Mark was born in Croydon in 1965, and therefore is well acquainted with 60s-concrete buildings. He was delivered in Mayday Hospital and people have been in distress ever since.
He attended the 60s-concrete (rebuilt) Trinity School, where he was a member of the prestigious Trinity Boys' Choir. Amongst the many wonderful opportunities that this afforded him were understudying the part of 'A Sprite' in The Magic Flute at English National Opera, conducted by Sir Charles Groves, and playing one of a band of fairies in Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream both at the Royal Academy of Music and at the Snape Maltings as part of the Aldeburgh Festival. Away from the supernatural, he was able to show his prowess at nose-picking on camera behind Bing Crosby's head in the great crooner's last TV appearance, which also involved most of Bing's family (including the one who shot JR), plus Twiggy and David Bowie. The nose parts do not unfortunately appear on the video. Furthermore he was caught on Dutch TV both falling asleep in the (long Dutch) sermon and clearly not watching the conducting - these habits have died hard!
More School Daze
He sang in the première at the Royal Albert Hall, for the Queen in 1977, of the notorious Jubilee Hymn by John Betjeman and Malcolm Williamson. And once again was caught peering (surreptitiously, he thought) out of the corner of his eyes at the camera during the latter's The Red Sea on Good Afternoon with Mavis Nicholson. He recorded jingles for LBC and a one-sentence solo 'Urchin' part in La Bohème with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by James Levine, as well as a sickeningly sugary treble solo on a Reader's Digest Christmas boxed set (Christmas with the Fireside Singers) in Do You Hear What I Hear? He is delighted that life can come a full circle once again as Cantabile tracks are on the newer Reader's Digest compilation Golden Groups sing Unforgettable Songs ! Mark's parents have just about forgiven him for participating in Hans Werner Henze's piece The Raft of the Medusa at the Royal Albert Hall, and their having to listen to three hours of fantastically modern music on the radio to hear the boys' choir moments. His (now broken) voice can be still heard solo above the choir during the closing titles of the film Another Country , if you can find a copy of the video/DVD.
The School Choir (Trinity Choristers) sang church services in the local area, and went on regular Easter Cathedral courses. Mark enjoyed the delights of many of these fantastic music-making acoustics, two highlights of which must be when - unbeknown to all parties, clearly - he sang the tenor solo in Kenneth Leighton's Crucifixus Pro Nobis in Chichester Cathedral to his future mother-in-law; and singing a solo in a live Christmas Eve 'Nine Lessons and Carols', broadcast for Capital Radio.
Playing, Acting & Conducting
He was a member of the school Male Voice Choir and started arranging for male voices at the tender age of sixteen, when he also learned to read/use jazz chords on the guitar and the piano... so much easier than reading the music - oh the waste of misspent youth! - but such a help to an arranger.
Playing the violin, he led the School Orchestra, was a leading member of both Croydon Youth Orchestras and went on to lead his University Orchestra...mostly astray. Surely his favourite moment was leading the School Orchestra having broken his fly in his trousers. He was asked not to enjoy the concert too much - a feat he managed. His version of the violin solo in Grieg's Holberg Suite with the University of East Anglia String Orchestra brings tears to the eyes, and ears. He has a recording, and will not let you hear it.
He also decided the stage was a fun place to be, and played a wide variety of policemen & soldiers (well it was a boys' school). He most enjoyed wearing Michael York's pith helmet in Conduct Unbecoming, set during the Raj, and playing the Headmaster in the tremendous farce The Happiest Days of Your Life - with real girls from a local school, thankfully. His delight in Pantomime also started whilst still at school, when he joined the Mitre Players and started messing about every Christmas in home-grown panto - and doing all their other shows he could manage.
He continued his studies in music at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. [Continuing the concrete theme: UEA boasts the longest straight concrete fascia in Western Europe.] He started enjoying bossing people about and conducted many orchestral and choral concerts at the University and the Cathedral. These included Haydn's Nelson Mass (his A-level set work!), Messiah , Brahms' 4, Façade (in 20s dress), Britten's Cantata Academica and the Bax Violin Concerto (with the 1986 Young Musician of the Year, Alan Brind - a Norwich lad - as soloist). He was also a Choral Scholar at Norwich Cathedral.
Incomparable World of the Vocal Group
As a post-graduate at the Royal College of Music in London, he was taught by Neil Mackie, and pretended to be interested in Opera for a few months. He also co-ran an early music group Nuove Musiche , specialising in Monteverdi, and was coached by Nigel Rogers. But finally the incomparable world of the Vocal Group became his home.
As well as arranging and orchestrating many a piece for Cantabile, Mark composes music, mainly for the stage. He has written several pantomime scores, and four settings of music for Shakespeare plays; one of which - A Midsummer Night's Dream - was performed at the newly-reconstructed Globe Theatre on the South Bank of the Thames. These compositional exploits have mainly been with his old friends in The Mitre Players - for more information on them do go to www.mitreplayers.org.uk
Mark is married to 'cellist and composer Tanera Dawkins. Her many achievements include having taught Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) the piano for two years; appearing on Emmerdale [with Token Women] and Blue Peter [with The Drones] playing the 'cello; arranging and playing on albums by Lamb and Squeeze; and having some of her film scores heard on Channel 4, Discovery Channel and at the Cannes Film Festival 2006! She wrote the music to the BAFTA-nominated animation by Siri Melchior 'The Dog who was a Cat Inside'.
To find out more, with audio & video clips, visit www.taneradawkins.com
In a much more amicable way than they feared, Tan and Mark co-wrote the music to The Country Wife for the Mitres and it was performed at Cornwall's splendid Minack Theatre - as well as in a Croydon car park. But their most unbelievable creation together is Tom, who turned up in July 2001; he keeps them very busy playing his trumpet, guitar and drums - it can only get noisier as he gets older it seems. Cats, Oddbod & Sam are now both dearly missed - though we have gained a new space where they used to do their business! In Tan and Mark's possession also are three 'cellos, two pianos, a guitar, a dusty violin, a penny whistle [Tom's] (oh, and a bass accordion!)...and an ud [that's a Turkish lute], and a computer which writes music with Tan's expert help... plus sundry recorders, drums and some rather splendid homemade claves.
P.S. For football fans only: Mark and his family, in the esteemed company of Bernard Ingham, John Kettley and Alastair Campbell, support Burnley Football Club.