Budapest Orchestra records theme for Slatersville documentary series


NORTH SMITHFIELD – A theme song created for an upcoming documentary series on a village in North Smithfield was performed this month by more than 60 musicians on the other side of the globe.

The Budapest Scoring Orchestra performed and recorded two songs for Slatersville: America’s First Mill Village, including a theme to be used during opening credits and other appropriate places in the series, set to premiere on Rhode Island PBS next year, according to director Christian de Rezendes.

The classical theme was composed by Stephen Gilbane last year following a meeting with the town-based director.

“We discussed it creatively, and he came up with his own interpretation,” de Rezendes said.

Gilbane, who majored in film scoring at Berklee School of Music, has composed scores for both shorts and feature-length films. The composer’s mother was raised in Union Village, but the pair met while working on a separate film project in Lowell, Mass.

“It was inspired by a sample of a real cotton mill,” Gilbane said of the theme. “That rhythm sort of suggested a tempo.”

“I wanted a sort of high energy thing to give a feel of what it must have been like to have this exciting new technology in America – stolen from Britain,” he added.

How the collaboration between the composer and the orchestra came about is a lesson in the ways technology and social media have served to connect people globally, and have changed the way music is written and recorded, opening up new possibilities.

Gilbane sequenced the piece by purchasing sound from select instruments from a music library.

Put together, “It can simulate a real orchestra,” the composer explained. “I can’t play a clarinet the way that a classical clarinet player can.”

And Gilbane turned to social media as he looked to have his sequence performed. Other composers recommended the Budapest musicians-for-hire in a Facebook group, noting that the orchestra is reasonably priced, and that those who hoped to have them play a piece could purchase as little as 30 minutes of their time.

“I thought it would be a really cool opportunity,” Gilbane said of having a professional musicians based in Hungary play his composition as an actual orchestra. “There’s no substitute for that. Composers from all over the world will reserve a slot.”

Gilbane purchased the full group to perform for $1,000, adding on the options of including a piano, timpani and a percussion player, as well as a videographer to film the recording. He then put his music sequence into special notation program allowing for playback, and contacted de Rezendes for his thoughts.

“He was very excited about it,” Gilbane said. “It’s quite amazing.”

On Sunday, Sept. 5, more than 60 musicians in Budapest, Hungary performed and recorded the Slatersville theme, along with a second classical song Gilbane wrote for the documentary series.

For the director, it was one of the most emotional moments of a project he’s been working on for the better part of ten years.

“It never ceases to amaze me how far reaching our work has become,” de Rezendes said. “Truly, I am blown away by this in a way I never dreamt possible.”

de Rezendes edited video from the performance, with sound mix by Mark Freedman.

Originally imagined as a single short film, Slatersville, he notes, has grown not just in length, but its ability to reach others across the globe. The director has gathered thousands of images, personal letters and other artifacts, and conducted more than 100 interviews for the film over the years – including work with members of the Slater family in England.

Many of his subjects have died during that time, and what began as a small film on the village’s role in the Industrial Revolution has become an eight-part series covering 200 years of Slatersville history.

Over the past two years, de Rezendes has held “in-progress screenings,” shortened versions of segments in the series to help build support for the project.

The project is now in its final stages, and set to premiere on Rhode Island PBS in 2022 in eight one-hour segments.

The complete video from the performance can be seen here:

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