It’s been a long time since I went to a gathering or meeting of any type concerning film music, and it’s been even longer since I enjoyed it so much. Today September 24th 2016 I will remember for a long time, it was the first gathering of FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES organised by Tim Smith and James Fitzpatrick, guest composers in attendance were TREVOR JONES, MARK THOMAS, DEBBIE WISEMAN, CHRISTOPHER GUNNING and DANIEL PEMBERTON. All of whom were in a word wonderful, I loved the way that all of them were so relaxed and also so forthcoming with their thoughts and opinions about film music, scoring films and the art and craft of what they do. The last time I attended such a function must have been way back in the 1990, s when it was organised by either THE GOLDSMITH SOCIETY or John Williams of SILENTS AND SATELITTES and early editions of MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES fame. I Seem to recall a few of these SEMINARS as they were called being held at the BONNIGTON hotel in London, but that is by the way. Today’s event was well organised and it ran so smoothly at least that’s what I witnessed, the only hiccups being Tim Smith’s nerves I think, which is understandable when organising something like this, but he handled it very well and made everyone welcome.
It was also a time to put faces to Facebook (other social medias are available) conversations which was also really nice and it was something of a reunion for myself with fellow soundtrack collector Jerry Daley being there and of course talking with Trevor Jones and Chris Gunning after a break of more than a few years, Trevor remarked that is was the sessions for HIDEAWAY when we last saw each other in the flesh as it were.
Held at the renowned ANGEL recording studios in Upper Street Islington, this was an afternoon that I know many will be thinking of for a long while. Tim Smith took to the floor at around two o clock, and spoke to the gathered fifty or so attendees, briefly explained the fire drill then went on to introduce the host for the afternoon, the well know record producer and passionate film music fan James Fitzpatrick, many of us in attendance of course remember buying LP records off of James when he was behind the counter and managing the sadly missed 58 DEAN STREET RECORDS, and then he was one of the driving forces behind SILVA SCREEN initiating that labels foray into re-recordings of soundtracks which included the first release of music from Hammer films for example and renditions of themes from movies such as WITCHFINDER GENERAL, NIGHT OF THE DEMON, KISS OF THE VAMPIRE and full score reconstructions and re-recordings of soundtracks such as LAWRENCE OF ARABIA,THE BIG COUNTRY etc. James is now the boss at TADLOW MUSIC producing so many exquisite re-recordings and releases of excellent film music and providing orchestras for composers on various projects.
His attention to detail and also achieving high quality recordings is second to none, and I believe he is a Master of his particular craft and a person who does not shout about his achievements as in blow his own trumpet (forgive the pun). James made a brief introduction, and also then introduced the guests for the afternoon, it was at this point we were treated to something of a sneak preview from an up and coming release on TADLOW, which is Miklos Rozsa’s classic soundtrack for THE THIEF OF BAHGDAD, which like all of TADLOW’S releases sounded magnificent, it was fantastic to hear the music and also see the orchestra conducted by Nic Raine perform.
After the cue had concluded James started things off with a question to the guests about if they thought film music composition was an art or a craft. Debbie Wiseman began the responses, followed by Mark Thomas, Trevor Jones and then Christopher Gunning and Daniel Pemberton, all explained their idea of composition being an art or craft very differently, but I thought basically they all more or less agreed that it was part art part craft, which then segued into discussing other topics that were related to being a composer of film music, this spontaneity by the guests who were happy to chat about almost anything without being prompted for me made the afternoon even more interesting and enjoyable. We learnt that Daniel Pemberton is working on another movie by Guy Ritchie which is a KING ARTHUR film, and also that when he feels he has got something right as in writing a particular cue does a little dance around his flat, which as Debbie Wiseman remarked is an image that will linger in her head for a while.
There were also questions from the audience, which were very interesting enquiries and also the responses from the assembled guest were too as interesting if not more so. It’s surprising that although they all work in the same field they all seem to have different approaches to the actual mechanics of writing the scores, some preferring the more classical and time honoured approach of manuscript and pencil others using the more technical options that are available, which then led to explanations from Trevor Jones about certain software that became available to the composer back in the late 80’s etc, which made it either easier or more of a headache for them to score films. He also spoke of the switch almost overnight from analogue too digital which gave him more than one headache in the studio.
We did have a short break for refreshments and this gave members of the audience a chance to chat amongst themselves and also with the composers, it was at this point the first raffle was held and the winners (not me, I was one away, but I am ok honestly) were given generous goodie bags of compact discs which were given freely by TADLOW, MOVIE SCORE MEDIA, CALDERA and SILVA SCREEN, there were also FANS OF MOVIE MUSIC mugs on sale a snip at £6.95 and then we had a second raffle for a poster advertising the event signed by all the guests.
More questions and answers followed and it became apparent that Christopher Gunning was shall we say a little tired of scoring films and TV as he had been writing what was is called by some “serious” music as in concertos and symphonies for concert hall performance, Christopher was relieved that he never had a deadline or a director and producer peering over his shoulder all the time, but then he said when writing his symphony at times he had wished he could phone up a particularly difficult director and ask him to come round and stand behind him and give him a hard time so he could actually write some music.
Debbie Wiseman and James Fitzpatrick.
Debbie Wiseman told us how she got into the business and how after working on a series such as FATHER BROWN that if a different director was brought in it would be them that had to adapt to her music simply because she had written so many established themes for that series and had been there since the offset. So that was a different perspective, as its normally the composer that has to adapt their music for anything that the director might want to do. All of the composers told stories of either directors or producers that were shall we say difficult, Christopher Gunning remembering to be asked to score POIROT but not include the established and award winning theme for the series, (which everyone knows and loves) Gunning told us that he tried to introduce the theme when he could at one point turning the music upside down.
Daniel Pemberton recalling the time he scored a documentary about Hiroshima, one of the greatest losses of human life in the 20th Century and when it got to the part in the film where the bomb had been dropped and there was utter desolation and destruction, the executives on the film telling him that his music was to down beat and sombre. Mark Thomas being asked to score a section of film with music like the music in the chariot race scene in BEN HUR, and then realising there is no music in that sequence, “So that was easy” he said. Time unfortunately was running out and we had to stop, but then we were allowed to ask the guests to sign CD covers etc. Which they did and gave their time generously stopping to talk to each and every person about the cover they had selected and their love of movie music, the signings were accompanied by some great music and images of orchestra performing at various TADLOW recording sessions.
Overall it was a great success, there were no awkward silences, no silly questions, it was just a good experience that had an easy going atmosphere with all of the composers being quite laid back and forthcoming with snippets of information and various stories of good, bad and ugly situations that they had encountered in their careers. (Chris Gunning was very open and frank) which was very amusing and interesting. I hope that this is an event that will be repeated and become an annual occurrence, we have to thank TIM SMITH who initiated this and also James Fitzpatrick who helped immensely in it coming to fruition, we also have to say a big thank you to all of the composers for their time and also their interest in the people who buy soundtracks and too all the FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES team for being there making the day go well, plus a big thank you to Phil Watkins for taking all of those great photographs, some of which I have with his permission used in this article. marks out of 10, I give it an 11.
Just one thing left to say ENCORE,,,,, Looking forward to FANS OF MUSIC FROM THE MOVIES 2.