It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Denys Rawson, renowned Music Director and, since 1998, Repertoire Tutor for the School of Musical Theatre.
A successful Music Director for many years, Denys worked in both West End and touring productions including Oliver! (when Cameron Mackintosh was Stage Manager), Gypsy, Evita and in 1990, Carousel, starring our very own Chris Hocking and Phil Sutton.
Denys began teaching at ArtsEd in 1998 and ever since he generously shared, with students and staff alike, his rich industry knowledge and expertise.
ArtsEd Alumnus Gary Jerry talks about Denys’ natural flair as an accompanist:
“For auditions, performance classes and singing assessments, Denys was always the person you wanted accompanying you. He was always so attentive to each individual performer’s needs and had the flexibility to work with the acting choices you made. Not many musical directors can create such great chemistry and connections with those they are working with the way Denys did.”
Ann James, Singing Tutor for The School of Musical Theatre, was friends with Denys for over 40 years. She remembers touring across the UK with him for the Arts Council:
“We performed in really obscure places around the country, and when we were touring in some rural areas in Wales, we had to do a round trip back to Pembrokeshire because one of the tenors had left his wig in a drawer! Denys was such a laugh and a really instinctive musician. You knew you were in safe hands when he was MD.”
Denys was also a brilliant raconteur and had countless unforgettable and hilarious tales, that ArtsEd staff and graduates still reminisce upon today.
Huw Geraint-Griffith, Head of Music for The School of Musical Theatre, remembers Denys’ infectious personality:
“He loved a get together. I have such fond memories of him in bright and colourful shirts at 3rd year’s leaving drinks in the Summer term. You could hardly see him as he’d be surrounded by students, but you could always hear his laugh!
A few years ago, Denys and Ann James came over for Sunday lunch. Well, between the two of them, I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in my life. From the moment they arrived, it was laugh-a-minute. By the end of the afternoon, I felt completely drunk, which wouldn’t have been surprising, but when I checked how many bottles we’d gone through, we’d hardly had any. He was enough of a tonic himself.
I think that the main thing I will remember of Denys will be, that I always felt better after seeing him than I did before. I know that his students felt the same after having a lesson with him, which is what made him such a great teacher.”
Paul Smith, former Repertoire and Music Director for both the School of Musical Theatre and the Day School talks about Denys’ influence on future generations:
“When my stepson Jamie was eleven years old, we bumped into Denys in Richmond. Denys spent time chatting with Jamie about anything and everything, and he was so inspired at how knowledgeable and kind Denys was. All these years later, Jamie is now the Co-Director of SIX The Musical!”
And lastly, ArtsEd Principal Chris Hocking remembers working with Denys on Carousel:
“I first worked with Denys in 1990 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse (now The Leeds Playhouse) on a wonderful production of Carousel. He was such an inspiring Musical Director and the ensemble singing on that show was so tight because of him. When I arrived at ArtsEd in 1999 it was such a delight to be able to work with Denys again and to have the chance to re-visit Carousel with third year students. Denys’ showbiz stories were legendary and he was such a witty raconteur! I will ensure that Denys is never forgotten at ArtsEd.”
Denys will be enormously missed by all the staff and graduates who worked with him over the years. His teaching influenced and encouraged generations of ArtsEd students and all remember him with pride.