Nikki Wilson talks to Chester Tribley
23 Oct, 2023
Member of the Month: Chester Tribley

Each month, Nikki Wilson interviews an Ignite Member, asking five simple questions, to find out what creativity means to them, and how they see culture and creativity, and its potential, in Chelmsford.

This month Nikki talks to Chester Tribley.

How would you describe what you do? 

So, I’d describe what I do as three things at the moment. 

The first thing is I compose original soundtracks for media. For example for  films, TV, adverts, or Production/ Library Music.

Another thing I’m doing at the moment is orchestrating for other composers. So that could involve receiving a piano sketch and then fleshing that out into a full orchestral arrangement for a recording session, or they might have a synth based score, mainly using samples, and I’ll convert that into string arrangement, or it’s already mainly fleshed out and I’ve got to convert the midi or audio files into a written score for the players to play in the recording session. 

And then the third thing I do is arranging for other composers, so that will involve having a piece already done, and basically rearranging it for different ensemble sizes, for different use cases, and working out how to best convert that piece into an arrangement suitable for the event.

And who, or what gives you creative inspiration?

So I had a lot of thoughts about this and I think I’ve narrowed it down to again, three things. 

I think the first thing that I just can’t not include is listening to other film composers, especially the ones that made me fall in love with the genre originally, when I was starting out.  I always go back to them and listen to their music, just to respark that younger self in me, usually when I’ve had no sleep working non-stop. I was a huge Doctor Who nerd and I fell in love with that music, composed by Murray Gold,  so I listen back to that every now and then and it really brings back some nostalgia and inspires me to write the best music I can.

Also, I’d say, with doing film music, it’s really valuable to go to cinemas and watch a film with an audience and feel like you’re experiencing the film together. I feel really inspired when I’m at the cinema, watching a film, I hear a fantastic soundtrack and you can sort of feel the response from the audience, not literally, but sort of subconsciously, and it motivates me to be able to do that one day.  Just to be able to have “composed by Chester Tribley” at the end of a big film, and knowing people got something from that experience.

And also going to classical concerts with a live orchestra. I think that’s so valuable. Just having that many people on a stage, a vast array of people all in sync together, vibrating the air for hundreds of people in the audience to feel.  There’s nothing quite like it, the acoustic sound from the instruments, you know, it’s not coming through speakers, it’s coming from them. I went to a concert recently and it was a 50 piece choir with a massive orchestra and just feeling that power, and those people do that, it was just incredible. 

And you feel the audience responses as well and that massively inspires me, I tend to respond to that. If I go to a classical concert, then for the next week, I’ll tend to write music that sounds more classical, or more romantic, or more generally orchestral in nature. And then if I’m in a bit of a synthy, experimental phase where I’m listening to some avant-garde stuff, then my music reflects that really closely. So I try and listen to as vast a range of music as possible and as much as I can go to live concerts of any genre.

If you could try any new creative or cultural experience or practice, what would it be?

So I would say it’s not too far from what I do, but I’m really interested in filmmaking.. And I think if I wasn’t going to go into music, if I was going to do something else, then it probably would have been that. I’ve taken a drone on family holidays and made cinematic videos for Youtube, which actually has been picked up, funnily enough by companies to use on some science documentaries and the Antigua Tourist Board asked for the footage to promote the country after COVID, just from those family videos. 

Also, I went to Anglo European School and in sixth form, I went on a school trip to South Africa and to Lesotho.  I took a GoPro with a bunch of batteries and SD cards.  It was a three week trip, and I pretty much filmed everything, had like hundreds of hours of film, came back and it took every day for three weeks to edit it. I made around a one hour, 20 minute documentary out of that, sort of a vlog documentary style, and then screened it at the school with loads of people. And to me surprise and joy it got a fantastic response from the audience, with even some tears shed.  I just absolutely loved that process of documenting something so that people could go back and watch it. Such a valuable experience going and visiting communities of extremely poor countries like Lesotho, and being able to document it in a way that you can sort of relive that, I just think that’s fascinating and a valuable reminder of the experience whenever you need it.

So I think I would want to explore that more. Which ties in with what I do as well, storytelling through music and storytelling through pictures. These are both mediums that I find completely fascinating and inspiring.

What excites you about creativity and culture in Chelmsford?

So, well, one really cool thing is that one of the reasons I’m doing what I’m doing now is because of an initiative in Chelmsford. It was about World War One’s Shellshock, 100 years on, and it was organised by the Ideas Hub, And there were these animations from schools, around the area, about shellshock of soldiers, and they wanted some young composers to write the music. So there were four of us that came forward and then we met at the YMCA in Chelmsford, and then, over a period of weeks, wrote the soundtrack. 

Just by chance, one of the people running it was a good friend of a composer based in LA, called Joseph Metcalfe and he happened to be in the UK for the last session, so he came down and sort of mentored us. And he’s a composer in LA, writing film soundtracks and I was like, “I want to stay in touch with this guy”. And he was really helpful with our project and then from there, he ran these meetings in LA, and because of COVID, they moved online. So then I got an invite to join these composer meetings, and I’m still part of that group now. We meet up now once a month online, it’s called “Sum of All Music” and it’s composers and we collaborate together, we actually write soundtracks to films together as a group and we do all these various different collaborative albums and projects.

That then allowed me to go to Guildhall, because I had more experience writing to picture and more of a portfolio to show.  All from that project because we were put together as young composers and then just by chance this industry professional came. So that is one thing that I’m so grateful for, having those kind of creative opportunities as a youngster starting out, was wonderful. 

And then the other thing is the more recent thing I was commissioned to do for the Gaia project in Chelmsford Cathedral.  Again, as a young composer I’m very grateful to be invited to have my music performed and arranged, I was kind of, in disbelief, didn’t feel like I was deserving of that. But I think it went really well, and I was really pleased with the outcome and the reception from everyone. And, and it was just really nice to have a live orchestral ensemble in that wonderful Chelmsford Cathedral, the acoustic was incredible, and then I loved to see people around experiencing that, underneath this globe, it just felt like, all the sort of creative, cultural things came together, for this wonderful experience.  That really, definitely excited me, that was a lot of fun. 

Oh, and another thing worth mentioning as well is I’m actually currently working on a feature length film.  The Directors Tina and Ben from Electric Copper Films  are based in Chelmsford and only know me because they came up to me at the Gaia event.  They said, “Oh, we’re working on this film, you know, we see you’re a composer”. And then I said, “Oh, I’m actually doing film music”, and it just happened through that.  Having these events happen, word of mouth, a lot of what you do is word of mouth, in this industry, I found you don’t tend to get a job from having a nice website, it’s from actually talking to people, and meeting them. And I met them, and now I’m working on a feature film for them. So, yeah, I’m super grateful for that.

What would you like to see in Chelmsford that isn’t here yet?

Well, tying back to what we said earlier, I think it would be really nice to have more music venues. We’ve got the Hotbox which is a nice intimate space  and  we’ve got the theatre which is awesome, but it’d be really cool to have a space for concerts, classical music.  Or if there is , and I’m not aware of it, make it more of a prominent thing. Because I did also go to the Essex Music Services, it was originally at the Girls School, I think they’ve moved now, and that’s kind of where I started out learning keyboard way back at the beginning when I was really tiny. And there’s a lot of kids that play classical instruments and want to be in orchestras and ensembles, it would be really nice to have those spaces to perform, and for people to enjoy. We need more spaces for art in general. More galleries for visual art to be displayed and enjoyed too would be so valuable. 

Also, I’m not sure as I’m not in Chelmsford at the moment and I could just be blissfully unaware of this if it is happening, but it would be really cool to make more use of the amazing acoustics in the Cathedral, and have more live music performed there.

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