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A Creepy Crawly Songbook

A Creepy Crawly Songbook

Music by Carl Davis. Lyrics by Hiawyn Oram. Illustrations by Satoshi Kitamura

A Creepy Crawly Songbook - Sleeve Notes

Visit to enjoy all our creepy crawly fun activities!

ABBA for Orchestra

Performed by Philharmonia Orchestra. Conducted by Carl Davis

ABBA for Orchestra

18 Classic ABBA songs performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra with Carl Davis as conductor.

ABBA for Orchestra - Sleeve Notes

Abba 1974 –1982: I am dating this CD not from when the four members met and began to collaborate and love each other but from the year that they triumphantly won the Eurovision Song Contest. It was then that they gained the attention of European music lovers and eventually the rest of the world.

An early addict of Eurovision, I saw the broadcast that night and admired the cleverness of the arrangement, intrinsic with the composition as well as the sheer cheekiness of their presentation. Forty years later, their music lives on. When Jessie Stevenson, Chris Egan and I planned the album, I took further soundings from colleagues and friends. “You know, I have a Beatles for Orchestra CD and a Bond for Orchestra as well. Now I have made an Abba for Orchestra CD.” A crash of cymbals, increased pulse rate and a moistening of the eyes. There was an expression I have seen only when I mention bullfighting to a Spaniard. What is it that brings on that special reaction from so many folk? I think it is a combination of elements that produced such a unique result. I’ll try to break it down. Of primary importance is the repertoire, all purposely conceived for the group by composer Benny Andersson and lyricist Björn Ulvaeus. Sweden has a long history of singer songwriters, the best known is the 18th Century composer, Karl Bellman, who sang of alcohol and prostitutes, with deep regret. The compositions of Benny Andersson have a firm classical basis with clear harmonic progressions, dazzling and accurate finger work knitted together by a rock solid rhythm section and those gorgeous melodies. What alchemy was required to join up those tunes with apt lyrics from Björn Ulvaeus especially as English was not his first language? The greater burden of singing these melodies fell upon the two female vocalists, soprano (Benny’s words) Agnetha Fältskog and mezzo-soprano, Anni-Frid Lyngstad. All four were practised performers and had recorded before they met. That all-important night in Brighton bespoke a confidence that only years of hard work could produce. The combined voices of the two women shone out, sometimes like trumpets and sometimes sad with deep pain. At times the close harmonies resembled Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound”, although Benny is quoted as being influenced by The Mamas and the Papas.

The third factor and most important…luck! Just as the Beatles had Brian Epstein and George Martin to shape their career, so Abba had Stig Anderson to steer theirs. After the breakup of the group, they all continued their separate careers (Agnetha released a critically praised album in 2013). The whole Abba catalogue just won’t lie down, with the Abba Gold CD and the global triumph of both the stage and film version of Mamma Mia.

Given that in our technological age the original tracks are immediately available, I thought it was valid to create purely instrumental versions and reveal the great qualities of the songs of Andersson and Ulvaeus with a large symphony orchestra in tow: the magnificent Philharmonia.

2014 sees the release of the third CD dedicated to the phenomena of three important 20th century (mostly) pop song catalogues: The Beatles1962 –1970, the Bond films 1962 – onwards and Abba 1974–1981. Always as much interested in pop music and jazz as the classics, when my conducting career took off, I programmed my favourite pop material generously. With the advent of downloading, I thought to record a new and ingenious take on them. New arrangements could throw a new light on the beauty, verve, the originality of the melodies and striking harmonic progressions, the attack of the fast numbers and the dark sensuality and sensitivity of the ballads. From the first breakthrough hits, The Beatles’ Love Me Do, Monty Norman’s theme for Dr No the first James Bond film and Abba’s Waterloo, it was clear that in each case we were breaking new ground and the world welcomed and relished every new release thereafter. The Beatles and Abba wrote, composed, and performed their own material. James Bond is in a different category, being a seemingly endless series of spy thrillers and scored by many composers (although John Barry dominated its first decades). Abba in all its loveliness just rolls on and on.

Carl Davis
6 January, 2014

Alice in Wonderland Ballet

Tchaikovsky arranged by Carl Davis

Alice in Wonderland Ballet

Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. Music for the Derek Deane Production for English National Ballet

Alice in Wonderland Ballet - Sleeve Notes

It always begins with a phone call: Derek Deane Artistic Director of the English National Ballet on the line – “Can I some and see you?” “Yeah, great!”

We are old friends and collaborators. First with a one-act ballet based on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray created in 1987 for the then Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet, now the Birmingham Royal Ballet and then later for a Royal Gala to reopen the newly refurbished Savoy Theatre in 1993 commissioned by ENB and choreographed by Wayne Sleep – Savoy Suite.

Derek: “I want to do a full length ballet based on Alice in Wonderland (beat) with music by Tchaikovsky.”

The pause was significant. I had already composed a radio and later a stage musical based on the Alice books which Derek had seen and in that gap I had already fast-forwarded to a fantasy adaptation. But then – Tchaikovsky? How remote was that? I quicky rallied with a thought. Tchaikovsky had composed a suite of 24 short piano pieces entitles “For Children”. What was interesting was that these pieces were composed to be played, not by children, but for children. This meant that each piece had a specific character with a provocative title. Now I had a source of “variations” – ballet argot for short solos.

Thereafter, the colossal output of Tchaikovsky was available for ransacking. First the theatre music, in particular the Hamlet Theatre score: brief regal fanfares and marches for the Danish Court. There was more piano music, string quartets, tone poems, The Tempest especially for the fall andFate for the ominous ending.

There were snatches from the more obscure operas like The Maid of Orleans and we had to have one grand waltz – all Tchaikovsky ballets have one! Tchaikovsky was always accused by his critics of having his symphonies sound like ballets. Why not reverse this and use the waltz from the Fifth Symphony. And the orchestras Suites – what a feast!

There is still the question of linking the very Russian Tchaikovsky with the very English Lewis Carroll and I made a very elaborate rationalisation. English governesses were fashionable at the Czarist Court. Perhaps the “Alice” books, immediately popular on their publication in 1865 and 1871 had found their way into Russian society. Perhaps they had been translated. That led to another search.

Thinking of the global reach of our project, what was the extent of the translation of the books? I took the ENB (always multi-national) as a case in point and obtained a breakdown of the nationalities of the individual dancers. I discovered and later found translations into Spanish, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and my particular triumph…Estonian for Agnes and Tom Edur. We had a prize day in the studio at a break in the rehearsal. That was just a small part of the list but proved that Alice was global.

I want to thank David Matthews for his splendid orchestrations that make Tchaikovsky’s chamber and piano music sound like Tchaikovsky’s own.

I further enhanced this CD with quotes from Lewis Carroll’s original novel to put each track into its context.

Carl Davis, 2008

Ballade for Cello and Orchestra

Ballade for Cello and Orchestra

Jonathan Aasgard, Cello. Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Carl Davis, Conductor

Ballade for Cello and Orchestra - Sleeve Notes

I based my Ballade on the brief synopsis that Fauré had used for his Poeme d’un jour: a couple meet, swear eternal love and part. As a teenager, I thought, “how cool!” The Ballade follows this tale in 5 linked sections: the 1st – searching; the 2nd – restless; the 3rd – a love scene, ending in a minor key; the 4th – stern, passionate and finally, life carries on.

The brilliant cellist Jonathan Aasgaard, principal of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, asked me to write for him after performing my score for Garbo’s sensual silent film Flesh and the Devil and the RLPO commissioned it. Thanks to you both.

Carl Davis

Ben Hur (1925)

MGM 1925 Film

Ben Hur (1925)

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Carl Davis, Conductor.

Ben Hur (1925) - Sleeve Notes

OPENING TITLES – When I came to write the score for BEN-HUR there seemed to be more value in and more screen time given to the story of Jesus than I had remembered from my previous impressions of the film. (l had composed music for clips from the film for the Hollywood TV series).

The first problem to solve was the music for these sequences which were statically and rather reverentially staged, almost in picture-book or tableau fashion. I decided then to treat this part with immense seriousness and to establish the biblical theme as the main theme for the entire film. I needed a Straussian ‘Natur Tema” to run right through the score which would have a primitive, basic, tonic- dominated feeling. I also thought that it would be necessary to quote a well-known part of the liturgy and I chose the simple phrase which is known as The Dresden Amen. These two elements form the Opening Titles. An extra dimension is given to the already large symphony orchestra with the use of organ. It is therefore apparent that I am employing the Wagnerian system of ‘leitmotifs’ in this score – themes are used for individual characters and events as the story unfolds.

2. THE NATIVITY – The Cave of David / Star of Bethlehem / The Adoration of the Magi
Here I develop the ‘Natur Tema’ in the scenes depicting the birth of Christ. There is a spectacular extra-terrestrial display, climaxing in the appearance of the star over the town of Bethlehem. As the three wise men present their gifts a new theme appears in the form of a cradle-song, played by the strings.

The story has now moved on some twenty years to the holy city of Jerusalem. We encounter a new cast of characters: Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince, who lives in grandeur with his mother and sister; Messala, a childhood friend of Ben-Hur who has become a Roman army officer, recently posted to Jerusalem as an attendant to the new governor, Gratus. There is also the faithful retainer to the Hur family, Simonides and his beautiful daughter Esther. As Ben-Hur is strolling in the market place there is the very first statement of the Ben-Hur Theme. Esther is seen buying a white pigeon. The bird escapes but is retrieved by the young prince. The couple meet and it is ‘love at first sight’. However, Ben-Hur does not realise that she is the daughter of Simonides as he has not seen her since their youth. She must return to Antioch with her father but they pledge to meet again. The love theme for Esther and Ben-Hur is now established.

4. ROMAN MARCH AND DISASTER – Gratus / Entry into Jerusalem / Storming the Palace and Arrest
Ben-Hur encounters his old friend Messala. They quarrel bitterly when Messala suggests that Ben-Hur should renounce his Jewish faith and become a Roman. They part as enemies. At that moment the governor’s procession enters the city and all of the Hur family gather on their parapet overlooking the street. It is then that an unfortunate accident occurs – Ben-Hur loosens a tile which falls and kills the governor. Messala and his men storm the palace and arrest both Ben-Hur and his mother and sister. Ben-Hur is immediately sentenced to the life of a galley slave, while his family are dispatched to the catacombed prison which lies beneath the city. The music builds gradually, a portrayal of the might of the Roman Empire. The music in the scenes of the arrest and banishment of the Hur family is purely descriptive of the action and of the variety of emotions that ensue.

Ben-Hur is dragged through the desert to the sea and his servitude on the Roman galley (On this journey he is given water to quench his thirst by a carpenter in the village of Nazareth). This whole cue reflects the feeling of humiliation and bitterness that Ben-Hur has, especially against Messala. The hortator on the galley beats out the rowing stroke on a primitive drum. In live performance there is always the problem of synchronising his on-screen blows with that of the large bass drum in the orchestra. The sound of groaning oars is also reproduced by having the bows of the double-basses glissing across the strings.

The Roman fleet is attacked by pirates, led by Golthar the Terrible. The galley slaves are chained together, except for Ben-Hur whom the commander of the fleet, Quintas Arrias, has taken an interest as he admires his spirit and courage which he says is “like a Roman’s”. The fight is violent and very grisly, so the music is suitably savage and barbaric. In the midst of the battle Ben-Hur saves the life of Arrias and his theme and the Roman Theme are heard in counterpoint.

The commander’s galley is sunk in the naval battle. Ben-Hur and Arrias are cast adrift on the open sea. They are rescued and learn of the great Roman victory, thanks to the final command of Quintas Arrias. They return to Rome in triumph where, as the adopted son of Arrias, Ben-Hur becomes a famous charioteer but despite his new prosperity he cannot forget the loss of his family. On hearing of the old merchant Simonides, Ben-Hur travels to Antioch to learn more about the fate of his mother and sister. There he is informed that they are both dead. (In fact they have survived in prison but have contracted leprosy). A great chariot race is to be held in Antioch the next day. When Ben-Hur learns that Messala has entered, he is persuaded by Sheik llderim to race the Sheik’s team of white stallions against his former adversary – although Ben-Hur insists upon being entered as an unknown competitor, Messala uses his glamorous mistress lras to try and find out the identity of the mystery man. She attempts to seduce Ben- Hur at the Sheik’s banquet but he rejects her advances. She later overhears Simonides greeting Ben-Hur as – the Prince of Hur – and reports this back to her master. Simonides declares himself to be in fact a slave of the Hur family who has been guarding their fortune over the years. With this music I have tried to evoke the world of French Orientalism: overlush and erotic with rich, complex and glittering orchestration. Midway through the banquet we hear the motif of the race as the Sheik’s horses are paraded before the guests.

8 THE CHARIOT RACE – The Gathering of the Chariots / The Race
Messala is stunned when he learns that Ben-Hur still lives. He foolishly stakes all his wealth against the new-found fortune of the Jewish prince. The music begins as the chariots enter the vast arena. The 9/8 rhythm of the race’s theme was inspired by the original Axt / Mendoza score of 1925 (They were two prolific film composers of that period). When the music is performed live l want the audience to be enclosed in a stereophonic effect, created by two full sets of timpani (8 drums) – one set on either side of the orchestra. In this recording we also tried to recreate this exaggerated stereo with alternating and competing timpani. When the race actually starts we have a symphonic development of The Race Theme. Messala’s Theme and The Ben-Hur theme. These various elements follow the screen action very closely with the momentum of the race never being lost. There is a crash and pile-up of horses and men at the end of the race. Messala is killed after locking wheels with Ben-Hur’s chariot. Ben Hur’s theme then appears in triumphant E-flat upon his victory.

9 BEN HUR’S RETURN – The Palace of Hur / Lepers
Ben-Hur raises an army to aid Jesus in the liberation of Palestine from the Romans. He leads his forces towards Jerusalem but first enters the city alone to visit his old home. There then follows a very poignant scene, Ben-Hur falls asleep outside the palace doors. The pitiful figures of his mother and sister wend their way across the city = having been released on a general amnesty by Pontius Pilate. They come upon the sleeping figure but dare not wake him. (The Family Theme is heard on a solo cello). In the morning when Ben-Hur awakens the women hide in the shadows. Esther appears and she and Ben-Hur proclaim their love for each other before he leaves to re-join his army. Esther hears the women crying but they warn her to keep away as they are ‘uncIean#! They force her to promise that she will never tell Ben-Hur that she has seen them. In this scene The Family Theme is in a major-key giving a sense of redemption and transcending. The ‘Leper BelI’ sounds, ending this movement on a note of grieving and desolation.

10 VIA DOLOROSA – The Way of the Cross / Miracle
Esther hears of the miracles worked by Jesus. She goes in search of the mother and sister in the Valley of Lepers. Jesus is sentenced to death and begins his journey to Calvary. The music starts with a massive funeral march for full orchestra, organ and timpani. In the middle section we hear Ben-Hur’s Theme when he stops the procession to tell Jesus that an army is gathered and ready to fight for his cause. The Dresden Amen re-appears as Jesus commands Ben-Hur to put down his sword. Violence is not the way to gain salvation. Jesus then comes to the spot where Esther has placed the mother and sister. His shadow falls across them. They are cured. Ben-Hur witnesses this and the family is tearfully re-united. A full statement of The Family Theme in C-major announces this. The music ends as we see the bloody footprints of the Saviour’s path to his crucifixion. Throughout the film we are never given a complete view of Christ – just a hand, an arm, or foot or a shadow – this was the code of the day for the portrayal of Jesus on the screen.

11. EARTHQUAKE AND NEW DAWN – Collapse of the Senate / The Resurrection
The finale of the film begins with a spectacular earthquake and the destruction of the senate building, collapsing onto the panic-stricken mob. The orchestra, organ and thunder-sheet make one of the loudest noises I have ever created. Sensitive players frequently cover their ears during live performances! The music dies away as the dust settles. A solo from the cello, going through four octaves, re-introduces the Opening Titles music and the final appearance of The Dresden Amen, in a very tranquil setting, as the saga ends.


Bond For Orchestra

Philharmonia Orchestra

Bond For Orchestra

Carl Davis, Conductor. Pavel Šporcl, Violin. Guy Barker, Trumpet.

Bond For Orchestra - Sleeve Notes

I decided to make this CD an instrumental one. Nowadays the originals are a button-press away on YouTube. A new interpretation would be exciting, especially played by a world class orchestra like the Philharmonia and London’s hottest rhythm section, inspired by the brilliant arrangements and production of Chris Egan. Let’s also add to the mix a classical violin virtuoso, Pavel Sporcl from Prague who moonlights with his own Gypsy band and England’s most stunning jazz trumpeter, now a successful composer and conductor, Guy Barker. With the composers, overshadowing all was John Barry who was involved from the start as arranger and conductor. He moved to centre stage as sole composer with Goldfinger in 1964 and continued to compose and collaborate on Bond scores until 1987 with The Living Daylights. Barry in his orchestration defined the Bond sound: rich, full and brassy. Until Dave Arnold picked up the mantle in 1997 with Tomorrow Never Dies, the exceptions to Barry were one offs, but wonderful ones.

Burt Bacharach, in the much derided Casino Royale mark1, produced a torch song standard with “The Look of Love” . Paul and Linda McCartney worked with their newly formed group Wings on Live and Let Die. Marvin Hamlisch wrote “Nobody Does It Better” for The Spy Who Loved Me. Others included Michel Legrand with Never Say Never Again, Bill Conti with For Your Eyes Only, Bono with GoldenEye and Dave Arnold’s score for Tomorrow Never Dies established him as the John Barry of today.

The total oeuvre comprises a history of music and trends from 1962 until today – a span of exactly 50 years – but Monty Norman’s Dr No theme resembles no pop music before or since. John Barry’s songs are full of the oddest twists and turns. The McCartneys’ ‘Live and Let Die’ is unique in their output. The Bond composers tended to do their most individual work inspired by Ian Fleming’s creation. Long may he be reincarnated to thrill and amuse us with his glamour and wit, his strength and ingenuity.

Carl Davis 2012

Carl Conducts... Classical Festival Favourites

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra

Carl Conducts... Classical Festival Favourites

Brighton Festival Chorus. Carl Davis, Conductor

Carl Conducts... Classical Festival Favourites - Sleeve Notes

Recorded in 1992 with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, one of London’s four great orchestras and the notable Brighton Festival Chorus, I remember trying to nail in one go what is known in musical circles as ‘Popular Classics’. I discovered that the reason they are so popular is that they are great pieces of music, brilliantly orchestrated and focused strongly for the occasion they were composed for, whether a coronation, an anniversary or just plain fun. They form the centrepiece of the orchestral repertoire and I suppose will ever remain so.

After 20 years a back room boy (1960-1980) I had the opportunity to start a new career as a conductor, sometimes in concert halls but more often than not in unusual venues: a circus Big Top on the banks of the Mersey or Thames, before countless stately homes, in ancient Greek or Roman arenas or just an empty space, co-opted into concert use. Here then is my core repertoire.

1. Fanfare for the Common Man – Aaron Copland (1900-1990)

I had to wait until 1984 to perform Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, 400 ex GI’s were returning to Southampton to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the D-Day landings and a concert was requested at the Southampton Guildhall. The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra engaged me and the celebrated journalist Ludovic Kennedy to devise the evening which would contain two important American works, Copland’s Fanfare and Sousa’s march, The Stars and Stripes Forever, also recorded for this CD. The Fanfare contains in its 3 minute duration everything you might want to know about American music. Composed in 1942 as one of 30 fanfares (and the only surviving one) commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to support the war effort, the score has all the characteristics of Copland’s public style which he invented. I love conducting it but it is high risk. The opening percussion solo is more effective outdoors as it can cause serious hearing injury to the players and the brass climaxes are even more earsplitting – an impressive way to open a concert.

2. Blue Danube Waltz – Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)

By contrast Strauss’s famous waltz drifts in on a haze of tremulous strings and that glorious melody played by the principal horn. Hard to think of it now but the Viennese Waltz was thought of in the early 19th century as scandalously erotic, permitting men and women to actually hold each other as they danced. The Strauss family elevated the waltz to the concert stage and it reached a kind of apogee with Stanley Kubrick’s film ‘2001’ when it accompanied the docking of a space ship. It is no joke to conduct, as tradition has made it into a nightmare of rubato, virtually flirting with the listener. In an open air setting where there is room, I often invite the audience to dance, creating an outdoor ballroom, on one occasion numbering 16,000 dancers. The Blue Danube Waltz is Austria’s equivalent to ‘Auld Lang Syne’. I fondly remember a New Year’s Eve in a small Austrian village, the bells of St Stephen’s Cathedral ringing at midnight, the dancers of the State Opera in position (all on TV), the front doors opened on to a snowy landscape and the whole population waltzed out into the night.

Even opening my score brings some amusements when the dried remains of river insects drop out. Once conducting the Blue Danube on a platform projecting out over the River Thames, strong floodlights encouraged a cloud of insects, attacking the orchestra. The wind and brass were choking every time they inhaled and the principal 2nd violin stood up and piteously held his instrument towards me announcing, “This is a Stradivarius and there are greenfly in its F holes”.

3. Finlandia -Jean Sibelius (1865-1957)

Writing about anthems, Finland treats the lyric theme of the Sibelius tone-poem as if it was one, being so strong and intense. Composed in 1899 to accompany a tableau vivant, it depicts the Finns crushed under the weight of Russian oppression and their struggle for independence. Sibelius himself created a vocal version with great success and the theme spread around the world. I ‘ve used the text as sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir ‘Oh, mighty land.’ Finlandia is a work that moves in mood from darkness to light. It is a joy to conduct.

4. The Stars and Stripes Together March – John Philip Sousa (1854-1932)

If Johann Strauss Jr. was the Waltz King, then John Philip Sousa was the March King. Writing almost exclusively for military band, Sousa’s marches have been constantly
performed with their spirited tunes and jocular solos (I am referring to the brilliant piccolo solo in Stars and Stripes). The Liberty Bell March engrained itself in the world’s musical psyche as the opening and closing title music to Monty Python’s Flying Circus but The Stars and Stripes is something else. Extended concert marches, like waltzes, are made up of a chain of individual melodies with the principle one reprised very loudly and positively as a finale and in this case every one of them is a winner. I couldn’t resist adding one last reprise, perhaps imagining high-stepping Rockettes.

5. Chorus of Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco – Guiseppe Verdi (1813-1901)

This stunning chorus from Verdi’s 1842 opera ‘Nabucco’ came quite late into my musical life. I first heard and played it at rehearsals for an album of operatic choruses, sung by the Robert Shaw Chorale in the summer of 1959, a few months before leaving for Europe and eventually the UK. At that time the early operas of Verdi were hardly touched by American opera companies and even hearing this wonderful composition was a rarity. The emotional impact it made on me was enormous and when in later years I had my chance to involve a choir in my concerts ‘Va, pensiero’ was my no.1 choice. First of all there is the expansive melody with its dramatic leaps sung in unison, the dense choral harmonisation of the central section, the unusual key of F sharp major, all the black notes on the piano, the chorus ending in a hoarse whisper, truly one of Verdi’s ‘greatest hits’.

6. Thunder and Lightning Polka- Johann Strauss II (1825-1899)

Our second Strauss composition on this CD and my number one choice to play for fireworks displays. It is unrelentingly cheerful with lots of sharp contrasts, roaring bass drum solos, crashing cymbals and demands to be played fiercely fast. Almost over before you know it, it makes a strong encore or a refreshing interlude on your musical menu.

7. 1812 Overture Peter – Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Commissioned in 1880 to commemorate Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow, Tchaikovsky ingeniously blends three given elements into a fairly cohesive whole. Opening and reprised in the finale is an ancient Slavonic prayer for the health of the Tsar, then France’s national anthem, the Marseillaise, in a crossfire of counterpoint and lastly the Russian national anthem. It was composed with spectacle in mind and perfect for outdoor performance. Aside from a large symphony orchestra, the 1812 Overture calls for cannon fire, very precisely notated, a full carillon of bells and a military band. I have taken matters a few steps further with the incorporation of a large choir doubling the opening prayer and finale as well as a concert organ and of course the fireworks. This wide range of forces is an accident waiting to happen. Outdoor concerts are hostage to the elements – a strong wind wreaks havoc with a sound system as amplification is a must. In addition, the air may fill with flying objects from rubber chickens to lit fireworks blown by a rush of wind onto the orchestra and public. I recall an occasion when after holes were burnt in the timpani and players had their hair singed, facing my all female percussion section wearing white safety helmets. Change of wind direction can render the entire orchestra invisible, veiled in an acrid fog of yellow gunpowder and fumes from the hamburger and kebab stalls but Tchaikovsky’s score never fails to impress and always provides a stirring climax to a classical pops event.

8. Hallelujah Chorus from ‘The Messiah’ – George Frederic Handel (1685-1759)

If you were a contestant on a quiz show and asked to name a favourite chorus, it would probably be this one. Arriving at the 2/3 mark in Handel’s oratorio, ‘The Messiah’, it must be the most popular chorus in the whole world. I first sang it in my New York High School. I think I once conducted it there as well, replacing an indisposed music master. My first professional contact with it was during a tour of the US and Canada with the Robert Shaw Chorale in 1955-56 who performed it as the fourth item in a group of popular choruses. On these tours, from East to West Coast lasting several months we invariably encountered what was to me the unusual practice of the audience standing for the ‘Hallelujah’. It was originated, apparently by King George III who rose to his feet at an early performance and the practice held. Orchestrations vary considerably from Handel’s original to Mozart’s larger band to a late Victorian one by Ebenezer Prout. There are records of a version performed at Henry Wood’s Promenade Concerts involving harps and elaborate percussion but no matter, it is top drawer Handel and thrilling to perform whether indoors or out.’

9. Pomp and Circumstance March No.1, in D Major, Opus 32 – Edward Elgar (1857-1934)

Premièred in Liverpool in 1901, this march and Jerusalem that follows it form part of a package of works one can only describe as broadly patriotic. Elgar consciously set out to compose a ‘hit’ and it was and is. It only increased its success once a text was added, ‘Land of Hope and Glory’.

I combined both on this recording and there is no greater crowd pleaser and spectacle with a public well equipped with Union Jack banners, hats, and scarves. I’m the one who gets the treat as I invariably turn to conduct the audience in Elgar’s mighty melody and face a barrage of colour and sound.

Carl's War

Carl's War

Includes The World At War, Goodnight Mr Tom, Echoes That Remain, Anne Frank Remembered, The Snow Goose

Carl's War - Sleeve Notes

The World at War (Concert Version 2010)

The television theme was composed in 1972 after Jeremy Isaacs’ (the Producer) statement of intent for The World at War series: to express the experiences of the individual people on the ground, in occupied countries, in U-Boats and in the air etc. The spread was global, but I needed a focus and chose Czech music as my inspiration, those sudden shifts from major to minor and back again. But, fifty odd seconds is too brief for concert performances and I incorporated a march, jolly at first, but later menacing, used in the series for the advancing German army. A reprise of the opening theme, on a mandolin follows and then the material is repeated, used as each episode ends.

Goodnight Mr Tom

One of the staples of ITV’s Christmas viewing and a best selling DVD, Jack Gold’s production of Goodnight Mr. Tom (1998) has a traditional film score supporting the various moods of the drama. I divided the score into four movements:

i. Arrival
The arrival of the evacuees into the village, the selection and young Willie forcibly housed by a surly but enigmatic Mr. Tom. The boy expresses some strange phobias and Mr. Tom is sympathetic.

ii. Going Fishing
Mr. Tom introduces Willie to some pleasures of the countryside, i.e. fishing. He then discovers that Willie is illiterate, lessons follow and it emerges that Willie has a gift for drawing.

iii. Return to London
Willie returns to London to see his mother. Mr. Tom grows anxious at the lack of communication and searches for him through the ruins of the East End. He finds him in a closet holding the body of his baby sister. They return to the country.

iv. Finale
Mr. Tom formally adopts Willie and reveals his secret, the loss of his own son. In the joyous finale, Mr. Tom teaches Willie to ride a bicycle. The suite ends with a reprise of the reading and writing theme.

Echoes That Remain

The Award winning Echoes that Remain is a selection of music cues from the documentary commissioned by the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation and directed by ex-Londoner, prominent designer, author and director now based in Los Angeles: Arnold Schwartzman. The score is ninety nine percent minor key and follows the memories of village life in pre-World War II Eastern Europe, the markets, the Sabbath, the holidays and games and eventual abandonment and exodus.

The Movements are:

(i) Echoes That Remain -Theme
(ii) Shtetl Main Street
(iii) Pogrom I
(iv) Pogrom II
(v) Names and Sayings
(vi) Spring Cemetery
(vii) Holidays I
(viii) Holidays II
(ix) Remember

Anne Frank Remembered

Jon Blair’s epic 1995 documentary ends with an amazing film clip, how on earth it was discovered is one of those miracles of film research, we see an apartment block in Amsterdam, the camera pulls up from a bride and
groom emerging through the front door to a balcony onto which runs… Anne Frank, unmistakable. She and her family were curious neighbours. The documentary has as well unique footage and testimony from people who witnessed the story from the discovery by the Germans through to the tragic end of Anne’s life. The three movement suite follows the shape of the film.

i. Disappearance
Kol Nidrei, the flames of the death camp furnaces, a tranquil childhood in Amsterdam, the ominous rumbling of anti-Semitism, the invasion and subsequent disappearance of the Frank family.

ii. Attic
Anne’s Theme, something rather elusive, floating, dissolving into a Laendler-like waltz (Anne can see a flowering Horse Chestnut tree from her attic window), a sense of being trapped, hope: the RAF bombings a possibility of liberation but then?

iii. The Death Of Anne Frank
A few fragments of Anne’s Theme, then a full statement growing bigger and bigger as if the message of her life cannot be ignored.

The Snow Goose

Paul Gallico’s novel was the basis for this adaptation, starring Jenny Agutter and Richard Harris. The director was Patrick Garland, a key colleague in the late 1960’s with his West End production of Alan Bennett’s first stage play, 40 Years On for which I created the score. After The Snow Goose, I composed a score for another of Patrick’s productions, again for Universal, The Cay. The plot of The Snow Goose concerns a young girl, Fritha, who saves an injured bird and brings it to a local artist, Philip Rhayader. Together they nurse it back to health and develop a friendship. To their regret, the bird flies off and the bond is broken. Years pass, the bird returns and with it their relationship. However, the final chapter is not happy, World War II is declared and Philip sails his small boat into the Channel as part of the Dunkirk retreat. He never returns but the boat drifts back and over it hovers The Snow Goose. The score was my first major orchestral commission. Large by television standards, it involved 36 players. It was a long score and for an EMI LP in 1979, I extracted two movements for full orchestra. However,I thought it could be developed further – there are many contrasting themes and a strong story to base it on. A literal clinging to the plot was not necessary, musical logic more important. The principal themes are:

1) a slow modal melody for the bird, rather like a Scottish ballad, in E Minor.

2) a hearty theme in B Flat for the village and village life.

3) the approaching war, at first restrained but then growing stronger and even battering on repetition, climaxing on the Dunkirk evacuation.

4) and finally, in a warm D Major, the ‘love’ theme, Fritha and Philip, but never expressed fully.

After shooting and editing the film and during the composition of the score, the producer made a request which exemplifies one of the dilemmas a film composer can face. After realising that the child Fritha, at the start of the story, reappears several years later, all grown-up, and in the same costume (i.e. blue jeans)….’Carl’, he pleaded in desperation, can you put a dress on her?’ ‘Strings!’ I replied. ‘Carl! You put a dress on her.’

Carl Davis, September 2010

Charlie Chaplin City Lights

A Re-recording of the Original 1931 Score

Charlie Chaplin City Lights

Music composed by Charles Chaplin (except La Violetera composed by José Padilla). Carl Davis, Conductor. The City Lights Orchestra

Charlie Chaplin City Lights - Sleeve Notes

Re-issue of the recording of Chaplin’s ‘City Lights’

March 1989 saw a seismic change in the world’s perception of Charlie Chaplin’s work in the cinema with the first live screenings of his masterpiece ‘City Lights’ in London at the Dominion Theatre. I had painstakingly transcribed Charlie’s original score recorded in 1930, for performances with orchestra. Within days requests were being made for performances in such diverse locations as Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Liverpool and Edinburgh. Many more followed and other conductors took up the mantle. After a year or so of continuing demand I suggested to my colleagues at Photoplay that they asked the Chaplin Estate if we could continue the exercise. Eventually ‘The Gold Rush’ (in its 1925 cut) and ‘The Kid’ followed. But ‘City Lights’ was special – who can ever forget the final scene, musically worthy of Puccini. As I begin over 20 years later another round of performances I look forward to conducting music that, like the film, plunges from the heights of irresistible comedy to extreme pathos. Charlie, you taught us all.

Carl Davis, February 2012


Royal Ballet Sinfonia conducted by Paul Murphy


David Bintley's production of Cyrano for Birmingham Royal Ballet with music by Carl Davis. 2 CDs

Cyrano - Sleeve Notes


Reading plays was my number one favourite thing to do in childhood. I staged them in my mind. Cyrano was on the family bookshelf and I was repeatedly drawn to it. Although I saw the 1950 Hollywood film starring Jose Ferrer and the stunning 1990 French production with Gerard Depardieu, live stage productions and David Bintley’s earlier ballet slipped past my radar. But in 2004 when the offer to compose a new score for David came (through the magical midwifery of Faber Music’s Sally Cavender) memories, not so much of the films, but of my childhood stagings came flooding back. I had one niggling doubt – the subject of the play is eloquence, i.e. words. Can words be translated into movement? David, through gesture, immediately convinced me that it can and we were off!

Style – a lifelong love of French music.

Form – of my three full-length ballets, Aladdin, Alice in Wonderland and Cyrano, this bears the strongest relationship to the dramatic scores required forthe silent cinema. But now the long paragraphs to parallel the vivid scenes on the screen must be dance, and yet continue to drive the narrative forward.Autumn 2004 to Winter 2006 were bad health years for me. Parts of Acts II and III were composed on a board supported by a plaster cast on my left leg! Consultation with David was intense – much re-writing and compressing, lengthening. Also, getting to understand each other’s working process. And then, the final thrill – seeing the first steps to my music. Downtown Brooklyn to Birmingham Royal Ballet and the circle was complete.

©2009, Carl Davis

Give Me A Smile

Songs and Music of World War II

Give Me A Smile

Claire Sweeney, Mary Carewe, Frances McCafferty, Richard Suart & Sarah Eyden. BBC Concert Orchestra & Brighton Festival Chorus, Carl Davis

Give Me A Smile - Sleeve Notes

70 years ago, from June to October, the German Luftwaffe tried to bomb Great Britain into submission. It never happened. British courage and resourcefulness triumphed. These events are celebrated in music and song on the latest release from the Carl Davis Collection. Here are the songs people sang, the film scores they loved and heard on the radio. A brilliant cast of soloists together with the BBC Concert Orchestra and The Brighton Festival Chorus play and sing their hearts out just as people did in 1940.

In the six years of global war, the widest possible range of actions and emotions were experienced and reflected. There was a nostalgic revival of popular songs of World War I, i.e. I’m Gonna Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line, Keep the Home Fires Burning and Lili Marlene. Films depicted the bombing of Warsaw and the dangerous exploits of the RAF, resulted in the Warsaw Concerto and Dambusters’ March. Post-War action films relived building The Bridge on the River Kwai (Colonel Bogey March) and the D-Day landings in France in Saving Private Ryan (Hymn to the Fallen) and the songs… each has a place in the history of World War II from Goodnight Children Everywhere sung on the BBC each night to the evacuated children, to the longing for reunion with loved ones (The White Cliffs of Dover and We’ll Meet Again). We hear stubbornness of spirit in Bless ’em All and Noel Coward’s London Pride, as well as yearning for the war to end in When The Lights Go On Again and When They Sound the Last All Clear as well as the uproarious I’m Gonna Get Lit Up, banned by the BBC for its celebration of drinking. Radio encouraged cheerfulness with repeated playing of Litolff’s Scherzo and Wish Me Luck was the ultimate song of departure.

I conceived the album in the format of a show in three acts with a large cast. The First Act (Tracks 1-6) refers to the defiant mood of the beginning of the war. The Second Act (Tracks 7-12) has a sense of the war grinding on without much movement and the final Act (Tracks 13-18) feels like the end is in sight. It peaks with the rather jingoistic There’ll Always Be An England, however, I decided to end thoughtfully with John Williams’ moving Hymn To The Fallen.

For me, these songs are part of the emotional furniture of the war, like coming upon the occasional uncleared bomb site and poppies floating down from the dome of the Royal Albert Hall on Remembrance Day. I spend a lot of time looking for musical bridges to my audiences and in this music I definitely have found one.

Great Movie Themes

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Great Movie Themes

Carl Davis, Conductor Featuring themes from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Out of Africa, Spiderman, Schindler's List, Gladiator, Champions and more

Great Movie Themes - Sleeve Notes

With 45 nominations and five wins (and no prospect of the stream drying up) composer John Williams is the most Oscar-nominated person alive. His 1981 nomination was for Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.A homage to Saturday serials, it is set in Egypt in 1936 where archaeologist Indiana Jones battles with Nazis for the Ark of the Covenant. Williams wrote an extensive score for the film and this selection uses the Raider’s Marchto bookend the theme of Marion, Indy’s old flame.

John Barry Prendergast (he dropped his last name) was born in 1933, the son of a Yorkshire cinema-owner. In the early 1960s, after a successful pop career, he moved into cinema, working on dozens of films in many genres, though he is probably best-known for his James Bond scores. For Out of Africa (1985) director Sidney Pollock wanted the music to tell most of the story of author Karen Blixen’s life in Africa. Barry won the third of his four Oscars for the lush score, whose full-throated romantic main theme has a tender introduction.

Danny Elfman, born in 1956, was a composer and multi-instrumentalist in his brother Richard’s performance art / new-wave rock band The Mystic Knights of Oinga Boinga (progressive shortenings of the name left only the last word before dissolution in 1995). One of his biggest influences is Bernard Herrmann, as reflected in the driving rhythms and dark, glittering orchestration of Spider-Man (2002). Elfman has scored several comic-book adaptations and sees Spider-Man as an “American” score, in contrast to the more Prokofiev-like Batman (1989). For this concert piece, the Main Titleleads into a ghostly Farewell before a brief restatement of the main title.

John Williams’ Oscar for Spielberg’s Schindler’s List (1993) was just one of the seven that the film picked up. Based on Thomas Keneally’s docu-novelSchindler’s Ark, it told of a Czech factory owner who, by various subterfuges, set out to save many of his Jewish workers from Auschwitz. But Schindler is a complex character: he starts the war by frankly exploiting his Jewish workforce, and never relinquishes his drinking and womanising. Keneally’s book was subsequently republished under the film’s title (ironically, in German ‘list’ also means ‘cunning’). Williams’ gently rocking and appropriately Jewish-sounding lullaby-like theme is in the form of a miniature violin concerto and was played on the film soundtrack by its dedicatee, the Israeli violinist Itzakh Perlman. Time constraints, however, meant that the trailer used Wojciech Kilar’s Exodus, causing an upsurge in interest in that piece. It was recorded on Naxos 8.554788.

In scoring Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000) Hans Zimmer avoided a ‘Roman’ feel or music like Alex North’s for Spartacus (1960), though many people encouraged him in that direction. He would undercut expectations by using the ‘anti-action’ form of the waltz: “My Rome is Viennese waltzes turned upside down and made savage and barbaric.” He consciously evokes Mars from Holst’s The Planets (the middle section rather than the famous rhythm) and Siegfried’s Funeral March, paralleling the way that Scott draws on the films of Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl. After a brief statement of the mysterious Barbarian Horde comes the Holstian Battle, slowing to the gentler string-led Earth but this is swept aside by a longer statement of The Barbarian Horde.

Carl Davis (born 1936) has been enormously prolific in both cinema and television and is one of the foremost composers of new scores for silent films. Champions (1984) is the true story of the jockey Bob Champion, who was diagnosed with cancer in 1979 but recovered and won the 1981 Grand National on Aldaniti. Champions Theme and Grand National, recorded here by the composer, capture the galloping exhilaration of the event and, appropriately, have occasionally been used since as the theme music for broadcasts of the race.

Howard Shore (born 1946) worked in pop music and television before making a name in film music in collaborations with fellow Canadian, director David Cronenberg. Shore spent over three years working on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, discussing his long-hand sketches with the director for over a year before shooting began. Shore regards several of his film scores as operatic (he specifically cites Silence of the Lambs (1991) andLooking for Richard (1996), and his operatic version of Cronenberg’s 1986 film The Fly will have its premiere in Paris in 2008.) He regards The Lord of the Rings trilogy as a three-act opera, though he has adapted it into a six-movement symphony. The Symphonic Suite from the films’ middle panel,The Two Towers, incorporates seven of the trilogy’s fifty-plus motifs including instrumental versions of some of the songs.

The British film industry has long had its ups and downs. When Hugh Hudson’s Chariots of Fire (1981) won Best Film, Screenplay and Music Oscars, writer Colin Welland famously cried: “The British are coming!”, though that was perhaps overstating the case. The film tells the true story of two runners, a Christian and a Jew, who overcome bigotry and face difficult moral decisions in preparing for the 1924 Olympics. The music by Greek composer Vangelis (born 1943) spawned a hit single and the image of the athletes training on the beach at dawn accompanied by the obsessive music exemplified the story and became a target for many tributes and parodies. Oddly, for a film set in 1924, the original soundtrack was entirely electronic though it was later arranged for orchestra.

Monty Norman was a successful composer but his 1961 show The Ballad of Dr Crippen was critically panned. Nevertheless Cubby Broccoli, one of its backers, invited Norman to score the new film he was producing, Dr No. For the main theme Norman remembered the song Bad Sign Good Sign from his unstaged musical based on VS Naipaul’s A House for Mr Biswas, which began: “I was born with this unlucky sneeze and what is worse I came into the world the wrong way round.” With the rhythm slightly tweaked Norman presented it, and John Barry arranged it. Led to believe that he was only working on the main title, Barry was shocked to see that the arrangement was “plastered all over the film”. But he was assured that his contribution had been recognized and he went on to score eleven more Bond films, creating the sound that is inseparable from the series.

With a ballooning budget and terrible overruns, there were dire predictions that the most expensive film ever made could not turn a profit. But Titanic (1997) went on to triumph, becoming the highest grossing film of all time. Director James Cameron wanted Enya to write the music but when she refused he turned to James Horner (born 1953). Coincidentally Horner saw Enya’s Gaelic new-age sound as an appropriate model for his own score. Cameron did not want to use a title song but Horner secretly recorded My Heart Will Go On with Celine Dion, and presented it to Cameron, who changed his mind. The short suite follows the plot, from Rose’s memories, through the departure from Southampton, to the sinking and, after the famous song, a short epilogue.

Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump (1994) shows recent American history through the eyes of an extremely good-hearted man with a low IQ. Computer animation allowed star Tom Hanks to meet people including Kennedy, Nixon and John Lennon, and to take part in the Vietnam War. But Gump is unaware of the importance of these events or of his sometimes profound influence on history. In keeping with the story, the music by Alan Silvestri (born 1950) has a feeling of homespun Americana.

Dances with Wolves (1990) was a controversial project, as Kevin Costner, though an established actor and star of the film, was to make his directing debut with a very long Western at a time when the genre was out of favour and, viewing Indian culture sympathetically, it would have several scenes in the Sioux’s Lakota language. Civil war Lieutenant John Dunbar joins a Sioux tribe and takes the name Dances with Wolves but as the US army approaches he has to decide on which side he will stand. In the event the film was very successful and Costner’s director’s cut added nearly an hour to the original three-hour running time. John Barry won his fourth Oscar for the score, with its elegiac evocation of the old West.

J. K. Rowling’s seven Harry Potter books have been a publishing phenomenon and film versions naturally followed. Using the American title of the book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) was the first, and the series is planned to end in 2010. John Williams wrote the music for the first three but, though Patrick Doyle and Nicholas Hooper took over for the fourth and fifth instalments, they still used the main themes. It remains to be seen who will score the last two episodes. Harry’s Wondrous World is a suite from the first film. With its easy flying grace and glittering gamelan-like percussion, it quickly conjures the world of Hogwarts’ apprentice sorcerer.

John Riley

Great Movie Themes 2

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Great Movie Themes 2

Carl Davis, Conductor. Featuring Themes from: Batman, The Pink Panther, Mission Impossible, The English Patient, The Godfather and more

Great Movie Themes 2 - Sleeve Notes

Danny Elfman, who often works with director Tim Burton, is sometimes (unfairly) seen as specialising in fantasy films and comic book adaptations.Batman (1989), one of his early big studio films, covers both bases but, unlike the camp television series with music by Neil Hefti, Burton’s film is a dark vision of a troubled crime-fighter. After a mournful opening there is a moment of glittering percussion before the music pulls itself together and launches forward with a driving rhythm.

Henry Mancini played for Glenn Miller’s band before joining Universal Studios, where he wrote stock music. After his first screen credits he moved into television, scoring a hit with Peter Gunn (1958?62). His light jazzy scores include Charade (1963) and Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) with its hit Moon River. One of his best-known themes is for The Pink Panther (1963), a comedy-thriller about the theft of a diamond with a pink, panther-shaped flaw. Ostensibly starring David Niven, Peter Sellers’ bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau became a hit character, and he and director Blake Edwards made four sequels among their many collaborations. After Sellers’ death in 1980 Edwards made another three with different actors while, with different directors, Alan Arkin played the r?le in 1968, and Steve Martin revived the character to little effect in 2006 and 2009. Most bizarrely there was an animated television series, which featured a would-be-suave panther that was pink. All drew on Mancini’s instantly identifiable tune with its cool sax and vibes and comically chaotic collapse.

The Argentinian Lalo Schifrin is another jazz composer but, unsurprisingly, with a Latin bent: he wrote a song and played piano on Quincy Jones’s classic album Soul Bossa Nova. His film scores include the iconic Bullitt (1968), though he has regularly to correct people: there is actually no music in the famous car chase. He also worked in television and it was there that he had a great success with Mission Impossible (1966-73), about a group of US secret agents, the Impossible Missions Force. Each episode began with a tape recorder outlining ‘Your mission, should you decide to you accept it’. The tape would then be destroyed or even self-destruct and a lit fuse would fizzle across the screen as Schifrin’s driving main theme kicked in for the credits. The film versions (1996, 2000 and 2006) could hardly dispense with this integral part of the franchise but they occasionally square off the 5/4 beat.

Starring Ryan O’Neill and Ali McGraw, Love Story (1970) is a melodrama about doomed love and death. O’Neill’s father threatens to disinherit him if he marries a fellow student. Nevertheless they go ahead, only to discover that they cannot have children, before she dies. Francis Lai won an Oscar for his score (one of those that is better than the film). Since Ali McGraw plays a music student the soundtrack includes some Mozart and Bach, and Lai counterpoints their classical restraint with a more sweeping romantic theme developed out of a piano concertino. Two years later O’Neill starred in the screwball comedy What’s Up Doc? When Barbra Streisand says ‘Love means never having to say you’re sorry’ (Love Story’s tagline) he deadpans: ‘That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard’.

When it was released in 1993 Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park was a new high for computer-generated images, which created the fantastical world where dinosaurs were recreated from their DNA. The story climaxes in a scary and exciting chase but in writing the main theme John Williams ignores both that and the dinosaurs’ terrifying aspects: after a pastoral opening he reflects the giant creatures’ stately grandeur.

Shakespeare’s plays have inspired countless adaptations and one of the most popular is Romeo and Juliet. One of the best known is Franco Zeffirelli’s from 1968, starring teenagers Leonard Whiting and Olivia Hussey. After the previous year’s The Taming of the Shrew Zeffirelli turned again to veteran Nino Rota to capture another love story. Based on a song-like melody, the extensive score moves through a panoply of moods and at time takes on a distinctly English folk-song feel (at one point there is an actual vocal version), which Rota underlines by including a guitar in the orchestra. The main theme begins gently but rises to a passionate climax, reflecting the story’s tragic conclusion.

Some of John Williams’s best-known scores are for the sort of films which, were he alive today, would have gone to Korngold. Superman (1978) begins with a famous swaying horn-call, before being developed over a pulsating rhythm. The middle has a thrumming bass and string theme that has a flavour of the imperial music of Walton or Elgar. Unsurprisingly Williams’s main theme was reused in the various sequels and now it is hard to hear it without imagining someone disappearing into a phone box.

Anthony Minghella (1954-2008) was an extremely musical director but he set Gabriel Yared a fearsome task for The English Patient, his 1996 adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s novel. The film’s intensely passionate story of a wartime nurse’s discovery of her badly burned patient’s secret was to be offset with a cooler score. At one point Juliette Binoche finds a shattered piano and plays part of the Goldberg Variations on it. Minghella wanted to carry the feeling of Bach through the rest of the score without relying on the rest of the variations, so asked Yared to write something on the same level. Yared begins with a feeling of the two- or three-part inventions, (or the Well-Tempered Clavier’s C major Prelude), before the strings enter to add a gentle halo to the contemplative melody.

Despite the success of Romeo and Juliet, Rota continued to prefer to work in Italy with only a few forays into Hollywood. One of these was Francis Ford Coppola’s mafia epic The Godfather (1972 and 1974; for the last instalment in 1990, Coppola’s father Carmine took over, reusing Rota’s theme). The music became hugely popular but Rota could not be Oscar-nominated for the first part, as the love theme was based on a melody from his earlierFortunella (1958), though it was heavily reworked for The Godfather. However, a rule-change meant that two years later he won for Part Two.

Amongst the extensive music of Superman, Williams wrote a love theme for Lois Lane. It became the score’s second distinctive element, complementing the exhilarating Superman fanfare and march (which actually includes a pre-echo of the love theme). After discussions about how it should be presented in the film it was decided that Margot Kidder, who played Lois, should simply recite Lesley Bricusse’s words Can You Read My Mindover Williams’s music. Shortly after the film’s release Maureen McGowan had a hit with the song version and it was also arranged as a stand-alone concert piece with no narration. Beginning with a gentle rocking, the music begins coyly before its confidence swells, reflecting Lois and Superman’s relationship.

While older pirate films like Captain Blood (1935) and The Crimson Pirate (1952) were popular, more recently the genre failed to catch fire, witness notorious flops like Polanski’s Pirates (1986) and Cutthroat Island (1995). But the enormous (and somewhat unexpected) success of the Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) led to two sequels being shot back-to-back and released in 2006 and 2007. Alan Silvestri was to write the original score but he left and director Gore Verbinski approached Hans Zimmer (born 1957). Under intense time pressure, Zimmer suggested Klaus Badelt, his colleague at Media Ventures and together they worked out the main themes. Badelt then wrote the score with some help from other colleagues. Though it is a modern-sounding score and does not attempt to recapture a Korngold sound, Badelt was careful to include lots of hints of jigs and sea-shanties.

Michael Cimino’s first film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot was a success and he embarked on the huge and intense The Deerhunter (1978) about three blue-collar Pennsylvanians in the Vietnam war and how it affected their lives back home. Stanley Myers wrote the score with a quietly reflective main theme. Guitarist John Williams later asked Myers to arrange it for him, and, as Cavatina, his recording became a hit. Later Cleo Laine also sang a version of it as He Was Beautiful.

John Fowles’s tragic novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman, with its Hardy-esque heroine, had long been thought unfilmable: Fowles himself occasionally appears to discuss the novel, it includes commentaries on the Victorian times in which it is set, and it has two alternate endings. Though several people had attempted adaptations, it was Harold Pinter who eventually succeeded, cunningly creating a parallel of some of the novel’s effects. Not only does he tell the woman’s story, but he adds another layer, and we watch a film version being made, with Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons playing both the characters and the actors in that film. The score by Carl Davis sets the scene on the Dorset coast with a sobbing theme and recitative-like melodies to express the desperation that the film’s heroine suppresses.

Shakespeare in Love (1998) was an international hit, winning seven Oscars, including one for the score by Stephen Warbeck. It is his biggest success to date, though he also scored television’s Prime Suspect, the film version of Billy Elliot (2000) and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001). Another post-modern story, Tom Stoppard’s script for Shakespeare in Love is full of sly jokes as the playwright struggles with his latest venture Romeo and Ethel the Pirate’s Daughter. Of course, falling in love inspires him to finish the work. Warbeck’s score, like Rota’s Romeo and Juliet is a modern evocation of Elizabethan times, this time featuring a harp and a colourful percussion section. At the very end there is a sense of a return to earth with a tiny coda for the harp.

John Riley

Harold Lloyd's An Eastern Westerner and High & Dizzy

The Chamber Orchestra of London

Harold Lloyd's An Eastern Westerner and High & Dizzy

Music composed and conducted by Carl Davis

Harold Lloyd's An Eastern Westerner and High & Dizzy - Sleeve Notes

In 1920 Harold Lloyd created no less than five short films (two-reelers) which included ‘An Eastern Westerner’ and ‘High and Dizzy’. His leading lady, Mildred Davis, was soon to become Mrs Lloyd. The two films could not be more contrasting: ‘An Eastern Westerner’ opens in New York with Harold as a dissipated young man enraging his parents who banish him to their ranch in an un-named outlaw-ridden territory. ‘High and Dizzy’ couldn’t be more urban, moving from a doctor’s office to a very grand hotel. But running through this film is a very serious theme. The heroine is a sleep-walker and at the film’s climax places both herself and Harold in great danger.

Even the orchestrations are different. ‘An Eastern Westerner’ was composed in 2000 as a curtain-raiser to Harold Lloyd’s thrill feature, ‘Safety Last’, for an orchestra resembling the Paul Whiteman Jazz Band. Even when imitating Western themes I used the orchestra to emphasise Harold’s split personality. ‘High and Dizzy’, composed in 2012, has a more classical line-up utilising a beautiful aria from Bellini’s opera ‘La Sonnambula’ (The Sleepwalker). Following silent film tradition I borrowed copiously from the masters including Rossini’s ‘William Tell Overture’ and Wagner’s ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ as well as the most iconic Western song of all ‘Home on the Range’ which both opens and closes the film.

An Eastern Westerner
Track 1 : City Dweller
Opening with ‘Home on the Range’ we anticipate the nightclub scene before meeting Harold’s disapproving parents with a depressing march. The nightclub scene alternates wild ragtime with more disapproval, this time from Harold’s inability to stop shimmying. He is ejected, returning home at 2am, receives his marching orders, and heads West.

Track 2 : Arrival and ‘Tiger Lips’
The first appearance of ‘William Tell’, a theme forever associated with ‘The Lone Ranger’ as I remembered from my childhood addiction to the U.S. radio series. We now meet the villainous owner of the local saloon with a brusque theme.

Track 3: The Girl
Our heroine appears with her ailing father. Her theme has an Irish feel to it. Simultaneously Harold arrives by train. His music is optimistic although he is treated roughly by the local cabbie. Tiger Lips agrees to employ the girl and her father but it is obvious that his intentions are far from honourable.

Track 4: First Meeting
Harold is tossed into the dust but ingeniously uses a horse’s tail to brush his suit. The Girl finds him uproarious but Harold finds her attractive.

Track 5: Lasso Practice
A passing cowboy practices his lasso stunts and Harold attempts these to a folksy waltz. More tricks follows on horseback to ‘William Tell’ but again Harold fails miserably. How can he impress her?

Track 6: Father Abducted and Spanish Dance
Tiger Lips has imprisoned the Girl’s father while Harold tries his hand at cards – Spanish style.

Track 7 : Card Tricks
More country-style music accompanies Harold’s gambling ambitions but though he is successful he relinquishes his winnings at gunpoint.

Track 8: Father Rescued and ‘Angels’
Harold tricks Tiger Lips, and leaves with The Girl. Tiger Lips summons the ‘Angels’, a parody of D W Griffith’s Ku Klux Klan scenes from ‘The Birth of a Nation’. Griffiths’ composers suggested ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ and so do we – but played by a jazz band.

Track 9: Evasions
In a sequence of brilliant evasions Harold tricks the ‘Angels’.

Track 10: Rolling Barrel and Finale
The barrel Harold is hiding in splits and the ‘Angels’ pursue him. The Girl follows the horsemen to the railway station but Harold seems to have gone. To the strains of ‘Home on the Range’ the couple are reunited and Harold draws a wedding ring on her finger.

High and Dizzy
When I first saw ‘High and Dizzy’ I immediately thought of using one of my favourite Bel Canto arias, ‘Ah! Non Credea’ from ‘La Sonnambula’ . In Bellini’s opera the heroine in a trance walks across a perilously frail bridge. The Bellini theme perfectly expresses her state of mind. I open the film with it and when The Girl appears at various points in the film, reprise it.

Track 11: The Sleepwalker and Office
After the opening titles utilising Bellini’s aria we find Harold playing a rather unsuccessful doctor waiting impatiently for the phone to ring. His patient is our sleepwalker accompanied by her father.

Track 12: Examination
The father explains his daughter’s condition but Harold flirts instead of listening. The father is outraged and he and his daughter leave a depressed Harold.

Track 13: Old Friends
The music turns bluesy and an old friend appears from a neighbouring office. He is operating an illegal still and while the two taste the brew, it explodes. The music goes Hungarian as the pair drink the entire stock. From this point to the end of the film Harold is colossally drunk. The pair emerge onto the street staggering and engage in a variety of encounters.

Track 14: Pole Dance
To a rollicking waltz, Harold rescues his friend from bondage after buttoning his coat around a pole and an in-or-out of a taxi routine. They move on.

Track 15: We Need a Room
A touch of the Bellini as the Girl and her father enter their hotel suite. Harold and his friend enter the foyer of the grand hotel. A solo violin and piano evoke a Palm Court orchestra as the two inebriates attempt to get rooms but are ignored. Finally, they take some keys at random.

Track 16: Elevators
Harold tries to cope with an elevator but some aggressive guests hamper him. Finally, he is pushed into the lift.

Track 17: Collapsed
The friend is collapsed in front of his room (more blues). Abandoning him Harold finds his own room. There is business with a key, a puppy, and a mirror. Finally, we hear Bellini’s melody.

Track 18: A Dangerous Walk
To the great aria the Girl, sleepwalking, opens the window and walks out onto the high window-ledge. Harold, still drunk, sees her and follows her out. After walking to and fro she returns to her room but locks the window leaving Harold outside. As the theme is repeated forte he realises his predicament. Finally, he finds his way back into the room but the Girl is in bed!

Track 19: High and Dizzy Finale
She panics but then Harold proposes and finds a Parson on the floor below. All ends happily with the Finale ‘Ah Non Giunge’ from ‘La Sonnambula’.

Carl Davis

Harold Lloyd's The Freshman (1925)

The Chamber Orchestra of London

Harold Lloyd's The Freshman (1925)

Composed and conducted by Carl Davis

Harold Lloyd's The Freshman (1925) - Sleeve Notes

‘The Freshman’ in my view is a large scale film and benefits from a grander orchestration than the small ensembles generally used to accompany ‘silent’ comedies. In this 2013 draft (my third) I employ an orchestra of forty which would encompass music for the sport stadium scenes as well as a large scale college dance and various crowd scenes. It also underpins the emotional heights and depths of the leading character, a ‘Harold’ with an obsession of being ‘popular’. As football is the means he will use a football theme is essential and, with its patriotic associations, a march. The popularity theme signals the jazz age and a love theme, minor key music for the college bully as well as a school anthem fill out the rest.

1. The Freshman Overture
College means football which means patriotism – therefore a spirited march.


2. Home
The school anthem is softly heard as Harold’s parents discuss his ambition to go to college. He has scrimped and saved and now his dream has become a reality. The football theme intrudes. Harold is practising his cheerleader routine, shaking the house. He explains his strategy to his tolerant parents. Modelling himself on a recent movie, he has copied a goofy dance routine which he is sure will be a winner. A fast Charleston, even Dad has a go.

3. Fall Term
Once a dream, now a reality. To a fuller version of the college anthem, the campus fills with students. We meet the rather doddery Dean and the School Bully, later to become Harold’s nemesis.

4. An Old Fashioned Girl
Introducing Peggy as the kind of girl you could take home to Ma. A sentimental waltz is required. Very important is that Peggy is not one of the privileged college folk, but a working girl, come home to help run her parents rather down-at-the-heels boarding house. Of course it’s love at first sight.


5. Arrival
The train pulls in at the college station and Harold and Peggy disembark separately. Chet, the most popular boy, arrives as well and is warmly greeted, observed by Harold. He tries out his little dance, watched by the Bully, who senses an obvious target. The music darkens as he misdirects Harold into taking the Dean’s limo to the assembly hall.

6. Tate Auditorium
The entire college assembles for the opening day speeches. Harold arrives in the Dean’s car and is deposited back stage. He hears the cry of a lost kitten. Going to the rescue, he finds himself on stage as the Bully raises the curtains. Concealing the kitten under his sweater, he clowns around, falling off a high stool, stumbling upon a ukulele and dealing with his suitcase which scatters his belonging across the stage. The students roar approval and the Bully insists he makes a speech.

7. A Speech and a Kitten
To the rhythm of a slow Laendler, Harold introduces himself. He is toying with a rapier, inserting it into a live socket, shocking himself (hence the loud chords). The mother cat calls to her offspring who crawls up Harold’s sweater, re-appearing at his neck. The students are convulsed and Harold gets into his stride (the popularity theme) and invites them all to the ice cream parlour. Outside, the crowd grows and Harold’s reputation is made. Oh, and the kitten is reunited with its mother.

8. Living Quarters
With his rapidly diminishing savings, Harold rents a shabby room (a bleak piano solo). Brushing out kitten hair, he observes a very cloudy window magically clearing and to his delight, it’s Peggy! It is indeed her family’s boarding house and she is helping out. The waltz theme heard on the train is reprised as they chat. In a charming scene Harold cuts buttons from his shirt so that Peggy can sew them back on.

9. The Tatler
Harold’s extravagance has hit the local press and his popularity dream begins to unfold as Peggy observes. But he cannot unseat Chat. The Bully suggests the route to absolute popularity lies in joining the college football team.


10. Football Practice
A new, rather galumphing theme featuring the saxophone now appears characterising the Coach. After a pep talk, there is a knock on the door, a Wagnerian climax and Harold enters in full football regalia. He asks to join the team, performs his little dance and kicks the ball over a distant fence. Furious, the coach orders him to retrieve it.

11. A Mad Dog and a Human Dummy
A violent dog attacks Harold who ingeniously evades him, retrieves the ball and returns to torment the coach. Harold now tackles the dummy so violently that it is dismembered. The Coach orders him off the pitch but Chet suggests Harold stands in for the dummy (the dream theme moves up a notch). The football theme now takes an Elgarian turn with a lyrical second section. Harold puts up with brutal tackling until he is knocked into a cellar door. Will he quit? No, he can take it.

12. Taken On!
To a weary blues, Harold stumbles in and, to the amazement of the Coach, is enthusiastic about his day. Chet encourages him to keep Harold as the water boy but not tell him. Harold, in terrible pain, remains positive but signals a passing ambulance. Meanwhile, at a hotel where Peggy is working, the Bully reveals the scam to his friends. Peggy defends Harold from them to a passionate version of their waltz.
Once more the blues. Harold crawls home and tells Peggy the ‘good news’. She is discreet and congratulates him.


13. Fall Frolic
The football theme is arranged as an erotic dream. Harold contemplates his next step: he will throw a dance and Peggy will receive an invitation. But he needs a new tuxedo – where to go?

14. The Tailor
Harold’s choice is limited by his ever diminishing purse. Musically I have made the tailor East European. He has many problems, a large family and a propensity to faint, saved only by a swallow or two of brandy. Harold is very nervous, his guests are already arriving and the suit is not ready.

15. In Full Swing
Announced by the college fanfare, the dance begins. The orchestra has become a 9 piece jazz band and plays a brisk foxtrot. But back at the tailors, Harold’s suit is still incomplete – just lightly tacked. The tailor insists on accompanying him to the dance so as to make repairs as required and they dash out. The tempo increases accordingly but suddenly stops. Harold has spotted a florist and buys a bouquet. Once more the waltz theme as we jump cut to Peggy, now the hat check girl, receiving the flowers. The Bully orders a fanfare from the band and congratulates Harold. But one strong gesture and the suit starts to disintegrate.

16. Summoned by Bell
The tailor has evolved a signal, a bell, which he will ring if he sees a tear in the suit. The following sequence consists of short episodes in which Harold mixes with his fellow students, chatting, flirting and dancing as the tailor tries to contain the damage. Finally the tailor succumbs to the stress of it all and Harold rushes out to find some brandy.

17. Hip Flask
Moving through the dancers, Harold manages to pinch a flask. But as he heads back to the tailor he spots Peggy forlornly playing ‘He loves me, he loves me not’ with one of Harold’s flowers. The Peggy theme develops with their growing intimacy and ends with a kiss.

18. Goodbye Trousers
The party is at its height, the band is hot and Harold is in real trouble, losing more and more of his suit as the tailor, stitching away, is dragged along with him. Finally the trousers completely fall apart and Harold has to make a run for it.

19. Crisis
Crouching in a phone booth, Harold sees the Bully amorously attack Peggy. Seizing a pair of trousers from a conveniently passing porter, Harold hits the Bully really hard. The Bully comes clean and reveals the truth – the whole college thinks he is a fool and are all laughing at him. Even his little dance is caricatured. Harold seems resigned to this but then collapses in Peggy’s arms. She, while sympathetic, will have none of this. To the strongest statement of her theme yet, she tells him to be true to himself. He takes courage. “There’s just one chance left”. And he storms off.


20. The Day of Days
Harold’s great day has come. To the march that opened the film we see the packed stadium, cheerleaders, the whole college, Harold’s parents, Peggy and her mother and the Bully and his set. Things are not going well for the home team with many players going down. At one point Harold thinks he has a chance to play but he was called only to replace a torn sweater. He is resigned (the blues) but at last he is the only man left. However the Coach won’t allow him to play. But Harold is defiant and makes a passionate plea (Peggy’s confidence theme) and the Coach reluctantly agrees.

21. Exhortation!
Harold plunges on the field taunting his team into action. At the very first huddle, Harold is flattened and carried off but immediately returns, groggy with double vision. Crushed again, he runs with the ball, but it is the Dean’s hat.

22. Final Skirmish
A sequence of hilarious gags: Harold wrestling with the umpire, mistaking a balloon for the ball, unlacing the ball and using it as a lure, ending with being at the bottom of a pile up with one minute to go.

23. Finale – The Freshman
His last chance – he runs and runs pursued by his opponents. All fall on the line. When it clears Harold is revealed with a broad chalk stripe across his face. The ‘popularity’ theme is played at maximum strength, Harold is the most popular man on the campus. Peggy sends him a note as he is carried away by his fans. Alone, in the shower room, he reads “I love you”. Harold, thrilled, leans back and turns the shower on himself. Fade out.

Carl Davis
26 July 2013

Heroines In Music

Philharmonia Orchestra

Heroines In Music

Carl conducts his all time romantic themes, including Pride and Prejudice, Cranford, Hotel du Lac and The French Lieutenant's Woman

Heroines In Music - Sleeve Notes


In 1978, EMI Records released an L.P. entitled Music for Television featuring scores for dramatisations of four novels and in 1981 released another, The Commanding Sea with two more novels.

The degree of public interest in seeing their favourite novels made flesh, with all their bizarre characters, picturesque settings and intricate plotting, puts contemporary soap operas to shame. An unashamed novel reader since childhood, certainly one of the ties holding me to England, now 50 years strong, has been (since the 1970s) a chance to compose music for films, TV series and dance based on novels.

In this selection of what is now a fairly massive catalogue, I have focused on the ladies: first the central role of Sarah, superbly portrayed by the young Meryl Streep in her first starring film role. The score won both a BAFTA and Novello Award in 1981.

The following three scores form a tribute to the little-recognised importance of the producer of these projects, i.e. the person who makes the phone call to say ?Do it!? In this case, the calls were made by Sue Birtwistle for Hotel du Lac (1986), Pride and Prejudice (1995) and Cranford (2007) and The Return to Cranford (2009).

Sue is totally creative in her approach. If there is a dance, she will dance, and she really can play all the hymns and dances. A lasting memory is watching her whirl around my small sitting room in Chelsea in the arms of the choreographer, working out the waltz finale of The Return to Cranford. Bravo and thank you, Sue.


In 1981, Karol Reisz, the distinguished Anglo-Czech director invited me to work on this prestigious project based on John Fowles?s best-selling novel, script by Harold Pinter and starring two hot young talents, Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons. I was very excited and then challenged as the film was complex, with shifts from a highly sexually charged Victorian melodrama to the contemporary story of actors making that film whose lives paralleled the plot of the film. The score dealt primarily with the film within the film. I made several false starts, but Karol was patient with me. After my second attempt, the first one stormy and tragic, the second rather sad, I posed the question: ?What do you want the audience to understand about this woman?? After a long pause, Karol muttered ?This is difficult!? But he came up with the following: ?Longing, she is longing for life, for love, for experience. There?s no tragedy, there is a happy ending?. ?OK? I replied, ?I?ve got it!?

I decided to limit the orchestra to strings and harps with prominent solos, particularly for viola and cello. There are several repeated themes: her longing,

her suspected schizophrenia, Charles?s engagement to Ernestina, cruelly broken, Charles?s developing relationship with Sarah culminating in one night of love and then she vanishes. Charles, now a broken man, after many years, locates her. She is now an independent artist and is ready for him. Like most film scores, these themes are broken into short sections but, almost immediately after the release of the film, I began to combine them into a whole piece. This is the most complete and contains all the relevant existing material.


My late friend, the writer and director Ronald Eyre told me how he met Anita Brookner at a party shortly after she received the Booker Prize for Hotel du Lac and she introduced herself saying ?I write sad novels?. And indeed, Brookner?s heroines seldom get their man. But I feel that her writing is in a direct line from Jane Austen, re-working similar themes ? men, marriage, the heart versus mind.

This new Nocturne is one long movement, mostly slow and very romantic. The original scoring was a trick one, featuring a small orchestra with synthesizers, but effective on T.V.

I wanted to develop it further ? I arranged and rescored the themes, more or less as they occur in the film. What was a prominent guitar solo evolved into a grandiloquent piano solo. The classical alto saxophone solos were retained from the original score.


The dramatisation of classic novels has been part of television output since broadcasting began. But Pride and Prejudice was different ? Alan Yentob, at a celebratory reception, declared that the series changed the public?s perception of the BBC and indeed an unstoppable flow of adaptations emanated from all channels in the years that followed. I put my period hat on as 1810 was the year we focused on. I had previously been interested in the novel as a ballet subject so knew the book quite well when discussions began and some of the sketches found their way into the third movement of this short suite.

The theme of the first movement is the opening of each of the six episodes, but the first episode, introducing the Bennet family one by one, gave me a chance to write an extended piece at concert length which has become my calling card and was also used for the title music of a BBC Radio

Series Carl Davis Classics. Whooping horns and virtuoso piano runs announce that wit is going to play its part in the proceedings. A more legato theme follows and that gave me the basic material for the score. Movement two introduces two grotesques. Canon Collins, a dangerous suitor for Elizabeth Bennet’s hand, is given a jocular gavotte featuring the bassoon. His patroness, the haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is rather Handelian. She is definitely out of an earlier age, musically as well as mentally.

The third movement deals with the love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. Those unfamiliar with the story might be surprised at the quote from Mozart?s The Marriage of Figaro, Cherubino?s Act II aria Voi Che Sapete! It was one of the many imaginative touches of Sue Birtwistle ‘ she suggested that Elizabeth play the melody while visiting him at his family estate of Pemberley.


The CD concludes with an extended suite drawn from both Cranford and The Return to Cranford. This portrait of an enclosed rural society in mid-19th century Lancashire threatened by the intrusion of the railways proved to be, thanks to superb scripting and casting, very attractive. Mrs Gaskell turned to her family?s past, a village dominated by genteel if somewhat fierce ladies, and wrote a memoir in the form of a novel that seems at first rather precious but ultimately charming and moving. The music for the local aristocracy?s annual f?te is as grand as it can get (tracks 13 and 14). The little polka (track 15) is for an exotic parrot who lives in a hoop skirt. Track 16 is a portrait of the onestreet town and its Amazonian ladies. (Track 17) ? A Pair of Funerals ? Matty?s housekeeper, died in childbirth and mourned by a few and Lady Ludlow, died of brittle bones and mourned by all. Then the excitement of the annual Mayday celebrations (track 18), complete with the Green Man. The finale (track 19) is derived from one of the many satellite stories Mrs. Gaskell wrote by way of extending the range of her Cranford franchise, the trials and tribulations of the courtship of Sophie, the Vicar?s beautiful daughter and a new, young doctor. The climax of their tale is Sophie contracting and recovering from typhoid fever. The movement ends with their wedding and Miss Matty?s wonderful description of their society: ?Such a fine, close weave?.

Carl Davis, 14 December, 2010


Luxembourg Radio Symphony Orchestra


D. W. Griffith's Intolerance (1916) composed and conducted by Carl Davis with the Luxembourg Radio Symphony Orchestra

Intolerance - Sleeve Notes

How exciting to revisit this recording made in Luxembourg in 1986 as a soundtrack for what was then the ‘Thames Silents’. The team of directors and producers, Kevin Brownlow and David Gill and myself were delivering up to three restorations of full length feature films a year and I was about to embark on the 1925 ‘Ben Hur’ score as soon as I had finished ‘Intolerance’.

The recording of the score followed two live performances of the film with the RTL Orchestra so they were more than ready. The main ‘Intolerance’ theme which spanned the entire 2 hours 40 minutes score had already passed into the orchestra’s history – it was hummable and quoted at times of stress.

Since the initial burst of performances in Leeds (its premiere), London (The Dominium) and Luxembourg, there have been performances in France and Germany as well as in New York of its recent re-issuing on DVD with remastered sound and new material from the Library of Congress. Performing the score to this extraordinary film is always challenging but deeply rewarding. The film’s theme has never dated and the international crises of 1917 (the film’s first release) are as relevant today in 2018. When will we learn?

Carl Davis
Windsor, 26th January 2018

Last Train to Tomorrow

Czech National Symphony Orchestra

Last Train to Tomorrow

Composed and Conducted by Carl Davis. Written by Hiawyn Oram. Dětská opera Praha (Prague Children's Opera)

Last Train to Tomorrow - Sleeve Notes

Last Train to Tomorrow

In 2009 the Hallé Orchestra of Manchester approached me to write a work for their whiz-bang Children’s Choir. My answer was an immediate ‘yes’ and an idea followed swiftly. I had in mind the underlying theme of the Kindertransport Movement of
1938-39 – children abandoned and saved by a quirk of history. The shape of the choir stalls at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall seemed to echo the dimensions of a railway carriage. When filled with a hundred or so children it could recreate the critical scenes from the Kindertransport story – the rescue by train from three key cities, Prague, Vienna and Berlin, of thousands of Jewish children from inevitable death at the hands of the Nazis, to safety in England.

How to tell the story? Spoken narrative seemed obvious but perhaps a more original way would be to have the children themselves tell what happened to them. I turned to an experienced writer of children’s books, Hiawyn Oram, who had previously collaborated with me on musicals and songs specifically for children to perform. We were both very moved by the story and at times could barely talk about it for emotion but we both set to work reading purposefully the many accounts written by survivors.

What evolved was a sequence of songs (we looked carefully at Schubert’s song cycles) each of which moves the story further along. The events that preceded the train journey from the three cities to London’s Liverpool Street Station are told in flashback, young actors linking the set pieces with historical context. The work ends with the arrival of the children at Liverpool Street Station as they face a new life in England.

Writing the Music

Now what about the music? First, the sound; I wanted to limit the range of sonorities, a sort of black and white feel, so no woodwinds or brass. I chose strings, percussion and piano four hands – the stark line-up present in many interwar concert works. And the style? I thought of what music the children might know from their life before the journey. Of course they would have heard, and the older children played, the classical masters but also the popular music of the day, sometimes rather Broadway-ish, as well as Jewish songs, hinting at tragic separation and tempered with humour and I knew the work had to end optimistically in a major key. After all, thanks to the British, these children were saved from the camps, a cause for celebration.

After the Manchester premiere in 2012, the second performance was in Prague in 2013. The orchestra was the Czech National Symphony Orchestra and the choir, the Children’s Opera Prague. The work was translated into Czech and brilliantly sung and staged. Following a hunch I asked if they sang in English. ‘Yes we can’ was the reply and I then decided that there might be an additional level of authenticity in recording the ‘Last Train…’ with them, Czech children singing in English.

Writing the words

Carl approached me in 2009 after the Hallé Orchestra had asked him to conceive and compose
a work for their Children’s Choir. His chosen subject was the Kindertransport Movement of 1938-39
and it was going to need words, he said, spoken and sung. I knew little about the subject but in the first weeks of researching, reading personal accounts and watching a remarkable Academy Award- winning film, ‘INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS,’ I became so distressed that I was on the verge of saying I couldn’t do it. I pulled myself up and together, over many months during which I discovered he was equally disturbed by the survivors’ stories, we managed to get our emotions sufficiently under control to create what has become LAST TRAIN – a dramatic narrative for Children’s Choir, Actors and Orchestra. It was a charged and wonderful experience working with Carl. His innate sense of theatre and the language of his composition and orchestrations add levels and meaning to words and story which can take the breath away. Tears may have been spilled writing LAST TRAIN but nothing can come close to the suffering of the young people who survived Nazi persecution and sudden separation from their families. I only hope we’ve captured something of it in this re-telling.

Hiawyn Oram London 2014

Liberation – A Film Suite

In 1994 I was commissioned by the Simon Wiesenthal Foundation in Los Angeles to compose a score for Arnold Schwartzman’s documentary film ‘Liberation’, a follow-up to his 1991 film ‘Echoes That Remain’: there was only one problem – due to the production schedule the film would not have completed editing before my already booked recording sessions in Ljubljana. I fell back on one of my favourite devices, that of creating a library, a series of mood pieces reflecting all aspects of the subject i.e. I was composing for a film yet to be created.

I enjoy working this way in that I have the freedom to interpret the historical themes without being forced into a specific time frame. It also means that instead of being a series of short cues, explicable only with pictures, I can compose complete movements. With the exception of combining a few cues I had a ready-made suite to hand over to the editing team and I could draw inspiration directly from the story: World War II with a particular emphasis on the Holocaust.

1. Overlord – A positive major key sense of aspiration and drive with a thoughtful middle section. It is used for both the opening titles and the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944.

2. Annihilation – Using a slow minor key the pictures represent the misery of the Nazi occupations and the growing awareness of the agenda of the Nazis to completely destroy the Jews of Europe.

3. German Aggression – This movement consists of a quasi-marching song illustrating the relentless expansion of the Third Reich and an aggressive multi-metered attack by land and air.

4. Massacre of Children – In the style of a Yiddish lullaby and in a slow minor key, the theme is passed gently around the orchestra.

5. Gathering Forces – In the meter of Holst’s ‘Jupiter’ the forces gather in England. The United States, Canadian and British armies prepare for the coming invasion. The mood is relentless.

6. The Death Camps – As the Allies advance on both fronts, the two themes of the film come together. The largely hidden story of the death camps is now revealed. In my heart of hearts, I have always felt that the camps cannot be underscored. Any music at all immediately softens their total nullity. Therefore very little of this movement is used in the final cut. But still, I had to try.

7. Finale: Liberation – Heard over a long end roller, I attempted to create a mood of resolution. After all, there was a moment when the war in Europe decisively ended. So, a warm D major and a sense of new beginnings starting with an extended unison string melody, concluding in a chorale-like manner.

La Marseillaise – An adaptation of Berlioz’s exciting setting of France’s National Anthem. It is heard as Charles de Gaulle walks confidently through the streets of a newly liberated Paris.

Rule Britannia – A fully orchestrated adaptation of Arne’s famous tune, over images of Churchill on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on VE Day.

Hatikvah – The Israeli National Anthem played over a reading of the poem ‘The Shoes of Treblinka’ by Mosche Shulstein.

Carl Davis, June 24th 2014

Loitering Without Intent

Music for Chaplin's Mutual Films, 1916-1917

Loitering Without Intent

Composed and conducted by Carl Davis. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Wihan Quartet

Loitering Without Intent - Sleeve Notes

1991 – 2004

My first adult look at this project occurred in 1983 while scoring the Thames Television 3-part series Unknown Chaplin where virtually the entire first episode consisted of an analysis of Charlie’s working methods, a hidden cache of ‘Mutual’ out-takes having recently been discovered. The next step forward occurred in 1989 after, as it proved, the successful experiment of transcribing the orchestral score and parts of the 1930 recorded soundtrack of City Lights for a live performance at London’s Dominion Theatre which started a vogue, thriving today, of stripping the scores from the soundtracks of all manner of sound films and performing them live. After the London screening I found myself conducting City Lights around the world and then expanded my Chaplin repertoire with The Gold Rush and The Kid. Out of sheer enthusiasm I added the shorts, The Immigrant and Easy Street to my list. But the real impetus to continue came in 2003 when I discovered that the BFI were planning to release the complete ‘Mutuals’. I declared my interest and our collaboration began.

In the year 2000 the up till then financing for restorations by Photoplay Productions, including the commissioning and recording of new scores for Channel 4, came to asudden end. Starting with Abel Gance’s Napoleon in 1980 and managing up to three scores a year, Photoplay Productionsand I had created enough product to stock any opera or ballet company. With a list of international clients, I refused to abandon a unique and fascinating career and sought an ambitious, large scale project of my own. I thought about completing what I had already begun: scoring the complete ‘Mutuals’. Together with my publisher Faber Music, we approached the distinguished collector David Shepard, known for holding the best quality ‘Mutual’ material, and the project formally began.

My experience of immersing myself in Chaplin’s own music, as I transcribed the late features, all held and lovingly preserved in a huge underground vault in a suburb of Geneva, certainly gave what I felt was a valid approach to scoring a Chaplin. As far as I know Chaplin himself never scored a ‘Mutual’ but the first class scores he created for City Lights and The Gold Rush led the way. Chaplin instinctively knew what the right music was for his films, style as well as content. Amazing, considering he had no formal musical education and could not write out his ideas. He relied on a series of assistants to whom he “la-la-la‘d” his tunes. No question, a frustrating affair. The struggle continued through the recording sessions, as I discovered while sifting through the scraps of rewrites that littered the Geneva envelopes. But what was his music like?

I am a firm believer in the influence of childhood experiences and the musical life of the final decade of the 19th century was at young Charlie’s disposal. Both of his parents were performing vocalists of some talent and London was bursting with theatres and music halls. Once Charlie was off the streets and into a life in the theatre and on tour, he would have been surrounded by musicians, singers, dancers and every kind of novelty act, every day of his working life. When faced with a project of the range of ‘The Mutuals’, I could see how it could all fit in. What increasingly excited and impressed me was the diversity of the subjects and their social world which Charlie continuously and mostly unsuccessfully tries to penetrate. I could even, if I chose selectively, create a mini- biography from clips of these films: the destitute childhood in the slums of South London, the years in Variety, the voyage to America and learning his film craft in early Hollywood, and the creation of the iconic figure of the Tramp.

To a certain extent, Charlie’s musical tastes were formed in the years leading up to 1913, Charlie’s arrival in Hollywood. They would include his parent’s repertoire of Victorian parlour ballads and somewhat broader music hall marches, polkas and waltzes for comedy and other dance routines. The Variety houses would also include popular operatic arias and even classical ballet. The dancers of the Ballet Russe appeared, trying to increase their meagre salaries. Charlie was a brilliant mimic and plays a convincing violin in The Vagabond and virtuoso ballet steps in both The Floorwalker and The Cure. This period also saw the birth of Jazz and its influence on popular music and dance which added to Charlie’s range. The practice of lifting chunks of classical music began as soon as the cinema became a professional entertainment. Charlie quotes the classics in his scores for The Great Dictator (1939) and his 1942 recut The Gold Rush. So it is perfectly in order for me to quote from Gounod’s ‘Flower Song’ from ‘Faust’ as he waters artificial flowers in The Floorwalker and patrols the disorderly streets of a slum as a cop to Gilbert and Sullivan ‘s ‘A Policeman’s Lot is not a Happy One’ in Easy Street.

During the course of composing these scores, I began to discern an overall form, a defining shape to the material. Just as Charlie employed a small group of actors of contrasting size, shape and disposition across the whole cycle, I too could use a handful of themes which could jump from film to film. Seeking further insights into the material, I borrowed the nomenclature musicologists use to analyse Beethoven’s output into early, middle and late periods, a very private joke but here goes.

The early period, comprising the first three films are very heavily plotted, Victorian melodrama even: absconding with a mountain of cash from a department store’s safe, a fire insurance scam and the kidnapping of a young girl by gypsies, all to suitably sinister music. The fun is in the stuff in-between. At this point, Chaplin makes the plotting of secondary interest and focuses instead on the gags. The ‘middle period’ films are held together more by their theme rather than plot: a portrait of early Hollywood, a drunken swell struggling with his rebelling house, a tailor’s assistant invades a posh costume ball. It is in the final group that Charlie really hits his stride where the plot and the jokes are in perfect balance. These films are his acknowledged masterpieces, The Cure, The Immigrant, Easy Street and The Adventurer.

Another hint from Charlie is the frequent use of what is known in the biz as source music, i.e. we see where the music is coming from and try to convince the viewers as to the accuracy of my guess. These include a small marching band confronting Charlie’s street violinist in The Vagabond, restaurant groups in The Rink and The Immigrant and party orchestras in The Count and The Adventurer. Even Edna, Charlie’s leading lady in all 12 films, tickles the ivories in The Adventurer. I am inclined to obey these images and provide the correct sounds – which takes me to the matter of sound effects.
In the case of sound effects, there is always the question of should we attempt to provide all, none at all, or a select few. Again, I go back to Chaplin’s soundtrack for City Lights where a choice is made. The obvious ones are there, a gunshot, an excited crowd and a boxing ring bell but most often they are omitted, paving the way for the music and the audience’s imagination to do the rest. I give myself the added limitation of only using effects that I can create using, in the main, orchestral instruments and players.

I use a consistent orchestra line-up, which I designate “not quite an orchestra”. A handful of wind, brass, piano and percussion and a string quartet plus bass give sufficient sound to bridge the sparseness of the solo piano or organ to the lushness of Chaplin’s post 1930 scores. For these 12 jewels have now had an extensive “live” career from curtain raisers to features, sometimes by Chaplin, sometimes not, to a full ‘Mutual’ evening, usually 3 films. In recent years I have also been using them as the basis of a lecture with clips illustrating Chaplin’s extraordinary life story. Using only these films I am able to show scenes from the slums of Lambeth, the British Variety stage, the Atlantic crossing and his first experiences in Hollywood.

After completing the 12th film, Chaplin, together with DW Griffith and Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks Senior founded United Artists.

Carl Davis,
February 22, 2015

This CD has been released on the Carl Davis Collection to coincide with the newly restored Blu-ray BFI box set released May 2015.

Napoléon (1927) 1983 Recording

The Wren Orchestra

Napoléon (1927) 1983 Recording

Carl Davis, Conductor. Music for Abel Gance's classic silent film Napoléon: Eagle of Destiny

Napoléon (1927) 1983 Recording - Sleeve Notes

The project of composing a score for one of the longest films ever made was first brought to my attention in the Summer of 1980. I had three months to assemble close to five hours of music – that was the length of the film as it existed at that date. In addition I had to conduct a performance in a manner whose tradition had all but vanished. Up until the arrival of synchronised sound film in 1928, the major cinemas had supported large orchestras to accompany the “silent” film presentations, and also must have supported a large staff of composers, arrangers, copyists and conductors to supply music for a very large and frequent turnover of films. This was long gone and I had to discover for myself a way of organising a score which could be played continuously throughout the film, and yet achieve synchronization to the standard that we now expect from a sound film recording. It was impossible to think of a more ambitious assignment!

The first decision to be made was do we use Beethoven or not? It is clear from contemporary accounts that Beethoven admired Napoleon as First Consul and found insipiration in his victory at Marengo for the Third Symphony, which he initially dedicated to Napoleon. It was only after he became Emperor that Beethoven changed his opinion and crossed out the dedication from the title page. As our film version of the life of Napoleon ends in the year 1797 I thought that the circumstances of 1803 could be put aside. There are two other facts I took account of. First Gance himself was sufficiently inspired by the music of Beethoven to make a film of his life, and secondly, and most important, the quality of the music goes well with the central character.

The next important decision I made was to respect the historical setting of the film and gave myself the date 1810 as a boundary beyond which I would not draw on any existing music. I also researched the traditional music of the period – songs of the French Revolution and the folk music of Corsica.

I also decided that at those moments when I found the view of the Director becoming subjective, and not strictly historical, I should compose original themes. The most important was to describe the eagle which starts as a living bird held in a cage, then is freed only to return to his master. The eagle recurs thematically throughout the film as a symbol of the spirit of Napoleon. I also could not find any music of the period which had a melody to describe his idealised feelings towards Josephine de Beauharnais, and so I composed a theme to represent that idea.

I used almost all of Beethoven’s versions of the Eroica theme – from the symphony itself, the piano variations and the finale of the Prometheus Ballet. In addition, there is a wide selection from Beethoven’s Theatre Music, Chamber Music, Variations and Dance Music, as well as portions of works by Mozart and Haydn.

I also searched for compositions by other composers working in France: Gluck, Cherubini, Mehul, Monsigny, Gretry, Dittersdorf, Gossec. Napoleon was known to have said that he could listen to and aria from Paisiello’s Opera “Nina” every day of his life – that melody accompanies the picnic scene in Corsica. I also used the harmonisations from the first printed editions of La Marseillaise, La Carmagnole and Ca Ira. I paid a tribute to Arthur Honnegger, who composed and arranged music for the first performance in 1927, by including his arrangement of the Chant du Depart, originally written by Mehul and actually sung by the soldiers of the Army of Liberation of Italy.

The score then is a mixture of existing music, arrangements of traditional material and new composition. During my researches for the Hollywood series, I discovered that this method was the way the composers for the silent film worked. I offer my work in tribute to them.

Carl Davis, January 1983

Napoléon (1927) 2016 Recording

Philharmonia Orchestra

Napoléon (1927) 2016 Recording

Music by Carl Davis from the 2016 soundtrack recording

Napoléon (1927) 2016 Recording - Sleeve Notes

A note from Carl: “In the words of Napoleon ‘Enfin’ (At Last!). From its 1980 premiere until today, this enormous score has dominated my working and personal life, and now working together with the British Film Institute, Photoplay Productions, and the Philharmonia Orchestra, it has been achieved.”

Sacred Seasons

Philharmonia Orchestra

Sacred Seasons

Carl Davis, Conductor. Timothy West, Narrator

Sacred Seasons - Sleeve Notes

The celebration of Christmas in music can take many forms: traditional carols and hymns comprise an early contribution, but the holiday is also heavily supported outside the church – in the concert hall, film, opera, musicals, dance, pop and at home. This CD brings together some of these elements as well as related works.

The Suite from A Christmas Carol ballet was created in 1993, the ballet itself in 1992, a follow-up to A Simple Man, commissioned by the Northern Ballet Theatre. It consists of four movements depicting different aspects of the story. In the first movement, based on the carol We Wish You a Merry Christmas, Scrooge’s nephew and niece invite him to their Christmas dinner. He vigorously rejects the offer, the brass blare out, “Bah, humbug!” and he rudely pushes them out of his office. The second movement is a portrait of Bob Cratchit – Scrooge’s kindly clerk. In vain, Bob tries to warm himself on one live coal and dreams of spending his Christmas in the bosom of his family. The third movement is part of the Christmas Past flashback. Young Scrooge is already exhibiting signs of his meanness, which alarms his fiancée, Bella. Sadly, she breaks off their engagement and returns his ring. The fourth and final movement returns to the present – the appearance of Marley’s ghost (his former business partner). Marley drags a heavy load of chains, representing his guilt, as the stage fills with fellow ghosts, waltzing maniacally.

THE NATIVITY STORY (Based on Carl Davis’ score for Ben Hur – 1925)
I scored the 1925 MGM Ben Hur in 1987 as part of the Thames Silents’ series. The film’s restoration with its new score was premiéred at the London Palladium and later recorded by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. The first 15 minutes of the film contained a visually beautiful telling of the Nativity Story. In later years, searching for fresh material for Christmas concerts, I thought of re-working this segment and adding a narration taken from the Gospels to replace the visuals and put the music into a context, i.e. what the music was meant to represent. The distinguished actor, Timothy West, came to mind as a superb reader of text (I had provided many theatre scores for him) and immediately asked him to record for me. Musically, I took a controversial line, choosing Luther’s Dresden Amen as a major motive for the entire film. This follows a pattern already set by Mendelssohn and Wagner, for a subject steeped in religious symbolism – it seemed right.

Most children study these short and charming keyboard pieces composed by Bach as lessons for his second wife, Anna Magdelana. It consists of two Marches, Nos. 16 and 18; a Musette, No. 22 and two Minuets, No. 5 in G Minor and No. 4, the famous Minuet in G. They combine to form a tiny suite.

SERENADE OF CAROLS (in four movements for small orchestra)
Morton Gould achieved double fame – a prolific American composer (his score for the ballet Fall River Legend lives on in the repertoire of Ballet Theatre and the Dance Theatre of Harlem). I thrive on his many arrangements, particularly of Christmas music. I heard Gould’s recording of the Serenade on the radio in New York shortly after he recorded it in 1949. Looking for suitable repertoire for concerts led me back to it as filler for promotional concerts for Kiri Ti Kanewa’s Christmas with Kiri L.P. for Decca (1985). Gould provides a seamless flow of a counterpoint in each of the varied movements. The shape is symphonic, a stately first movement, a scherzo-like second movement, a slow third movement, and a stirring finale. The orchestration is equally ingenious – an octet of strings plus double bass, two harps and a small group of winds and brass, numbering 24 soloists in all.

For me, Bach is always the centre of sacred music and I have conducted many transcriptions over the years and have introduced Bach into several film and television scores. Now, I wanted to present a fresh concept, to relate them to specific seasons and see them as a basis for dramatic treatment. The first, WINTER: Pilgrims, is based on the chorale Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme or Sleepers Awake! Cantata No. 140. I extended the overall length of the original, imagining a Pilgrim band, heard from a great distance, approaching centre stage and gradually vanishing. The second,SPRING: Angelic Dance, is derived from the popular Sheep May Safely Graze from the secular cantata Was mir behagt No. 208. Here, I have discarded the original accompaniment for Vivaldi-like pizzicato strings and the soprano solo replaced by a baroque (style) trumpet. The atmosphere should recall Botticelli’s Primavera. The third, SUMMER – Rite is based on one of my favourite songs, again from the Anna Magdelena Notebooks, Bist du bei mir! In dance terms, this would be the adage. For the fourth movement, AUTUMN: Gathering In, David Matthews composed to order, a short transition to take us to the famous Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring from Church Cantata No. 147 Herz und Mund und tat und Leben. My joyous finale, evoking Dame Myra Hess’ piano transcription, one of my favourites to play as a young student, attending a concert of hers in Boston in 1955 and then in my English life, Dame Myra performing during the Blitz at the National Gallery in London.

PRAYER from Mozartiana (Suite No. 4), Tchaikovsky Op. 61
A transcription of a transcription – Tchaikovsky’s orchestration of Liszt’s transcription for organ of Mozart’s ravishing Ave Verum Corpus. I was searching for a fitting close for this very varied collection and decided to end contemplatively.

Carl Davis, August 26, 2009

The Beatles for Orchestra

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Beatles for Orchestra

A recording of classic Beatles tracks, conducted by Carl Davis

The Beatles for Orchestra - Sleeve Notes

My start with The Beatles was not auspicious in 1963, after their two first hits, the doyenne of London agents, Peggy Ramsey, rang to ask my advice. She had been asked to handle a biography of something called The Beatles and what did I think? Without pause I replied “Don’t touch it, they’re only a pop group”. Well…….!

My conversion took place a year later. In my dank, Bayswater flat on a Saturday morning, having a bath with a transistor radio on, there came a blast of freshness and energy: it was “A Hard Day’s Night”. I splashed around merrily to the song – it just made me happy. From then on I followed the group’s progress, along with the rest of the world: every L.P., every single was of great interest, their evolution was amazing. I think they revolutionised the studio world once they were confident in their success. And of course, they had ideal help in their producer, George Martin, who was prepared to be innovative with them. The songs were compared to Schubert and Leonard Bernstein admired Paul McCartney’s intonation.

When it was all over in 1970, there was the sense of a sad ending for a miraculous collaboration: why did it have to stop? Of course, they still kept working but separately and with different results. But the world kept playing and singing Beatles hits and so did I.

A chance remark sparked off this CD. My old friend, Sandra Parr, Head of Programming and backbone of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, said in passing, “You know, we are always being asked to play Beatles, but we don’t have anything”. I replied, “I’ll give you something to play”. Indeed, the original recordings are still with us and I feel for a long time yet. But the melodies are very strong in themselves and if arranged sensitively would be a very pleasurable CD and fulfil a need. It would demonstrate the range of their talent from the early rock and roll influences to the quirky, with my own special preference for Paul McCartney’s soulful ballads. They may have been “only a pop group” but the result was pure genius.

Carl Davis, March 2011

The Lady of the Camellias (Ballet)

Czech National Symphony Orchestra

The Lady of the Camellias (Ballet)

Recording of the 2012 ballet composed by Carl Davis

The Lady of the Camellias (Ballet) - Sleeve Notes

In 2008, I opened the stage door to the opera house in Zagreb, home to the National Ballet of Croatia and caught sight of a large poster announcing the Mia Slavenska Ballet Competition. I did a double take: Mia Slavenska was a famous ballerina, star of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and had danced at the very first ballet performance I attended at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York when I was around 9 years old and already committed to what was to become a lifelong passion for dance. Coming full circle, my latest ballet ‘The Lady of the Camellias’, was commissioned by the company that had been home to its international star. Once more it was Derek Deane who made the call. When he mentioned the subject I immediately felt my temperature rise and remained in a fever for the two full years from the inquiry to the first night. I had a long build up of my own from childhood, listening to Verdi‘s ‘La Traviata’ on the Saturday afternoon Met broadcasts to later preparing a production at the New York City Opera. Still later, in London in 1978, I composed a score for a BBC dramatisation of the original Dumas Jr novel but in the intervening years there had been several ballets produced on the subject, mostly using music by Liszt and Chopin. Obvious, as the courtesan Marie Duplessis, that Marguerite Gautier was based on, had been mistress of both composers as well as the author ofthe novel and highly successful play. I pleaded with Derek to do an original score and re-studying the novel, was determined to include several scenes that Verdi had decided to omit, such as Marguerite’s friends freeloading at her country retreat and her final visit to Armand after her humiliation at Olympe’s party. With a contemporary concept to the decor, the action could flow without pause and indeed the production did effectively utilise projections and film. Here is our story.

A prelude to the proceedings in 3 distinct sections, a brief, joyous gallop, a calmer theme which will return throughout the score to suggest Marguerite’s unease and longing, principally on strings and a more agitated passage depicting her growing panic and desperation.

Bailiffs and Memories
The curtain rises as the bailiffs are clearing the flat of furniture of the now penniless Marguerite. Attended only by her faithful maid Nanine and her doctor, she is in the final stages of tuberculosis. An ominous and dissonant funeral march pounds out its heartbeat rhythm. Abruptly the mood changes to a macabre waltz as Marguerite hallucinates her past. The principal characters of her life drift through to themes that will be developed later: Prudence her confidante, her inner circle of clients and hangers on, Armand, his dreaded father and her chief rival Olympe. On the reprise of the march, Marguerite loses consciousness.

Retour à la Vie
Prudence appears – time for work! A large mirror drops and she and Nanine begin to put Marguerite together – hair, makeup, dress. She is ready and steps through the frame. A whirling tarantella accompanies this ending in a glowing finale.

The Inner Circle
The opening Gallop bursts out as Gaston, the Baron and the Duke arrive ready for their night on the town. They shamelessly flirt with the two women and of course make a contribution to the household finances. The Gallop changes to a boisterous waltz interrupted by a resplendent Marguerite who sweeps them off to the theatre. The sitting room is transformed into a theatre with two boxes facing each other. In the centre we are in the final throes of Act 2 of Giselle. As Giselle disappears into her grave, Marguerite and Armand gaze at each other for the first time.

Sucrées aux Raisins
According to a mutual acquaintance, sugared raisins are the key to Marguerite’s heart and Armand duly turns up at her box with a paper bagful. She is charmed but plays the opposite to a flirtatious waltz. She is shrill and vulgar and leaves a shocked Armand alone.

I Will Have Her!
Armand is furious, the music stormy. Then his ire diminishes and he sees her sick and vulnerable, suggested by a plangent oboe solo. The music is lyrical, sympathetic and Armand feels more and more drawn to her.

Waiting and Hoping
While Marguerite is recovering, Armand waits every day outside her house and is observed. Finally his patience is rewarded and he is invited in. The music is a threnody, minor key in an attempt to convey her suffering. It turns major as she recovers and then excited with anticipation.

La Soirée
Chez Marguerite attended by the “inner circle”. The Baron has also invited Olympe, a stunning blonde. Marguerite is performing her party piece, Weber’s Invitation to the Dance. The guests begin to dance but she tires and stops. Armand approaches her.

Pas de Deux – Introductions
A conversation in dance – first, the string music from the Prelude, her uncertainty and dissatisfaction with her life. Then a new major key melody, a slow waltz – could this be the one?

Temps! Allez!
Prudence hustles the guests from the room to the tarantella which signals Marguerite‘s work time but musically builds to. . .

She’s Mine!
This is Armand’s dance of triumph, all major key and affirmative. At its climax Marguerite appears, bags packed for a journey. She is opting out and leaving Paris for a new life with her young lover in the country.

To the Country
To a jogging beat, the lovers pass through roads lined with silver birch trees. The theme of the “Introductions” is treated canonically until it dwindles out.

Pas de Deux – Silver Birches
We have now reached the central section of the 1st Act: a lengthy adagio depicting the life of the two lovers in their country retreat, happiness too complete to be believed. The duet begins excitedly but calms into a sustained and serene melody. Suddenly Marguerite falters and is insecure. Her questioning theme from the Prelude returns, now an outcry. However Armand reassures her and there is resolution as they leave the stage.

For a time the stage is empty. Slowly Marguerite’s friends from Paris, dressed in white, drift on. It’s their away day.

Déjeuner sur l’herbes
Led by Olympe, the party perform a sustained pavane. It soon hots up with the addition of African drumming. As the dance reaches a climax, a dramatic counterpoint occurs – Marguerite is confronted by Nanine, the cash box is empty. More jewels must be sold and Nanine leaves for Paris as the day trippers depart.

A Perfect Day
A brief interlude, the guests have departed, the atmosphere is calm, Marguerite is alone. The tone of the music darkens but it is nothing. She goes.

Monsieur Duval
The worst possible thing – Armand’s father arrives to persuade Marguerite to end her affair with Armand. The music is a passacaglia of growing tragic power. She resists, using all her persuasive skills. He uses a mirror, pointing out that eventually she will age and lose her looks and then lose Armand as well. The death march returns and she agrees on one condition, that he kisses her as a father would his daughter (a violin solo covering 3 octaves). He leaves her crushed.

A Little Do!
Every romantic ballet requires an extended waltz and a grand party at Paris’s newest star seemed the right place for one. Olympe’s sudden ascent in the absence of Marguerite also brought her Marguerite’s ex-lover, Armand. In Olympe’s sumptuous apartment, he slumps with depression, clutching Marguerite’s letter of dismissal. All of Marguerite’s inner circle are there readily having switched allegiance and all participate in the swirling waltz.

I Love a Soldier
As if performing a number from the latest opera-comique, Olympe steps out with the entire male corps de ballet in a lively march/polka featuring a tambour militaire.

La Variation d’Olympe
In a slow, sensuous valse lente, Olympe displays her assets and her jewels ending in a virtuosic display, reprising a passage from Marguerite’s Act 1 hallucination.

Le Retour de Marguerite
Borne on the arms of her admirers, Marguerite enters the room and Paris society, in a sustained string passage. At its end, she is presented with a huge and unfathomably expensive diamond necklace. Olympe is outshone.

La Variation de Marguerite
A more dignified version of Olympe’s solo. Halfway through she catches sight of Armand and is momentarily disconcerted.

Revenge – Czardas
Devoured by jealousy, Olympe drags Armand out on to the dance floor and performs a highly suggestive Czardas virtually under Marguerite’s nose. The brass rasp and whoop.

Faites vos Jeux!
Gambling has begun and the room rapidly empties. Marguerite claims a headache and remains.

A solo in which Marguerite enacts her conflict: the necklace representing her old life or her true love. She despairs but the music is interrupted – Armand has entered the room.

Deception and Disgrace
A heavy waltz is played (again, from the opening hallucination). Armand appears friendly – maybe there is hope of a reconciliation. Suddenly the music turns violent, but no, it’s ok. Then Armand calls the party guests in to witness Marguerite’s final humiliation. He flings his gambling winnings in her face and denounces her. Her former friends find this hilarious and abandon her.

The death march is reprised, Marguerite’s illness returns. Armand’s ardour has cooled and he decides to travel abroad. The music reprises the Pas de Deux 2 – Silver Birches. Armand is packing.

Pas de Deux – The Last Rendezvous
Marguerite, running a high fever, decides to pay Armand one last visit. She knows she is dying and that he is indifferent but nonetheless she pleads for one more night of love, a night he will never forget.

The Death of Marguerite
The questioning theme in its most insistent form rings out leading to an extended version of the death march. This is her final illness. She remembers the good times, the gentle waltz and a wistful version of their last night. The end is serene, she dies calmly, in C major, pianissimo.

The Music Of Cranford

The Music Of Cranford

Music by Carl Davis from the TV series Cranford starring Dame Judi Dench.

The Music Of Cranford - Sleeve Notes

I was no stranger to Cranford when I heard rumours of the BBC production in 2007. In 1975 John Wells and I had written a musical based on the subject for Stratford East, later televised by Thames Television. But much time had elapsed and I had established a strong working relationship with Producer, Sue Birtwistle, providing scores for her productions of Hotel du Lac (1986) and Pride and Prejudice (1995). But Cranford was a different animal. Set in a small Cheshire town dominated by strong-minded women, it held itself apart from the unstoppable thrust of the industrial revolution until the railway literally drove through it. The old cusoms of garden fetes at the local stately home and Mayday remained but the lives of the wonderfully eccentric ladies who were old enough to have known the end of the 18th century were profoundly changed.

The years is 1841, Victoria was on the throne, and the music was at the height of the romantic period of Schumann, Mendelssohn, Berlioz and even the young Wagner. The great cities of Manchester and Liverpool were about to form their orchestras: the Halle and the Liverpool Philharmonic. However, this was far from the world of Cranford, Mrs Gaskill’s pseudonym for Knutsford. Local music was a small town band, the church and home music-making. However, a score for this both comic and moving story had to account for the emotional lives of the characters and help tell their tale.

Cranford is a one-street town and this road brings all the populace in and out. The flowing motion gave me the concept for the title theme.

Carl Davis
August 2009

The Music of Upstairs Downstairs

Music by Carl Davis

The Music of Upstairs Downstairs

From series two of the 2012 production.

The Music of Upstairs Downstairs - Sleeve Notes

This highly successful 1970’s series was revived for the BBC in 2011 and given a second outing in the spring of 2012. I was given the opportunity to score this latter six-parter which covered the period 1937-1938 in the fortunes of the aristocratic family occupying 165 Eaton Place in one of London’s swankiest neighbourhoods, Belgravia.

The excellent original theme by Alexander Faris (who, by the way, conducted my first opera The Arrangement in 1965) was a must for the revival of the series and is now heard in the context of 1937, when the music was a far cry from the rum-ti-tum of Edwardian London. We are now in the “Swing Era” with the strong influence of American popular music everywhere – where radio, records and sound movies were readily available. Big and small jazz bands were recorded and broadcast extensively. Music was literally “in the air”; the directors and the producers of this later series responded to that and requested an abundance of music.

The original title music was rapidly converted from a genteel waltz to a big band foxtrot with jazzy orchestrations. I helped myself to foxtrots, rumbas and sambas for scenes with any hint of background music as well as actuality scenes shot in nightclubs, balls and even a fashion photoshoot. The dangerous aristo-spy, Lady Persephone, was provided with a seductive tango. Classical references are made in Lady Agnes’ maternal feelings for both house and family in a modal theme while the power struggle between the butler and the cook is delineated in a cocky march alternating with a nostalgic waltz, whereas Aunt Blanche’s Sapphic affair has a more elevated Gluckian tone. Our driver and parlour maid are served by variety-style down-to-earth themes, and a pop ballad romantic melody.

Finally, the War – the two years preceding the outbreak of World War II contained some of history’s darkest chapters: the Appeasement Policy in the face of Germany’s annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia. The destruction of Jewish properties and synagogues and the pacts between Germany, Italy and Russia are understood fully by Lord Hallam and form a substantial part of the story. Musically, underscoring was needed to screw up the tension in the face of the inexorable march towards war. The refugee crisis and the Kindertransport are enacted and form two vocal tracks, Lotte’s Song Oh Ladybird arranged from a Brahms folksong transcription and an inspired idea of author and producer, the amazing Heidi Thomas, Holst’s Jupiter-derived hymn I Vow to Thee my Country sung by a girls’ choir to greet the newly arrived children of the Kindertransport to England.

The series ends with the sounds of an air-raid warning. The events of World War II run throughout my career from my first documentary film score in the early 1960s “DP” which concerned Polish displaced persons, to my latest composition The Last Train to Tomorrow, a musical narrative set during the journey of the Kindertransport. The vastness and range of experiences of World War II are such as to provide new memoirs and discoveries virtually every day. The concrete evidence is there. Perhaps we today can only try to understand through artistic endeavour what it was like to be there.

Carl Davis
May 2012

The Understudy

Music Composed and Conducted by Carl Davis

The Understudy

The Understudy is a 2008 black comedy from British duo David Conolly and Hannah Davis and is their second feature-length film.

The Understudy - Sleeve Notes

Wherever you walk around New York, jazz is the underscore. That was my first tip from the Director and I took the point! I have a fearsome nostalgia for the cool jazz of the 1960s and gave it full vent in the first half of the film when the plot has an upward trajectory. Jazz has drive, energy and non-stop rhythm, but that is not the full story. The Understudy has numerous twists and turns reminiscent of a Hitchcock thriller. I imagine that the film Rebecca sees in the first reel might be Vertigo and took it from there. Definitely strings I thought… with the score following the highs and lows of the drama… a minor key waltz for irony and for the feel-good factor, the La La La Song, sung by the superb Mary Carewe for the climactic moment when suddenly everything seems to be going right.

Two other elements make up the score: some timpani taps and quasi-Greek clarinet moans provide the incidental music for the Off-Broadway production of Electra and finally, music for the character I play, Mr. Davidovitch. Mr D. is a chronic tenor saxophonist, whose doleful tones drive his wife crazy! His jazz improvisations become happier, as we imagine him serenading her corpse! A bit of family history – my maternal grandfather had been a Cantor in the Old World and occasionally at family gatherings, sang Massenet’s Elegy with Hebrew text. The Elegy is recalled in Mr. D’s first piece. The jazz score was recorded in London and the orchestral sections in Prague. I found myself conducting to a screen which showed me playing it back. The musos were amazed!

Carl Davis
15th December 2008

The World At War - 30th Anniversary Edition

The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

The World At War - 30th Anniversary Edition

New recording of the score from the TV Series. Composed and Conducted by Carl Davis. Plus original songs and speeches from WWII

The World At War - 30th Anniversary Edition - Sleeve Notes

Thirty years after the creation of THE WORLD AT WAR TV series, I am once more staring at the enormous pile of music composed for this project. In the event, I decided not to “improve” on what was done, but let it stand.

The four symphonic movements arranged for the 1973 Decca album proved to have a very interesting orchestration – no flutes, no trumpets and no harps – rather austere – I liked it! But what of the rest? Sifting through the twenty six episodes in their brown envelopes, I found mostly short pieces but with the occasional longer cue. The third episode, the fall of France, seemed to me particularly cohesive and I thought it would be of interest to have at least one complete episode and this was one where the score seemed to tell the whole story. I had two other aims even before I opened an envelope, to record the Mazurka I wrote for the Polish Ghetto uprising, and an extended sequence called “Turkey Shoot”, describing the flight patterns from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific and the long wait for the return of the plane and crew.

There was a peculiar aspect to recording this score in Prague. The World at War series had such a global spread, forcing me to think of where, stylistically, the title theme should be placed. I decided to give it a Czech flavour, thinking that this country was one with democratic aspirations, seldome achieved, and was placed strategically between East and West.

Carl Davis
September, 2003

Those Liverpool Days

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

Those Liverpool Days

Carl Davis, Conductor. Carl's classic album from the 1990's RLPO Summer Pops featuring Barbara Dickson, Tommy Williams & Lucy Parham

Those Liverpool Days - Sleeve Notes

In 1983, I was asked by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra to put together a concert with the music critic and author Brendon Carroll entitled SOUNDS OF THE CITY, sponsored by Radio City the principal commercial radio station of Liverpool. The evening hit all the right buttons of the day – television themes, The Beatles, The Scaffold, Willy Russell, football and my own score for the film CHAMPIONS the story of Bob Champion and his horse Alderniti set during the Grand National. The concert established me as a conductor/entertainer and led to the creation of the Liverpool Pops on the King’s Dock in 1993. At the height of its popularity, this CD was recorded, leaning heavily on the 1983 concert but with some new elements, like the McCartney sing-along ‘All Together Now’. The ‘Pops’ survived until 2000 – eight heady years! There were many innovations here for English musical life – much influenced by the Boston Pops, we had three short acts with tables and chairs in the centre area that became a social caché. There was music before and music after so that the public might be entertained and fed from 6 p.m. to midnight. Apparently, we had the longest bar in Europe! My style was very breezy, replacing the ubiquitous white jacket with colourful costumes which the public loved. The issue was that the broad public found it very easy and attractive to go into a Big Top rather than a concert hall. When the audience figures peaked in the late 1990’s, we were the most successful summer festival in the U.K. I wish it had not ended in 2000 but a lot was learned and a lot enjoyed. Listening to this CD again, puts me in mind of it all. Where else could one get an entire audience to join in a conga line accompanied by a full symphony orchestra? The orchestra and I continue to work together and we have done some really fun things. The collaboration with Paul McCartney led to Paul McCartney’s LIVERPOOL ORATORIO in 1991 with over 100 performances around the world in its first few years. The RLPO championed the revival of silent films with orchestra and toured the U.S. with Chaplin’s City Lights. For the spring of 2011 they commissioned a new work from me for their principal cellist Jonathan Aasgaard, a Ballade for cello and orchestra which will shortly appearing the Carl Davis Collection as well as an orchestral CD of The Beatles released in July 2011. This is a very happy and fruitful partnership – long may it continue.
Carl Davis, March 2011

Those Liverpool Days

About The Liverpool Pops
Early in 1993 it became clear to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic that they had no place to play their summer season. Although the only orchestra in Great Britain to own its own concert hall, the building was in the throes of a massive refurbishment. Bob Creech, then Chief Executive of the Orchestra, had the inspiration of hiring a big top and placing it in one of the most striking venues in Liverpool, the King’s Dock. The choice could not have been happier, with its river site, the tent in bright blue and red colours with banners waving in the breeze. Our Big Top attracted, in its first year, an audience of 14,000 and in its second 25,000. Our success needed to be trumpeted to the world and in this tribute album we play our trump card – music written and inspired by the City itself and her glorious heritage of writers and composers.

You’ll Never Walk Alone
My New York background led me to think that You’ll Never Walk Alone had only to do with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s hit musical ‘Carousel’. My years in England showed me another use, that of the Liverpool Football Club anthem sung by the standing crowds in the area known as ‘The Kop’. We start with symphonic storm, out of which develops Rodgers’ stirring anthem.

Educating Rita
Liverpool has produced marvellous playwrights and composers. Willy Russell’s Educating Rita won plaudits around the world, both as a play and a film, its principal actors Michael Caine, Julie Walters and its writer won Academy Award Nominations. Willy created a lyric for David Henshall’s theme music. It’s a charming lilting melody and its lyric expresses Rita’s ebullient and vulnerable character.

A Lancashire Overture
With a clever arrangement written by Barry Forgie A Lancashire Overture catches in its net many characteristic Liverpool tunes. Starting with our first Beatles song, Get Back, Barry goes on to weave the television theme for Z Cars with On The Mountain Stands A Lady and the folk song The Big Ship Sails On The Alley, Alley, O with The Liverpool Lullaby (Oh You Are A Mucky Kid) made famous by Cilla Black, into a fine old climax.

‘Imagine’ is one of the finest pleas for peace to come from John Lennon, made even more memorable by the image of him and his wife, Yoko Ono, performing the song in a white room wearing white clothes and playing a white piano. This vision of serenity is recaptured by Tommy Williams’ angelic treble.

A Hard Day’s Night
We go back to The Beatles in their heyday with a clever arrangement by Barry Forgie of the title song from Richard Lester’s film A Hard Day’s Night. It starts extravagantly with the theme played on four flugelhorns.

A Scaffold Tribute
One of my favourite groups of the 60’s was The Scaffold, and in particular the poetry of Roger McGough, one of its three members. No representative Liverpool album could be without the jolly melodies of their three hits Do You Remember, Thank U Very Much and Lily The Pink.

Easy Terms
Sometime in the early 80’s my wife, Jean Boht, and I were seated in the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in London for a performance of Willy Russell’s new musical ‘Blood Brothers’. Within three minutes of the show starting we were collapsed in tears by Barbara Dickson’s moving rendition of Easy Terms. This study of social inequality is summed up in this song and was made particularly memorable by the performance of Barbara in the leading role. I am thrilled that she is repeating her performance of ‘Easy Terms’ on this album, as well as the song from ‘Educating Rita’.

Champions Suite
My own personal contact with Liverpool was to compose the score for the film ‘Champions’, the heroic story of Bob Champion, the steeplechase jockey and his horse, Aldaniti. Both were struggling with near fatal illness and injury but recovered and went on to win England’s premiere racing event, the Grand National at Aintree Park in Liverpool. The four movements reflect their heroic story and feature the eloquent piano playing of Lucy Parham.

Up In Lights

BBC Concert Orchestra

Up In Lights

A new recording of Hollywood, Broadway and West End Classics, conducted by Carl Davis

Up In Lights - Sleeve Notes

The recording sees Davis conducting the earliest of his musical obsessions, songs from the stage and screen. From Richard Rodgers extraordinaryCarousel Waltz to Jascha Heifetz’s notoriously hard-to-play arrangements of Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, Davis takes a starry look at Broadway, the West End and Hollywood. His work on the original 1980 Thames TV Hollywood series is represented by the Hollywood Theme and Keystone Kops. This CD also premieres a new Cats Suite, arranged by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s principal orchestrator, David Cullen.

Carl Davis has always been fascinated in music for theatre and film. Aged four, it was film when he saw the nightmare-inducing Disney’s Three Little Pigs and the even more terrifying Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Most defining for him was Fantasia. By now aged seven, he was intoxicatedparticularly by the Bach/Stokowski Toccata and Fugue with its abstract patterns. Determined to play it, despite only notching up three piano lessons, he was furious when his teacher quite rightly refused to teach him and he insisted his parents sack him. They didn’t.

Davis’s first experience of a Broadway musical was on what was called the “subway circuit”. These shows had finished their Broadway run in Manhattan and would then tour within New York City, in this case a grand picture palace called the Flatbush Theater. It was there, aged 8 that he saw “On the Town” with its original Broadway cast. It was a powerful experience – the spectacle, the fusion of dance (with Jerome Robbins at his youthful best), the originality of the score, the ingenuity of the fluid sets, the non-stop pace and energy of the playing in the pit as well as on stage. As Davis says ‘It was Grand!’.

The Lady of the Camellias (Shanghai version)

Thursday 12th March 2020 to Saturday 14th March 2020

Charlie, The Tramp (Ballet)

Saturday 23rd May 2020 7:00pm

The Lady of the Camellias (Shanghai version)

Saturday 27th June 2020 12:00am

Charlie, The Tramp (Ballet)

Saturday 27th June 2020 7:00pm

The Lady of the Camellias (Shanghai version)

Friday 14th August 2020 12:00am