Quartet: In Support of The Musicians Benevolent Fund

In Support of the Musicians Benevolent Fund
Tuesday December 11th, 2012

by Katharine Fry

My first red carpet and, mercifully, an indoor one. We assembled behind a partially imaginary barrier for the arrival of Sir Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, Sheridan Smith, Ronald Harwood and Finola Dwyer, respectively the stars, screenplay writer, and producer of new British film Quartet, directed by Dustin Hoffman.  The film follows four elderly opera singers, reunited in a retirement home, trying to bury 40 years of hatchets and grudges to put together a winning fundraising concert.

Armed with a tip sheet and a bundle of nerves, I waited for the cast attending the Charity Gala Screening, in support of the Musicians Benevolent Fund at the Odeon West End. From trying to untangle Loose Lips’ moniker, to the steadycam bicep and the spare banana, along with a couple of serious moments on the actor-director relationship, first up was The Big Yin himself, Billy Connolly.

Next on the carpet approach was the utterly charming Sir Tom Courtenay, the impetus behind the film having suggested to his old friend Ronald that he adapt the play and write the part of Reggie for him. Moved by swelling opera of the stage version, he hoped that same atmosphere would be recreated on film. He told me about the trade-off between having less energy, but more expertise as you age, his thoughts on working as an older actor with first-time director Dustin Hoffman, and whether he thinks a real retirement home for performers could be built in the UK.

Then came screenplay writer Ronald Harwood who told me how to think out from the theatre and into film. He described the central message of the film – the importance of hope and vitality as you age.

And finally, the diminutive and fabulously modest Sheridan Smith, overcoming being starstruck by Dustin Hoffman to enjoy a daily masterclass with the cream of British acting.

Quartet will be released in cinemas nationwide on January 1st, 2013.


The Musicians Benevolent Fund has been supporting musicians for more than 90 years. It helps young musicians at the start of their careers, professional musicians when an accident, illness or injury means they are unable to work and older musicians in retirement. Last year saw an 80% increase in new applications from musicians needing help compared to the year before.

The Fund is independent and relies on donations to underpin its work.
For more information visit helpmusicians.org.uk or call 020 7239 9100.

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