Daryl Griffith – A Talented Composer In The Best Traditions Of Light Music
The Robert Farnon Society invited The London Salon Ensemble to play at its London Meeting on Sunday 13 May 2012, and it proved to be one of the most enjoyable occasions in the 56-year history of the Society. Among the well-known works performed by the Ensemble, were three composed by one of its members, Daryl Griffith, who was born in Wallasey, Cheshire. And what made the event even more noteworthy, was the fact that one of Daryl’s works was a World Premiere. This was entitled Bohemian Nights, and his other two works played were The New Year Belle and Sunday On The Southbank.It quickly became obvious to everyone present that Daryl’s music was tuneful and instantly appealing – two of the important requisites of the best work in the light music genre.
Journal Into Melody Editor David Ades asked Daryl if he would be willing to be interviewed for the magazine, so that we could learn more about this talented musician. At the meeting he was playing celesta, percussion and the violin, but clearly there was a lot more to learn. Daryl’s website informs us that he is a composer, orchestrator and conductor working in both the classical and commercial sectors. Although he is still young, he is regarded within the profession as a veteran musical virtuoso whose work has graced the stage, radio and screen. After studying at the Royal College of Music and winning the Hecht and Alchin prize for Composition in his final year, Daryl began his career as a freelance violinist and pianist, appearing with the likes of the BBC Concert Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic, the Hallé, the Liverpool Philharmonic and the English Chamber Orchestra. He subsequently had a full time job with the BBC Concert Orchestra.
In 1989 he joined the English National Ballet as the Company Pianist and was quickly promoted to Principal Pianist and Conductor in 1990. With the English National Ballet he performed at all the major theatres across the UK and composed arrangements and orchestrations for the full and mid-scale Companies. In 1992 Daryl was invited to join the London City Ballet as Principal Conductor; in 1993 he was promoted to Music Director.
In 1998 Daryl began composing orchestral music for production companies, including KPM Music. His extensive orchestration credits include scores for Nick Hooper’s films Messiah III, The Future Is Wild, The Girls of Chernobyl and The Young Visitors (which won the Bafta for best music). His production music compositions have been extremely successful and have been licensed worldwide to programmes and commercials, including Sex and the City (HBO), Love Child (ITV), Chuck (NBC) and Häagen-Dazs.
He has also performed many of his compositions on BBC Radios Two and Three with the London Salon Ensemble and the BBC Concert Orchestra, including Orient Express, Aladdin and A Simple Life. Daryl’s film scores include Sacred Journey (2001) and In Search of an Impotent Man (2002), as well as numerous shorts that have been screened worldwide.
He has composed and arranged classical crossover and pop albums for artists including Summer Watson, Finbar Furey, Dominic Miller, Chage & Aska, as well as on the Myleene Klass album Moving On, which reached number two in the charts and was subsequently nominated for a Brit award. Daryl also provided arrangements for the Italian pop sensation Cesare Cremonini and for commercials by MasterCard, Citroën and Virgin Trains, and he composed all the orchestrations for the rebranding of the Sky News channel.
Daryl has worked as orchestrator and conductor with bands such as Arcade Fire and McFly, as well as orchestrating the music for TV dramas, including the Bafta-winning Prime Suspect. In 2006 Daryl was commissioned by KPM to write KPM 668 and 669 Our Grand Designs – a large orchestral work incorporating electronic instruments – which was recorded at Abbey Road Studios and released in 2007. Daryl has also worked as orchestrator for the feature films Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Warner Bros., 2009) and Bedtime Stories (Disney, 2008), and composed idents for Baileys's sponsorship of Films on 4. He orchestrated and arranged the music for the English National Ballet’s children’s ballet Angelina’s Star Performance and recorded the score for the ballet’s subsequent DVD release. He is in demand as a session conductor, and is one of the few classically trained conductors who is able to employ the clicktrack.
David Ades began by asking Daryl if he could remember when he first realised that he was interested in music:
DG: I have always been involved in music. My mother was originally a professional singer with the BBC Northern Singers, so music was always around in the house. I started to play the piano and sing at a very early age, and because it is something that I have always done, it has never seemed strange to me.
DA: Having a love for music is something that many fortunate people experience at an early age, but it takes a great deal of courage to embark upon a musical profession. Were you always determined that you would earn your living in this way, or did you begin with something completely different?
DG: Originally I had no intention of becoming a musician. As a child, I wanted to be other things, notably an architect or a dancer! However, it became pretty clear in my early teens that because I had no talent for either of these, and enjoyed music so much, considering entering the music profession seemed the logical thing to do. In any case, music has always been so important to me that I don’t think I would have been happy doing anything else.
DA: Who were the people who exerted the biggest influence on you at The Royal College of Music?
DG: There were many people, including Adrian Cruft, my composition teacher. However, I think that one of the biggest influences on me regarding the way I think about music was my Piano teacher Phyllis Sellick. She taught me a lot of things that I could apply to all aspects of my music making, not just piano playing.
DA: Have any of your fellow students been similarly successful?
DG: Quite a few people I was at College with have been successful in various parts of the profession, including composing, but I don’t know of any others who have been quite as successful in media composition as I have.
DA: When you left the RCM, was it difficult to find work as a professional musician?
DG: Not really. I had both teaching and performing qualifications, and being good at more than one instrument meant that there was always work to be picked up, be it playing in an orchestra as a freelance, or accompanying student exams. When I first left College I took a post as a music lecturer for a couple of years, simply to give me time to prepare myself fully for the profession, so in that case I think my route was less stressful than some others, who basically had to rush around taking as much low paid work as they could get, in the hope that eventually they would be able to get a full time job in a contract orchestra.
DA: Although you won the prize for Composition at the RCM, it cannot have been easy to persuade publishers to accept your work, given the strong competition from established writers.
DG: To be honest, I’ve never tried to get a Publisher to accept any of my concert work. It is all un-published. In the Media it is very different, as Publishing has nothing to do with the written score; it is all about the recordings. When I started it would normally have been difficult to find an opening, but I was lucky in that I met a composer (Richard Harvey) who helped me to get started.
DA: The bills have to be paid, so you need to accept work where it is available. If you had complete freedom to choose, in which area of the music business would you prefer to concentrate your efforts?
DG: Actually I don’t accept any work that I don’t want to do! My current catalogue pays my bills quite comfortably, and as long as I continue to top it up, I’m in the fortunate position of being able to choose what I do. However, there are things that I’m interested in that I haven’t managed to achieve yet. For example, a couple of years ago I wrote the music for a children’s dance show, and was intending to produce the show myself. Unfortunately, even though I had a tour planned, the project fell through, due to contractual difficulties. Hopefully I will have time to resurrect this project at some point. I also think that I would like to write more concert music, and it may well be that at some point I will do so.
DA: Which projects are you currently working on?
DG: I’m currently working on two more albums for EMI/KPM, both of which should be released later this year.
DA: Looking further ahead, how do you envisage your career developing over the next ten years?
DG: I have a feeling that I might do more film and TV, as well as concert music. However, I’m very happy with the things are now, so I’m in no hurry to change my current workflow.
Editor: I am most grateful to Daryl for sparing the time from his busy schedule to tell us about his work. We look forward to following his future career with great interest.
This article first appeared in the September 2012 issue of ‘Journal Into Melody’.