John Chapman joined the British Police Symphony Orchestra (BPSO) as 3rd Horn in 2008. He was principal horn for the Greater Manchester Police Band (pictured above) between 2008 and 2013 and occasionally deputised as conductor. In recent years John has provided a number of arrangements and original compositions for our performances across the UK such as the Lichfield Proms and our annual concert in Symphony Hall, Birmingham.
Looking at our 30th Anniversary celebrations, it seemed the perfect opportunity to commission John to gain special permission from rights owners and composers to arrange a British Police TV themed medley and Highland Cathedral. As such ‘A Musical Salute’ was born.
As a former bandmaster in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, John was privileged to lead the band, pipes and drums in a memorable royal performance of Highland Cathedral at Balmoral Castle in the presence of Her Majesty The Queen (pictured above). We caught up with him whilst working on his pieces.
RC: John, Tell me about your musical journey to this point being asked to compose a piece for the Royal Albert Hall.
John: It was a great honour and privilege to be asked to put together a British Police TV themed medley for the British Police Symphony Orchestra (BPSO) on the occasion of their 30th Anniversary which happily, coincided with the well-deserved Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service (QAVS). All slightly daunting, but an amazing opportunity rarely afforded to most musicians. It helped me that BPSO had played a number of my compositions and arrangements before.
RC: What kind of differences are there between writing for a band to writing for an orchestra?
John: Yikes! I know a lot about writing for bands, concert bands, brass bands, bagpipes, bugles, percussion and fifes.
All this as a result of spending four years in training at the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, Twickenham. However, an orchestra has a section called ‘strings’, things like a grand piano and some exotic instruments like the harp. Before joining BPSO as a French Horn player, this was all unfamiliar territory. Putting together earlier compositions for BPSO like ‘Out of the Blue’ (A Symphonic Fanfare) which we performed at Birmingham Symphony Hall was a good way to ‘start’ to understand how to write for strings. Going back to the earlier question, the police-themed medley offered me a wonderful opportunity to listen very carefully to the way some fabulous composers wrote for strings and other instruments. Putting together the medley was indeed a start to a challenging and interesting musical journey for me. I learned a lot, realising that I need to learn a lot more!
RC: Why did you choose the TV themes you did?
John: I reviewed about fifty TV themes altogether with a strict criteria in my own mind. Firstly the music themes had to be from ‘British Police’ TV programmes and secondly, the music, once arranged had to work well with the orchestral forces at my disposal. My list was eventually shortened to twenty titles to achieve approximately the fifteen minutes of play time requested by the orchestral committee at the outset of this interesting project.
RC: What’s your favourite British TV Police Show?
John: There are some fabulous British Police programmes but I really like watching ‘Endeavour’.
RC: Which is your favourite theme from the series?
John: This is so difficult! I don’t know why, but I absolutely love ‘Foyles War’ and I am very impressed by the way BPSO have performed it in rehearsal.
RC: How did you combine different themes and styles together?
John: I have to laugh at this, because sometimes I felt like I have had to use a 28mm spanner to bolt things together! (ha ha) It was quite difficult really, but I put together a fairly complicated spreadsheet that mapped the TV themes by speed, style, instrumentation, notation and key. Eventually I was able to find an order with a sense of flow – so I hope the listeners agree with me! As well as this, I have tried my best throughout the medley to feature players and sections in the best way possible.
RC: If you could write one piece of music. What would it be and who for?
John: I would absolutely love to write music for a blockbuster film. Probably something in Science Fiction that would allow me to be really creative – I think.