Direct style from music maestro

MUSICAL director Graham Albone has sung countless times with the former BBC Choral Society on the last night of the Proms and has directed 50 performances with the Letchworth Arcadians. Graham, 65, of Courtlands Drive, Biggleswade, has recently retired fr

MUSICAL director Graham Albone has sung countless times with the former BBC Choral Society on the last night of the Proms and has directed 50 performances with the Letchworth Arcadians.

Graham, 65, of Courtlands Drive, Biggleswade, has recently retired from his day job as a credit manager, but is still fully immersed in his passion - music.

He said: "I was born into music. My father taught me the violin when I was five and I have played the piano since I was eight. I'm also a church organist."

He added: "I was brought up seeing the Arcadians' shows from when I was quite small. They were crying out for a young lad to play the drums many years ago.


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"From then on I joined the company and began taking lead parts in the shows. When the previous musical director left, they asked me if I would like to have a go and, some 50 shows later, I'm still having a go."

The first show Graham conducted was Fiddler on the Roof in 1975.

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When asked what he liked most about being a musical director, Graham said: "I enjoy being able to pass on what I have learned over the years.

"I enjoy coaching and bringing singers and actors on.

"It's nice to see a show when it's all put together with an orchestra and it's satisfying sitting back and thinking that I made that."

Graham, a former pupil of the old Letchworth Grammar School, admitted that the role he plays can be very demanding.

He said: "The most challenging thing about being a musical director is that half of the company do not read music so I have to do what I call 'note bashing' - which is literally instilling the notes into the company. They have to learn the notes off by heart.

"You start to tear your hair out but after a while it all gels together and it's really rewarding."

Graham also revealed that there have been a number of stars in the making in Letchworth Arcadians.

He said: "We have a junior section in the Arcadians and several of these have gone on to full time work.

"We have one of our old girls who is now in Wicked in London's West End and another of our girls has been in BBC's Casualty for three years. It's a great feeling to see this happen."

When asked which show has been his favourite to direct, Graham said: "I really haven't got a favourite. Every show has got special memories for me. There's something about every show that's got something about it. I would like to have a go at West Side Story though."

Graham's 50th show as musical director for the Arcadians was a sell-out production of Oliver at Stevenage's Gordon Craig Theatre.

The cast and backstage crew presented him with a new conducting baton in an engraved box and a bottle of champagne.

He is now looking forward to his 51st production, when the Arcadians will present South Pacific in April.

Graham also joined the BBC Choral Society (now the BBC Symphony Chorus) around 30 years ago and has sung at the Proms as well as taking part in many television and radio broadcasts.

He said: "I have done many last nights at the Proms and the atmosphere is scintillating.

"You see it on the television but it's a much bigger buzz in the auditorium.

"I have met hundreds of people and I have worked with lots of famous conductors, including Colin Davis."

Graham is also a founder member of the Singing Waiters barber shop group, which was formed more than 25 years ago, and appeared on Hughie Green's Opportunity Knocks.

He said: "We had to apply for an audition and we got through.

"I was musical director for the Potters Bar Musical Company at the time and, the same week we were auditioning for Opportunity Knocks, I was doing Fiddler on the Roof in Potters Bar.

"I had to get a temporary stand-in for the play and it was hectic.

"But it was a great experience."

He added: "We travelled around the country and did lots of gigs for all sorts of things, including Masonic functions."

As part of his passion for music, Graham also gives individual piano tuition and vocal coaching.

He concluded: "It's nice to have a hobby but you have to be careful it doesn't take over.

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