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Jack Sullivan
American Record Guide, March 2009

Debbie Wiseman’s children’s piece, Different Voices, is a new Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic. Unlike Britten’s masterpiece, it has a central song, ‘Different Voices’, as well as video. The concept and story by Don Black and Andrew Brenner involve contemporary themes: aloof parents spending too much time with their careers and neglecting their children, greedy real estate developers ruining a park, and a feisty little girl who confronts them all. Stephen Fry narrates with stereotypical British cheeriness.

Wiseman’s music is a bit square rhythmically and harmonically but lyrical and full of charm. Some characters are introduced at the beginning and assigned solo instruments, then never return. On the other hand, the orchestration is lucid and attractive, and Hayley Westenra sings ‘Different Voices’ with a disarming, melancholy sweetness. She, along with the splendid orchestra, are the main reasons to get this for your kids. Naxos offers its usual excellent production and recording.

Anna Britten
Classic FM, January 2009

As in its inspiration, Peter and the Wolf, the characters in this new work—imagined by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra's Ian Maclay and realised by leading British composer Debbie Wiseman—are played by orchestral instruments. There's a flute for gutsy young heroine Ellie, violin for her free spirit pal Jo, and percussion to illustrate the catastrophic 'redevelopment' of their beloved park (this story's big bad wolf) that the pair battle to prevent. Stephen Fry narrates the eco-fable with his usual avuncular gravitas.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, October 2008

Will Different Voices become that much needed modern alternative to Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra?

There have been many attempts, in every way the absolutely ideal candidate being Anthony Hopkins’s John and the Magic Music Man, but that was never taken up. Now onto the market comes Different Voices from the English film composer, Debbie Wiseman, who, with over 200 major scores for film and television, should know how to write commercial music. Based on an original idea by Don Black, Andrew Brenner’s story takes the listener through the instruments of the orchestra while relating the adventures of a young girl, Elie, and her efforts to save the park from the property developer. It provides an entertaining way of introduction without seeming to lecture the young listener, the music falling easily on the ear. I have yet to test drive the piece past a few of the younger generation, though it seems aimed at that sector who know about life with a nanny looking after you. With visuals to animate the piece, I am sure it will be a great hit, but in the concert hall its fifty minutes may prove a little long for the age group to which the story belongs. The present disc is derived from the premiere in London last year, and has the composer conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, with the top TV and film personality, Stephen Fry, as a skilled narrator. To provide further commercial incentive, the film star, Hayley Westenra, sings Elie’s song. The playing and recording is outstanding.

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