CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Somerset Life today CLICK HERE

A life set to music

PUBLISHED: 14:24 19 February 2014 | UPDATED: 14:24 19 February 2014

Richard G Mitchell

Richard G Mitchell

Archant

CLARE BOURKE talks to film composer Richard G Mitchell about how his love of music and films has made for a very fulfilled life in rural Somerset

"Somerset is the centre of my world now"

Tucked away in a beautiful corner of Somerset countryside, surrounded by stunning views, it is easy to see where Richard G Mitchell gains much of his inspiration.

With around 30 film and television scores to his name, and plenty more yet to come, the renowned composer is enjoying the tranquil life, but is 
still as busy as ever.

“Writing music for film is very different to writing other music,” Richard explains. “It is time consuming and labour intensive 
and I need the quietness of Somerset for that.”

Richard, 52, has lived near Bruton, close to the Somerset/Wiltshire border, with wife Suzi for the past 15 years, working in his home studio and can now not imagine living anywhere else.

Working of the music for Hidden in the SandWorking of the music for Hidden in the Sand

He says: “We moved here from Herefordshire. We fell in love with the area and looked for a year for a place. People come here to work 
with us so we wanted somewhere that was nice for them to come to. The landscape is so beautiful, the village is spectacular and you don’t realise how wonderful the community is here.

“It is one of those strange places where you instantly find connections with people. Around 400 people 
live here and we probably know everybody; it’s an old fashioned community.”

Richard’s successful career started soon after he graduated from St Martins School of Art in the early 1980s where he studied for a degree in Fine Art. But it was his passion for music, rather than art, that was to become his life after he started writing scores and collaborating with students making films and art installation projects at St Martins, the Royal College of Art and the National Film School.

“When I started out at age 19/20, I saw the cinema as a place for composers to work,” he explains. “You could try out ideas and you didn’t have the pressure of the concert hall. The cinema felt like somewhere you could experiment with a great deal of styles, and I like the idea of music working with the moving image.

Scarlett Johansson in a A Good WomanScarlett Johansson in a A Good Woman

“I started doing electronic music and ended up doing period dramas. I now get involved at the script stage because period dramas need music all the way through them. It means you get to have more creative input in films. That doesn’t happen with modern films.”

Richard’s period works include To Kill A King (Rupert Everett, Tim Roth and Olivia Williams), Moby Dick (Ethan Hawke, William Hurt, Donald Sutherland and Gillian Anderson) and A Good Woman (Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johansson and Tom Wilkinson), an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play Lady Windermere’s Fan.

Recalling his time working on A Good Woman, Richard says: “That was absolutely wonderful. We moved the play to the 1930s because the morality of the time fitted with Wilde’s original and we filmed in Amalfi, Italy.

“Period films need a lot of music in them, a lot of background music. In the film there is a scene where they go to church and there is a soloist. For this I recorded a chorister at Wells Cathedral and had to work out something he could sing that a little Italian boy could mime to in the film. It worked really well.”

But this was no big budget movie, as Richard remembers. “It was a typically small English film with no budget. For the party scene I had written a piece for a 20-piece band but was told there was no budget so we would go with a 10-piece but when we got there we had members for a four-piece only. I ended up miming playing the trumpet in the film as we didn’t even have a trumpet player. We also ran out of money so we did all the exteriors in Amalfi and the interiors in Rome.”

Richard is not alone in finding his corner of Somerset to be a creative space and works closely with many friends who live nearby and are involved in the film industry.

“Bruton has become a centre for cultural people with directors, composers and conductors moving to the area and has become the centre of the creative universe,” he explains.

“Director Mike Barker lives near us. I first worked with Mike on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall for the BBC in the 1990s and since then we have worked on A Good Woman and To Kill a King.”

Choirmaster Matthew Owens at nearby Wells Cathedral, who lives just 10 minutes away from Richard’s home, is another creative who he can call on to help with a film, with the cathedral choir being involved in a number of his scores.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, Richard doesn’t even have to leave his home to attend recordings and is often known to ‘attend’ via Skype.

He says: “I scored my first film when I was 19 and I had to have a producer in the room when we were working on a film. Back then, it took an incredible amount of time to add the music to the score but now it can all be done so quickly, thanks to new technology.

“I live my life in a cupboard but with technology the way it is these days I can be anywhere in the world and still be here. One time, when I couldn’t get to Bulgaria where the orchestra was, they plugged my desk into theirs. My room was 1,000 miles away from them but it was as if I was in the room with them.”

And when it comes to premieres, Richard’s corner of the county is perfectly capable of handling those too, with no need to head into London or further afield.

“We had the world premieres for A Good Woman and To Kill a King at Strode Theatre, just down the road near Street. That way we could turn them into charity evenings.”

So what’s next for this musical maestro? Richard has just released his first solo album of piano music, Piano Tree Elettriche, and this year will be taken up by scoring a movie called Shakespeare’s Daughter, which is currently in development.

Whatever the future holds, it is clear Richard, has no plans to leave his adopted county. “My heart is in Somerset,” he adds. “My parents live at nearby Castle Cary and we pretty quickly built up a large group of people who live and work here together. There is a lot of talent 
here. Somerset is the centre of my world now.”

0 comments

More from Out & About

Yesterday, 11:12

Simone Stanbrook-Byrne explores two villages on the Mendip Hills and the tranquil paths that link them

Read more
Thursday, October 4, 2018

Whatever the season, we love exploring Portishead!

Read more
Monday, October 1, 2018

Given to the people of Bath as a gift from a local benefactor 80 years ago, the tranquil Alice Park is thriving, as Chrissy Harris discovers

Read more
Friday, September 28, 2018

When a town can boast having three community orchards offering free fruit for all, you know you’ve arrived somewhere special. Laurence McJannet marches to Wellington for some culinary surprises

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

As the colder months draw in, and golden and red hues fill the trees, there’s nothing quite like gathering the family for a stroll through the countryside. Embrace the fresh air, wrap up warm and soak in the beauty of Somerset on these 10 autumn walks

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Steve Roberts traces the trials and tribulations behind the construction of a famous Bristol landmark

Read more
Friday, September 14, 2018

This month Andrea Cowan visits Withypool

Read more
Thursday, September 13, 2018

Crunchy leaves under foot, bracing walks in beautiful countryside and along the coast, cream teas in cosy tea rooms and charming pubs with roaring fireplaces – what’s not to love about autumn in the Somerset?

Read more
Tuesday, September 11, 2018

A wander through Somerton’s streets reveals a perfectly preserved rural Somerset town, discovers Laurence McJannet

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Take a family walk in Watchet, exploring both town and countryside, with Simone Stanbrook-Byrne

Read more
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

From beautiful gardens to iconic attractions, fascinating museums to family-friendly theme parks, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to a family day out in Somerset

Read more
Tuesday, August 28, 2018

There’s nothing more appealing than a row of picture-perfect properties in some of Somerset’s most beautiful locations. Which street is your favourite in the county?

Read more
Monday, August 20, 2018

Steve Roberts steps back in time to see how the Monmouth Rebellion impacted on our county

Read more
Thursday, August 16, 2018

Stephen Roberts explores a Somerset manor house packed with centuries of history

Read more
 
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

subscription ad


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search