Blog No. 7: Paul Laidlaw

Hi! I’m Paul Laidlaw and I’m the Musical Director, Pianist and Presenter with the Legendary Scarborough Spa Orchestra. This is my sixth season so one or two of the tunes we play are becoming vaguely familiar.

I’ll carry on from where Rick left off last week. After the morning concert on Friday [nice to see some people dancing while others just sat back and enjoyed the music] I drove back to my home in York ready to rehearse with the York Musical Theatre Company on Saturday night. They would be singing with us at our Rodgers and Hammerstein Gala on Thursday and I’d written some new vocal arrangements to fit with our orchestral versions of five of the R&H wonderful scores. They were very enthusiastic and were really looking forward to being with us on Thursday. More on that later.

Back to Scarborough for the morning concert on Monday. Clockwork fairies were wound up, sails billowed, Sousa paraded and Mike fiddled for a living. With the sound of Noel Coward singing in our ears we set off for the major event of the season which was our annual visit to our good friends Helen and Malcolm Booth for what is always a wonderful lunch. I think Mark’s face in this picture says how amazing the food was.

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Melon and sorbet with raspberries to start then a gorgeous chicken dish. And if that wasn’t enough there were three sweets, numerous cheeses and a bottomless coffee pot. It only seemed polite to try a little of each of the puds and, as a result, it was a satiated orchestra that made its way back to the Spa for the evening concert.

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Well maybe just a small piece!

A splendid time was guaranteed for all, as four lads from Liverpool used to say.

A lively performance of Pineapple Poll launched us into Melodies For You and other delights that evening included Bells Across The Meadow with campanology from Michael, a sumptuous Jack Byfield arrangement of I Know Of Two Bright Eyes from the trio and lovely Novello melodies from Perchance To Dream.

Tuesday morning began with my daily meeting with Stephen and Judith Walker, our fantastic librarians. We meet every day at 9am to talk through any last minute changes that might have to be made to programming, discuss up-coming Galas, guest artists etc. and generally try to keep one step ahead. Progamming nine concerts every week for fifteen weeks plus Peaholm Park events, Teddy Bears Picnics and so on is a daunting task and I cannot say how grateful I am to Stephen and Judith for their invaluable help and support.

Then it was time for a rehearsal with Mark who was to play Spanish Flea that evening with Steve, Michael, Rick and myself. This was new to us so we spent some time working on the arrangement. On to the morning concert where men flew on trapezes, lovers came back to us and we tried to spread a little happiness. Special mention to Rick for his great rendition of Kid Ory’s Creole Trombone.

After the concert Di and I rehearsed her solo for the evening and then I spent the rest of the afternoon checking and marking up the band parts for the Rodgers and Hammerstein Gala. We use the basic selections from the shows for this but there are extra songs to fit in, different repeats to allow for more verses of songs and some new orchestrations of songs which we don’t normally play but wanted to include so anything that can be done in advance to make things clearer saves precious time at the rehearsal.

Then it was time to go back to the Spa for our Classical Favourites concert. Apart from playing a slightly more ‘serious’ programme Tuesday evenings give us the chance to hear solos from members of the orchestra which is always a delight. Mark’s number proved to be very popular as did those from Di [fast and spectacular – the piece, not Di!], Chloe [lovely Mozart on the bassoon] and Mike [gentle and poignant – the piece, not Mike!]

Wednesday morning saw us back in the Sun Court for Music in the Air. A lovely mixed bag including The Cycling Chimp with apologies to Steve who’d come off his bike earlier in the week and was sporting a spectacular but strangely attractive graze on his cheek, Drummer’s Birthday with Michael hitting his entire collection of toys, Venus On Earth with extravagant choreography from the band and a spritely London Bridge March to close.

I spent the afternoon with a long phone call with the production management of the panto I’m doing this year and then another, even longer one with the producers of a Christmas Concert with the Northern Sinfonia at the Sage Concert Hall in Gateshead.

Summer Serenade that evening was a lovely mixture of things. Orpheus In The Underworld, In A Chinese Temple Garden by Albert W Ketelbey [Hooray!]. The Girls From Corsica and the Friedmann Slavonic Rhapsody No 2.

After the concert Stephen and Judith and I went to Tuscany Two for our weekly treat of an Italian meal. Originally this was our reward for an evening meeting during which we did most of the programming, but since our change to four consecutive nights of performances we don’t have an evening meeting and do the programming through the day. Somehow it seemed sensible to continue having the meal even though we hadn’t had the meeting. This involves a bit of a dash up the hill to get there before last orders (although we phone the order in before the concert) but they always make us very welcome and I can heartily recommend the place to anyone who enjoys good food. And no, they’re not paying me to advertise them!

Thursday morning was, as always, requests day. I have to say that the programmes that result from the audiences’ requests have been really good this year. Although there are the inevitable repetitions (The Merry Widow seems to pop in for a visit on a regular basis) we do seem to end up with a good variety of styles and content. Di was asked to play the Romance from The Gadfly so the rest of the orchestra decided to sit in the audience and listen leaving Di and I in solo splendour. It felt a bit lonely!


Mass Exodus!

After the morning concert I had a quick meeting with the marketing department and then checked that everything was set up properly in the Grand Hall for the evening. Graham, in his capacity as orchestra stage manager, had supervised the building of the extra rostra for the choir and music stands and chairs were in place for the soloists. I checked with the sound technician that all was well with the additional microphones to capture the choir (they were positioned quite far back and would need some extra enhancement) and then had a quick cup of tea before the 2pm rehearsal.

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Making sure they can be heard!

The rehearsal, although long and arduous, went very well. Both Maria Bovino and Owen Webb were in very good voice and, after some fiddling with fold-back so that we could all hear each other properly, we stormed through and were finished by 4.55pm – a whole five minutes early!

I had a cup of tea with some members of York Musical Theatre Company and before we knew it we were ready to start the concert. There was a very gratifying turnout of audience – one of the biggest of the season which would suggest that Rodgers and Hammerstein can still work their magic. Stephen’s narration was witty and informative, the soloists and choir sang like a dream and, of course, the orchestra was magnificent, justly earning their soubriquet: legendary. Prolonged applause at the end brought the evening to a very satisfactory conclusion.


Ladies of the York Musical Theatre Company

Only one more concert the following morning where members of the audience could trip the light fantastic in the Ocean Room and that was the end of another very busy but very enjoyable week. Only four more weeks of the season left now, which means four more blogs and lots more music! Enjoy!




  1. Paul great to see you doing well? I use to live in the front flat in Micklegate in the early 1980s, a trainee Nurse.. A work colleague mentioned the has friends in the Scarborough company ..

  2. My brother John and I are now remembering our father, Jim Allen, who passed away last Sunday, 8th May. Both he and his wife, Liz visited Scarborough for some decades and lived for the orchestra summer season.
    Thankyou to the orchestra and all the staff at the Spa. It was Mum and Dad’s best tonic.
    God bless.
    Jim and John Allen.

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