22 March 2019

Happy birthday Geraldine!

Today, the 22nd March 2019, marks Geraldine Connor’s 67th birthday. As always, we’re celebrating her incredible life by sharing people’s thoughts, love and photos of Geraldine, and sending a big shout out up to the sky to show that we are #RememberingGeraldine.

We asked our archive placement student, Millie Clift, to have a dig around the archives to find some information about Geraldine’s life to celebrate today. Millie has put together a great timeline of some important events in Geraldine’s life:

September 1976 – May 1984

Geraldine Connor was the Head of the Music Department in Trinidad’s premier boys’ school, Queen’s Royal College.

1984 – 1987

Geraldine worked as the Education Supervisor at the Brent Black Music Co-operative in London. She tutored black vocal techniques and consolidated her work as a composer.

1988 – 1990

Geraldine went back to Trinidad to work as a consultant to the Minister of Youth, Sport, Culture and Creative Arts.

She was also a major organiser for the fifth Caribbean Festival of the Arts, CARIFESTA V, which took place in Trinidad, 1992.

1990s

Geraldine was the first female musical arranger in the Panorama Steelband competitions. She played for Trintoc Invaders Steelband in Trinidad and Red Stripe Ebony Steelband in Britain.

1990 – 1992

Geraldine was employed as a full-time lecturer in Caribbean Music Studies at the City of Leeds College of Music, where she contributed to the development of a degree course in Multicultural Music.

3 – 9 April 1994

Geraldine was the co-ordinator of Black Arts Week, Leeds. Throughout this week-long programme, she emphasised the thriving community of Black Arts in Yorkshire.

6 – 18 December 1994

Geraldine attended PANAFEST’ 94 Arts Festival & Colloquium. Her connections to carnival were extremely strong throughout her lifetime.

17 – 20 November 1995

Geraldine took part in talks at the AKWAABA: Pan European Women’s Network for Intercultural Action and Exchange. Specifically looking at Diversity, Participation and Equality.

1997

Geraldine devised music for ‘Jar the Floor’ by Cheyrl West, a West Yorkshire Playhouse production.

1998

Geraldine had extensive experience as a radio producer and hosted the BBC Radio Leeds Nightshift programme.

2003

The West Yorkshire Playhouse production of Vodou Nation, co-directed by Geraldine Connor, held some rehearsals in Haiti in order to successfully capture the richness of the Vodou religion in the final performance.

 

20 March 2019

My Work Experience at GCF – Charles

Sixteen year old Charles was given the opportunity to do a week of work experience at GCF. A budding actor, we asked Charles to explore what acting means to him, where he sees his talents taking him in the future, and to research what opportunities there are in Leeds for young actors to gain more experience. Here’s what he came up with…

I’ve always loved watching movies and TV shows, and it gave me a desire to act in front of a camera. Acting is an art, an art of impersonating characters and making them come to life. Actors can build a character in many different ways such in method acting, imitating the character’s habits so that in a movie, they are more realistic and will have a convincing body language. Actors sometimes have to train for a role and have to learn how to play an instrument or do sports for a role. Show business is hard work and a lot of effort but despite that, it’s still an interesting profession that will keep any movie fan like me excited.

To be an actor, I need to focus on gaining as much experience as possible in both categories (screen and stage). I currently study acting in IPM acting school and aim to continue my studying in performing arts in college and apply for a drama-based University. Outside education I need to go to auditions – as many as possible until I’m used to it and can do better next time.

Leeds has many opportunities for 16+ year olds like me who are interested in taking part in acting. Theatres are always holding auditions, there are acting schools that are always open to new people. It’s really simple to find these, all it takes is a few clicks on Google. Theatres like Leeds Playhouse, the Carriageworks Theatre and RJC Dance all have opportunities for young actors to perform. If young students are interested in just doing film acting instead of stage acting, they can go to acting schools like IPM, YAFTA and ActUpNorth.

16 January 2019

What makes a hit musical? The enduring appeal of Miss Saigon

We’re getting close to This is the Hour: A Musical Theatre Workshop on Sunday 27th January at The Dance Studio Leeds. As we’ve been busily preparing for this event in the GCF office, there’s been some debate about what makes a musical like Miss Saigon a ‘hit’. Umi thought that the secret lies in memorable tunes that leave you humming for days. Selina came to the conclusion that it was all about the spectacle, the ‘whole shebang’; the best musicals have the ability to transport us to a completely different world. All this begs the question – is the story really that important at all?

The appetite for a night out in the company of an epic musical with memorable, hummable music shows no sign of abating. Back in 2013, when tickets went on sale for the 25th anniversary revival of Miss Saigon, £4.4m of bookings were taken on one day, a West End box office record.

Miss Saigon is an intriguing case. Looking back to when it first premièred at the Theatre Royal in London’s Drury Lane in 1989, it seems daring to have turned the Vietnam war into a song and dance show barely 15 years after the end of hostilities. But in its broader themes – refugees and orphans of war, the morality and consequences of western intervention, forbidden and doomed love – the production has acquired a topicality that has nothing to do with Vietnam. Maybe the intricacies of story aren’t so important to musicals then, as long as it can appeal to universal themes.

Written by Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil, with lyrics by Boublil and Richard Maltby, Jr., the production benefits from an enduring collection of music that does what great musicals do: a balance of rousing choral numbers (“Morning of the Dragon”, “This is the Hour”, “Miss Saigon”) and haunting and emotive solo numbers (“American Dream”, “Movie in my Mind”).

Miss Saigon really does have the ‘whole shebang’. Audiences will forever be wowed by the life-size helicopter that miraculously descends from the rafters and appears on stage. The powerful, terrorizing machine is a deafening, airborne apocalypse and the show’s most theatrical moment. We’re left to wonder, just how did they do that?!

West End performer, Nigel Wong, who will be leading our workshop, starred in Miss Saigon at the Drury Lane Theatre from 1995-96. He starred as ‘the commissar’ as well as in the ensemble, and also covered the role of the Engineer. When asked what he thought made Miss Saigon a hit, Nigel said that the story WAS important, and that the vital ingredient was a good connection between the story and the music. He also said that, as a performer, it was crucial that a role could be adapted to the actor; there must be a flexibility to allow both the performer and role to shine through.

What do you think makes a ‘hit’ musical? The debate rages on in the GCF office. In the meantime, why not join Nigel for This is the Hour: A Musical Theatre Workshop. The workshop will give attendees an insight into how a musical comes together, the different genres within musical theatre, and the skills require to be a musical theatre performer.

Please note: this workshop is open to all levels, including complete beginners (16 yrs +).

WORKSHOP DETAILS:

WHEN: Sunday 27th January 2019, 11am – 1.30pm.
WHERE: Dance Studio Leeds, Mabgate Mills, Leeds, LS9 7SW.
COST: £25
Click here to book your place. Presented by the Dance Studio Leeds and Geraldine Connor Foundation.

20 December 2018

Documenting the life of Geraldine Connor

Archive placement student, Millie Clift, is doing a brilliant job digging through Geraldine’s archives here at GCF. We asked her to tell us about what she’s uncovered and how she’s been getting on.

When I first started my placement with the Geraldine Connor Foundation I had no prior knowledge of Geraldine’s career, but I was quickly made aware of her outstanding production, Carnival Messiah. The success which it achieved and the support which she and Carnival Messiah had throughout its time amazed me. I had always known that performance, dance and music had an astonishing impact on people, but it wasn’t until I started reading about Geraldine and her life’s work beyond Carnival Messiah that I realised how much one person could do through the arts to inspire others.

Geraldine Connor © Diane Howse

Carnival Messiah has been described as the pinnacle of Geraldine Connor’s career, and this cannot be denied. However, I am trying to look beyond this production, into all the other amazing work which Geraldine did. What I didn’t realise was how much there would be. From academic brilliance, receiving her PhD from the University of Leeds, to being to first female Steelband arranger for the Panorama competitions; from helping to develop a degree course in Multicultural Music at the City of Leeds College of Music to singing on the original recording of ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’; from co-ordinating Yorkshire Black Arts Week in 1994 to becoming a senior lecturer at Bretton Hall, University College of Leeds; not to mention all of her contributions to numerous productions at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and elsewhere, it appears that there is no part of the creative arts which she did not touch.

In order to acknowledge the full range of projects which Geraldine accomplished in her lifetime, I have been visiting several different archives. Particularly, the West Yorkshire Playhouse archive in the Brotherton Special Collections at Leeds University and the George Padmore Institute which is located in Finsbury Park, London. Most of her work on productions is kept within the Brotherton Special Collections, so if you are interested, this is the place to go! The George Padmore Institute is also somewhere which is well worth a visit; founded in 1991 it is a research centre which houses materials relating to the black community of Caribbean, African and Asian descent in Britain and continental Europe (https://www.georgepadmoreinstitute.org/). It is also connected to the New Beacon Books shop, which has specialised in African and Caribbean Literature since 1966.

Photograph taken from https://www.newbeaconbooks.com/

These archives have told me a lot about Geraldine’s life, but I am sure this is only the tip of the iceberg and that there is much more which the Foundation and I can learn. If you have any stories of your time with Geraldine, or information on projects which Geraldine was involved with, I would love to hear from you. Please get in touch at info@gcfoundation.co.uk.

12 November 2018

GCF Scholarship Student wins RSA Award

Congratulations to the wonderful and talented Anna May, who has won the RSA Edward Boyle Prize for her work with the Laidlaw Scholarship. The award recognises how a student has developed on both a professional and personal level.

Anna worked with GCF over a period of two years as part of the Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship (UGRLS). During her time with us, she researched the impact and legacy of Geraldine’s creation ‘Carnival Messiah’, with a particular focus on the production at Harewood House in 2007.

Congratulations again, Anna! All your hard work has been recognised, and we’re so proud of you.

Anna May at the Carnival Messiah the Film premiere, Sept 2017

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