Ten in a Bar
Meet the Group
Kirstie Smith Pianist
My family tree is very musical – dad played guitar in a strict tempo dance band and Grandad owned the local music shop so I was destined to never hold a proper job! Being lucky enough to have a piano in the house, I began lessons aged 3, became an alto chorister, played violin and took ballet lessons and so a passion for performance developed.
I gained my Honours Degree in Music at the Welsh College of Music and Drama and then pursued a career as a professional musician, playing across the UK and Internationally with my rock/pop party band, also working as a vocal coach, musical director, performing arts lecturer, arranger and more recently as an examiner for RSL.
An intense love of harmonies stems from family after-dinner sing-a-longs, which is why I’ve adored working as Ten in a Bar’s pianist since 2015. The challenge of practising and perfecting new pieces with the group is a joy. I relish the sound of their rich harmonies and delight in the varied repertoire. The focused concentration and sheer hard work at Jill’s rehearsals is often demanding, but I always drive home with a song in my heart and a smile on my face!
Time flies when you’re having fun. And I can certainly say that the last 26 years in Ten in a Bar have flown by! It hardly seems possible that a quarter of a century has passed since Jill asked whether I’d be interested in being part of a new close harmony group. This led to me becoming a founder member of Ten in a Bar in 1993. At the time I didn’t consider myself a natural fit. Although I had good experience on stage as a dancer, I was still relatively new to singing. So I saw Jill’s invitation as a real challenge.
I started dancing at the Estelle School of Dance, aged 3, and theatre has played a big part in my life ever since. After joining SALOS as a dancer in 1973, I then joined the alto section of the chorus. Since I don’t read music and have to learn by ear, close harmony singing can certainly be demanding, but it is also hugely rewarding. All the hours of practice are worth it for the feeling and sound which results, when we get it right.
I feel very proud and privileged to have been in all 26 shows under Jill’s talent and direction. I’ve made some good friends, some of whom are now old friends (in more ways than one). Each year I have worked with great people and fantastic musicians, all pulling together to try to reach the high standards which Jill sets for us and to make the sounds she believes we are capable of. I’m so glad I took up the challenge and joined the group all those years ago. It has made all the difference.
I was a very lucky youngster as I grew up in a household full of music as mum played the piano and dad sang and played the drums. Therefore, from a young age I was encouraged to sing and dance. I joined the SALOS “Young Generation” at 16 and progressed to becoming an adult member, leaving at 18 to go to University where I continued to enjoy treading the boards in a variety of off-the-wall productions including an extremely modern, risque version of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe and an equally whacky version of the Beggar’s Opera.
In my early twenties I began taking singing lessons with the late, great Vera Bennet and was a founding member of “Stagestruck” along with our Peter. Jill and I met at a similar time when we were two young teachers working at the same secondary school. My amateur dramatic path meant that I also spent some of my youth with Carol (“Stagestruck,”) Jane (SALOS) and Steve (Wyvern Theatre Community Projects).
I’ve been a member of Ten in a Bar since 1995 and, cheesy as it sounds, I feel the same passion about the music as I did all those years ago. Despite the often extremely challenging multi-part music and Jill’s high standards and expectations, I cannot think of anything else that I would rather do – including playing the part of Professor McGonagall one year and the Dowager Duchess of Downton Abbey the next! The anticipation and team work involved with putting on a show remains as exciting today as it did 25 years ago. In any case, life would be pretty boring if there were no challenges to aim for and the brilliant feeling that you get when, with other fantastic people beside you, you achieve them.
Apparently, even as a toddler I loved singing and performing – often singing to ‘trapped’ passengers on our local bus. At the age of 9, I decided that I was going to join Wanborough Church Choir and my mum requested that I only join if I was serious about the commitment….and I’m still singing there today! When I could no longer hit those top treble notes at age 14, I progressed to the Alto section and here began my love of harmony singing. At 15, I moved to the Tenor section – where I soon learned that even when you become a Baritone you’ll be asked to sing Tenor FOREVER – coz there aren’t many true tenors around!
After singing in many societies in Swindon from the age of 18, I decided that I’d leave my job and turn professional. At 27, I moved to London and auditioned for a new 2 girl/2 boy harmony group; I became a member of Panache and here began a few years of exciting times which included: summer season cabaret, performing at The Savoy, TV appearances and some recording. On returning to Swindon in the early 90’s, I was looking for something that would be good fun but still be at that professional standard – and heard about this brand new harmony group called Ten in a Bar…the rest is history!
I can’t believe that we have notched up so many years as a group but I put it down to being a friendly ‘team’ who love making beautiful sounds and who enjoy performing to a high standard….oh, and the comedy element is a favourite of mine, too.
When I think about how and why I came to love singing and music the credit really goes to my Primary School. I realise as an adult (and a teacher) how important it is that education ensures children experience music when they don’t necessarily come across opportunities at home. Having said that, my parents supported all my musical endeavours without complaint, starting with a recorder and then the violin, to the substantial purchase of a piano. They also put up with endless hours of loud shower singing when I decided I wanted to be in musicals.
I love singing and performing in musicals and I‘ve been very lucky to play amazing roles in shows with various groups in Swindon. I joined SALOS in 1988 but have also performed with M4 Theatre Group, Swindon Opera, COS, Bath Light Opera Group and Theatre Ink. Proper close harmony singing is a very different experience to singing in a musical however. It’s hard work, fitting the lines together and singing notes that sometimes don’t make a tune on their own, or clash with other parts. And although I often don’t hear the overall sound, I do get to see the effect of the whole piece on the audience and I love being a cog in the whole machine.
One of the things I love about singing in TIAB is the opportunity to sing such an eclectic range of music across genres I would never sing as a soloist or within a musical. I think this is one of the aspects of TIAB that binds people together who are maybe quite different. We all have our favourite genres of music, yet we sing together across so many different ones and it widens our musical knowledge and our musical interests.
My first musical memory is Tom Jones singing ‘Delilah’ on early Radio 2 accompanied by my mother’s Hoover Junior. As a Bristolian boy soprano in the choir I used to sneak into the church and sit on the organ bench pretending to play, even though my feet didn’t reach the pedals. After services I would go home and play all the hymns on the piano, by ear, and in a multitude of keys. So began my love of music.
Fast forward to age 25 I found myself in a Black and White Minstrel show in Sydney which led to musicals and countless concerts both indoors and out. Working with Nigel Perrin, an original Kings Singer, in his chamber choir at The Royal Welsh College of Music and singing in two concerts of Purcell music under his baton was an amazing experience. I have been influenced by everybody from the ‘velvet fog’ of Mel Torme to the beauty of Messiaen’s ‘O Sacrum Convivium”, Liszt, Bach & Franck, George Michael, Michael Feinstein & Al Bowlly to name a very few in an ever growing list .
All of these influences reaped a reward when joining Ten in a Bar in September 2002 and rediscovered my love of harmony singing. Team work, discipline, camaraderie, homework, mutual respect, fun and a love of being part of a blend of sound that still makes the hairs on the back of my neck rise. My most memorable moments with Ten in a Bar were singing Eric Whitacre’s ‘Sleep’ and Morten Lauridsen’s ‘O Magnum Mysterium’.
After watching many Ten in a Bar shows, I decided to pluck up courage and audition. I have been part of the group now for 18 years! 18 very enjoyable years. I started out in the alto section as this was the only available space in the group, but Jill and I soon realised that my voice was best placed singing as a soprano. I think my range has extended over the years and Jill will often give me both low and very high bits!
I have always been interested in the theatre and I starting dancing / singing at the age of 3 with Tanwood. I first met Jill when I was involved with the Wyvern Community Drama projects in the production of Great Western Flyer. Learning lots of different harmonies has been challenging but very rewarding and I enjoy the full range of music that we do. My favourite moments in TIAB have been singing the music of Les Miserables (even with different words), playing the part of Marta in The Sound of Music sketch many years after playing the same part at school aged 8!
I have a teenage daughter who has also been involved with Ten in a Bar over the years, learning the words quicker than some of us! She also enjoys ‘treading the boards’ herself.
My day job as a teaching assistant keeps me busy but at the same time is very enjoyable.
I would like to thank Jill for the opportunities she has given me over the years.
I’ve always enjoyed singing but when I first appeared on stage it was my feet that were put to use, not my voice. From a young age I trained with the Judith Hockaday School of Dance & Drama, having been inspired by the classic Hollywood movies starring Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. My favourite genre of dance was tap and in the late 1990’s I qualified as a teacher. Over the past twenty five years I’ve performed with a number of musical theatre groups including SALOS, with whom I first appeared as a dancer in a production of ‘Brigadoon’. I joined as a singer shortly after and was fortunate to play a number of roles in their annual productions at the Wyvern Theatre.
I first began singing with Jill whilst still at school…it should be noted she was a very young teacher at the time! Jill had an impressive ability to ‘recruit’ sixth form boys who had very little intention of appearing on stage – a production of ‘South Pacific’ and competing with the choir in the Swindon Music Festival were memorable highlights. My first introduction to Ten in a Bar occurred way back in 1994, when I made a brief appearance in the very first show, tap dancing. Fast forward to 2004, and I jumped at the opportunity to join Ten in Bar, having long been an admirer of both the wide musical repertoire and close harmony sound for which the group is renowned.
In recent years I have performed regularly with local singer/songwriter Rob Richings, and have provided backing vocals for his EP ‘Halfway Up’ and album ‘Parkas and Boots’, both having received national radio play. When not singing, I work in the head office of a UK bank where I specialise in property and procurement activity.
I entered the ‘singing world’ through the side entrance…i.e. as a dancer! At the age of six I joined the Judith Hockaday School of Dance & Drama and dance became my absolute passion, so much so that my hobby became my career and today I teach dance to both full time and part time students. Many of the students I have taught in the past are now performing professionally in the West End and overseas.
Singing in public was something I never really planned and the fact that I do can be traced back to a singing lesson…that I also never planned! Whilst at work one day and with a space in my timetable, I found myself having an impromptu lesson with our then singing teacher, Sarah Jefferies, and she, apparently discovered a voice. This was a bit of a revelation to me, as having been a dancer in the musical theatre group SALOS, I had mimed my way through the big chorus numbers for ten years so as not to put off the singers! Having found my singing voice I was fortunate to play a number of leading roles including Mary Magdalene in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, Millie Dillmount in ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’ and Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’.
During my time with SALOS I discovered the joy of harmony singing and in 2007 auditioned to join Ten in a Bar. The challenges and rewards associated with singing with Ten in a Bar become somewhat addictive. The hours spent listening to recordings of our rehearsals, in the hope that an ‘impossible’ harmony line will sink in, are totally worthwhile when singing with a wonderful group of people who have the same passion and high standards. Nothing beats it.
I joined TIAB in 2013, having sat in the audience for many years and been in total awe of the massively high standard, the performance and breadth of music. I was delighted to work again with Jill and such an amazing group of talented people. Performing for me started at a young age under the tuition of the Judith Hockaday School of Dance and Drama, which led to joining SALOS as a dancer, well over 30 years ago now, and gaining ‘Zubie’ as a nickname which has stuck to this day. Zubie found a voice, a low one!
A great highlight for me in TIAB has to be in 2017 when Appalachian clogging was introduced to the musical sketch. Little did Jill know, when the initial concept of ‘Morris Men v’s Ladies Appalachian’, was born in her thoughts, that she was in fact watching my sister dance with ‘Shin Dig’ in the deepest depths of Cornwall. When Jill returned to Swindon she commented in rehearsal that ‘one of them looked remarkably like you Helen’! That moment will stay with me for a long time.
I am a founder member of BigSingThing – Swindon’s Friendliest Community Choir, now into its seventh year, whose philosophy of inspiring others to sing is hugely uplifting, particularly from a well-being perspective. The juxtaposition of singing with TIAB and BST gives me great pleasure, as does my running with the Shin Splints ‘family’ – Go Team Blue! So then, my running has improved my breathing, and in turn my singing has improved my running. Or vice versa? Whichever it is, being an alto, I can’t sing a tune to save my life!
Music fills some of my earliest childhood memories. I vividly remember the pride I felt watching my dad play bass guitar in his band and as I grew up I was introduced to an eclectic mix of music by my parents. I’ve always loved singing and this first developed through my job as an in Infant School teacher singing with the children. I had a brief experience of singing with a large choir and although I thoroughly enjoyed that experience, singing with TIAB is very different. I have so much respect and admiration for the all members, not just for their musical talent but also their professionalism and, of course, their sense of humour. I am lucky to have the chance to learn from brilliant teachers!
A good friend of mine who has been an avid fan of TIAB for years took me to see a show. I loved everything about it! A few years later Alison put me in touch with Jill and although I was apprehensive about joining such an established group with relatively little experience, I felt ready for a new challenge. Soon it became very clear that I would be re-enacting the memories I had of my dad practising. I now appreciate the lessons he was teaching me then of dedication and commitment.
This is my 3rd year with the group and I have developed my own routine for learning the songs. From September to February the songs consume my play list and are on in the car at every opportunity. Having Simon and Jacob (my husband and son) join us in the sketch has been a great opportunity to experience something new together. Some days I arrive to rehearsal feeling tired, possibly a little fraught but one thing is for certain… I always leave with a smile thanks to sharing uplifting music with wonderful people.
After having watched Ten in a Bar from the safety of the audience over the years, I was delighted to be asked to join them. This will be my fifth show with the group.
I am always amazed at the skill and talent of those around me in Ten in a Bar and always try to attain something similar. I am a Baritone so can be found singing with both the basses and sometimes the tenors. I am very pleased and grateful to be a part of such a wonderful group.
I have always enjoyed singing from a young age, mainly from singing along to records stolen from my older brother’s collection, and then singing in a couple of bands. Later on in life I discovered dance through the Town Hall Studios performing in a number of shows and being part of an adult performance group (although you may not believe any of that if seeing me now!).
I made my stage debut at the age of 2 with the Estelle School of Dancing. At the age of 10 I began performing in pantomimes and by the age of 18 I had danced in many shows at the Wyvern. A few years later I joined SALOS and have taken a number of leading roles, such as Grandma Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof, and Beggar Woman in Sweeney Todd.
Having been one of the original members of Ten in a Bar, I re-joined again a few years ago. I enjoy close harmony singing, and move between singing 2nd soprano and alto.
I have performed with other local groups including Ray Dance and Judith Sharp, the Phoenix Players, Stagestruck, and Swindon Opera. I have also appeared with WBLOS – my favourite lead roles being Nellie in South Pacific and Sally in Me & My Girl.
I have always been musical even from a very young age, playing the flute and piano whilst still at primary school and part of the school choir.
I remember my first big performance when I was at junior school. We were at Wembley Arena, singing with hundreds of other school children, singing and signing ‘We are Sailing’. That was awesome! I knew then that performing was just the best experience ever and I still get that excited buzz every time I perform.
At senior school my musical talent flourished and I became part of many school bands, orchestras and small ensembles. I was lucky enough to be taught by the wonderful Jill Hodge there and have been part of her choirs for many years. I think my most memorable moment has to be singing a selection of songs from ‘Les Miserables’, one of my favourite musicals.
At university I performed with the University choir at the York Minster Cathedral, played a small role in the musical ‘Oklahoma’ and various other small performances around the campus. I think the best fun I ever had on stage was singing songs from ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’.
Now a teacher myself, I really enjoy making music part of the school day, with music playing as the children come in, singing songs with them and constantly having ‘Dance Alarms’!
I absolutely love my job and my favourite time of year has to be taking my own school choir to the Swindon Music Festival. When I had the chance this year to be part of Ten in a Bar I was over the moon to be back in a choir with amazing singers and, of course, Jill Hodge’s direction.
I am really excited to be in the show at the Art’s Centre and I look forward to other future performances with the group.
Phil Costigan Stage Manager
Phil was always keen on supporting musical activities at school. As a reasonable pianist to accompany other musicians and sound manager for various shows. He also sang soprano, alto and then tenor in the choir of the University Church St Mary the Virgin on the High Street Oxford. However, his access to the church choir was not driven by vocals or the church – more a keen interest to practise on the superb 4 keyboard organ during Friday rehearsals.
With an excellent group of singers and professional musicians in Ten in a Bar, Phil has concentrated on providing technical support for the audio – visual activities. This includes photos, show videos and slides and many different props for the show sketches. eg: Broadwood piano (see Gallery). Also working with the BBC Radio team over many years to support charity concerts, the High Sheriff and most importantly, Jill.
Phil also manages the website and group finances.