Music to their ears

With an audio relay to the audience equipped with individual headphones, composer Heather Fenoughty’s soundtrack is an essential part of that experience of Camelot: The Shining City, the collaboration between Sheffield People’s Theatre and Slung Low.

Composing a score for a three-hour promenade show was a special challenge though as resident composer with Leeds-based theatrical innovators Slung Low she is used to the process of headphones and outdoor conditions.

She began working on the score for James Phillips’ script more than a month before rehearsals began with the cast of 150 actors, mostly amateurs from Sheffield People’s Theatre.

Set in the near future when England is in the midst of a civil war and a young woman discovers that she is the daughter of King Arthur, who legend says will return to lead the nation at its hour of need, sets out to fulfil her destiny.

Fenoughty has created an ambient musical score which features recordings of Sheffield’s own Albion Choir singing some of her arrangements.

The non-musical part of the soundtrack is in the hands of Matt Angove, sound designer and operator on the production. “I used to do it all but it became too much for one person,” she says.

“The reward is seeing the faces of the audience during the show when you’ve pitched the audio soundtrack just right with the action, the dialogue, the design and special effects.”

An added pleasure for Fenoughty is that Camelot – The Shining City is being staged in her home city around the Crucible which she knows well.

“I have never had much to do with the theatrical side but as a musician I have played here enough times,” she reflects. A product of the Sheffield Music Service, learning the violin while at St Joseph’s Primary in Handsworth and All Saint’s secondary school, and playing in Sheffield City Youth Orchestra she went on to study music at the University of Sheffield and film composition at Bournemouth.

Then there is the sheer convenience. “My commute is a 40-minute walk or 15-minute bus ride rather than travelling around the country or abroad with Slung Low,” she says.

“It’s all rather political, serious and thematically challenging at times – very different from my last show with Slung Low, the exciting, fun and no less thoughtful in its message, Emergency Story Penguin.” Sheffield will get to see that this Christmas at the Crucible Studio, along with another Slung Low show, 59 Minutes to Save Christmas.

Her credits on BBC and ITV documentaries and feature films include The Aviatrix aired earlier this year on BBC4. She works regularly with Sheffield-based animation studio, Red Star 3D, which includes scoring 3D and 4D simulator experiences at theme parks, commercials and soundtracks for computer games.

Camelot: The Shining City runs to Saturday.