change from full time university manager to total freelancer would keep me so busy in such a varied way. My secret? Diversifying, doing a good job, keeping up a good reputation, marketing and keeping a mindful, positive attitude. Recently, a few friends have remarked “you’re really good at music” – and the answer is really “well, I’ve been studying it for 44 years and have passed 15 practical exams, 4 theory exams, an ALCM diploma, a degree, an MSc and dedicated thousands of hours of practice and performance.” I am very fortunate to combine my passion with my career – but I have worked hard to make that a reality.
Royal Opera House Bridge – Creative Careers
Spring 2022 saw the successful delivery of my Creative Careers project for Year 8 at Honywood School in Essex with ROH Bridge commisioning the project of 10 lessons and video case studies of local artistes and practitioners culminating in an exciting activity day. Students and staff are now more aware of the variety of creative pathways and chose their GCSE options with more understanding of the future careers available. This is now ready for release in 2023 as a project for Basildon and Thurrock schools and a primary school version rolling out to Tendring primary schools with support from the great team at Wix and Wrabness Primary School – and Adam Morris and co at the ROH Bridge.
Another busy year as a pit musician: Hunchback of Notre Dame (COS, Mercury Theatre, January 2022), Guys and Dolls (WOW, February 2022) and Godspell (UCC, May 2022). I have really enjoyed working with Colchester Operatic Society as MD for the first time – both the adult group with From Page to Stage (Headgate Theatre, June 2022) and Fame with the brilliant energetic and talented youth group CO2 (Mercury Theatre, September 2022). Another first was to conduct Clacton’s CMTS with The Full Monty (Prince’s Theatre, July 2022).
Two nominations this year for the NETG Timmens Award for Music were gratefully received and the pool of nominees were close friends so it was win/win. Great pit musicians surrounded me including Tubular Bells band members and other friends which made it all the more rewarding. Next up: The Boy Friend with Platform Musicals (Headgate Theatre, November 2022) and next year A Tale of Two Cities in May – again with Platform at the Headgate.
The Flames of Injustice – Witham AOS
Mid year, I was brought in to the production team of WAOS, with whom I’ve worked for nearly 30 years in the pit. The challenge was to orchestrate their brand new musical The Flames of Injustice for a 6 piece band. However, there was no piano/vocal book and the 25-or-so songs by UCC graduate Franky Garland were still in Logic file demo mode – with a melody line and piano played in realtime. Swapping files and importing into Sibelius (I’ve not yet moved to Dorico!) – enabled me to create the piano/vocal book, add harmonies and vocal counterpoint, instrumental parts and scene change music for the 2 hour+ show. 2500 bars later were arranged and typeset in April with a presentation night in May to the future cast auditionees. My Sibelius audio recordings provided good backing tracks in order to record singers in a local studio to provide a demo soundtrack album of the main songs and allow those who were to audition to hear the songs in advance. Jessie Tabor was an excellent MD and Rhianna Howard directed the show, which finished at the end of October. I have a few revisions to make for the future as the show will hopefully live on.
The George Harrison Project
This year I joined the George Harrison Project as one of two alternating keyboard players with this passionate band of musicians pictured below. We’ve been playing Essex venues but have already toured to Grantham, Romsey and Wimbourne with more to come in 2023. Check out their website.
BBC Essex with Tony Fisher
Another year – my 7th, with Tony Fisher reviewing movies and chatting about Tubular Bells and such. Hopefully this will continue in 2023. Many enjoyable trips to the Colchester Curzon made good use of my membership card!
Tubular Bells Live! 2021-2022 tour and 2023…
The tour was a great success, starting near Uckfield at Trading Boundaries – a 3 night residency – and then the Mercury Theatre in Colchester, The Apex in Bury St. Edmunds and The Stables in Milton Keynes, all sold out. Summer gigs in York and Sutton Coldfield went really well but the Cost of Living Crisis and peak of the fuel prices did hit audiences for many performers and shows around the county, including TBL. However, a personal message from Mike Oldfield via sister Sally made our year, when he praised “our verve and enthusiasm for performing his music, which heartened him.” Thanks again to major support from our superfans and over 900 fans on Facebook plus Twitter and Instagram.
2023 is the 50th anniversary of the 1973 album. Confusion reigns over who is who. “Tubular Bells Live!” is my band, established in 2015. We are performing on 28th January 2023 at Cheltenham Town Hall and will be announcing more dates with our promoter NETT UK Ltd. for Spring 2023.
Mike’s conductor Robin A. Smith’s Reimagined album is the new band arrangement which originally featured acrobatics at the Royal Festival Hall in August 2021. He is on tour in Feb/March 2023 with our mutual lead guitarist Jay Stapley (from the Tubular Bells 2 world tour). Strings and horns from the RCPO and a band of “top session musicians” are performing a new orchestrated version at the ROH and Nottingham and Birmingham (this week) and may tour later next year. Flautist Jessie Tabor also features on the album version plus Brian Blessed as MD. Friend to the TBL band, bassist Phil Spalding is on tour with his PSO 5-piece rock band performing the hits of the 1980s which he enjoyed first time around with Mike on tour and many TV and video appearances.
We are proud to still be the most authentic sounding tribute band (for want of a better label). Follow our socials and our website for tour dates.
What next? November & December 2022
I will be performing piano in The Snowman with EYO/EYPO around Essex in December; a Christmas Carol performance with the Bingham Quartet will feature a new carol by Jeremy Harmer, arranged by me (soon on YouTube too), with a harpsichord accompaniment for Winter by Vivaldi. A recent string arrangement for Steve Bingham based on Lord of the Rings will appear on YouTube with Jenny Bingham singing.
Finally, I’m close to finishing my Zodiac symphonic suite, started at Christmas 2019, to be performed on Saturday 15th April 2023 at Chelmsford Cathedral by the Essex Youth Orchestra and EYPO, thanks to Essex Music Education Hub.