ON BLUEBERRY HILL profiles: Sound Designer Denis Clohessy

Denis Clohessy holding our Olivier Award for Silent by Pat Kinevane, which he was Sound Designer for.

The first time I worked with Fishamble was as the composer for Sebastian Barry’s ‘The Pride of Parnell Street’ as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival in 2007. Ten years on and I’ve had the pleasure of continuing that relationship with Fishamble on some great productions, including the Olivier Award winning show ‘Silent’ by Pat Kinevane. Its a great pleasure to return to Sebastian’s work with the same design team that helped create ‘The Pride’: Sabine D’Argent, our set designer, Mark Galione, the lighting designer and, of course, director Jim Culleton.

‘On Blueberry Hill’ is a powerful piece. The beautiful writing creates vivid worlds and memories through which the characters guide us. It has been an absolute pleasure to sit in on rehearsals over the last four weeks and watch how Niall Buggy and David Ganly have carefully shaped and crafted these two characters. Their stories are filled with loyalty, rage, love and redemption.

There were two approaches that I took when it came to the music and sound. Firstly the practical; the title of the play is obviously a reference to the Fats Domino song. The show opens with a memory of Ronan Collins playing it on his radio show. Ronan very graciously agreed to us coming out to RTE to record him for the segment. We had a short piece of text for him to read which he did a couple of times. Then he did a little improvising, which was fantastic, and that ended up being the take we actually used.

The show also closes with the song but this time taking a more integrated approach so I produced an arrangement which was lots of fun to work on. It went through various refinements to tie in with the action on stage and has become quite a joyous moment in the production.

The second approach was to compose music that reflected pivotal moments in the characters’ stories. The stories are memories and to reflect that I used low strings (Basses, Cellos and Violas) primarily playing harmonics. Harmonics produce a more airy, thinner version of the note. This gave it a more ethereal sense and allowed the space for us to hear the text all the while emphasising the tone of the stories being recounted.

All of the design elements of the production have blended really well and, I hope, serve to create an engaging and sympathetic backdrop for these two remarkable characters and their beautiful stories.
ON BLUEBERRY HILL runs from 27th September to 8th October at Pavilion Theatre as part of Dublin Theatre Festival.
Tickets available: http://www.paviliontheatre.ie/events/view/on-blueberry-hill

Contact Information

Fishamble: The New Play Company
3 Great Denmark Street
Dublin 1
Phone: +353 (0)1 670 4018

Supported By

Fishamble: The New Play Company is supported by The Arts Council, Dublin City Council and Fundraising Fellowship Dublin . Its international touring is supported by Culture Ireland.