The Becky Dell Music Academy – A London Living Wage Organisation

We are delighted to have been awarded the London Living Wage Employer mark by the Living Wage Foundation, a foundation supporting the fair pay of employees across the country.

Although we have only recently received accreditation, we have always strived to provide fair wages for our admin staff and tutors are paid above the Musicians’ Union recommended rate, which makes for a happy team!

Congratulations also to Mycenae House, our biannual concert venue, for being awarded the same mark.

We thought you’d be happy to know that you are supporting the fair pay of employees by choosing to have music lessons with us – a big thank you from the whole team!

The Becky Dell Music Academy – A London Living Wage Organisation

Noteworthy People – Imogen Heap

By Jess

We are bringing back one of our segments called “Noteworthy People” where we focus on an inspirational person and tell you about their work. This time it is…

Imogen Heap

In the music industry we are often told to have several “strings to our bow” – excuse the pun. And no one seems to fit into this more than the lovely Imogen Heap.

On Wikipedia, the first sentence of her biography says Imogen Heap, is an English singer-songwriter, composer, and engineer.”

That’s already three big things!  Sorry, ENGINEER…?! We will come to that later!

You might know her as a singer-songwriter for songs such as Hide and Seek, The Happy Song or Just For Now. She recently appeared in Ariana Grande’s charity concert One Love Manchester as one of Ariana’s role models and icons:  

 Then again you could have heard of her because she composed the music for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

West End composer, nominated for an Olivier award- not bad going!

Becky went to see the production (lucky thing) a couple of weeks ago (the tickets had been pinned above her computer for literally a year!) and was absolutely blown away by the whole production, saying the music really added to the magic.

But what struck me in the Wikipedia description was the word Engineer. So I browsed trusty Google and realised how amazing this woman actually is!

I found a Guardian article titled “Imogen Heap: saviour of the music industry?”  which describes how she’s created a pair of musical gloves that allow her to change and create sound with her hands.

They are called Mi.Mu gloves and they give her the freedom to improvise and use simple movements to sculpt her music. Hence her job title- musical engineer!

She decided she had to embrace the ever changing music industry rather than running to catch up with it. Her innovative invention is a massive step forward for exciting and engaging live performance of electronic music.

As ever with music, it’s better to watch and listen to really understand this concept, so here is her TED talk – grab yourself a coffee and watch how she has the audience (and the music!) in the palm of her hands!

 For more of an overview of her exciting career check out her BBC Music page – we’re big fans here at BDMA! 

Back to the Future for Classical Music

by Jess

Classical Music….

Out dated. Boring. For old people.

I DON’T THINK SO!

Unfortunately, these are however some of the typical stereotypes we often hear when talking about classical music. Those of us that love the music know this not to be true! But how do we convince the non-lovers?

It is a sad fact that the world of classical orchestral concerts is fading away and people don’t go to as many classical concerts as they used to. Which is why the orchestral world needs a rethink – how can we keep this fantastic music living on?

A classical orchestra concert typically consists of an overture, a concerto and then a symphony in the second half. This has been the structure for many years, and yes, it works for the audience that currently watch it. But as we know, that audience is getting smaller and smaller and we want to bring new listeners in.

So I thought I’d have a little delve into some of the ways orchestras have been trying to tackle the problem.

What exciting new concert programmes have they come up with?

Have they collaborated with non-classical artists?

Have they varied their repertoire?

The inspiration for this research started when I played in a concert with the Notting Hill Orchestra the other week, an entire concert dedicated to film music. Not necessarily your standard Classical rep but it was ACCESSIBLE to the audience and brought in a full house. The pieces were relatively short and easy to listen to but what struck me most was HOW the orchestra put on the show.

Yes, I say show because that is truly what it was.

The orchestra were sat traditionally in the middle of a beautiful, high ceilinged church with spot lights surrounding them. Alongside the music, there was a light show that complemented the storylines and action within the music. It made the whole event really exciting and a very visual and successful way of introducing people to an orchestra.

Any die hard Metallica fans would also know that they have used an orchestra. Heavy metal meets classical symphony orchestra?! 7

What?!

Back in 1999 they recorded “Symphony and Metallica” (or S&M) with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. The bassist from the band, Cliff Burton, came up with the idea to “combine heavy metal with epic classical” (I love that classical is described as epic!) and actually a lot of inspiration for Metallica songs before this album he took from the work of Johann Sebastian Bach – who knew?

Back to the year 2017, the BBC Philharmonic orchestra (in Manchester) have been collaborating with Radio 1 Live Lounge to create a series called “Live Lounge Symphony” where they join forces with pop acts, adding the “epic classical” sound (I’m going to keep using epic!) to their famous chart topping songs. Last year it was with Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne!

Something else I’ve spotted in the concert halls recently is symphony orchestras playing film scores alongside the showing of the film. Just a few days ago the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra played John Williams’ score for “Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone” at the Royal Albert Hall. Imagine not only watching the film on a HD, 40-foot screen, but having the full spectacle of an orchestra at the forefront of the stage.

“an unforgettable experience for Harry Potter fans”

…and music fans!

Let’s hope we get more of these!

On the same theme as bringing a film to stage, orchestras have also been collaborating with actors and storytellers to bring famous children’s stories to life with live music. What a great way of heightening the imagination of young people as well as introducing them to the sound of the orchestra and the setting of the concert hall, with stories that they will know so well.

Finally, the one thing we have missing from the above collaborations and concerts is the use of traditional classical music repertoire.  

I’m happy to say that the concert programmers seem to be finding a way of broadening their audience for this too. Flicking through the Hallé Orchestra’s concert programme there are titles such as “Russian Spectacular” with music from Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich and “Never Mind the Weather” with music by Gershwin.

I like the idea of a theme to a concert, with some pieces the audience will recognise and some new ones they will be introduced to. I feel it’s a non-daunting way of getting people to watch and listen to classical music.

Hopefully ideas like these will continue and classical music and symphony orchestras will stay in the concert hall for many years to come.

On tour with the Street Orchestra of London

by Sophie

I recently took part in a really exciting project called the Street Orchestra of London (SOL). I didn’t quite know what to expect before we began but I soon realised how friendly everyone was and that we were all equally excited about the week ahead. This was the second SOL tour so some people had done it before but every single one of them had returned because they had had so much fun the first time around.

Having now completed my first SOL tour I can honestly say it was one of the best weeks of my life.

Here’s why:

The mission statement of the SOL is to bring high quality, live music to everyone, anywhere for free. We aim to reach wider audiences, providing free public performances in a variety of locations. On this tour we played at London Bridge Station, a refugee centre in Dalston, Greenwich Park, the Hackney Showroom for an orchestral club night, the Migration Museum, Brighton Pier, Brighton Pavillion Gardens and most recently at the Sound Unbound festival at the Barbican Centre.

A standard day in the life of a SOL musician would include between 6-8 performances in different locations, some of which may be planned, some of which might be completely spontaneous. It’s all hands on deck and we can go from sitting on a coach to performing in just 10 minutes.

The theme for our tour was ‘migration’ and as such we chose our repertoire to reflect this.

For example, we included Dvorak’s New World Symphony which he wrote after he migrated from the Czech Republic as it now is, to America. Neil Armstrong even took a recording of the piece to the moon on the Apollo 11 mission!  We incorporated music from composers all around the world, such as Bernstein from America, Bach from Germany, Prokofiev from Russia. We also included two world premieres by young composers: Bandstand by Freya Waley-Cohen  and Toranj Aftab Darvishi. I learnt that ‘Toranj’ is the pattern commonly found on Persian rugs! Bandstand also featured members of the orchestra ‘migrating’ into and out of the audience. The repertoire was varied; we played jazz, pop, funk, classical, North African, West African, folk.

I don’t have a favourite as it was all so much fun, but one piece that sticks out particularly is Maghreb Mix which is a medley of North African tunes including some from Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. This piece required us to play some quarter tones – often we would consider these notes to sound out of tune as they’re not notes used in most Western classical music, but when used in certain contexts and everyone does it together they can sound really cool.

Each concert featured a different selection of music, and lasted a different length of time. Volunteers from the orchestra put together a new programme for each concert, selected from our tour catalogue of 23 pieces.

Joining us on our tour was a very special man called Jean-Paul Samputu. He’s a Rwandan composer and singer and he wrote and sang a few of the African songs we played on tour. Normally in an orchestra we don’t have to sing, but in his pieces there was also lots of singing for us and we loved it! His pieces, including Simba, which means ‘Lion’, really have a feel good factor to them, and they’re inspiring as he wrote them after a very turbulent time in Rwanda’s history. Jean-Paul is known also as an ambassador for peace and travels the world giving talks on forgiveness –an inspirational man to have the privilege to tour with for a week.

We try to get the audience involved as much as possible and break down the traditional barriers often associated with a concert orchestra. We encourage our audiences to dance along, sing along, and even conduct along.

One of our pieces required a guest conductor aka a volunteer from the audience to lead us. Our first violinist gave them a 10 second masterclass in conducting before embarking on Offenbach’s Can Can and it usually surprised them when they realised just how much power you have when you’re holding a baton. Despite occasional disagreement between the brass and the string sections (brass usually won as they’re louder!), we did our best to follow our guest conductor and usually the audience clapped along, with some brave people even attempting the Can Can dance!

Some of our performances were planned in advance, and some were more spontaneous. Some of the guerrilla gigs included flashmobs in Ikea and B&Q in Croydon, at a market in Lewisham and at Greenwich Park where we joined a busker, much to his surprise! He loved it though: as we played the theme for Ski Sunday whilst wandering around, he joined in and even came to support us at our orchestral club night at the Hackney Showroom later that evening!

One of the best things about SOL is seeing people’s reactions. I will never forget the expression on one homeless man’s face in a refugee centre in Dalston when he heard us play for the first time. I’ve never seen music affect someone visibly so deeply before, and it moved many of us to tears. I feel so privileged to have been able to take part in a project that has moved people to tears and to dance, and affect so many people in such meaningful ways. It’s such a joy to be able to bring a smile to someone else’s face.

It is this that the Street Orchestra of London stands for, and this that we hope to continue doing through the power of music.

The only thing that could have made the tour any better would be if I’d managed to avoid having a seagull poo on my hand while I ate pizza by Brighton Pier…but then they do say that’s meant to be good luck…!

We will be on tour again in July 2017 – look out for us!

#streetorchestra

 

Love of Life and the Living World

Love of Life and the Living World

By Indigo Star

Many of you will have heard of the incredible singer, songwriter, producer, DJ and actress Bjork. With around 4 Million records sold worldwide as of 2015, is it any wonder she is considered by many to be ” the most important and forward looking musician of her generation” and “one of the greatest women in music”?

Famed for her innovative approach to vocals and composition, her expansive career, which spans 4 decades has taken her audience on an immersive journey through a myriad of influences, genres and styles.

But here is where it gets really interesting.

Not only has her music reached the masses but her forward thinking approach has lead her to pioneer a new technological app along with an unchartered teaching approach that could change the way we engage and create using colour and sound as a combined tool…This app is called Biophilia – but more on that a little later.

Collaborating frequently with multidisciplinary artists and exploring the way music is visually represented Bjork continues to develop an ever-expanding platform for us to broaden our perceptions of music and inspire our imaginations.

 Her collaborations have extended to include scientists, environmentalists, artists, academics and technologists and it was these collaborations that culminated in the release of her extraordinary 2011 album “Biophilia” in which Bjork brings the multi sensory experience and expression of music to a whole new level.

This official video of one of the album tracks is breathtaking in it’s concept and delivery. In it Bjork creates an audiovisual landscape of our living nature…

click here

And with that let me bring you back to the app this wonderful artist has created…
Bjork teamed up with Producer and app designer Scott Snibbe to create and launch the innovative Biophilia App.

In the creators’ own words…

“Björk has collaborated with artists, designers, scientists, instrument makers, writers and software developers to create an extraordinary multimedia exploration of the universe and its physical forces, processes and structures – of which music is a part. Each in-app experience is inspired by and explores the relationships between musical structures and natural phenomena, from the atomic to the cosmic. You can use Biophilia to make and learn about music, to find out about natural phenomena, or to just enjoy Björk’s music.”

Using similar ideas to those explored within the app, the live performances of tracks from her Biophilia album incorporate giant science based installations, bringing science in its magnitude directly into the concert experience.

Check out this performance…
click here

Now, not only did she create the remarkable app but Bjork simultaneously initiated a groundbreaking education project across Iceland. In collaboration with The Ministry of Education, Science and Culture and The Nordic Council of Ministers she set up a collaborative network of experts in music, science, technology and the arts to promote innovation in schools and encourage interesting music and its creation.

Bjork joined forces with the City of Reykjavik and the University of Iceland to launch the Biophilia Education Project which would roll out in selected schools over the course of 3 years.

In layman terms, it’s focus is to draw people away from their desks and invite them to delve into the depths of their imagination. 

With a fundamental ethos of Listen, Learn, Create this exceptional project, by encouraging simultaneous learning between multiple disciplines, encourages diversity and stimulates experimentation and growth in a more tangible way than many traditional teaching methods . They believe that giving students a new model of open-mindedness and uninhibited exploration creates potential for new discoveries that might otherwise have been missed.

What a woman!


Click the link below to see a guided tour of the app by Designer and executive Producer Scott Snibbe as he gives an introduction to utilising this amazing creative resource :
click here

Perhaps you could put this incredible tool to good use and start your own personal journey into sound science and the unlimited creative multimedia universe or perhaps trial this transformative education tool in a project or classroom of your own.

For more information, videos, downloadable teaching PDF’s and more visit the website:

 

Biophilia Education

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Time Travelling with Music

by Sophie Simpson

Hello! I’m Sophie, a violin and piano teacher for the Becky Dell Music Academy in the new Manchester branch.

I’m sure many of you are aware of how versatile stringed instruments are; as a violinist there are opportunities to play in a pop band, folk music, in an orchestra, a quartet, as a soloist, at a wedding…etc.

However, I’d like to talk specifically about a particular niche I have found myself being involved in within the performance world: historically informed performance or HIP for short.

The music world is a competitive one and it can be useful to find something different to help you to stand out. I fell into the HIP world sort of by accident, but quickly became hooked, though I continue to perform on the ‘modern’ violin too. It might sound dull at first but I promise it’s not! It’s great when you’re performing to know that you’re creating something that sounds the way audiences would have heard it hundreds of years ago – if you close your eyes you could almost travel back in time…

What is historically informed performance?

The idea with HIP is that the performance reflects academic and practical research into how the music might have been performed at the time it was written. This research can take many forms including analysing surviving letters, treaties or publications from the time, the music on the page, or the instruments themselves can give us clues.

There are even some instruments that are no longer in general use, such as the viola da spalla, which looks a bit like a small cello (or big violin!), but was played with a strap around the neck and in more of a guitar hold and has five strings.

Here is a link to a video of Sergey Malov playing some music by Bach on the viola da spalla: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-H6XAIwZKA

So what counts as historically informed performance?

Taken literally, this could encompass anything that happened in the past, even yesterday!

However, when musicians talk about HIP they tend to think of the Renaissance (c.1300-1600), Baroque (c.1600-1750), Classical (c.1750-1820) and Romantic (c.1820-1850), or even early 20th Century time periods. Early recordings from the 20th Century can be classed as a useful resource for research, though obviously there are no recordings from the Baroque or Classical eras!

As a violinist one of my specialisms within HIP is the Baroque era. How are Baroque instruments different to their modern counterparts?

Instruments have been constantly developing along with technical advances and to adapt to changing styles of composition; there was never one point in history when people woke up and said ‘we are no longer in the Baroque era, today marks the start of the Classical era and we must adapt our instruments accordingly’!

The Baroque and modern violins look relatively similar upon first glance. The shape and dimensions of the body are much the same as they have always been. You may have heard of violin maker or luthier Antonio Stradivari and even today many luthiers try to make copies of his violins.

However, there are some differences: the Baroque violin does not have a chinrest as this was not invented until around 1820 by Louis Spohr; neither did they have shoulder rests, but they may have used a piece of soft leather to make it more comfortable to hold; the strings were made of gut instead of metal as they are today; the angle of the neck was shallower on a baroque violin than a modern violin as the gut strings could not take the tension that comes from a steeper angle.

The bow was also different: the baroque bow is shorter and convex (frowning) in shape whereas the modern bow is concave (smiling) and longer, which makes it more powerful. I play on a replica baroque violin for my historically informed performances of music from the Baroque era. The baroque cello does not have a spike, but instead the cellist balances the cello between their legs.

Wind and brass instruments also differed as they were not able to make metal keys for them in the baroque era, so brass players had to tune notes with their lips only, and wind players had basic holes for their fingers cut into the wood. These instruments feel and sound quite different to their modern counterparts.

In the Baroque era, the piano hadn’t been invented, but they did have other keyboard instruments including the organ and harpsichord. The harpsicord is similar to the piano, except that the strings inside are plucked instead of hit, and there is no pedal so it sounds quite different.

One of the other main differences is pitch.

Today we usually label an ‘A’ (the note an orchestra will tune to) as 440 Hertz, but in the baroque era, their ‘A’ may have been higher or lower than how we hear it today. It varied according to where you lived in Europe and how the church organ was tuned. Because people were not able to travel as far and as frequently as we do today, there was no standardisation of pitch until much later on. Based on research, historically informed performances of works by Monteverdi are often at a higher pitch of A=465Hz and Bach is often played at a lower pitch of A=415Hz.  

This picture is one of the earliest known depictions of a violin.

It is artist Gaudenzio Ferrari’s Madonna of the Orange Tree, painted 1530. A cherub is seen playing a bowed instruments which clearly has the hallmarks of a violin.

I hope this has been an interesting introduction to the world of historically informed performance, and an eye opener to just one of many musical opportunities out there waiting for you!

Over the last few decades, there has been a boom in interest in HIP and there are now many groups and orchestras who perform in a historically informed manner, including the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the Academy of Ancient Music. There are also several vocal groups who sing with a historically informed approach, including I fagiolini and Ex Cathedra.

Do look them up if you’re interested in finding out more!

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.

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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The Piano That Plays Itself…

By Meg….

Did you hear the tale of the piano who played itself?

Yes, it may sound like the beginning of a fairytale but no! I really ask you – have you heard of the Steinway Spirio Piano??

I am terribly conflicted.

On one hand – amazing! I am bowled over by technology and what it can do and here is one of the most famous makers of the most beautiful pianos creating something extraordinary and really quite fun! It is innovative, it is exciting (it is expensive…) – I mean take a look…

http://www.steinwayspirio.com/

Any piece you want, performed live and with sheer technical perfection at the swipe of an iPad screen. The piano even tempers the performance depending on how it is played in the recording you choose- unbelievable!

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On the other hand…

I am a pianist.

If one day I decide I want to learn and perform Frédéric Chopin’s “Raindrop” Prelude. I spend 77.5 hours practicing the fingering, I listen to recordings of The Greats, I have 19 minor emotional breakdowns and then, MAYBE, I perform it through note perfect. That is, of course, not mentioning the 10 years I took to get to my current standard and the 1 million Great British Sterling pounds my parents invested in my lessons and exams.

And I pretty convinced the Spirio will still play it better than me.

It is an interesting dilemma and I have to say, although I struggle to contain my bitterness at the comparison in our technical ability, I  none the less LOVE the idea of the Steinway Spirio. There is nothing better than the sound of a live instrument, nothing better than experiencing those extraordinary pieces of music in the flesh.

If this brings more live music into more homes then I am it’s greatest advocate (plus it is just a very surreal and very cool idea)  – but maybe hire a musician sometime…No one and no thing can play the piano like Martha Argerich.

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