Thank you to everyone who supported me during 2012 - what a great year!
1. Friday night ‘Tweet-Up’ 2. Halifax Young Singers 3. Russell Whitehead as Cupid 4. Dilkes Primary School 5. Amelia Cormack & Ian Jones at The Visitors seminar 6. The iDolls perform The London I Love at the Jubilee 7. Artist Catherine Phelps makes Mask of Joy lino cuts 8. Amy-Jean Ward in the booth 9. Wendy-Mae Brown at the Olympic Village gig 10. Rob Vickers recording 11. Kavita, Hassan, Chloe & Ralph 12. Chad Monroe in the booth 13. Kirsty Davide and me at the Olympic village 14. Knight Knight the movie is released. 15. Create a Jingle workshop 16. Take on Take That in the booth 17. ABBA salon 18. The Red Army a short film I scored, wins at Berlin 19. All star cast at Olympic Village closing ceremony 20. Owen Woodgate in the booth 21. Amelia Cormack sing Dan Orme’s winning song 22. Arts Funding Workshop 23. Mask of Joy at The London Pleasure Gardens 24. The cast of Les Mis record their backing track for West End Eurovision 25. The Swinging Sweethearts filmed by Melanie Malherbe.
The first 45’ from the sensational Swinging Sweethearts. Available on Homophonia Records. Click below:
@MaskofJoy at Potters Fields Live Site for the #Paralympics culture fest.
@swingingsweeties preparing for their Hit Parade debut (Taken with Instagram at Stuart Wood Music)
Digital Shoreditch is the festival celebrating the outstanding creative, technical and entrepreneurial talent of East London and Tech City.
I am hosting an open studio event on Wednesday 23rd May, 6.30pm - 8pm:
“I’d like to teach the world to sing…..” Coke’s 1970’s peace anthem (above).
I create original soundtracks and arrangements for commercials. I intensely worked at succeeding in this field because I love advert music and always have. There is something very powerful about this miniature artform; the challenge to the composer is to create a piece of event music with a beginning, middle and end, which moves the listener enough to want to part with their money, all in 29 seconds!
I am partly ashamed and partly thrilled to say I created the original six Go Compare commercials - not my composition but my sparkling arrangement played by a 50 piece orchestra and 10 piece choir recorded at Angel Studios with no expense spared! The great thing about this ad is that the music had to be recorded before it was shot. The whole conceit is based on the song.
In an industry of art school graduates where the visual element is god, it’s nice when a good old fashioned music based commercial jumps out of the screen. The generation of copywriters who worked for commercial radio have long gone, but occasionally an ad pops up with a great jingle, and I get a rush of excitement that takes me back to being an eleven year old, recording the commercial break on my tape recorder.
Here are my TOP SIX.
1. Woolworths Christmas Ad 1981: “Have a cracking christmas at Woolworths” - It doesn’t get much better than this ABBA, inspired festive romp.
2. Cadbury’s Flake: beautiful string arrangement and deeply sincere vocal for the crumbliest, flakiest, milk chocolate in the world.
3. Fiat Strada TV commercial 1979, didn’t sell the car but we all loved the ad. Built by robots driven by idiots, was the gag, at the time.
4. Washing Machines Live Longer With Calgon. I sometimes fantasise that I had composed the jingle on this one.
5. Persil Automatic: Wouldn’t it be nice to wake to whiteness. A perfectly executed use of a standard, tastefully done, it sells the product and has you singing it straight away.
Bodyform: “Wooaah Bodyform”. I created the soundtrack for the Always panty-pad ‘dodgems’ commercials. It was arrangement of the Blue Danube played on a fairground organ. I thought at the time, ‘there’s only one place that’s going!’
What are your favourites?
Follow this link to find out about my jingle workshop.
Frank’s Closet, a music hall musical opened at Hoxton Hall in July 2009. In Time Out’s 4-star review, Ben Davis wrote, the show was a “dazzling, kitch wonder: steeped in cultural history, hilarious, irreverent, triumphant.” Kevin Wallace staged the show again in December 2009 with Gary Amers as Frank and Russell Whitehead as the Diva (pictured below). See the archive of Frank’s Closet on Pinterest.
The Cultural Olympiad is something to do with raising the spirits of the people through culture because raising sparkling new buildings doesn’t quite do it - Zaha Hadid’s Aquatics Centre, aside! It makes sense that culture should surround the greatest sporting event since in Ancient Greece sculptors and poets would congregate at each Olympiad to display their works of art to would-be patrons; that’ll be Anish Kapoor’s £19 million Orbit, then.
Personally, I love an event: a World Expo, an Olympic opening ceremony, Eurovision, a royal wedding/funeral or Handel’s Firework Music, with fireworks! I must have put this out to the Universe because before I knew it, I had won a commission to compose a work for the combined forces of the Leeds Youth Choir, Yorkshire Youth choir, Leeds Percussion Ensemble and selected students from Benton Park comprehensive school from imove, a Cultural Olympiad programme in Yorkshire.
The Cultural Olympiad is as much a Yorkshire thing as it is a Newham thing with individual artists and arts organisations across the whole country involved in creating a tapestry of projects, the best of which will take part in Festival 2012 between June and September in Stratford, where I happen to live.
Having spent a large part of my career creating music for the commercial sector I really noticed the difference with a publicly funded commission. This was much more experimental and with fewer strings attached. When I received the commission, I waited for the brief until I realised there wasn’t one. Jo Richardson, the music development manager at Artforms, the music and arts team within Education Leeds, never once spelled out a formal outline of what was expected. This unspoken trust in the process and my work meant any restrictions came from me.
What was also refreshing about the project was being reminded that the value of work exists in the process and not just in delivering the final master recording. In the commercial sector all the focus can be on the end product where everyone is a means to an end. Working with young musicians and tuning in to their enthusiasm and aspiration reminded me of my own passion for music and put me firmly in the moment. I had vivid memories of my teen years playing in a band and it wasn’t by chance that the many train journeys I made between Londonand Leeds stopped at my home town of Grantham, exactly half-way between the two cities.
Having met the groups and listened to their eclectic repertoire I was like a coiled spring raring to go. My tendency at the start of any project is to jump in and write loads of music, but with this it seemed best to start with the text. I kept seeing “I Move” the project title and whilst reading a lecture by my Sensei, Daisaku Ikeda, this passage jumped out at me; ‘When we change, the world changes’. On one of the early visits the Leeds Youth Choir sang Take That’s We Can Rule The World and African Spirituals as well and a bit of Bach, my palette was gloriously broad. The percussion ensemble, aged 9 to nineteen, similarly had wide repertoire and excellent standard. Never having scored for a marimba or vibraphone I tried to not look too much like blagger as the group demonstrated their ability.
I’d had my CRB checks to ensure it was safe for me work with young people but I couldn’t help wondering if the young people had been security screened to work with a sensitive adult. My fears disappeared when I met the girls from Benton Park School and listened to them talk about their aspirations and sing their own compositions as well as songs from Les Mis and Amy Whitehouse. This was going to make a contrast to the big stuff and already scenes were beginning to form in the structure of the piece. Now it was just colouring in.
The recording took place at Artforms Leeds over two days and Jake Jackson mixed the track at Strongroom Studio 3 in London.
The work has already been performed live at Northern Ballet in Leeds in May and the opening ceremony of the European Fencing Championships in Sheffield in July 2011. It has pulled together many different strands of my own life and the experience has added greater meaning to the 2012 events in my home in Stratford, East London.
Listen to the finished result by clicking the arrow:
(Scroll through the slideshow above)
The Musical Medium - The Landor Theatre June 2005.
The inspiration behind my first musical, The Musical Medium, was Rosemary Brown, a South London medium who claimed that dead composers dictated new musical works to her. (Pictured below). She was ‘ecstatic’ over hearing the finale of Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’; “It was absolutely heavenly” she said.
I showcased the work at The Kings Head in Islington in November 2004 and Robert Mcwhir, Artistic Director at the Landor Theatre, Clapham, picked up the show and staged it in June, 2005.
I created an original story, drawing further inspiration from my childhood piano teacher, Miss Smith. I replaced Brown’s spirit guide, Listz with Schubert, whose costume blended with the wallpaper. The plot revolved around a missing song written by the deceased father of teenager, George Mortimer and his depressed mother, Despina. George’s piano teacher, Peggy Trivet and Franz Schubert (in spirit) prove that the miracle of music goes beyond the mystery of death.
We hastily recorded the songs in the living room of my Camberwell flat, I recently re-discovered them. How I would love to record these songs with the same singers properly! Listen to Leo Andrew, who played Schubert, lead the cast in You’ve Got To Let Go - the ‘missing’ song!
Listen to Colleen Daley, as Despina Mortimer, sing My Son.
My Son Piano Vocal Score
Listen to Carol Ball and Paul Spicer perform We Make The Music