Foregrounding music in the Dramatic Experience

dramaticnotesThis book was written in response to work I had done with schools and colleges regarding music as a narrative force. Everybody has an intuitive response to music, whether they are musically trained or not, and that response is common to everybody who sits in a cinema or theatre auditorium and, at a deep level, reacts to the impetus the music is giving them. They may not be aware of the music, certainly not thinking of orchestras, instruments and musical notes, and yet that music is affecting the whole audience in the same way. Because music is, to many people, a foreign language they think they cannot speak, the debate about the use of music in our everyday lives, on TV, in cinema, in advertising, is seemingly the domain only of the musically literate - yet it is, in fact, where we all live. Dramatic Notes was an attempt to address this debate in layman's terms, featuring interviews with composers (including George Fenton, Steven Warbeck and Richard Rodney Bennett), directors (including John Schlesinger) and others involved with scoring music to drama.

"A very useful and timely book…" Russell Davies, Front Row, BBC Radio 4.

Pub. Arts Council of England/University of Luton Press - 1998

Dramatic Notes is available from:   University of Luton Press and www.amazon.co.uk

Also chapters in DAVID LLOYD GEORGE - The Movie Mystery (Pub. University of Wales) and
YOUNG AND INNOCENT? - British Cinema in the Twenties (pub. University of Exeter)


Neil Brand has written extensively for Radio 4, notably THE PLAYER (tx December 1996) - a journey to Scotland with Cecil B de Mille to accompany one of his movies, TALKERS (tx September 98) a story of union strife in 20s Chicago which has become the musical TALKING WITH MR WARNER; THE ART CLASS (Tx March 99) the intrigue behind the building of the first nuclear reactor; THE CAVE OF HARMONY (with Michael Eaton, tx December 2000) , the relationship between Dickens and Thackeray set against the background of the 19th century London Song and Supper clubs and BETWEEN THE LINES (tx November 2001), Siegfried Sassoon's journey through 20s England. JOANNA (tx December 2002) starred Haydn Gwynne as a piano and told the ups and downs of being a theatre piano over a hundred years.
RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS - Three 11th century monks stumble upon the concept of close-harmony singing. Transmitted October 2002.

THE GOOD LISTENER, tx June 2003 - Starring Hayden Gwynne and Gerard Murphy it deals with the world of covert surveillance and a meeting from the past that goes horribly wrong.

And then there was STAN… (see separate page), which was nominated for a Sony award.

GETTING THE JOKE starred John Wood and Malcolm Sinclair and told the story of postcard king Donald McGill’s trial for obscenity in 1953, when he was 80. It was nominated for the Tinniswood prize for Best Radio Drama of 2006.

SEEING IT THROUGH was a 90-minute drama for BBC Radio 3 which investigated political attitudes to war by dealing with the establishment of Wellington House, the secret British department of propaganda during WW1, and the secret involvement of senior figures in the literary establishment. It starred Michael Maloney as Charles Masterman.

HEADLINER starring Laura Solon and Ewan Bailey - Important elections are on the horizon in the eastern European state of Khovakhia when up-and-coming stand-up comedienne Katya Kalugin is befriended by US comedy legend Doug Stokowski.

SNEAKIEPEEKS - a six-part comedy series written with Harry Venning about an inept surveillance team, starring Nina Conti, Richard Lumsden and Daniel Kaluuya.

A YEAR AT THE RACES - Toby Jones starred as Groucho Marks meeting a young star-struck fan, who also happens to be a wisecracking horse doctor.

THE STRANGE CASE OF DOCTOR JEKYLL AND MISTER HYDE - a full-blooded and very loose adaptation of Stephenson's novel starring Stuart MacQuarrie and Madeleine Worrall. Available as a CD.


THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS - A fully-underscored adaptation of the classic novel for Actors and Orchestra performed live by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and a cast led by Stephen Mangan, Claire Skinner, Philip Jackson and Carl Prekopp.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL - also adapted for Actors and Orchestra and performed for recording by Robert Powell, Ron Cook, Sophie Thompson and Tracy-Ann Obermann. Later performed live at the Barbican at Christmas 2016 with Philip Jackson and Carl Prekopp.

Both these shows can be obtained, along with performance rights, from FABER MUSIC PUBLISHING

A set of fast-moving comedies set in a Chicago radio station in the 1930s and recorded live in front of an audience at the BBC Radio Theatre. All the sound effects are performed live, the casts change with each episode and the BBC Singers provide exquisite close-harmony singing for the songs, adverts and idents.

  1. Love - starring Josie Lawrence and Nigel Harman. Tonight's live broadcast stars famous husband and wifeteam of composer/lyricists Grant Thornhill and Jean Forsythe. Gambling Grant is in debt to gangster Brannigan but a new song might just save the day.
  2. Culture - starring Samantha Spiro and Sam Dale . The Dusenberg Hour of Charm is threatened by the disappearance of its sponsor. The arrival of a new owner heralds a new high-culture focus much to the dismay of the regular crew, but Marlene Dietrich may just save the day.


Neil has written a number of articles for various websites, some of which are reproduced here. Please click the links to read.

Hello to all this

Working with Hitch


After initial success with a first musical set in South London EASY MONEY. (1986) and the Vivian Ellis prizewinner HOUSE OF DREAMS (1989, both written with Alison Gray) Neil has written music and lyrics for shows at theatres as diverse as Polka Childrens Theatre (including THE GIRAFFE, THE PELLY AND ME, THE FOUR FRIENDS, THE PATCHWORK QUILT, THE JUNGLE BOOKand SLEEPING BEAUTY), Nuffield Theatre Southampton (SINBAD'S ARABIAN NIGHTS, WIND IN THE WILLOWS and TREASURE ISLAND) and Gateway Theatre, Chester (ALICE IN WONDERLAND, THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET and THE LOST DRAGON). He is about to go into production on TALKING WITH MR.WARNER, (directed by Nickolas Grace, produced by Eoin O'Callaghan) a former Ken Hill prize finalist for which he has written book, music and lyrics and is based on his own radio play in which Jack Warner of Warner Brothers is kidnapped on the opening night of The Jazz Singer in Chicago (the first real talking picture) and held to ransom by a disaffected musician.

Watch this space!