George on behalf of all your friends and colleagues at the Academy, a very happy birthday!

Well thank you very much.

How many years have you now been teaching?

I started teaching singing at a secondary school in Edinburgh in 1947.

You have been an essential member of the Musical Theatre team at the Academy since very early on. Can you tell us how that came about?

Karen Rabinowitz invited me to see the first public performance, and I wrote to Mary Hammond (who I’d never met) to say I thought the musicianship was terrific but the comedy not on so nearly as high a level. As a consequence she appeared at my front door and wanted to know what could be done about it!

I started by teaching the history of musicals but then went on to direct projects. This involved working with a third of the year on broadway and music hall songs.

You were for many years the head of acting at the Central School Of Speech and Drama. Can you tell us a little of your basic philosophy there?

Well the main thing I felt was that the course should be run for the theatre, rather than because there was a market demand for people who wanted to be trained. I had the feeling that the theatre needed endlessly to be enriched to keep it alive and healthy.

I believe the Musical Directors course at the Academy was the first of its kind?

It was a brilliant idea of Mary Hammond’s and I think it filled a great gap in theatre training. These young people came with formidable piano technique but not very much sense of what it meant to be an accompanist and very little experience of transposing. Working with them was a delight and very, very satisfying. Many of them became extraordinarily good.

George one of your great passions is cabaret and for some years you taught at a conference devoted to the subject at Yale.

It was run by a man named Erv Raible who was a big figure in Manhattan cabaret. The faculty was astonishing. It had Julie Wilson who was the the queen of New York cabaret, the great recording star Margaret Whiting, Jason Graae and Faith Prince. Fascinating company to be in.

Music hall songs have always been very central to the repertoire you’ve taught.

Well the great thing about those songs is that the great stars who sang them weren’t always marvellous singers, but they were great communicators and amazing actors. The realisation that communication in song is not just a matter of peerless vocal production but a matter of embodying a character.

George I know that you have a real allergy to the phrase Masterclass.

It always seems to me to imply that the rest of the staff aren’t in the same class, which I keenly resent!

Can you tell us what you’re teaching currently?

A weekly history of the musical class on zoom. From Beggars Opera , through Strauss, Offenbach and Lehar, Rodger and Hart and Hammerstein, right through to the present day.

Finally George, are there particular benefits you’ve found in your work at the Academy?

I have gained a great deal from discussions after performances, particularly with Mary Hammond. Her ability to register what the next step is for any student. I’ve also learnt a great deal from Dan Bowling who has an entirely different background and a wealth of musical experience.

George thank you so much for your time today and for all you’ve taught us who continue to work alongside you.