Conducting the Show Boat in Cape Town…

Show Boat conductor Gareth Jones blogs during his recent set of performances in Cape Town, South Africa where the production opened in May…

Gareth Jones near Table Mountain

Gareth Jones near Table Mountain

May 5th
An early alarm – 3.45am – and it’s a long day’s travelling ahead. My itinerary for the day involves the early City Hopper to Amsterdam followed by the ‘biggy’ – an eleven and a half hour flight to Cape Town. Time to catch up on a few films, methinks, including the wonderful ‘Philomena’ with Dame Judi and Steve Coogan.

The flight arrives on schedule and I am met by Cape Town Opera’s Production Manager, Roy Hunter, who drives me to the lovely Rockwell Apartment complex. There I discover that another Welshman , Mr Bryn Terfel, to be exact, who has performed with Only Kids Aloud  in the previous week, has very kindly left me some groceries in my fridge!

May 6th
The first rehearsal day for me, albeit observing and as I walk out of the hotel lobby and the first thing I see is Table Mountain! Wow! It’s a beautifully clear day and this incredible natural phenomenon could not possibly look more breathtakingly imposing.

Roy drives me to Artscape, Cape Town Opera’s rented home and performance venue, and very imposing it is too.  There I meet most of the management team before catching up with the Chorus Master of Cape Town Opera, Albert Horne. Albert has conducted previous runs of Show Boat in Paris and Malmo, and starts this Cape Town run before I take over the baton! I am then introduced to the Show Boat’s Director, Janice Honeyman and finally to the assembled cast and chorus before settling back to watch the final full studio run.

It is at times like this that I feel so privileged to do what I do!! It is a wonderful production, both witty and extremely moving at times. But more than anything I am blown away by the sound of the Chorus and the incredible energy level from the entire company. An exciting first day….

Gareth Jones with Paul Madibeng

Gareth Jones with Paul Madibeng

May 8th
… and so to the first rehearsals on stage. Today sees the rehearsals that musicians hate – the stage and pianos or, rather as Cape Town Opera name them, the placing calls. These are technical rehearsals, when singers wisely don’t sing out and the production team have their chance to check various matters including props, lighting etc. Given my late arrival into the rehearsal process however, it is still very useful for me to see as many rehearsals as possible before being dropped in to proceedings.

May 9th
More of the same, except today I conduct the stage and piano sessions, as Albert has his first rehearsals with the orchestra. Good to finally get a feel for the show in the pit and for the singers to get used to me and my quirks!
May 10th
Afternoon and evening we have the Stage and Orchestra rehearsals – these really are the most valuable rehearsals for the music team, and they run pretty smoothly. The cast and chorus are, by now, well versed with the trickier aspects of the production and by the end of the day the feeling is that everything is running to schedule.

May 12th/13th
Back to work … and today sees the Piano Dress Rehearsal. Albert and I discuss who should conduct what in this final week and it is decided that I will conduct this rehearsal and tomorrow’s first Orchestra Dress Rehearsal.

May 14th
The first slight disappointment of my visit, in so far as today was originally a free day, and I had planned a wine-tasting trip to Stellenbosch. However, an extra technical rehearsal is scheduled at the last minute, which I have to attend. The things we do for our art, eh!!

May 15th/16th
Tonight is the final Full Dress Rehearsal, with a capacity audience. A lively audience endorses what we are all feeling – that the show is in a great shape and we are on to a winner. The opening night further proves this – the production is well received with an immediate and spontaneous standing ovation!

The show is a great success and I sense immediately that the UK audiences will love this hugely entertaining production by this vibrant company!

Show Boat opens it’s UK tour right here in Birmingham from next Wednesday (2 July) until Saturday! For more info click here

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