Local musicians to dazzle behind the scenes as they get set to provide music for Matilda

July 25, 2019   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

The performances of Matilda this weekend are supported by two musicians, Nicolas Mustapha and Hayden Thomas. 

For the last two years, Theatre Orangeville’s Musical Young Company has performed Les Miserables and the Secret Garden, accompanied primarily on piano by Nicolas Mustapha.

“I knew there was music for two pianos,” said Nicolas. “I had the scores.”

So, it happened this way, as the two had only met before in passing at the Home Schooling Group, to which both their families belong. They had not heard each other play.

Hayden began by explaining, “The last concert I did in May, that was when I met Pam [Demetriou]. It was Pam’s studio recital. Nicolas teaches for Pam’s studio -”

Nicolas interjected, “She has teachers for voice, piano, ukulele, guitar and trumpet -”

Continuing, Hayden said, “After the recital, I asked Pam if she was looking for someone. She said yes.”

Nicolas concluded, “I came in for a lesson with Nancy [Sicsic, Music Director of Westminster United Church] and I saw Hayden with her so, I knew he must be good.”

The upshot was that Nicolas suggested Harden play the other piano, Pam said yes, handing the score to Hayden and saying, “See you Tuesday.”

Here is how they have figured it: Nicolas plays Score #1, which is the piano accompaniment for the singers. Hayden is working with the other score, which enriches the music overall. 

“Interestingly, we swap about – sometimes one of us says, I just don’t feel like playing a particular part.”

This conversation took place last week, keep in mind. There has been plenty of rehearsal since then.

At the time, Hayden commented, “Even today I had never played the songs at the end.”

The structure of the music in the show is quite varied and at some points, quite difficult, read interesting, for these two. 

Nicolas began the explanation: “In the show, there is a returning story of Miss Honey and Ms. Trunchbull. Matilda tells the story four times. The music accompanies the story telling – it’s the most difficult, the most technically difficult.”

Hayden contributed, “There are points of very little singing accompanying at certain times; moment of music that coincides with speaking.”

A learning curve is a great thing: “The beauty about the accompanying is that sometimes the music continues beyond the score – what does vamp mean? It means keep going…”

Nicolas praised the young actor playing the title role as “phenomenally focussed. So much depends on the kids. The days are a challenge from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m, singing harmonies. What we ask of the children is completely and utterly hard.”

In fact, the point of Young Company’s month-long production from raw beginnings to polished performance, is to give the youthful thespians a truly professional experience. They are obliged to audition and go the distance to production, just as it is in professional theatre. One of two results come from this: they go home, declaring they’ll never do anything else or they move on to other careers but become devoted theatre goers because they have learned how to appreciate live theatre at its very depth.

He continued his portrait of the music: “Some of the music is meant for children to sing; some of it is for adults.”

As for Matilda, “On top of four big songs and lots of lines, she has blocking and staging to remember.”

He added, “Hayden and I are completely different when it comes to playing the piano. Sometimes, I like to ad lib and sometimes the music actually says ‘ad lib.’”

This comes from Nicolas’ other life as a jazz musician, indulging in the great jazz art of improvisation, or “on the spot composing”, as Frank Adriano puts it…

“This score is very modern as there’s jazz in it.”

From Hayden, “I’m a classical pianist. I play exactly what’s on the paper. This is really weird for me.”

Still, Nicolas maintains, “We complement each other in a great way. I get really excited when I hear Hayden playing because I know where it’s coming from.”

From Hayden, “The other significant difference is in the way play – I perform [along with the playing]. I told him his slides are too robotic. I move around a lot when I’m playing.

“He plays with his fingers; I play with my wrists – that’s why I don’t get tired.”

Nicolas agreed: “When it comes to playing on the whole, that’s the best way to play.”

Nicolas has 275 pages of music to Hayden’s 200, “there are no lyrics on mine – I don’t have it all memorized.”

Going into the theatre itself brings other dimensions to the playing because they can’t see everything on the stage.

Nicolas commented, “In the theatre , we can’t see too much.”

Hayden noted, “This is nothing like anything I’ve ever done.” 

He celebrated his 16th birthday at rehearsal two weeks ago.

“We tease each other non-stop,” they admitted. 

Said Nicolas, now in his third year of Young Company productions: “I can kind-of foresee – young vocalists speed up or slow down. Directing is shared three ways between us and Pam. You have to learn to follow, communication.”

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