CLB interviews GRB!
Ahead of CLB's exciting new collaboration with GRB Concerts, we sat down with its founders Graham Bickley and Richard Balcombe...
Richard, Graham, what is the story behind GRB Concerts – how did it come about?
“Richard and I have worked together sporadically on the concert platform since the mid 90’s. Far too often, Richard and the singers would have to solve various musical mismatches in the short 3 hour rehearsal before that evening’s performance. It might have been a key part missing, or song in a different key than had been agreed, and more often than not simply very old and tired orchestrations that musicians understandably couldn’t get excited about. After one such concert, Richard and I exclaimed that we should do it ourselves, thereby guaranteeing the quality of the product. This coincided with an idea I had about a symphonic programme of Bacharach music, and it kick-started what is to date a thrilling journey for us both." – Graham Bickley
You both have such multi-faceted careers, what are your techniques for juggling the various different aspects of your work?
“Unfortunately I’m usually the one who ends up being double booked. Although I can do all the preparations for our concerts (planning, orchestration etc.) when it comes to the actual concert dates I have had to miss out on some through already being contracted to a series of concerts, such as a run of opera performances or my annual tour with Anton du Beke. Fortunately, thanks to laptop computers I can take my orchestration with me so I’ll often be found between a rehearsal and concert in the dressing room or the hotel putting the finishing touches to an orchestration that bears no relation to the programme I’m performing that night!” – Richard Balcombe
“It’s somewhat different for us both. For me, having spent many years playing 8 shows a week, I had decided I no longer had the desire to continue on that route. Adding to that, what Richard and I had developed now provided me with the excitement and enthusiasm I no longer experienced in the West End. I still occasionally play theatre, but my primary interest is GRB Concerts, and somehow, I have managed to be available for every concert we have done thus far.” – GB
From the outset your concerts have been a wonderful success, what do you think makes the programmes unique?
“I think that there are two specific things that make us stand out. Firstly our programmes have a different angle – rather than being a straightforward presentation of West End or Broadway songs (which kind of concert has been around for years) we have constructed themed programmes that include repertoire not so regularly performed such as Bacharach, Sixties, and French. In addition, a big feature for most of our programmes is that the singers provide backing vocals for each other so there is an extra performance element. For the orchestras, the package we offer is I believe appealing. Once they have booked us we provide everything apart from in house specifics such as lighting and sound. I send all the music to the library so there is nothing to source there; we rehearse the cast prior to the concert so that the presentation is prepared and slick; the concert is narrated so there is no need for anything on that front. Finally the fact we enjoy the programmes so much transfers through the orchestra to the audience.” – RB
Can you give us a sneaky peak into any exciting new projects to come?
“Due to the success of the 60’s programme, we are looking at a 70’s programme in the next 18 months or so. Again it will orchestrally led, and I think we might have a great deal of fun once it’s up and running. We are playing our Sinatra/Garland programme for the first time next year in Europe, so hopefully that will appear in the UK soon after. And we are in discussion with a major international orchestra about creating a concert programme for their centenary in the next couple of years or so. And there’s always the scope for another 60’s programme if asked for!” – GB