Tag Archives: Mark McKenzie.



Mark McKenzie, what can I say about this much talented composer that has not already been said by many? His scores are always a joy to have and listen too, his music is melodic, dramatic, touching and highly thematic and for me purveys a poignancy and a soulfulness that is hard to discover in other composers works for the cinema. DRAGONHEART VENGEANCE is his latest offering, of course he scored three films in this popular series and his most recent contribution presents us with a fully synth score, but wait before you dismiss it because it is not symphonic, listen, the composer has created a score that is warm and heartfelt, brimming with a wonderfully emotive persona and filled with dramatic and rousing pieces. You know I am no fan of synth scores, but this is different, it has to it a celestial and other-wordly aura, the composer fashioning heart breaking and highly affecting tone poems which he combines with exciting and at times relentlessly full on action cues.





Listen to GREAT LOVE SURROUNDS WHAT IS SURROUNDING YOU and tell me it does not strike at your heartstrings and heighten your emotions. As with his other scores the composer has incorporated the original DRAGONHEART theme by composer Randy Edelman into his work, and every so often this theme or at least a fleeting fragment or variations of it makes its way into the proceedings, this I think is a effective musical gesture and reminds us of the original score from all those years ago. THE SNAKE BATTLE is an unrelenting action cue, filled with fierce brass sounding stabs and percussive support, which will have you on the edge of your seat, the tense and taught sounds create an atmosphere that is filled with ferocity and dread. DRAGONHEART VENGEANCE is a masterfully written score and has to it a deep and affecting sound and style, and to be honest at times you forget that it is a synth score, because the music is so absorbing and enthralling. Certainly, one to check out, Available on Back Lot Music as a compact disc or on digital platforms.




Composer Mark McKenzie for me has always written some beautiful thematic and emotive music. He is a composer who always steps up to the mark and brings much to any project he works on via his truly captivating style of composition. His latest work is DRAGON HEART, BATTLE FOR THE HEART FIRE. This is a score that is predominantly electronic or shall we say synthesised, with a handful of conventional instruments being included throughout the work. The movie is one that will go straight to Blu Ray, and will not as far as I am aware receive a release in theatres. This does not mean that the movie is not worthy of such a release, and the score certainly is not in any way inferior to anything that has been written for any number of so called blockbusters in the past two to three years.

The score is to be released on, Universal Studio’s Back Lot Music label and should be available on June 9th, 2017, although it is already available on Spotify. This is the fourth instalment of the DRAGONHEART series, and Patrick Stewart is voicing the star of the show DRAGO for this tale. This will be the third movie within the series that composer McKenzie has worked on, the original movie in the franchise being scored by Randy Edelman. The score that McKenzie has penned is a highly emotive one, the composer incorporating a wide range of musical colours, textures and styles, we are treated to some wonderfully uplifting and at times anthem like pieces that give the listener goose-bumps at times. This is a soundtrack that incorporates, Celtic flavoured compositions alongside dark and menacing sounds, plus passionate and vibrant compositions that are filled with romance and tinged with melancholy. The work displays perfectly the versatility of this talented but alas at times ignored composer. I love the way in which the composer employs solo cello giving the score real heart and soul, adding a touch of sadness to the proceedings.



He also makes use of Randy Edelman’s original and now iconic DRAGONHEART theme at certain points within the score and gives this a fresh and regal sound that is rich and sumptuous. This is a powerful score, a commanding and fearsome sounding work, which I am confident will not disappoint and fan of film music. Although this is for the most part a synthesised work, one just gets enveloped by the driving forces behind the music and the numerous musical colours that the composer puts into the mix. Highly recommended.





Mark Mckenzie has always been a composer of much interest, his scores always seemed to light up the movie they were enhancing and brought a higher dimension and depth to their storylines and emotional content. This his latest offering is no exception to any of that, in fact I would say that this is probably the composer’s finest work thus far. I say thus far because I hope he will continue to write music for movies for many years to come. This is a score for an animated feature which has been produced in Mexico, the music is just beautiful. It is inspiring and also haunting to the point of being distracting, in a pleasant way of course. The composers rich and celestial themes engulf and surround the listener and just captivate one from the offset. This is a score that contains so much passion, such large helpings of poignancy and huge slices of meekness interludes of melancholy and also an atmosphere that is humbling. But above all else this is a work that is overflowing with sumptuous melodies, tone poems that glide and segue into each other creating an ambience that is relaxing and almost serene. As I listened to the work, I tried to think what style or what composer I could liken it to, but it is difficult to do this as one is just being immersed in so much quality music. But I will say I did think that maybe I could liken this marvellous score to the work of Italian composer, Bishop Marco Frisina, there is such a depth of emotion within it. It is akin to Frisina’s sacred music and also has many affiliations with his music for movies such as PAPA GIOVANNI. Then there is another style and sound that can be likened to James Horner in his early days, ie: WILLOW, BRAINSTORM etc. I think it’s the choral sections more than anything that attract me to Mckenzie’s score, he fuses choir with stirring strings that also posses a heartfelt and emotive quality, he adds brass and woods to give the work depth and substance whilst on high and as if from nowhere we hear little nuances of sounds such as trills from woods and chimes or bells and delicately plucked harp some of which are only just audible but they complete the musical picture, bringing each piece together and making the listening experience a complete one.
Cues such as ANGELS, DEMONS AND PRAYER are riveting listening, the composer utilising to full effect the string section, combined with strident brass and the ever present divine choral backing, this particular cue has an air of peril about it at first, but this mood changes swiftly but only briefly into a more relaxed almost laid back tone, brass then introduce the strident sounding theme once again which all too quickly melts away and is replaced by pensive sounding woods which are supported by delicate sounding strings, again the atmosphere alters and we are taken into a darker musical realm by the composers effective placing of  shadowy low strings, then the cue erupts into a triumphant sounding piece for strings that are heralded in by proud sounding brass flourishes, a wonderful track that is for me one of this scores many highlights. ASCENSION/GLORIA PARTRI is also a cue I would recommend without reservation, it is a blissful composition that has choir and strings in a soaring unison, brass flourishes and an amazing crescendo where all the aforementioned components of the orchestra come together to create a very special composition. Then there is A CLEAN SOUL, which begins with organ playing a delicate melody punctuated by harp the melody is not dissimilar to the opening of AVE MARIA and evokes a spiritual atmosphere that is relaxing and peaceful, the organ and harp are joined by underlying strings after approximately a minute who at first support then take on the theme giving it a full working, the main part of the theme being carried as if it is weightless whilst choir and other members of the string section provide a magical sounding background.
This is an inspired score, a special work within the world of film music, it is a soundtrack that once heard will remain a firm favourite amongst collectors of film music, it is a work that will make cinema audiences weep and create even greater emotion for the story being told on screen. Scores such as this happen rarely these days, and when one such as this does emerge we should embrace it, savour it, adore it and shout from the rooftops about it…

Mark McKenzie.


Mark McKenzie studied composition with renowned composers Pierre Boulez, Witold Lutoslawski, and Morten Lauridsen. During his formal training Mark was recognized with the prestigious ‘Hans J. Salter Composition Award’, ‘The Norman Cousins Award’, and ultimately was honored as the ‘USC Outstanding Doctoral Music Graduate’. McKenzie was quickly drawn by a love of films to compose and orchestrate movie music. After orchestrating about 70 films, Mark became close to the legendary Academy Award Winning composer Jerry Goldsmith orchestrating his final 7 films and helping him compose when time constraints became impossible. Mark’s award winning original scores have a distinctive musical voice that is expressive and diverse. Directors speak of Mark’s incredibly stirring themes using words such as: “timeless,” “epic,” and “intensely human”. The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Variety, numerous film music magazines and websites often mention Mark’s gift for “ravishing melodies” describing his music as: “magical, majestic, soul-stirring, full of celebration, power, and deep emotion”. His seventeen original scores are available on compact disc through Intrada, Varese Sarabande, and Warner Bros’ Word Records and for digital download on iTunes and Amazon. Outside of film, Mark’s music has also been utilized on the Olympics, the Academy Awards, Disney World, California Adventures, Wimbledon, the Crystal Cathedral, and Disneyland Paris.

McKenzie has assisted other composers such as John Barry, Danny Elfman, Mark Isham, John Powell, Marc Shaiman, Alan Silvestri, and John Williams with his orchestrations. Those orchestrations are available on over 65 soundtracks including the Academy Award winning DANCES WITH WOLVES, Academy nominated MEN IN BLACK, GOODWILL HUNTING, and THE PATRIOT, and blockbusters such as SPIDERMAN I & II, SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, BATMAN RETURNS, ICE AGE: THE MELTDOWN, A FEW GOOD MEN, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, and LILO AND STITCH.Mark is a member of The Motion Picture Academy music branch, The Television Academy, The Society of Composers and Lyricists, and the BMI performing rights organization.

John Mansell: May we concentrate on your latest scoring assignment, THE GREAT MIRACLE. How did you become involved with this project?
Mark McKenzie: First I must say up front that the English title of the movie for the theatrical release has changed and it will now be called THE GREATEST MIRACLE instead of THE GREAT MIRACLE. The Spanish version is still called EL GRAN MILAGRO. The music will still be available under the name THE GREAT MIRACLE on iTunes and Amazon.
As to how I came into the project, Doug Lefler director of THE LAST LEGION and DRAGONHEART: A NEW BEGINNING asked if I’d be interested in submitting my material as a candidate for replacing a score. His high school and college buddy Bruce Morris (Pocahontas, Hercules, and Finding Nemo), was directing EL GRAN MILAGRO (The Great(est) Miracle). When I saw the film, I fell in love with it and proposed that we attempt to create something that would take the movie to a much higher level emotionally. Fortunately director Bruce Morris, producers Pablo Barroso, Claudia Nemer Rodriguez and their partners were on board to invest in the musical forces necessary to accomplish that goal.
We all got especially excited about using the London boys choir ‘Libera’ which came to our attention in multiple ways. Pablo had their CD and I had recently met Libera’s music director Robert Prizeman at a concert in Southern California. We all felt Libera’s pure, angelic sound would add tremendous beauty to the movie. We ended up using their song ‘Far and Away’ as the Main title (check it out on You Tube). In addition, we used the Libera boys choir in three of the most important musical moments in the film: ‘The Benedictus’, ‘Offerings’ and ‘Ascension’. Robert Prizeman did a fantastic job conducting these boys even though they all had to trudge through the worst blizzard of the winter to get to the London recording studio. These boy sopranos and altos are just ordinary kids who love to goof around but when they open their mouths to sing…wow, hearts begin to soar!
John Mansell: What size orchestra did you utilize for the movie?
Mark McKenzie: The largest group of musicians used was on ‘Offerings’ and ‘Ascension / Gloria Patri’ where we used a total of 129 musicians. For the overall score, we used an 80 piece orchestra, 32 voice mixed choir, 24 voice women’s choir, and then the 17 boys from Libera. Added to that were a large number of pre recorded tracks that included me playing piano, percussion, pipe organ, celesta, and all kinds of other bells and whistles from my studio. Engineer Brian Valentino recorded it and my long time engineer Armin Steiner brought his musicality to the 20th Century Fox Newman Scoring Stage where we mixed it. Marc Perlman, an extraordinary music editor, pulled all the various choir, orchestra, and synthesizer tracks together with painstaking editing.

John Mansell: THE GREAT(EST) MIRACLE is a 3D animated production. Are there many differences between scoring animated productions and live action movies?
Mark McKenzie: There can be large differences if the animated film is for kids with short attention spans where the classic Carl Stalling cartoon style is appropriate. THE GREAT(EST) MIRACLE or EL GRAN MILAGRO tells the story of 3 individuals who are mystically drawn to a Cathedral. As a service progresses, their eyes begin to be opened to the unseen spiritual dimension. In the midst of this, each character finds love, hope, healing and redemption. This film can be viewed by children or adults on differing levels. To Bruce and my way of thinking, the film demanded dramatic and heartfelt recurring themes that weave the visual drama, deep emotions, and transcendent spiritual content all together with unity and wholeness. With THE GREATEST MIRACLE / EL GRAN MILAGRO, you forget that you are watching an animated film. Stunning 3D animated visuals (by Imagica), a powerful story, along with my music introduce you into a realm of pure love, mysticism, hope and the miraculous.

John Mansell: The soundtrack has been released as a download only, this is somewhat unusual, why is this and will it gets a release as a compact disc in the normal way in the future?
Mark McKenzie: The music business has changed very dramatically. Many are trying to figure out how to keep their music viable financially with the widespread sharing, piracy and the plummeting sales of CDs. I’m thrilled and grateful to see some leaders in the European Union taking leadership with world wide intellectual protection on the internet. Till that happens, it’s no surprise that composers and record companies are looking for new ways to make good use of technology to maximize exposure and return on investment. With this score, I spoke to the producers about streamlining the soundtrack cutting out physical production costs. We’ll see if this was a good decision or not. There is no CD release planned but at some point that could change if the score receives awards or if interest and visibility of the score remains strong.

John Mansell: This score has been available a long time before the release of the film. Is there a particular reason for this?
Mark McKenzie: The film was intended to be released on Easter weekend in April of 2011 but at the last minute, it was delayed. The Soundtrack was already up and going so we decided to let it go. Of all the scores I’ve worked on, this is the one that is most personally rewarding to me. I think it has some of my best work. I’m hopeful it will find it’s way into the lives of people who are open to beautiful, uplifting, emotionally engaging, symphonic music.

John Mansell: Your score for THE GREAT MIRACLE is an inspiring and deeply spiritual work, I found the music to be very comforting recently at a time that was difficult for me and my family, it is filled with so many moving musical motifs and passages, it washes over you and creates a feeling that is tranquil and also fulfilling. Inspiration for the score must come from the images or the movie itself, but I think your music in THE GREAT MIRACLE goes deeper than that. Did you draw on your own personal experiences, beliefs and inner feelings to create and shape the music?

Mark McKenzie: My condolences on the loss of your son. In my own life I experienced an unexpected loss while composing the music to ‘Go in Peace’. I decided to dedicate the score to Thomas Patrick McKenzie, my close cousin who I’m sure has gone on to the greatest peace imaginable. Yes, I am a believer in the importance and power of faith, prayer, and in God’s unconditional and divine love for each of us. Gustav Mahler said: “Music must always contain a yearning for what is beyond the things of this world.” That “yearning” or calling out to the divine is one thing that intrigues me about music. Who knows where music comes from exactly? In a moment it suddenly appears; a thought, a feeling, fingers move, a pencil writes notes, musicians perform it with love and excellence and then something beyond description gets created. Love, beauty, life, and the spiritual realm seem quite closely connected in the greatest music. Beethoven achieves this in ‘Missa Solemnis’ and again in the 9th Symphony. Mahler achieves it in the 2nd and 8th symphony. Stravinsky in the ‘Symphony of Psalms’ and Faure in the ‘Requiem’ and Lauridsen in ‘Lux Aeterna’. I keep striving for it.

John Mansell: How many times did you look at the movie before you began to get fixed ideas about what music, how much music would be required, and where the music would be best placed to support the movie? How did you work out your musical ideas, piano, synthesizer, PC or straight to manuscript?

Mark_McKenzie_5Mark McKenzie: I sat with director Bruce Morris in my living room and we went scene by scene discussing the exact entry and exit points for the music, why each was important and what the purpose of the music was. It took us an entire day to do that. After that I jumped right into composing starting at the very beginning of the film. With this score I often would hear themes in my head while out on walks and then would flesh them out on my piano. I shaped them and reshaped them like a potter creating the perfect pot. Beethoven’s sketches show that he erased and changed his music continuously to the point to creating holes in the paper from the repeated erasures. I am not comparing myself to Beethoven in any way, but as a learner from the masters, I incorporate something very similar.
I do create complete symphonic renditions in my recording studio to audition for the director and producer. I’m grateful for Bruce Morris’ masterful direction and his encouragement. My scores are all created with my trusty pencils and my copyist Gregg Nestor copies the parts with great care. On the recording stage, we all worked hard to record expressive, memorable performances as quickly as possible.John Mansell: Did you conduct the music?
Mark McKenzie: Like many composers, I studied conducting and do conduct but I know the difference from a composer conductor and a real conductor who lives, eats and breaths conducting orchestras every single day. I notate the smallest expression, articulation, and dynamic details, and then give it to a great conductor. The two of us collaborate and I generally give my feedback directly to the orchestra. With this score, I was very fortunate to get the “Great Falls Symphony” conductor Gordon Johnson. Gordon studied with most if not all of the great conductors of our century and also has conducted over the past 20 years all the greatest soloists of our generation such as Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell and many others. He is an incredibly expressive and accomplished conductor who brought a tremendous sense of musicality, sensitivity, beauty and expression to all of the recordings and he did so in record time. I hope I can collaborate with him again.

John Mansell: Would adapting the score for concert performance be something that you would consider at all?
Mark McKenzie: Absolutely, I think this would be great fun to perform live with a choir and orchestra in a concert setting; maybe in Spain or here in Los Angeles? I will be submitting it for a Grammy and Academy consideration. If anyone is a member or knows members, I’d be honored to have them take a listen to excerpts at http://www.markmckenzie.org.

John Mansell: When is the film due to be released?
Mark McKenzie: The plan is for a limited release it in theaters in Mexico, South America, The United States and parts of Europe in October of 2011.  This film is a special “spiritual” and “art” film that will need to be treated very carefully so that date could possibly change. I’m sure the details will be found before too long at imdb.com and at http://www.doscorazonesfilms.com.