Marco Werba.

June 10th 2022, and a chance for a rare trip to London and a scoring session at the renowned Angel studios in Islington, which are now part of the Abbey Road family. The film being scored was The Island of Forgiveness directed by acclaimed filmmaker Ridah Behi which stars Claudia Cardinale, as Agostina, Katia Greco as Rosa and Paola Lavini as Elena. The movie is produced by Ziad Hamzeh, Nicole Kamato, and Ridha Bedhi.

Marco Werba Conducting the ESO.

From what I could make out from the scenes I was seeing when the scoring was taking place it is a commanding drama that contains scenes that are powerful, romantic, and emotive. The score is the work of the Spanish born award winning Maestro Marco Werba who lives and works in Italy and has been doing so for many years now. Many collectors will already be familiar with the Maestro’s film scores and his wonderful gift of melody within them. He at times took to the podium during the sessions and conducted a sixteen-piece orchestra made up of strings from the English Session Orchestra ( with cello playing an important and affecting role within the score at key points, its somber but captivating sound adding an alluring atmosphere that is filled with passion, romance, and poignancy.

Michele Catania.

Other sections of the score were directed by composer Michele Catania who orchestrated some of the music and was on this occasion assistant to Marco Werba, he was assisted by Nicolo Braghiroli with the preparation of the scores and the parts for the musicians. . As soon as I heard the first cue, I knew that this was going to be a special day and one that would be filled with emotive and beautiful music.

Watching the scenes being scored was a thrilling and enriching experience, because seeing the film scored like this also allows one to see and hear just how important music is in movies, there is no dialogue or F/X just the images and the music being performed live to picture. In many ways watching the images with just the music is probably more emotive and affecting because there are none of the normal distractions such as dialogue or even the sounds in the theatre when you are watching the movie. The music is the prominent factor that is embellishing and underlining the emotions and actions that are being played out, rather than being a background to these scenes. The music that Marco Werba has composed for The Island of Forgiveness is eloquent, sophisticated, and deeply moving and from my point of hearing contained hints of the sound we associate with composer Ennio Morricone in movies such as Cinema Paradiso and had the same emotional impact of the work of another Italian Maestro Nicola Piovani in movies such as Life is Beautiful.

There is an aura and a sound present within Marco’s music that is totally consuming and wonderfully beguiling, at times it conveys a strong spiritual persona, that is inspiring and truly hypnotic and recalls the style of French composer Georges Delerue for the films of esteemed filmmaker Francois Truffaut such as The Woman Next Door. Despite these references, Marco Werba has his own style his own individuality and his own unique musical fingerprint that can be recognized through the various works he has written.

The music for The Island of Forgiveness has to it a freshness, but also possess familiarity purveying warmth and richness, which in turn creates highly emotional, intimate, and beguiling moments.

The Maestro slowly and precisely adding various levels of emotion, placing fragile and delicate melodies beneath sequences, adding colour and texture to these, his music never overpowering the storyline but instead empowering and ingratiating it and the images upon the screen. The composer’s music however is never merely a background to events but becomes an important and integral component of the overall cinematic experience, his compositions create an abundance of emotions and express numerous senses whether these be dramatic, or filled with melancholy and romanticism, but every time become affecting as well as effective.  I spoke to the composer about the movie and the music.

 JM.How did you become involved on the movie

M.W. One year ago I was in touch with producer Ziad Hamzeh for a film by a woman director, but the collaboration with that director didn’t move forward. Two months ago Ziad called me to propose to me the feature drama “The Island of Forgiveness” by tunisian director Ridha Behi, who has worked in the past with Nicola Piovani and Jean Claude Petit, and I immediately accepted.

He told me that they had financial problems and that I would need to find a music publisher who would be able to finance the film score. My previous score (“La Grande Guerra Del Salento”) had been financed by Kevin Ferri (Crisler Music/Soul Trade Music Publishing Group) and I proposed him to become the music publisher of this movie. He accepted. I told him that this movie would deserve to have a high-quality orchestra and that it would be wonderful to record in London with the “English Session Orchestra”. He accepted.

A few years ago I had been a guest of Dom Domalos Kelly, manager of the orchestra, during the recording session with Christian Henson for the British sci-fi movie “Robot Overlord”, at the “Air studio”, and I was really impressed by the quality of the performance. Now I finally had the chance to work with them.

J.M. Did the director have any specific requests regarding the style or sound for the movie

Good question. Director Ridha Behi is very intelligent and has good taste. It’s not easy to work with him because he is a perfectionist (like me) and loves to experiment various  solutions before choosing the definitive ones. He then asked for various options and various changes. He is one of that rare category of directors who don’t want to have too much music  in his movies. This is a choice that I respect because most of the directors I have worked with (except Cristina Comencini and Aurelio Grimaldi) have always asked me for a lot of music. 

Music is important but you need to know how to dose it well. I always give this example to the composition students I had in some masterclasses: Caviar is precious, but if you give it in large  quantities it loses its preciousness. For this film the only request from the director was to not write a Tunisian style music with Arabic instruments. I therefore wrote a dramatic music theme in various versions, two more themes and two waltzes (one was used in the film, the other will be included in the CD). There is only one composition (The Burial – L’enterrement), in which there’s a Middle Eastern flavor. Bruno Di Stefano then wrote a few short additional compositions for the movie. 

Riccardo Rocchi.

J.M. At the sessions there were the string section which I heard, were there any other instruments utilised on the score?

Yes, a Classical guitar performed by my trusted collaborator Riccardo Rocchi, a mandolin performed by my assistant Michele Catania,who also orchestrated and conducted some of the music, a piano that I performed and a few sampled instruments, Timpani, snare drums, recorder etc.

JM. How did you enlist the performance of Ellen Williams.

Ellen Williams is an excellent singer. I heard her cover versions of “No time to die” and “Gladiator” and fell in love with her voice. Her performance of the title song “Rosa’s Song” for “The Island of Forgiveness” has been truly amazing. Probably the best performance I have ever had of a song. Ellen wrote the lyrics and she is therefore co-writer of the song.

Marco Werba with Ellen Williams.

J.M. How much music did you compose for the score.

Not so much, because as I said director Ridha Behi didn’t want to have too much music in the film. I think we have more or less 30 minutes of music, but it is inserted in the most important scenes and well balanced. I would like to thank the “English Session Orchestra” for the beautiful performance, Ellen Williams for her  amazing performance, Sound engineer Marco Streccioni and his assistant Gabriele Conti per the great job they did, Michele Catania for all the work he has done, music publisher Kevin Ferri for the financing of the recording and Lanfranco Carnacina for his beautiful performance of the song “I Feel the Danger” that will not be used in this film. 

Gabriele Conti with Marco Streccioni.

The afternoon session began at around 14-10, and this was for vocal recordings, having already recorded the music the orchestra members were not present for this part of the sessions. The song that accompanies the movies end credits roll, was to be recorded the vocalist being Welsh Soprano Miss Ellen Williams, who has an amazing vocal range and such a pure and distinguished sound. I spoke to Ellen briefly before Marco returned to the sessions, and she told me she had also written the lyrics to the song and had even made a last-minute alteration to these on her way to the studio. Apparently, Marco had found her on You Tube and was impressed by her talents and wanted her to be involved on the project.

And speaking of this I suggest you check out her album on digital platforms entitled Cinema on which she performs vocal versions of movie themes and to look at her website click here  Ellen Williams | Welsh Classical Artist

Ellen Williams, Marco Werba and Lanfranco Carnacina.

I asked Ellen a few questions.

J.M. Are you a fan of film music, if so, have you any favourite themes or composers apart from Marco Werba of course?

E.W. Absolutely, I grew up listening to Classic FM on the radio and the array of soundtracks they often play. I’ve always been captured by how the music fills a suspenseful pause in films and really brings all the emotion and drama of the storyline to life. I love the music of Hans Zimmer and John Williams. I think one of my favourite themes of all time would probably be the theme form Schindler’s List. 

J.M. You wrote the lyrics for the song that you performed, is writing lyrics something you have done before?

E.W. I love to write in not only English and Welsh, but also Italian, French and Spanish, and so when Marco asked me to write the lyrics for the song I got straight into meeting with producer Ziad Hamzeh to really understand the sentiment of the film and compose something meaningful. In December 2020 I recorded a new lyric to traditional Welsh folk song Suo Gân, which Spielberg featured in the film Empire of The Sun. The track was a reflection of all that was happening in the world at the time with the Covid19 pandemic at a peak, and I was delighted to see people connect with the song, which went to number 1 in the UK Classical Charts. 

J.M. The score will be released on CD and would think on digital platforms eventually, will there be a single release of the song?

E.W. We are currently in the process of discussing releasing Rosa’s Song as a single.

Ellen Williams.

J.M. What is next for you another film soundtrack?

E.W. The biggest project I’m currently working on is a new album, a collection of hymns and songs to inspire hope and faith which will include rousing renditions of Abide with Me, Amazing Grace, beautiful Welsh hymn Calon Lân, and World in Union. 

Her performance was truly breathtaking, as she performed, we sat in total silence not moving, transfixed by her beautiful voice. The song is a vocal version of Rosa’s Theme, which is the thematic foundation of the work. it is a haunting piece which is heard in various forms throughout the movie. The song had to it a Gaelic sound or Irish lilt which was effective adding an ethereal ambience to it. As well as the end title credits song, Ellen performed a wordless vocal for a section of the score, this was for a dramatic and impacting scene in the movie, her part was brief but its quality outstanding. The power of Miss Williams soaring vocal combined with the richness and drama of the orchestral performance act as support and punctuation for the sequence, but also elevate and add greater depth lending a wonderful atmospheric to the scene, heightening the sense of drama and tragedy adding an operatic aura to the scene.

Lanfranco Carnacina and Marco Werba.

After Miss Williams had concluded her performance, they recorded another song, “I Feel the Danger” but this was for a movie that will not be released until 2023, the music and lyrics are penned by Marco Werba the vocalist being the famous Italian singer Lanfranco Carnacina, the story of this and the score for the movie I hope to tell you soon after the recordings in Rome. I will say that it was a polished and fixating performance, and Lanfranco was as we say in England the life and soul of the party. I want to add that I have been to a few recording sessions, and this I think was the most relaxed and friendliest and will also be the most memorable for me. My thanks to Maestro Marco Werba, and his wonderful group of friends and associates that were present making this one of the most enjoyable days ever. Also, many thanks to the staff and management at the Angel studios, who made everyone welcome and were always on hand to advise and assist.

Also present were Massimo Privitera of Soundtrack City and who’s energy and enthusiasm is infectious, Lionel Woodman of Hillside CD production, Jaques Dejean of Plaza Mayor Music Publishing, and at the mixing desk the Maestro of sound Marco Streccioni who has recorded and mixed nearly five hundred scores for film and television, working with many famous Maestro’s including Ennio Morricone and Luis Bacalov. He was assisted at Angel studios on this day by Gabriele Conti.

Marco Streccioni, Marco Werba and Jaques Dejean.

Thanks also to the brilliant members of the English Session Orchestra.  w:   fb: /EnglishSessionOrchestra   ig: englishsessionorchestra   tw: @LondonOrchestra  ,

© MMI/John Mansell.  2022.



Set in South Africa MOMENTUM is an action packed movie that by the look of the few scenes I was lucky enough to see at the recording session contains some of the most edge of the seat and fast paced situations that I have seen in recent years. The thriller which stars Olga Kurylenko, Morgan Freeman, James Purefoy and Scot Cooper is a tale about modern crime and begins with a complicated and risky heist that goes badly wrong. Kurylenko’s character Alex Faraday is a strong headed and beautiful woman who is as ruthless as she is attractive who after the heist is at risk of being caught by the authorities she also witnesses one of her fellow heist gang members being murdered viciously by members of an international syndicate, he escapes the scene of the murder but is seen by a Mr Washington (James Purefoy) who with his henchman embarks on a hunt to track her down thinking that she might have the information that her murdered colleague would not give them. It is an intriguing and highly entertaining plot which is at times violent and traumatic.


Stephen S. Campanelli makes his directorial debut on MOMENTUM but is no stranger to the world of motion pictures as he has been involved on numerous major movies as camera man, these include AMERICAN SNIPER, THE CHANGELING, VANILLA SKY, 50 FIRST DATES, SUM OF ALL FEARS, MYSTIC RIVER and MILLION DOLLAR BABY to name a mere handful, a protégé of actor director Clint Eastwood, I am sure this will be the first of many films that Campanelli will helm. The music is by Laurent Eyquem, who although may not be that familiar with collectors as yet has scored numerous TV productions and motion pictures, he first caught my attention with his haunting score for COPPERHEAD and then also his beautiful music for WINNIE MANDELA, but once I had discovered his music I began to look at articles and also his web site and discovered a wealth of beautiful works which he had penned, Laurent was awarded the IFMCA breakthrough composer of the year title in 2014 and has in recent months become one of the industries leading figures in scoring motion pictures. The score for MOMENTUM is a powerful one and contains all the elements that a great action picture needs to support it and also to embellish and enhance each and every scenario, but what struck me about the work and watching the composer put his score to the images was that it also contained a great deal of emotion and at times melancholy, which he at times applied to scenes that contained quite graphic violence, which I think will give the audience a real connection with each character. The music which was performed by players from a number of leading London orchestras was recorded over two days, January 7th and 8th at Abbey road studios, studio 2, Director Campanelli was also present.


The hard hitting compositions for the films many action scenes are striking and driving with the composer fusing electronic support with that of the conventional instruments of the orchestra, what also struck me about the score was that although the majority of the music was action led, it also contained wonderfully thematic material and a great asset to the work is that it actually contains what I call a MAIN THEME proper, by this I mean that the composer took me back to the days of when movies opened with a central theme that was not only melodic but also said to the audiences ok the movie is starting sit back and enjoy, and I think that when MOMENTUM opens (sometime in march 2015) audiences will love it and hopefully will also notice Laurent’s excellent powerhouse of a score. The score is performed in the main by strings and brass. The latter making a massive impression and giving the work a fearsome and relentless sound which one cannot fail to be gripped by. The strings add the melodies and give the work heart and a sweeping lushness that again one cannot fail to notice and love. The score is for me one of the best I have heard for a few years and I am not just saying this because I was present at the recording, straight away I knew that the music was not only good but it was magnificent, it is dark, tense, sad and moving, it all the qualities of an excellent motion picture score and I cant wait for the film to be released and then the soundtrack to get a compact disc release. Watch out for MOMENTUM and also Laurent Eyquem.


My thanks to Laurent Eyquem and also to all his team and Abbey road staff for their hospitality, also special thanks to Eleni Mitsiaki (ifmca).





In November 1995, I travelled to London’s Whitfield Street recording studios to sit in on the recording sessions for two albums that were being recorded by the British soundtrack label Silva Screen. These were HORROR and THE DEVIL RIDES OUT music for Hammer films composed by James Bernard. The label had found success previously when they re-recorded music from other Hammer horrors in their landmark album MUSIC FROM THE HAMMER FILMS which was issued originally on both long playing record and compact disc in 1989, the compilation included mainly the music of James Bernard, but also had within its running time a stunning suite from VAMPIRE CIRCUS by David Whitaker and also an equally interesting suite of themes from THE HANDS OF THE RIPPER by Christopher Gunning.


MIKE ROSS TREVOR (seated) PHILIP LANE. (standing).



Based on the success of this re-recording Silva Screens David Wishart, James Fitzpatrick and David Stoner planned further re-recordings of not only Hammer film music but other pieces from the horror genre. On this occasion the first sessions were to focus more upon non James Bernard scores and to my delight WITCHFINDER GENERAL was on the schedule, Philip Lane had reconstructed the music from the score by Paul Ferris and had arranged the principal themes into a wonderful suite, which included the haunting love theme and opening theme from the movie.

horror 2


The recording engineer was Mike Ross Trevor who was a familiar face to many collectors of movie score’s, the orchestra was THE WESTMINSTER PHILHARMONIC who numbered nearly 100 musicians, under the very able guidance of conductor Kenneth Alwyn. I arrived late thanks to British rail, and was met with a crowd of young girls and boys making a bit of a din and holding cameras in hand. Sadly theses were not for James Bernard, Carlo Martelli or Buxton Orr, but for Madonna who was recording an album in the studio next door. I got through the crowd and into the studio, the session had already started and the orchestra were already in full flight giving a thunderous performance of Buxton Orr’s CORRIDORS OF BLOOD,




I have to admit I did not recognise this at first but soon was reminded of what it was by David Wishart. I also did not recognise David Stoner, which was a little remiss of me! I had spoken to David Many times but only met him the once before, I soon however recognised the voice when he told me “It’s going really well”. Also in attendance at that time were composers Carlo Martelli, Buxton Orr plus Dimitri Kennaway (Benjamin Frankels stepson) and also his Mother Frankel’s widow.

 Buxton Orr.orrThe music recorded that first day was mainly that of Buxton Orr and also sections of THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF by Frankel, this I found to be a thrilling experience as Frankel’s music in particular just oozed energy and contained a particularly melodic pastorale theme. Carlo Martelli’s music for THE CURSE OF THE MUMMYS TOMB should also have been recorded in that session but due to a few problems with THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF, which is a very difficult score to perform Martelli’s music was postponed until the next days session.

The Curse of the Werewolf
The Curse of the Werewolf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Day two and this was a session I was looking forward to because WITCHFINDER GENERAL was on the running order for that day; the session was running late because of THE CURSE OF THE WEREWOLF which was still proving a little difficult for the orchestra. Frankel’s score for Hammer’s lupine classic was after all a more or less fully atonal work, and the Westminster philharmonic had to have a few attempts at it before they got it sounding the way it should. After approx; 9 takes and the marvellous conducting skills of Kenneth Alwyn everything fell into place and it sounded marvellous.


Carlo Martelli was present once again and I took a few minutes to speak with him, the composer was somewhat worried about how the orchestra would cope with his music for THE CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB, he felt that this too was a little difficult, however the orchestra took things in their stride and turned out a polished performance which the composer was pleased with. Next up was the classic British horror THE NIGHT OF THE DEMON this surely is one of the most iconic pieces of music from a horror movie, composed by Clifton Parker, it is a terror filled soundtrack for this recording the orchestra performed the overture, and filled the studio with the sound of horror and foreboding and evoked memories of the demon in question seeking out its victims and ending their existence, swiftly and mercilessly.


WITCHFINDER GENERAL was up next, and after a short break the orchestra came back into the studio to prepare for this, the music was composed by Paul Ferris, who had sadly passed away just one month previous to this recording, WITCHFINDER GENERAL or THE CONQUERER WORM as it was entitled in the United States has since its release become a cult movie and has been hailed as a masterpiece of horror film making by critics and fans alike.






The orchestra acquitted themselves marvellously, and special mention must be made of the string section and the beautiful delicate guitar solos of Harvey Hope. The re-construction by Philip Lane is in a word flawless. The cues included in this 6 minute suite included the Prelude and also the love theme which was arranged by Ferris in the movie to accompany Ian Ogilvy’s character as he rode home from the chaos of the English civil war to his fiancée. During this part of the recording I was invited to sit in the middle of the orchestra which is an experience that I will never forget.



Mike Ross-Trevor with David Wishart.



Witchfinder General (film)
Witchfinder General (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia

It was at this point that David Wishart informed me that The Horror album would be dedicated to Paul Ferris, a fitting tribute I think. Also during this session the music of Humphrey Searle was on the agenda, these included his brilliant music for Robert Wise’s chiller THE HAUNTING and also Hammer films production of THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN, both re-recordings went well and even with a full orchestra in a fully lit studio and the assembled company in the recording booth THE HAUNTING still made me feel slightly edgy and uneasy.






After lunch composer James Bernard arrived. His THE DEVIL RIDES OUT was to be recorded, but as the session was running late it was not recorded until the session had almost finished, they decided to just go for it and try and get it in one take, so after a very quick run through Kenneth Alwyn raised his baton and the orchestra launched into the virulent sounding composition THE POWER OF EVIL from the score. This concluded the session, we would all return in two weeks for more dark delights.




James Bernard
James Bernard

If I was asked what James Bernard score was my favourite I would find it very difficult to single one out. Obviously his DRACULA theme looms large because it conjures up an atmosphere and feeling of pure evil. The composer’s music adds perfectly the sense of menace to the proceedings of any horror film that he has written for. So when I saw what was to be recorded during these sessions I was in seventh heaven, DEVIL RIDES OUT, KISS OF THE VAMPIRE, SHE and music from QUATERMASS. KISS OF THE VAMPIRE I think was the main attraction for these sessions. The wonderful piano music from the score had been arranged by the composer for this re-recording into THE VAMPIRE RHAPSODY, Bernard told me that the solo piano part had originally been performed by Douglas Gamley, but for this session it would be played by Paul Bateman, who produced a flawless performance par excellence. This stunning performance will be one of the highlights of THE DEVIL RIDES OUT compilation, without sounding clichéd or corny I was literally mesmerized by Bateman’s performance.



horror 1


Also recorded over the weekend were sections from James Bernard’s SHE which he had arranged into a suite, Bernard confessed this was one of the hardest scores he had composed and had more problems with it than all of his other works for Hammer, but it also turned out to be his own personal favourite. The suite included AYESHA THEME, DESERT RIDE, BEDOUIN ATTACK, IN THE KINGDOM OF SHE and also the music for the end sequence where Ayesha enters the flames and perishes. An additional treat was a suite of music from all the QUATERMASS movies that Bernard scored. THE QUATERMASS SUITE is in the words of David Wishart “Real Horror stuff” and after hearing it I totally agreed. The suite is terrific, tense and dramatic music that is performed on strings and percussion only, this rivals the work of Herrmann in my opinion and is more complex and certainly more harrowing in its overall sound than PSYCHO or VERTIGO, and seeing as Bernard penned QUATERMASS before either of these two Herrmann scores, one has to ask the question who influenced who, if indeed anyone did. The sessions had gone well and we had time to record additional tracks which were destined for THE HORROR album.








Gerard Schurmann’s KONGA and HORRORS OF THE BLACK MUSEUM plus Buxton Orr’s THE FIEND WITHOUT A FACE.  As the sessions ended I was confident that both these compilations would do well for Silva Screen and also that the label had once again restored and preserved some wonderful music from film, which might have been lost forever.




A few weeks later the HORROR album dropped through my letterbox and to my surprise and also delight I saw that David Wishart had used my photographs from the sessions and also had given me a credit in the CD liner. It was also at these sessions that James Fitzpatrick played to me a few cues that he had recorded with another orchestra, these were FRANKENSTEIN CREATED WOMAN and THE SCARS OF DRACULA, which sounded brilliant, the orchestra was THE CITY OF PRAGUE PHILHARMONIC, who as we all know have become a driving force in film music.










Night of the Demon
Night of the Demon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many thanks to,

David Wishart, David Stoner, James Fitzpatrick, Philip Lane, Buxton Orr, Carlo Martelli, James Bernard, Fiona Searle, Dimitri Kennaway, Kenneth Alwyn and the ladies and gentlemen of THE WESTMINSTER PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA.



©1995/96 JOHN MANSELL.