A personal appreciation by John Williams.
(Many thanks to John for sharing his thoughts with us, MMI)
This Autumn, October 8 to be precise, a very special Musical event will be held in London. The Capital has never been short of special occasions, many great musical premieres have been presented to an eager public within the short space that qualifies as West End and surrounding Concert Halls. The Proms themselves have been responsible for many fine new renderings, but none quite this one to be held in the very special ambience of London Coliseum. Well over twenty years after it was first written. THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA will be premiered with music by Roy Budd.
This was Roy’s last work, one that was close to his heart, and indeed one he spent a great deal of time on, prior to his tragic and untimely death in 1993. It was indeed due to be performed at the Barbican only five weeks after he passed away. Now thanks to the efforts of Mishka Productions, those notes written on score sheets all those years ago will finally burst to life with full Symphony Orchestra bringing Roy’s music to life, and how apt, not in the overly big and impersonal RAH, but in The London Coliseum, not a million miles away from the original setting on Paris Opera House.
For those more used to the somewhat modern, and jazzy tones of GET CARTER, and the wild jazz cum big band sounds of Michael Winner’s THE STONE KILLER (now for readers in the U.K. available on Blu Ray with Roy’s score isolated – free from all the dialogue – I know you miss a lot of nuances sans dialogue, but isn’t this the most brilliant way to listen to film scores? ) anyway, I digress, PHANTOM is a large Symphonic work, not quite heard before in Roy’s outstanding oeuvre, but listening to it, there are indeed, signs of the great man, the way he used the horns, and the way he combines themes, without reverting to Hollywood 30s style of music for every individual. Sure, the themes are there, but the way they are orchestrated, the seams just blend into each other with apparent ease. One can see how Roy was proud of this work, and we are indeed that he did record it for us to hear at home.
Obviously considering the Films location, it opens with solo organ, which segues into the Main Credits, now we here the PHANTOM theme in all its glory, and I wonder if I am not the only one, to think this is miles away from traditional music for, I suppose it could be called a horror story. It is without doubt, a love story with very tragic overtones. and I think Roy felt that the music for the Phantom should be imbued with humanity. It is indeed a theme that stays with you. Following the Main Credits, we see the Paris Opera House in a distant shot, Roy’s produces another them, a fanfare no less, worthy of Rozsa. Again, the orchestration is clear and transparent, (Did Hugo Friedhofer once say he like to hear the music breathe?) As the Curtain parts, a ballet troupe dance their number before the main event, Here Roy lightens the score for a delightful almost playful cue as the film progresses.
This is not a cue by cue description, just to show what a master work it is, yet, sorry, I must mention around 50 minutes into the film a love scene between Raoul and Christine by the Seine, a lovely exquisite theme that is sensitively done, in fact, my wife, hearing this remarked how lovely it was. Sadly, it doesn’t last long, for the phantom is viewing them from one of the bridges and not to put to finer point on it, is not pleased. What Roy does is always informs us via his masterly score that was well as being a tragedy, it is a love story and he walks the fine line of never over balancing, so we as the cinema audience are kept informed without being telegraphed what is going to happen, the bane of many a poor score.
I said at the beginning this was a personal appreciation of Roy. Much has been written on his music, by me as well over the years, and it makes no sense to go over his great scores. We all have our favourites, and I am sure yours’s will be different to mind. I rate PAPER TIGER very highly indeed, but maybe that’s because I have a weakness for scores with an Oriental flavour. Here Roy masterly merges full Orchestra – National Philharmonic no less- with instrumentalists to convey the locale. If it brings to mind Jerry Goldsmith, that is no handicap. It might remind one of Goldsmith, but it is Roy Budd 100%.
Good song as well sung by the Ray Conniff Singers. Whilst THE WILD GEESE has got it’s admirers, me as well I hasten to say, I have a fondness for WILD GEESE 2. Not so symphonic, more if this is the right word, off the wall, and certainly a terrific listening experience away from the film. Lastly many would have come out of the Cinema after watching WHO DARES WINS, with Roy’s pulsating theme in their head. Here his music moves the film where dialogue or sound effects would not have worked. Brilliant!!
I think I first spoke to Roy when I was organising a Seminar for the Goldsmith Society. One composer, Stanley Myers had to drop out virtually on the day to go to the States, in desperation I rung Roy, and he at a moment’s notice turned up – NFT I think, but it’s a long time ago – and was, with due deference to the other composers’ present, the hit of the afternoon, informative, witty, always courteous. I was deeply impressed I spoke to him quite a few times over the phone -once I think for a special on Michael Winner – and he was always friendly and never rushed me off. I find that that many of the true talents, with their feet on the ground, you could speak to straight away, without going through secretaries or PR’S. Stanley Myers and Michael Kamen also come to mind.
The last time I saw him was at a Film Music magazine function in London. Again, he was enormously friendly, and what I liked, would always put you at ease. I can’t say for sure, but I think it was only a few weeks before he passed away
I like to think he was a friend, I liked him tremendously and whilst over the years I met many composers, and some I still know now, Roy was special, and I still miss him. Just to ring him up and ask something, there always, seemed to be a smile in his voice, and that is truly something special
His music is always with us, CDS, Blu Ray’s and frequently on Television. But PHANTOM is different. This isn’t going to come up very often, so I urge anyone with an interest in the genius of Roy Budd and who can be in London this October, to book your ticket now. No, I am not on the pay of the Coliseum, I just want the Hall to be full of enthusiasts who appreciate what Roy did with his last work, and so you can say later, I was there!!!