The Manchester academy is here!

Hello, Jess here and I’m very excited to announce that the Manchester Becky Dell Music Academy has arrived in 2017!

We’re up and running with two tutors at the moment and have already got our first set of students in the Worsley area.

I chose Worsley as the base for the Manchester academy because it’s where I grew up. Having the personal knowledge of the area has really helped with spreading the news of the academy. Worsley has the same feel to me as Blackheath/Greenwich – both picturesque towns a short distance from the heart of exciting musical cities. It’s an absolutely beautiful place to be based and we’re really lucky to be expanding our musical community up here.

We currently have tutors for piano, violin, woodwind and singing. These tutors are myself (Jess!) and Sophie Simpson.

Sophie is our violin and piano tutor and graduated from her masters at the RNCM in the summer. Since then she has been busy with exciting orchestral concerts and projects up and down the country as well as teaching jobs around the North West. She is a keen Historically Informed Performer – this means she studies how music was played hundreds of years ago to try and replicate it.

I am teaching woodwind, piano and singing alongside managing the academy back in my lovely hometown. Since moving from London in the summer, I have been studying my masters at the RNCM whilst exploring what the Manchester music scene has to offer, playing for musicals and in orchestras and playing music on the wards of the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

 

But we’re not stopping at two tutors!

I’m always on the lookout for new teachers to fit with the demand of lessons. Don’t see your instrument on our list? Let me know as I’m always hiring new and adventurous professional musicians to teach and inspire.

So, how can you help us?

Know someone in the Worsley area? Might they want music lessons? Are you part of a group that can help promote this new venture?

We want our current Blackheath/Greenwich community and all our other friends to spread the word so we can expand this new academy, so talk about the academy and share our facebook page. If you want any more information please email me on jess@beckydellmusicacademy.co.uk

Here’s to exciting times ahead…

Music in the Oscars

by Jess

Last night was the biggest, most glamorous party in the cinematic calendar – the Oscars.

And what amazing films and performances we’ve had this year.  Lion, Manchester by the Sea, Fences, Jackie, Florence Foster Jenkins…. The list goes on with an even longer list of all the spectacular performances from the actors and actresses. A personal favourite of mine was La La Land – stylistic, slick and, best of all, MUSICAL!

Which leads me to the theme of this article.

Music in the Oscars.

Because, let’s face it – music makes a film! 

There are two awards for music at the Oscars. Best Original Score and Best Original Song.The Original Score is the music that is composed for the overall film, the incidental music that happens during the scenes to enhance the action, the mood and the characters’ emotions. It’s the music we take for granted – but we’d definitely notice if it wasn’t there!

But on this Monday morning, I want to introduce you to the Original Songs that were up for nominations. These were the songs that were written specifically for the film. Maybe you can have a listen during your coffee break, on the way home from work or even ask your tutor to play/sing it in a future lesson!

So sit back and have a listen to these five great songs:

  1. AUDITION (THE FOOLS WHO DREAM) from La La Land; Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

This is the one we’ve all heard on the La La Land trailer, as you see Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling dance away into the stars in a romantic, cliché Hollywood scene. Emma sings this song as part of an audition in the film. It’s so simply done with just her on screen, a plain back drop and one camera circling her face. Simple yet effective!

  1. CAN’T STOP THE FEELING from Trolls; Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster

This was my soundtrack to the summer – ask my Dad, I even had a dance move every time it came on in the car on holiday! Didn’t Justin Timberlake come back with a bang with this one?! It’s a feel good, upbeat, dance number. If writing the song wasn’t enough, he also featured in the film… his voice, he hasn’t actually turned into a brightly coloured Troll as far as I’m aware.

  1. CITY OF STARS from La La Land; Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul

We’re back to La La Land but this time we’ve got Ryan Gosling taking centre stage. His character played a struggling jazz pianist, going from job to job and it was only when he sat down at home that he played the music he really wanted to play. This was the song he always chose to perform for his pleasure. It was a recurring theme throughout the film, and I loved it!

  1. THE EMPTY CHAIR from Jim: The James Foley Story; Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting

This makes a lovely contrast to the others featured on this year’s Oscar lists. Sting made a comeback this year writing it. It has a beautiful folk quality, Sting’s resonating voice along with  solo piano accompaniment. Hauntingly beautiful.

  1. HOW FAR I’LL GO from Moana; Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda 

Finally we finish with Disney! You can’t have an Oscars original song without Disney. The music was inspired by traditional South Pacific sounds alongside the classic Broadway musical songs. The combination makes it pretty gorgeous! Disney have given us another belter with this song, possibility not as epic as Let it Go, but it still stuck in my head for a long time after I watched the film.

I hope you have chance to listen to these great songs. Let’s keep celebrating all this exciting music.

Have a good Monday.

A Day in the Life of a Harry Potter Musician

A few months ago we were lucky enough to spend a little time in the company of a musician who has had what many young classical musicians might consider the epitome of a musical career. Oh, and he also happens to be one of our very own BDMA Grandads – Francis Saunders!

We spent a couple of hours with Francis hearing all about his musical education, his teachers, the exciting recording sessions and so much more.

Francis’ musical life begun as a chorister at St Paul’s Cathedral School where he then began learning the cello, aged 9.

Between then and now, among many other things, he has studied cello with some of the greatest teachers, he has travelled the world, been one of the longest standing members (37 years!) of one of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, the LSO, played on some of the most iconic movie soundtracks (including Harry Potter!) and been an important figure in education and outreach programmes.

We couldn’t resist asking him about what it was like to play on some of the most famous movie soundtracks…

Francis with composer John Williams

Francis with composer John Williams.

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We are desperate to ask you some questions about playing on the Harry Potter score! Tell us – how big was the orchestra?

Probably about 70 – 80… John Williams [the composer of the original film] conducted that session!

What was he like?

Everyone loved and respected him.

Any unusual instruments in that score?

Not as such but it was very percussion heavy. Some soundtracks do use less typical orchestral instruments like sax or recorder or cor anglais…

I’m always curious, do you ever get film scores in advance?

We do not, we get them on the day [of the recording]!

How long do you get to rehearse before recording?

Well, it depended on the conductor…but never very long.

How many takes would you do for the soundtracks?

Sometimes one take, sometimes more.

Apart from HP, what other soundtracks have you played on?

I’ve played on the Star Was films in 1978/79, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Indiana Jones: Raiders of The Last Ark.

Any particularly juicy cello parts?

Raiders was especially good.

And finally what advice would you give to your younger self, or an aspiring musician?

It’s jolly tough!  When I retired from the LSO, 200 people applied for my seat [he retired in 2007]. Keep improving and do as much studying as you can. Go to different people as they will offer and teach you different things. It’s also really important to be a team player and get on with people. Be organised and take your self and your work seriously and you will be fine.

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It is always a gift to meet any musician who has dedicated their whole life to their craft. We want to extend our warmest thanks and appreciation to Francis for taking the time to talk to us. He gave us such an inspiring insight into his world of being a high flying musician, a teacher, an orchestral player and so much more, most of which we couldn’t fit into this newsletter and wish we could have – rest assured it was magic to hear about.

Big Ben’s Bells are Taking a Little Break…

This blog is all about Bells. Big beautiful bonging bells! Both the Big Ben bell and the place it was created, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in East London.

Any keen listener of BBC Radio 4 will probably know of the impending bong deficit. This is because the Clock Tower at Westminster (the home of Big Ben and the other bells) is having a major three year refurbishment plan.

Of course, when you rely on the Bongs of Big Ben to start your live Radio show or TV programme, what do you do instead?

There was the story of the young girl who had very kindly offered to step in and do the bongs, and whilst we wait for the Bells to stop chiming (they are unsure when exactly within the three year restoration programme the bells will stop exactly, but they estimate the bongs will be out of action for a few months), here are some suggestions. This is a three minute audio clip on the subject from BBC Radio 4.

Photo from the BBC Archive.

Here are some facts about Big Ben, taken from www.bigbenfacts.co.uk

Who named Big Ben?

Londoners did. SUPPOSEDLY, the bell was going to be named Victoria after Queen Victoria, but Londoners started calling the bell “Big Ben” and the name stuck. (Giving nicknames is still a London custom – just think about “the Gherkin”!)

Where and when was Big Ben made?

Big Ben was cast at Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in East London, on 10th April 1858. It took him two weeks to cool, and once he was ready, they transported him to Westminster on a horse drawn carriage. Londoners lined the route and cheered as the bell went past.

How much does Big Ben weigh?

He weighs about 13 and a half tons, about the same as a small elephant.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry is a great company with centuries of tradition, sadly struggling to survive in a modern world.

As a result of this, the company is closing May 2017. The site is being sold for flats (sigh) but they are still hopeful that the business might survive. So if you know anyone that might want a bell making business, tell them to get in touch with the current owners. I’ve been to visit Kathryn and Alan Hughes at the Bell Foundry and they are great people. I hope they find suitable buyers and keep one of the oldest businesses (it’s been going for 446 years) in the UK going…

Healthy Musicians

Healthy Musicians

by Jess

As a professional musician, I feel that I was told far too late about the importance of injury prevention and good posture. I was only made aware of it once I’d started my Bachelor degree and, as I went for a sports massage this afternoon to help the tension I’d acquired over years of playing, it occurred to me that we really should make our students and their parents aware of the importance of taking care of your body when you play.

When children start learning an instrument they are still growing. We want to make sure that playing an instrument has no effect on the development of the child but also that the child feels no pain as a result of playing.

If everything is at ease, the music will flow much more naturally!

So with this in mind, I want to share some tips for looking after your child’s posture and physical wellbeing whilst playing an instrument, but hopefully some of these ideas can be used throughout all areas of their life. The tips for sitting at the piano can be transferred to the computer and the heavy cases can also apply to heavy school bags!

Sitting at the piano

Sitting comfortably at the piano is so important, especially as the piano is so huge compared to the size of children. Your child should be sitting at a distance from the piano where their hands can reach comfortably. The chair or stool they sit on needs to be at a height where, similarly, the hands don’t stretch to reach the piano (if it’s too high there will be tension in the arms and if it’s too low the shoulders will start to droop.)

What you can do:

  • Make sure that you have a stool that is the correct height for your child. If you have multiple children learning piano then adjustable stools are fantastic. Otherwise think about improvising with cushions or books to get the right height. This also applies to drum kit players!
  • Every now and then check how they are sitting. Especially after school, tiredness can mean that shoulders will droop and necks will tense up – we want to avoid this! If you are aware of these things then you can just remind your child to sit up. Tell them they will be more comfortable!
  • Make sure your wrists don’t drop onto the piano, there should always be space for a mousie/tennis ball (delete as appropriate) to be underneath the hand.
  • Make sure there is a straight line from wrist to elbow and at a 90 degree angle. The elbow should never be higher or lower than the wrist ad there should not be any “chicken wings” – elbows moving up and down like doing a chicken impression!

Holding instruments

With instruments that we hold up, such as violins, woodwind and brass instruments, the main rule is BRING THE INSTRUMENT TO YOU. This means we don’t want to contort our body to fit the instrument but we want to stand in a comfortable position and the instrument fits into this posture.

What you can do:

  • If your child looks uncomfortable during practice, tell them to put the instrument down and “shake away” all the tension (a bit of silliness helps break up practice time too!) Then get them to stand in a comfortable posture and hand them back the instrument, making sure they don’t droop their shoulders or tilt their neck during this process.
  • Standing with both feet flat on the floor about a shoulder width apart will also really help (it’s impressive some of the one legged gymnastic stances I’ve seen!) This applies for singers as well; a good posture means breathing is a lot easier too.

Instrument sizes

I think we forget that some of the instruments are children our playing, are played by fully grown adults, and they often find them heavy! Some instruments have variable sizes which will help make playing easier and the instruments that are standard sizes often have straps that help smaller people to play them.

What you can do:

  • If your child plays a string instrument (violin, cello, guitar etc.) then you are lucky that the instruments come in smaller sizes. It is so important to ask the tutor for advice on what size your child should be playing on. Too big and fingers and arms will stretch unnaturally and too small we will start to get hunched shoulders.
  • Woodwind instruments are normally all standard sizes, so we have to find other alternatives. For flute players, there are flutes that have a bent round head joint to make the flute short and easier to reach the notes. For clarinets, saxes, oboes and bassoons it is important to get a really supportive neck strap. These are often ones that also go round the waist and shoulders so the weight of the instrument gets distributed evenly.
  • For brass players, there is a series of trombones called P-Bones that are made of plastic (and are brightly coloured!) meaning they are lighter for children to hold. These are also available in trumpets and horns. These are only suitable for young beginners, but there are a good starting point for slighter players, where weight of instrument is a problem.

Heavy cases

Lugging around heavy instrument cases is sometimes more detrimental to a working musician than a playing related injury. We fill our cases with mountains of sheet music, balancing the case on an already weak shoulder with a handbag resting on the other arm.

No wonder we get injured!

What you can do:

  • Make sure the case only contains the music needed for that lesson, don’t keep every piece they’ve ever played buried in the case. The grams gradually add up! So try to keep tabs on what books they are working on, check the notebook the tutor keeps for this information.
  • Try to buy a case with two straps if it needs to be carried on their back and that the straps aren’t too low on the child’s back. Low straps might look cool but they put so much unnecessary strain on the back!
  • If they take instruments to school, see if there is a storeroom they can keep their instruments in during the day. Especially for secondary school pupils, there is rarely much space to store things, so if the music teacher is aware they have an instrument to bring in, normally they will find a space to store it.

Hopefully you can apply some of these tips to your child’s practice routine. As ever, if you want to understand more about the instrument your child is learning then our tutors are always happy to answer your questions. We want a community of healthy and happy musicians so please come to us with any concerns or further questions.

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New Year, New MUSIC

by Jess

It’s the third week of January and we’ve all probably heard the phrase “New Year New Me” a fair few times by now. But at the Becky Dell Academy we’ve been thinking, what’s so good about making everything new? Why don’t we just revisit something, a hobby perhaps, that we have lost along the way?

Life becomes very focused on our daily activities. How many times have you heard the phrase:

“I used to <insert hobby here> but I just don’t have time anymore”?!

Well in 2017, we want to MAKE TIME!

What a crazy new year’s resolution that is.

But what we mean is, let’s take a small portion of our day and go back to a hobby that we sadly lost when life just got too hectic.

 

 

Obviously, our suggestion is MUSIC!

 

 

Whilst scrolling through twitter the other day, I came across an article from the BBC about adults picking up a musical instrument that they used to play when they were younger. And that was the inspiration for this blog:

http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140709-never-too-late-to-learn?ocid=ww.social.link.twitter

It may seem a ridiculously scary and daunting prospect sitting down at the piano or picking up your instrument after 20 years of dust has settled. But it’s ok! That’s exactly what the writer of this article talks us through.

I won’t lie and say the technical difficulties have gone when you start learning again as an adult, but a deeper appreciation for the instrument and heightened determination to achieve something means that, actually, adult players learn surprisingly well.  Because you’re starting again out of your own choice, you motivate yourself to practice and push yourself to get to the next piece.

But in 2017, let’s bring back the music you left as a child purely for the JOY it brings! Music is such an emotive language, even if you find 10mins of your week to play, it can express the emotions you have been bottling up. A de-stress if you like!

And we all know that a de-stress once in a while is exactly what we need.

In the BBC article, British actor Samuel  West says,

“As an adult you’re much more knowledgeable about your own moods, so it becomes much more possible to use music as a way to express yourself….If I have a little piece I can play, I can listen to myself better, I can express myself better. That’s entirely a function of being older, and that’s a joy.”

So, the New Year challenge from the Becky Dell Music Academy is to dust down the trumpet, open up the piano lid, and find the sheet music in the bookshelf and PLAY! We are always happy to teach adult students so if you fancy learning as well as your child, or you know a friend who would like to start up playing again, then please contact us.

Happy playing!

Fantastic Beasts and The Woman of Many Talents…

As if J K Rowling hadn’t already made it abundantly clear that she is an extraordinary woman – a world famous author of one of the biggest book and movie franchises the world has ever seen, generous philanthropist and campaigner and now, it turns out, a composer!
The latest brick in the Harry Potter tower, the new Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them film (which we love by the way) has a speakeasy scene, where a female goblin with a fabulous voice (actually sung by Emmie Joy Green who was discovered online and sung the demo in her childhood bedroom!) sings a song called “Blind Pig”. Turns out our superwoman J K Rowling co-wrote that very song!
Take a listen below and fall in love like we did – my, my it’s catchy!
How many magical creatures do you hear mentioned…?

Pope’s Percussive Preferences…a guide to your first drum kit.

By Harry Pope, BDMA Drum Tutor.

Hello Hello!
I’m Harry and I’m Becky’s resident maker of noise. Or drummer. Take your pick. This short blog post will be about selecting a drum kit, geared mainly towards the beginner side of things.

Okay, so when looking for a beginner kit for a young child (or a big kid like me) there are a few things to look for.

Firstly, size is a big factor. The drum kit is a physical instrument and despite what is marketed as “beginner” kits, there’s no need for a kid under ten to have a big 22″ rock sized bass drum, and in fact one of my other pupils who is seven runs into a fair amount of difficulty because of that exact problem. I have NO idea why schools keep buying these oversized behemoths of drum kits.
So I’d advise either a bass drum between the sizes of 16″ and 20″. I still use an 18″ on some of my gigs, so don’t worry about growing out of it anytime soon. Trust me, if they start a band and you end up ferrying them to gigs like my dad did then you’ll thank me.


THIS is what I had as my intermediate kit. MISTAKE, no matter what the guy in the drum shop tells you!
Also note the 90’s kid hair. Groovy.
So: smaller kit please.
Also, it’ll take up less space, and it’ll be a bit quieter which is always good for the rest of the family!
There are a few things that you would want to check out for a first kit. The “all in one” starter kits I really wouldn’t recommend, because their main selling point is including everything you need in one package, despite the fact that none of them are really any good. They might look alright in the stock photos, but when you get them out of the box they might end up looking like this…


You have been warned.

 

 

 

All the larger brands of drums have low – mid range kits which are much, much better quality. Also, I really would not rule out second hand kits, as a well kept mid-professional level kit would be ten times better than a new kit at the same price.

You can essentially break the kit down into four parts: the shells, the hardware, the cymbals and the heads.

The shells themselves are pretty straightforward: as long as they’re round and are sanded down properly you’ll be fine. Seems simple, but a lot of the beginner kits can end up a weird oval shape, and then you’re in trouble. If you’re worried, then you can take the heads off and rest them on a tabletop. If they wobble then they’re out of round and that’s a no-no. Avoid like the proverbial plague. Or the actual plague. Whichever is worse.

The hardware (cymbal stands, snare stand, screws to keep the heads on etc) is an important one. With a slightly more expensive kit than the Taiwan/Chinese “beginner” kits, chances are all the hardware is made in the same factory, and won’t be too far off the professional level standard kits, and therefore will survive the energetic onslaught of excitable children for years. I still have some of the hardware from my first kit years ago and it still works fine. I really recommend Yamaha hardware, as it’s made in their motorcycle factory, which for obvious reasons has to have amazing quality control. Even their lightweight hardware can withstand a crazy loud rock drummer laying into their kit with all the subtlety of a small bison. But anyway, enough about my teenage years.

The cymbals are probably the trickiest. What I would say is buy some reasonably cheap ones, e.g. The Solar range by Sabian, or the Zbt range from Zildjian. They’re much less likely to break, and will do for a good few years or even longer. The cymbals included in a cheap beginner set are just cheap brass cutouts (yeah, really), and I’ve seen them snap or turn inside out when hit – they sound awful and break pretty soon. The other option is to buy some better level second-hand cymbals, made in Istanbul. They have a lower price tag than the American ones and always just as good, even better. The holy grail of ride cymbals, the 50’s K Zildjian was made in Turkey, and they sound like a good back massage feels. Mmmmm.

The stock heads you get on a lower level kit are never particularly good, generally cheap plastic. A £300 kit with good heads will sound better than my £3k kit with rubbish heads.

ANYWAY. Basically what I’m trying to say, is that if you spend a little more now, and let me give you a hand with it, then it’ll save you money in a year or two if he or she loves it and keeps it up, and it’ll also hold it’s value a lot better if you ever want to resell it.

POPE OUT.

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Cable and Amps and Mics – oh my!

Amplification of your instrument and/or voice (By Ronald)

Some instruments can’t be heard without an amplifier. An electric guitar, an electric bass guitar, a digital piano or a keyboard: you can’t hear them (very well) unless you plug them in. Acoustic instruments can be played without amplification. Of course they can, that’s why they are called acoustic.Sometimes, however, it won’t be loud enough for the occasion…

Luckily they can be amplified in a few different ways. The easiest and best known solution is a microphone, but in case of an acoustic guitar or other string instrument a pickup can be easier/better. If you are interested in how pickups work and which varieties there are, see here. If you have specific questions about how to amplify your instrument with a pick up, ask your (guitar, cello, violin, double bass) tutor or email me.

In this blog I’ll focus on microphones (mics). Mics come in many shapes and sizes and have differences in sound and compatability. One uses different mics for a drum kit than for a flute or a voice. I don’t expect many of you to want to amplify your drum kit yet, so once you’ve booked your first stadium gig, you can ask Harry (or me on same email as above) about what to use.

Like an electrical guitarist owns an amplifier to make him/herself heard, it is sometimes useful to be able to amplify your voice while singing. At home your voice is easily loud enough. At a venue like the Mycenae House your vocal won’t be strong enough to match up with the grand piano (unless you’re a trained opera singer). Those of you who have sung through a mic there may have found out that it sounds quite different and that singing through a mic comes with a certain technique. Therefore it is very useful to be taught how to hold it and use it. It’s not a bad idea to own your own mic to practice and get used to how it sounds. If you ever get a gig other than the BDMA concerts, it might come in handy that you can bring your own gear. The most used vocal mics for live situations are the Shure SM58 and the Sennheiser e835. There are definitely more options, but with one of these you can be sure of a good sound.

A mic is made to pick up sound, but doesn’t make your voice any louder yet. You’ll need a speaker to let the sound come out. Unfortunately you can’t plug your mic straight into the speaker, because the signal is way too weak (in fact it’s even weaker than a guitar signal, that’s why plugging it into a guitar amp can’t make it really loud either). That is where the amplifier comes in. You can find the amp and speaker nicely built into one box, called a “combo”,  “powered speaker” or “active speaker”. What we call a “vocal amp” is in fact such a combo. You can find a suitable solution for any budget between £100 and £1000. Top notch of portable combos is AER. The sound is great, the box is small and light. They cost around a grand, that is. Luckily there is a range of more affordable combos. The SubZero and the Behringer B205D are good and not too expensive options. If you’ve got the time, I advise you to go to a shop like Eric Lindsey in Catford or one of the many shops in Denmark Street. Here you can hear and compare a few different models. Alternatively you can find many good second hand vocal amps on sites like Ebay and Gumtree.

The important thing is that the input is a mic input. XLR inputs are always meant (or at least compatible) for mics. Jack inputs can be compatible for mics, but you need to check that. If it’s not, you’ll still hear something, but the amplification will be limited. Feel free to email me to ask if a certain amp is suitable for you. Once you’ve chosen and purchased a mic and a vocal amp, you’ll need a lead to connect them.  The output of a mic is always XLR (except for mics from before 1960). If the mic input on your amp is XLR too, you’ll need a standard mic lead. If your amp has a jack mic input, you need a XLR to Jack lead.

mic-amp-speaker

Simple as that!

Disclaimer: I used links from different music shops. You can find all products on many more websites and you can (probably) buy everything together on each of them. Beware of the complete vocal performance packs though, ’cause sometimes they come with quite a mediocre mic. I don’t intend to direct people to a certain shop, so feel free to have a browse. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact me or your tutor.

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Harry Potter and the Magical Score

By Meg…

We at the Becky Dell office recently went, purely as research of course, to the Warner Bros Studio tour on the making of Harry Potter.

Sorry..? No, no Becky riding a broomstick was crucial to our research…yes, absolutely.

It is phenomenal to see and to be surrounded by the level of production the Harry Potter films represent – several thousand people per film, department after department responsible for pulling J K Rowling’s magical stories out of our imaginations and into the real world for us to see with our very own eyes.

Each tiny element, from the children’s drawings on the wall of The Burrow and the weird and wonderful collection of objects in Dumbledore’s office, to the colossal creations like the mechanical entrance to the Chamber of Secrets (no, that was not a computer effect!) and the enormous clock pendulum that swings in the entrance hall was painstakingly considered, designed and brought into fruition by a team of true artists.

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The production team on these films left not one detail to chance, not one corner of a set empty. So many little works of art that we may only see in the periphery of a single shot but each and every one act as a single crystal in an entire shining, magical world that they built for us. Aren’t we lucky?

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And then – then there is the soundtrack. The music that holds the whole story together reminding us with little musical memories of everything that our favourite characters have seen and done and overcome. The same level of detail and painstaking love and attention was given to the score, breathing the life force into Harry’s new and wondrous Wizarding World.

So who is responsible for one of the World’s favourite soundtracks?

Well before I went to the Harry Potter studios I thought the simple answer to that question was, of course, John Williams. Oh, was I wrong.

See – I told you the trip was for research purposes.

Of course, the inhuman wonder that is 50 times Oscar nominated and 5 times Oscar winner film composer John Williams was responsible for some of our favourite themes in the Harry Potter saga. Between 2001 – 4 (yes, it really was that long ago) John Williams, along with two orchestrators, composed the score for the first three Harry Potter movies and created some of the most loved melodies in the score such as Hedwig’s Theme and Harry’s Wondrous World.

But… did you know that over the 10 years and 8 films there were 4 main composers, 15 orchestrators and 53 original themes composed…I know I didn’t.

The four composers make up a quartet of Hollywood film royalty, with enough film credits and award nominations and wins to fill most of Hogwarts and it’s many secret rooms.

The first of course we know.

John Williams is a household name responsible for a hefty percentage of …well, all the top selling feature films made in the World, ever.

308495Schindler’s List, E.T., Jaws, Jurassic Park, the Indiana Jones films, Saving Private Ryan, Hook, Catch Me If You Can, Minority Report, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, The BFG, all seven Star Wars films, Superman, Home Alone, Nixon, The Patriot, Angela’s Ashes, Seven Years in Tibet, The Witches of Eastwick…I mean, you get my point.

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The second, responsible for the 4th filmThe Goblet of Fire, was Patrick Doyle. Doyle is particularly loved, with 2 Oscar nominations, for his work with director Sir Kenneth Branagh, writing the score for feature films Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing , Hamlet , As You Like It and Cinderella. To this day the two collaborate and Doyle even wrote the score in Branagh’s 2015 production of The Winter’s Tale that ran in Garrick Theatre in the West End.

The third is Nicholas Hooper, who wrote the music for The Order of the Pheonix and The Half-Blood Prince, reunnicholashooperiting with his old friend with David Yates, the director for those films. He was nominated for a Grammy for the music in The Half Blood Prince, which is a nice addition to his list – he’s won a BAFTA Award and an Ivor Novello Award for Original Score and another BAFTA for Best Original Television Music. All in a day’s work.

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And for the big finale came Alexandre Desplat, left with a heavy duty of creating a score to end all Harry Potter scores as the series came to it’s dramatic close.

I feel we can safely say he was up to the job. In my humble opinion his thematic writing in Hogwarts’ final battle is some of my favourite film writing. I have no shame in saying it makes me cry every time.

He is another Hollywood veteran with a, frankly, slightly ridiculous credit list including films like The Queen, The Golden Compass, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The King’s Speech, Moonrise Kingdom, Argo, Rise of the Guardians, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Godzilla, The Imitation Game..blah blah blah.

Sorry, what was that…? Yes, of course he’s won an Oscar as well.

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10 years of soundtrack, 4 composers, 4 directors, 8 extraordinary films based on 7 extraordinary stories and about, I can only assume, 24 million people to make up the cast, crew, post production, designers, engineers, runners, camera people, cleaners, educators, screenwriters, costume designers and catering staff needed to make something like this possible.

J K Rowling brought the magical, wizarding world to life in all of our imaginations but these composers and these productions – well, I think they came the closest we Muggles will ever get to making real Magic…

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