By Susan Jeacock
They're an odd duo. One has a mass of long, black hair, the other a military short back and sides. The rock musician and the Beefeater from the Tower of London: they could hardly be more different.
Even their names set them apart: the elaborate Hermien Jerian-Du'Fort and good old plain Tom Sharp. Yet they've got together to form a successful creative partnership.
"1189: Lionheart, The Third Crusade" tells the story of King Richard I through a mix of music, narration and sound effects. The music was composed, arranged and performed by Hermien and Yeoman Warder Tom is the narrator. Tom has also recorded audio tour guides for London and recently appeared in a BBC documentary "In search of Excalibur".
Hermien, a former drummer with various bands, has also appeared with Mike Oldfield and John Phil-Wayne, a David Bowie guitarist. But he decided he wanted to write his own material and, inspired by a visit to one of the castles built by Richard in France, he chose "Lionheart" as the theme for the medieval-style music he started to compose when he returned home to south London. He also spent a year researching King Richard, during which time he was helped by medieval historian John Gillingham.
"It's hard to explain what I've done. It's a bit like Vangelis or Jean Michel Jarre," he says. "It's not just pure rock, classical or electronic because I've tried to combine all three elements and make it sound like a real orchestra."
Tom's involvement came later. "I had originally wanted an actor to do the narration, but during a visit to the Tower, I noticed that the Beefeaters showing tourists around had very good voices," says Hermien.
"I plucked up courage to speak to one of them and he jumped about 20 feet in the air because of my appearance - my hair especially. I introduced myself as a rock musician and he just cut me off, saying: 'Rock music? I never listen to it, never have and never will.' I started again, explained it was a historical thing and he agreed to listen to some of the music."
The unlikely couple are now the best of friends, with Hermien a regular visitor to the Yeoman Warders' Club in the Tower. He is already working on a second recording to complete the story, which will be titled "1192: Lionheart, the Forgotten King".
Hermien hopes the concept will appeal in particular to schools as an accessible and modern way to introduce children to Richard I and this period of English history.
"There are things I've included which I came across during the research and thought 'Hey, they didn't teach me this in history'. Like the fact that Richard couldn't speak a word of English. Although he was born in Coventry, he lived most of his life in France but in the Robin Hood films they make out he's in England all the time.
"I worked from the 'Itinerary of Richard 1st', a day-by-day chronicled account of events surrounding the life of King Richard and tried to make it as historically accurate as possible."
"1189: Lionheart, The Third Crusade" is available on mail order from PO Box 8939, London SW16 1ZF (price £12.95) plus £1.50 p&p. It is also on sale in the gift shops at the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace, as well as the Virgin Megastore, Oxford Street, London. It will soon be on sale at the HMV and Tower record shops.