Welcome to my music and writing - with a little bit of family history, and ever so slight name dropping thrown in for good measure. I'm a singer-songwriter, classically trained guitarist, playwright and poet, based in Barnet, with a passion for music, singing and writing.


Music & Singing

Since I can remember, hardly a day has gone by without singing. These musical genes were passed down to me from my great-grandmother Dora (whom I was very fortunate enough to have known), who was a piano teacher, and my grandfather George, who received training at The Royal Academy of Music, and was a semi-professional singer in the 1940s - with even a fan club! He had a wonderful voice, similar in style and tone to Harry Secombe (and just as good I would say) but unfortunately had to turn down an offer after the war to join the popular George Melachrino Orchestra, due to family and work commitments. (Amazingly, he once told me that he had seen Stan Laurel getting on a train and that he looked "Bloody miserable!")

I have played guitar since I was 7 years old - certain that I was intuitively drawn towards it all those years ago. I started singing and accompanying myself on the guitar, and then soon progressed to studying classical music, when I discovered the beautiful sound that this versatile instrument makes. I spent many happy hours giving recitals at school music festivals and concerts, playing compositions from the likes of Leo Brouwer, Manuel Ponce and Francisco Tarrega, and found that I was able to control my nerves, to enjoy performing in front of an audience.

My early musical influences and appreciation of melody and harmony were shaped by the songs I was listening to from a young age, by Paul Simon, Wings, Dionne Warwick, Barbara Streisand, Neil Sedaka and Neil Diamond - I still remember the album covers. In my childhood, on Saturday evenings when there was only one television in the home, and the babysitter was looking after my sister and me, we often watched The Val Doonican Show as she was crazy about him (the charming, entertaining Irish singer, whose show ran for an incredible 21 years on the BBC, fondly remembered for crooning away on a rocking chair in his knitted sweaters - remember that there wasn't much else to do in the late '70s and early '80s!) I'm certain that programme must have played its part in my love of 'variety' and that 'easy listening' singing style - thanks Mrs Sharpe! 

In a nutshell, I truly love singing, playing guitar and entertaining. I feel that it nourishes my soul and I hope that joy comes across to those who are listening. And I get the same buzz today from learning and perfecting new songs, as when I started. My own songs have received an enthusiastic response from audiences as they have catchy, melodic tunes with sincere, heartfelt lyrics - sharing the relaxed style of artists such as Katie Melua and Yael Naim. There are so many talented singer-songwriters out there - the above singers, plus Adele, Gary Barlow, Roy Orbison, Mike Batt, David Essex, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Elvis Costello, Cat Stevens, and the Bee Gees are just some of my inspirational favourites. I feel that if I'm able to produce work anything close to theirs, then I am happy.

 

Writing

I have been writing for just over three decades in one way or another, which has included writing 80 topical, satirical songs and comedy sketches (some co-written), and over 30 contemporary/folk songs, plus poetry, monologues, short plays, and a full length play. Several of my family members enjoy writing - so it definitely runs in the blood. And my great auntie Paula (whom incidentally, was seemingly chatted up by the actor Stewart Granger - before she told him that she was just 16 years old!) trained at RADA, in the same class as Pat Hitchcock (Alfred Hitchcock's daughter), so that's an interesting link, as I have always loved the theatre, 1930s - 1950s films, and appreciate good acting/directing. I particularly enjoy the writing of Victoria Wood, Eric Chappell, Alan Bennett, Ray Galton & Alan Simpson (whom I once passed by in a restaurant - I'm afraid that was the closest I ever got to him, chatting to somebody about Bob Monkhouse strangely enough - see below), Jimmy Perry & David Croft, Neil Simon, Richard Matheson, William Rose, Gene Wilder, Mel Brooks, Mike Leigh, Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, Roy Clarke, David Nobbs, John Sullivan and Gerald Wiley (aka the genius Ronnie Barker.) I'd better stop before I run out of ink. 

I like to write in a naturalistic way, with a sprinkling of humour whenever possible. I hope that people would class me as a sensitive writer, and I tend to add an emotional, sentimental tone to a script – certainly something to entertain and uplift, rather than anything downbeat, which I feel is all too common. As the playwright Sam Bobrick commented, 'My main goal is to entertain, to have people leaving the theatre feeling good. Life is tough enough. Why send an audience home suicidal?' The talented actor/playwright Mikel Murfi has a similar view, 'For the great theatre critics – the ones who think they’re the great theatre thinkers – there’s no place for sentimentality. It has to be full of conflict, full of drama, you have to be at the coalface of something visceral. And I go ‘no, other people go to the theatre too’. You’re entitled to go to the theatre and see something which is utterly uplifting and joyful.' I'm all for that!

My personal songwriting rules are simple - 1) That the most important part of the song is the melody.* 2) That the most important part of the song are the lyrics. 3) No wishy-washy songs allowed! As I'm sure any other writer or artist will explain, there are few things which match the satisfaction of coming up with something which is original - with the added enjoyment of sharing it with others. I always strive to find the best melody to fit the best lyrics that I am able to write at the time. Sometimes the melody arrives first, at other times the lyrics, and if I'm lucky, both together. Occasionally I've been fortunate (in the right zone) and have written songs in 25 minutes - some of my better ones, as they happen organically. Others have taken longer (5 years with a chorus in my mind, before finally writing the song!) Ultimately, I am seeking a publishing deal for other artists to sing my songs and am always keen to find new places to showcase them live.

 

Performance 

I first found my stage feet in my teens, as I was fortunate to join what must have been unique - an  amateur annual topical comedy revue, which honed my writing and performance skills (thoroughly enjoying the challenge of condensing a story into an humorous song or sketch.) In my twenties, I relished singing at venues in a four-part harmony choir, and was also lucky enough to be involved in several large scale musicals at The Bloomsbury Theatre (with West End musical and BBC comedy directors.) From 2004 - 2011 I regularly performed a set of Gershwin, Berlin, Bart, Porter and Rodgers & Hart songs with a piano accompanist and since 2011 I have been singing with my guitar. I would like to tread the boards again some time soon...

 

Experiences

Some exciting and interesting experiences along the way have included auditioning for talent shows such as Stars In Their Eyes (where I reached the final 200) as their youngest ever Bing Crosby, and Opportunity Knocks (when the great Bob Monkhouse was presenting it - which probably shows my age), recording songs at a BBC radio station, rehearsing at Sadler's Wells and the Royal Opera House, working alongside Denis Norden's sister (the entire family were very tall, and no - they didn't all carry clipboards!), receiving a nice reply from Neil Sedaka's assistant (the following day after sending my lyrics to him), standing outside a stage door until midnight on a freezing November evening (which inspired a short comedy script), waiting to give my cd to Katie Melua (I eventually handed a copy to a friend of hers and another to her tour bus - I'm still waiting by the way...), contacting Norma Farnes (Spike Milligan and Eric Sykes's former manager) when I was searching for some impossible to find sheet music of a song Spike had written the words to, posting a copy of a play to one of my childhood comedy heroes, Stanley Baxter - receiving a kind letter on his behalf (a whole 6 months and two days later, when he was aged 92!), and speaking on the phone with comedy legend Barry Cryer (I have written about this on my 'A Little Bit of Writing page.) From my experience of receiving replies from film production and theatre companies, most people seem to be genuinely interested, and offer their advice and best wishes - which is reassuring these days.  

Thanks for stopping by and showing interest. I hope you enjoy what you hear and read. I feel there's much more exciting writing to come during 2021...

And remember, 'It's not over until the thin man stops singing!'

Regards,

Marc

 

 

 

* “There are only 8 notes that you can work with; the difference is in getting them in the right order. Not everybody does, otherwise everyone would be having a successful composing career. The difference is if you’ve got a knack of knowing something… you just know when you hear something that it works… When you write a pop song, you write with melody first.” Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees.


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