Composer brings Wolf Hall's haunting music to Horsham

Hilary Mantel's award-winning novel Wolf Hall was transformed into a riveting six-part drama by the BBC to huge acclaim in 2015.

Damian Lewis in Wolf Hall. Picture by Ed Miller
Damian Lewis in Wolf Hall. Picture by Ed Miller

Accompanying Thomas Cromwell’s machinations and hushed conversations in shadowy palace corners was original music by award-winning composer Debbie Wiseman, performed by The Locrian Ensemble of London

You can hear it again when Debbie and the ensemble bring Wolf Hall Live to Horsham’s Capitol on Friday, November 10 (7.30pm).

“The whole thing started really after the success of the series on television. We released the soundtrack, and amazingly it went to number one. It was a bit of a shock! Often these things don’t get such a response because they are part of something bigger. But I suppose it was all part of the success of the book and the play and the TV series, the fact that it had already established quite a fan club… and then the TV series went so well. There was great admiration for the whole production. A lot of people have found the book quite dense and hard to read, but those that have got to the end absolutely loved it.

“I have done quite a lot of film music concerts, but I have never done one like this before with just a small ensemble. We were asked to do it in Bristol, at St George’s. They asked if we could come and do a Wolf Hall afternoon, and we got the director Peter Kosminsky to read extracts. It went very well, and there were a couple of concert promoters who asked if we would do it again.”

Peter was committed to other projects, but Anton Lesser (who had played Thomas More in four episodes) came in: “And he was just thrilled to do it. We did a few more with Anton, and it developed from there. It has been such a lovely thing to do.”

As for the series: “There was a lot of excitement about it, more than I have ever experienced. When I told people I was doing the music for it, they were so interested. There was a huge build-up. You always wonder whether something is going to fly, and there was a feeling of fear when it was broadcast for the first time. You just don’t know how people are going to react, but it was great.

“I talked a lot with the director beforehand, and he said he didn’t want a pastiche of Tudor music. He didn’t want it to sound like Greensleeves! The thing about Hilary Mantel’s novel is that there is just this great sense of immediacy about it. She doesn’t make the novel feel like the characters are set in the past. They feel like immediate contemporary characters, and we took that stance in the music. We used some period instruments, theorbo, recorders, mandolin and various other instruments, but we also used strings and cor anglais. We gave the music a contemporary feel. It was written in the present with a sense of the contemporary with a nod to the instruments of the period, but with a feeling that it has been written now.”

Peter worked in a different way to most directors who will usually give the composer the finished film – to which they add the soundtrack. Peter wanted Anne’s theme and Cromwell’s theme before the filming had even begun.

“I love working like that, with that extra time. Usually you have something like six weeks or maybe even less once the film has been made, but this was different. It was great fun to do.”

Debbie has more than 200 film and television soundtracks to her name including Wilde, Wolf Hall, Father Brown, A Poet In New York and Dickensian.

Call 01403 750220.

Don’t miss out on all the latest breaking news where you live.

Here are four ways you can be sure you’ll be among the first to know what’s going on.

1 Make our website your homepage

2 Like our Facebook page

3 Follow us on Twitter

4 Register with us by clicking on ‘sign in’ (top right corner). You can then receive our daily newsletter AND add your point of view to stories that you read here.

And do share with your family and friends – so they don’t miss out!

Be part of it.