Local West End actor returns to star in Norfolk Symphony Orchestra musical murder mystery
PUBLISHED: 17:11 14 November 2017 | UPDATED: 17:14 14 November 2017
West End actor Charlie Hotson is returning to King's Lynn to play the sleuth in The Composer is Dead a musical murder mystery aimed at families by Lemony Snicket set to be performed by Norfolk Symphony Orchestra this weekend.
Who killed the composer? That’s the question at the centre of an unusual musical murder mystery that will be being investigated by West End actor Charlie Hotson who returns to his King’s Lynn roots to the play the inspector and narrator in a special performance from the Norfolk Symphony Orchestra.
Written by Lemony Snicket, famously the creator of A Series of Unfortunate Events, and composed by Nathaniel Stookey, The Composer is Dead is a light-hearted murder mystery that will see Charlie investigate the guilty party amid the NSO players with hilarious results.
Expect fun and games as Charlie narrates the piece which is intended to introduce young audiences to the instruments in the orchestra with amusing characterisations of all sections of the orchestra and their individual temperaments, until the identity of the culprit is finally revealed.
Originally from King’s Lynn, he was in the King’s Lynn Players, DADS and worked at West Acre River Studios, Charlie, whose stage name is Raymond Rose, leads a busy life as an actor; currently splitting his time between stage, television, and writing. He is planning to open his own musical next summer.
The second half of the NSO concert will feature famous film music, including from Star Wars, Schindler’s List, Bridge Over the River Kwai and more.
• Norfolk Symphony Orchestra: The Composer is Dead is at King’s Lynn Corn Exchange on November 19, 3.30pm, £16-£8, 01553 764864, kingslynncornexchange.co.uk
CHARLIE HOTSON — NARRATOR
How did you get involved with the NSO for this concert featuring The Composer is Dead?
I was approached by the NSO through Fiona Marshall who taught me how to sing! It’s fair to say I still croon when I can. I had a chat with the NSO then I begged them for weeks to let me do it. Finally they caved and gave in, just to stop me pestering. Perseverance!
It’s an unusual combination of murder mystery and concert. What does your part involve?
I play the detective who has been called in after the mysterious death of the composer! It’s my job to interview all the instruments and get to the bottom of who’s to blame!
The piece has words by Lemony Snicket and music by Nathaniel Stookey and is designed for children and families. What will they get out of it?
This is live music, combined with live narration and an utterly new twist on the way we watch and listen to classical music. It’s a wonderful experience for families! It is a great, quirky little story which is teamed up with a wonderful score and the NSO! What a super way to be introduced to this medium or discover a totally new way of seeing it.
Lemony Snicket is of course best known for A Series of Unfortunate Events. Will fans of that also like this?
Absolutely! It has the same eccentric and unique feel as those books. It’s also utterly different in its presentation! We don’t watch actors in just one film, and that should relate to writers and composers. If you are a fan of Lemony Snicket you will enjoy this immensely!
Did you know the music to be featured and are you a fan of classical music generally?
I did know this piece yes. It’s something I was aware of when it first came along. It’s exciting to see a writer that you have followed for many years do something fresh and exciting like this. Classical music never ceases to stir the emotions! Pieces like, Hungarian Rhapsody No 2 or The Thieving Magpie will always be on my playlist.
You attended KES and Springwood Schools and were in the King’s Lynn Players, DADS and worked at West Acre Theatre. How did you originally get into performing?
I was no good at sport!
You’ve since gone on to appear in the West End. Tell us about that?
Yes, I have been tucked away in the West End for eight years. From The Wyndhams Theatre, The Novello, The Vaults at Waterloo to The Fortune Theatre. Varying from stand up, cabaret, walk on parts to the lead in a two man show. It’s been a super time and I’m extremely lucky.
Is this the most unusual role you’ve had so far?
As far as roles goes, I have never had the opportunity to perform with a Symphony Orchestra! How could I turn something like that down?! This is a very exciting first!
What are your future plans?
Who knows?! I make it all up as I go along!
PHILIP HESKETH — NSO MUSICAL DIRECTOR
The Composer is Dead is such an unusual piece. Tell us a bit about the history of it?
It is a whodunnit set in an orchestra. Someone has murdered the composer and the Inspector must find out who it was. It was originally created in 2006 by the composer Nathaniel Stookey with narration by Lemony Snicket. The idea behind it, apart from telling an exciting story, is similar to Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, introducing the audience to the instruments of the orchestra. However, in this case it also showcases some of the most famous composers, brilliantly including snippets of their best-known works.
Why has the NSO chosen to perform it?
It’s very important to the NSO and to me that young people have the chance to discover the pleasures and rewards of classical music, which are enormous and available to everyone. Many don’t realise, for instance, that much of the music they hear with films and computer games is “classical”. Popular culture tells them repeatedly that classical music is not for them; that it is “elitist”, “intellectual”, “boring”, “old-fashioned”, “seriously un-cool”. None of this is in any way true and thinking so is a terrible mistake which denies people a whole world of excitement and emotion. The Composer is Dead presents the world of classical music – the players and instruments of the orchestra, the conductor, the great composers – in a way which is thoroughly exciting and engaging to a modern audience and will, I hope, leave them wanting to know and hear more.
Is it a different challenge for you as musical director?
Accompanying another artist, whether an instrumentalist, singer, dancer, or, as in this case, speaker is one of the most fascinating and rewarding challenges that a conductor faces. The particular challenges of working with a narrator lie mainly in timing, coordination and organisation – the speaker has no musical rhythms to follow and must be free to express the text as they feel it at that moment. This will be a new experience for many of the musicians and one which they’re looking forward to very much.
How do the musicians get involved in the narrative?
In his search for the murderer, the Inspector accuses the sections of the orchestra in turn. Each comes up with a convincing alibi which suits their own personality – the violins snooty, the violas disappointed, the trumpets brash and so on. They all have music which expresses this.
The piece was designed to help introduce children to instruments. Is that important given the pressures on music tuition in schools?
The question of music in schools, both instrumental and sung, is a very important one for us all and far too large to consider here. However, I would point out that the communal experience of music has played and continues to play a central part in every society since pre-history bar none. Along with other expressive arts like dance, it is part of what makes us human and allows us to relate to each other.
This is only the third performance in the UK and a Norfolk premiere. Is that a feather in your cap?
I wasn’t aware of this but now I know I’m delighted. I hope that our performance will inspire others to perform this piece and give it the place in the central repertoire that it deserves.
The music is by Nathaniel Stookey. How would you describe it?
The music is completely accessible – dramatic, romantic, thrilling, scary – and often very funny.