THE BEST OF BRITISH FILM SCORES, THE CONCERT,A PERSONAL REVIEW.

 

 

 

 

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Film music concerts are very rare, and film music concerts in my home city of Brighton are even rarer, this year however we have been treated on the South Coast to a pair of excellent performances at the cities famed Dome Concert hall, the first being back in the summer with the Bournemouth Symphony orchestra who performed a great evening of music from sci fi movies and movies about superheroes. Then this Sunday the 4th of December it got better as the BRIGHTON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA took to the stage to perform a varied and rich programme of music from British movies. THE BEST OF BRITISH FILM SCORES as it was billed and promoted was in fact just that, it included a line up which I think you will agree is the cream of the crop when it comes to British movie music. However, saying that after this concert I am hoping the Brighton Philharmonic might consider dipping their toes into the deep and thriving waters of British film music both old and contemporary. What I loved about this concert was that the content was not in any way predictable, in fact there were several items in the programme that I was surprised at. The conductor for this afternoon performance was Richard Balcombe, he is a conductor who has worked in opera, west end shows and is also well known as an arranger and orchestrator for numerous popular artists such as Sir Cliff Richard, Will Young, Lesley Garrett, Michael Ball, Ronan Keating and many more. He also conceived, arranged, and orchestrated WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW the music of Burt Bacharach and has conducted for Jose Carreras, Roberto Alagna, Bryn Terfel and Angela Gheorgiu on BBC TV. He has collaborated with orchestras all over the world, including, THE GOTHENBURG SYMPHONY, ORCHESTRE NATIONAL DE LILLE, PRAGUE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA and ACCADEMIA NAZIONALE DI SANTA CECILIA. The orchestra has been established at the DOME since 1928 which is when they also became the fully orchestral symphonic players. They initially however started out as the Symphonic String Players in 1925 and were formed by Herbert Menges and gave concerts at Hove Town hall. In 1932 Sir Thomas Beecham was appointed as the orchestra’s first President, Beecham was followed by the likes of, Benjamin Britten and Ralph Vaughn Williams in this position. Herbert Menges remained as the orchestra’s principal conductor until his death in 1972, he was succeeded by John Carewe and then later in 1989 Barry Wordsworth was appointed in the role and in 2015 he became the orchestra’s first conductor Laureate after being their principal conductor and music director for 26 years. During their time the orchestra have tackled numerous pieces which are varied and diverse and regularly collaborate with the Brighton Festival chorus.

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The concert opened with Sir William Walton’s stirring and patriotic sounding, SPITFIRE PRELUDE AND FUGUE from the 1942 movie, THE FIRST OF THE FEW which told the story of the development of the spitfire fighter plane by R. J. Mitchell played by Leslie Howard who also directed the movie. The piece we heard was the composer’s own adaptation of his score for the movie for concert hall performance. This acted as a perfect opener for the concert with the orchestra giving a polished and forthright rendition of this familiar and now famous music. After this rousing opening the conductor Richard Balcombe spoke to the audience welcoming them to the Dome and also giving a little information about the performance that opened the proceedings, he then said that not all of the music in the programme would be serious and turned to conduct the orchestra in a foot tapping and enjoyable performance of composer Ron Goodwin’s THOSE MAGNIFICENT MEN IN THEIR FLYING MACHINES, this was the orchestral version of the well-known vocal main title that graced the movie. Again, the orchestra acquitted themselves marvellously, with the musical ups, downs and stops and starts of Goodwin’s infectious composition being accentuated and given an even more bouncy and comedic mood by the sheer enthusiasm of the orchestra’s playing.

 

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Up next we were treated to a double helping of the music of Ralph Vaughn Williams, the first being taken from the score for COASTAL COMMAND, DAWN PATROL is a apprehensive and rather exciting piece which builds slowly but surely, purveying an atmosphere that is filled with uncertainty and urgency. Made by the Crown Film Unit in 1943, COASTAL COMMAND was funded by the Ministry of Information and was a propaganda film produced to boost morale, it starred the men and women of the RAF and showed how they patrolled the coast line and protected convoys and targeted the German U-Boats and warships as they attempted to cut off the life line of supplies being sent to Britain. Vaughn Williams score was almost continuous and underlined each and every moment of the film, giving the scenes on screen a greater impact.
This was followed by a particularly beautiful and emotive theme from the movie THE 49TH PARALLEL, the film which starred Richard George and Eric Portman tells the story of a German U-Boat crew who have become stranded in Canada and to avoid internment they make their way to the United States border who at the time are still neutral. Vaughn Williams poignant and breathtakingly beautiful theme for me was one of the highlights of the concert. Music from THINGS TO COME was next on the programme, the section of the score performed was THE MARCH music composed by Sir Arthur Bliss, released in 1936 the film was something of a landmark in film music history as it would mark the first time that a major composer would write music for film.

 

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At first Bliss was reluctant to become involved with the project, but he was reassured by H.G. WELLS himself that his music would be respected, the march from THINGS TO COME is probably the most familiar piece from the score, and is an ominous and at the same time patriotic accompaniment to the residents of London preparing for conflict.

 

 

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The illustrious actor and director Sir Laurence Olivier once described the next piece as “The most wonderful score I have ever heard for a film”. HENRY V, was released in 1944, and is still to this day a film that can excite and inspire, with its wonderfully lush colours and outstanding acting it is a classic in every sense of the word. The film was greatly aided by the driving and at times dissonant music composed by Sir William Walton, the music at times taking on the guise of the sounds of battle, but also underlining the nobleness of Henry and his dedication to his country and people, THE CHARGE AND BATTLE is a robust and rousing piece which when listened to away from the images it is intended to enhance, manages to conjure up scenes of conflict and the savagery of battle. The orchestra launched itself into this piece, again creating a wonderful performance which drew loud applause from the audience.

 

 

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For the next three sections the programme concentrated on one composer Ron Goodwin, Goodwin was one of the busiest composers during the 1960, s often writing music for war movies and producing some of the most enduring and popular themes in British film music history, Goodwin also was in demand as an easy listening artist and released many albums on the EMI Studio Two label. Which were compilations of both film themes by the composer or light music which was given the Goodwin treatment and at times the composer acted as an arranger giving popular themes by other composers his own twist. These albums included ADVENTURE, EXCITEMENT and releases such as HOLIDAY IN BEUIRUT and ELIZABETHAN SERANADE. The pieces performed in the concert included the lilting and haunting BELLE’S THEME from a made for television film of THE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST which starred George C. Scott as the beast. For the performance at the Dome the orchestra’s leader John Bradbury took centre stage and gave a heartrending solo performance which seemed to mesmerise the audience. Then we were treated to the resounding and volatile sounding theme from THE TRAP, which is probably a movie that not that many people have seen, but the music is familiar because the BBC use it for their coverage of the London Marathon.

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The movie starred Oliver Reed and Rita Tushingham and was released in 1966, directed by Sydney Hayes who began his directorial career in the late 1950, s and later acted as second unit director on movies such as A BRIDGE TOO FAR and A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and worked extensively in TV in the States on series such as T J HOOKER, THE A TEAM and BAYWATCH to name but a few. THE TRAP tells the story of a young mute girl who is forced to marry a fur trapper nicknamed La Bete (the beast) played by Oliver Reed. The performance of this was just like listening to the original version and evoked memories of my early days as a collector back in the mid 1960’s. Then the ultimate Ron Goodwin theme from the 1964 war movie 633 SQUADRON, again this was a lively and well performed piece by the BRIGHTON PHILHARMONIC and delighted the audience. The last piece before the interval was from the 1955 motion picture THE DAM BUSTERS, music here is courtesy of Eric Coates, and what a theme this is, it is equal to POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE or even LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY, it is such an iconic piece of music, rousing, patriotic and inspiring. It is as popular and familiar now as it was when it was first written, the performance was also epic and it brought the concert to its halfway mark. So, the first half ended as it had begun with superb thematic material from a bygone age of film making and of film music. Many film music collectors and historians talk of the Golden age of film music, normally this relates to the vintage film scores of Hollywood as penned by the likes of Korngold, Newman, Steiner, Toimkin, Friedhofer and their like, but what of the golden age of British film music, with the music of Sir William Walton, Sir Benjamin Britten, Eric Coates, William Alwyn, Clifton Parker, Richard Adinsell, Vaughn Williams etc. I know we have seen releases on Chandos records of the classic music from British movies, but I am of the opinion we need more re-recordings of this magnificent material and more live performances and concerts.

 

ERIC COATES.
ERIC COATES.

Part two of the concert opened with a suite of music from CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER music by Canadian born composer Robert Farnon. Although Canadian by, Farnon is looked upon by many as being a Brit. Critics and fans of his music held him in high esteem and considered him as being the greatest composer of what was labelled as light music during the second half of the 20th Century, he was inspired by the music of Eric Coates and his contemporaries and decided that writing music for film was the way he wanted to go.

In 1951 Warner Brothers commissioned the Maestro to score the Gregory Peck movie CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER R.N. His score was perfect for the film, the composer loved writing music that depicted seascapes and the movement of the sea itself he was inspired by the power and unpredictability of the ocean and its varying moods for want of a better word, the music is not only written in a traditional swashbuckling fashion but also has to it a heart and an emotive side that is hauntingly beautiful and purveys perfectly the and one can actually smell the salty air when listening to it. The suite which was a lengthy one included, the opening and introduction from the score plus, THE WIND, POLWHEAL, LADY BARBARA and NATIVIDAD.

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This was wonderful to hear live, I have had the recording a long time now but it sounded so fresh and bright when performed by the Brighton Philharmonic. Next on the programme was the highly lyrical and effervescent opening music from the Kenneth Branagh movie MUCH A DO ABOUT NOTHING, the score for this adaptation of the famous Shakespeare work was by Patrick Doyle, who also featured in the movie in an acting role. Doyle worked with the filmmaker and actor Branagh on numerous movies which included DEAD AGAIN, FRANKENSTEIN, HENRY V etc. MUCH A DO ABOUT NOTHING the Overture is one of those pieces of music that instantly draws attention, it is rousingly lyrical and abundantly energetic and on this occasion, was performed with much commitment and gusto by the Brighton Philharmonic.

 

 

 

PATRICK DOYLE.
PATRICK DOYLE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

NIGEL HESS
NIGEL HESS

 

 

This was followed by one of the most beautiful melodies that Has been composed for film in recent years, the music was by Nigel Hess who began his musical career in theatre and progressed to scoring TV series such as DANGERFIELD, WYCLIFFE and the ever popular HETTY WAINTHROPP INVESTIGATES, his music for the 2004 movie LADIES IN LAVENDER is in a word stunning, THE FANTASY FOR VIOLIN AND ORCHESTRA was the piece that was performed and again leader John Bradbury created an emotive and polished performance.

 

 

 

 

 

JOHN IRELAND.
JOHN IRELAND.

 

Music from the 1946 Ealing studios production THE OVERLANDERS which had a score by composer John Ireland, was next in the running order and the cue THE STAMPEDE FOR WATER was the selected piece from the score for the afternoons performance. This is an exciting and highly robust composition, which aided the action on screen greatly, sadly this was to be the composers only foray into scoring movies and his last composition as after writing the score the composer retired. The last piece on the programme was suitably fitting as it was a FANTASIA ON CHRISTMAS CAROLS by Malcolm Arnold, taken from his score to the 1952 film THE HOLLY AND THE IVY, the film which starred Ralph Richardson and Celia Johnson, dealt with a vicar who had neglected the needs of his own grown up child to tend to the problems of his flock.

 

SIR MALCOLM ARNOLD.
SIR MALCOLM ARNOLD.

 

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This brought the concert to a resounding end and drew much applause from a very appreciative audience. This was a concert that was not only entertaining but interesting because of the diversity of its content. I must congratulate the orchestra on their flawless and highly polished performance and thank conductor Richard Balcombe for his sterling work and his informative commentary during the concert. Bravo Brighton Philharmonic, Bravo THE DOME. More please, much More film music..

 

THE BRIGHTON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA.
THE BRIGHTON PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA.

ADRIAN KONARSKI AN INTERVIEW WITH THE COMPOSER.

Adrian Konarski is for me one of the great discoveries within film music, after hearing his score for the movie THE WELTS I was for want of a better word smitten totally by his gift for melody and his haunting and tuneful music. I would like to thank the composer for agreeing to do this interview and also to thank him for his patience and his great effort in bringing it to fruition.

 

 

 

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Your score for THE WELTS which I have to say I cannot stop playing, has just been released on CALDERA records were you involved in the compilation of the album, because it also contains music from two other scores which you composed, CITIZEN and DROWSINESS as well as a handful of cues from various theatrical projects and short films?

Thank you very much – I am glad you liked it and because you said this I feel that maybe this score must have something fresh – thank you! Because this was my big screen debut – I noticed that I had some freshness of debut in the meaning that I knew that apart from telling the story, and score serving the movie, it must have been musically very good and fresh material, otherwise nobody would notice it and therefore I might not have had the chance to write for a movie again. So sometimes my intuition was saying to tilt the scales a little from letting the film tell its story to allowing the music to tell the story, to construct musical themes that are interesting to listen to away from the movie and also to write music that would hopefully be remembered and appreciated in the future. We had to do additional editing and cuts as I was scoring the film, later syncing this music with the movie but I think it was a good idea to just follow my heart. Generally, it is my golden rule that no matter how much music serves a movie it must be interesting by itself, when you want to release a CD after even 10 years, which I hope watermarks me from other composers – I write MY nice melodies and MY harmonies or my dark or not nice melodies (if a movie tells me to write darker or maybe more sinister music) however music I think should always act as servant to any movie I score. As for selecting the music for release yes I was involved in this, it was my dream to add some more music, because I loved the idea of Caldera to produce so beautiful CD with a beautiful booklet inside. I appreciate their work. I simply told them that you do so nice work, that it would be a sin to not to add some more… But the selection was based on a key of emotionality of this music…

 

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THE WELTS is a highly lyrical score, which you perform the piano solos on, do you also work out your musical ideas at the piano, or do you use more contemporary tools such as samples, computers etc.?

I am always performing piano on all my music unless something is so technically difficult that I am not able to play it. I used to play Liszt Piano concerto with Philharmonic Orchestra when I was finishing my secondary school, then I started more to compose rather than practise the piano, so I am not technically as good as before… But maybe because of the composing I learned to play simpler phrases… But this is mostly about feeling and emotions this is more important for me than an ability of playing fast passages. I am not composing for an effect or for things to be difficult but to underline the emotions within the film, so I am writing from the heart. There were no samples at all in music for THE WELTS as I worked on the movie in 2004 and the use of samples was not that common at this time, but NOWADYS there are more possibilities and samples sound more beautiful than many years ago. I listen to a lot of film music and I feel that I do not want to sound the same, and what I like in music the most – is something imperfect in performances that has a value. Sample libraries sometimes sound too perfect and too clear. European cinema music is more chamber and because of this I think you have more of a chance to be yourself and not become a part of an industry as much as it happens at times in the United States. Nowadays though I do use more samples, and I achieve things which just a few years ago, one would not have believed to be possible. Sometimes I even compose on a sampled piano not on a real one because it is simply more comfortable with all cabling in a studio etc. Now the business requires everyone to do things so quickly and the way that you compose the music exactly to a timeframe – to not to use any faders on a final sync mix. I think now there is no place for a composer who is able only to write with a pen, paper and candle… Although it is so romantic…

 

 

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THE WELTS is your debut score, was it something of a daunting task for you, was it difficult to work on the movie or was it a film that inspired you from the first time that you saw it?

I felt so much that I was ready for my debut, I was very confident and knew I could handle everything – I felt an extra power within. I knew that even if I make errors there will be a lot of heart within the score and music is all about heart. And yes, the movie inspired me from the first time I saw it.

Staying with THE WELTS, as I say it’s a highly lyrical work, and contains some beautiful themes, do you think that film music has altered in recent years so we hear less thematic material on soundtracks and there is a more atonal or sound design approach?

I am glad you asked me this question because I am constantly thinking of how people receive music and understand music nowadays. Also, about musical education of listeners. I do not think there is less thematic material on soundtracks – maybe – but I also think – maybe because in my heart there is something between a song and classical music and my music aims West but it always has an eastern European feeling, some roots. I have also a feeling that many composers do not have so much need of melody in their heads. I am always winning with my melodies although because of an around world constantly altering it is not always easy to persuade that melody still has a value. Sometimes people simply believe that the best is strange, people need stories that this music is so original because a moment before composing composer ate a bouquet of green daffodils… For me music it is all about heart, sensitivity and not being able to stop composing.

 

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Magdalena Piekorz, made her directorial debut with THE WELTS, did She have specific ideas about how the music should sound and what style of music should be utilised?

Sincerely I started to score this movie from a scene about Windmills which constructed the father and the son. I felt it and it was my trampoline. Magdalena only wanted a theme that I wrote one summer – CONFESSION OF LOVE, I wrote it when I was thinking of one girl cello player, she went somewhere to Japan for holidays and did not even know I was thinking about her.

What size orchestra did you employ for THE WELTS and how much time did you have to compose and record the score?

There was an orchestra like 30 people and among this me playing the piano, bass player, and djembe player…

You have recorded mainly in Poland, what studios do you like to use when you are recording a score for a movie?

Such story does not happen to often but I had recordings twice.
I wanted to debut but producers did not want to give me any orchestra.
I had to gather an orchestra myself – of musicians of Academy of Music in Krakow. My desire to debut and write music in a shape that I really wanted caused that there were no impossible things for me. Then when they realised that the film had power and that my music was good enough, they hired a Polish Radio Orchestra to record more music – and we were recording this in Warsaw in a Polish TV studio.

 

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I understand you began to play piano at the age of just four, did you come from a family background that was musical?

My twin sister also plays the piano, she plays Chopin so beautifully, it is the same Sister who is singing on the CD… My mother she is a professor of Psychology but she plays the piano…I remember before primary school I was able to make a replacement for a teacher of music and to play songs on the piano when she was not there…

What musical education did you receive?

I finished Academy of Music in Kraków, Poland – department of Composition, Conducting and Theory of Music, and before Primary and Secondary School on a piano.

 

 

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I think your music is so haunting and has a beguiling and enchanting effect upon the listener, do you orchestrate all of your own scores for film and do you conduct at all or do you prefer to monitor the proceedings from the recording booth?

Thank you very much for this. Yes I do orchestrate myself. I do not conduct, I understand that whatever I do I need some distance while recording and quickly switch from being a composer to the point of view of a film director, I am always at the recoding booth… But whatever I am telling about music and heart, and no matter how much a composer „loves” the music himself – it is always necessary in film music to remember that what is really important is the film and story not your music. And conductor for me is a necessary link that allows me have some distance….

 

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THE COMPOSER WITH VIOLINIST Michał Chytrzyński

Your music is for me personally like a breath of fresh air within the world of film music, it is not only wonderfully melodious and emotive but also has a lingering and affecting aura about it, what composers would you say may have influenced the way in which you write or approach a film score, or inspired you?

Thank you for this: Zygmunt Konieczny, Pat Metheny, Ennio Morricone, Philip Glass…

When working on a movie, do you like to see the film once before getting any ideas about the score, or do you return to the movie on a number of occasions before you make any decisions about what type of music you will write and where it will be placed to best serve the film?

I am always surprised how much power a picture has. I have so many ideas at the beginning when a movie impresses me that I would like to write very quickly, most of those first ideas are often the ones that are the best solution for the score. But I am always trying to slow down the spontaneous way of working because film is more about understanding what, why and first of all where not to write music at all, to remember about silence. But there is an opposite thing, film is almost always holding off your musical madness, because there are time frames. When improvise to a picture for a long time and do not know where to go sometimes I make a break and set my sequencer prompt where there is no picture at all and try to play what I am thinking ABOUT the movie. This restores a voice to my music and is sometimes a great idea.

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https://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Light-Time-Theatre-Music/dp/B0013R9NCA

 

 

Do you find when scoring a documentary or a short that the process varies a great deal from when you are working on a feature film, or is it mainly the budgets that are different, so you cannot do as much on TV as you can for a motion picture?

Usually you cannot write huge music to something that is documentary because who believes the story then…It is as an oversized suit.

If you are working on a TV series which is more than six episodes in duration and the schedules are beginning to get more demanding, do you ever re-cycle themes or sections of the score from for example episode one and re-use it in episode seven?

I do not have a big experience with TV series, but you know in each story there is something that happens spontaneously, hopefully a composer has a great power of doing different tempos, this makes a different music. Recently I was at a gathering where five composers did a Q and A session with fans of music from the movies, I was wondering how do you see the role of a film music composer, do you think that writing music for films is an art or a craft or maybe a combination of the two and in your opinion what is the purpose of music in film?I was telling before about heart necessary for music, and that you generally need to be inspired to do something good and know how to find this inspiration. For me it is a combination of those two and first of all it is about ability of having very quickly a distance to what you wrote a moment ago and an ability of understanding a film director’s way of story telling

You use female voice on a number of your scores to great effect, I was reminded when listening to the music contained on THE WELTS compact disc of a number of composers, Morricone, Preisner and also Komeda, when you write a score and decide that a voice will be used do you write with a particular performer or soloist in mind?

Yes, I am most of the time thinking about particular voice or vocalist, I like female voices, voices are special kind of instruments for me.

 

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Do you have a set way of working when scoring a movie, by this I mean do you like to write and develop a central theme and then base the remainder of the score upon it, or do you compose various themes and then develop the central theme from these, additionally do you start with the larger cues first and then when these are written concentrate on the smaller sections of the score?

It is difficult to say, each score is a big adventure, this is why I like it so much. No rules here. But there is something in it that usually some small scenes make so big impact on me that I treat them as a starting point. And what is maybe very mine I love giving my musical fragment titles myself, like Windmills and Holy Figures or Cooking of Hallucinogenic Herbs – and I usually need only a few seconds to invent titles based on a story that I am scoring. It helps me being creative. Maybe because poetry and literature song is so important for me…

Have you ever given any concerts or performances of your film music?

Sometimes but I think I should do much more. I improvise playing to silent movies with my ensemble SemiInvented Trio.

 

 

Is there any genre of film that you feel more comfortable working in, or do you adapt easily to most genres?

I adapt early to most genres but people put thoughts into drawers – although I am constantly getting psychological dramas I am dreaming about a crime story now. I would not feel comfortable with hip-hop music.

Can you tell us what you are working on at the moment?

Now I am recording some Christmas Songs to a Polish poetry, which I am going to release on a CD – very artistic and non-commercial work. Apart from that I am writing some orchestral music to lyrics of a famous Polish lyricist Jacek Cygan. But my dream is to write a film musical. and music for a crime series – but for someone who does not need green daffodils and trust me. I am also open to help young directors with their debuts. Listen to my music – thanks to Caldera Records – I would like more people and film and theatre directors discover my work. And my melodies.

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