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Q&A with David Lewington, Composer and Sound Designer for Counting Down to Christmas

Counting Down to Christmas is our 2023 early years Christmas show and it tells the story of Ebbie and her journey to rediscovering her love for Christmas!

The show includes original songs and compositions created by David Lewington, the composer and sound designer for the show. We spoke to David about the music in the show.

How would you describe the genre of the music in Counting Down to Christmas?

In R&D I started out with a folktronica (folk + electronica) style sound, but broadened that a bit to include a little of everything, dependant on the energy of the moment – for instance, the folky disco of The Baking Beat gingerbread song.

Largely, the instrumentation is led by the guitar and soft synth sounds. If, as in the case of this show, there are 2 characters, I will usually aim to find a sound and motif for each character.

Here, Ebbie is represented by synth and Bob by guitar, with mystery/mischief represented by the harmonica. That way I can create a through-line for the show, so the musical journey mirrors the dramaturgical one, but largely stays true to a core sound that governs the aural world we build.

Male and female character hide behind an umbrella.
Male and female character take a couple of big gingerbread men out of a cardboard box.

Do you think there’s something in the music that both parents and children can enjoy listening to?

It’s quite varied throughout so there are nice ebbs and flows of energy to suit most palates. If you like sweeping mystical folk, there’s a gift box for you; if you like disco, there’s another for you – and so on. The lyrics too (written by Victoria Briggs, the writer of the show) are lovely, sweet and simple in some places, but funny and expansive in others which means that in any given minute of the music there is something for all ages and tastes to latch onto, which I think is really important for us as a creative team. There are no sections where we say, “oh this is the bit for the parents and then the next bit will be for the young ones,” – we try to offer something for everyone all the time, because that is the best way to ensure maximum engagement and investment for your audiences.

How does the music work with the sensory nature of Counting Down to Christmas?

The music is strongly guided by the sensory offering. For instance, I knew one box would have a train in it, so the sensory offering was going to be intrepid and feel like a locomotive, so I obviously wanted to support that constant sense of front-footed motion. That then means things like drums and percussive guitar lines would be at the forefront, along with chugging repetitive vocal lines. That way, the sensory offering and music match, creating an interactive environment that feels safe for our audiences, which is key. The same is true for the cold but wondrous icescape of the the snowglobe box – that had to be sweeping but inviting, so we put warm, breathing string patterns with cold, mystical bell lines. When you know what kind of interactivity you will be offering, and what kind of engagement you will be asking of your audience (whether it’s energetically throwing snowballs or calmly smelling bags of spices), you can then judge how the music needs to support the audience in that moment, and not work against what we are trying to elicit. And the building process for that is done in tandem with the creation of the section, which means as a team we feed off of each other’s ideas on how to make the section really cohesive.

Female character holding an umbrellas passes a snowball to a young child.
Male and female character stand in front of a tall Christmas tree with a glowing star on top

If you had to pick 1 song as your favourite which, would it be and why?

I think my favourite song is probably The Baking Beat, the gingerbread folk disco track. It’s just the most fun and comes at a time in the show where we have built up trust with the audience that they can (and do) let loose and boogie – a particular highlight is watching the ushers get in on the act! It was also the easiest to write for me as it has a touch of funk in it which I always love to play with.

Hear a taste of David’s music on our Instagram here!