Monday 25 June 2018

Saxon Saints of the Catholic Church, Mary's Dowry Productions, Catholic Films, Family Films, Spiritual Music

To date I have written over 80 music scores for Mary's Dowry Productions.  With each of our films, music plays such an important role and each films music score is composed directly to picture.  I start out with a completed production with narration but no music and it's my job as music composer for Mary's Dowry Productions to lift the film off the screen and into people's hearts as it were.  Music creates a connection, spiritually and emotionally, with the viewer.  The first music score I ever wrote was for our production on Saint Philip Howard and it was the longest composition I had written because until this point I had been writing music albums for many years, each containing shorter tracks.  

Saint Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel DVD
To embark on a full music score was different because I had to connect with the story as it went along, the narration, the places for quiet etc.  It was less free than writing a CD album but the music still grew and evolved itself.  There were some places in the film that were sad, others biopic, other places exciting and this all gave direction to me as to where to take the score.

Because Mary's Dowry Productions initially came about through music and music to Catholic film, we always leave space for music in each of our productions.  Sometimes this will be with longer introductions, scenery breaks, meditation or prayer.  This is what makes our productions unique.  Over the past 11 years I have approached so many different films from Saxon England, Italy, The Reformation Period, Nazi Germany, Ancient Rome, Modern Friaries.  Each saint's story is unique and each of our productions has its' own atmosphere and theme.

In this post I will talk about the Saxon Saints of England I have written for.

The Church of Saint Cuthman of Steyning, Saint, in Steyning, Sussex, Mary's Dowry Productions

Filming Saint Cuthman of Steyning, Mary's Dowry Productions, Catholic Films
The first one was Saint Cuthman of Steyning and it was such fun.  This was using my old music setup, straight out of college in my bedroom with some basic VSTs I had acquired during the course of college.  One of these sounds was Pizz Strings, a gorgeous sample from Vienna Orchestra which immediately sounds as if an auditorium is being filled with many strings on pizz.  This was the foundation for Saint Cuthman of Steyning and because much of the film was filmed with a cart on top of the downs, the atmosphere is light and humorous. 

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Filming Saint Cuthman of Steyning, Mary's Dowry Productions, Catholic Films

When I start a music score I do it layer by layer so I record one layer of music, for example the pizz strings, and improvise in for about 15 or 20 seconds.  Then I tidy it up, play it back and then add another lay, full strings, or banjo or whatever.  I add multiple layers of harmonies and sound until I am happy that it is full enough sounding and I move on, in sections between 10 seconds and a couple of minutes.

I have a particular fondness for writing for Saxon Saints such as saint Cuthman of Steyning.  I can get to use very ancient, often strange or exotic instruments.  I don't like to be predictable, I have my own sound and style, so I will fuse in many things, hints of history but also atmospheres of contemporary.   

Saint Cuthman of Steyning statue, Steyning, Catholic, Church, Catholic Films
 When we filmed for Saint Cuthman of Steyning film, we visited Steyning where his church and statue are.  There were some lovely images and stained glass windows which were beautiful and these are some of the photographs I took from our trip.  

We spent a couple of days up on the Sussex Way, the South Downs, and visited another church which was very old, all in the search for good scenery, old buildings, graveyards as well as the relevant places of Saint Cuthman of Steyning's life.  We also filmed on another day some visual re-creations, soundless, that portray some of the events in his life.  All of this beautiful imagery which came together to tell Saint Cuthman's wonderful story, inspired me when it came to writing the music.

Church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Sompting, Sussex.

Other Saxon Saints which we have produced Catholic DVDs on include Saint Piran of Cornwall, Saint Etheldreda of Ely, Saint Bertha, Saint David and more.  I would like to talk about writing the music for these films in later posts.  For now, focusing on Saint Cuthman I remember I used the pizz strings for a lovely uplifting atmosphere and after the credits there was about a minute of scenery, butterflies and bees against some gorgeous flowers which we acquired in the same area.  With panoramic shots of the South Downs interspersed with Saint Cuthman, his mother in his cart and an array of sheep it makes for a lovely opening sequence.

Saint Cuthman persevered on his journey across the South Downs until he stopped at Steyning to build a church.  There is one part of the film where he had a vision in the midst of the building-process and we use light effects to represent the Good Shepherd coming through a door like a glorious apparition.  It was a lovely opportunity for atmospheric, meditative and spiritual soundscapes, I only had a limited number back then.  The music in this section is reflective and empowering, it brings the sense of the rich spiritual aid which we receive every day and every time we ask, from Heaven.  I used ancient strings and wind instruments alongside this so the atmosphere is ancient, English, Saxon History but very rich in the spiritual with an aid to reflection and prayer.  

Saint Cuthman of Steyning DVD, Mary's Dowry Productions 

Writing the music for Saxon Saints is wonderful, whenever we film for one I get excited and pleased at the prospect of the music I can write.  A lot of my music CD albums are this kind of style so it comes easy for me.  I love these types of instruments you can use.

To date I have made available on CD 5 soundtracks from Mary's Dowry Productions films.  I'd like to make as many as possible available because the music is similar to my CDs which are very popular, but each album has the essence of a particular saint and hence the unique atmosphere of that particular production.  Saint Cuthman of Steyning music score is so uplifting it was requested so it's one of the 5 I have available.  All my music soundtracks are under the series heading "Calm Your Spirit With Music" and Saint Cuthman is Volume Two, subtitled, Joy in Service.

Calm Your Spirit With Music: Joy in Service - available from Mary's Dowry Productions
The complete music soundtrack from Saint Cuthman of Steyning

I hope you have enjoyed reading about the Saxon Saints of Catholic England from Mary's Dowry Productions. We hope to produce many more in the future.  For now, take a look at our website to browse our DVDs and music CDs!

To hear exceprts from this album visit my you tube channel.  You can also watch the FULL FILM for free via our Mary's Dowry Productions You Tube Channel.