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Composing the music for ‘Spotlight on The Troubles: A Secret History’

Part 1 – Honor and Fear

Early in 2018 I received an email from series producer Chris Thornton (who I had not worked with before). It went along the lines that BBC Northern Ireland is working on a major new series about the Troubles and if I was interested (and available) they would like me to score the soundtrack. I read the email twice just to make sure of what I was reading and sat there in my studio slightly shocked.

I grew up in Belfast and lived through the Troubles. The Troubles were part of life in Belfast and so to be asked to score the music for a major new series was a huge honour. The next day and for the next few months that feeling turned to a slight fear: how could I possible do justice to such a period in the province’s history through my music.

Sheridan Tongue working on Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History

Before long I was on a flight to Belfast to meet the production team at BBC Broadcasting House on Ormeau Avenue. In the edit they began to show me some of the archive footage that they had been trawling through for months. Much of the material had never been broadcast. It immediately had a resonance with me: seeing the images of Belfast in the 1970s was like stepping back in time and seeing the Belfast I had grown up in. There was also footage of major incidents in the province’s history that I had only ever heard about and never seen any footage. The weight of composing the score to the series played on my mind all that summer.

Back in my studio I made a conscious decision not to begin work on the score until I was sent a rough cut. There were still too many unknowns and to me, the answer on how to approach the music composition lay in the film, so I needed to see the film.

Over the next few months I was constantly in touch with the edit and made the occasional trip to Belfast to discuss and view the films with the team at the various edit stages. Despite all the meetings there were still too many variables in my mind about a musical direction and where to start, I needed that first cut.

In November 2018 I received a rough cut of episode one and I began work composing the music.

To be continued (Part 1/7).

Composing the music for ‘Spotlight on The Troubles: A Secret History’

BBC Northern Ireland