Patrick Doyle

On writing for children and adults alike

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Best known for writing the film scores for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Gosford Park and Eragon, Patrick Doyle is also patron of the National Schools Symphony Orchestra (NSSO) and has written a work specially for them. He spoke to us ahead of its premiere and explained why the work didn't make any allowances for the musicians' tender years.

Patrick Doyle

You’ve written Impressions of America: A Suite for Orchestra for the NSSO, can you tell us a bit about how that came about?
I’ve been involved with the NSSO for about 12 years now – I felt like I should try and involve myself, as a patron, as much as possible. David Evans from the NSSO asked me if I had pieces of mine that the orchestra could play, but I didn’t want to push my own work on to them – so rather than give them a piece I’d already written to play, I decided to write a piece for the orchestra.

Why is the work called Impressions of America?
I’ve travelled back and forth to the US over the past 25 years and I thought I’d write a piece based on my travels through parts of that incredible country. It’s inspired by the landscape, the cities and things that made an impression on me there. There’s a piece called ‘Pumpkin Pie’ – I’d never had a cinnamon-based pie before and I’ll never forget the first time I smelt that in New York, it was wonderful. I’ve been to New York in the winter and spent three years in Washington DC, so I wanted to write about places that I’d been to and loved – it’s programme music, really.

Have you adapted your style for the orchestra?
The music is very playable but they still have to work quite hard. I made no allowances, because I know that they’ll rise to the occasion. I imagine it’ll be a thrill for them to play a piece that’s uniquely designed and crafted for them.

You’ve also just written the music for the new Disney/Pixar film, Brave, set in Scotland – how did you approach that project?
Normally you only get a question of weeks to come up with a film score – I remember I wrote Gosford Park in about 15 days – but it’s a very lengthy process working on an animation film. I was approached by the film-makers four years ago and we discussed this animated picture to be set in Scotland. I’m a huge fan of animation – the first film I went to see on my own was Fantasia, in Glasgow, so to be actually writing the score for a Disney/Pixar movie is a complete thrill.

Where did you get your ideas from for the score?
Being a Scot, my whole life, from my earliest memory, has been immersed in music. My family are a family of singers, so I was brought up with Scottish folk songs. Before embarking on this score I went back up to the Hebrides and I lived for quite some time outside Stirling. And of course local pipe bands would come to my local park. There is and always has been a very vibrant Scottish music scene, so I was exposed to this wonderful music all the time. The film-makers were amazing and allowed me to do my job – the movie has incredible integrity and really captures Scotland. My job was to try and make this music sound as ancient and as authentic as possible.