Posts Tagged ‘college’

West End Drummers Part 7 – Lion King percussionists

Damien’s Set Up

West End Drummers Part 7 – Damien Manning, Mike Hamnett, Dave Elliott (Dep)– The Lion King percussionists

The Lion King is one of the most richly rhythmical shows in the West End with Dave Adams on drums (see part 6), Mike Hamnett, Damien Manning and Chris Baron on percussion. Mike and Damien play from the theatre’s boxes so they are visible throughout the whole show, which is an integral part of the musical and is especially great to watch as a drummer.

The percussionists form a very close team and are passionate about their playing, which adds a unique and magical element to the musical. I caught up with Damien Manning, Mike Hamnett and Dave Elliott, Chris Baron’s dep, to hear about their experiences as percussionists in the West End.

What are your backgrounds as percussionists and what other shows have you done?

Damien - I”m classically trained but always had a passion for world/ethnic/hand drums. On leaving college I played with many orchestras, bands and theatre companies here and on tour abroad. Since 2002 I”ve been Director of bateria (drums) at Paraiso School of Samba and have been to Brazil many times to take part in carnival; Samba is my passion. I”ve been depping on the Lion King since 2000 and when Thomas Dyani left in 2009 I was invited to take over.

Mike - I”m from Manchester and I’m a graduate from the Royal Northern College of Music. I studied with Dave Hassell, Ian Wright and Heather Corbett and graduated in ’92, going straight into the first UK tour of Les Miserables when I left. I did other shows like Cats, Evita, Phantom, Fame, Oliver and I finished that and got a call to come and play for the American producers on this on a Wednesday. I went back home to Manchester, had a few beers with my friends, got a phone call asking if I wanted the gig. I asked when it started, ”Tomorrow morning is the first rehearsal at 10am”.

I’ve also worked freelance with BBC Philharmonic, BBC Concert Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orhestra. I”ve done about 35 world premières of marimba pieces and played piano in Dave Hassell”s latin band. I play 4th trumpet in the Hertfordshire Big Band and I teach kit and percussion at Canterbury Christ Church University and direct the big band.

Dave – I”m from Bournemouth and I studied at Chetham”s School of Music in Manchester. I graduated from Trinity College of Music this summer where I studied jazz and classical and I”ve been depping on the Lion King for about 16 months for Chris Baron. More recently I began depping on Legally Blonde (drums) Jersey Boys (drums) and I currently hold the percussion chair on Mamma Mia! World Tour.

I’ve studied with Dave Hassell, Gene Calderazzo, Gary Kettle and various others along the way such as Eliott Henshaw and Ralph Salmins. I was involved in the youth music organisations like NYO, NYJO and BBC Young Musician and was a finalist in Mike Dolbear’s Young Drummer of the Year. I”ve also worked with the London Sinfonietta and English National Opera.

Tell me about your set ups

Damien – Mine is the most African, drum wise. I”ve got djembe, djun djun, kpanlogo, congas, bongos, timbales, shekere and a taiko drum, which is actually a surdo. Also caxixi, a talking drum (tama or dondo; it depends where you are in Africa but the variable pitched drum). A few bits and pieces of bells and sounds, colours, shades.

Mike – I”ve got pretty much the same set up but I”ve also got berimbau (used in capoeira) and some cheesy pop tambourine, soft shaker, tam tam and the wind gong. I have the slightly classical side. The London show differs from all the others; we were the first 17 piece set up. The New York show has 24 because New York theatres have numbers regulated by their size so that version was orchestrated to that. When they brought it over to us we had to reduce from kit and four percussionists to kit and three percussionists.

Dave Elliott

Dave - The marimba set up has congas, djun djun, djembe, cowbell, a couple of cymbals, shakers, shekere and African Gyil, which is like a small marimba. Also a wind gong and caxixi, so it’s a real mix in that chair. You have to have quite a strong tuned and rhythmic background to really do it justice.

Mike – From our point of view, we can always tell if it is a marimba dep who plays kit or doesn”t because the marimba part itself needs to groove in time and sit as part of the rhythm section in the same way as the guitar and bass do. If it”s somebody who doesn”t play kit, they may play it perfectly in time but it sits in a completely different way, which makes it more difficult to play with. We treat it as a kit player who has specific notes.

To read the interview in full click HERE to visit


Jonathan ‘Ginger’ Hamilton interview (Jessie J, N Dubz, Pixie Lott)

Jonathan ‘Ginger’ Hamilton

Interview with Jonathan ‘Ginger’ Hamilton

Jonathan ‘Ginger’ Hamilton opened Sunday’s Live Stage at the London Drum Show this year with a set full of groove. The audience had the pleasure of hearing Ginger play some Jessie J tunes (who he is currently on tour with) as well as a few tracks with his brother Michael accompanying on bass to show the importance of their close relationship on stage.  He gave sound advice to the audience on playing for the song and working in the current music industry – ‘Work on finding your own voice and that’s what you’ll get recognised for’.

Ginger has an impressive CV for a drummer his age, having played for Pixie Lott, N Dubz, Peter Andre and Kelly Rowland, to name a few.  I caught up with him the day before his London Drum Show performance to find out more about life as a drummer at the forefront of the UK’s gospel and R n B scene.

You started playing for Kelly Rowland at just 18 years old. Tell us more about that…

I got called for some TV shows with Kelly when I was 18. I was still in college at the time so it was pretty cool. When I got back to college I was a bit popular!

Where were you at college?

In South London. It was a normal college; Christ the King’s Sixth Form.

How did that gig happen?

It was through a friend of my brother. He owns an agency and asked me to do it.