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The crew behind Miss Moneypenny's tell us about their classic house orchestra

They'll be reimagining house classics this weekend

  • Sponsored editorial
  • 24 November 2017
The crew behind Miss Moneypenny's tell us about their classic house orchestra

Iconic Birmingham club brand Miss Moneypenny’s is celebrating 25 years with a mega 60-piece orchestra show on November 24.

A Night At The Proms, Miss Moneypenny's first night in Birmingham in 10 years, will feature the Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra and take place at Symphony Hall.

Promising to be a "new sensational show", the one-off event will be a celebration of house music in the UK's Second City.

Ahead of the show, we caught up with the Miss Moneypenny's team. Read the Q&A below and head here for more information. You'll be able to watch the whole performance on MixmagTV very soon.

For those who don't know, can you explain the impact Miss Moneypenny's has had on dance music over the last 25 years?

We are very proud of what Moneypennys has achieved and represented over the past 25 years. We were one of the longest week to week clubs - running from 93 to 2006 on a continuous basis. Many other brands struggled to do weekly events and I believe this was because they didn’t have a true connection with their crowd or the overall scene. We always tried to be authentic, never compromising on the scale of our events ensuring they remained a manageable size that guaranteed we could control the environment and the people who attended. We always strove to be inclusive of race, sexuality and non-conformity and exclusive of bad attitudes, aggression and prejudice. This policy was often misunderstood by people who didn’t operate in a big city environment and the difficulties owners and promoters faced.

We were one of the first clubs to operate a regular promotion in Ibiza, starting in '94 and going weekly initially at Pacha and then El Divino from 1995. I honestly believe, along with Cream and Renaissance, we helped to create the Ibiza connection and establish it as the epicentre of dance music.

How did the concept of an orchestra performance come about?

The orchestra performance was initially inspired when seeing the Ibiza Proms. It was decided then that it was something we wanted to do. Then three very inspirational occurrences took place. First was an advertisement I observed on the notice board for a performance by Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra in my local Co-op. I realised then they were the orchestra I wanted for our Moneypennys interpretation of this medium. Secondly I had a call from my friend Brina, owner of Xtra Humongous, an events & creative agency and experiential clubbing brand Secret Party Projects asking if I had ever considered doing an orchestrated show for Miss Moneypennys. Then a meeting of minds came about and the creative journey was instigated. It was always about creating a visually spectacular show, not just an orchestral performance.

How did you link up with the Birmingham Gay Symphony Orchestra?

I established a contact and tentatively emailed them. They came back, meetings were set up with their lead and conductor. The lead of the orchestra had been to Miss Moneypennys and loved the idea. Jack Lovell, the orchestra’s conductor, introduced us to Martin Higgins who is an orchestrator and arranger, who worked predominately with Musical Theatre and Film scores. Our approach, as always with Miss Moneypennys has been one with high production values and the idea of working with an orchestrator with a theatrical background was a challenge worth investigating.

What does the orchestra bring to the house classics that will be performed?

Cross-pollinating house music with a theatrical symphonic perspective has been incredibly exciting. After receiving my edited arrangements myself and Martin had endless discussions and the end result was incredible. The music pieces run continuously for one hour each creating two distinct acts, similar to a traditional orchestral performance. So our approach was linking two very different worlds with orchestral transitions that often pay homage to previous tracks being used between tracks, creating an atmospheric element to the performance.

This isn't going to be an ordinary orchestral performance, though. Can you tell us about the atmosphere you're going to create?

Our priority was to make this performance completely live. We were aware that other shows have used backing tracks with the orchestra being used as texture. Alongside our sixty piece orchestra is a four piece band, incorporating piano, drums bass and guitar, the rhythm section. The electronic elements of the performance, where sounds have been sourced and often recreated are played live to create authenticity. In addition we have a 10-piece vocal ensemble who back the likes of Sonique, Lisa Millett, Rita Campbell, Amrick Channa, Rozalla, Zara and Anya Ryan. Moreover, we have a 30-piece dance troupe - think Cirque de Soleil, ballet performance, burlesque, drag. So a complete show, a complete theatrical performance.

Finally, what does it take to keep a clubbing brand going for 25 years?

It's not an easy job. Obviously a deep rooted love of dance music and an anti-mainstream ethos is important. Having a desire to provide a sanctuary for people who want to escape from the drudgery of day to day life and achieving a thrill from seeing the joy people get from your event is a key motivator. I think a careless attitude towards money is also important, you are never going to be financially wealthy putting on events, but you will have the opportunity to experience and live a life that is genuinely different to the norm. If you keep the event imaginative, different and extravagant you will get the reward of a loyal following and their trust that you can deliver a form of entertainment that is exciting. Trying to be innovative is something that should be strived for, aiming to produce a special experience to your audience is a worthy and satisfying ethos. Ultimately it is about delivering escapism, remember that and you will achieve longevity. This event is the start of our 25th anniversary celebrations in 2018 with some very very exciting events being planned with Brina from Xtra Humongous & Secret Party Projects. This is the start of the continuation for the next 25 years. We are also hoping to tour the show and have it seen around the UK at major events and festivals and in as many countries as possible.

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