Join us for the chance to spend a Sunday afternoon in the company of fellow Sondheimites in Windsor at our annual Garden Party. This July, David and Pat Oldcorn will once again throw open their home and gorgeous Thameside garden for an informal concert and a delicious and copious buffet – with wine! – all in the company of Sondheim Society members.
Members should book via the link emailed in the most recent newsletter. NB, this event is open only to members of The Stephen Sondheim Society, so if you’re not a member, then join us today!
For a taster of what you can expect, read our Chairman Craig Glenday’s review of the last Garden Party. And as ever, cross your fingers that we get great weather!
Sondheim Society members were treated to a glorious afternoon in Windsor at our annual Garden Party, courtesy of David and Pat Oldcorn and recent graduates of the Royal Academy of Music. Craig Glenday reports back on one wonderful day.
For the fourth year in succession, the day of The Stephen Sondheim Society’s annual Garden Party turned out to be a glorious one, despite days of inclement weather on either side and doom-mongering in the morning from the Met Office. As with the three previous years, the company, the music and the food all proved to be delicious.
It was held on 19 July at its usual venue – the lovely Thameside home in Windsor of Society Treasurer David Oldcorn and his wife Pat. In the shadow of the unmissable clock tower, in a garden that stretches down to the river, some 100 members and friends came together from across the country for an afternoon of chat, food, drink and an informal concert from (mostly) students of the post-graduate Musical Theatre course at the Royal Academy of Music. Thanks to the Oldcorns, the garden was replete with jugs of Buck’s Fizz, boxes of wine and an enormous table of food, and for just £20 per member it proved to be an unbeatable afternoon.
It was Melle who kicked things off with a gutsy performance of “The Miller’s Son” (A Little Night Music). This contrasted nicely with her second choice: “Moments In the Woods” (Into the Woods). A graduate of the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts – and a guest star on the TV soap Home & Away and wife of actor/singer Ben Lewis – Melle certainly set the bar high for the rest of the performers.
Next up was someone else known to the Society: Charlotte Vaughan. She was a finalist at this year’s Student Performer of the Year (SSSSPOTY), where she had given her own interpretation of “The Miller’s Son”. This time she opted for two contrasting pieces: “Loving You” (Passion) and “The Glamorous Life” (ALNM). The latter was a particular treat for members, being the less-often-heard version from Hal Prince’s otherwise disappointing movie from 1977. It comes as no surprise to hear that Charlotte is already proving herself a force to be reckoned with in the West End, currently to be seen in The Phantom of the Opera, where she is the first-cover for Carlotta.
Next it was the turn of the boys with Matthew Boyd serving up two numbers cut from Company. The first was one of my favourite Sondheim songs, “Multitude of Amys”, so it was a pleasure to hear it, and the second the reinstated “Marry Me a Little”. Matthew handled both with aplomb, soaring over the sound of the Oldcorns’ fountain despite the rather outdated microphone! Before taking his seat he was joined by Charlotte for another rarity: “With So Little To Be Sure Of” from Anyone Can Whistle.
Duncan Shelton proved to be the surprise hit of the afternoon. Despite his youthfulness, this teenager – a student of Park House School in Newbury – gave a tremendously assured performance of “Anyone Can Whistle” and hinted at the bright future he surely must have ahead of him in musical theatre.
“See What it Gets You” (Whistle) was the first number chosen by Mountview Academy’s Georgia Oldman, who most recently was seen alongside Rosemary Ashe in Crush, the new musical from Maureen Chadwick, writer of Footballers’ Wives and Bad Girls. Georgia showed us all why she was the worthy winner of the Laurence Olivier Bursary 2013. She was followed by Charlie-Jade Jones’ take on “Sunday in the Park with George”, revisiting the character of Dot, a role she had played in workshop with Jeremy Sams at RAM earlier in the year.
Tom Elliot Reade has just finished a month’s run in Romance, Romance at the Landor and was perhaps the strongest singer of the group. He was George to Charlie-Jade’s Dot in the aforementioned workshop and contributed two numbers from that show to end the first half of the concert, starting with a fine version of “Finishing the Hat” before being joined by Charlie-Jade for “Move On”. It was a truly uplifting close to Act 1.
Before the second half started there was time for dessert, the raffle draw and a few words of thanks. David Ovenden, who this year stepped down from the Chairmanship of the Society, received a silver picture frame in thanks for his contribution, while popular members John Lithgow and Herman Pattava were acknowledged for their tireless efforts in promoting the Society and keeping the Archive at Kingston University updated with all the latest programmes, posters and memorabilia.
The second half got under way in style courtesy of Charlie-Jade’s “What More Do I Need?”, another rarely heard number, this time from Saturday Night, while Tom returned with the more well-known “Johanna” from Sweeney Todd. A second song from Sweeney –”Not While I’m Around” – suited Duncan’s voice perfectly, and I can think of no better audition piece should this keen teen ever wish to put himself forward for the role of Tobias.
Georgia took to the mic next to sing a lovely version of “Not a Day Goes By” (Merrily). She was followed by Chris McGuigan, who had sat patiently up until this point without singing a note. Chris will be familiar to some members as Jack in the impressive Into the Woods staged by SEDOS at the Bridewell in 2014, although this particular afternoon he opted for “Now” from ALNM and the wonderful “Ariadne” from the Broadway version of The Frogs – yet another song that’s not heard too often. His is a most rounded talent and definitely worth the wait.
Also heard only in the second half was Karoline Gable. She gave us a delightful version of “Don’t Laugh” (Hot Spot, music by Mary Rodgers) followed by “I Must be Dreaming” from All That Glitters, Sondheim’s 1949 musical project assigned to him by Oscar Hammerstein as part of his songwriting apprenticeship. It’s always a treat to hear a piece of Sondheim that’s new to you, so brava Karoline on both of her choices. Talking of rarities, David had persuaded Mr. Sondheim to send him the score of “Rainbows”, from the un-realised 1995 Jim Henson film version of Into the Woods. This is a beautiful song – done full justice by Chris and Karoline – that needs to be given a more regular airing. (It can be heard on the CD of the recent Broadway revival of Marry Me a Little, available from the Society. Ed.)
The final solo saw Melle return to the stage for a beautiful “Somewhere” (West Side Story) before the company – and the audience – belted out “Sunday”, the traditional closing number for the Garden Party concert. As ever, the members gave it their best shot, although the graduates were thankfully in full voice and papered over the cracks!
So, another successful Sunday and another successful Garden Party concert. What was particularly memorable this year was the presentation of a number of songs that aren’t heard all that often, so I applaud the students and David for curating such an interesting programme. Thank too, of course, to Trevor and Stephen, who gamely provided the piano accompaniment despite the wind’s best efforts to blow the music off their stand. And a big thank you to Pat Oldcorn and her helpers for keeping us all fed and watered (and wined!)
If you’ve never had the joy of attending the Society Garden Party, I urge you to get down to Windsor when the opportunity next arises. It’s a delightful day out and the perfect chance to meet some fellow Sondheimites, whatever the weather.