Michael Doherty is the man behind the music of Theatre St. Thomas’ Caucasian Chalk Circle (winter 2013), which featured original music composed by Doherty. The Fredericton-based composer, sound designer, producer and musical director has more than 200 productions under his belt, including 15 with Theatre St. Thomas.
“I’ve been lucky to have been able to work so much over the last 12 years,” Doherty said. “I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.”
Doherty was playing a jazz gig at Fredericton’s Capital Complex in 2000 when TST director Ilkay Silk asked him join the company’s ranks. He had done some sound design before and agreed to come on board.
He composed music as well as designed the soundscape for TST’s production of Our Country’s Good in January of 2001.
“The first step when you’re asked to work on a show is to look at the script,” Doherty said. “You have to decide whether or not you have anything to add to the show.
“I like for it to have my own take on the material. It should be different from anyone else’s staging.”
Sound design was only officially recognized by the Laurence Olivier awards – commonly thought of as the British equivalent to Broadway’s Tony Awards – in 2004. The latter acknowledged the category in the 2007-2008 season with awards for “Best Sound Design of a Play” and “Best Sound Design of a Musical.”
While sound design was thought of as a technical skill years ago, The Guardian’s Maxie Szalwinska said theatre practitioners are leading the process into a more artistic direction. Sound design can vary from short, quick sound effects like a doorbell to longer pieces like a theme song for a specific character or music to set a specific mood.
Doherty is now the resident composer and sound designer as well as music director at Theatre New Brunswick. His recent musical direction and conducting credits include The Wizard of Oz, The Musical of Musicals and The Gifts of the Magi.
His main instruments are the piano, bass and drums, but he played the tiple live during Caucasian Chalk Circle – basically “a mandolin with 10 strings,” he said with a laugh.
He’s also an accomplished producer, with several of his projects winning regional and national awards.
And while the performances of TST’s Caucasian Chalk Circle have come to a close, Doherty’s schedule won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
“Sound designers are often working on two to three productions at a time,” Doherty said. “It’s the nature of the job.
“I’ve been really lucky.”