Composing for Ayckbourn’s Roundelay by Paul Chamberlain

Written by Paul Chamberlain

This play presents several opportunities for a composer.

The idea of theme and variations is an obvious starting point. One theme arranged in different ways to suit the act and the main character.

The idea of a motif that is shared though not necessarily the main theme. Completely different pieces for each act not sharing any similarities. As there are characters that share acts I am going for the same motif at the start of each piece. This I hope will go over the applause from the act and provide an aural connection between the characters. The shared motif is DEA from r o u n D E l A y
Add another A at the end to give a simple four note ostinato. This also serves the purpose of a suspended dominant so all of the pieces are in either D major or D minor.

The Agent
Starts with the ADEA on the organ.
Reference to CSI, Morse, cop DVD’s has led me to write 60’s style cop theme. Electric piano on a descending chromatic chord sequence, accented with a harpsichord arpeggio. Bass guitar is picked and drums provide a pattern with two quavers on the fourth beat to give that stylistic sound. The flute provides a good textural contrast and it is supported by a brass patch an octave below.

The Politician
I got this idea in the middle of the night!!!!
I imagined the Houses of Parliament and wanted a stately, english feel to the piece. This French horns kick off the ADEA in a fanfare style as the brass add to it then the theme played by the strings with flute and clarinet doubling to make it stronger in the mix. The brass gradually come in again and the Big Ben idea from the brass hopefully lead the audience to think of the Politician.
Ah! Change of mind the brass bells don’t work after sleeping on it!!!!….. Church bells now with strings on a gradual fade. That’s better!
Time spent thinking, composing, arranging, recording, mixing, editing for 1 minute of music equals four hours!

The Judge
John wanted something quiet, gentle where someone is reminiscing and reflecting. Musically speaking we often hear music that stirs peoples memories in 3/4 rather than 4/4. That lilting 123 123 seems to take us back. The harp also is an instrument that has a timeless quality about it too! The cello is one of my favourite instruments so chance to write a legato melody for the Judge.

The Novelist
As she is a crime writer I wanted a spooky theme that contained dissonance and space. Sometimes you choose an instrument and start improvising and an idea emerges!!! So it did straight away! The harpsichord has the sound that conveys mystery and suspense. In the background I used two sound pads called Calm Winds and Moving Choir Pad to add some body and depth. The repetitive octave D’s in the bass help to create movement under the sparse motif.

My wife Barbara is great for suggesting things and saying, I like that, I don’t like that, have you thought about? When I explained the premise behind Roundelay she asked about the play off, conscious that we would not know the last character! And could I include all the themes in that case? Well there’s a challenge.

Play Off
The Agent is as is without the organ intro. Then it moves into a 4/4 version of the Judge’s theme but on strings this time with the Agent’s backing of electric piano, harpsichord and bass. This time I moved the two quavers on the snare to beat 2 instead of beat 4 for variation. This leads into a key change up to Eb from D. The trumpets take over the melody in the Politician followed by strings. French horns and strings provide counter lines. The bells then merge with the Novelist’s theme. Hope that all makes some sense!!!!!

Looking forward to seeing the production now!

Paul Chamberlain 2016
Listen to my music for Dick and Lottie at