Monday, 9 November 2009

The Pink Ribbon Gala

Not only is Debbie Wiseman a wonderfully talented film composer, she also has a big heart and a generous spirit. All of the above were on display last night at London’s Cadogan Hall, where Debbie put on a very fine show, and all for charity.

The Pink Ribbon Gala was organised by the composer to help raise awareness and vital funds for Breast Cancer Campaign, one of the UK’s leading Breast Cancer charities. With more than a little help from her friends – namely the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, broadcasting legend Simon Bates, and a handful of stars from stage and screen – Debbie presided over a lovely concert programme of accessible classical music, not to mention a good many of her own works for the screen. The theme was certainly words and music, with specially selected pieces by poets such as Oscar Wilde, T.S. Eliot and Hilaire Beloc read to music from Wilde, Tom & Viv and a portion of the composer’s beautiful accompaniment for ‘The Nightingale and the Rose’ (as composed for the grammy nominated album of Oscar Wilde Fairy Tales).

The RPO were in fine fettle as ever, at home certainly on their own stage, and with images projected overhead, they accompanied Cheri Lunghi – reading Eliot’s ‘Five Finger Exercises’, Timothy West – who read Wilde’s gorgeous ‘Serenade for Music’, George Layton – in charge of the aforementioned ‘Nightingale and the Rose’, and the ever-brilliant Prunella Scales – reading Beloc’s grizzly ditty ‘Jim’, about a small boy who lets go of his Nanny’s hand only to be eaten by a hungry Lion.

The texts were well chosen and worked really very well against the music – both were given time to breathe, which was a blessing and while they were all marvellous, the highlight was surely ‘Jim’, set against Benjamin Britten’s ‘Simple Symphony: Playful Pizzicato’ There were instances of music without words, with the show opening to the tune of Bach’s sobering ‘Air on a G-String’, while Debbie’s own suite from ITV’s My Uncle Silas perked things up in the second half. Selections by Borodin and Holst – the former’s gorgeous ‘Nocturne’ from his second string quartet and the latter’s always-frolicsome ‘Finale’ from his ‘St. Paul’s Suite’ – were well received during the first half, with the latter putting a spring in our steps on the way to the bar!

You can always rely on Debbie Wiseman to have something new up her sleeve and this occasion was no exception. For the last few years she has been working with Oscar-winning lyricist Don Black on a new musical called Feather Boy. Originally staged with an all child cast a couple of years ago as part of the Shell Connections series on London’s South Bank, the pair have revisited the idea – based on Nicky Singer's award-winning children’s book – and have filled it out and readied it for the West End stage. It’s certainly been a labour of love and I know that Debbie was very pleased to be able to unveil one of the centrepiece songs from the new show. ‘Nothing Grows On Gold’, performed by the delightful Mary Carewe, proved itself to be a classic showstopper with some real wind beneath its wings. The show itself is set to debut officially in 2010…

The evening fluttered by it seemed and the room was filled with a lot of spirit and good will. Ending the show with an encore of ‘Wilde West’ from Wilde, Debbie had us clapping along, with a handful of unashamed yokels offering the off ‘Yee Haw’ to boot. It was a jolly end to a very pleasant evening of music and words and I think it was without doubt a big success for Breast Cancer Campaign. Well done to all involved for putting on a marvellous show.

If you’d like to find out more about the work that Breast Cancer Campaign do, or if you’d like to make a donation then please visit