This week saw the second ever performance of ‘Music & Words from Wolf Hall’, following the premiere at St George’s Bristol last October. Once again the original soundtrack performers from the Locrian Ensemble of London joined composer (and pianist!) Debbie Wiseman on stage, this time at Romsey Abbey in Hampshire. Series director Peter Kosminsky returned too, providing narration from selections of Hilary Mantel’s award-winning texts, taken from both Wolf Hall and its first sequel, Bring Up The Bodies.
When I first heard Debbie’s score back in early 2015 and saw what Peter and the talented team had created on screen, I knew it could make a captivating live experience and I put the idea to Debbie about ‘Music & Words from Wolf Hall’ and she worked her magic to prepare the perfect set of pieces to be played and read.
The first performance was at St George’s Bristol on a Sunday afternoon in late October. Performed without interval in that wonderful acoustic, the music enveloped the audience and the big screen provided visual reminders of the production. With the screen and intense stage lighting, it was quite an experience; and the reception proved that we had something really great. The addition of a Q&A with Debbie and Peter added an extra layer of dialogue with the audience, a further connection with insights into the work of both artists and this television feast that has so captured the attention of audiences and awards jurys on both sides of the Atlantic.
St George’s Bristol – 25 Oct 2015
I was of course delighted to discover that there was further interest in the show and that we might get more performances. That came true this week with a second show at Romsey Abbey in Hampshire, presented as part of the Salisbury International Festival. Debbie added an extra twenty-minutes or so of music (and words), so the show could run to a full concert length in two halves. The setting, in that stark and beautiful Norman Abbey was visually perfect – though the acoustics are never as immediate as a concert hall. In keeping with Peter’s production on-screen, the concert was performed in candlelight, the effect of which only intensified as night fell and Peter’s narration grew more intense. The large stained glass window in the distance behind them took on a seemingly neon glow as the muted tones of a stormy twilight receded to black. Inside, the candlelit performers glowed, surrounded by shadows that slowly crept up the high walls above and beyond. It was the perfect setting.
Rehearsal at Romsey – 31 May 2016
Our audience largely remained for the Q&A, which I once again hosted, and they seemed utterly enchanted by Debbie’s music and Hilary Mantel’s words. A number of people thanked us for coming and many more bought soundtrack CDs to take home and relive the intensity and beauty of the music.
Huge thanks to Toby Smith and all at Salisbury Festival for having us, and I look forward to the next performance of ‘Music & Words from Wolf Hall’.