Why I Love ... making music

Musician Nola York has worked with some of the biggest names in the business, sung with a girl group and was the first woman to write a full-length score for a West End Musical.

Here Nola, from Liverpool and who has lived in Scarborough for five years, shares her love of making music and details where the passion took her.

I have always loved singing. Aged 12, my mother took me to Birkenhead Operatic Society’s production of Annie Get Your Gun.

I knew then that I would write a musical of her own.

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    In the 1960s I attended Webber Douglas Drama school in London and, while there, was invited to a party by a friend whose father was high up in the American Embassy. I was asked to perform and spent the night singing and playing on guitar Beatles’ songs.

    I’d also written a song with Glen Stuart, Magna Carta, I Don’t Understand. Bee Gees manager Robert Stigwood heard it and wanted me to record it.

    I was never comfortable doing TV as my eyesight was so bad but Glen and I managed to infiltrate Cream of The Brill Building Elite when Lesley Gore, who wrote songs for the movie Fame, recorded.

    I secured a recording and publishing contract with Johnny Franz, Dusty Springfield’s Producer at Philips Records, where I met actor and lyricist Michael Richmond, who shared a similar passion for writing a musical.

    In 1967 I worked all over Europe. I sang in the Concert Hall in Belgrade and performed at the Montreux Festival in Switzerland and many TV and Radio shows in Holland and Norway.

    In 1969, Michael and I wrote lyrics and music which we performed in Beaumont and Fletcher’s play

    The Knight of the Burning Pestle at the Swan Theatre, Worcester. It later ran at the Greenwich

    Theatre directed by Sam Walters, director of the Orange Tree Theatre Richmond, Surrey.In 1970 I joined The Chantelles all-girl singing group. We performed on P & O cruises which took us all over Europe, worked American Air force bases and appeared at the Floral Hall, Scarborough with Freddie Starr.

    During this time I continued to write with Michael, who had started writing and presenting scripts for Listen with Mother.

    When my tour with The Chantelles ended I joined Michael in writing and presenting songs with guitar for Listen with Mother. The Chantelles broke up but Riss Chantelle, who formed the group, continued to work with me and help with my music until she died in 2015. Sandy Orr, the other member of the group, and I remain close friends.

    In 1975 Michael and I wrote the musical The Lady or The Tiger. Sam Walters put the musical on at the Orange Tree Pub in an upstairs room. People were queuing up the side street to get in and Sam extended its run before transferring it to The Fortune Theatre, making me the first woman to write a full-length score for a West End Musical.

    In 1979 Robin Hawden, whose play The Mating Game was on in the West End, asked me to write a musical with him called People. It played at the Overground Theatre in Kingston and transferred as Love Match to The Theatre Royal Windsor.

    In 1981 Michael and I wrote the musical Wild, Wild Women for the Orange Tree’s 10th Anniversary.

    It transferred to The Theatre Royal Windsor and went on to the West End’s The Astoria. Michael and

    I wrote many songs together until his death in 1988.

    In 1985 I wrote and recorded the song Hi Fantasy which was released in Holland on a Dutch label. Hi Energy was popular during the 1980s and it made the Dance charts in the UK.

    In the1990s I undertook some teaching and ran workshops.

    In 2001 Sam put Wild, Wild Women on at The Orange Tree Theatre in the Round, which was extended for a longer run because of its popularity. It has also been performed in America, Zew Zealand and Australia.

    Following Riss Chantelle’s death in 2015, I went to Canada to help a friend who had organised a concert to save Skaha Park.

    As I performed in the park I fell in love with Canada. I have returned there every year until this year’s lock-down due to the Corona Virus preventing that.

    I also love drawing and attended Liverpool Junior Art College to strengthen my drawing skills. I am also a member of Scarborough Writers’ Circle.