It’s not that often that we are treated to concerts of film music, and it’s even rarer to have recordings of the concerts released, so I am so pleased that the Debbie Wiseman concert at the Barbican in London has been issued onto a recording by those lovely people at Silva Screen. Debbie Wiseman is without a doubt one of the most prominent composers of film and TV music in England, and one of the most in demand composers of music for film in the world today. Her melodies are wonderfully constructed and exquisitely orchestrated, they linger long in one’s memory and not only hauntingly beautiful but fit each and every project she works on like the proverbial glove. The composer is conducting the Guildhall School Orchestra on this occasion and the performance is in my humble opinion flawless and inspiring. The recording opens with WILDE WEST from the movie WILDE, now this is a score that is overflowing with thematic content, with its romantic but at the same time fragile sounding nuances and compositions, and when the film was released I was convinced that Debbie would win the Oscar for her efforts on this soundtrack, but alas it was not to be. It is still one of the most played items within my collection, I never tire of hearing its charming and enthralling pieces. The opening cue is followed by another piece from the score entitled, WILDE, which is the central theme from the score, it is abundant with a quality and a sound that we do not encounter often enough within film music nowadays more is the pity. Track three is from TOMS MIDNIGHT GARDEN which is another incredibly emotive and wonderfully haunting piece. Track four is a 4-minute piece from the score to the very popular TV series WOLF HALL which gained many accolades and drew much attention when it was screened on the BBC, it is obvious from the applause at the end of the section that it was also very popular with the audience at THE BARBICAN. Track number five is an 8-minute suite from THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE which is just breath-taking, this is followed by the composer’s highly dramatic music from, THE FLOOD, again popular with the audience. Track seven is a 7-minute piece from the spoof horror movie LESBIAN VAMPIRE KILLERS, and although this was essentially a comedy with tongue very much planted in cheek throughout, Wiseman scored it as a serious movie and gave it one of the most alluring and superbly attractive gothic scores that I have heard for many a year. It is quite a majestic sounding work for a horror movie, with lots of brass, choir, and soaring strings, but it works so well within the movie and has a life away from it, being an entertaining listening experience on its own. It is a powerful and commanding work that is performed here with the principal themes from the score being aired.
For track number 8, we are back with the melodic and fragile sounding Wiseman for A POET IN NEW YORK, this is a lovely score and features poignant violin solo and lilting and subtle strings that together create and lush and almost luxurious sound that is supported by horns and rumbling percussion and piano, in many ways this is very similar to Wisemans music for WILDE, it has a powerful but at the same time intimate sound which has purveys an atmosphere of solitude and loneliness. Next up is a short but beautiful suite from the movie HAUNTED, this again contains a theme that one just cannot resist, it is if you will forgive the pun haunting and completely mesmerising. Within the score the theme is performed at one point on piano which is affecting as well as effective, here we are treated to a full orchestral working of this gracious and alluring theme, which is breath-taking. The theme from the TV series Father Brown is next, this always reminds me of a waltz, it’s one of those themes that one hears and knows straight away what it’s from and if you are in another room and you hear it you know the show is starting, it’s quite jaunty and jolly at times but has a hint of a serious side. THE WHALE is next, this begins slowly and quite subdued but builds into a commanding and highly emotional piece performed wonderfully by the Guildhall School orchestra. Next are sections from Debbie’s incredibly powerful tour de force ARSENE LUPINE. In fact, there are four movements from the score, and it is as interesting and enjoyable as it was when I first heard it. The final cue on this superb recording is JUBILEE GIGUE which was written especially for the Queens Diamond Jubilee Pageant. Again, this is amazingly melodic and stirring, overall this is an album that you should have in your collection, it contains some of the best film and TV music ever written, highly recommended.
It’s been a long time since I went to a gathering or meeting of any type concerning film music, and it’s been even longer since I enjoyed it so much. Today September 24th 2016 I will remember for a long time, it was the first gathering of FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES organised by Tim Smith and James Fitzpatrick, guest composers in attendance were TREVOR JONES, MARK THOMAS, DEBBIE WISEMAN, CHRISTOPHER GUNNING and DANIEL PEMBERTON. All of whom were in a word wonderful, I loved the way that all of them were so relaxed and also so forthcoming with their thoughts and opinions about film music, scoring films and the art and craft of what they do. The last time I attended such a function must have been way back in the 1990, s when it was organised by either THE GOLDSMITH SOCIETY or John Williams of SILENTS AND SATELITTES and early editions of MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES fame. I Seem to recall a few of these SEMINARS as they were called being held at the BONNIGTON hotel in London, but that is by the way. Today’s event was well organised and it ran so smoothly at least that’s what I witnessed, the only hiccups being Tim Smith’s nerves I think, which is understandable when organising something like this, but he handled it very well and made everyone welcome.
It was also a time to put faces to Facebook (other social medias are available) conversations which was also really nice and it was something of a reunion for myself with fellow soundtrack collector Jerry Daley being there and of course talking with Trevor Jones and Chris Gunning after a break of more than a few years, Trevor remarked that is was the sessions for HIDEAWAY when we last saw each other in the flesh as it were.
Held at the renowned ANGEL recording studios in Upper Street Islington, this was an afternoon that I know many will be thinking of for a long while. Tim Smith took to the floor at around two o clock, and spoke to the gathered fifty or so attendees, briefly explained the fire drill then went on to introduce the host for the afternoon, the well know record producer and passionate film music fan James Fitzpatrick, many of us in attendance of course remember buying LP records off of James when he was behind the counter and managing the sadly missed 58 DEAN STREET RECORDS, and then he was one of the driving forces behind SILVA SCREEN initiating that labels foray into re-recordings of soundtracks which included the first release of music from Hammer films for example and renditions of themes from movies such as WITCHFINDER GENERAL, NIGHT OF THE DEMON, KISS OF THE VAMPIRE and full score reconstructions and re-recordings of soundtracks such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA,THE BIG COUNTRY etc. James is now the boss at TADLOW MUSIC producing so many exquisite re-recordings and releases of excellent film music and providing orchestras for composers on various projects.
His attention to detail and also achieving high quality recordings is second to none, and I believe he is a Master of his particular craft and a person who does not shout about his achievements as in blow his own trumpet (forgive the pun). James made a brief introduction, and also then introduced the guests for the afternoon, it was at this point we were treated to something of a sneak preview from an up and coming release on TADLOW, which is Miklos Rozsa’s classic soundtrack for THE THIEF OF BAHGDAD, which like all of TADLOW’S releases sounded magnificent, it was fantastic to hear the music and also see the orchestra conducted by Nic Raine perform.
After the cue had concluded James started things off with a question to the guests about if they thought film music composition was an art or a craft. Debbie Wiseman began the responses, followed by Mark Thomas, Trevor Jones and then Christopher Gunning and Daniel Pemberton, all explained their idea of composition being an art or craft very differently, but I thought basically they all more or less agreed that it was part art part craft, which then segued into discussing other topics that were related to being a composer of film music, this spontaneity by the guests who were happy to chat about almost anything without being prompted for me made the afternoon even more interesting and enjoyable. We learnt that Daniel Pemberton is working on another movie by Guy Ritchie which is a KING ARTHUR film, and also that when he feels he has got something right as in writing a particular cue does a little dance around his flat, which as Debbie Wiseman remarked is an image that will linger in her head for a while.
There were also questions from the audience, which were very interesting enquiries and also the responses from the assembled guest were too as interesting if not more so. It’s surprising that although they all work in the same field they all seem to have different approaches to the actual mechanics of writing the scores, some preferring the more classical and time honoured approach of manuscript and pencil others using the more technical options that are available, which then led to explanations from Trevor Jones about certain software that became available to the composer back in the late 80’s etc, which made it either easier or more of a headache for them to score films. He also spoke of the switch almost overnight from analogue too digital which gave him more than one headache in the studio.
We did have a short break for refreshments and this gave members of the audience a chance to chat amongst themselves and also with the composers, it was at this point the first raffle was held and the winners (not me, I was one away, but I am ok honestly) were given generous goodie bags of compact discs which were given freely by TADLOW, MOVIE SCORE MEDIA, CALDERA and SILVA SCREEN, there were also FANS OF MOVIE MUSIC mugs on sale a snip at £6.95 and then we had a second raffle for a poster advertising the event signed by all the guests.
More questions and answers followed and it became apparent that Christopher Gunning was shall we say a little tired of scoring films and TV as he had been writing what was is called by some “serious” music as in concertos and symphonies for concert hall performance, Christopher was relieved that he never had a deadline or a director and producer peering over his shoulder all the time, but then he said when writing his symphony at times he had wished he could phone up a particularly difficult director and ask him to come round and stand behind him and give him a hard time so he could actually write some music.
Debbie Wiseman and James Fitzpatrick.
Debbie Wiseman told us how she got into the business and how after working on a series such as FATHER BROWN that if a different director was brought in it would be them that had to adapt to her music simply because she had written so many established themes for that series and had been there since the offset. So that was a different perspective, as its normally the composer that has to adapt their music for anything that the director might want to do. All of the composers told stories of either directors or producers that were shall we say difficult, Christopher Gunning remembering to be asked to score POIROT but not include the established and award winning theme for the series, (which everyone knows and loves) Gunning told us that he tried to introduce the theme when he could at one point turning the music upside down.
Daniel Pemberton recalling the time he scored a documentary about Hiroshima, one of the greatest losses of human life in the 20th Century and when it got to the part in the film where the bomb had been dropped and there was utter desolation and destruction, the executives on the film telling him that his music was to down beat and sombre. Mark Thomas being asked to score a section of film with music like the music in the chariot race scene in BEN HUR, and then realising there is no music in that sequence, “So that was easy” he said. Time unfortunately was running out and we had to stop, but then we were allowed to ask the guests to sign CD covers etc. Which they did and gave their time generously stopping to talk to each and every person about the cover they had selected and their love of movie music, the signings were accompanied by some great music and images of orchestra performing at various TADLOW recording sessions.
Overall it was a great success, there were no awkward silences, no silly questions, it was just a good experience that had an easy going atmosphere with all of the composers being quite laid back and forthcoming with snippets of information and various stories of good, bad and ugly situations that they had encountered in their careers. (Chris Gunning was very open and frank) which was very amusing and interesting. I hope that this is an event that will be repeated and become an annual occurrence, we have to thank TIM SMITH who initiated this and also James Fitzpatrick who helped immensely in it coming to fruition, we also have to say a big thank you to all of the composers for their time and also their interest in the people who buy soundtracks and too all the FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES team for being there making the day go well, plus a big thank you to Phil Watkins for taking all of those great photographs, some of which I have with his permission used in this article. marks out of 10, I give it an 11.
Just one thing left to say ENCORE,,,,, Looking forward to FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES 2.
I have to be truthful and tell you I have not watched each and every episode of DICKENSIAN when it has been aired, in my defence I have been a little busy of late, however I have recorded every episode and as the series reaches its conclusion I am ever more intrigued and sucked in by the very clever storyline. The score by the wonderfully talented British composer Debbie Wiseman is for me one of the many high points of this series, I had no doubt when I discovered that the music was by Debbie that it would be something quite special and I have to say I was not wrong or in any way disappointed. Debbie Wiseman has become one of the most established and popular composers of music for television and film, I for one was devastated when her music for WILDE was not given a special award because it is in a word EXCELLENT. The same too can be said for DICKENSIAN, this is a haunting and entertaining work which contains some deliciously intricate and melodic themes that are supported and accompanied by an equal amount of dramatic and melancholy pieces. The composers use of cimbalom within the score is one of its stand out features and I think it was this that first grabbed my attention whilst watching the first handful of episodes it became an integral and an important component of the series at times it was as if it were another actor on screen, the cimbalom is I think an instrument that in most cases when utilised purveys to any listener a sense of uneasiness, apprehension or even fear, this is the atmosphere that came across in the music for DICKENSIAN on a personal level, but saying this it at the same time brought to the proceedings a mood that was slightly comical and even jaunty and awkward in a unsettling kind of fashion. Not sure if you understand what I am saying but this is the mood that it evoked for me personally, the score contains some lilting and delicate sounding performances on solo piano which is underlined by subtle use of solo violin, harp and fragile sounding woodwind at certain points.
There is darkness here and clusters of sombre sounding passages which work their way in and out of the score but these are even given a intimate and more human persona because of the way in which they are orchestrated. The music I think you all will agree fitted the series like the proverbial glove but never seemed to intrude or overwhelm the images and the stories being acted out on screen. Wiseman’s beautifully crafted soundtrack will I think be one that is enjoyed by many and returned to numerous times and on each outing the listener will be taken back to the cold snowy streets of London in DICKENSIAN times and remember their own personal favourite characters from the series. Thoroughly recommended.
HAUNTED was released in 1995, its tag line being, A SUPERNATURAL TALE OF LOVE AND MYSTERY, directed by Lewis Gilbert and starred Aidan Quinn, Kate Beckinsale, Anthony Andrews, Anna Massey and Sir John Gielguld. Set in 1925 Aidan Quinn’s character David Ash is disturbed and frequently haunted by a harrowing memory from when he was a young boy of his twin sister drowning, although an accident he blames himself for her death. As an adult he has become a professor at Cambridge specialising in the paranormal and also psychosis, his outlook being that there is always a reason for such things as sightings of ghosts and the paranormal he attempts at every opportunity to offer a feasible or reasonable explanation to the unexplained. For his research he attends a number of séance’s and goes to the homes of people who believe that they are being haunted by spirits. It is not however until he goes to the house of the Mariell family that things begin to happen that make him doubt his own sanity and beliefs. An exciting and interesting storyline that is as all good supernatural tales should be entertaining and thought provoking. The music is by Debbie Wiseman, a composer of worth and one who is highly talented and has a great gift for melody. Her score is a (forgive the pun) haunting one and contains one of the most beautiful and lingering themes that I have heard in many years, JULIETS THEME is I suppose the backbone of the entire work and the composer fashions her score around this attractive and alluring piece. The theme first appears in track number 2 on the compact disc and is performed on piano it is a lilting and fragile sounding piece which attracts the attention of the listen right from the opening five notes, the remainder of the score being for a ghost story has its darker and more sinister moments, but it also contains some delightful string passages and highly emotive themes performed by strings, solo flute and piano that add depth emotion and also a slightly romantic air to the proceedings. The less melodic music within the score is still highly listenable as the composer fuses a certain amount of melodious material within these cues and at times they actually become more disturbing or unsettling because of the underlying harmonies and her use of choir and unnerving strings that receive subdued punctuation from harp and woodwinds. JULIETS THEME does re-appear throughout the score either as a plaintive sounding piano piece or in various other guises, the composer orchestrating the theme differently and at times sneaking in just a snippet of the theme into a cue so that we are reminded of it. There is a freshness and elegance about the central theme and also this is echoed in other cues such as CHRISTINA’S MINUET which is a delightful piece and LOVERS which incorporates a short section of BUT NOT FOR YOU by George and Ira Gershwin.
HAUNTED is an accomplished score by one of the worlds leading film music composers, Debbie Wiseman has the ability to work in any genre of film and also is prolific in the writing of memorable scores for television productions and she is also a talented pianist as demonstrated on this score.
If you missed this release when it was first issued I am sure you will be able to find a copy on one of the internet shopping sites or I tunes. It is certainly worth having and a soundtrack that you will return to many times.
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