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RMB Starlight Classics 2020: Behind the scenes

An AfroSymphonic extravaganza of music, song and dance – RMB Starlight Classics showcases performers from diverse backgrounds collaborating to create musical magic. This celebration of the arts brings together musical talent under the baton of Maestro Richard Cock, with Director, Darren Hayward. Creative Feel spoke to Hayward about the production of this light classical concert under the stars. 

Darren Hayward musical director RMB Starlight Classics 2020

Creative Feel: You have a theatre background; how did you get into event directing? Have you always been interested in being behind the scenes?
Darren Hayward: I always say that my career started when I joined the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir at the age of 11. It is there that I learnt that the industry is as much about discipline as it is about talent, and that determination is the crucial key to success. 
     I then went on to study Musical Theatre at Tshwane University of Technology, back in 1990 before it was actually called that. It was there that I became more interested in the putting-together of a show than in being in the show. So, with my skills as a singer/actor/dancer, I then moved into stage management, on to production and then event/show creative directing. 

CF: How long have you been working on RMB Starlight Classics? What are some of your highlights?
DH: My first RMB Starlight Classics was in September 2015. I have to say it is one of the most incredible projects to work on – and the collaboration with RMB makes for a great partnership. Some highlights over the years have been: working with Joshua Bell on my first Starlight Classics show; ‘Summertime’ with Pretty Yende and Hugh Masekela; ‘Hallelujah’ sung by Khaya Mthethwa and the Mzansi Youth Choir (MYC); ‘Clarinet Concerto in A Major’ played by Daniel Prozesky and the Handspring Puppet Company’s elephants walking through the audience; Karen Zoid singing her hit ‘Toe vind ek jou’ with the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir; Zolani Mahola singing ‘I’d Like’ with the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir; Lira and MYC singing ‘Something Inside So Strong’; and Bongani Khubeka singing ‘Stars’ from Les Misérables, to name a few.

RMB Starlight Classics performance classical music concert
Pretty Yende and Hugh Masekela performing at RMB Starlight Classics in 2016

CF: What does your role as director of RMB Starlight Classics entail?
DH: We have an incredible creative team with so many great ideas, so I suppose my job is to ensure we have a coherent programme with a balanced musical mix. I then pull all the different elements together – from choreography to lighting and stage design to screen content – into a single focus to create the final show. 

CF: What do you need to consider when designing an event such as this? How do the staging, lighting and costume design affect the overall production?
DH: I like to think that I, together with the team, sculpt within a three-dimensional space. So, overall design and elements working together are critical to the success of the show. Lighting and screen content need to support the music to help unlock emotion. In the same way, the stage movement of the artist and dancers help tell the story of a song. 

CF: How do you use set/stage/sound/lighting/event design to ensure RMB Starlight Classics is an extension of the RMB brand?
DH: RMB was founded on the business philosophy of traditional values and innovative ideas and this is a fundamental consideration for each Starlight Classics we create. The classical component of the show is what we have to get right from the start, under the expert hand of the show’s conductor and MC, Maestro Richard Cock. Once we have this, we build a show around it. 
     Ultimately, we set out to create a world-class live show with unique musical and art collaborations while ensuring a positive outlook on South Africa by showcasing the incredible talent and skills we have in our beautiful country. 

RMB Starlight Classics performance classical music concert

CF: Are you involved in choosing the performers? What criteria is used for an event that mixes so many genres such as this?
DH: Working with the team to choose the performers is one of my favourite parts of RMB Starlight Classics, because if this mix is right, the show is destined to be a success. 
     The criteria for casting this show is, firstly, excellence: each and every person in the cast must be at the top of their field. The next criterion is a collaborative spirit. One of the magical elements of the show is when we can craft original moments by putting different genres together. For example, South African legend Hugh Masekela playing trumpet with Pretty Yende singing ‘Summertime’, has to be one of my all-time career highlights.

CF: What other events/projects do you handle? What would be a dream event or project that you are yet to tackle? 
DH: Over and above the RMB Starlight Classics live show, I also film the show and produce it for TV. I am also the series director of The Voice South Africa and have consulted on a few of the other The Voice formats in the rest of Africa. I work on several awards shows for TV both locally as well as in other African countries. I also run a creative consultancy called Freshly Minced that does creative direction and production for corporate events and TV shows. I am very lucky to be living my dream every day but a dream for the future is to produce more live shows that can be created into TV specials.

More RMB Starlight Classics articles:
RMB Starlight Classics 2020: Behind the scenes
RMB Starlight Classics 2020: Behind the baton
Siyabonga Maqungo: Nurturing Talent of Note

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