All The Small Things
Writer: Debbie Horsfield
Producer: BBC Vision
Commissioner: Jane Tranter
TX: Tuesday evenings until 5 May, 9pm, BBC1
Where did the idea come from?
One of my teenage children learnt to play the guitar and became pretty good within a couple of years.
I realised I would never have been exposed to the type of rock music he played if it wasn't for him. As someone who had been in choirs on and off, I thought there was a story in a family where two contrasting types of music were prominent.
What made it stand out?
A choir is a microcosm of society, it is its own little community with endless permutations, creating scope for a variety of stories as you follow different characters.
How did you pitch it?
I pitched it to The National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner as a play that used the choir as a backdrop to the story of a woman who used music to bring her son out of his shell. I went to lunch with Amanda Levin, creative director of BBC drama, who had script-edited my series Cutting It. She begged me to do it for TV instead.
How did it evolve from there?
I decided to focus on two competing choirs and the family story, as well as featuring a choir member's story each week. I was hesitant because I didn't think a choir would be seen as a sexy subject. But then BBC2 factual series The Choir took off. It didn't directly influence me, but it confirmed that there would be an audience.
What challenges did you face?
The BBC doesn't usually bring a composer on board until late in production. But I wanted the singing to illustrate the characters and use song to tell stories, such as a nervous singer growing in confidence by the final verse. Without the budget to develop this aspect at an early stage, I needed help with the first and second drafts of the musical arrangements. My choirmaster, who is also a teacher, introduced me to the college musical technology department, whose students volunteered to try out various arrangements. No one foresaw this - it was double the amount of work and almost like staging a full musical.