Lockdown Lends Chris  A Hand!

Composer Christopher Wood has turned the recent coronavirus lockdown situation to advantage by adding a handful of substantial new works to his oeuvre.

The works – a Cello Sonata, an Elegy for Solo Cello and Strings, a String Quartet No.2 and Walk With Me, a piece for dance band – are reminders that his company, Guest House Opera, not only presents new musical theatre works, but that it also provides provoking new works across a number of other musical genres.

The Elegy is dedicated to ‘The Departed’, Chris commenting on the loss of so many prominent and dedicated people during the first half of 2020: ‘From George Floyd to the many NHS workers who have given their lives so selflessly, in fighting Covid-19. ‘We salute their humanity and their fixation to their duty,’ says Chris. ‘At this time of challenging racial stereotypes long may they live in our hearts.’ The second quartet comes 24 years after the London Mozart Players performed the first quartet at the Fairfield Halls, Croydon. The dance band piece is the latest of several pieces Chris has written and arranged for the Jean Bentley Band, based in south east London and Kent.

22.06.20

 

Chains Tightening!

Guest House Opera has refreshed its website with more new material from the pen of in-house composer, Christopher Wood.

Late last year a group of GHO’s core singers recorded a demo of Prisoners All Are We, from the rock opera Chains! – sung when the whole company join for a rare hymn of togetherness, led by Miller’s omni-present Jailor. See and hear Beth Turner’s video and the other new material on the GHO Music page at www.guesthouseopera.co.uk.

Canadian singer Tonia Szkurhan, currently based in Italy, returned to a studio in Rome to record another demo from Chains! This time she chose the hard-hitting Confused! Filled with anger and despair, it finds her berating her lover Miller, after he had failed to protect her from the wicked wiles and evil ways of Miller’s ‘mentor,’ The Man. Tonia, a great supporter of Chris’s music, was again working with Italian musician and producer Daniele Autore.

Late 2018 also saw Chris complete other material, including a jazz ballad, How strange this affair, the first movement from a new Cello Sonata and The Silent Poet, a piece for chamber orchestra written as the theme for an imaginary film. The composer is now working on a story suitable for the music – an unusual reversal of creative processes!

Tonia Szkurhan Forges Another Link With Chains!

Canadian singer Tonia Szkurhan has again been busy.

Working with GHO, this time recording a demo of the song (Take me on your) Caravan with Italian recording engineer/musician Daniele Brian Autore at his studio in Rome.

The song comes from the musical Chains! and this is the first time it has been recorded with a full orchestral arrangement.

Rome-based Tonia Szkurhan has already recorded several of Chris’s songs and hopes to visit the UK later in the year.

When he isn’t recording Daniele plays and sings with Vanilla Sky, an Italian pop punk band formed in 2002.

Fallen Soldier By Maggie Cooper Goes Live On YouTube

A video version of Sutton-based soprano Maggie Cooper’s song Close his Eyes, written for her by Christopher Wood last year, has gone public on YouTube.

The song is an addition to his A Great War Oratorio, premiered by the Carshalton Choral Society in November 2015.

Set on a World War One battlefield, Maggie Cooper implores a soldier to close the eyes of a comrade just fallen in battle, while musing on the horrors of war and death.

‘Close his eyes is a great piece to perform and works well as a stand-alone piece,’ says Maggie.

‘It is hard to imagine the atrocities of trench warfare and I find this piece very sensitive and moving.

The text and vocal line are satisfying to sing and it has been a great process to work with the composer; there is quite a lot of detail in the score and Chris was specific about the sound and phrasing he envisaged.’

Chris added: ‘Maggie is always a joy to work with and has the technique to deliver the most demanding of vocal lines. It has also been a privilege to work with Beth Turner on the making of the video.

This talented young filmmaker has produced a powerful piece to remind us of the futility of war and we will be working with her again.’

Guest House Opera extends its thanks to the Vicar of Christ Church, Sutton the Rev Phil Brookes for his co-operation in making this film.

Maggie Cooper has also recorded a revised version of My son Jack, another song from the oratorio, complete with the contribution made by the Carshalton Choral Society. Hear sound samples on the GHO Music page and on SoundCloud.

Production Team Plan For Chains!

Author/composer of Chains! Chris Wood feels he has taken the show as far as he can go with it, on his own.

He now wants to bring together a core professional production team – experienced individuals who, after reading the script and listening to the music of chains, a fusion between classical and rock opera, will feel a genuine commitment to taking the work forward.

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guest house opera - mcooperIn return, the composer is offering them an open-ended profit-share from any/all professional staged productions.

In the first instance the show needs: a stage director, a music director, a choreographer and a crowd fund raiser to prepare a production campaign to bring the show to the stage.

Alternatively, a producer or production company is invited to consider the whole project, with a view to appointing his/her own team.

The profit-share still applies. ‘I have built up a solid structure to base the show on,’ says Chris. ‘However, I have too much material and it needs a clear, detached approach to editing it and making it West End friendly.’ All enquiries to Chris Wood at Guest House Opera.

War Oratorio Challenges Britten

The Carshalton Choral Society premiered Chris Wood’s A Great War Oratorio on 21 November 2015, at All Saints Church, Carshalton.

Locally-based Maggie Cooper took the solo soprano role and the orchestra comprised both professional musicians and young players from the Sutton Music Service.

All were under the baton of CCS conductor Philip Collin. Chris’s music was interspersed with readings and poetry chosen by Will Harris and a historical narrative written by Dick Bower.

The music drew critical acclaim, Rector Dr John Thewlis describing it as ‘most moving’ and ‘better than the Britten,’ making reference to the latter’s War Requiem.

Tonia’s Italian Job Was Song’s Premiere At Il Cantagiro

Canadian singer Tonia Szkurhan has sung a second song penned by Chris Wood on camera at the Il Cantagiro television song contest in Italy.

After the great reaction to her performance as a competitor last year, Tonia was invited to return as a guest singer, this time alongside Italian singing star Tony Santagata.

Tonia chose to sing Chris’s Give me some love, premiering the song just days after she had visited London to do a demo recording of it.

‘I felt that the song could have been written for me and I was really happy with my performance and my interpretation,’ she said.

‘I got a great response from the audience and from one or two producers as well.’

Tonia last sang with GHO in 2012 and is eagerly awaiting the chance to sing with the group again, next year.

New Look GHO Gives Imagine Festival Concert

New look GHO gives Imagine Festival concert

Guest House Opera debuted four singers new to its ranks when a septet of vocalists step out to sing Songs from the Cycle of Life at All Saints Church, by Carshalton Ponds, on Saturday 1 November.

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The new faces are local soprano Maggie Cooper, Reigate mezzo Carolyn Burnley, Ewell baritone Spiro Fernando and north London-based tenor Rhys Bowden.

They join GHO favourites Akiko Enomoto (mezzo), tenor Paddy Cockshutt and bass-baritone Timothy Tomkins, singing Songs from the Cycle of Life, solo and in various-sized ensembles and in a number of music styles from classical to contemporary music theatre; the accompanist was Jo Cockshutt.

Guest House Opera, liaising with the Sutton Music Festival for the first time, also gave two outstanding young instrumentalists from last year’s festival – cellist Joe Mackley and saxophonist Daniel Brandon – an added local platform, early in their career.

Tonia’s Cruising To Vocal Success In Italy

Canadian soprano Tonia Szkurhan sang in the national finals of Italian television song contest Il Cantagiro in October, singing Chris Wood’s song, The things you never said, emerging with glowing critical praise and several offers of work.

‘I did not win in the end,’ Tonia said, ‘but I sang my best and would not change a thing with my performance.

Everyone loved the song and thought it was beautiful and stunning!  I got tons of positive feedback from the judges.

They all told me I had a beautiful voice and that when I sing I allow them to dream. I was also told that I do not act enough when I sing – but I do find the Italians to be particularly expressive!

They told me that my voice is like a Ferrari and I am only driving it at 100km per hour and I need to be driving it at 220 km per hour – so from now on, I am taking the top down and driving on the highway! I have been booked to do a two hour radio show so I am super excited about that!

Sea Music Premiered In Packed Church Venue

Guest House Opera’s vocal quartet gave a polished premiere performance of Chris Wood’s five Sea Songs at All Saints Church, Carshalton, on 5 October as part of the 2013 Imagine Festival of the Arts, funded by Sutton Council.

A packed church also enjoyed a performance of Shadow Ships by Play of Light Theatre and more sea songs – this time three songs from Lieutenant Cockatoo, a cycle by Phyllis Tate, sung by ten and 11 year old children from nearby Stanley Park Junior School.

Chris also premiered a recorded version of Sea Changes, a descriptive piece of orchestral ballet music, and Waiting, a cool jazz instrumental, to which dancer Sharon Coe was choreographed by Malti Patel of Croydon-based Apsaras Arts. Chris is pictured with Karin Andrews Jashapara, artistic Director of Play of Light Theatre.