Latest News: (April 2013)

• On Radio 2 today for the second time this month, being interviewed by Jeremy Vine on the lifespan of the voice from infant to the ageing voice. It was part of a great week of voice articles on the show, inc. Connie Fisher & US voice doctor Steven Zeitels. Listen to it here.


• After 6 months in the planning, BBC Radio 2 broadcast me conducting that bastion of live music: Friday Night Is Music Night, in a special programme dedicated to landmark musical theatre from Showboat to Jason Robert Brown, starring Hadley Fraser, Shaun Escoffrey, Shona White, the Royal Academy of Music Musical Theatre Company, and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Jason gave us permission to make the first symphonic arrangements of 5 of his songs. Have fun listening on iplayer here!

• March was a month to remember! Over in Hollywood, Conducting at the Oscars will leave many happy memories. Dame Shirley conquered America on a night where top billing takes on a whole new meaning. Whilst DSB was on stage, I had 50 of LA’s top session musicians playing their hearts out in the iconic Capitol Studios.


... and two weeks later in a very different style, I had immense fun conducting the very talented Kensington Symphony Orchestra at St John’s Smith Square in a programme ranging from Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. (Mar ’13)


• Just got back from Hamburg, where I conducted the
Hamburg Symphony Orchestra with Dame Shirley performing five songs. The term “showstopper” can only be properly understood when 2,000 audience won’t let your performance continue through standing ovation after standing ovation (the last one lasting an astonishing 12 minutes after we’d left the stage!). (Feb ’13)


• An exciting start to the year. I MD’d a workshop of Desmond O’Connor & Kathy Clugston’s hilarious new musical But First This: Radio 4 the Musical with Sam West and Michael Fenton Stevens.
And this week, I’ve been a guest on Suzi Digby’s The Choir for Radio 3, talking about Idiomatic Voice technique for Youth Choirs. (Jan ’13)


• The Diamond Jubilee concert outside
Buckingham Palace was a night to remember, and a huge honour to conduct in. Appropriately, Dame Shirley sang “Diamonds Are Forever”, with me conducting the BBC Concert Orchestra and Mike Stevens’ masterful rhythm section. (Jun ’12)



 

Stuart Barr

  1. Musical Director & Singing Coach for TV, Theatre & Choirs. MD for Dame Shirley Bassey since Nov 2009.


• Channel 4 have broadcast my episode of Hidden Talent, on which I’m the singing mentor. It’s a fascinating programme in which we used scientific testing to find latent aptitude in everything from climbing, language learning, lie detection, freediving through to singing. I tested over 600 people to find who possessed the best musical skills, vocal instrument and emotional brain to train to be an opera singer, but who never knew they could sing. Having found our singer, myself and Joy Mammen then trained Jayson Khun-Dkahr intensively for 5 months to find out how far they could progress. Watch again now on 4oD or read the Independent article. (May ’12)


• Radio 3 repeated the edition of Aled Jones’ The Choir on
(18th March) that we recorded in 2010 dedicated to my work on idiomatic sound with choirs. They skilfully edited down a huge amount of workshop material, and provides a great summary of how to get choirs to change their sound to suit the musical style. (Mar ’12)


• I’ve become Artistic Director of the production company
Roar of the Crowd Ltd. With my very talented business partner Kate Jones, we’ve created a boutique production company to produce live events, and already have some very exciting projects in the pipeline. Watch this space... (Jan ’12)


• The BBC Proms are the world’s greatest classical musical festival, and it’s been a pleasure working on two Prom events this year. Firstly I was vocal coach for the Horrible Histories cast for their highly-successful Prom at the end of July; and I’m about to lead the Proms Sing event prior to the Last Night of the Proms. It’ll be a delightful romp through Rule Britannia!, Jerusalem and creating a “Proms human orchestra” as a warm-up before the great evening itself! (Aug ’11)


• For my fourth Albert Hall performance this season with
Dame Shirley, I conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the climax of the John Barry tribute concert, with John’s two great songs written for DSB: “Goldfinger” and “Diamonds Are Forever”. Nicholas Dodd conducted the rest of the concert, and David Arnold played guitar, in an evening he’d produced to fundraise for a film scholarship at the Royal College of Music. (Jul ’11)


• We’ve just recorded my human orchestra! Earlier this
year, I toured the country with the task of getting 5,000 Orange and T-Mobile call centre employees singing a human orchestra version of “Can You Feel It?”. We’ve now recorded it as a charity single with Gareth Gates on lead vocals. Here’s a sneak preview: (Jun ’11)


• ITV1 broadcast the Classic Brits at which Dame Shirley finished the concert with Goldfinger, with me conducting the excellent London Chamber Orchestra plus our rhythm section. Even after some top acts as diverse as Alison Balsom and the composer/conductor Eric Whittacre, it was amazing to see the house go absolutely wild when Dame Shirley walked on. (May ’11)


• We got there! After months of careful planning, I finally got to conduct the St George’s Day celebration of West End musicals in Trafalgar
Square on April 23rd, with some outstanding performances from Alfie Boe, Lara Pulver, Matt Rawle, Annalene Beechey and Tam Mutu, plus chorus from the Royal Academy of Music Students and an orchestra of some of the West End’s finest musicians. Innumerable youtube clips are already up! I had great fun designing a programme that was both an unashamedly populist celebration of the best of English musicals, but also included some lesser-known gems and new writing. To see my choice of songs, click here. (April ’11)


• Dame Shirley gave another stunning performance at the Albert Hall, which I was very honoured to conduct with the London Symphony Orchestra for Gorbachev’s 80th birthday gala. See the youtube footage on the right. (Mar ’11)




• I gave a singing workshop for the employees of
the London Olympics Committee from Sebastian Coe downwards at their teambuilding day. It was such a thrill to conduct the olympic anthem “One Moment in Time” with 1,200 people! We then stretched them by superimposing 17 songs about London in a mash-up section in the middle (a mere 80 per part!). And to push them further, I’d asked Dr Paul Whittaker, the country’s leading expert in sign-language singing to get us all signing at the same time! (Jan ’11)


• After 6 months collaborating with Dr Jenevora Williams, my e-book Inside the Voice for Sing Up, has been published! To read it, please click here. To see me narrating a video of inside my own larynx, see the youtube clip to the right. (Jan ’11)BBC Radio 3 broadcast the category finals of
Choir of the Year that I judged alongside Mary King and Eugene Skeef in Birmingham Symphony Hall. You can hear the choirs and our comments here: Aled Jones’ The Choir 14/11/10 and Aled Jones’ The Choir 21/11/10 (Nov ’11)


• October was another exciting month, as I had the honour to conduct two more performances for Dame Shirley Bassey, including with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall for the Beatles’ Philharmonic concert.(Oct ’10)


• The Sondheim 80th Birthday Prom at the Royal
Albert Hall in the presence of the great composer was a huge success! I was Chorus Master for the BBC Performing Arts Fund Chorus: a choir we created from 80 aspiring musical theatre performers who  were awarded BBC bursaries to study at top drama colleges. (Aug ’10)


  1. I’ve just finished my year as President of the British Voice Association. It’s been the most extraordinary year of leading the organisation that brings together 600 of the country’s top singing teachers, larynx surgeons, speech therapists and voice researchers. The climax was the 3-day international voice conference Choice for Voice, in which I presented papers on both “Is It Possible To Teach the X-Factor?” and “Idiomatic Choral Sound”. (Jul ’10)


• BBC Radio 3 have just broadcast an edition
of Aled Jones’ The Choir all about the work I’ve been doing with choirs to get them to change their sound to suit the music. To hear the programme, click here. (Jun ’10)


Just got back from conducting at New York’s Carnegie Hall with Dame Shirley singing Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever and Big Spender at the Rainforest Foundation’s 21st Birthday Gala. As a delightfully silly closer to the first half, Big Spender became a trio, with the addition of Sting and Sir Elton John! (May ’10)


  1. In May it was the annual return of the Fingask Follies, the revue that tours Scottish Castles and where opera, musical theatre, comedy, tragedy, farce and poetry collide; it’s my 9th year as Musical Supervisor.  (May ‘10)


  1. I was artistic director and
    conductor for the celebration of Music Hall at London’s St George’s Day Celebrations in Trafalgar Square on April 24th. The square was packed for the capital’s celebration of our patron saint, and it was a great way to highlight both London’s great Music Hall heritage, and also Music Education. (Apr ‘10)
  2. Musical Director & Singing Coach

  3. After our run at the National Theatre in October, the veteran classic actor John Standing and I opened our Noël Coward cabaret at the Carlyle Cafe in New York for two weeks. See here for our New York Times review. (Mar ‘10)


  1. Deputising for the king of MDs, Mike Dixon (busy with Zorro and Miss World) I got to work with the most iconic voice of our generation, Dame Shirley Bassey, both as pianist and conductor. Firstly in the run up to her Electric Proms concert, and now four TV shows: the Royal Albert Hall Rocks gig for Children in Need, Strictly Come Dancing, and the Graham Norton and Paul O’Grady Shows, promoting her new album Performance. It’s been absolutely awe-inspiring to work with someone whose 52 year-career is based upon an unparalleled dedication to her craft. The new album (Performance) is an amazing collection of songs written for her by the new generation of writers. (Dec ‘09)


• Other recent projects have included coaching the BBC Symphony Chorus on their Albert Hall performance of the new Monty Python oratorio Not the Messiah, He’s A Very Naughty Boy (to be broadcast on R3 on New Year’s Eve); and MD for Marti Webb’s appearance on Radio 2’s Great British Songbook on Don Black (http://www.bbc.co.uk/electricproms/2009/radio2/). Finally, John Standing and I played a week at the National Theatre, with our Noel Coward cabaret. (Oct ‘09)


• I gave a workshop at the annual convention of the Association of British Choral Directors’ on idiomatic choral sound and how the advances in voice science can empower choral conductors. Please go to my choral workshop page if you would like a masterclass for your choir on how to find the voice to fit the repertoire. I can also provide 1-2-1 training for choral directors either in person or by videoconference (Skype or iChat). (Sept ‘09)


• We’ve finished the 3rd year of the
BBC Performing Arts’ Fund “Training in Musical Theatre Bursary Scheme”, for which I judge and mentor the students. I was fortunate to have as my co-judges three of the biggest West End casting directors: David Grindrod, Trevor Jackson and Pippa Ailion. We saw over 160 musical theatre students in 4 days and awarded £150k in bursaries to 36 musical theatre students, funded through text and telephone voting on the Maria, Joseph and Oliver TV entertainment shows. Click here to see me giving advice to this year’s entries. (Aug ‘09)


• I took over as President of the British Voice Association in July. The BVA is a unique organisation that unites 600 of the country’s top Voice Surgeons, Singing Teachers and Speech Therapists, and is dedicated to furthering research and good teaching of the human voice. (Jul ‘09)



For archived news, click here.

 
 

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I lead a double life as a conductor and singing coach, working in the West End and TV, with solo artistes and choirs, and at the Royal Academy of Music. Together with my wife Sarah and daughters Izzy and Zara, I live in Stockwell, South London.

    Sarah runs Al Fresco Feasts, an event catering company. Nigella eat your heart out.

    Izzy runs around. Zara just enjoys eating.

Singing Coach

Musical Director