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Alumnus creates first musical in a book

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 08 JUNE

A successful alumnus has created the UK’s first ‘musical in a book’, aiming to inspire young people and families about the beauty of our planet and how we can help to look after it.

Joel Hall graduated with an MA in Composition from Royal Birmingham Conservatoire in 2018, and has since branched out into a variety of industries.

The musical book, titled ‘The Terrific Treevils’, was created in partnership with the Woodlands Trust and Watford Palace Theatre. Written by Tom Ling, with music created by Joel, the musical aims to educate young people on the benefits trees can bring to our lives and communities.

Joel said: “I’ve been connected with the Woodland Trust for a while and they knew that I love to write musicals. So we crafted this story about the ‘Treevils’ who help to protect woodlands. It was originally supposed to just be a digital musical on the Woodland Trust’s YouTube channel, but from there, we got talking with Watford Palace Theatre and we created this idea of a musical within a book, as we couldn’t perform it as a theatre show as we were in lockdown.

“At the start of the book, there is a QR code which connects readers to the songs that pop up during the story. Whilst readers enjoy the book, they can sing along with the five songs that I have created. The book features a wide range of West End performers, and young people and families will hopefully be inspired by woodland in the process.”

The popularity of the ‘musical in a book’ format is now being fully embraced by Joel and Tom, and the duo have connected with several national organisations to bring their ideas to life. Joel added: “Since working on The Terrific Treevils, me and Tom have connected with other organisations to create more musicals in books, including educating young people about space, climate change and more.

“The books are a great way to get more people involved and enjoying theatre, as they are still seeing a professional production with a cast, but they can sit back, read the book and listen to the music in their own homes.”

Joel always had a passion for music, but it is since he graduated from BCU that his career has really taken off: “I studied music whilst in school and knew I wanted to be a musician, but had absolutely no idea about how to do it. I chose an undergraduate degree in Music close to where I live in Nottingham. But when I left, I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.

"I initially started working in a music store and playing piano in a local restaurant. Then, I brought four keyboards and called every school in the area, asking to come in and teach the pupils. One finally said yes, and soon I was managing a team of musicians who all taught the students.

“But I still really liked the idea of creating and knew I needed to do something more. So I started looking into returning to university and attending a conservatoire. I was really into musicals and commercial music, and Birmingham Conservatoire really stood out to me. I went along to talk about my aspirations and they were really excited by it. The best thing about BCU is that there are so many departments and things you can get involved with.”

Nowadays, alongside his work of creating musicals in books, Joel also founded ‘Stream Park’ last year. The company is an interactive digital platform which hosts immersive events for national organisations, theatres and communities.

He also works as a performer and composer, currently creating a new musical which will be staged at Lichfield Garrick Theatre in 2022, as well as working with Coventry Belgrade Theatre for the show ‘The Last Vampire’, which will play a large role in Coventry’s City of Culture 2021 celebrations.

Joel also works as an educator for Inspire Culture, Learning and Libraries, where he works in six local schools that offers one-to-one and ensemble group music lessons.

Joel said: “All these jobs are a direct link back to the Conservatoire and the people I met there. My advice to current students is to connect as much as you can, as you learn so much from others. Keep in touch with those around you at university, as you never know what could happen in the future. In the arts, it is all about forming those relationships.”

The Terrific Treevils is available on the Watford Palace Theatre website until August 31.

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