Tag Archives: Scottish Performers in Focus

INTERVIEW: Sabrina Carter

Scottish actress Sabrina Carter is currently travelling the globe on the international tour of the smash hit One Man Two Guv’nors. Glasgow Theatre Blog managed to catch up with Sabrina from Sydney to find out about her journey from Scotland to the international stage. 

Can we go back to your beginnings – tell us about your background and what first sparked your interest in theatre?

I came to theatre quite late. It all started properly when I was 16 and my friend wanted someone to go with her to an audition for a show called Once on this Island for Durham Youth Music Theatre. I went along reluctantly, and ended up getting the lead part of Timoune. After that I played many roles including Mary Magdelene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ and Florence in Chess. After this I started to listen to more and more shows and found a great love of theatre.

When did you decide to seriously pursue a theatrical career?

I was about 17 and was looking at university courses to study psychology, and literally two days before I was due to hand in my UCAS forms I decided to change it to study acting at a university. I knew I wanted to do a 3 year course with dissertation at the end, so I applied to many any decided upon Northumbria University at Newcastle.

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Sabrina with Marti Pellow in Jekyll andHyde

You’ve  recently been appearing in One Man Two Guv’nors: what is it like being involved in such a universally lauded production?

It’s fantastic! What an honour to be part of a piece that has such acclaim and lucky to be working for one of the best theatre companies in the world, The National Theatre is something that I’ve dreamed of all my life.

You’ve had a diverse range of roles in your career, which is the role you are most proud of?

That’s a hard question as I try not to take jobs or audition for shows that I’m not going to learn from. I think I’m most proud of The 39 Steps. Most of work up until this point in London had been musicals so to make the leap to plays can be very difficult. I managed it and feel so proud of the people I worked with but more importantly to get to play Pamela, Margaret, and Annabella , three very different roles.

You have played the coveted role of Elphaba in Wicked; tell us about your experience in the show.

Elphaba is undoubtedly one of the hardest female roles to play, not just the level of singing required but the roller coaster of emotions she goes through is massive! I still hold a massive place in my heart for her and of course my ensemble role of Pfanee. I made some amazing friends on that show and worked with some of the best creatives in the world.

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Sabrina as Elphaba

My 1st performance of ‘Elphie’ was mid-show on a Saturday matinee. Alexia was literally being sick in the wings, which I was completely unaware of at the time, and I was doing the ‘Oz Dust ballroom’. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the stage management team stood side of stage, all looking at me and talking to each other. At the end of the dance I ran off to change when I was stopped, whilst the stage manager was chatting into her headset . Then it was like GO, GO, GO!!! A team of about four people hurried me downstairs to the wardrobe village ( undressing me as I was running) . I had sound teams changing my microphones, people changing my tights , people painting me green , it was manic! All the while I was trying to make sure my voice was ready for the marathon ahead. Approximately 8 minutes later I was dressed, micked and stood up stage right to enter with Dianne for ‘Emerald City’ … Then came the dreaded but thrilling ‘Defying Gravity’ …One of the most special and defining moments of my life. The highlight of the whole show was sharing it with the stunning Dianne Pilkington.

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Jennifer Tierney, Sabrina Carter as Pfanee and Dianne Pilkington as Glinda

What advice would you give to someone sitting back at home in Scotland considering training as an actor?

If you need to ask yourself if it’s the right profession, Then it’s not the right business for you! DO IT! Train well, and immerse yourself into every piece of theatre/performance you can. I trained at the Royal Conservatoire previously known as RSAMD. The skills I learned were invaluable.

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Sabrina as Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Oliver!

What’s the best advice that you have received?

“Don’t forget people on the way up, as you’ll see them on the way down”

Tell us what you have been up to recently and what you’ve got planned for 2013 and beyond.

As I write this I’m in Sydney working on the international leg of  One Man, Two Guv’nors, this finishes end of June , then who knows were the wind will take me . I do miss singing so maybe a wee return to musicals – basically whoever will have me!

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Jeckyll and Hyde

A few quick questions…

What’s your favourite play/musical of all time?

Musical – Evita and Wicked (sorry that’s cringe!)
Play – Blithe Spirit

Who most inspires you?

Hard working non stagey actors

Your dream role?

It depends, in a musical – Eva Peron. I’ve just read Magdelena Alberto will be playing opposite my Mr Jekyll, Marti Pellow. She is fabulous, so I’ll look forward to seeing her in the role.

Play – Lady Macbeth

Favourite non-theatrical hobby?

Shopping ha ha (does that count?)

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Finally, describe yourself to us in three words!

Feisty, hardworking, loyal.

Follow Sabrina on Twitter @sabrinacarter29

INTERVIEW: Shona White

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With starring roles in Chess, Wicked, Les Miserables, Shout, Mamma Mia and Rocky Horror, Shona White is one of the most highly acclaimed Scottish stars in Theatreland. Shona generously agreed to answer some questions about her stellar career for Glasgow Theatre Blog. 

Did your interest in performing start at an early age?

Yes I started singing solos at school services and in my village church when I was wee.

At what point did you decide to pursue performing as a career?

I used to get The Stage delivered and it made me want to go to Sylvia Young’s but my parents thankfully wanted me to get a good education in Scotland first. I did my Highers then moved down to London to go to Italia Conti when I was 17.

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Shona as Eponine in Les Miserables

You went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music; what ambitions did you have when you left there, and since you’ve achieved a huge amount in your career, how have they changed?

Well my first ambition was to be in Les Miserables and I actually left RAM early as I got into my dream show towards the end of my training. (I still got my diploma but unfortunately had to sacrifice the cap and gown ceremony as I was touring with the show).

I then had to rethink my ambitions as I had achieved the big one so early on in my career. Things change constantly and different shows come and go so I guess my goals have changed with them along the way. My next show was Merrily We Roll Along at The Donmar Warehouse directed by Michael Grandage, where I rubbed shoulders with Sam Mendes and Stephen Sondheim which I will never forget.There are still plenty of dream roles on my list but after Eponine the next dream role that came along was definitely Elphaba in Wicked which has become one of the most iconic roles in musical theatre.

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Merrily We Roll Along

The roles you’ve been lucky enough to play have been diverse; can you explain how you go about preparing for a role?

The practical side of the preparation is to learn my lines, music and lyrics but I find this needs to come hand in hand with setting the show in rehearsals. It helps to be familiar with the material before I start so I can have a framework to build on but I tend to cement my learning as I’m getting the part into my body physically in the space as well as vocally and mentally.

It is important to research the character and find as much information as possible from the existing material to have a background as a starting point. Relationships to other characters is also important so I can see how my character fits into the story.

With roles that require vocal stamina I try to sing the part into my body as a lot of performing it will become muscle memory and the voice, being a muscle, needs to be trained just like any other muscles in our body. By the same token with a big singing role I also try to rest my voice as much as possible when it is not required so it has time to recover before it’s next workout. Rehearsal periods are tough but necessary to build up stamina and put together all the relevant components.

I also think about what the character looks like physically and sometimes become a bit obsessed by this subconsciously and it can cross over into my everyday life. I was constantly wearing 60’s clothes when I was in Shout, In Mamma Mia I got blonder and blonder and more tanned by the day and wore turquoise obsessively. Thank goodness Wicked didn’t manifest itself in the same way. It might have been a bit hard to explain the green face in Sainsbury’s!

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A glimpse of the turquoise Mamma Mia outfit!

What’s been your favourite role to play so far?

It’s a close call between Elphaba in Wicked and Florence Vassy in Chess.

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As Chess’ Florence Vassy

What’s the moment in your career you’re most proud of?

I think performing the end of Defying Gravity in Wicked the night my Mum and Dad were watching the show and seeing how proud and emotional they were afterwards.

I’ve interviewed many Scottish performers for this series, and something that rather a lot have in common is Wicked; you’ve played the ultimate role in the show, Elphaba; tell us what it’s like playing such an iconic part.

Yes a lot of us Scots have been in Wicked. I love this fact!

What can I say? Elphaba is the most iconic female musical theatre role we’ve seen for years. It was a huge challenge to get my teeth into and an incredible thrill to play. I love the journey she goes on through the show and the music is so powerful. My favourite song to sing was definitely No Good Deed.

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As Elphaba

Craig Revel Horwood’s new production of Chess has been very well received, especially your performance as Florence Vassy; what was it like taking the performance to Toronto? Did the audience reaction differ to the UK?

It was an amazing experience taking the show to Toronto. It’s a fantastic city and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. I hope to to perform there again one day. We were made very welcome by the people there. I don’t think they’d witnessed anything quite like Craig and Sarah’s incredible actor musician interpretation of the show. The arrangements were wonderful and the cast were amazing playing,singing and dancing simultaneously. If I had a pound for the amount of people who thought the music was on a CD I’d be a very rich girl!

Your album I’ll Bring You a Song, is fantastically diverse; tell us how you selected the songs.

It was nigh on impossible as there are so many great songs to be sung. I will just have to keep doing more so I can get through them all! My producers had a big hand in choosing the tracks thank goodness as otherwise I don’t know how I would have narrowed it down. We tried to make it as varied as possible and include a lot of new writing which I am huge fan of as well as songs people would be familiar with. I also really wanted a Scottish song on there too to reflect my roots.

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Part of the series is to give advice to aspiring performers in Scotland; what would you say to someone contemplating a career on stage?

I’d say it is very important to get a solid education first. I am very grateful my parents made me do this. It is a highly competitive industry with a lot of ups and downs so really make sure it is the route for you. If it is your passion and you believe you have a real talent then work hard and follow your dreams…

Is there any production past or present you wish you could have been involved in?

Not that I can think of offhand but I have a list of parts I’d love to play which I won’t bore you with now. I would love to play Ellen in Miss Saigon which is rumoured to be having a revival very soon.

What do you do to relax when you’re not working?

I like to spend time with my nearest and dearest, watch movies and I love cooking. I am a huge Come Dine With Me fan and would love to be on it one day.

Finally, tell us what’s next for Shona White in 2013 and beyond?

I have just recorded a Friday Night is Music Night with the BBC Concert Orchestra singing alongside Hadley Fraser. Available on BBC iplayer here until 12th April.

I have a few projects in the pipeline including solo concerts and a new show involving the other two Shonas in the industry (One Scottish, one Irish so both Celtic).

I am also now a voice-over artist so maybe you’ll hear me randomly on adverts or perhaps singing on the next Brave movie… You never know.

Besides that I am waiting for the next amazing theatrical role I can throw myself into. Watch this space.

For more information on Shona visit www.shonawhite.com

Follow Shona on Twitter @singinghaggis

INTERVIEW: Scotland’s own star of smash hit Jersey Boys talks to Glasgow Theatre Blog

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Scottish actor David McGranaghan recently joined the cast of the West End smash Jersey Boys in the starring role of Nick Massi. David’s impressive  credits include: Colin in Chariots of Fire; Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew; Father Damian in Be Near Me in the Donmar Warehouse/ National Theatre of Scotland production, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Boyfriend and Lady Be Good at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. 

Glasgow Theatre Blog had a chance to talk to David about his path from pupil at the Dance School of Scotland to the West End via the Royal Shakespeare Company and award-winning board game inventing!

Can we go back to the start, tell us about your background and what inspired you to become an actor.

I started off singing in my school’s music department. Through this came concerts and performances, so I almost fell into acting through my love for music. To move into working on scripts after performing lyrics and characters felt like a natural progression.

I see that you were a pupil at the Dance School of Scotland; I have interviewed many actors for this series and a large number are alumni of the school; what do you think it is about the training there that has produced so many top-rank West End performers?

I think that the teachers are very dedicated to their work, and their passion for the arts feeds into their pupils. Also they let us know from the very beginning that everything is down to hard work, so improvements are down to dedication and focus. I think from looking at myself and fellow Dance School students you can still see that in their attitude towards work and the industry.

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You have a very varied CV, from the RSC to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre and much more in between, what have been the highlights up to getting your current role in Jersey Boys?

I have been very lucky to jump around different types of theatre however working at the Donmar Warehouse which was a co-production with The National Theatre of Scotland was a great experience. It was a play called ‘Be Near Me’ which was set in my home turf of Ayrshire, and we premiered in Kilmarnock (40 minutes from my home) before we went down to London. Of course working on four completely different productions for the Royal Shakespeare Companies 50th Anniversary Season was another highlight. Working with phenomenal directors, actors and plays, it was as good as it can get for any young actor.

Before we talk about your starring role in Jersey Boys you are an award-winning entrepreneur, tell us about Game for Fame.

I invented a board game with fellow actor friend Joseph Pitcher (currently on tour with RSC’s Winter’s Tale) and we decided to go into business with it. It is fun family board game that takes the mick out of our celebrity obsessed society. Players must fight for fame and fortune by playing a number of fun games, and just like the real celeb circuit talent has nothing to do with success. While avoiding the Dole Queue or Re-Hab, players must attempt different games like guessing accents or talking with their tongue hanging out of their mouth, all with a very funny outcome (especially if a few glasses of wine are involved). It has been a great success for us both with deals from Tesco as well as a number of small stores and of course online, and we enjoy working on its success alongside our acting. For more information check out www.gameforfame.co.uk

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Let’s talk about your current starring role as Nick Massi in Jersey Boys, tell us a bit about the role of Nick and how you have prepared for it.

Nick is the bass player of the famous Four Seasons group. He is described as the ‘harmony genius’ and his three passions are music, woman and booze…in that order. Since he hates conflict or the arguments that the four guys find themselves in, he is often the quiet member of the group until he gets pushed too far and blows up. For playing Nick I taught myself Bass guitar for a start. Just playing a bass makes you feel very cool, simple and effortless, which is very much like Nick. I also did a lot of research about New Jersey, watched lots of Four Season performances with a fine tooth comb and watched movies based around the area and time of the group. After that the Jersey Boys creative team had so many stories that had been passed down from the band regarding the real Nick Massi that became a massive influence when building the character up.

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Jersey Boys is a phenomenal success in the West End, what is it like to join a show that is as well-established and well-loved as it is?

It’s exciting and intimidating at the same time. Since I was already a fan of the show I couldn’t wait to get the red jacket on and get going, however since it’s so well known you are aware that you are handling something that is precious to a lot of people, and if you mess up you will know about it. Thankfully that cast and creatives have all been great in guiding me during the rehearsal period while still giving me the freedom to explore my own ideas.

What do you think it is about Jersey Boys that makes it so popular with all age groups?

The music is timeless and appeals to all generations I think. I also think good theatre appeals to anyone no matter what age group they belong to. Our older audience members will remember some of the hits when they first came out however younger theatre goers will still surprise themselves with how many hits they know. The script is also based on their true story, and I think that each character and journey can resonate with all of us.

What drives you as a performer?

The excitement of auditioning or working on a role that you have lots of ideas for. Trying those ideas out and learning more about the character and yourself, going back to the drawing board and improving every time (well, hopefully improving). I think that is what drives me, the constant challenge and the never ending learning and discovering.

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 Are there any actors whom you admire or careers you’d like to emulate?

Hugh Jackman. Anyone that can do Oklahoma and Wolverine in one career has to be number one.

What ambitions would you still like to fulfil?

I now develop game shows for some companies off the back of Game For Fame so for one to work right through to commission would be a dream come true. Acting wise I’d love to do some Sondheim, Gabey in On The Town, work at venues such as The Globe and National and one day play MacBeth…not asking much really.

What advice would you give to any aspiring actors back home in Scotland?

Work hard. Put the hours in now and they will pay you back later.

Finally, what words best describe David McGranaghan?

Very good at Maths!

*DAVID AND HIS CO-STARS WILL BE APPEARING TOMORROW EVENING 6TH APRIL AT 7PM ON ANT AND DEC’S SATURDAY NIGHT TAKEAWAY*

Follow David on Twitter @dave_mcg3

Jersey Boys tickets and info at www.jerseyboyslondon.com

INTERVIEW: Amy Lennox

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Scottish actress Amy Lennox has a CV that would be the envy of most. On graduating from Guildford School of Acting Conservatoire In 2007, Amy auditioned in front of Andrew Lloyd Webber to win the role of Liesl in The Sound of Music, making her West End debut alongside Connie Fisher.  She then went on to appear as Margot as part of the original London Cast of Legally Blonde the Musical at the Savoy Theatre. After starring in the world premier concert of the Stiles and Drewe musical Soho Cinders, Amy recreated the character of Velcro in the full stage production of the musical at the Soho Theatre, for her role, Amy gained a Broadway World Awards nomination for Best Actress. Not confining herself to a purely musical career Amy has also starred in a new play directed by Rupert Gould Decade, written to mark the anniversary of 9/11.

Amy is currently touring the UK in Dolly Parton’s new musical, 9 to 5, playing Doralee Rhodes, the role made famous by Parton herself. The production returns to Glasgow for a phenomenal third run in August. Glasgow Theatre Blog had a chance to chat to Amy before she heads back to Scotland in this knock-out show.

You’re currently starring as Doralee in the highly successful tour of 9 to 5 (so successful in Glasgow in fact, that it had to come back for an extra week to meet demand); is it as fun to be in as it is to watch?

It will be our third time back actually! They added another very recently. I’m really excited to be returning again. Glasgow audiences are hands down the best! Yes it’s a lot of fun, myself, Natalie Casey and Jackie Clune immediately hit it off in rehearsals – it would have made the job a lot harder if we hadn’t ! We seem to share the same daft humour I think – people who have seen the show say we have great chemistry together which is so lovely to hear.

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Amy (centre) with co-stars Jackie Clune and Natalie Casey in 9 to 5

When starring in eight shows a week, how do you keep your performance fresh each night?

It’s tricky repeating yourself 8 times a week for a year – it certainly can play mind games with me – but it’s something I’ve come to accept with the territory. I constantly need to remind of myself to be ‘in the moment’ as cheesy as that sounds, because it’s all too easy to go into auto-pilot!

You have a CV that would be the envy of most actors; what’s been your favourite role to play so far?

I’m very grateful to have had a variety of different jobs ranging from musical theatre to straight plays and the odd filming. My main focus is to always keep my career varied. The last thing I would want would be to be shoehorned into one side of the business. For me the best job is usually the one I’m in – it’s wonderful at the time and then I move on to the next thing excited about something new.

Your West End debut was as Liesl in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of The Sound of Music alongside Connie Fisher; did you feel the pressure appearing in such a highly anticipated show?

 Not really – that was probably the easiest job so far! It was a gorgeous part to play but wasn’t too demanding – I loved everything about that show – and Connie was just lovely to work with.

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With Connie Fisher in The Sound of Music

You have history with the show Legally Blonde, playing Margot and understudying Elle in the West End, but what we want to know is, how did it feel playing Elle in front of your home crowd at Her Majesty’s in Aberdeen?

I had the most wonderful time! It was so nice to be in my hometown – it was timed perfectly actually because my parents moved to Edinburgh a few weeks after so it was a nice farewell – and playing that role was amazing – I really love that show and I can’t imagine a better female lead role to play!

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Amy as Margot in Legally Blonde

Tell us about working with Stiles and Drewe on Soho Cinders.

I Love George and Anthony very much – they are the kindest and most talented writers and have given me so many opportunities over the years. We originally did a charity concert version of Soho Cinders a year before for one night only and it went down a storm. So when they asked me if I’d like to do it again at the Soho Theatre I happily accepted. George and ant work so well together and they were really hands on in rehearsals working with our director Jonathan Butterell. They are so supportive and trusting of their actors, they’re beautiful people.

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Tom Milner (Robbie) and Amy Lennox (Velcro) in Soho Cinders

You have played some fantastic roles; are there any more that you have got your eye on?

 Who knows – I would die happy if I got to be in a star trek movie!

What advice would you give to any aspiring actor?

Only do it if you can’t imagine doing anything else.

If you hadn’t become an actor what do you think you would be doing now?

Good question – maybe a casting director or something like that?!

What are your plans for the rest of 2013?

Touring with 9 to 5 until end of August then who knows?! …….

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The cast of 9 to 5

Do you have any message for your fans?

Thank you for supporting me – it’s really touching to see people I recognise in watching the shows. I really appreciate it xxxxxxxxxxx

Finally, what 3 words best describe you?

Loud, bubbly and ambitious

 

INTERVIEW: Scottish soprano Eleanor Dennis talks to Glasgow Theatre Blog

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Born in Aberdeenshire, soprano Eleanor Dennis is a rising star in the opera world, inspiring Fiona Maddocks in The Observer to write: ‘I’m not sure if I can recall  one who so obviously deserves to be a star.’ Recent appearances have included critically acclaimed portrayals of the title role in Rodelinda and Costanza Riccardo Primo (London Handel Festival), Romilda Xerxes (English Touring Opera), Contessa Le nozze di Figaro (British Youth Opera) and Fiordiligi Così fan tutte (RCM).  She has also sung the title role in Francisco António de Almeida’s Ippolito at the Festival de Sablé with the Orquestra Barroca Casa da Música and Laurence Cummings and Lucio Cinna in Mozart’s Lucio Silla at Cadogan Hall with the Classical Opera Company (of which she is an Associate Artist) and Ian Page.  Eleanor also recently made her debut at the English National Opera in a new production of Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress. Glasgow Theatre Blog was delighted to have the chance to ask Eleanor some questions about her career.

Can we start back at your beginnings? Tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to become a classical singer? 

Well, my mother is a professional musician – she is musical director of the Haddo House Choral & Operatic Society based in Aberdeenshire – and my household has always been very musical. I started singing in her junior choirs at the age of three, and soon graduated to being involved in their bigger scale operas as a chorus member. I just loved being a part of these productions – I used to stand in the wings and watch these amazing performers singing so beautifully, and powerfully. I definitely caught the bug then!

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I’m interested to know how your talent was recognised; how does a young girl with a talent for singing take that and turn it into pursuing a career in Opera?

When I turned 15, my mum thought it would be a good idea to have some more serious lessons, so I went to the North-East of Scotland Music School in Aberdeen, and started seeing a wonderful teacher called Raimund Herincx. He soon convinced me to audition for conservatoires in London, with a view to doing an undergraduate degree – I had no idea whether I would gain a place or not, but decided to go for it anyway! My mum and I travelled down to London, I auditioned at the Royal College of Music, and was lucky enough to be offered a place on the spot. I moved to London aged 18, and haven’t looked back since.

Can you tell us a bit about your experience in training? 

I had a brilliant seven years at the RCM in total – four undergraduate years, one year on the Postgraduate course, and two years in the prestigious Opera School there. I began working with an amazing teacher called Eiddwen Harrhy (who I still see regularly), and learning with her gave me the confidence and musicality I needed. I got the opportunity to play some great roles and sing with some incredibly talented people, and basically had a wonderful time.

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The Pilgrim’s Process

You made your professional debut with the ENO in Vaughan Williams’ The Pilgrim’s Progress; how did it feel to be performing in such a beautiful (and vast) venue like The Coliseum?

At first, it was a daunting prospect – but once I got settled in, it was just the best experience. It had always been a dream of mine to perform on that stage, and to get the chance was almost unbelievable!

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As Rodelinda

The work of Handel seems to feature heavily on your CV; is his work a particular favourite or does it especially suit your voice?

I absolutely love singing Handel – the creativity and beauty of tone it encourages really helped me in my development as a singer. Some of the best heroines in opera appear in Handel’s works – Rodelinda, Cleopatra, Alcina – and it’s a real joy taking on a character like those. There’s an exceptional tradition for Handel in this country, and I’m very lucky to have benefitted from that. Conductor Laurence Cummings has been a tremendous support for me here.

Who are your favourite composers or what pieces do you particularly enjoy singing?

Handel! Mozart (especially Cosi fan Tutte, Le Nozze di Figaro, and Don Giovanni), and Britten are my favourite composers – but I love singing French art song and German Lieder too.

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Opera Highlights 2013

You recently completed a national tour with Scottish Opera in their 50th anniversary highlights programme. It was certainly fun to watch, was it as fun touring Scotland spreading the word about opera?

It was a brilliant two months, especially working with such talented people. It was intense, but there was non-stop laughing all the way, and we got the opportunity to see some beautiful places far off the beaten track.

What roles would you love to sing in future?

I would love to have a go at some of Richard Strauss’ prima donnas – the Marschallin, Salome – and Tatyana in Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. Maybe one day!

What advice would you give to any young person thinking of pursuing a career in opera?

If people are encouraging you to pursue a career, listen to the advice, trust in your talent, and go for it. It’s a long process, and often difficult, but when you start reaping the rewards for all your hard work, it is more than worth it.

Finally – and don’t be modest, how would you describe your voice in three words?

Reliable, flexible and fun (sounds like a lonely hearts ad!)

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Find out more about Eleanor at http://www.eleanordennis.com and http://www.askonasholt.co.uk/artists/singers/soprano/eleanor-dennis

Follow on Twitter @elliedennis17

INTERVIEW: Scotland’s leading young tenor Nicky Spence talks to Glasgow Theatre Blog about his stellar career

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Leading Scottish tenor Nicky Spence is an ENO Harwood Artist who trained at the Guildhall School and the National Opera Studio. Following significant success in the British Opera houses including his acclaimed portrayal in the lead role of Brian in Nico Muhly’s Two Boys at the London Coliseum in 2011, he will make his Metropolitan Opera debut in New York in the same production in 2013. Nicky is recognised as one of the UK’s finest young singers and is increasingly in demand internationally. He is an ambassador for Age UK and the Musician’s Benevolent Fund. Glasgow Theatre Blog had the chance to talk to this rising star in a rare break in his hectic schedule.

Can we go back to your beginnings, tell me a bit about your background and what inspired you to become a classical singer?

I used to sing everything from Whitney Houston and Tom Jones to The Mamas and Papas; whatever was in the record collection when I was a kid. Then someone gave me a ticket to see The Magic Flute when I was 15, a neighbour had a spare ticket, I went and a love affair began. From there, my music teacher thought that I had the potential to be more of a classical singer and said that it would be a shame to let my voice go to waste, so I had singing lessons from the age of 16. I applied for the Guildhall School in London, got in, and went to study there when I was 17.

You are currently in rehearsal for The Flying Dutchman with Scottish Opera; tell us about your role and how rehearsals are going?

The rehearsals are going really well – I am literally about to get onto the ship as it were! I’m playing the young Steersman who I suppose is the token young tenor who falls in love – he’s the voice of youth and inexperience, which I often am onstage! The Flying Dutchman is an epic piece, a tale of unrequited love and destiny and I’m looking forward to performing in it.

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What has been your favourite role to play so far in your career?

So far I’d say it was probably Lampwick in The Adventures of Pinocchio with Opera North as I got to be a twelve year old and have fun, it gave me license to be really naughty. I enjoyed Tom Rakewell in The Rake’s Progress because of the dramatic arc I had and Tamino in The Magic Flute with Scottish Opera last year.

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Opera North’s Adventures of Pinocchio

Laura Mitchell as Pamina & Nicky Spence as Tamino in Scottish Opera's The Magic Flute © Ken Dundas

Nicky Spence as Tamino with Laura Mitchell as Pamina in Scottish Opera’s The Magic Flute © Ken Dundas

Which roles do you covet?

I’d love to play Tom Rakewell again and Albert Herring. There are things I need to do before I get too old, too bald or too fat! I’d love to get those under my belt.

You’ve recently released your debut recital recording, As You Like It – Shakespeare Songs; can you tell us a bit more about how you came to choose this particular material to record?

I thought Shakespeare was a great source, like Robert Burns, Shakespeare was a bawdy bard – with twelve suicides in his plays there was plenty of room for melancholy as well, and at our fingertips was about 400 years of song settings to work with. It was a massive field to look into and hopefully I’ve chosen some interesting bits to listen to. It’s also in English, so for my first recital recording it was nice to have that immediacy with my audience.

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You’ve just completed a tour with Scottish Opera to the farthest reaches of Scotland, spreading the word about opera – how was that experience, it looked like you had a great rapport on stage.

We had such fun; it was great, just super. It was also great to see the audience reaction at such close quarters, but it was really hard work travelling to all those remote places. I also think it is really important from the point of view of bringing opera to those who wouldn’t have the chance to see it or to those who don’t know very much about it. It’s especially effective in fulfilling Scottish Opera’s aim of have opera no more than thirty miles from anyone in the country.

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What other highlights do you have coming up this year?

After The Flying Dutchman it’s back down to London to do some work with the ENO, after that I make my debut with Grange Park Opera in Dialogues des Carmélites then it’s off to New Zealand to play Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni then I’m making my debut at The Met in New York with the role of Brian in Nico Muhly’s Two Boys which I created at the ENO. I’m really looking forward to playing him again, especially as he’s so different to myself.

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Finally what composers works would you recommend to encourage people to get into opera?

Tosca is a great one, from the first chord there’s drama and it’s really accessible, La bohème is a great one, Puccini has a way of really manipulating the listener’s heart, it’s a great place to start and Marriage of Figaro is great too.

For more information about Nicky see: www.nickyspence.com

Nicky’s debut recital album As You Like It – Shakespeare Songs is available from http://www.resonusclassics.com/

Listings:

The Flying Dutchman

Steersman

Scottish Opera/Corti

4, 6, 9 April 2013 at The Theatre Royal, Glasgow

13, 16, 19 April 2013 at The Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

www.scottishopera.org.uk

Dialogues des Carmélites

Chevalier de la Force

Grange Park Opera/Barlow

11, 14, 22, 30 June 2013

6, 12 July 2013

Don Giovanni

Don Ottavio

NBR New Zealand Opera

17, 21, 23, 25, 27 August 2013

INTERVIEW: Declan Michael Laird

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At just 19 years old, Declan Michael Laird is forging a remarkable career in Hollywood.  With no acting experience under his belt, he won a full scholarship to the most prestigious acting school in Los Angeles, the Stella Adler Academy of Acting, and in his first full length feature has won the Best Male Actor award in the Write Camera Action! Independent Screening Awards. Glasgow Theatre Blog had  chance to catch up with this rising Scottish star to find out more…

Your story is pretty extraordinary, especially for someone so young, tell us, how did a young boy from Kilmacolm start this incredible journey?

Acting was always something I thought that I could do, but I think when you dont have any connections or family in the industry it can be very hard to get started. Fortunately for me I was presented with an opportunity that led me to doing a workshop program in Los Angeles during summer 2010, whilst there I was coached by an Oscar winner and two-time Golden Globe nominee producer Milton Justice. He advised me that this career was for me and I should immediately start trying to break into in industry whilst back in Scotland. I took his advice which actually turned out to be correct, as I started booking work quickly. Whilst also keeping in contact with Milton and getting his advice on my career, he offered me the chance to return to LA and study at the Stella Adler Academy of Acting on a 100% scholarship, which would secure me the highest bracket of training around and also present me with the chance to break into Hollywood whilst only 18. A decision I have never looked back on.

The Stella Adler Academy can count Robert De Niro, Warren Beatty and Kevin Costner amongst its former pupils. How do you feel following in such illustrious footsteps?

It can be quite daunting when you walk into the lobby of the school and they have all the headshots of the above mentioned on the wall. Even MORE daunting when you are told that Mark Ruffalo will be taking your Technique class in the afternoon (also a Stella Alumni who is also on the board of directors). But I feel that if I have been given the chance to be coached by teachers that have worked with the likes of De Niro and Marlon Brando, then it would be criminal not to cherish and listen to every word spoken in class. I know that most actors of my age would die to be in the position that I find myself.

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Your first professional role was in River City here in Scotland; tell us about your time on the show?

It was great, and my first professional acting job. It really whet my appetite and told me that this is really what I want to do. The cast and crew were all so welcoming. I got some good feedback on my work and it was also my first ever audition. My life kind of took a complete 360 from playing football to working for the BBC, it was kind of crazy but very, very fun!

I recently interviewed fellow River City alumni Allison McKenzie who is currently appearing in Macbeth in the West End with James McAvoy; would you consider pursuing a stage career alongside your film and TV roles?

Just now I only really go out for TV and  film. But my training is 90% stage, so if the role was right then I would most definitely would. I feel that some of the best actors come from a stage background. Who knows what the future has in store…”

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You have already won a Best Male Actor award for your role in the highly acclaimed The Lost Purse, how did that feel?

It was a shock! It is a nice little film where I play a deaf character. I think when people watch it they learn that they should not judge or treat anyone differently. Winning the award was a fantastic feeling, though I wish I had an acceptance speech prepared at the time! But I guess as an actor I did a pretty good job of improv-ing it! What made it even better was that my mum and dad were there to see me get it. They dont get to experience a lot of things that happen with my career as they still live in Scotland.

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You obviously love football, having had a Pro Youth contract with Greenock Morton; do you still manage to fit in some football time in Hollywood?

I do indeed. Ross King is a good friend and been a great help since I have been in LA. He understood that I wanted to play football still at the weekends if I could. He hooked me up with Vinnie Jones team The Hollywood All Stars. They are great guys and the team includes a lot of British actors and ex-football players. It is nice to get a bit of the changing room banter and away from the acting talk for a couple of hours a week.

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You have recently filmed a TV pilot with Guy Norman Bee whilst still training; can you tell us anything about that?

Unfortunately I cant mention the name of the pilot, but it was directed by Guy Norman Bee as you said, he is a veteran director having worked on ER, Criminal Minds, Supernatural and most recently Arrow. Working with him was just fantastic – his knowledge and the way he approaches things as well as the way he works with the younger actors, it was truly and experience I will never forgot. At the end of filming he came up to me and said whatever it takes to make it in this crazy town kid, you got it which put a BIG smile on my face.

You finish your training this year, what do you have planned after you graduate?

Well I study part time now to spread my training for as long as possible. Stella Adler have also given me an open door policy where I can come back and do classes at any time – so that I am never getting rusty. I will just keep plugging away, working hard and auditioning. I know that if I put in the effort then success will come.

What are your long-term goals?

“To just be as good an actor as possible; to play a variety of different roles and challenge myself as much as I can, but most importantly to pay back everyone who has helped me as my career grows, mostly my family.”

Finally, do you have any advice for any would-be actors back home in Scotland? 

Dive in the deep end! Dont be scared! Do what you want to do. Do not let anyone tell you that you cant do something, and if they do then prove them wrong! Oh and work on your American accent now… 🙂

INTERVIEW: Lilly-Jane Young

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Scottish performer Lilly-Jane Young is a star in Europe thanks to her leading role as Wendy in the critically acclaimed production Peter Pan The Never Ending Story. This September Lilly-Jane and the rest of the talented cast will be heading to Scotland for three nights to perform at The Hydro in the stunning show. Glasgow Theatre Blog had a chance to interview Lilly-Jane about her career and her triumphant return to Scotland.

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Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your training.

I was born in Glasgow and grew up in Cumbernauld. I was always a dreamer at school, living in my own little world! When I was fifteen, I was accepted on the Musical Theatre Course at the Dance School of Scotland and that was the beginning of my professional training. We did all our normal school subjects alongside singing, dancing and acting. It was heaven for me. From there I moved to London to further my studies at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts. When I graduated in 2011, I signed with my agent and hoped to take my training into the real world.

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You are currently playing Wendy Darling in Peter Pan the Never Ending Story, how did you come to be involved in this international production?

I was in exactly the right place at the right time! I was playing Fleur de Lys in the Notre Dame de Paris Asia tour. Whilst we were performing in Seoul, the choreographer of the show came to watch us and audition dancers for his new project; Peter Pan the Never Ending Story. As soon as heard about the ideas for the show I knew that it was going to be something very special and I had to be a part of it. Before I knew it, I was back in Europe for the auditions in Antwerp and the rest all just fell into place. I wasn’t sure if they would even consider me for such a huge role given my lack of experience, but thankfully the creative team believed I could do it.

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Tell us all about this new arena production of Peter Pan, What can we expect?

I would say to expect the unexpected. Our show is really exciting and also full of new and innovative technology. It becomes more like a movie on stage. Wind turbines, 3D flying techniques, bungees, digital mapping to name but a few… Also, our music was written and arranged by Matt Dunkley who is a film writer. He has worked on massive blockbusters such as Moulin Rouge, The Black Swan, Love Actually and The Pirates of the Caribbean. The music alone is stunning!

Mix it with the energy from some of the most talented people in the world (we have 20 nationalities in the show) and you are really watching something special.

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The tour has travelled to Belgium and The Netherlands and will tour to France, Germany and Switzerland as well as the UK; what has it been like travelling around Europe, how has the show been received so far?

Travelling Europe is great fun. I love turning up in a new city and seeing what it has to offer. And living in hotels is great because you don’t have to cook! The show has been doing extremely well. The audience reception has been overwhelming. With this being a brand new show, of course you are terrified that people just wont think it is good. But up until now I have heard only that people love it.

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The show will be one of the first to be performed at Glasgow’s newest mega-venue The Hydro; are you excited about coming to Scotland to play in front of a home audience in this spectacular new arena?

All I can say about coming to the Hydro is that it is truly a dream come true and playing this show for a Scottish audience will definitely be the highlight of my life so far.

What do you miss about Scotland when you’re off touring the world?

Everything. I miss my family, my dog, tattie scones and being able to make a good cup of tea.

Are there any home comforts you take with you on the road?

To be honest, I always try to pack as light as I can because the worst part of my job is dragging a heavy suitcase around. But usually my mum will send me a little gift from home just to keep me smiling if I get home sick.

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Finally, tell us why we should all come and see Peter Pan the Never Ending Story?

Everyone should come to see the show because it is just a night of pure magic for children of all ages, and believe me, you have never seen anything like it before!

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Follow Lilly-Jane on Twitter @lillyjaneyoung

More information on the show at http://www.peterpan.is/en/index.html

Peter Pan The Never Ending Story is at The Hydro, Glasgow from 27th to 29th September 2013

Tickets available from http://www.ticketsoup.com/thehydro/PeterPan.aspx

 

INTRODUCING NEW SCOTTISH TALENT: Lauren Daley

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  • One thing Scotland can be truly proud of is the wealth of acting talent at the highest level. One of its newest shining stars is Airdrie’s  Lauren Daley. Lauren is currently training for her BA(Hons) Acting at Motherwell College, and as she approaches graduation and the all-important Agent Showcases in London and Glasgow, I am delighted to announce that she will be writing a column for Glasgow Theatre Blog. Lauren’s column will provide a unique insight into the realities of life as a young performer and the sheer hard work, dedication and effort that it requires. The column will be essential reading for any aspiring acting student or the theatre-lover looking for an insiders view of the profession.

    In anticipation of the first column, I’ll hand over to Lauren to introduce herself:

    “Performance has always been a massive part of my life. I think it all started when I got a microphone stand from Santa when I was about three and I took it upon myself (roping in my big sister) to provide the entertainment over the course of the rest of the festivities, and then all year round.

    My parents have really influenced me as they have always been very fond of the theatre, taking me to plays, pantomimes and musicals all over the world. I remember sitting in the audience at “Grease” when I was very young thinking “I want to be on the stage when I grow up” and this has been my philosophy ever since.

    I was very lucky to have attended a small primary school in Airdrie who loved performing arts and putting on a good show. This only encouraged me further as I joined drama classes and dance classes in my spare time. When I got to high school, my love for the theatre and performing was very much embedded in me and I knew that it was all I wanted to do. I have never been able to picture myself in an office or a 9 to 5 job. At high school, my passion was nurtured by my wonderful drama teacher Daun Ferguson, who taught me for all of my six years at Airdrie Academy from first year right through to Advanced Higher Drama.

    I always knew that when I left school I wanted to apply to drama school but the question was which one? In sixth year I found out about the Acting and Performance course at Motherwell College and I was keen to find out more. I applied and was asked along to audition, and as soon as I walked in on that April morning, I knew that this was where I wanted to train. I started Motherwell College a year after the new building opened, which was probably a big part of my decision making to go there. The classrooms were all custom built with a great studio space kitted out with mirrors, lights and tiered seating. I then discovered the dance studios and knew that this was the place for me. Finding out that Motherwell College run the BA (Hons) Acting course was also a massive plus. Although you need to audition each year to progress through the course, I knew that it was a challenge I had to set myself and luckily was accepted into the course this year straight after my HND.

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    The training I have received at Motherwell is first class. From every day classes, to shows and workshops, the opportunities provided are incredible. I have also been extremely lucky to have been taught by teachers who have trained in Estill voice training. This has been massively beneficial for me as it has really allowed my voice to become an instrument that I can understand and adapt depending on characters I am playing. Estill was something new and extremely different to anything I had done before as it really teaches you how to use your voice safely and effectively, by understanding how the voice works. This knowledge will stand me in good stead for future performances and it has made me much more versatile as an actor. As the degree course at Motherwell is affiliated by Northumbria University, we had the opportunity to perform in Newcastle in November which was absolutely brilliant.

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    I am now looking forward to our Agent Showcase in Glasgow and London in March and also our final production in May. I am excited to get out into the industry despite it being well known as a difficult industry to crack, as this is what I have worked for my whole life.”

    All images courtesy laurendaley.net

    INTERVIEW: Edward Reid

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    Scottish performer Edward Reid first came to national attention with his unique take on some of the world’s most famous nursery rhymes in 2011’s Britain’s Got Talent. However, as with every showbiz story there’s more to it than meets the eye. Glasgow Theatre Blog had the chance to catch up with Edward to find out more…

    Most people only know you from your performance in 2011’s Britain’s Got Talent, but you are a highly accomplished performer; can you tell us about the journey of Edward Reid before that television appearance?

    Well firstly – thank you! I went to Motherwell College and did an HNC in Musical Theatre and from there went onto work in production shows abroad and on cruise ships. It led on from there and I did several plays in Glasgow and was a dancing Carrot on CBeebies. A friend suggested I sing in a pub she used to sing at and I was like “I am not a PUB SINGER”. Then I found out how much you got paid and quickly changed my mind. That’s when I began to develop my own cabaret.

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    What effect did those few minutes on the show have on your life? 

    Oh, that experience has changed me for so many reasons – being on TV has a major impact on people. I am well known know which is great but it was the lead up to that moment when I auditioned and singing on live TV that was most important. I changed as a person. I had to believe in myself which may sound cheesy but all performers need to have that strong sense of self!

    Last year you appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe with your show Living the Dream One Song at a Time; tell us about the show and your Festival experience, and would you do it again?

    I had such an amazing time and learned so much. Mainly that I know how I want to be perceived as a performer and I know what works for my audience. I had a director that tried to mould me into something different, which I was open to, but we both realised I needed to stay true to myself. The Fringe is amazing but very hard work. To be a part of it was flattering but you are in such competition with everyone, though I did meet many wonderful people.

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    The (in)famous Twinkle Twinkle certainly captured the public’s attention but is your own self-titled album more of a reflection of the “real” Edward Reid?

    I love singing ballads but I get instant validation from an audience when I do fun stuff. No one talks when I do up-beat stuff which I like as all eyes are on me  – HA HA! When I sing ballads I worry I’ve lost them so the album was my chance to do what I love.

    Tell us how you selected the songs for the album. 

    The songs are all my favorites and the ones my friends and family suggested I sing. They always know best!

    What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

    To love yourself.

    What advice would you give to any aspiring performer?

    To love yourself – or at least like yourself. Be able to look in the mirror and like what you see. If you have that sorted everything else will fall into place.

    If you could create a fantasy production to star in, what would it be and who would be your fellow cast members?

    It would be a world tour where I go to random places to perform followed by a TV crew! I have so many talented friends that I would have them in the cast.

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    You are very much known for spreading positivity, your website even has its own Be Fabulous section – do you have any words or quotes to inspire your fans?

    As I said – Love Yourself, but also to have big dreams and to feel what it’s like to have those dreams come true everyday. And be kind to everyone and learn to forgive.

    How would you describe yourself in 3 words?

    Positive, happy, fickle.

    Finally, what fabulousness can we expect next from Edward Reid?

    I have a few things in the pipeline so I will be letting the world know not if but when they happen!

    For more information about Edward visit his website at http://www.edwardland.co.uk/

    Follow on Twitter @mredwardreid

    Edward’s self-titled album is available on iTunes

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