George English’s setup for The Wizard of Oz at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England.
“I’ve been lucky enough to spend a couple of months playing the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) version of The Wizard of Oz at the prestigious Crucible Theatre here in the UK. Originally done in the 80's at the RSC, this version was restaged and the orchestrations were reduced from the original size down to 11 players:
Conductor/Keys - Only triggered harp glisses and the odd extra layer
Reeds 1 Piccolo/Flute/Clarinet/Alto Sax
Reeds 2 Flute/Clarinet/Tenor Sax
Reeds 3 Clarinet/Bass Clarinet/Bari Sax
The reduction in the orchestration was done by our Musical Director Toby Higgins, a former percussion player, and so from the outset I was expecting a busy play for me. The rehearsals were far more extensive than what we’re used to over here, six sessions of band calls and a Sitzprobe allowed us the freedom to do some really detailed work on the show. Toby and I had a lot of conversations about what was right for the different scenes and sound worlds in the show. I spent a bit of time in cast rehearsals as well, not playing, just getting to know what would sound best when and where.
The fabulous thing about the reductions is that Toby has used the ensemble to full potential, replacing a lot of that glorious MGM string sound with wonderful choral writing and adding to the Scarecrow and Tin Man sequences with onstage percussion (washboards, buckets, tin mugs etc.). Much of the Tin Man sequence sounded like tap from my booth above the stage, but it was all carefully played out on assorted metal props to accompany the choreography.
As you’ll see from the photos, there’s a large amount of gear, some might say excessive, but I tried to find the right colours and sounds for every moment, particularly as we were mostly acoustic in the house rather than hugely pumped through a sound system. I used a lot of cymbals, in particular the chinas and stacked splashes for the Wicked Witch and Winkies scenes.
Much of the music I played is taken from the original RSC books, though the vibes book was hugely inflated during the band calls and previews to fill in a lot of textural holes that previously were harp or strings. Again, having the freedom to adjust or change a lot of the moments to suit our specific production has been hugely fun, we’ve ended up with a large amount more timps/vibes than the original book but kept most of the xylo/glock stuff pretty much the same as the original. I mounted a trap tray over the bass drum to place mallets/brushes and the metal sounds I needed for the Tin Man as they were integrated into the kit parts.
The splashes (13", 12”, and 6”) gave me a trashy but not too loud stack to use for every time the Wicked Witch’s music happened. In the original part it’s on snare drum, but we altered it slightly just for a different colour in the show. Gave her a bit more of a mean 'bark' to match the muted brass and high clarinet and piccolo.
I used the top end of my TreeWorks Tre70db InfiniTree and the TreeWorks Tre44 Studio Chimes together a lot to keep a sparse texture of sparkle in a few numbers, particularly when the munchkins first appeared."
Complete gear list as follows.
- Mapex Saturn 20”x20” Bass Drum
- Mapex Saturn 14”x14” Floor Tom
- Sonor Horst Link Bubinga 14”x8” Snare
Cymbals Traps Set:
- Zildjian 14” Avedis Vintage Hi Hats
- Bosphorus 12" Traditional Splash
- Sabian 17" HHX Evolution Crash
- Zildjian 20” Swish Knocker (5 rivets)
- Meinl 14” Symphonic Suspended Cymbal
- Zildjian 22” Constantinople Bounce Ride (with sizzler)
- Zildjian 8" FX Trashformer Splash
- Stack (13”, 12”, 6” Splashes)
- Sabian 10" AAX Splash
- Sabian 17” HH Suspended
- Wuhan 18” China
- Bosphorus 15” Traditional Crash
- Sabian 18" HHX Evolution Crash
- Timpani 30” & 28” Premier Series 2 - These are fabulous drums for theatre 30” gives me B- D, 28” F#-G (Over an octave on each drum!)
- Musser M48 Vibes
- Studio 49 Glockenspiel (2.6 octaves)
- Arthur Soothill Pit Xylophone
- Pearl Ash Tone Block
- Matt Nolan Trine
- TreeWorks Tre44 Studio Chimes
- TreeWorks Tre70db InfiniTree
- Sleigh Bells (mounted on leather straps)
- Vintage Premier Sleigh Bells
- Thomas Rönnefarth Custom Made Schellen
- LP Red Jam Block
- LP Cowbells (3)
- Meinl Pin Chimes
- Junk Metal Sounds (small brake drum, 2 kidney dishes, 1 metal plate)
- Vintage 1920's Ludwig 6” Triangle mounted on The Miller Machine