“Oh, if life were made of moments
Even now and then a bad one
But if life were only moments
Then you’d never know you had one”
Let me tell you about two moments in my life, both related to the 21st-23rd of February 2007. My upper school did a production of Bugsy Malone. I was 16, nerdy, and had just chopped all my hair off in some kind of show of teen individualism.
I knew I wouldn’t be cast as Blousey Brown (the lead) and I didn’t want to be. Ever since playing the little match-girl in year 6 I’ve been successfully blending into the background of shows. I just wanted to be involved.
Then the cast came back, and I’d been given a one-line part, as the failed opera singer who auditions to sing at the club.
My heart sank, and I went to find Mr Jones to tell him that I couldn’t do the part. I was so self-conscious of my voice already, and I felt like taking the part would be the final nail in my already quite firmly sealed social coffin. He was nice about it, and said that I should do it – it’s the right style of voice for me – but he let me drop it on the promise I’d still be involved.
And I was. In that show, I ended up doing everything, from building set, stage managing, costume, to playing about 6 different parts and helping choreograph some of the dances. It was one of the shows which definitively gave me a love of every side of theatre.
Moment two came a few weeks after the show. We were packing down after a live rock concert which Mr Jones organised every year. He was a “cool” teacher, not really much older than us, and with a background in media which meant that traditional dirge-like music teaching really wasn’t for him. The DVD for Bugsy Malone had just been sent through, and as we packed down the amps and staging for the concert, he mentioned he’d watched it.
Then he turned his head to me and said “Sally, has anyone ever told you you’re amazing?”
I found out yesterday that Mr Mark Jones was fatally injured in a car accident last Friday. Since I heard, I have seen so many other people sharing their moments, and that’s what he gave people. Until the second moment, I’d thought he didn’t like me, with my classical voice and my complete inability to learn the flute. But in a few words he proved otherwise.
When I got to Uni, I met OperaSoc, and suddenly found the people I’d been looking for. I could do all of the theatre things I wanted, without feeling like I’d lose friends in the process by being “uncool”. I don’t think I’d have joined if I didn’t have Mr Jones’ voice in the back of my head reminding me that I’m an opera voice.
He also, incidentally, introduced me to ‘Into the Woods’. It’s my favourite musical, and one of the productions I am most proud of my work on. The quote about moments which I began with is from the show.
Now I’m a trustee of Northern Opera Group, and I work in the building where I took part in my first OperaSoc show, and where I gave countless hours to improve on the backstage skills which Mr Jones began teaching me. It is not overstating to say that everything I am today, I am because of those two moments.
I’m desperately sad that Mr Jones can’t give other people their moments any longer, but I have 100% confidence that in the almost 11 years since my moments, he’s done the same for hundreds and thousands of other people.
He’ll be in my heart and memories forever.