18th Oct, 2017

Redditch's Ruth mixes ancient and modern for RSC stage

Ross Crawford 12th Mar, 2017

A COMPOSER who grew up in Studley is making waves on the stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford.

Ruth Chan has produced music for everything from television and film to performing in concert herself, and received the commission from the Royal Shakespeare Company for their production of Snow in Midsummer which runs at the Swan Theatre until March 25.

The contemporary re-imagining of the famous Chinese drama is the first production in a project to bring Chinese classics to a modern audiences in the West.

Ruth, of Chinese background herself, leapt at the chance to compose the music for it.

“It’s part of my heritage and there’s not a great Asian arts scene out there – most of the time they have to create their own theatre productions while this offers an opportunity to expand that world,” she said.

However she can turn her hand to all genres – as those lucky enough to hear her re-interpretation of well known Christmas Carols at the Redditch Choral Society’s winter concert can testify.

Ruth, whose parents used to run the Lucky House Chinese takeaway in Studley, started piano lessons when she was seven years old and quickly became a protege of Alma Bright Clarke, president and founder of the Choral Society, and herself a Studley resident.

She went on to Alcester Grammar School and then Oxford University for a music degree before doing a Masters at the Royal College of Music.

“The music I write tends to be more for television and film, it’s not so avant garde, I try to write music with melodies that appeals to the audience – it’s about building an atmosphere,” she said.

The fruits of her labour are there for all to see – and hear – as Snow in Midsummer has garnered rave reviews.

“It’s not what people expect of Chinese music, there are lots of influences in there which I think surprises people,” said Ruth.

Now living in Cambridge, Ruth is keen to show that, in an age when the arts and music are continually being overshadowed by the maths and the sciences, there is much more to life.

“Parents think that they have to do whatever they can for the children to get a job and there is also a path through the arts and music,” she said.

Currently she’s working on a new commission from an American group ‘Circulo Trio’ featuring piano, clarinet and violin plus spoken word telling Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale – in just over 50 minutes.

“It’s quite a challenge and I’m still working out how to do it.” she said.

Snow in Midsummer is at the Swan Theatre, Stratford until March 25. For tickets call 01789 403493 or visit https://www.rsc.org.uk/ . To read our review of the show visit www.redditchstandard.co.uk and look at our Lifestyle section.

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