RICHARD STILGOE & PETER SKELLERN – The Dynamic Duo!
For those of a peaceful disposition looking for a quiet night out, cosy up with two of Britain's best loved entertainers, Richard Stilgoe & Peter Skellern. Wordsmith Stilgoe & songster Skellern invite their audience to fluff up their pillows, warm up their slippers and relax at the fireside of mirth with their unique brand of music, wit and entertainment.
The double act created by Stilgoe & Skellern was born out of their respective appearances in the 1982 Royal Variety Performance. While standing star-struck in the wings watching Ethel Merman, they vowed to do something together, and eventually performed a double-act for a fund raising dinner at The Savoy in aid of the Lord's Taverners. Since then, they have toured their two-man shows in the United Kingdom many times, and found time to conquer Australia, Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Rome and Stockholm.
The 1999 tour marked Richard Stilgoe's return to the stage after a sabbatical year as High Sheriff of Surrey. This ancient office involved him wearing black velvet and lace while keeping the crime rate down a task that his entertainment career had amply prepared him for! Stilgoe spent the seventies in people's living rooms appearing in topical television programmes, Nationwide and That's Life. In the eighties he wrote musicals, contributing to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, Starlight Express and Phantom of the Opera.
Peter Skellern is famed for his 1972 world-wide hit You're A Lady, but has had a long and distinguished career that took him from concert pianist and recording artist through to composer of television themes, musicals and topical songs.
Working on the principle that it's better to quit while you're ahead, A Quiet Night Out is Stilgoe and Skellern's final tour together... although it is predicted that they will be wheeled out on the odd occasion to prove that they are still alive and capable of remembering an entire verse together!
Richard Stilgoe returns to touring with Peter Skellern after a sabbatical year a High Sheriff of Surrey. This ancient office involves wearing black velvet and lace while trying to keep the crime rate down.
He was brought up in Liverpool, where he appeared at the Cavern Club on Saturdays and as a member of St Agnes Church Choir on Sundays. A Choral Exhibition took him to Cambridge, where all thoughts of a serious musical career were erased. The sixties found him singing his songs in pubs and nightclubs, and on Radio 4's Today programme. He spent the seventies in people's living rooms via Nationwide, That's Life and several series of his own. In the eighties, he wrote musicals. For Andrew Lloyd Webber he wrote the words for a snippet of Cats, almost all of Starlight Express and a third of Phantom of the Opera. For the National Youth Music Theatre, he wrote the words and music of Bodywork and Brilliant the Dinosaur.
In 1982, he and Peter Skellern both appeared in the Royal Variety Performance. While standing star-struck in the wings watching Ethel Merman, each of them said, "We really ought to do something together sometime". Nothing happened until 1984, when the Lord's Taverners brought them together for what has become an enduring part-time double act. They have toured the United Kingdom many times, and conquered Australia, Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Rome and Stockholm. This year sees the first of several farewell tours.
Alongside all this has grown an increasing determination to make music available to more young people. To this end he founded the Orpheus Trust, which gives disabled people opportunities to make music, and this year opened the Orpheus Centre, a permanent home for this work. He is a member of the Government's Music Trust, and has presented the Schools Proms at the Royal Albert Hall for the last eleven years. 1999 saw the start of the Stilgoe Saturday Concerts for children at the Festival Hall, the publication of a book of pieces for young choirs and the premiere of his new musical about foxes, entitled "The Day the Earth Moved".
Cats and Starlight Express are now the longest and second longest running musicals in history. He has won two Grammy Award nominations, two Tony Award nominations, a Novello Award, three Monte Carlo Radio Prizes, the Prix Italia and an O.B.E. His hobbies are architecture, cricket, sailing, his five children and twin grandsons, and he looks forward to spending this century with them.
There is no other artist quite like Peter Skellern. For the past 25 years he has gone his own way, ignoring the fads and fashions of the music world. His wholly idiosyncratic musical vision has encompassed everything from playing the standards of the 20s, 30s and 40s whilst being accompanied by brass bands to the writing of, and acting in, "Happy Ending" a TV series of mini-musicals in the 70s and 80s to musicals for children in the 90s. ("Trolls" in '91, "Poles Apart" in '95 and "The Magic Tree" in '96).
Peter Skellern was born in Bury in Lancashire in 1947. Music had been in the family for many generations. His Grandfather Skellern played great "stride" piano apparently. His great grandfather on his mother's side was a mandolin player in the Music Halls and his great-great-etc,-etc. Grandfather on his father's side was one of the first organists of Chester Cathedral in 12-something-or-other! (In 1998 Novello published Peter Skellern's "Six Simple Carols" for choir, almost 800 years since the first Skellern's involvement in church music).
Peter studied the piano at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in the sixties and left there as a concert pianist in 1968 but after a few months of recitals he joined a pop group called The March Hare. This was a spectacularly unsuccessful group but it started him on the road to his pop career. In 1972 he wrote and recorded "You're A Lady", which was a world-wide hit. Over the ensuing years he has had several hit singles and has made some enduring albums including "Astaire" in 1980 and "Oasis" (with Julian Lloyd Webber and Mary Hopkin) in 1984.
He has composed theme music for several TV series including "Flesh & Blood", The Life And Times Of Henry Pratt", "Me And My Girl" and "The Local". For three years in the 70s he worked on Radio 4's "Stop The Week", writing topical songs, which is when he first became aware of Richard Stilgoe who was doing much the same and much better on "Nationwide" on television.
Surprisingly they became friends; more surprisingly they still are.
In 1984 they first performed together for the Lord's Taverners at a fund-raising dinner at The Savoy. There followed their first show together, "Who Plays Wins" at The Vaudeville Theatre in London in 1985, since when they have toured together in their two-man shows "The Grand Tour", "Upright and Grand", "By The Wey" and "Rambling On". Last year, working on the principal that it's better to quit while you're ahead, saw their final tour together, "A Quiet Night Out".
Having sung together, sailed together, played cricket together, got older and fatter together, argued a little and laughed a lot together, they are retiring from performing together. Well, that's the theory anyway no doubt they'll be wheeled out on the odd occasion just to prove that they are still alive and capable of remembering an entire verse together.
Though giving up performing, Peter Skellern is not quite ready for the rocking chair just yet; he will now have the time to dedicate himself to composition, which is all he's ever wanted to do since he was three years old.