There are a number of composers in the world of musical theatre who are dominant in the industry, and while these well-known names tend to have the monopoly on the shows which make their home in the West End, I’ve always believed there is room for new and unknown writers too. The problem of course is that they are new and unknown.
Getting the original work of an unfamiliar name from page to stage is a daunting task, but it all begins with making those songs heard. There are platforms for new writing out there, but one of the most effective methods is the staging of a showcase concert/cabaret and it is one which many aspiring musical theatre writers are turning to with ever-greater frequency.
The transatlantic composing team of Anderson & Petty held a concert at St. James Studio last weekend to celebrate the release of their debut album, You Are Home. They have steadily gained recognition within the theatre world through such events as these, helped by the various singers from the West End stage who have performed their work, and they are not the only ones to have done so.
St. James Studio is set to play host to another talented and highly promising composer this weekend, as the music of Steven Luke Walker comes to its stage. On Sunday 23rd March 2014, the ‘Voice Whisperer’ will be joined by some of the biggest and best that the West End has to offer as they unite to sing his material in the concert event, Stars of the West End Sing the Songs of Steven Luke Walker.
Steven Luke Walker is already well-known to students of the Guildford School of Acting (GSA) as the Head of Singing at the leading performing arts school. He is also a vocal coach who has worked with numerous stage performers, including an array of ‘West End royalty’. In addition to both of these things though, he is a musical theatre composer, and one who is held in high esteem by those who are advocates of new writing.
The following of new writing has always been a particular passion of mine and I have seen the work of a wide variety of composers, some of which have made steadfast supporters out of me while others…not so much. The work of Steven Luke Walker formed one of my earliest experiences though and I’ve believed him to be one of the most promising composing talents since that first concert at the Charing Cross Theatre. The original Stars of the West End Sing the Songs of Steven Luke Walker concert was housed there in March 2011 and showcased a selection of his songs taken from concept musicals which had been inspired by various novels and films. The sold-out event featured such West End stars as Samantha Barks, Scott Garnham, Gina Beck, Hadley Fraser and the Strallen Sisters, among many more, and the audience were treated to performances of both hauntingly beautiful ballads and foot-stompingly upbeat numbers which paid homage to novels like The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and films like The Young Victoria and Brokeback Mountain. Anyone would be hard-pressed to pick the best of the bunch out of the fruitful offering of that night, but there were some of his compositions which particularly resonated with me, including ‘Justice Be Done’ from The Willow Tree, ‘Ruler of My Own’ from The Young Victoria and ‘Up There’ from Brokeback Mountain. Another highlight of the night came from his musical Little Women which has since gained new life as it is set to be performed by the students of the GSA this year, starting with two performances at the Ivy Arts Centre this month (26th and 28th March) before transferring to the Union Theatre for a 2-week run.
The concert at St. James Studio this Sunday offers existing and new fans the chance to sample even more of his work, which will be displayed in stripped-back, acoustic performances by an outstanding line-up of West End stars. Steven Luke Walker will be joined onstage by Alice Fearn, Rob Houchen, Rebecca Lock, Scott Garnham, Jordan Lee Davies, Ellie Kirk, Anna McGarahan, Elissa Clare Morgan, Martin Dickinson and Alastair Barron, as well as the GSA/Union Theatre cast of Little Women. The event is presented by ILIADebuts (in association with create entertainment) who have staged previous successful events featuring original work by such new composers as Jonathan Reid Gealt, Kooman and Dimond and were behind last week’s Anderson & Petty album celebration concert. They also worked at the St. James Studio with Steven Luke Walker back in September 2013, when they produced the Transatlantic concert there which featured his songs alongside those of fellow composers Jonathan Reid Gealt and Craig Adams.
Steven Luke Walker is making great strides in the industry as his name becomes ever-more recognised, thanks to the outpouring of musical gold he creates and contributes in the name of musical theatre. His historical fairytale Blaze, for example, gained a 5-star rating and was named critic’s choice in Time Out Magazine following its debut in 2008, and he has also written a range of musicals specifically for theatre schools and children. For those interested in new writing, Steven Luke Walker is a name to become acquainted with as he perfectly represents the next generation of composers who have what it takes to assert their own dominance among the current giants of the West End. Stars of the West End Sing the Songs of Steven Luke Walker is just a taste of what this talented composer has to offer the world of musical theatre.
You can follow Steven on Twitter: @VoiceWhisperer
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 20th March 2014