It’s a challenge which Mark relishes year after year: to bring together a talented and enthusiastic assembly of student singers and work with them so that their voices blend together in perfect unison, creating beautifully distinctive choral harmonies. “The newcomers are often young students who are very talented singers and really keen to learn,” he says, “so I’m always fighting a winning battle. It’s immensely rewarding to see them make so much progress in a very short space of time.”
Mark has enjoyed an illustrious career in musical theatre and performance, working variously as a musical director, performer, composer and vocal coach amongst other roles. His expertise has seen him work on numerous national and international stage productions alongside some of the industry’s greatest talents. Most recently he travelled to Germany as part of a worldwide tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats, while early 2018 will see him collaborating with Buxton Opera House and taking on the role of Musical Director in a forthcoming production of West Side Story.
Many of Mark’s former students have gone on to enjoy brilliant careers in the arts and other sectors. Recent graduates from his Music Theatre degree course have progressed into arts management, performed in international stage shows, entertained tourists on cruise ships and much more. Students at UCLan benefit from a very ‘hands on’ experience under Mark’s guidance. They’re given opportunities to collaborate with leading writers, composers, directors and performers in the field of performing arts, arming them with the confidence and skills that will propel them to future success.
One example is the “Musical in a Week” challenge, whereby third year students team up to write and produce a completely new and original 30-minute musical inside the space of just seven days, culminating in the final production being performed in its entirety at the end of a whirlwind week.
“This is the kind of unique, thrilling and unforgettable experience which marks out our Music Theatre degree as something really quite special,” says Mark. “We produce incredibly talented graduates who go on to enjoy hugely successful careers. I’m really proud of everything we are able to achieve here at UCLan.”
An acclaimed composer in his own right, early 2017 saw the premiere of “Ex Solo Ad Solem”, a piece conceived to celebrate the inauguration of the University’s new Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor, Ranvir Singh and Professor Mike Thomas. Performed live by the Chamber Choir inside Preston’s Guild Hall, Mark’s new composition derives its name from the University’s motto, which translates as “From the Earth to the Sun” - an exhortation to people to develop themselves to their full potential. It will be performed at all future graduation ceremonies, leaving a lasting musical legacy.
In 2014 another of Mark’s works beat off competition from thousands of other submissions to reach the grand final of a national carol competition organised by BBC Radio 3. Entrants were challenged with composing an original choral piece to accompany a festive poem specially created by the writer Susan Hill. Listeners were invited to vote for their favourite piece and Mark’s shortlisted entry was performed live by the renowned BBC Singers.