Yesterday, two weeks out from our 100th large-scale production I watched the band call. 18 players – including several leaders of west-end show orchestras gathered to run through the music.
It begins an exciting time. As I listened to the superb playing of the orchestra, including a brilliant rendering of the Imperial March from Star Wars I knew we had always done the right thing. Bringing in a professional orchestra instantly gives the performers a sense that this is something special – the atmosphere, the textures, the sound. All it lacked was the voices of the young people, the solos and the massive choirs.
Next weekend we shall bring together the 1500 performers and rehearse them over a day. We are lucky to know a sports centre that has two big halls. We use one for the choir, and in the other, we mark out the arena space and entrances at the Royal Albert Hall.
Everyone has prepared what they do but here we run through every number as well as what happens between the numbers and what they do offstage. They learn how to relax and have time for themselves, then how to stand by, and finally the moment of entering and bringing it to life.
Over the years people have asked me, “How do you manage to control so many people in one place? How do you make it work?” I answer by saying that it’s a bit like the army. They may be a mass of people, but they are broken down into different units. Each unit has a job to do and a journey through the show. We divide it by singing one half with Robert our musical director and performing in the arena for the other. As long as everyone knows what they are doing and is ready to work with others then it works.
For me, it feels like the world ought to be in these challenging times. It’s an event – but more than that it shows us what can happen when we work as one. It’s not me-me-me it’s us-us-us.
We know young people have enthusiasm, and they like to make things work. The thrill of being part of so many people telling a story to an audience is a lot of fun and it makes us realise how things could be in our lives. We can dream a bit about how things are – and how they could be.