Glittering orchestral careers may await but it’s a fair bet the 34 musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music will never forget the night they spent in a marquee in Spennymoor.
The current and past students of the Manchester-based college crossed the Pennines on Saturday morning, prepared for a day of intense rehearsals for a pro-am production of The Sound of Music to be staged at the Gala Theatre, Durham.
On their arrival they were told there had been a mix-up with hotel bookings so they would have to bed down for the night in a marquee erected in a Spennymoor garden.
The show’s director, barrister and former actor Jonathan Walker-Kane, explained: “We got allocated a week by the theatre which then had to be moved but we’d already booked the accommodation.
“We moved our booking via the internet and for some reason it didn’t work.”
On realising the booking alterations had not been registered by the two hotels in Durham and Chester-le-Street - “through no fault of their own,” stressed Jonathan - steps had to be taken “rather speedily”.
The marquee, which Jonathan owns, was erected in a garden and offered to the musicians.
“One or two of them made their own arrangements but they were all fine about it,” said Jonathan.
“It wasn’t cold and although they didn’t come equipped with sleeping bags we managed to find quite a lot of stuff for them. We were pretty much sorted before they set off on their journey.”
It seems the musicians didn’t have to rough it in every sense of the word. Jonathan said the orchestra and cast managed to consume 70 bottles of Champagne and £1,000-worth of canapes which he had laid on for them.
Now he is appealing for accommodation for the musicians when they return to take up position in the orchestra pit later this month.
Jonathan, who is originally from Spennymoor, has long experience in the theatre.
He went into the profession after school, becoming assistant stage manager at Lincoln Theatre Royal, but then went to Cambridge University where he switched from studying English to law and became a barrister. Professionally he specialises in family law, practising in London and Leeds, but his passion remains the theatre and he has wide experience of directing shows.
Before taking up law he directed for the St Endellion Festival of Music and Drama in Cornwall, which is where the name Endellion Theatre Company - producer of The Sound of Music - comes from.
Jonathan said the show, co-produced with local company Spennymoor Stage & Song, was a £90,000 production in which he had invested heavily himself.
“I could lose £60,000 personally but because I’ve pumped money into it the costumes are being specially made by a designer who was with the Carl Rosa Theatre Company and there’s a modern steel and chrome set designed by Martin John,” he said.
“I also have to pay the orchestra and the lighting designer, Simon Lord, from London.”
Jonathan said colleagues in the legal profession often talked about paying school fees and because he had no children he regarded this as his equivalent.
A cast of 55 performers in The Sound of Music includes three teams of Von Trapp children from across the North East who were chosen from nearly 200 who auditioned.
Maria is to be played by Alison Robertson, an opera singer from Australia, and Captain Von Trapp by Ray Johnson who has previously performed in the West End.
Adding to the international flavour, the Mother Abbess is to be played by a Canadian, Debbie Wilson.
The 34-strong orchestra, said Jonathan, would eclipse any you will find in the West End or on Broadway. “I like to see the show as a mix of professionals and high quality amateurs and it should be quite spectacular.”
There will be evening performances of The Sound of Music at 7.30pm from September 24-28 and 2.30pm matinees on September 25, 26 and 28. Buy tickets from the box office on 03000 266600 or online at www.galadurham.co.uk
Anyone who can accommodate a musician for the duration of the show can contact Jonathan via firstname.lastname@example.org