How James Horner came to write the ‘Titanic’ song

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – American composer James Horner, who has died in a plane crash aged 61, won an Academy Award along with lyricist Will Jennings for “My Heart Will Go On” sung by Celine Dion in “Titanic”, and it sold millions, but the song was a complete afterthought.

James Cameron’s movie has grossed almost $2.2 billion worldwide and won 11 Oscars including best picture and best score for Horner. The soundtrack album has reported sales of around 28 million and the single was No. 1 around the world.

It almost didn’t happen.

When I spoke to Horner (pictured below) in January 1998, he told me he’d had no plan to write a song for the picture: “I figured at the end of the movie I’d do what I always do, an end credit, and I was going to make it somewhat of a lullaby. I wanted it to be something elegiac like the closing scenes of “Braveheart”. I wanted it to have that kind of very wistful timeless quality.”

James Horner. x325jpgHe started to think the best way to do that was with a song: “It was more of a compositional decision than a commercial one. I never really thought of the commercial side of it. I only thought about what was the best way to close this particular movie. A song, I felt, was the best solution.”

Horner told no one, not even Cameron, since he knew, he said, that if word got out that there was a crack in the door for a song in “Titanic” then every songwriter would submit a song on spec: “I kept it to myself. I didn’t discuss it with Jim. I wrote it. I played it for a friend. I played it for my daughter. But I didn’t tell anybody else about it. I took it to somebody I’ve worked with very closely before, Will Jennings, who’s a lyricist, and he loved it. I asked him to write words to it. I didn’t know at that stage what would happen. It was still a very closely held secret. He wrote what turned out to be the song in the film.”

For his score to the film, Horner had used the ethereal voice of Norwegian star Sissel as an instrument to mix in with his synthesised sounds. But he had known Celine Dion for years and he knew that not only was she commercially viable, she also recorded for Sony, the label that would release the soundtrack.

“I thought that was a very good political situation,” Horner told me, “but the first and primary reason I went to her is because of her voice. It’s a very peculiar thing I have about vocals and voices. I look for just the right thing. Celine strikes me as being a wonderful opera singer in a way. The fact that she does pop music is really secondary to what her voice can really do. Because the song has such a very large range, I felt she technically was the only person who could sing it.”

Dion and her husband and manager Rene loved the song, Horner said, and even though she was headlining at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, she said she wanted to do the demo so he arranged to do it in New York privately so no one would know.

“I thought it was just going to be Celine and me and Rene and one or two others, but a fleet of her people came in and a fleet of Sony people. By now, it’s very hard to contain the thing but I’ve asked them all to just keep it quiet. Don’t mention it to Paramount, don’t mention it to Fox, don’t say anything. Because even with all of this, with all this power behind it, in Celine, it could be that Jim Cameron could still say, ‘No way, I’m not having a goddamned contemporary pop song in my movie!’”

Horner let things rest for about three weeks even while he met with Cameron every couple of days on the score: “Then I decided he’d been in a particularly good state of mind for about a week. He’d liked what I’d been doing for a while. I’d had a good long streak of positive vibes.”

At the end of one of their sessions, he asked the director if he could play something for him: “We went into his study and I played him the song. He said, ‘What is this? Is that Celine singing? What is this?’ I said, ‘Yes, what do you think of putting this in the movie?’ There was complete silence. He played it two or three more times and he said, ‘This is great!’ And it was sold.”

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The look on Anne Murray’s face was one of sheer terror

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – One of Canada’s most successful singers, Anne Murray, who turns 70 today, became a huge international entertainer but she told me two things had made her nervous – performing in Las Vegas and at the Quebec Winter Carnival.

Murray had plenty of hits after “Snowbird” in 1970 became the first recording by a Canadian artist to go gold in the United States. She became a regular on “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour” and Burt Reynolds, who was a big fan, talked about her often on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show”. Hits followed throughout the following decades including “He Still Thinks I Care”, Lennon & McCartney’s “You Won’t See Me”, “You Needed Me”, “Shadows in the Moonlight”, and “A Little Good News”.

Murray was a major attraction in Las Vegas and when I saw her perform in the Riviera Hotel’s Flamingo Room in 1983 with a tight seven-piece band behind her, she sang a string of hits and commanded the stage with an easy line of patter.

It didn’t start out that way. “Vegas sharpens the tools,” she told me. She had been playing the Riviera for two weeks every year since 1978: “The first time I played here, I was so scared that I couldn’t eat. I lost 10 pounds in two weeks. Couldn’t even get soup down before the show. But I made myself go back, over and over, until I got it right. Now, I can’t think of anything that would intimidate me.”

She did have concerns, though, ahead of two concerts she taped in Quebec City that winter for a CBS and CBC television special. The next time I saw her she had left her glittering Vegas garb at home in favour of a down jacket and army-issue boots. It was Winter Carnival time and Murray was nervous.

“I was very reticent to be involved in it,” she told me, “because I thought, ‘These people don’t know who the hell I am’, and I didn’t want to be embarrassed. I was worried about that English-French vibe that I’ve gotten in Montreal many times. I’ve tried to speak French on TV shows and such in Montreal and they just laugh at you. It’s horrible when you’re doing your best to try.”

It turned out to be as easy as a Las Vegas catwalk: “I walked up there and the place went wild. I don’t know why I didn’t think people in Quebec knew who I was. I just assumed they didn’t because I thought they listened to French singers and I’ve never recorded in French. But they surprised me; they couldn’t have been nicer.”

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Dionne Warwick was a guest on the special along with Glen Campbell, who flew in from a California golf tournament to stand in the snow with Murray as peewee hockey players skated around them as they sang “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Hockey Players”. The singer’s longtime producer, Alan Thicke (who also was a talk show host), wrote special lyrics for the Ed and Patsy Bruce country song.

Despite all her success, Murray seemed very down to earth. Thicke, who had written eight TV specials for Murray, also contrived to have her shimmy down a huge slide at Quebec’s Palais des Enfants. “It was cold enough doing the song with Glen and the kids,” she told me. “Their mothers finally took them home. We had one more shot to do but they left and I don’t blame them. They were freezing.”

She still had to do the slide. “It’s huge and you get on, just on your bum, and you come down. Well, first of all, I don’t like heights, and it seemed I had to climb 50-feet. Three-year-olds are whipping up, no problem, but me, I’m a nervous wreck. I put a piece of cardboard under me and I came down with a kid on my lap. The look on my face is one of sheer terror.”

Ten minutes before showtime at Quebec’s Grand Theatre, in the closest dressing room at the side of the stage, Murray has on a white terry-cloth robe and brown ankle socks.

Suddenly, it’s curtain time and the singer appears in her dazzling Vegas outfit as she steps over cables and strides to the stage.

Thick calls out to her: “Sing like Anne Murray!”

“I’ll do my best,” she says.

That’s all it took.

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Ready with a zippo for Elizabeth Hurley

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Happy birthday to Elizabeth Hurley, who turns 50 today.

I met her at a party during the Festival de Cannes several years ago. I turned on the terrace and there she was in a white dress lit up suddenly from behind by a bright light and to all intents and purposes she appeared to be naked.

I recovered bravely and as she searched for a light for her cigarette, approached with my zippo and introduced myself. I mentioned Alex Datcher, someone I knew in Los Angeles and who was the female lead opposite Wesley Snipes in ‘Passenger 47′. in which Hurley played a terrorist.

She had appeared unapproachable but she broke into a smile immediately and could not have been sweeter … we gossiped for the next half hour about L.A. and the other stars at the party.

Lovely woman.

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When US TV censored hip-swinging Tom Jones

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Fans of “The Voice” might not suspect that the venerable Sir Tom Jones, who turns 75 today, was censored on American television when he was younger.

His show “This is Tom Jones” aired on the ABC network for three seasons until 1971 and his electrifying performances made him a huge sex symbol that terrified his network TV bosses.

When Jones first appeared on U.S. television – in 1965 on “The Ed Sullivan Show” – the cameras moved to facial closeups when his pelvic thrusts began as they had when Elvis Presley appeared on the show.

Later, on “This is Tom Jones”, ABC sent a female censor to monitor his performances. He told me, “She used to sit there and watch me. I remember once singing ‘Satisfaction’ and she said, ‘You can’t move like that and sing that song, it’s too suggestive.’ I said OK, but I did sing it and I did move like that, and we got away with it it.”

Jones was always a genial interview. I was a fan from the days he used to jam on British TV shows with Little Richard, John Lennon and Jerry Lee Lewis and others, and demonstrated that he had the chops to stay with the best of them.

He used to play at the Elmwood Casino, the nightclub in Windsor, Ontario, that was the biggest such venue in the Detroit area in the seventies. He had  emerged in the sixties on the strength of the hit song “It’s Not Unusual” from the obscurity of Britain’s workingmen’s clubs. He told me, “That’s where entertainers start there. It’s a great training ground in front of a tough audience. If you can make fellas that are drinking beer listen to you then you’re getting across.”

Jones had developed his from-the-hip singing style even then and there would be the occasional over-excited woman in the audience with an annoyed husband. An occasional bottle would be thrown: “I never got hit, though. If it got ugly, we’d close the curtains and get the hell out.”

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Later in his career, he would be bombarded by hotel-room keys and knickers thrown on stage by adoring female fans. When I interviewed him in 1981, he told me his style wasn’t really something he had much control over – “I can’t lay back on a song” – and he viewed his macho strutting with humour: “You can’t take it seriously. I laugh at myself a bit. If it’s an up-tempo number, a sexy number, then you do it. People want to enjoy themselves but they don’t want something thrust at them.”

At that time, Jones was making a TV comeback after 16 years in a show taped in British Columbia. The TV series, “Tom Jones”, was made in Canada for one simple reason, he said, “We wanted to do a series for syndication but it’s difficult to get people to invest in this kind of show in Los Angeles because it’s very expensive there.”

Canada, however, offered tax-shelter investments and a favourable exchange rate on the U.S. dollar: “Our producer, Clancy Grass, is a Canadian and he came up with the idea of doing it here. Canadians want people to come here and do shows, films or TV or whatever, so it’s good for Canada and it’s good for the entertainer.”

The show sold steadily to nations in South America, the Phillipines and China, and was seen across the U.S. in 1982. He had remained popular in concert, playing at Caesars Palace two months a year in two-week stints, and he spent seven months on the road. He also continued to have hit records with releases such as “Darlin’” and “What in the World’s Come Over You?”

Speaking in 1981 when he was 40, Jones had been away from Britain for seven years and he hadn’t been back. He made no bones about why he lived in the United States: Promoters in Las Vegas and elsewhere in North America were eager to pay substantial sums to a man whose vigorous singing put new life into dwindling nightclub audiences – and the U.S. taxman let him keep more of it.

He said, “I daren’t go home for a visit. I like living in Britain and if I go back for a short visit it would just be teasing me, so I’d rather not. I’d get homesick and would want to stay, it would tempt me so much.”

He used to carry a little bit of Wales around with him wherever he went in the form of a bristle dartboard from Caerphilly, just down the road from Pontypridd, South Wales, where he was born Thomas Jones Woodward. There was a larger piece beside the pool at his home in Bel Air but it didn’t travel well. It was the old red telephone box from his end of the street in Pontypridd.

Jones said, “I heard that they were putting in new phone boxes and I thought, my God, I’d love to have the one from the end of our street. That was our phone when I was a kid. It was the only one we had.”

He had it shipped out complete with its lists of British exchanges and it sat in the shade of the Georgian-style home that he bought from Dean Martin. It was similar to the home he had for many years in England in the Surrey town of Weybridge, he said: “I wanted a house that was nearly the same and this is – the red brick and everything. I had all my furniture brought over and all the fittings. I seldom go out when I’m there so really it’s like being in Britain … except that when I’m out by the pool, the weather’s different.”

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Tony Curtis on Cary Grant, Kirk Douglas and more

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By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Nobody loved being a movie star more than Tony Curtis, who was born on this day 90 years ago and who died in 2010, and as he got older he liked nothing more than to talk about it. “Don’t I have great stories?” he said to me. “Don’t you fucking love it?”

Curtis did an hilarious impression of Cary Grant to seduce Marilyn Monroe (pictured below) in “Some Like it Hot” (1959) but he told me that when director Billy Wilder screened the film for him, Grant said, “I don’t talk like that”,  and Curtis said it just as Grant would have. They had starred together in the Blake Edwards war comedy “Operation Petticoat”.

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I spoke to the star of films such as “Sweet Smell of Success” (1957), “Operation Petticoat” (1959), “Spartacus” (1960), “Taras Bulba” (1962), “The Great Race” (1965), and TV’s “The Persuaders” at the Flanders International Film Festival on Oct. 18 2003 in Gent, Belgium, where he received a special Joseph Plateau Holemans Award for lifetime achievement.

Curtis appeared chipper and he was happy to chat about his life and career although, at 78, he said he wasn’t that interested in making more films: “I don’t want to grow old on the screen. I don’t want to play doctors and judges and lawyers, grandfathers and grandmothers, surgeons. I really don’t. I find living such an interesting experience. I don’t believe in ‘seniors’ or ‘juniors’.”

Born Bernard Schwartz in the Bronx, NY, of Hungarian Jewish immigrants, he still hadn’t lost the accent fully but he said he always wanted to be a movie star: “Ray, when I was a kid, I decided I wanted to be in movies. I’d go to the movies and see those images, those shadows, I’d say, ‘Jesus Christ, that’s for me.’ So what did I do? I started to jump on the back of trolley cars, jump on the back of taxicabs, climb up the trestles of the subway, climb up walls, chain link fences, jump from one roof to another, we’d put mattresses there.”

Tony Curtis x325Curtis had no formal education in acting but he was a good athlete and he tackled life like an obstacle course: “Everything is an obstacle course. Being in the movies, I know my distance from you to here. I know where the mike is. I know the table lamp. I know everybody moving around me. I catch everything. It’s becoming aware of life, don’t you see? And that helps you in whatever profession you choose. By watching everything, it helped me as a painter, as a psychologist – as a person who reads other people and can read myself.”

To have had his career gave him a great deal of pleasure, he said, and it was a joy to be who he was: “I’m so fucking privileged. I started out – this is not a Horatio Alger story, ok? To have done what I’ve done in my life is really appealing to me. I don’t think of it as some great accomplishment. In an odd way, I expected it. I knew I was going to make it in the movies. I knew I was a handsome kid. I knew I could get all the girls I wanted. I knew I could jump and learn how to swim and fence, dive, ride horses.”

He always preferred physical acting to the kind that depended upon expressing emotion: “For me, an actor’s strength is in his movement and not in his emotional madnesses. You’re jerking off in Macy’s window when you’re playing those parts and your excitement, or your action, is getting angry. Anybody can do that. That isn’t action, that’s just a mental attitude about yourself.”

There was never a movie he made that he demeaned or looked down on: “Nothing. I did a movie called ‘The Lobster Man From Mars’.  The special effects were the worst. It’s still very difficult for me to eat lobster in a restaurant, though.”

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He made two early pictures with “Singin’ in the Rain” star Donald O’Connor including “Francis the Talking Mule” (1950), and he said they became great friends: “I loved him. What a guy he was. What a brilliant, brilliant dancer. You saw what he danced like? How the fuck he never ended up one of the great dancers … I’ll tell you why, because he worked at Universal Studios, like I did. Had they given him the opportunity, he would have danced with every one of the great ones.”

O’Connor danced as well as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, Curtis said, “And he was an excellent boxer, the kindest, sweetest man. I’d go out to visit him at his house in the Valley where he had an 8mm movie projector. He’d put on a porno movie and shoot it out the window onto the garage door across the street. People would drive by and go, ‘What, what?’ and then he’d shut it off. That was my pal. I had a lot of fun with those guys.”

Curtis spoke of his “Some Like it Hot” co-star, Jack Lemmon – “What a man he was; what a life we had together. Cary Grant. Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck.” But when it came to Kirk Douglas, not so much. They made “The Vikings” (1958), “Spartacus” (pictured below) and “The List of Adrian Messenger” (1963) together.

“He’s the only actor that I found more difficult to be around, more neurotic, let’s say. And that’s not a negative,” Curtis said. “He’s an excellent picture-maker. Boy, he sure knows how to get his picture made. He knows exactly how to delineate it; where to put the energy. But every picture he makes is a Kirk Douglas movie, all the rest of us are minor players. I’ll give you a good example, if I may. ‘Spartacus’, OK? Who gave him those crewcut haircuts? Where did he get someone to give him a Beverly Hills crewcut haircut? All of us were fucking walking around looking like gorillas and he comes out with this haircut. I don’t know.”

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Curtis had no illusions about the business of showbusiness: “Hey, my pal, there ain’t no such thing as a movie that doesn’t make money. There’s absolutely no movie in the world that doesn’t make money. The money they spend on making it, when they’re making it, is a deductible item. So, if it looks on paper that it cost $8 million, it really cost $950,000. That’s then. Now, that $950,000 that it costs to make, is nothing. You can’t even build a house for $950,000. And look at the money people make today. And how much they get for theatre tickets. What is it, 10 bucks a ticket? Can you fucking believe it? I was going to the movies when it was 25 cents. Ten bucks a ticket. Twelve bucks. It never catches up to itself, it’s always growing.

I told him that it was a revelation to me to discover that in terms of the big studios, it’s not about profit, it’s about revenue. He said: “Exactly. Look how clever you are, to say that. Those pictures made 50 years ago, if that picture shows on television one night and generates $432, that’s like going into somebody’s wallet and taking out $432 and leaving. How could a movie like that generate that kind of money 50 years later? Don’t you see? That’s why everybody wants to get into the movie business.”

Signed to Universal, Curtis had been in films for seven years before his big break came along. “I never got into pictures that were … well, they were all right but they were made in a hurry; there was no finesse to them; they didn’t try to get a really important director, or get some other actors. They were ‘B’ movies; that’s what we made at Universal. That made it difficult. But when I got ‘Trapeze’, that changed everything.”

curtis claudia x325Curtis and Burt Lancaster played aerial performers opposite Gina Lollobrigida (pictured with Curtis above) in Carol Reed’s colourful “Trapeze” in 1956 and one year later they teamed again for Alexander Mackendrick’s highly acclaimed “Sweet Smell of Success”, which showed the world that Curtis was a fine actor as well as a movie star: “That catapulted me into the major player category. From then on in there wasn’t anything I could do that would be wrong.”

He made another picture with Mackendrick in 1967, an offbeat comedy titled “Don”t Make Waves”about the American Dream sixties’ style with Claudia Cardinale (pictured above left with Curtis) and Sharon Tate: “Now that was a very abstract movie, but he did it. He was a very brilliant man. Difficult to understand and very demanding of his work. Very domineering, you know. He wanted everything to work the way he wanted it. But look at the movies he made, ‘The Man in the White Suit’, ‘The Ladykillers’. Wow!”

Curtis said he modeled himself on Cary Grant more than just in “Some Like it Hot”: “Cary Grant, the most gracious man, extremely intelligent, very perceptive about life. I admired him a lot and I emulated a lot of him. Not in my behaviour so much but so much rubbed off on me. I’m a gentleman now. I’m very appreciative of people’s friendship. I like to be gallant. I like to kiss ladies’ hands. All these little things that I felt Cary Grant did automatically, I decided I would do. Perhaps he learned it from somebody else, Noel Coward or somebody. And that’s the fun of it. It’s just fun. It’s not demeaning or difficult, or anything.”

We would have spoken longer but then Jeanne Moreau entered the hotel lobby and fans surrounded her with cameras. Curtis had appeared with her in Elia Kazan’s “The Last Tycoon” (1976), and he said, “Forgive me, I must say hello.”

Curtis made his way through the small crowd, not much taller than the petite French actress. He seemed so pleased to see her; she just smiled.

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KFMF: International TV series music gala rocks

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By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – Themes from some of the most popular television shows in the world rocked the impressive new Tauron Arena here on Saturday as the Krakow Film Music Festival celebrated the exciting vibrancy of music for TV series.

An enthusiastic crowd of around 15,000 greeted familiar themes from shows such as “Downton Abbey”, “The Borgias”, “House of Cards”, “Vikings” and “Game of Thrones”.

Many of the scores’ composers were on hand to perform or conduct their themes and cues with several performed in concert for the first time against video clips from the shows.

Diego Navarro, director of Filmucité, the Tenerife International Film Music Festival, conducted several pieces performed by Sinfonietta Cracovia and the Polish Radio Choir.

Jeff Beal kicked things off as arranger and conductor of a collection of themes from HBO shows including “Band of Brothers”, “The Pacific” and “John Adams”, “Six Feet Under” and his own “Rome” and “The Newsroom”. He returned in the second half of the concert to conduct his evocative “House of Cards” cues plus themes with echoes of the Middle East from the new miniseries “The Dovekeepers” that featured Andon’s haunting flute.

Michael Giacchino’s epic music for “Lost” followed and then Atli Orvarsson’s “Chicago Fire” theme with the visceral growl of Tina Guo’s cello and Nordic tones from singer Hilda Örvarsdóttir that raised the hair on the back of the neck.

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The moving quiet and breathtaking fury of Bartosz Chajdecki’s dynamic score for Polish TV war drama “Misja Afghanistan” led to the elegant poignancy of John Lunn’s piano on his theme and cues for “Downtown Abbey”. Trevor Morris brought the first half to a close as conductor of his sinuous themes filled with intrigue for “The Borgias” and the majestic sweep of “The Tudors” that included the moving lament for Jane Seymour.

With the click of scissors and the shriek of a butcher’s knife sharpened on steel, Daniel Licht  (with percussionist Norman Kim) added to the wry and sinister sounds of bow-strings on xylophone and glockenspiel for his score for “Dexter”.

Then came the rush of Lukasz Targosz’s exciting score for “The Pack” with a video clip from the show that showed a man drowning informed by the lovely voice of Anna Karwan (pictured top) and Tina Guo’s vivid electronic cello as it gripped the jagged edge of grief.

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Blood spilled on the big screen as Clive Owen employed his scalpel in a clip from Steven Soderbergh’s “The Knick” while the orchestra provided the incisive bite of Cliff Martinez’s imaginative score ahead of the two Beal pieces.

Trevor Morris took the baton again for a show-stopping performance of his “Vikings” score with its pounding clamour and chanting chorus boosted by Guo’s guttural electronic cello and topped by the high Norse calls of the splendid Einar Selvik (pictured above with Guo and Morris) as he drew evocative cries from a travik lyre and tegelharp.

Diego Navarro stepped to the conductor’s podium for a performance of the captivating theme from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” by Ramin Djawadi with all its depth and resonance infused with the richness of Guo’s regular cello.

Djawadi took to the stage with the other composers and soloists to accept sustained applause from an obviously delighted audience.

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KFMF: Enthralling film music at Shakespeare in Concert

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By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – Powerful, melodic and mischievous, Elliot Goldenthal’s music for the productions of his partner Julie Taymor was given full rein at an exhilarating Shakespeare in Concert performance as part of the Krakow Film Music Festival on May 29.

The two of them were on hand along with Oscar-winner Stephen Warbeck and Jocelyn Pook, whose enthralling Shakespeare themes also were performed sublimely by the Beethoven Academy Orchestra and the Choir of the Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic in Krakow, with youthful but commanding conductor Christian Schumann (pictured below).

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The concert opened with Miklós Rózsa’s reverential old Hollywood “Caesar Now be Still” from “Julius Caesar” (1953) followed by Nina Rota’s sweetly melodic “Romeo and Juliet Suite” and “Ai Giochi Addio” from Franco Zefferelli’s 1968 film and Sergei Prokofiev’s “The Montagues & the Capulets” from his 1935 ballet.

Next came Jocelyn Pook’s ethereal and operatic themes from Michael Radford’s “Merchant of Venice” (2004) and Sara Andon provided an angelic solo for an Ennio Morricone suite from Zefferelli’s “Hamlet” (1990).

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Stephen Warbeck’s ruminative and mellow “Henry IV” suite from the BBC miniseries “The Hollow Crown” (2012) led to lush and playful themes from Warbeck’s Oscar-winning score for John Madden’s “Shakespeare in Love” with Andon on the flute and penny-whistle.

The Choir of  the Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic in Krakow was busy again for Patrick Doyle’s lovely “Strike Up Pipers” from Kenneth Branagh’s “Much Ado About Nothing” (1993) and the first half of the evening closed with Doyle’s humane and inspirational song “Non Nobis, Domine” from Branagh’s “Henry V” (1989).

After a break, a trilogy of Goldenthal cues from Taymor’s “Titus” (1999) evoked regal power, chaos and terror as dynamic and abrupt chords leapt and dived in unexpected ways. Lilting harmonies would splinter suddenly into dark sonics and erupt sonorously with subterranean tones filled with foreboding.

Reeve Carney, who originated the role of Peter Parker in Taymor’s Broadway version of “Spider-Man”, sang Goldenthal’s profoundly moving songs from “The Tempest” with resonance and purity. Carney (who played Prince Ferdinand in “The Tempest” and is Dorian Gray in the Showtime TV series “Penny Dreadful”) sang “Full Fathom Five” and “O Mistress Mine”, which Ben Whishaw, as Ariel, sang in the film; and the Coda, which Portishead’s Beth Gibbons did in the film.

Two pieces followed – “Carnival Dance” and “Desdemona and Othello Finale” – from the ballet “Othello”, directed by Taymor with choreography by Lar Lubovitch. The evening closed with the delightully ragamuffin “Bergamask Dance” from Taymor’s upcoming film version of her stage production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which won plaudits in its run at the new Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, NY.

The film will screen at the Curzon Soho in London on June 21 with Taymor on hand for a Q&A.

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KFMF: Andrzej Wajda’s film scores hit the mark

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By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – Andrzej Wajda’s devastating images from his 2007 film “Katyń” and the haunting music of Krzysztof Penderecki formed the emotional heart of the Polish Music Gala: Scoring4Wadja here last night.

Filmmaker and composer were among the guests of honour at the event, part of the Krakow Film Music Festival, which featured an evening of music from Wajda movies performed by the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra in Katowice and the Choir of  the Karol Szymanowski Philharmonic in Krakow conducted by Alexander Liebreich.

For more than two hours, the giant screen was filled with a range of evocative, moving and witty scenes from Wajda films as the full orchestra played cues and themes by composing greats including Zygmunt Konieczny, Andrzej Korziński and Pawel Mykietyn, who were introduced from the audience, plus Wojciech Kilar, Krzysztof Komeda, and Andrzej Markowski.

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Kilar’s celebratory “Polonaise” from “Pan Tedeusz: The Last Foray in Lithuania” (1999) kicked things off ahead of the presentation of the first Walter Kilar Award to U.S. Oscar-winner Elliot Goldenthal (“Frida”).

A whimsical Kilar cue from “The Revenge” (2002) continued the musical exploration of Wajda films followed by Kilar’s dreamy waltz from “The Promised Land” (1975), the yearning piano and strings of Kilar’s score from “The Shadow Line” (1976), and Zygmunt Konieczny’s imperious choral cues from “The Curse” and “November Night” (1977).

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A suite from Krzysztof Komeda’s score for “Innocent Sorcerers” (1960) with piano, harp, trumpet and saxophone solos began the second half of the evening after a break followed by a threatening main theme from “A Generation” (1955) and an airey suite from “Roly Poly” both by Andrzej Markowski.

Penderecki’s “Katyń” (pictured above) was overwhelming in its stark evocation of horror and Pawel Mykietyn evoked first loss in a suite from “Sweet Rush” (Tatarak) (2009) and then optimism in “Walęsa: Man of Hope” (2013).

The evening closed with four pieces by Andrzej Korziński: “Polish All Souls Day” and “The Fate of Man” from “Man of Iron” (1981) plus the main theme from “Man of Marble” (1977) and the bossa nova from “Hunting Flies” (1969) featuring singer Joanna Slowińska.

At the end of a powerful and moving concert, a grateful audience stood at length to honour the great filmmaker and Wajda responded with heartfelt remarks before he departed to even more applause.

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KFMF: Elliot Goldenthal receives first Wojciech Kilar Award

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By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – Wojciech Kilar advised artists to fight the sin of pride, Elliot Goldenthal said as he received the first Kilar Award at the Krakow Film Music Festival on Thursday: “You are looking at a sinner tonight.”

The Oscar-winning American composer said it was “inspirational and humbling” to receive the award named for the great Polish composer who scored films such as Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist” (2002), Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” (1992) and Jane Campion’s “Portrait of a Lady” (1996).

Goldenthal’s movie credits include “Titus” (1999), “Frida” (2002), “Across the Universe” (2007), “The Tempest” (2010) and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2015) directed by his partner Julie Taymor, who also was at the concert. Other titles he has scored include Neil Jordan’s “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” (1994) and Michael Collins (1996), for which he received Oscar nominations, plus “Alien 3” (1992), “Batman Forever” (1995), “Heat” (1995), “A Time to Kill” (1996), “The Butcher Boy” (1997), “Batman & Robin” (1997), “Final Fantasy: the Spirits Within” (2001) and “Public Enemies” (2009).

Elliot Goldenthal Kilar AwardThe Kilar Award was presented to Goldenthal at the Polish Music Gala: Scoring4Wajda at the ICE Krakow Congress Centre, which featured four pieces Kilar wrote for films directed by Andrzej Wadja, who was present at the event.

The filmmaker, whose 1983 film “Danton” won the Bafta Film Award as best foreign language film and who received an honourary Academy Award in 2000, was one of the judges for the Kilar award along with Polish filmmakers Roman Polanski and Krzysztof Zanussi, and composer Krzysztof Penderecki, who was among the guests in the audience.

Goldenthal said he was proud and humbled to be in the same room with Penderecki, who scored Wajda’s celebrated 2007 film “Katyn” and whose music can be heard on the soundtracks of Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining” (1990), David Lynch’s “Inland Empire” (2006) and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Children of Men” (2006).

The Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Alexander Liebreich, which performed an evening of music from Wadja fims, also played Goldenthal’s thrilling “Louis’ Revenge” from Neil Jordan’s “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” (1994).

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The Wojciech Kilar Award is sponsored by the Presidents of Krakow and Katowice and will be granted alternately in Krakow and Katowice. Organiser said it is granted for lifetime achievement to composers of film music who “remain faithful to the traditional art of composing, write scores that in isolation from the image do not lose clarity, and efficiently use the language of music, producing rich and distinct colors, shades and textures in their work”.

The Expert Council of the Wojciech Kilar Award includes many key figures in the Polish film music community including Polish Music Publishing Editor in Chief Daniel Cichy, who said, “In his work, Elliot Goldenthal combines respect for tradition, humility in relation to the composer’s craft, and remarkable ability to connect with orchestras and to fully feel and understand the medium of film.”

The award also is intended to raise the international profile of the man for whom it is named. When it was announced, organisers said, “With the award’s establishment, the name and accomplishments of Wojciech Kilar, one of the most recognizable Polish composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, will gain a new international dimension.”

Photo of Elliot Goldenthal: @Tomasz Cichocki

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KFMF: Critical Hit dazzles with videogame music concert

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By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – U.S. orchestral rock outfit Critical Hit showed how infectious music from videogames can be with a 90-minute high-energy concert here last night that featured an ensemble of highly talented and glamorous performers.

The band, which will play at every Wizard World Comic Con in the United States this year, made its international debut at the Krakow Film Music Festival.

A sold-out crowd at the city’s 828-seat Kijow Centrum showed its enthusiasm for 20 pieces drawn from the earliest videogames up to current hits and one not yet released. It was an evening of driving drumbeats, video images and a whizbang light show.

Executive producer Michael Gluck substituted on synthesizer for Critical Hit co-founder Jason Hayes, who had to cancel at the last minute, and with regular drummer Kevin Dooley and Aleksander Milwiw-Baron, from the Polish version of “The Voice”, on guitar, provided the percussive force that drove most of the music.

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Five wildly attractive and accomplished female artists provided the dazzle for energetic performances of arrangements by Adam Gubman of themes familiar to the videogamers who made up much of the responsive audience.

Classically trained top Los Angeles concert and session players and recording artists Salome Scheidigger on piano, Caroline Campbell on Violin, Tina Guo on electronic cello and Sara Andon on flute, along with Poland’s Natalia Brzozwska on bass guitar, played with smiles on their faces as they obviously were having a great time.

fmf_main_enComposer Trevor Morris took a bow ahead of a performance of a new arrangement of his theme from “Dragon Age: Inquisition” and several other videogame music composers sent greetings via video.

They included Ari Pulkkinen, whose gypsy-inspired theme from “Angry Birds” was a highlight of the evening with Andon’s flute in full flight and barrell-roll piano contributions by Scheidigger.

Music ranged from “Tetris”, “Pokemon”, “Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” and “Super Mario Brothers” to “World of Warcraft”, “Diablo II”, “Sonic the Hedgehog” and “Hearthstone”.

Tall and elegant violinist Campbell and vivacious cellist Guo kept busy on strings while Andon’s peerless flute floated within and above melodies as Scheidigger’s commanding piano leant heft to the proceedings.

Nobuo Uetmatso’s “To Zamarkand” from “Final Fantasy X” added some more plangent sounds from Milwiw-Baron’s acoustic guitar and Campbell’s violin but then the pace picked up again as the propulsive themes led to Harry Gregson-Williams’s score for the yet-to-be-released “Metal Gear Solid 2”.

After a standing ovation, Michael Gluck, a born showman, invited the entire crowd to greet the band in the lobby and said, “We are so grateful to be here in Krakow for our first international show.” The audience roared its approval.

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