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Composer Patrick Doyle hosts 60th birthday film music concert


Composer Patrick Doyle celebrated his 60th birthday in style on Sunday night with a concert of film music. The event featured rousing performances of several of Doyle's scores, including a preview of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Famed for his long-standing partnership with actor/director Kenneth Branagh, the gregarious and effusive Doyle presented a thrilling line-up of some of his finest works, including Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Sense and Sensibility and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

The scores were performed by the London Symphony Orchestra (Doyle's ensemble of choice) at London's Barbican Centre under the baton of conductor Frank Strobel. It provided a stirring, adrenaline-pumping counterpoint to the chilly December weather outside. Highlights included the patriotic vocal piece 'Non Nobis Domine' from Henry V and the full-bore Celtic suite from Disney Pixar's Brave, complete with bagpipes.

Doyle's thespian friends were also out in force. Actress Emma Thompson, currently winning plaudits for Saving Mr. Banks, recited the vocal piece 'Strike Up Pipers' (with red wine in hand!) from Much Ado About Nothing. Meanwhile, Derek Jacobi received a standing ovation for his forceful delivery of 'My Thoughts Be Bloody' from Hamlet, his rich tones lent additional power by the portentous, powerful orchestra. On a more tender note, Thompson was reduced to tears by Doyle's solo violin piece 'Corarsik' (making its UK concert debut) – composed specially for the actress' 50th birthday.

It was also a family affair, with Doyle's children at one point taking to the stage to perform the song 'I Find Your Love' from Calendar Girls. And what of the music from Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit? Doyle presented two pieces, the first an unexpectedly emotive track for Slavic choir and strings; the second a wholesome Americana piece for trumpet. How will the music relate to the movie? We'll find out when the film is released in Cineworld on 24 January 2014.

With luminaries like Alan Rickman and Peter Capaldi in attendance, it was a terrific celebration of a brilliant composer. Prior to the event, Doyle was kind enough to answer questions on the current state of film music and what we can expect from his and Branagh's work on the forthcoming Cinderella

*Picture credit goes to Matthew Andrews*

Can you envisage a time when electronics will fully replace an orchestra?

I don't think so. [The orchestra] is a true force of nature which no replica or facsimile can replace. There's a delicacy and sweep to music played by real people. You can ask an individual musician to hold that note a little longer or pull it back. Musicians bring out the heart of the score. Even the toughest producer I've seen reduced to tears – an orchestra triggers an automatic response and that's why it'll survive.

Writing film scores by hand often takes time. Is it quicker doing it via computer?

The whole thing's gone crazy. What's changed, apart from the computerisation, is the speed at which things must be delivered. What's expected now are fully detailed demonstrations. In the old days, I would play a string pad, piano piece, whatever and that would lead to the orchestral recording. Nowadays it all has to be mocked up. But invariably when producers hear the real orchestra, they fall in love with it. Hollywood as an entity loves film music, loves the orchestra – so long may it reign!

Let's talk about Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Obviously, John Williams came before you – did you try and emulate his style?

When I saw the script and spoke to [executive producer] David Barron, to director Mike Newell and producer David Heyman, it was obvious that this was a much more grown-up story. A much darker story. It was apparent from the script that my input was going to be fresh. Of course there would be moments where John's theme, the famous Hedwig's Theme, would be used, which is of course an honour because there's a great tradition of composers working with other composers' thematic material. He's such a legend and has done so much for the world of film music, it was a privilege. But ultimately there were many opportunities for me to get my teeth into new material – Voldemort, the Yule Ball and so on.

Do you have to see the film before you start composing or do you think of the music before you see the extract from the film?

Good question. It varies from film to film. In the case of Henry V, there was a page of text with quotations from Richard III which inspired the opening music. That music is then thematically developed all through the score. The minute someone calls me up about a score, if I know them, I immediately start to work, I start to hear the music in my head. My son asked me one day, "Dad, do you hear melodies in your head all the time?" I said to him, "Welcome to the club!"

Of all the films you've done, do you have a favourite?

Well, for many reasons, my first film Henry V. It was an enormous thing, an enormous leap to be able to call myself a composer. That has to be, for a myriad reasons, my most emotional score, especially working with Sir Simon Rattle as conductor. So friendly and lovely and enthusiastic. Nothing really lives up to your first – just the first moment you hear this massive orchestra crank up.

You're 60 years young – what's next?

I'm working on Cinderella even as we speak. I've seen a 12-minute assembly of it and I know I enthuse but I kid you not – it is unbelievable. It's the most extraordinary, beautiful thing you've ever seen. I've written three waltzes and a polka and the studio love it. Kids are going to go crazy for the film, it's the most luxurious, beautiful thing. Lilly James from Downton Abbey is just fantastic and Ken [Branagh] has done a fantastic job. I don't know how he does it. He's just finished Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, now he's at work on this; in-between he's working on Macbeth and he's got Wallander set up. I don't know how he does it.