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Writing Music Collection: The Best of Patrick Doyle

If you were to visit while I was blogging and ask what I was listening to, ninety percent of the time, I’d slip off my headphones and say, “Patrick Doyle.” Whether inspired by Christie or Austen, Shakespeare or Shelley, Doyle’s music never fails to match the gem-like quality of classic literature. Fellow blogger Emily Hayse says it best in her post “The World of Writing Music Artist Feature: Patrick Doyle”:

“[F]rom epic pieces (Thor, Rise of the Planet Apes, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) to sweet, beautiful pieces (Sense and Sensibility, Cinderella) and everything in between, Patrick Doyle has something for every situation. His music is always telling a story. With his background in acting and literature, he has a deep understanding of narrative structure, and every soundtrack reflects that.”

I was first introduced to Patrick Doyle when I purchased his soundtrack for Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet. I hadn’t seen the movie yet, but the simple fact that someone had taken the time to communicate the story of my favorite fiction book solely through music had me interested—more than that, I should say—delighted, enraptured. And when the CD came in the mail a few days later, I was no less so. To this day, that still remains true, though I have also grown to love a wide range of his soundtracks. So far, I have listened to five of his film collections in their entirety: Hamlet, Henry V, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Much Ado about Nothing, and Murder on the Orient Express; I hope to soon listen in to Sense and SensibilityAs You Like ItJack Ryan: Shadow RecruitCinderella, and (when the new movie comes out in 2019!) Death on the Nile. But before I continue raving endlessly about Doyle’s music, here’s my top ten favorite songs—although they’re only the beginning of his deep intellectual and emotional masterpieces:

  1. “Non Nobis, Domine” from Henry V |Disclaimer: The link I’ve included is a clip from Branagh’s Henry V and shows the king carrying a dead boy over a battlefield arrayed with dead soldiers. Though it will help you understand the context of the story, if viewing this clip goes against your convictions, you can click here for the song without the performance.—Although Doyle did not create the melody for this piece, his orchestration is widely acclaimed as one of his greatest pieces. It starts quietly, with a lone singer reciting the words; then grows a bit bigger, with two other singers joining him; then the orchestra comes; then harmonies; then a slowly-crescendoing interlude of the strings; and topped with a sweeping finale as a vast choir boldly sings the blessed lyrics “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but only unto Thy name give glory.” (Translation from my Folger copy of the Shakespeare play.) Simply gorgeous, deeply moving.
  2. In Pace/Go Bid the Soldiers Shoot” from Hamlet | If there’s anything in the film versions of Hamlet that effectively and explicitly underscores the Christian background of the play,  it’s “In Pace” and “Go Bid the Soldiers Shoot.” (Click here for  the lyrics.) I cannot think of a better way to close off the film, despite the movie’s faults. I have to say, these are the songs that most directly inspired the name and mission of Defy Augury…they are the pictures of flawless beauty.
  3. “The Wedding Night” from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein | Can Frankenstein ever inspire something beautiful? Patrick Doyle says it can. Though I have not watched the film (it’s rated R), I can imagine the joy of the newlyweds it celebrates as if I had seen the movie. But why, why, why does that happiness have to be so unfairly short-lived? (Naughty monster! Ignorant Dr. Frankenstein!)
  4. “Justice” from Murder on the Orient Express | Right from the first listen, even before watching the film, I understood that the scene this song complements is one of gravity, philosophy, and a heavy conscience. This is a piece your mind has to chew over—one that takes a listen without distraction to comprehend. Be prepared for sharp yet tender beauty.
  5. “Strike Up Pipers” from Much Ado about Nothing | A fun, happy, and energizing rendition of the classic song from Shakespeare’s comedy. This often makes me dance more than write, but still!—
  6. “The Ghost” from Hamlet | What this song manages to illustrate in ten minutes is something I could go on and on about in ten pages—how emotional and how pivotal Hamlet’s encounter with his father’s ghost is for the plot of the play.
  7. “Ma Katherine” from Murder on the Orient Express | If I had one word to describe this song’s topic, it would be vulnerability. (From the movie: “I am afraid, ma Katherine…like a little child[.]”) We don’t really see this emotional or romantic side of Poirot in the book, yet the song perfectly epitomizes the soft beauty and contemplation of the scene, and gives more weight to the importance of the mystery’s being solved.
  8. “Orient Express Suite” from Murder on the Orient Express | I believe Doyle evokes two main concepts in this theme: (1) the excitement of venturing across Europe and (2) the mystery that surrounds the journey. It’s worth a listen!
  9. “Sigh No More, Ladies” from Much Ado about Nothing | This is a slower version of #5, emphasizing harmony and flowing sounds more than evoking a gleeful, carefree finale. If I am not mistaken, I think Patrick Doyle himself sings this one!
  10. “To Think of a Story” from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein | I love the way this song introduces the dramatic, sharply convicting story of the fabled doctor and his repulsive creature. It summons apparitions of impending terror, sudden images of Walton’s ship stranded in the Arctic, and the chilling power that is Victor Frankenstein’s recounting of his life.


I hope more than ever that this has given you an enjoyable introduction to Doyle’s music. These songs have been among the most motivating and intellectually stimulating influences in my writing life—though I’d totally get it if these songs make you want to dance or cry or laugh more than work tirelessly putting words together on a screen:)


~Sarah Merly

April 14, 2018

Isaiah 53