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Witchfinder General I think has been many collectors Holy Grail for many years, in fact my memories of the music from the movie go back to when I saw the movie for the first time and also to the 45 rpm single that was released by Roberto Mann and his orchestra, I was lucky enough to speak with the composer Paul Ferris briefly once when he was staying in and bed and breakfast I was given his phone number by a friend of his and just rang it  to my surprise he was there and did speak to me but was reluctant to discuss any of his music for films, at the time he was a truck driver and I found out he had pursued numerous careers and at one point was a sea Captain and a purveyor of fish and chips. A little while after our conversation he must have moved away because he was no longer staying at the address and soon after this I heard that he had died. I contacted PRS who put me in touch with his widow and from there I managed to speak to Nicky Henson who starred in Witchfinder and was a great friend of Paul’s. It was at this point that I began to try and get the score released it had been available on a De Wolfe LP but this was a library disc and was by this time a very rare item, the LP was two sided and also contained music from THE CURSE OF THE CRIMSON ALTAR. A very true to the original score suite of music from Witchfinder General was re-recorded for the Silva Screen HORROR album but this is all that collectors had. I then approached De Wolfe who had the original tapes, but they at the time did not seem interested in releasing it even under license to Silva or GDI, then came the great news De Wolfe would be releasing it, I waited, and waited and waited, but it never appeared, so now finally in 2013,they have released it, was it worth the wait, hell yes, and I am also glad that De Wolfe released it, they have made an excellent job of the CD, it is filled with stills (20) from the movie, packed with notes about the film and also the score and its release by Joel Martin and John Hamilton and the sound quality is wonderful.  Paul Ferris composed a classic sounding score for the movie and even though Witchfinder contained some pretty gruesome and graphic scenes of violence etc, the music for the most part is a romantically led and evokes memories of the familiar and popular standard “GREENSLEEVES”, which we are told Ferris openly admitted to being influenced by when composing his music for Witchfinder. The central theme which Ferris utilizes throughout the movie when we are presented with scenes that include the young lovers Richard and Sara, where the composer employs a lighter and more tender approach with soft sounding woods and subdued strings acting as accompaniment to a solo guitar or in the form of riding or galloping music that follows Richard on his journey back to Sara or in search of The Witchfinder, this romantically laced composition acts as a firm foundation to the remainder of the soundtrack,

 

 

Film poster for the retitled U.S. release version

Film poster for the retitled U.S. release version (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The composer building his more tense and dramatic sounding cues upon this and at times including fleeting snatches of the theme or at least a hint or glimpse of notes from it within these cues. Track number 8, BY THE WATER, is a prime example, we hear the more romantic theme  start to form performed on woodwind as we see Sara by the rivers edge but the mood of the music soon alters and the composer introduces a more dramatic and menacing sounding atmosphere with percussion and swirling strings being introduced into the equation. The theme or at least a permutation of it can also be heard within the films opening titles music, a martial like drum roll opens the cue as the shadowy looking title sequence commences showing somewhat grotesque looking faces under the credits, a muted trumpet opens the proceedings as further brass instrumentation herald in a low passage performed on strings, somewhat sinister sounding strings in turn segue into the composition and these lead into the first performance of the central theme which is given an airing via  subdued woodwind.  As I have already stated the central or love theme is utilized a number of times and the composer treats us to rich and at times lush sounding variations of it as the score progresses. There are as one might think given the films subject matter numerous compositions within the score that are of the darker variety. Ferris achieving a kind of sinewy sound via strings and augmenting these with urgent sounding brass, he also makes effective use of musical stabs throughout the work, and although these are on most occasions fleeting and just seconds in duration they still manage to make a lasting impression upon the listener. On viewing the movie again recently it still in my opinion remains an entertaining piece of cinema and a classic British horror film and one that will be looked upon in years to come as a masterpiece of film making and the score by Ferris is also one of the most outstanding works for a British Horror production, in many ways outstripping anything that was produced by Hammer. As a footnote to this review I would like to also mention composer Kenneth V Jones, the composer told me a few years back that he also contributed to the score for Witchfinder, whether or not any of his music is included on this recording I do not know, but apparently more music was required after Ferris had completed the score and Jones was brought in to write it without even seeing the movie, he told me it was action music, so what that would be I am uncertain of. This is a wonderful release and one that every discerning film music collector should own.

 

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