“How about composing a new Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra?” suggested Ian Maclay, the General Manager of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. “Benjamin Britten’s piece is wonderful, but it’s been played so many times…maybe it’s time for a new piece that introduces the different sections of the orchestra to the audience in an appealing way”.
I’ve always loved composing for full symphony orchestra, so this was a challenge that simply had to be met!
I’d recently been lucky enough to work with lyricist Don Black on some songs, and I mentioned the proposal to him. He loved the idea, and immediately set about coming up with the concept for the piece. He wrote the storyline and set the narrative in a gorgeous park full of a variety of diverse and colourful characters which were to be represented by the different sections of the orchestra. He also crafted the lyrics for the Different Voices song which is threaded throughout the piece.
Writer Andrew Brenner then took Don’s concept and storyline and expertly developed it into the full narrative, while simultaneously I was composing the music to describe the story. Many of the characters were being sketched at the same time by Robin Shaw, which provided plenty of visual inspiration for the music.
I conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the first live performance at London’s Cadogan Hall with Hayley Westenra adding her special touch to the song and Stephen Fry narrating in his own inimitable fashion. The images of the characters were projected above the orchestra on a giant screen. The result of that live performance is this CD. It was a truly memorable and exciting experience, and I hope you enjoy listening to Different Voices as much as I enjoyed composing the piece.