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Thoughts From the Musical Director of Candide

As part of the worldwide events that are celebrating Leonard Bernstein's centenary, BarricadeArts are teaming up with the Oxford Playhouse to present the composer's operatic masterpiece: 'Candide'. Here musical director Joe Davies talks about his journey into Candide and what his role requires...

‘Candide’ has been a project I have been affiliated with for over a year. First pitched to me by Jonny in Nando’s, of all places, the idea’s ambition and potential instantly struck me as reasons to get involved. I’d wanted to MD a Playhouse show for a long time, so when Jonny gave me the offer it was one that I couldn’t refuse. The role of a Musical Director can vary from production to production; put most simply, however, it is his, her, or their job to oversee the musical side of the show. The aspect of being a Musical Director which I find the most interesting, but also the most difficult, is how varied it is. From working with the cast on the large choral numbers, rehearsing one-on-one with a lead on a solo song, or making sure the band are up to scratch, there really is never a dull moment. Even more complicated is the job of our Assistant Musical Director, Alex, who flips between playing piano for rehearsals, taking the rehearsals which I can’t be there for (usually because I’m in another, simultaneous Candide rehearsal), or rehearsing for his own role of the Governor. The moment when I truly realised that Candide had the musical capacity to be a success was towards the end of the first rehearsal. Having worked through a variety of the harder choral numbers (I thought it would be a good idea to chuck them in at the deep end!), we decided to end with the show’s final number, ‘Make our Garden Grow’. The song is a long, drawn out crescendo to the end, building steadily from a moving love duet between Candide and Cunegonde to a huge, full cast climax. Even though it was only a first rehearsal, the sound that the cast members managed to muster at the end was quite something: people walking by must have wondered what on earth was going on! It was at that moment, though, that I realised that Candide had the potential to be something special: please come in early November to see if it is!

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