I met Anna and Emily at the London Theatre Bloggers’ event and was drawn into their love for the arts. Since 2010, Anna and Emily created an ever-growing central creative hub for non-professional singers called Starling Arts. Consisting of three choirs (Corvida, Forte and the Starling Singers) along with an annual Summer School in Devon, I knew the Starling Arts were testament to nurturing homegrown talent. Now, I have met people who brag about their successful ventures and enjoy stroking their large egos, but Anna and Emily had this warming, down-to-earth presence. Both were extremely proud of their company, but they expressed their gratitude for their performers, crews and audiences who continue to support them for five whole years. Their kindness was extended to the London Theatre Blogger group and the talented duo encouraged me to join their High Five event.
Like everything I see, I build a mental list of expectations before the show. I have been to a few summer school productions and they tend to make me cringe. I tend to go for moral support for a family member or friend, but even that is a challenge when you witness rival families and friends shouting praise for their child, who struggle to hit the high notes. Being oblivious to what the Starling Arts were capable of, I was excited to see Anna and Emily’s success story visually.
When I arrived at the Queen Mary’s University of London, I was prepared to encounter a battle with the directions. Thankfully, Anna and Emily had provided the audience with photographs of the venue, which narrowed the treasure hunt. As I approached the venue, I was greeted with this sight…
I was totally oblivious to the fact that Anna and Emily were mega superstars and their Starling Arts’ event was a total sell out. The audience had packed out the stalls, forcing me to nest upstairs in the balcony. I began to feel a bit invasive, like I had invaded the Starling Arts’ birthday party without knowing exactly what I was celebrating about. Overhearing many audience members’ praise, I felt guilty that I hadn’t followed their journey from the beginning. Fellow theatre blogger, Marina from Thoughtful Theatre, was equally surprised at the turnout as we flicked through the programme, feeling like naughty schoolgirls who didn’t do their homework.
The Starling Arts’ High Five was a fantastic and impressive musical production, celebrating their fifth birthday in dramatic style. Please forgive my lack of musical knowledge, but the Starling Arts’ spirit was certainly twirling around the Great Hall with powerful harmonies in its wake. Like all concerts, there are particular songs which hold personal value. Therefore, my favourite numbers were: Shake It Out (Florence and the Machine), One Day More (Les Miserables), Shadowland (The Lion King), Wrecking Ball (Miley Cyrus), Don’t Tell Mama (Cabaret) and Be Our Guest (Beauty and the Beast). With the wonderful music mix up from pop culture and theatre, I managed to restrain my voice from ruining the show…..and then Anna and Emily introduced audience participation. Points for those who can depict my tuneful angelic voice!
A little tear jerker of the night was Anna and Emily’s rendition of For Good from Wicked. How they didn’t cry whilst holding hands and gazing into your best friend’s eyes in front of hundreds of people I will never know! Their friendship, entwined with theatrical love, revealed the true beating heart of what has come to be the Starling Arts. Although it may sound incredibly cheesy, these two young women, who were standing before us, were the founders of not only a business, but a community. A community strengthened by a network of people and love for music. The performers had all been given hope and opportunity to showcase their talents for the world to see. I felt incredibly blessed and thankful for the invitation to share an amazing evening with the Starling Arts’ family.
More photos of the event here