The Tree of Light

The Tree of Light

Harry Potter and Dr Who treatment for The Tree of Light

‘live’ sound and light design for spectacular events

As tickets go on sale for the first time, more is being revealed about the Thames Valley’s mighty ‘Tree of Light’, which celebrates the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Revered electronic musician Matthew Herbert (who is creative director of the New Radiophonic Workshop – inspired by the BBC sound lab which originally created the Dr Who theme music) and sound designer James Mather (who has worked on blockbuster movies such as Harry Potter, Clash of the Titans and Sherlock Holmes) will be providing extraordinary live sound effects on the night of the performances.

Says James of the project, “This is really exciting, and a huge challenge. We’re making a big contribution to the performance, adding to the music and dance, and bringing the Tree alive. Most events of this scale will use a pre-recorded soundtrack but we’re adding to the atmosphere by building effects in advance and then ‘layering’ it live on the night as things happen. The sound effects will work like an orchestra, in very much the same way as the instrumental one.’

He continues; ‘With a film like Harry Potter, the effects are incredible, but you’re working to a pre-prepared film. Here we’re recording sounds and mixing them into the performance as it unfolds. That’s going to make it very special indeed. It’s great working with the Tree of Light creative team (artistic director, Charlie Morrissey, composer Orlando Gough and Stewart Collins) on this unique project.”

The special sound effects will trigger light shows within the gigantic and spectacular tree and will act as a living, breathing soundtrack throughout. Matthew and James are undertaking the work on behalf of the New Radiophonic Workshop, set up this year as part of the new flagship Arts Council initiative, to explore and create new sounds for music, internet and broadcast purposes.

Says Matthew; ‘Working on The Tree of Light project is a great opportunity for us to think about sound in a live context in ways it isn’t normally used in our day jobs. The challenge is to not try and make it like a movie experience but to use the sound to enhance the visceral thrill of the evening.’

The Tree of Light’s finale, featuring over 1000 performers, is at Stonor Park, Henley-on-Thames on 21st July and a performance will also take place in South Park, Oxford on 9th July as part of the Torch Relay celebrations. The project is funded by Legacy Trust UK, creating a lasting impact from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by funding ideas and local talent to inspire creativity across the UK. Tickets are available from The Tree of Light’s website at  The performance in Oxford is free as part of the Torch Relay. The full finale performance at Stonor costs just £10 (£8 concessions).