Debbie Wiseman is officially the first lady of screen music and remains one of the few composers who regularly take to the concert stage. Last night saw her conduct her regular collaborators The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on stage at their home in London’s Cadogan Hall. The intimate surrounds of the hall were the perfect arena for Debbie’s ‘Favourite Film & TV Moments’, of which there were many. There’s always a great deal of warmth at a Debbie Wiseman concert and last night was no exception as the composer took time to say a few words, egged along by presenter Simon Bates. Recognising the ‘perkiness’ of the audience, Debbie even invited us to clap along and ‘yee-haw’ during the jaunty ‘Wild West’ segment of her glorious suite from Wilde. That selection ended the first half, which was very much a look back at some of her finest moments, including the stirring themes from Judge John Deed and the ever enjoyable My Uncle Silas. A highlight for me though was the selection from Warriors; Marcia Crayford played the theme beautifully on violin, joined by Helen Keen’s ethnic flute, which danced and weaved itself around it. The percussion was perhaps a tad heavy, but that didn’t take away the beauty of the piece. The first half wasn’t without its drama either, as the orchestra played a stunning suite from Debbie’s 2006 score forMiddletown. I did expect Crayford to take centre stage once again, as solo violin is so central in the score; however those moments were built up for all the violins, which obviously gave it a broader feel, while annulling the intensity somewhat.
The second half saw Crayford take on solo duties for the likes of Jekyll, from which they performed the main title theme. The violin was substitute for Hayley Westenra’s haunting vocal and did the job rather well. It was great to hear this brooding piece live, as well as Flood which saw the ensemble bathed in flickering blue light as they played out the mournful lament for a doomed London, followed by a brief taste of the score’s impressive action music. Those more recent scores were followed by two of my personal favourites, The Truth About Love and Arsène Lupin. The former saw a lengthy suite, taking in the playful tango ‘game’ music, ending with the jubilantly romantic love theme. The piece, like all the others, was illustrated on the overhead projection screen with images from the film, subtly edited and transitioned as the music changed to tell something of the story. Arsène Lupin managed to steal the show though, remaining Debbie Wiseman’s finest hour so far. The lengthy suite got the biggest applause of the night, well deserved as the brass section was really put through its paces. The action writing in the score is stunning and played live it is just marvellously entertaining. If the suite itself weren’t enough, then the encore left us breathless, as the ensemble expelled all their energy on yet another action cue from Lupin.
If Wiseman fans in attendance were under any illusion that her talent peaked with the aforementioned French adventure score, then the premiere of her new score would surely have proved them wrong. Orsum Island is a forthcoming children’s animated adventure series about a mysterious island inhabited by talking dragons and some rather grizzly critters. Debbie presented a selection from her new work, showcasing a dazzling, brassy adventure theme and some wonderfully Wisemanesque musical banter for the talking Dragon and Chameleon. I shall be very disappointed if it doesn’t make it to CD at some point; I can’t wait to hear more.
Debbie can’t put a foot wrong in my view; she’s one of the warmest, most accessible composers working today and her ongoing mission to keep film music in the concert hall is one that I fully endorse. An enchanting evening, roll on the next!
Originally published at Music from the Movies.com, March 2008.