The Snow Queen | Talking music with Faith i Branko

The countdown to Christmas has truly begun as we enter the first week of previews for The Snow Queen! Here we caught up with Faith i Branko, the Gypsy Roma duo who will be filling our stage with Balkan beats alongside Musical Director Gwyneth Herbert.

Tell us a little about Faith i Branko and how you came together…

Branko: I am a self-taught Serbian Roma violinist. As a child I created my own music through intuitively combining sounds of Jazz, Indian, Turkish and Classical music alongside my Roma traditions. I met Faith in my Romani village whilst she was pursuing her studies of the accordion and sourcing musicians for Giffords Circus. 3 years later we were married and we’ve been composing, recording, and performing together ever since.

Faith: I was born in the Cotswolds and have played music from a very early age. I studied Ethnomusicology at SOAS in London and worked as Musical Director with Giffords Circus on their first Balkan themed show. This job led me to Serbia on a hunt for musicians (Branko being one of them!) and to further my own studies of Serbian Roma accordion playing. Although Branko and I couldn’t speak  the same language at first, we were able to communicate through the music we created together. Now we’re the composers and producers of our WOMEX award winning album, ‘Gypsy Lover’ and have just completed a great year of touring across the UK, US and Australia.

the-snow-queen-at-bristol-old-vic-theatre-photo-by-mark-douet-_80a2663  the-snow-queen-at-bristol-old-vic-theatre-photo-by-mark-douet-_31b2457
Faith, Gwyneth and Branko in rehearsals

What can the audience expect from the music in The Snow Queen?
There are some really great and unusual songs, pieces of electronic music and hand clapping gospel chorus… but the music won’t be your typical musical theatre score. For Branko and I, as well as Gwyneth (the show’s Musical Director), music is more than entertainment and jazz hands. Gwyn’s voice connects to something very personal inside her in a similar way to how Brankos’ violin connects with him. The very real emotional connections between us musicians and the music in this show is something that sets it apart from more ‘standard’ Christmas fare. It’s going to be very special.

What’s it been like working with the show’s Musical Director, Gwyneth Herbert?
Gwyn is so incredibly nice, beautiful and really really talented! I’ll be honest – as Branko and I usually tour our own music, we’re not used to being directed. But we have so much respect for Gwyn, the music she writes, the really unique way in which she sings and performs. It’s a real pleasure to be playing the music that she’s written and to trust her to be giving us direction. She’s super talented and I think we have a similar understanding about the ways we like to work – more by feel and by ear and through using our bodies – which means that, as Branko doesn’t read music and has his own way of working, this hasn’t been a hindrance throughout this process.

How has Serbian culture influenced the score?
It’s fairly impossible to take the Serbian-Roma out of our music… Give us a Mozart concerto to play, it will still end up sounding Romani! There are many musical themes running throughout the show and it’s been really exciting working with Gwyn’s music and ‘Faith i Branko-ifying’ it in preparation for the show. We can’t wait to get up on stage and play it for you.

This Christmas we round off the year with our epic adaptation of The Snow Queen. For more information and to book tickets, click here.


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