Cast your minds back if you can to 1998, and to a film which I must admit I thought was a TV series, but I stand corrected, Monk Dawson was a feature film, and one that I do not think many remember. Going through my collection recently to select things I had not heard in a while I rediscovered this score, which was composed and conducted by Mark Jensen. Its one of those soundtracks that at the time of purchase I kind of skipped around listening to snatches here and there, but on listening to this some twenty-three years after I purchased it I suddenly realized just how good it is. So, what happened to Mark Jensen, well I did look but cannot seem to find out anything, he scored Monk Dawson and a couple of other projects, but nothing major, in fact the other two films he scored were shorts. He is not even listed on digital platforms, which is a great pity as his score for Monk Dawson is superb. There are so many moods and atmospheres conveyed within his music, and at times the style employed evokes the subtle and sensual sound of John Barry, with light strings that on occasion swell into something that can be described as grandiose and romantic, fleeting piano, effective placing of percussion that is supported by strings and brass, and above all it has a rich and enticing thematic persona.
The score also includes a handful of cues performed by a Gregorian choir, which the composer integrates into the score flawlessly and although the chorale pieces are totally different from the symphonic style that is employed the choral performances compliment and support throughout. The tracks Mollie/Beagling, Baptism, Compline, Blinded by Hope and Chelsea/Theresa all seem to merge into one and are all prime examples of what I refer to as Barry-esque, soft harp introduces the first piece, which is then joined by breathy woods and underlying strings, with piano delicately punctuating, as the cues begin to melt into each other the composer employs a subtle choral presence and then a more pronounced return to Gregorian chant, which is fleeting as we return to fragile and somewhat apprehensive scoring via woods and smoldering strings, the strings becoming more and more dominant, with lighter moments being introduced that are akin to John Barry’s trade mark sound in scores such as The Knack and The Dove, if you were to sit and just listen without being told who the composer was you would I think assume this is John Barry.
The quality of the music is stunning, the melodic content outstanding and the Barry references are welcomed. Its one I might have ignored at the time of its release, but it is now at the top of the pile to listen to on a regular basis. The compact disc is long out of print, but you may be lucky and find one online, if you do then snap it up. It is a delightful and affecting work.