'Writers of Note! Limited. That's a weird name,' our bank manager said to us
when we came up with it. 'I don't get it.'
'The idea is,' we said, 'to celebrate the fact that we write words and music
of notable and lasting quality. And the exclamation mark means we have
fabulous fun doing it and this is so evident that our customers will have
just as much fun using our material.'
'Oh, I see,' he lied smoothly. Time has distilled two results from this
a) he no longer works for the bank
b) we've lived up to our name.
The Writers of Note in question have been a creative team since 1991. They
are lyricist/poet/author Sara Ridgley (also known as Crazy Sara, Annie
Leybourne - poetry non-de-plume - and The Madwoman In The Studio. See photo
above. She's the one with no beard, but a clear penchant for dazzling
colours) and musician/composer/arranger/Musical Director/Conductor Gavin
Mole (also known in the West End as Tom Wakeley - stage name - and A Legend
In His Own Lifetime to RADA students, to whom he's Vocal Coach. He often
does have a beard and wears less pink than Sara).
Sara's BA in Arts and Media focussed on depictions of women in musical
theatre and Gavin is to be found at the piano All That Jazz-in' and Razzle
Dazzlin' it on a nightly basis in the West End production of Chicago. They
have a strong pedigree in their chosen field. When they met, Gavin's two
daughter's - now university age - were four and two. A dearth of decent
musical material for that age group irked this musician Dad and he and Sara
set about the task of creating material to inspire, inform and enthuse young
children (and the people helping them learn). Initially, they wrote 11
children's musicals for Warner Bros. These are:
Latterly, they have created three shows for 3 to 5 year olds:
Shepherd Little, a Nativity of Note! about a little shepherd who has
a little trouble with the truth.
The Tale of the Christmas Tree, a Festivity of Note! explaining how
the Christmas Tree got his name.
Helping Humpty Dumpty,
a Nursery Rhyme of Note! revealing the mystery of how Humpty took that
dive off the wall and who provided repairs.
One day during a rehearsal for one of their shows, Sara listened to Gavin
doing a vocal warm-up with the children and encouraged (OK, OK, blatantly
harangued, badgered and nagged) him to get those warm-ups out of his head
and on to the page so they could be shared, published and sold. The result
was a CD,
the Chicken Tikka Collection of Vocal Warm-up Exercises for
Younger Voices. 'Twenty Chicken Tikkas to go!' has a different meaning in
our office. We did consider the option of a free naan bread tucked inside
the envelope, but it's the pickles, isn't it? Ever tried mailing mango
The CD, known as a 'Compact Disc+' (or CD Xtra), contains audio files of 10 giggle-inducing but
technically-sound tongue-twisters and exercises to give the vocal chords a
workout and encourage physical movement (such as several 'getting-faster'
versions of the Grand Old Duke of York, incorporating claps and stamps to
replace words), plus a print-it-as-often-as-you-like file (pdf) of the piano
score if you need it.
The Chicken Tikka is for children aged 5+ (although little Danny Traves was
only four when he sung with us on the recording). It is endorsed by
Stagecoach Theatre Arts who use it at their weekly Dance, Drama and Singing
sessions all over the country. 'It's so easy to use, even Sara can do it,'
Sara heard Gavin tell a singing teacher at a conference. The black eye quite
Before long, adult singers and teachers were demanding a grown-up version,
the Um-pah Collection was born. This is a music theatre based selection
of exercises for age 10+, some fairly challenging, all achievable with
practice and worth conquering for that victorious feeling of 'Yesss! Got
Next came the
Doo-be-doo Pop Collection from the creative mind of our friend
Mike Dixon, West End Musical Director whose involvement with Children in
Need and Pop Idol is evident in the material on the CD. This is also aimed
at age 10+ to adult.
And the future? Further vocal warm-ups are in the pipeline plus more
pre-school material (the next one is a magical tale called Chilly Milly
about a snowman who turns out to a snowgirl). Other works in progress are
original poetry collections for children and adults, monologues and audition
pieces, a spoken voice warm-up in conjunction with RADA, a cantata for young
people called The Sky, musical mayhem with Aesop's Fables, short musical
versions of Bible stories, a woodland character-based musical series for
young children, for starters. No shortage of ideas at Writers of Note! Just
need to live a long time ...