It was a very special moment when we returned to live theatre after the pandemic—first out of doors, then the indoor stage. I’m currently involved in MDing and accompanying touring opera and musical theatre shows, playing for recitals and leading workshops—and some of the projects that evolved from necessity during the Covid lockdown have continued, including
online workshops and videos introducing school students to opera and operetta, and to Shakespeare’s characters.
Those who work in the arts know that they are not just about having a bit of fun (vital though that is). Music, dance, theatre, literature—these are all ways of expressing our humanity, learning to work together, enhancing physical and mental well-being, understanding life. And the amateur and professional arts worlds are meshed together: they cannot survive without each other.
Science and art together make life liveable. It’s a huge relief to get back into rehearsal rooms, theatre spaces—and even the howling gales and downpours of the outdoor performance.
Altogether, now—ready, AND …!
One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is involvement in projects that take music and movement to sectors of the community who might not otherwise have that access. As well as co-leading the ENB’s Dance for Parkinson’s programme, I work with dance artists Roosa Leimu-Brown and Louisa Dalton to deliver music and movement workshops as MuMo Creative. Drawing our respective backgrounds in biology, history and dance, we build our sessions around story, science, and themes tailored specifically to clients’ needs—such as a series of workshops for older people, based on the Museum of Rural Life’s collection, and a series of free homeschooling videos and gentle seated exercises during the Covid-19 pandemic. For more details, see our website.
I’ve joined forces with a number of dance artists to create live music sessions in hospitals and homes around the area, including a project at Witney Community Hospital, visiting the wards and day room to bring some song and dance into the daily routine. Dancer Rhonda Sparrey and I were among 12 practitioners funded by the FLOURISH programme to encourage the use of arts among people with dementia. We led a course of eight Dance for Dementia workshops at the Christchurch Centre in Henley, featuring themes such as A Night At The Theatre and A Day At The Seaside. Here’s a short film about our work, which gives some idea of the extraordinary power of music to revive and reconnect.
In August 2019 I joined a chamber group of musicians at beautiful Snape Maltings in Suffolk (below), where we accompanied Amy Mallett’s opera The Catchpole Chronicles, devised by Co-Lab, a team of experienced outreach artists. The piece was created from workshops with people who have Parkinson’s Disease, and inspired by the story of 19th-century convict Margaret Catchpole. We return to Suffolk in 2022 to record Amy’s wonderful score for Cohere Arts.
It’s been a privilege to work with talented dance practitioner Danielle Teale, creator of the DfP programme, on a variety of projects: leading a weekend of DfP workshops in Glasgow for Scottish Ballet, and an introductory course for DfP teachers at the People Dancing conference in De Montfort University, Leicester; and, along with dancer Sarah Lewis and musician Amy Mallett, participating in devised opera The Catchpole Chronicles in Snape Maltings. The physical and psychological benefits of music, movement and imagination are increasingly recognised by the medical profession, and their effects on our participants in every session are an absolute joy to see.
I’ve written eight novels and many short stories. The most recent novels—Vera Venti, Touched, Birdcage, Hidden Gems and Breakage—are published by Gurning Gnome. Click here for the Facebook page, and here to see my Amazon page—or click on any of the book covers at the foot of the homepage. For more information, including reviews and news of the gnomefest video literary festival, go to the Words menu on my homepage, and select Fiction.
My latest novel , published by Gurning Gnome, is a grand, cinematic tale of love and obsession, and all the magic and deception of the moving pictures. It’s available as paperback or ebook. If you enjoy it—and even if you don’t—please contribute to the Amazon reviews. Writing is a two-way process, and I’d love to hear your side of the conversation.
Here’s some of the feedback received from readers of Gurning Gnome titles:
‘Complex and delightful … Williams once again creates a world entire and convincing’
‘A modern-day fairytale … gently explores the continuum of sanity with sharp humour, novelty and insight’
‘An enjoyable and thought-provoking read.’
‘Loved it. Interesting how dangerous revisiting the past can be.’
‘Heartbreaking. Compelling. Acutely observed. Effortlessly and subtly witty … beautifully and skilfully crafted.’
Singer Rebecca Allison (Martin) has been my musical partner in a bewildering range and number of projects. As Mezzopiano we performed opera, musical theatre, recitals, concerts and shows, including my verse play Smoke & Mirrors, based on the music of one of our favourite composers, Kurt Weill. Becca’s portrayal of twin sisters across four decades—singing in several languages—was a tour de force. She was an inspiration and a very dear friend. Becca died suddenly on 21st March 2016 after contracting sepsis. I’m immensely grateful to have known and worked with this lovely woman, and to have many recorded memories of her beautiful voice.
Here are two tracks of us performing together: Lost, from my new musical Melody; and No-one Is Alone, by Stephen Sondheim, a song with particular meaning for Becca and her family.
The African savannah was re-created in Didcot’s Cornerstone arts centre, at the latest Musical In A Day children’s workshop. Joining me for a day exploring ‘The Lion King’ was dancer Rhonda Sparrey, and together we led fifteen 6- to 9-year-olds through the story, songs, dialogue and movement of the hit musical, even making good use of break-times to draw characters and events for our pop-up gallery. At the end of a busy and creative day our hard-working cast presented a potted version of the musical for their parents. This workshop followed several others in the same series: ‘Discover Annie’, ‘Discover Oliver!’, and ‘Discover Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’.
Pictured are the children’s technicolour illustrations for ‘Joseph’ and some of the home-made masks we used to create the Lion Kingdom.
I’ve also had great fun working with Creation Theatre on their holiday workshop weeks, most recently collaborating with drama leads Eloise Sheffield and Katie Blackwell to devise a piece of musical theatre with a group of 9- to 12-year-olds. At the end of the week they performed ‘Villains’ to an appreciative audience of family and friends, complete with original songs such as ‘Stay at home Wolf’ and the Stepmother Rap.