Two years ago, whilst listening to music in his car, Frederick Forsyth had a thought. Years of commemoration were coming, recalling the outbreak of World War I and its dreadful slaughter, then World War II, Korea, the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan and the endless torrent of sacrifices made by armed forces worldwide.
Although there were several commemorative music pieces in existence it occurred to him there was no sung lament for the fallen that he could think of. Over a period of a month he composed a sixteen-line, four verse poem to fill the need. But he thought it should be sung, not read.
For a year and a half he tried to find an existing piece of music that could be ‘twinned’ with the words of the poem but failed. Then fate took a hand.
At his village church he heard the voice of Melissa, a pure soprano from the Royal Opera House, who also directs the village church choir. She introduced him to world class music arranger Gareth Ellis Williams. It was Gareth who came up with the melody that you hear today – haunting, plaintive, evocative – using violin, harp and pipes…….and reactions so far have been remarkable.
Born in Ashford, Kent in August 1938, the only son of two shopkeepers who encouraged him to spread wings, travel and see the world. A boyhood enthusiasm for aeroplanes and especially the fighters based near his childhood home, he lusted to join the RAF which he did at seventeen (after being rather imaginative about his real age - the joining age was eighteen). He received his ‘wings’ on single-seat jets at nineteen.
Eventually leaving the RAF, Frederick went into journalism, aiming to become a foreign correspondent and travel the world. He worked for Reuters in Paris and East Berlin, then the BBC in Europe and Africa, before parting company with them over the Nigeria-Biafra war. He stayed on in the rain forest as a freelance until the end two years later.
Returning home broke, Frederick set about completing his first novel ‘The Day Of The Jackal’. The rest, as they say, is history.
Daughter of an RAF pilot, Melissa, was born in London and grew up in Buckinghamshire. She began singing in Holy Trinity Church choir, and was a member of the National Youth Choir of Great Britain.
Melissa attended the Arts Educational School Tring Park and then the Royal Academy of Music. Her professional career has included Glyndebourne Festival & Touring Opera, Salzburg Festival (under Sir Simon Rattle) and since 2002 she has been in the full-time chorus of the Royal Opera House. In addition to her Chorus work she regularly undertakes small roles and understudies at ROH. She made her solo debut at Covent Garden in 2003 under Sir Charles Mackerras.
Melissa moved back to Buckinghamshire with her young family a few years ago. In her spare time from the Royal Opera House, she reformed and continues to direct the choir at Holy Trinity, as well singing at corporate events including for Sunseeker at The Southampton Boat Show and on the hallowed turf at Twickenham- singing the New Zealand national anthem for the All Blacks.
On first meeting Frederick Forsyth Melissa says “I met Freddie a couple of years when I put on a concert in my local Church to raise money to fix the roof ! I performed, the church choir sang and Freddie kindly came to read the preface of his then new book , The Kill List. Together we raised more than enough money to fix the roof and we no longer need to put a bucket on the organ when it rains!!"
Gareth is a multi instrumentalist who studied trumpet, piano and voice from the age of 9, eventually attaining a Masters Degree in Music Composition from Bristol University. Now in demand as a record producer, sound engineer, arranger and performer he has worked on a diverse range of projects.
Credits for his specialist area of mixing orchestral productions for TV, film and video games include Emmy Award winning documentary ‘Hiroshima’, and award winning ‘The Battle of Britain’, plus numerous successful BBC dramas. Continued award winning collaborations with James Fitzpatrick have gained him an international reputation for classic film score albums and have seen him work with the some of the biggest names in the business such as Sarah Brightman, Katherine Jenkins and Gareth Malone, to name just a few.
He has produced two No.1 classical albums (Lesley Garrett and Rebecca Newman), was the co-musical director for BBC’s Children In Need for over 5 years, and has had his music commissioned by a whole range of programmes including the opening ceremony of the Rugby World Cup.