Friday, 3 February 2012

You Are Not Alone… -- by Heather Ackroyd (Clarinet/Soprano)

We’re now three pieces in and the Doctor Who Fan Orchestra keeps getting stronger. So far we’ve more or less doubled our numbers with each new piece, from a mere 36 for “I Am the Doctor” to 78 for “This is Gallifrey/Vale Decem” and now a staggering 154 for “Rose’s Theme/Doomsday”. Some of our members have expressed their mixed emotions at the overwhelming online response to our latest endeavour, but I think Robin (LaPasha, assistant co-ordinator) coined it perfectly when she said the word we were looking for is “humbled”.

I spent my secondary school years in bands and orchestras and choirs, but over the past couple of decades most of my musical adventures have been limited to singing in the shower or along with CDs in the car. My clarinet has barely been dusted off in all that time, although it was one of the few possessions I insisted on taking with me when I moved from Australia to the US. From time to time I thought about joining a local choir or band, but usually I never got further than just thinking about it.

Then I saw a link to “I Am the Doctor”. When I realised what it was, that people had performed their parts individually and Stephen Willis had crafted them into an amazing whole, my first emotion was delight that someone had taken the time and effort to do this, followed quickly by deep regret that I hadn’t learned about the project while it was still being conceived. Imagine my joy when I discovered there were plans to do a second piece. Here was a chance to be part of a group of people brought together by their love for two things that were also dear to my heart – music and Doctor Who.

When we got the music for “This is Gallifrey/Vale Decem” I found that learning and playing a part without a conductor was a new challenge. Stephen provided click tracks of his arrangement for us to use for timing and tuning, but it was a far cry from being surrounded by your fellow musicians as you learned the piece together under the guidance of a conductor. This method of producing a part forces you to listen carefully to what you’re doing and to self-correct as much as possible. This is where the Facebook group comes in especially handy, as we can ask our technical questions and get feedback. Sometimes someone would ask about an aspect of the piece that I hadn’t even considered, and I could incorporate the response into what I was doing. It all goes towards making us sound unified.

But none of that explains the emotion. My first few recordings for “Doomsday” were ruined by me choking up with tears halfway through. Only part of that was due to the piece itself. It’s beautiful and poignant, and is played over a scene full of loss and longing. But more than that, it was the knowledge of what I was part of that made me weep. I knew that all over the world other people were standing before their microphones, listening to Stephen’s click track, and singing or playing their hearts out to create something magical.

It turns out I was surrounded by my fellow musicians after all.


  1. Doomsday makes me cry every time, but after reading this it's less for sadness and more for inspiration. I too love music and DW, though I'm not much of a musician myself; DWFO is a brilliant, wonderful thing and I'm so glad to be a part of it as an audience. Thank you!

  2. This is such an awesome thing. Fandom at its finest. Brava and bravo to all who participated!

  3. Oh my gosh, you were that vocalist! you were INCREDIBLE. I was a cello player in Rose/Doom! Gotta love the DWFO. Well done to everyone.