It has been another outstanding season for Windmill Music, the ensemble that has been producing vocal productions in Mississauga since 2006 with a unique approach to doing it in a short period of time and in an interesting venue.
Windmill Music is headed up by artistic director Brian Pritchard, who was City Centre Musical Productions president for seven years. He named Windmill Music after the famous Windmill Theatre in London, England. Pritchard, who retired after working for the Toronto Dominion Bank for 40 years and does this purely as a hobby, had the idea there were many talented trained vocalists who would prefer rehearsing only two weeks to prepare for a production rather than three months. Put together in a group with songs performed as solos, duos and a chorus, the singers would be required to understand how to read sheet music and quickly learn the songs. And they would be accompanied by musicians.
Pritchard registered Windmill Music as a not-for-profit organization, put together a board and acquired private and public sponsorship.
“This is what goes on in my head and never stops,” he said. “When I came to retire, I thought this is the way to go. This was the idea. I did 20 years of musicals, so I knew (the singers) and I sensed that they would prefer to do (these types of shows) because they get to sing solos and music that they would never get to sing in a musical. I got immediate audience response and we haven’t looked back since. I usually choose the themes, sometimes (the singers) will put their 10 cents worth in, but it’s basically, ‘what is Brian going to do this year?’”
The musical director is Jennifer Tung, who is part of the Glenn Gould School, which is part of The Royal Conservatory of Music.
“The singers get the music ahead of time and, as musical director, I try to plan each rehearsal to make sure that we get all of the materials covered,” she said. “It requires the members of the group to look at the music before they come here so they already have some knowledge of what they are going to be performing. We find it in the five rehearsals we have.”
Pritchard recommends budgets, season productions and ideas to Windmill Music’s six-person Board that includes his wife, Susan, who is the secretary.
Windmill Music does between five to six productions a year on the weekends, sometimes for one-night only, others for two nights.
It costs $35 a show, but subscribers are given a 20 percent discount if they pay in September before the first show. There is a 10 per cent discount for subscribing to four shows.
“It’s a modest success,” Pritchard added. “We get to 130 people. We really don’t want any more, but if it gets to 150 we’ll pack them in.”
What also makes Windmill unique is that the shows take place in churches, primarily the Unitarian Congregation on South Service Road.
“We were asked to come this way,” he said. “We were given a lot of financial benefits. It costs nothing to rehearse here. It also has lovely acoustics. This is our home and they are proud to have us and we are happy to perform here.”
The final show of the 2017-2018 season is Summerfest, the annual social event of the year that includes a serving of strawberry shortcake, on June 23.
For more information about Windmill Music visit windmillmusic.org or call 905.483.5702.
Photo: women from Windmill Music’s chorus sing a song from a recent production, The Age of Rock and Roll.
Photo courtesy of Arlene Paculan.