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Arts

Peter Corry and Fleur Mellor on weddings, anniversaries and never sharing a dressing room

Jenny Lee chats to Belfast singer Peter Corry and his wife Fleur Mellor about their summer wedding, working together on their Christmas Music Box show and their plans for a new Belfast stage school

Peter Corry and wife Fleur Mellor talk to The Irish News ahead of their Christmas show The Music Box. Picture by Hugh Russell

CHRISTMAS will be extra special for Peter Corry and Fleur Mellor this year as they enjoy their first Christmas as husband and wife and celebrate the 10th anniversary of their festive production The Music Box.

It's been a busy year for the couple. Singer and producer Peter has had tours in Ireland and the Netherlands and a radio series for BBC Northern Ireland; then there were the Twilight At The Trust musical events in Mount Stewart, and he also directed a Belfast School of Performing Arts adaptation of Jesus Christ Superstar. Meanwhile, dancer and choreographer Fleur's work has taken her all over the world, most recently to the Kremlin in Moscow.

Their main production this year, however, was their marriage in Italy in June.

I met the couple at Belfast's Waterfront where they were took time out from rehearsals for The Music Box to reflect on the past 10 years personally and professionally and look ahead to exciting plans for the future.

Born in Liverpool, Fleur originally came to Northern Ireland to star as a dancer in On Eagle's Wing, John Anderson's musical production which brought the story of the emigrating Ulster Scots to life and starred Peter Corry as in the lead male role.

During that production, Fleur flew back to London to audition for panto that Christmas – and fate placed her in Belfast. Having previously worked as a dancer in a Christmas show in Norfolk, Fleur became involved in The Music Box from it's beginning, as assistant producer and choreographer.

So how did The Music Box – a show filled with Christmas music, past, present, traditional and contemporary – begin?

"I was driving home one December evening and I began to think 'What if I wanted to go to a Christmas show that wasn't a panto or a carol service'? There was just nothing. So I decided to develop a West End-style show, for the entire family, that celebrated Christmas and helped people get in a festive mood," Peter explains.

"We did those first two shows at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Victorian costumes, with the magical backdrop of those steam trains, before moving to Newtownabbey's Theatre At The Mill, where it was more theatrical. This is the sixth year in the Waterfront Hall, where it just continues to grow."

This year's 10th anniversary shows will be packed with the most memorable performances from the last decade, gift-wrapped by one of the north's most renowned storytellers, Game Of Thrones and Derry Girls actor Ian McElhinney.

Belfast blues and soul singer Kaz Hawkins will also be making her debut in the show and Peter is looking forward to the "personality and energy" she brings.

Planning for the Christmas event began in the summer, where they narrowed a shortlist of 80 songs down to 24. So what highlights can we look forward to?

"I'm looking forward to hearing John Rutter's What Sweeter Music and Our young Jingle Belles ballet dancers will be adding to the aww factor," says 38-year-old Fleur.

"I'll be singing Belleau Wood, which is a Garth Brooks song that is about American and German soldiers who celebrated Christmas Day together. And we'll have The Frankie Goes to Hollywood song The Power of Love, which is one of my favourite Christmas pop songs. And of course there is the carol procession with the different guest choirs.

"And Ian and I will be reviving Fairytale for New York, with two old drunks, or should I say one old drunk and one middle-aged drunk," laughs 53-year-old Peter.

The couple are good friends with McElhinney and even asked him to officiate at their wedding ceremony this summer in Puglia, in the south of Italy.

"We wanted to do our own thing. So we got the legalities over with at Belfast City Hall, before flying to Italy for a celebration with about 40 family and friends," Peter recalls.

"It was the most wonderful, personal ceremony. We wrote our own vows and to have a friend like Ian, who knows us really well, officiate was very special and moving."

So did he sing at the ceremony himself.?

"No, I was off duty," he laughs. "But Fleur's friend did and we had a lovely Italian swing jazz band march us up to the reception."

When it came to their first dance, the couple chose Jimmy Duranto's Make Someone Happy, from the movie Sleepless In Seattle.

"The words are exactly what we do for one another," says Peter, lovingly glancing at his new wife.

When it comes to plans for their first Christmas together, the couple are simply looking forward to a quiet Christmas, and a visit from Fleur's in-laws.

"We don't really have any special traditions, though whenever we travel together, for work or pleasure, we tend to buy a Christmas decoration to remind us of that place. And when we dress the tree it's lovely to reminisce about those memories," says Fleur.

Looking ahead, 2019 is set to be another busy year. Peter's Red Velvet Cabaret touring show will take to the road in March, with a Greatest Showman vibe. He also hopes to get some time in the recording studio to work on a new album.

"My last album, Here Stands A Man, wasn't musical theatre, but simply grown-up songs. I'm at the point in my career where I am fortunate that I can do what excites me."

Fleur will continue to travel with her job choreographing and producing corporate and commercial shows as well as performing her role on the board of Dance Resource Base, a local charity which is the main resource organisation for everything dance related in Northern Ireland.

And together, alongside vocal coach Ashley Fulton, they are excited to announce plans for a new performance school in Belfast.

"I've been working these past two years as artistic director with Belfast School of Performing Arts, but feel that when kids reach the age of 16 or 17 they just need something further to push them.

"We're delighted to be opening a place called The Performance Studio NI for 16-24-year-olds to improve their acting, singing and dancing skills," says Peter. Auditions will be held in the new year – those interested are invited to get in touch by emailing theperformancestudioni@gmail.com.

The couple also hope to fit in a honeymoon.

"We had a three-day honeymoon and Fleur was away for half a day of that to work on a show in Valencia," Peter, who has three grown-up children from his previous marriage, laughs.

While obviously happy living and working together, one thing the couple won't be doing is sharing a dressing room.

"Fleur loves to be distracted and busy pre-show but I need peace and quiet to concentrate. We once shared a dressing room on tour together in Europe and it was a disaster, so I said never again."

:: The Music Box 2018 – 10th Anniversary show will take place at Belfast's Waterfront from December 13-15. The Saturday performances will support the charity All Lives Are Precious, which offers support and services on emotional wellbeing, mental health education and suicide prevention. Tickets from Waterfront.co.uk

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