The highly respectable world of classical musicians is rarely linked to addictive behaviour. In this uplifting one-off feature length documentary, the composer and musician James McConnel examines music’s extraordinary transformative power, as he unites ten classical musicians whose lives have all been blighted by addiction, in an orchestra for a spectacular one-off performance with the London Symphony Orchestra.
In 2011, James’s son Freddy, an aspiring and talented musician, died of a heroin overdose. He was 18 years old.
Blessed from an early age with an inquisitive and brilliant mind, Freddy was assed as a ‘gifted’ child at 6 with an IQ of 144. He won school scholarships, competed on Junior Mastermind and became a member of Mensa but it was in music that he found his true passion. Even as he slipped further into the drug dependency which would claim his life, music was his constant. His father, himself a recovering alcoholic, encouraged Freddy to keep up with his music as he recognised its restorative powers. Sadly for Freddy, it was not enough.
This original documentary is guided by James’ determination to save others like Freddy from a similar fate.
As he follows the extraordinary personal journey of each member of the orchestra through to the nerve-wracking climax of the final performance, James reveals their daily battles as they struggle against the grip of their addiction.
From Rachael whose career as an award-winning cellist was nearly destroyed by her drink and prescription drug problems to Andy whose heroin addiction has had a devastating effect on his relationship with his daughter Lea, each musician is pinning their hopes on recovering their love of music and, more significantly, retrieving a trust and pride in themselves.


Addicts' Symphony aired on Channel 4 at 11pm, on Wednesday the 27th of August.

If you missed Addicts' Symphony on Channel 4, catch up on 4OD; Addicts' Symphony on 4OD

To see the full performance of Rhapsody for the Tamed, Click Rhapsody for the Tamed

- Addicts' Symphony's Twitter
- Big Mountain Production's Twitter


As an Irish company exporting internationally from our bases in Newry and Dundalk, this commission is another big coup for us and is testament to the opportunity there is for export-driven content companies. We’ve already had interest from broadcasters in other territories about doing something similar. We love creating compelling content that has universal themes and global appeal, that tells stories we can all relate to, wherever we are.
— Jane Kelly Executive Producer, Big Mountain
It’s not often that we get a glimpse into the world of middle-class addiction and we’re enormously grateful to all the people who took part in this film for sharing their stories with us in such an honest, fearless and compassionate way. It’s an incredibly moving watch
— John Hay for Channel 4
Addict’s Symphony is one of those rare programmes which is not only entertaining and informative, but which has done some real, long-term good. For all the participants it was a fascinating experience, but for some it has been truly life-changing. For me, watching a group of people brave enough to address their addictions and fear - through music - was both humbling and inspirational
— James McConnel
“It’s been exciting working with Channel 4 on our first big project for them. We love taking people through a real process with an authentic outcome. Addiction touches almost every one of us in some way and yet it’s associated with only certain sections of society. Addict’s Symphony breaks through stereotypes and shows that music can be truly transformational. We felt privileged to work with the UK’s leading addiction charity ‘Action On Addiction’ and the internationally renowned ‘LSO Discovery’
— Philip McGovern Executive Producer, Big Mountain