The Queen 95th birthday album: Celebratory record featuring Helen Mirren and Damian Lewis

The Music of Kings & Queens: Classic FM tease new album

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Her Majesty The Queen’s actual birthday is on April 21, but the monarch celebrates her official birthday on the second Saturday of June. So this year, Queen Elizabeth II’s 95th birthday will be celebrated on Saturday June 12. And to mark the milestone, British composer Debbie Wiseman OBE has created a soundtrack album called The Music of Kings and Queens, featuring narrations from Dame Helen Mirren and Damian Lewis OBE.

Dame Helen famously portrayed our current monarch in 2006’s The Queen, for which she won an Oscar.

While Damian played King Henry VIII in the BBC TV adaptation of Wolf Hall, for which Debbie composed the music.

Her new classical music album tells the story of Great Britain through 12 of our past monarchs that were selected by Simon Brooks-Ward, Director of The Royal Windsor show.

He suggests the Kings and Queen included on the record and wrote introductions for each one for Dame Helen and Damian to narrate, while Debbie composed each piece, capturing the essence of the historical figures.

The 12 monarchs included on the album are William the Conqueror, Richard the Lionheart, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Charles II, Anne, George II, George III, Victoria, Edward VII, George VI and, of course, Elizabeth II.

Speaking exclusively with Express.co.uk, Debbie shared how Simon chose the 12 that he felt were the most colourful, interesting and that might be more exciting to write music for.

She said: “What’s great is that 12 that he chose were so completely varied and different from one another so we didn’t have two that were very similar in story.

“He would tell me things about each one that I didn’t necessarily know, with notes about their characters, whether imposing, flamboyant, powerful or intimidating.”

Debbie continued: “Then I would write the music that would suggest that particular monarch, while thinking about what he had written and the ideas behind it; trying to find a musical character for each one really.

“The piece I wrote for Elizabeth II was actually a little bit there because I’d used that music for her 90th birthday celebration when I was asked to write the overture finale for her.

“And so that music existed in a slightly different form and then I just developed that for her theme at the end of the album.”

Asked how she approached Henry VIII differently after Wolf Hall, the composer replied: “I had to spend my time thinking of Henry VIII and not Damian Lewis in Wolf Hall!”

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While how she would handle a piece for Prince Charles when he becomes King one day, Debbie said: “I might take the Elizabeth II theme and develop it slightly, creating something from that [and then] move on to Charles.

“That would be suitably keeping it within the line of succession.”

On narrating for the album, Dame Helen said: “I have enjoyed the opportunity to work with Debbie on the musical journey into royal history.

“It was a privilege to record the words with Damian and to be part of celebrating Her Majesty The Queen’s 95th birthday.”

She added: “Debbie has done a marvellous job composing and recording the music.”

While Damian said: “I was delighted to be asked to help Debbie and Helen narrate an image of the monarchs, the heroic, the noble and the fallible.

“To take a glimpse into the hearts and minds of those Kings and Queens, through Debbie’s emotive music, was illuminating – and very enjoyable.” 

The Music of Kings and Queens is released on Decca Records on June 11, 2021 and can be pre-ordered here.

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