Hitting all the high notes with various music-based projects

Mark Howley is looking forward to a busy end to 2016 with two major shows.
Mark Howley is looking forward to a busy end to 2016 with two major shows.

The Steve Rudd Column

Q. Hi Mark, how are things, and how has 2016 treated you so far?

The Adult Choir performs its first concert at Sewerby Hall.

The Adult Choir performs its first concert at Sewerby Hall.

A. It’s been an amazing year so far! Our work has grown and grown. It started with a huge youth music event in January, which we project-managed.

It was called “Let’s Rock,” and it was a Youth Rock Concert at the Spa Royal Hall, involving our own ReMarkable Rock Choir and Orchestra, as well as other groups and individuals from across the region. It was great to get such a variety of talented young people coming together and playing some fantastic music – and even better to be booked by the Spa to do it all again next January!

Then we did our seventh full-scale show – “Villains” – with our kids’ theatre group at the Spa Theatre in May, from which we had some great feedback. In April, we launched our first ever adult project – a Rock Choir.

This last project took our breath away, as more than fifty people signed up to be in it.

We enjoyed a successful launch event at Sewerby Hall, and we have more performances coming up.

Q. How long have you been playing piano, and did you enjoy playing it from the off?

A. I’ve been playing for around 25 years. I didn’t really enjoy it that much when I started; my tutor did the ABRSM Syllabus, which is fairly heavy going!

I stopped playing altogether in my teens, only picking it up again in my late teens and early twenties.

That’s when I started to take it seriously… teaching myself and entering myself for exams. Right now, it’s my job and my passion — an extension of who I am.

Q. So tell us a little more about your theatre company, “ReMarkable,” which has long triumphed in inspiring scores of budding actors, actresses, dancers and musicians in Bridlington and surrounding area. Whose idea was it to set up the company?

A. I worked at the Spotlight Theatre (on West Street in Bridlington) as their resident Musical Director for around 10 years. I met Rebecca there when she choreographed a show that I was playing for. Together, with a fine chap called John Douglas, we started a youth group at the theatre: Spotlight Kids. When it came time to leave the Spotlight, I found that the group was the one thing I couldn’t leave behind. After a failed attempt to continue the group at the Spotlight, we decided to go it alone and start our own group.

I remember us texting all the parents, telling them that we were leaving and setting up our own group, in spite of having nowhere to go, and no money to pay for it! We were a little surprised when every single member chose to come with us.

We decided to continue running the group for free, as it had been at the Spotlight, so we instantly had a lot of costs but no income! Luckily, we had sponsors in Lesley and David Jackson, and they made that initial transition possible.

We were also lucky to find kind and generous hosts in the form of St John’s Burlington Methodist Church, who allow us to use their hall for rehearsals.

Q. Do you receive any help from the Arts Council, or are you purely self-funded?

A. Primarily, we’re self-funded, but we’re lucky to receive support for our youth projects, which are often free to the user, or subsidised.

Our main support comes from our Corporate Sponsors, Lesley and David Jackson of Hudson Contract Services.

We also have a small grant from June Mitchell of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, as well as funding from “Music4U” for our Youth Music Projects. However, budgets are tight, so fundraising events, donations and ticket sales all help us to continue doing the work that we do.

Q. So what’s next on the “ReMarkable” front, and does there happen to be any space for any new members at present?

A. A lot of young people would like to join our theatre group, and it’s always had a long waiting-list.

Given that so many of the kids return each show (only rarely do we have someone dropping out from one show to the next) that we don’t have new spaces coming up very often.

However, this year and next, some of our original members are going off to college, university or into work, so we will have spaces coming up.

We do have spaces in other groups we run.

Q. Earlier this year, you set up an Adult Choir, the first of its kind in Bridlington! It must have been immensely gratifying to see people who had hardly ever sung before to increase their confidence to the point that they were performing in public, some for the very first time…

A. It was a fantastic experience – for us as well as them.

The glow of energy at the end of each rehearsal session was fantastic; there was a real sense of joy, which was contagious.

I definitely get the sense that for some of our members it was a journey outside of their comfort-zones, and one they enjoyed.

Q. I hear you’re looking for even more people to join the Adult Choir. Where and when will you be reconvening?

A. We will be starting back in September after our summer-break.

The choir rehearses on Thursdays, between 7:30pm and 8:45 pm, at the Old Parcels Office inside Bridlington Train Station.

Q. Finally, how can people find out more about other “ReMarkable” productions?

A. We have a “youth” show coming up at Bridlington Spa on Friday 4 November.

It’s called “Gothica,” and we’re billing it as “A Rock Opera / Gothic Ballet / Semi-Tragic Comedy!”

We also have a concert booked with our Adult Rock Choir for Friday 16 December at SJB on St John’s Street, Bridlington.

We then have our biggest annual event – “Let’s Rock 2017” – in the Spa Royal Hall on Saturday 21 January.

We have a very busy and active page on Facebook, as well as a mailing list.

For more details, simply ring 07943 276496.

l For more information about Steve Rudd and his writing, visit www.steverudd.co.uk or “Follow” him on Twitter @ruddontheroad