“This will be the largest band I’ve ever performed with for a musical” says Musical Director Mike Gilroy of the eighteen-piece orchestra that will fill the pit of the King’s Hall during the Ilkley Musical Theatre Society (IMTS) production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard in early March.

Mike is much in demand as a Musical Director across the Yorkshire region, and has a long-standing working relationship with IMTS (formerly known as Ilkley Amateur Operatic Society), with shows including Oliver!, Rent, Sweeney Todd and The Sound of Music already under his belt. The score of Sunset Boulevard offers an unprecedented challenge both in terms of the scale and the richness of sound. “The band includes four keyboards to support the strings, an expanded French Horn section and two percussionists” says Mike.

The percussion section is vital in doing service to Lloyd Webber’s constantly shifting score, which moves with a bounce and verve that matches the faded glories and grasping ambition of mid-20th Century Hollywood. The romance of the lush strings will be filled by the mellow tones of the French Horns, amplifying the yearning and tragic tale of love that weaves its way through the disturbing “Big Nowhere” of post-war Los Angeles.

As well as his work in musicals, Mike is also a music therapist, working at the Martin House Hospice in Wetherby and Specialist Inclusive Learning schools in Leeds. His work is about helping children to communicate and express themselves through music. He says music therapy brings about positive changes in behaviour, self-awareness and emotional well-being.

"I don't teach the children to sing or play an instrument," he says. "Instead, they're encouraged to use instruments and their own voices to explore the world of sound and create a musical language of their own. I create an atmosphere where they can express themselves freely."

Mike plays trumpet and guitar and is an accomplished pianist, but he’ll be concentrating on conducting during Sunset Boulevard. “With an eighteen-piece orchestra and twenty-two cast members, I just have to focus my energy on keeping everyone together,” he added.

It’s set to be quite the event. The show runs from March 6 to 9 with shows Wednesday to Friday at 7.15pm and Saturday at 1.30pm and 6.30pm.

Tickets are on sale now via www.ilkleyoperatic.co.uk