Royal College of Music Film Orchestra

On 6th November, a group of Tree House members went along to watch the Royal College of Music’s (RCM) Film Orchestra play a concert in aid of Help the Heroes. The theme was film music from war-themed films, such as Lawrence of Arabia and Out of Africa.


Photo by Sara Jae


One of the misconceptions about deaf and hard of hearing people is that we don’t enjoy music – or can’t appreciate music in the same way as hearing people can. However, as with various other things in life, people have their own relationships with the arts and culture – and music is no exception. My perception and appreciation of music is not the same as another deaf person’s – we all experience music in our own different ways. And just as some enjoy music, others don’t – a personal preference.

For example, my family has always enjoyed music – some of my parents’ stories about the 60s and 70s have me green with envy – seeing the Rolling Stones and Beatles live, going to the Dorothy in Cambridge for nights full of good music and dancing. When my sister and I were young, our parents and grandparents used to take us along to open air concerts with fireworks at the end, and without fail they would usually end the evening with John Williams’s Star Wars suite. I have fond memories of sitting on a blanket, full of expectation and awe at the fireworks and the stirring orchestral score. I even used the A New Hope theme as my wedding march…

My relationship with music is complicated, one that I have returned to many times in blog posts and articles. In the simplest terms, with music that has lyrics, I tend to hear the melody, bass line and voice but the words are not clear. I rely on reading lyrics – for example, using Spotify with MusicXmatch for the lyrics in time with the song, Youtube videos or looking up lyrics and listening closely to a song I want to get to know a number of times. I also have strong auditory memories of music that I listened to as a child and teenager, but this hasn’t stopped me listening and ‘learning’ new songs and music. In this case, level of hearing is irrelevant because everyone has a different reaction and preference. I’m profoundly deaf, and in another life, perhaps I wouldn’t have as strong a connection with music.

The Royal College of Music Film Orchestra was stunning. We sat at the front where we could see the conductor Richard Miller, hard at work with his graceful swoops and cues – some of us found it mesmerising. It was amazing to sit where we could feel the passion and energy rolling from the stage – where we could see the expressions of the musicians and feel the vibrations from the deeper instruments. It was an experience that fully immersed us into the world of music, both sight and sound. Some of the emotions evoked made some of us come out in goosebumps. The programme included scores from films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, and Schindler’s List – not to mention one of my favourite anime films, Grave of the Fireflies. There was a surprise performance, at the end, with ‘Dambusters’.

I felt that for the uninitiated, film music is a good way into listening to and appreciating orchestral music – it isn’t as inaccessible as it seems at first glance. In the past I have been afraid to listen to orchestral music because of the high notes and the quieter notes that I might not be able to pick up. However, in recent years I have been more open to listening to orchestral music via Spotify, and discovering powerful music with a theme. Film scores fit this category because they evoke the atmosphere and mood of a film, telling a story. In the end, I love a good story, and good music tells a story and evokes emotion – or just makes you want to dance (!)

So choosing to go to an orchestral performance is a new thing for me and some of the Tree House members that attended. It made me realise just how powerful it is to see a concert in person as opposed to the disconnect you might feel from just listening to music without being there. You miss the visual impact and the energy. I’m looking forwards to going to the next concerts with the Royal College of Music’s Film Orchestra – I can only hope for the Star Wars score next time…

Lizzie Ward-Mclaughlan