Maestro Michael Seal

Getting the perfect ‘Soundtrack To Your Summer’

By City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

We continue our film theme as Michael Seal, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s Associate Conductor, tells us about the challenges of conducting and performing film music…

It is just two weeks before the CBSO’s Film Music Festival, ‘Soundtrack to Your Summer’ (find out more here) and my desk is groaning under the weight of scores! I am conducting two of the concerts and have 25 pieces of music to learn, totalling around 3 hours of music.

Learning new scores can be a painstaking and long-winded process. A conductor’s job with any score starts long before the first rehearsal with an orchestra. You can approach it many different ways – playing it through on a piano, listening to classic recordings, maybe drawing on your experiences of playing the piece from within an orchestra – but ultimately, your interpretation of a piece of music is formed through many hours studying the score and in my case, making copious notes on the pages of the score to help me realise the performance I want.

With film music there is an added dimension. Of course I still study the score as I would a Brahms Symphony or a Beethoven Piano Concerto, but I also study the films themselves. Many famous soundtracks have been re-recorded over the years and performances of them have sometimes suffered as a consequence! Many times I have sat down to watch a passage of a film and been shocked to hear that actually the original soundtrack should be played a lot faster or slower than is usual today.

It is my belief that the audience have not come to hear Michael Seal’s interpretation of the music! I believe that our film music concerts are a success because the audience gets to hear their favourite film music being recreated as near to the original as possible and hearing it live, being played so brilliantly by the CBSO. There is one particular moment near the beginning of John Williams’ “Close Encounters” where I hear the audience gasp with excitement and that is all down to the “live” experience.

So when I get told off for settling down on the sofa to watch another movie, I have the perfect excuse – I am just making sure I have the original soundtrack in my mind!

Michael Seal
Michael has established a reputation as one of the UK’s most versatile conductors, his career going from strength to strength, conducting orchestras both across the UK and abroad.
In March 2011, he was appointed Associate Conductor of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra. The appointment recognised his work as Assistant Conductor, the first in the Orchestra’s history, and the special relationship he has built between himself and the Orchestra.  Michael has conducted the CBSO in numerous highly acclaimed projects, from the world premieres of music by Richard Causton and Jonathan Girling to collaborations with Saregama in projects featuring Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Sonu Niigaam culminating in the release of the ground-breaking CD Rafi Resurrected.
Michael has also conducted the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, KBS Symphony Orchestra, Odense Symphony Orchestra, Orquesta Filarmónica de Buenos Aires, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Ulster Orchestra. Earlier this season he made his debut with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. Later this year he has debuts with both the BBC Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and in September he returns to Buenos Aires to conduct the Orquesta Académica del Teatro Colón.


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City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

In 2020 the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra will celebrate its centenary. Since the inaugural concert, conducted by Sir Edward Elgar in November 1920, the CBSO has grown into a 90-piece ensemble with a worldwide reputation.…

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