Mackintosh Meets Union, Answers 'Virtual' ChargeDate: 20 January 2004
Representatives from the Musicians Union and producer Cameron Mackintosh (pictured) met this afternoon to discuss the downsizing of the Les Miserables orchestra when it transfers in April from the Palace to the Queens Theatre (See Today’s Other News).
The loss of live musicians in favour of technological enhancements has caused concern amongst some members of the union who, according to an article in today’s Evening Standard, were lobbying for a West End strike to halt a further progression towards ‘virtual’ orchestras.
Following the meeting and in response to worries that the move signals any decline in production quality, Mackintosh issued an official statement, the content of which follows below in full.
FROM THE OFFICES OF CAMERON MACKINTOSH:
A constructive meeting was held today between Cameron Mackintosh Limited and the Musicians Union. There is no dispute with the Musicians Union, and we have agreed to assess the options available to us in moving Les Miserables to the Queens Theatre. We agreed to meet again with the MU and we are all hopeful for a positive outcome.
The blending of live musicians and synthesised sounds has been normal practice in West End orchestras for over 20 years, indeed many large-scale current West End hits use less than ten musicians.
Cameron Mackintosh has probably employed more musicians in the West End than any other producer and is always striving to bring audiences the highest quality of sound in his productions, using appropriately sized orchestras.
It has become necessary for Les Miserables to vacate the Palace Theatre because of renovations, and move to the smaller Queens Theatre. The orchestra pit can now only accommodate 10 musicians, and both Cameron’s and show’s composers Alain Boublil and Claude- Michel Schonberg’s ultimate aim is to deliver the best sound possible by using the most up to date music technology combined with live musicians to deliver the same production values that have been enjoyed at the Palace Theatre for the last 19 years.
Claude-Michel Schonberg, composer of Les Miserables added: “In 2004, when the set and lights are directed by computer and not manually like in the past, it seems unthinkable that that we should not be able to use the most up-to-date technology to create the best sound possible. The audience who comes to the show at the Queens should enjoy the same quality as the original production. This is why at theatres in London where the number of musicians is limited by the size of the pit, we want to use the maximum amount of live musicians that can be accommodated, combined with technology to ensure the highest standards.”
The Realtime Music Solution system being discussed is designed to work when used in conjunction with live musicians. The system has been very successfully used on the US national tours of Oklahoma!, Miss Saigon, Oliver!, The Music Man, Titanic and Fosse.