The Great Plague

the Great Plague with music by Christian Vassie

drama documentary

1 x 90 mins

Juniper Television

RTS - best history 2002

as much soul as James Brown

Based on the written records of Henry Dorset, a church warden, the film tells the story of what happened to the 30 families living in an alley of Fleet Street as the great plague of 1665 ripped through London. 100,000 Londoners died that summer while anyone rich enough to flee abandoned the city and its poor to their fate.

The poor don't have much of a voice at the best of times. In a drama documentary they are literally mute so the first challenge for the music was to return the families their voices. In the opening pub scene a folk violin mingles with the sound of someone scat singing a sea shanty, a singing style still heard in the north east of England in the 20th century.

"I knew we had it right when the producer and executive producer cried during a showing of the scene where Mrs Penny loses her two infant sons to the plague." says Christian. For that scene he took a folksong in the style of the period and asked the singer, Mary Kendall, to allow the song to fall apart as she burst into tears. The song incorporates gentle bluegrass guitar. Elsewhere the score employs folk fiddle music, percussion, brittle and fragile piano melodies, and a dark menacing soundscape where instruments morph into clouds of flies and the church bells toll themselves hoarse.

cast: Katrine Bach, Peter Lovelock, David Churchill, Susan Clifford, Ian, McEahran, Colin Copeland, Elaine Copeland, Judy Hamblet, Ruth Roberts ...

crew: executive producer: Samir Shah, producer: John Toba, director: Justin Hardy, editor Charles Davies, composer: Christian Vassie

music to picture - video clips

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