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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Carl Davis and James Dooley

A Christmas Carol
Northern Ballet Theatre
Music by Carl Davis
Choreography by Massimo Moricone
Arthaus Musik 101 193 (DVD)

This splendid 1992 performance, recorded at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, features music by Carl Davis, a man who is best known for his many scores for film and TV over the years, a body of work which also encompasses original scoring and adaptation for many silent film revivals. But I must admit a ballet by the man was a new experience for me, but an enjoyable one, I'm glad to report.
This three-act work is principally a ballet of course, but the many songs, voiced splendidly by the Choir of artists from the Northern Ballet, make this work more a combination of ballet and musical. The subject matter, being Dickens' A Christmas Carol, gave the composer licence to incorporate several well-loved Christmas songs and carols into his score, some voiced, some played instrumentally, and some a natural progression from one to the other; and there are also some less familiar songs, like the opening funeral march for Marley, and Tiny Tim's song, which the accompanying booklet doesn't help identify. They may be original, they may be adaptations, I don't know, and if they are original, it doesn't say who is responsible for the lyrics.
Davis' score is particularly enjoyable in the livelier dance sequences, though, if you close your eyes, you could well-imagine he is accompanying scenes set in the American West, as there seems to me a definite Copland influence.
The composer also had to come up with some folksy, fiddle-lead music and various ballroom dances, as well as some bawdy tavern music, before wrapping things up quite joyously, reprising some of the key themes and songs that came before.
Although not really qualified to comment on the dance aspect of the production, I would just say that the Company and principals, lead by Jeremy Kerridge as Scrooge, acquitted themselves excellently, considering they were often performing in full Dickensian dress. Special effects for the ghosts that visit Scrooge were adequate, with Steven Wheeler's Ghost of Christmas Future being a particularly terrifying apparition.
The aforementioned booklet gives a background on Dickens and his famous work, a history of the various screen and stage adaptations, background on the Northern Ballet Theatre, composer Davis and choreographer Moricone, plus a guide to the Ballet's content, all this in three languages.
If you want to experience yet another side to Carl Davis' talents, I would heartily recommend this excellent DVD.

James Dooley and When a Stranger Calls

My thanks to Costa Communications for bringing to my attention that composer James Dooley, a long-time collaborator of Hans Zimmer, continues to take his own solo steps into the cinematic arena with his score for the new remake of the 1979 thriller When a Stranger Calls. I remember, as a young man, being reasonably gripped by the original when seeing it on release at our local cinema, and can't help but wonder if this latest version will prove a worthwhile venture or will follow in the steps of so many sub-standard remakes - we shall see!
As for Dooley's music, well, it is pretty much what one expects it to be, a mix of suspense and menacing action, but at least it's orchestral, and there are some more gentle moments for piano, though these are very few and far between. Sorry to report that here is no word on a CD release for the score at this time.
Forthcoming from the composer is Urmel Aus Dem Eis, or Impy's Island, as it will be known in the U.S., which is an animation, based on the German children's story about a dinosaur that hatches in modern times. I shall be very interested to hear Dolley's score for the film, which would seem an interesting opportunity.


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