Category Archives: THE JOHN WILLIAMS FILES.

Remember Music from the movies when it was in paper form as a magazine, remember silents to satellites, remember the man behind these and other publications that all concentrated on film and television music, well that was John Williams. here in this section are his thoughts, his articles and reviews, welcome back John…

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and ROY BUDD.

                                    A personal appreciation by John Williams.

(Many thanks to John for sharing his thoughts with us, MMI)

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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.

Roy Conducting

 

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%.

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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!!!

 

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WILFRED JOSEPHS, FORGOTTEN GENIUS?

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Wilfred Joseph’s

This month is obviously the month for Remembrance, so I frequently think of a number of Films and Music scores that have special significance at the this time of year. THE WORLD AT WAR of course, a milestone in Television Documentaries, with a fine score by Carl Davis, but going back to the First World War, there is only one series of note , and that is the BBC ‘S THE GREAT WAR, made way back in 1964 when a great many of the combatants where still with us.

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Although not blessed with a great deal of original music, the Mid Sixties documentaries didn’t use a great deal of especially written music, much came from Library music or the Classical Repertoire. so whatever Music Wilfred Josephs wrote was supplemented with Vaughan Williams etc. It was after all a 26 part series .That said his Main theme, dark and like the visuals descending to the dark void of hell that was the Western Front, was a fine piece of music in it’s own right . Indeed it catapulted him to a lifetime of writing music for Films and Television.

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Much later in the 70s, he formed it into a GREAT WAR SUITE, built up around three main themes. First is “The Start of the War” a almost jaunty piece showing the British Tommies marching off to War, full optimism, that the War would be over by Christmas. Lovely piece this, very characteristic of Joseph’s work, with almost North Country feel, Here as in most of his works, he was master of making a smaller orchestra sounding a lot bigger than it really was. We then descend into the Middle section. “The Great War” basically the music for the Main Credits , but here stretched out , but almost heart wrenching in it’s showing War’s total lack of humanity . Slowly, , very slowly we move into “The End of the War”, a joyous celebration ,a release for the Four Years of Hell. Here Joseph’s music incorporates Arne’s “O God our help in Ages Past” which I suspect was sung in every Church in the Land on the first Sunday when the War was over. Here using his own theme as Counterpoint with the Hymn is master stroke and never fails to make me realise how much of a genius he was.

This was the high spot of album released by Polydor in 1974 (Circle of Sound 2383 294) which also contained themes from CIDER WITH ROSIE, SUSPICION , BEN – GURION, WEAVERS GREEN and 24 HOURS TO KILL, all conducted by Marcus Dods. This, has never been available in a CD format.

Last year was the 100th Anniversary of the beginning of the First World War, and I thought , probably too late , that this suite would be perfect to played at the Proms. I wrote early on to the two leading Classical Music Magazines saying it would be ideal , and it would really kick up a storm to played at the this time. Of course, my letters weren’t published. Perhaps I was naive to think they stood a chance anyway.

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There seems to be a blind spot with certain composers either on the airwaves or in magazines or Compact Discs. Certainly Josephs comes into the this category. To a lesser degree Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. Considering his output, there is a real lack of recordings available. Chandos bravely started a series some years ago A CD came out which contains some premieres and was received well. It was even promoted a s Volume One . We are still waiting for Volume Two

The neglect that has befallen Wilfred Josephs is even more scandalous. None of his Symphonies or larger works are commercially available. yet everything that Sir James MacMillan writes is out there, ditto Sir Harrison Birtwistle. These are the composers that the Prom’s laud as the great British Composers and no doubt well liked by the Promenaders, but to be honest, how music of their music is really listened too outside the Royal Albert Hall.

Is it that old problem, of working in the media that comes back to haunt? Josephs did stirling work, especially on Television. I recently caught PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, the 1980;s version and his score was delightful. Not as in your face as Carl Davis’ score for the most famous and recent adaption, but quite delightfully small scale. Again, working with smaller forces, no doubt for budgetary reasons his music is delight from beginning to end.

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Some of the top shows from the Seventies had Joseph’s music : I CLAUDUIS, ENEMY AT THE DOOR, THE BRONTES OF HAWORTH, POLLYANNA , THE GHOSTS OF MOTLEY HALL and not forgetting the most famous , and controversial THE PRISONER. He even worked on HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR, an episode with the delightful title of CARPATHIAN EAGLE starring Suzanne Danielle..

A true original, and it should be said a very nice man, and whilst it doesn’t always go with the territory, I always enjoyed the brief chats we had when I was working on a TV Composer Book. He was down – to – earth and approachable, like his music and I like to think appreciated the interest in his music.

So next time you come across his music , in a film, a TV series, or maybe though I doubt it, on the Radio, stop and listen to a true original , a British Composer of distinction.

P.S. Pass it on!!

JOHN WILLIAMS

HOWARD BLAKE MUSIC RENAISSANCE MAN/ THE LAND OF COUNTERPANE. FILM PREMIERE EDINBURGH 4th and 5th NOVEMBER

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To say that Howard Blake has been taking things easy in the last few years, would be a total travesty. He seems busy as ever, with Concertos, Piano Music and various projects which seem to take him all over the Globe, but specifically I would suggest Europe and Far East. His latest CD has him teamed up with cellist Benedict Kloeckner called DIVERSIONS. Up and coming is a ballet he is currently working on, but certainly his work in the media has been noticeably absent in the last few years. That is till now

THE LAND OF COUNTERPANE is a song cycle based on Poems by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 – 1894). For me who grew up in the Fifties minus can you believe Television, his adventures were the stuff of young boy’s fantasies, KIDNAPPED, TREASURE ISLAND and a personal favourite THE BLACK ARROW. But for some reason his collection of poems A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES missed me completely by. The Counterpane in case you were wondering is a patchwork quilt into which each square contained a different story, and the young Robert breathed life into these patchwork squares by in later years writing a collection of poems

All this is fertile ground for a composer of Howard Blake’s imagination, for what he has done over a very long period of time is to write music to selected verses and whilst the classic THE SNOWMAN had only one song – and what a song- this has songs spread through the entire 26 minute film – This I feel very canny for if sold to a commercial network, time to fit in the dreaded adverts.

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Having since the film only the once, I feel this is very much a review in progress, for as I write this I would really like to see it again, for like a lot of films, sometime you cannot appreciate all that is going on it a single viewing and I personally feel that with repeated showings ,it could come a very worthy successor to THE SNOWMAN , which sadly THE BEAR did not become, though I must admit, to be quite fond of that as well.

The animation is very cleverly accomplished for as we see the young Robert in his sick bed it is very much black and white, whereas once we are enveloped into his fantasies, the screen becomes a blaze of colour. Anyone who warmed to THE SNOWMAN will certainly like this,

The Choir is from the Pupils of Mary Erskine School in Edinburgh, recorded now and in 2007 at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh. Not a professional choir at all, they still bring a freshness and youthful vigour to the singing which is most commendable and enjoyable. I defy anyone not to enjoy the choral work on offer here

To be reading this you must have an interest in film music and those that appreciated Howard’s earlier scores like RIDDLE OF THE SANDS and THE DUELLISTS will find the same degree of understanding of what music in film and animation can inspire to. The narrator as Robert Louis Stevenson is David Rintoul and the music is played by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Howard Blake. The Epilogue spoken by Rintoul is a very emotional moment ,looking back into his life to find the boy that he was , no longer there. and for me, and I suspect for many, a highlight of the film.

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I sincerely hope that this in time will prove a worthwhile successor to THE SNOWMAN but in it’s own right. I should also mention that the illustrations by Mark Reeve and Animation by Emmett Elvin are first rate, and one can see, that this has been a labour of love for all concerned.

Whilst there seems to be no film assignment on the horizon , we can be grateful for the outstanding scores he has produced for film ‘s of such varying quality. Some classics as the aforementioned THE DUELLISTS and RIDDLE OF THE SANDS, and some like S.O.S. TITANIC which I would have loved to hear in the full longer film, certainly the one currently available is lamentably short. Then of course there are THE AVENGERS , scores for the some of the latter Linda Thorson epsodioes which show show imagination and even those early days, class

I often think that whilst there is no comparison as such background wise, he has a marked affinity with Andre Previn, both stated out working on films and pianist , arranger before going on to provide scores , highly regarded by their peers, and aficionados alike. Both felt, I suspect that the they both felt that need to write music that didn’t have someone talking over.

Both have accomplished that to a very high level for both composers can appeal emotionally to listener, for what else is music if you cannot get emotionally involved I still hope one day Howard will find a feature film that will utilise his undeniable talents for he has a keen dramatic instinct .Till then THE LAND OF COUNTERPANE will do quite nicely. Yes indeed.

John Williams

ONE MAN’S IN HARM’S WAY

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I don’t know about you, but it seems to me, there is always a catalyst that propels one to the life time interest of film music.
You might be interested in film music before, but one score that can set you on a lifetime love of music . For me it happened it seems almost a lifetime away at the now sadly gone ABC Regal Cinema in Torquay. There I experienced Otto Preminger’s epic for that year, IN HARM’S WAY. When you think of the stellar cast he managed to assemble, names now mostly no longer with us, it was quite an achievement. Preminger also liked to experiment, if that is the right word with his composer. He didn’t repeat his musical choice, but each time found someone new, and relatively untried – witness Hugo Montenegro for HURRY SUNDOWN – Did he ever come up with a better score than that? So for IN HARM’S WAY, he picked Jerry Goldsmith, then an experienced novice if you like with a few great scores under his belt even then.

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Little did I know as the film unrivalled that I would actually see Mr Goldsmith at the piano during the opening scene. I think it was years afterwards before I found that out

So as I mentioned, that was the one. For me Goldsmith contained everything I wanted to hear in a film score, and of course you have to bear in mind the choice available to him in the Sixties. War Dramas, Comedies, Spy Thrillers, Sci- Fi, Intimated stories., let alone the TV series that came from most of the big studios at the time. He could do everything as we now well know, . .

IN HARM’S WAY contained all the elements of a great score . Dramatic action pieces, THE ROCK, which we now know was for a different place entirely. NATIVE QUARTER, strings against a wonderful percussive background, A more mature Love theme for THE ROCK AND HIS LADY, and a different one for Tom Tryon and Paula Prentiss, and a suitably symphonic finale which brought the LP, then and now CD to a fitting close . It is worth mentioning that RCA at the time thought of it as more of a …………. well, let me quote from a advert for the LP that appeared in , I think Playboy but I can’t be sure, and it is worth quoting in full “Starting with the sound and fury of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the music sets the mood for the dramatic events that followed. There’s “Love Theme”, the big soaring main theme… “Liz” a dance band swinger that captures the off – limits, honky tonk atmosphere of parties in Honolulu… and “Night Swim”, that tells musically of a passionate interlude in the moonlight surf. This is the music that was born of the war years – the big band sound reminiscent of Glenn Miller and Harry James – played in a modern style that makes it timely for listening and dancing pleasure today!.” Well full marks for the copywriter, but I wonder if he actually heard the LP in the first place. Still one can see how Neely Plumb – the Producer and Goldsmith came up with the choices of what to put in ,and more importantly leave out.

It came out first in the UK on RCA Records in 1965, and in the CD era, firstly I believe around the late eighties from SLC in Japan, and then on Intrada, more than once. Now we have an expanded LP with tracks that did not make it on to the original album, coupled with a full re mastered LP a la RCA album I don’t know if you have noticed but a number of new releases are doing this. BASIC INSTINCT probably being the latest. I guess if this wasn’t done, then there would be little take up at all, for after all BASIC INSTINCT has been around a few times as well.

Will you get this one for basically three extra cues.? One by the British Composer Eric Coates, that opens the film, a short cue by Goldsmith called SILVER SEA and the undoubtedly highlight OLD SWAYBACK, a full one minute , twenty three seconds of Goldsmith at his scintillating sixties best. .

We don’t have the electronic hums that accompanied the Battleships approaching each other, A marvellous short cue when Brandon De Wilde is heading into battle in his Torpedo Boat, and the almost Jaunty cues when Australian Stanley Holloway leads the commandoes on a reconnaissance mission.

Fifty years we have been waiting but unless somewhere in the depths of Paramount vaults there is a rusty tin , unmarked that contains these cues, I suspect this fan will be heading one day to the great recording booth in the sky still waiting!!

So what do you do. What a question!! You go and buy it of course and go down on bended knees that there is Douglass Fake out there, who is still bringing out these gems . I am not sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the latest blockbuster by Michael Giacchino, Philistine that I might be, and as there ain’t a great deal of lost scores appearing these days, a Sixty year old classic is just music to my ears. There must be a God after all!!

JOHN WILLIAMS