Learn to Play Day

Round & About


Photo credit: Indigo James

Pick up an instrument and Learn to Play this weekend for free

Feel there’s a budding Eric Clapton or Charlie Watts just trying to get out or maybe you just want to give your guitar or drumming skills an outing? This is the perfect opportunity to give it a go…

Share in the joy of music on Learn to Play Day – actually two days – Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th,  as venues all over the country encourage thousands to pick up and play a musical instrument, whether you’ve never played before or once did as a child this is your chance to have a go for free.

The event has been running for eight years and in that time music shops, teachers, venues and schools have given tens of thousands of free lessons, including 10,000 last year alone.

Learn to Play Day (or two days to be precise) is run by charity Music For All and supported by a host of big names including Jools Holland, patron of the Music For All charity.

“I’m delighted to lend my support to National Learn to Play Day on March 23rd and 24th,” says Jools. “It’s a pleasure to be able to share the joy of music and this special day allows thousands to get involved as venues all over the country offer music lessons for free.”

Jazz star Jamie Cullum is another supporting the event. He says: “National Learn to Play Day gives everyone a chance to play an instrument, even if they’ve never played before. This wonderful day introduces thousands to the magic of music making, and often reunites people with a lost passion for playing. Get involved and perhaps discover a skill you thought you didn’t have.”

Spreading the joy of playing an instrument is the key element of the two days, as Music For All CEO Paul McManus explains: “While we all may have different tastes and preferred genres, there is no doubt that music is something that is universally loved around the world.

“Our Learn to Play Day events are all about spreading the joy of playing and inspiring those of all ages to take up something that will not only have health benefits for the future, but that also brings so many people together.”

Other Music For All ambassadors include Rick Astley, Aled Jones and Gareth Malone and who knows this could be your first foray into following in their footsteps!

Photo credit: Brian Slater

Photo credit: Alan Fletcher

There are various locations where you can begin your musical journey across the region:

Hickies Music Store, Reading 0118 957 5771
Hogan Music, Newbury 01635 37868
PMT Oxford, Cowley Road 01865 725221
Langdale Hall, Market Square, Witney 07904 397603
Archway School, Stroud 01452 330300
ACM, Bridge Street, Guildford 01483 501212
The College of Richard Collyer, Horsham 07470 964369
Westmount Music, Marlow 01628 481510
Unity Centre, Balham 020 8672 8095
Musicroom London, Denmark Street 020 7632 3950
Yamaha Music London, Wardour Street 020 7432 4400
PMT Music, Clerkenwell 020 7253 3283

Broadway beauty: Guys & Dolls

Round & About


The Mill at Sonning’s Christmas musical this year could almost be described as a Fairytale of New York, writes Peter Anderson.

Guys & Dolls is a Frank Loesser musical based on the characters of Damon Runyan who themselves were based on real New Yorkers.

Meet gamblers, petty crooks, nightclub singers, as well as strait-laced missionaries, who will delight and beguile you.

Joseph Pitcher returns once again to the Mill as director, and he tells me he has quite the background for musicals. “I was drawn to theatre from a very young age and gained experience as a performer in local amateur and youth theatre productions,” he says. “At the age of 18 I moved to London to train as a dancer. After graduating I spent several years appearing West End musicals before retraining on a straight acting course at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, which led me to work at the national, the RSC and in several of the UK’s leading regional theatres, including the Mill at Sonning where I now regularly direct.

“Alongside performing I had always directed and choreographed in a ‘let’s do the show right here, right now’ type way.”

I wondered what Joseph’s early memories of seeing plays and musicals were. “I have very clear memories of my mum taking me to an amateur version of Grease when I was about seven or eight. I was mesmerised! But the first West End show I saw was Joseph & the Technicolour Dream Coat at the Palladium. And the first show that had a real impact on me in terms of wanting to become a director one day was Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. It was directed by Matthew Warchus, who many years later was my boss at Matilda!”

So, what can we expect from Guys & Dolls, and does performing in more of an amphitheatre make a difference? Joseph says: “We’re hoping to bring a little bit of Broadway to Sonning! An exciting reimagining of a classic musical, vibrant characterisations by West End performers and beautifully orchestrated arrangements of some wonderful songs.” Each performance space presents different challenges, but along with those challenges come opportunities. I wouldn’t say I really have a preference. Working in the semi-round is great in terms of how immersed the audience are in the action but you have to have a constant eye on making sure everyone feels involved.”

Guys & Dolls has it all – glamour, fun, romance, dazzling dance numbers, stunning costumes and some of the greatest show tunes ever including Luck be a Lady and Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat. For your chance to see the show, which runs until February 23rd, please go to www.millatsonning.com

Class Act

Round & About


Westerberg High is back in class this summer with new songs, new material and new classmates with Heathers the Musical

Produced by Bill Kenwright and Paul Taylor Mills, who produced the award-winning Carrie together in 2015, this musical is one of the most anticipated UK premieres this year, and opens at The Other Palace for a limited run until Saturday, 4th August.

Heathers The Musical is based on the 1988 teen film classic starring Winona Ryder and Christian Slater. The award-winning writing team, Laurence O’Keefe (Legally Blonde, Bat Boy) and Kevin Murphy’s (Reefer Madness, Desperate Housewives), hit musical adaptation has enjoyed successful runs in Los Angeles and New York, and finally arrives in the UK for its European premiere.

Veronica Sawyer is played by Carrie Hope Fletcher who has shown her versatility in stage musicals appearing as Wednesday in The Addams Family, Eponine in Les Miserables and Truly Scrumptious in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The mysterious JD is played by Jamie Muscato, who is making a return to the Other Palace after appearing there as Story Edward in Big Fish and he has also appeared as Joe in Bend it Like Beckham (Phoenix Theatre), Anthony in Sweeney Todd (Welsh National Opera).

The three Heathers are played by Jodie Steele, T’Shan Williams and Sophie Isaacs. This musical takes us to a place where popularity is life and death, but is it harder to be a nobody or a somebody? To find out and make sure you don’t miss the school bell, head to www.theotherpalace.co.uk