Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014 a great year

Yes, 2014 has been a great year. I have never before started so many new journeys in a sngle year.

To start the year, I wrote a Rock Opera. Not a bad way to start off a good year. That rock opera has gone on to make up a very important part of the rest of the year and the year's activities. Yes, that is the rock opera known as Wake Not The Dead.

In getting that rock opera onto a stage, I met many amazing new people. I got a band together. Through many line-up changes, I eventually got an amazing group of people playing and singing my rock opera. I had 10 people playing and singing my music. All my music and nothing but my music. I had bands before. Those were all mainly cover bands and musical theatre bands. Either playing cover songs at weddings and parties, or playing songs from other people's famous musicals. I even wrote many songs before. Mostly, those songs took only one or two slots in a night's set list. This was the first time I had 10 people doing only my songs for a whole show.

We had an amazing 5 peice band, and 4 amazing singers / actors. All amazing musicians and amazing friends. Yes, I knew some of them from working on previous shows together, but working so long on my show something special.

I will talk about Wake Not The Dead a lot more at different times, but let's get back to the year that was 2014.

Next, the Dog-on-blues Studio had a huge facelift. Yes, Wake Not The Dead sparked it off a bit, but this was much more than just the rock opera. The studio moved from a small 18 square meters room to a 54 square meters studio. Yes, that is a whole 6 meters wide and 9 meters long.

I took over the Swan Lake Dance studio, previous belongng to my friend Graham. It was converted into a rehearsal studio with the sound absorption panels later on, to become a true recording studio as well.

With the studio came a swamp. Yes. A whole swamp. Now I am - just like Shrek - an owner of my own lonely swamp.

Life is really great as I walk along the water front every morning before going to work, and every night before  rehearsals start. Things are seriously easier if there is no need to pack up all the equipment each night to take to a rehearsal studio.

After Wake Not The Dead had it's public viewing at the Fringe Theatre in Joburg, we started with another project, New Parade.

Another great band with a bunch of great guys. We already had 2 successful gigs in our fist month of operation.

The year that was 2014 had many more moments, but these must have been amongst the greatest. Each one of these moments were only seeds for a promise of an amazing 2015.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Grand public preview at the joburg theatre

Have you seen the news?

Yes, we are going public.

When? 16 November 2014

Where? The fringe at the joburg theatre

Watch the video on youtube. There are many snippets from the music of the show. If you like it, you MUST come to watch the whole show! Some - or rather most - of the songs will be heard for the first time in public on the 16th. That means only a selected few would have heard this wonderful cast performing these amazing songs. That is you, and my neighbors who have been listening to us rehearsing these last 6 months!

Also, watch the video and listen to this wonderful opening theme song at http://youtu.be/8DmPyEF6RJo

Now for a few secrets!

Let's start with The cast:
Drums: Gideon Meintjies
Guitars: Werner Benade and Gideon Jones
Bass: Andre Liebenberg
Keyboards: Nathan Lowe
Soprano: Camilla Kinman
Alto: Anne Lombard
Tenor: Tedd Croukamp
Baritone: Michael Shane Brownhill

If you recognize a few names, I am not surprised. Every one of those cast members are playing or singing in many other groups and shows. Heard about Protea stage, pubnighters, Scicoustic, Cutting Jade, Dave Mathews band, no rest for the wicked and many more?

More secrets to be revealed soon!

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Wake Not The Dead

Introducing Wake Not The Dead and the Rock Opera Orchestra.

What is Wake Not The Dead

Let start at.....well...at the start.

Ok. I know that was not very original. Rule number one in writing songs is to never use cliches, and that was a shocking cliche.

The one thing we can however promise you, is that Wake Not The Dead is not a cliche. It promise to be something very different from what you have ever seen or heard.

Wake Not The Dead is a new and exciting rock opera with book by Anne Lombard and music and lyrics by Eric Swardt. Based on Johann Tiek's story, this tale of horror, bravery and love that never die, will take you on a journey through a fantasy world of dark cemeteries, castles, and medieval towns to be remembered for many years.

The rock opera tells the story of Dominic (Michael Shane Brownhill), a baron who wakes Brunhilda (Anne Lombard), his childhood lover, from the grave with the assistance of Batista (Tedd Croukamp), a wandering sorcerer, while back home, Swanhilda (also played by Anne Lombard), his wife and mother of his children is trying to keep things sane.

In the next few weeks we will keep you up to date with all the news you want to know about Wake Not The Dead.

The Rock Opera Orchestra

More importantly, we will tell you all about the people who are bringing Wake Not The Dead to life.

(Was that pun a bit better?)

You are most likely receiving this newsletter because you know somebody who are in the Rock Opera Orchestra, or maybe you are in the orchestra yourself. Whichever, in the newsletters over the next weeks we will tell you all about these wonderful people.

In short, the Rock Opera Orchestra is exactly what the name implies. It is the orchestra who will perform our rock opera. The members are:

Michael Shane Brownhill - singer

Tedd Croucamp - singer

Anne Lombard - singer

Gideon Meintjies - drummer

Andre Liebenberg - bass guitar

Nathan Lowe - keyboards

Werner Benade - guitars

Gideon Jones - guitars

When and where?

Ah. This is the important question.

Everybody wants to know when and where they can come and see the Rock Opera Orchestra performing.

Make sure you subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and twitter to make sure you do not miss us.

What we can tell you at this stage is that the Rock Opera Orchestra are rehearsing in all earnest and are almost ready to go out and play. We are also in process of recording a concept album. We are talking weeks - not months.

Make sure you are the first to know when and where we will perform and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



Even more important, please forward this email to your friends, mothers, family and foes. In fact, please forward it to anybody you think might be interested. Ask them - no insist - to join us.

Keep in touch and we promise you a time of fun and love.


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Sunday, 3 November 2013

So, the show is over

And the body hurts.


Protea Stage Production's production of Aladdin and his magic lantern had a very successful run of total 11 shows. After the last show we had the traditional after show party. I got home at three O'clock in the morning and got up again at seven to be back at the hall for the strike. For those who don't know, 'strike' in theatre has nothing to do with no-work-no-pay. It means hard work for no pay. It is when the set is broken down and taken back to the warehouse for storage.

I love offering my skills for theatre. Hard labor is not one of my skills. Unfortunately, it is something that must be done. It does not matter how many hours of sleep we had.

Enough about my pain. We had a great review in the local paper. The reviews from the judges are in. I have a copy of only one of the reviews, and will therefore only talk about this one. I will only comment about the parts where I had a role to play. For the rest, it is sufficient to say that the judge review was great. He loved the show. Now we will wait for Februarry '14 to see if we get any nominations for the annual SANCTA awards. Hold thumbs please!!

Even though I was involved with a lot of areas, let me start to talk about the parts of the review that talks about the music. That is where I played the greatest part (pun intended). Although many of the songs get mentions, it is more in the context of the acting and choreography. Not often that the music get any mention at all, so I will saviour the mentions we did get.

In short, he loved the music, especially, the African songs that opened act 1 and act 2. Woot!

He commented about Storm's performance as Aladdin and offer the opinion that she got the role more for her beautifull singing voice than her acting ability. I agree with him that Storm has a beautifull voice and sings really well in this show. She had some opera training and it paid off. I do not think that her acting abilities lacked at all. I see absolutely no problem with giving some importance to singing abilities when casting roles. I have suffered through many musicals where actors who can not sing two notes got a role because of their superior acting ability (Les Mis, the movie being a good example). Me, being a musician / songwriter myself might be a bit biased.

Shannon's vocal skills in the role of the pink genie also got a deserved mention. In this case her acting ability matched.

Ok, here is the most important part in the whole review. "The band was superb. The musical directors and musicians need a huge pat on the back. Any play with live music is better than a recording and I felt that this particular musical ensemble was definitely an asset." Thank you Mr Judge. I accept and agree with every word.

Later on: "The songs were brilliant choices and ones that the audience enjoyed singing along to." Thank you! The songs were Cameron's choice, and the sing-a-long was co-written by Cam and myself. It had every single audience member on their feet clapping and singing in every single show.

Ok. It is not much out of 5 pages of review, but I am happy with getting any mentions at all!

Once again, congratulations to Cameron for writing and directing this masterpiece.

Next time I will look at the other aspect where I was involved, including the social media marketing campaign.


Friday, 25 October 2013

Making the magic of theatre happen

I am really blessed to have the opportunity to be involved with theatre. The greatest thing about theatre is the people that make theatre happen.
Our current production is very special. I have never before met so many people who are so special. Sometimes I feel like I just do not belong in the precence of these exceptional people. The least I can hope for is that I will be able to learn a little bit from them and just a tiny bit of the genius would rub off.
The show was written and directed by Cameron Lawry. I am honored to be able to say that I worked with Cameron. When he approached Protea with the proposal to stage his show, not everybody believed he could pull it off, but Protea was willing to giving him the chance. Hooray to Protea for being so brave to give such a young man the chance. Cameron not only pulled it off. He pulled it off big time. He did not only show Protea he can do it. He showed the world that he can do it. I am sure that we will see him go on and reach great hights.
It was so great to witness the support that Cam got from his parents. Debby and Neville had to make many sacrifices to support their son over the six months period. I am so glad that it all paid off in the end. The team of Cam, Debby and Neville can really be proud of what they achieved.
Musical theatre is by far the most collaborative form of art that I know of. It is impossible to make the magic happen on your own. You need to be able to make many work together and you need many more to support you to make it happen. When it all comes together the magic of theatre happens.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

What is rock opera?

Wikipedia defines a rock opera as a work of rock music that presents a storyline told over multiple parts, songs or sections in the manner of opera.
The LA rock opera company virtually copies that definition: a work of rock music that presents a dramatic story told over multiple songs in the traditional manner of opera.
The free dictionary defines it as albums of rock music that aspired to the status of art; first appeared in the 1960s. Are we not blessed that we do not have to rely on dictionaries any more!
Here are just some of my observations.
Looking at videos of rock operas online, it becomes clear that the format of rock opera is fairly open ended. Some rock operas have impressive backdrops and sets. Others have none at all. Some rock operas have impressive choreography. Others have none. While many rock operas are close to musical theatre with actors acting and the band hidden in the pit (e.g. Jesus Christ Superstar), in some rock operas, the band forms an intergral part of the show (e.g. Tommy, The wall).
The one common aspect of rock opera is that all the songs together makes up a central theme or story, and usually must be performed in a specific order. There are some rock operas out there where the songs are more closely related to the directors favorites playlist, but I would place those rather in the category of juke box musicals. Most successful rock operas consist of songs written specifically for the show.

Friday, 11 October 2013

The exile, the musical

The Exile is a musical in 2 acts, with book by Edward Swardt and music and lyrics by Eric Swardt. The story starts on freedom day celebrations, ten years after the first democratic election in South Africa, when Tyler, a young man who grew up without a father, learns from his mother that his father went into exile and dedicated his life to the liberation of the country. When Tyler observes how his mother's is friend misbehaves, Tyler decides to search for his father and bring him back.

The exile can be performed by 8 actors. The lead roles are

  • Tyler, a young man looking for his father
  • Melissa, Tyler's friend
  • Pamela, Tyler's mother
  • Hugo, Tyler's father who went into exile

The supporting roles are

  • Anthony, Pamela's friend
  • Cathy, Hugo's friend
  • Neil, Hugo's friend
  • Manual, Hugo's friend

The cast of The exile can further be extended to include extra roles for a young Hugo and a young Pamela. The actors can double roles to perform in the chorus line, or a seperate chorus can include anything from 4 to 10 characters. All roles are for adult actors.

The exile includes a variety of musical styles, with some rock, blues and Broadway influences, as well as love songs. You can listen to the songs recorded for the concept album.

The music can ideally be performed by a 6 piece band with drums, bass, 2 guitars, piano and keyboards, but depending on the available budget, the keyboard parts can be performed by a larger orchestra, including up to 24+ String (Violins, Violas, Celi), 3 winds (Oboe, flute, clarinets) and 4 brass (Trumpets, trombones)