Viking has commissioned a signature piece of music by Debbie Wiseman. Credit: Viking

Composer extraordinaire: Meet Debbie Wiseman, whose voyages with Viking have inspired a piece of music

Author: Vicky Mayer

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Hot on the heels of composing two choral pieces for King Charles’ Coronation, Debbie Wiseman is proud to introduce ‘Onwards’, her exclusive new work for Viking

How did your commissions for King Charles’ coronation happen?
I was commissioned by the King himself to compose two choral pieces – the first for the Choir of Westminster Abbey and organist – Alleluia (O Clap your Hands). The second piece – Alleluia (O Sing Praises) – was performed by the wonderful Ascension Choir who performed at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's wedding and are the first gospel choir to have performed at a Coronation.

The commission arose from my involvement in the music for previous Royal Family events. I was asked to compose music for Her late Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee, as well as her 90th Birthday celebrations at Windsor Castle, and was co-musical director of the Platinum Jubilee last year.

I also wrote a piece for the official coverage of the passing of the late Queen, entitled Elizabeth Remembered, which I recorded with the BBC Concert Orchestra in early 2017. To be one of 12 composers to be commissioned to compose music for the Coronation of King Charles and Queen Camilla was a great honour and a rare opportunity to participate in a special moment in history.

Debbie Wiseman was one of the 12 composers commissioned to create a piece for King’s coronation. Credit: Viking

Which destinations are top of your cruise list?
On the river, I'd love to go on one of the Danube trips – it is such a romantic river and has inspired some memorable music.

For me, the best part about river cruising with Viking is that all the destinations seemingly magically appear to you one after another out of the window of your lovely floating home, and the ships always dock in the heart of each of these beautiful cities.

There are only 190 guests on a Viking longship, despite its spaciousness, so it makes for a much more personal experience; I worked it out at just over one staff member for every four guests, so you’re well looked after!

The staff’s knowledge of the local cuisine and wine of each place we visit is second to none, and they brilliantly match their restaurant menus with the cuisine of the current destination, which is a touch of genius.

I love the Viking ocean ships too. The atmosphere onboard is so welcoming – it feels like a home from home. I’m very keen to join one of the Mediterranean voyages as I find countries such as Spain, France and Italy hugely fascinating and inspiring.

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Does inspiration come your way when you travel?
Before Viking, I had never been on a cruise before. To gain inspiration for my first signature Viking score, I boarded one of their river longships in Paris, and then soon afterwards I was welcomed onto an ocean ship moored in Barcelona.

I had the full Viking experience and was greatly inspired by the ships. I came home and almost before I’d unpacked, I sat down to start writing The Traveller. It tells the story of how I felt when I stepped onboard for the first time – the morning light, waking up to the sound of the ocean, the birdsong, the relaxation and the wonderful atmosphere on board.

I took all these special memories and adventures that I had and packed it all into the piece. My hope is that when guests of Viking hear this music it transports them back to a Viking adventure of their own.

Debbie Wiseman was the official composer for the Platinum Jubilee Celebration at Windsor last May. Credit: Viking

Congratulations on your new album release – what’s it about?
The album – Signature – is a celebration for my 60th birthday this year. The album is performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and is a selection of some of my favourite music and scores composed for film, TV, royalty, Classic FM and special occasions.

I have long admired the CBSO – their orchestral sound is naturally glorious, rich and dramatic. To have the opportunity of conducting this world-class orchestra on this live album is one of the best birthday gifts I could imagine.

Highlights from the album include Wolf Hall and A Lustre To This Day (originally written for the acclaimed British cellist Steven Isserlis) as well as The Traveller of course.

With its three floor atrium, Viking Venus is more like a boutique hotel than a ship. Credit: Viking

The new album includes your newest composition for Viking – Onwards – can you tell us more?
Onwards is dedicated to Viking’s Chairman, Torstein Hagen, in celebration of his 80th birthday and the company’s 25th anniversary. It was conceived as a companion piece to The Traveller.

It is inspired by the excitement of travel but reflecting the further expansion and the development of Viking as the world’s premier ocean and river cruise company, musically expressing the joy of newly discovered destinations while at the same time looking ahead to still more new horizons.

The piece starts with the harp and the lower strings with a ‘tremolo’ effect, the musical equivalent of gently trembling with excitement, creating the feeling of building up to the image of a Viking ship leaving port for its voyage. As the piece progresses the trumpets and brass section join in to create a sense of triumph for the onwards journey of the ship.

It is very much a celebratory piece and I feel very proud to have written this piece for Viking at such a milestone time for the company. I was lucky enough to celebrate this landmark occasion with the Viking family in April where I hosted a concert for Viking guests and friends at the very special Cadogan Hall in London.

The impeccable musicianship and artistry of the National Symphony Orchestra joined me on stage along with world-renowned soloist’s, clarinetist Michael Collins and violinist Jack Liebeck; and it was there that Onwards was performed live for the first time.

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About Vicky Mayer

Vicky began her career working on young women’s magazines before moving on to TV and entertainment titles. Her passion, though, has always been travel, so as Editor of World of Cruising, she combines her love of magazines with the chance to shout about cruise holidays around the world.