How I Wrote... Different Voices - Debbie Wiseman

A window into the world of film and television composer Debbie Wiseman, as she explains the inspiration behind her narrated piece, Different Voices.

Composer: Debbie Wiseman

Piece: Different Voices

Date written: January - March 2007

In a sentence or less, how would you describe the music to someone who's never heard it before?
It's a new "young person's guide to the orchestra" and introduces the instruments of the orchestra to the audience with a narrator and story alongside it. Each instrument has its own character in the story.

How did the idea for the piece come about?
The idea was suggested to me by the managing director of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Ian Maclay, who wanted to commission a new work to perform as part of their 60th birthday celebrations. I was immediately excited by the idea as I love composing for full orchestra, and this piece would allow every instrument of the orchestra to have its own moment to shine.

Did you have a musical 'EUREKA!' moment where everything fell into place, or did the piece gradually shift and change over time?
The story was written first, by writer Andrew Brenner, and I was using the narrative of the story as my inspiration, so I found that as the story unfolded the music seemed to flow alongside it.

Is there a musical moment in the piece you're most proud of?
I'm very happy with the song that threads through the piece, with lyrics by Don Black. He crafted the lyrics around the main theme of the piece and Hayley Westenra sings it beautifully on the album.

What's been your favourite performance of the music?
The first performance at Cadogan Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hayley Westenra, and Stephen Fry narrating was magical. Conducting a piece for the first time is always a thrill.

If you could hear anyone admit they're a huge fan of the piece, who would it be?
Probably Benjamin Britten!! I love his wonderful Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra! Sadly though, as he's no longer with us, I'll have to hope that he approves from his heavenly podium!

If you had to compose it again, what would you change?
I always feel the need to change things, but when a piece is complete I rarely go back and look at it again as I would only find that frustrating and would probably want to start the piece all over again! So, I'm very happy with it as it stands.

Where was the premiere and how did you feel hearing the piece for the first time?
The premiere was at Cadogan Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hayley Westenra and Stephen Fry narrating, in April 2007. Hearing the piece for the first time is hugely exciting - nothing compares to the feeling of hearing musicians breathe life into your music. Without musicians it's just black dots on a piece of manuscript paper! Musicians bring everything to life and make all the hard work worthwhile.

Debbie Wiseman, Different Voices - Video

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