Whilst I was away in Japan during August, two new works of mine had their world premieres back in Melbourne. The Melbourne Chamber Orchestra presented a fun new piece for strings, Shadow Dances. This was my 4th collaboration with this particular group and I’m proud and honoured that they keep asking me back to write more! On the other end of the scale was a major new commission for the Heidelberg Choral Society. When the Bugle Calls, for choir, soloists and orchestra, is a 35 minute work commemorating both the Battle of the Somme and the Vietnam War. This was truly a special commission with a wonderful libretto written by local poet Leigh Hay. I was particularly devastated that I couldn’t be there to hear it in person, but it was more than made up for by the many heartfelt comments I received from members of the choir. Special thanks to Peter Bandy, a musical mentor of mine for a long time, who commissioned the work - his very first!
August started off with a wonderful trip to the land of the rising sun. My first two weeks there were filled with incredible food, shopping and sightseeing that only a place like Japan has to offer. On the musical menu was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Raiders of the Lost Ark, back to back! With both the Tokyo Philharmonic and then Osaka Philharmonic needing to learn both film scores in just a few days of rehearsal, it was certainly a gruelling week. But they were absolute troopers and pulled off some incredible performances of these two masterpieces of cinema. Following a brief week back in New York, I then returned to Japan in late August to continue the Williams fest, or is that feast?! This time it was for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, with the Tokyo Philharmonic touring around the country and bringing all kinds of magic to Osaka, Nagoya and Fukui. A little side trip to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka only helped me get in the right mood! That and butterbeer...
Just had a fabulous week conducting the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Spielberg's classic Raiders of the Lost Ark. This incredible score by John Williams was written during what some critics describe as the Bronze Age of film music, an extremely prolific time for the composer that included Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, E.T. and of course the Indiana Jones series. Kudos to the superb musicians of the SSO who managed to dodge snakes, spiders and giant rolling balls to pull off an incredible feat of endurance with this taxing score, especially the brass section! You can read more about my adventures in the Sydney Morning Herald or my interview with Sydney Symphony for 7 Questions with the Conductor.
Since February, I've been on the road with the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, conducting a new 50th anniversary Star Trek show across North America. With roughly 5 cities per week, it was an incredible tour that firmly reinforced just how strong the Trekkie fan-base really is. And what great music! To be able to bring the scores of Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Alexander Courage and many more to life night after night was an absolute delight. We even had some of the Trek composers join us for a few shows to guest conduct a few numbers.
Following the success of last year's shows, "All You Need Is Love" returned in 2016! I loved delving back into this great music with shows in Sydney, Melbourne and finishing off the tour in South Australia with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. It's been a real treat to work with the incredible vocalists Jack Jones, Ciarin Gribbin, Darren Percival and Jackson Thomas. No baton breaking this time, but there's always room for cossack dancing... especially when you get to the podium and realise you've left your music back in the dressing room!
There was no rest for me over the holiday period, as I dove head first into the world of Led Zeppelin, arranging about 2 hours of music for a new show, "Stairway to Heaven". This past weekend we hit the Sydney Opera House stage with the Black Dog Orchestra and the Zep Boys, Australia’s leading Led Zeppelin cover band. These 4 lads, led by the incredible Vince Contarino, have been performing the music of Led Zeppelin for over 30 years, spanning pubs, clubs, and concert halls. And what a blast we had - it was loud, it was epic, and it was a thorough workout! Never mind the New Year gym membership, doing one of these gigs a week will most certainly keep the Christmas turkey off...
Back in September 2014, I was the lucky recipient of the Brian May Scholarship, which saw me begin a Masters in Scoring for Film and Multimedia at New York University. I'm thrilled to announce that with the close of 2015, I officially completed the degree and am now free to break out into the big wide world! I couldn't be more gracious for the opportunity and experience provided by NYU, with many wonderful teachers and friends enhancing the ride along the way. Bring on 2016!
I had the wonderful opportunity to work again with director James Vinson and Patch Adams Productions on the short film, Airgirl. Inspired by a true story from 1937, Airgirl tells the tale of a legendary aviatrix as she clings to her final years of stardom. A huge congratulations must go to Arielle Thomas for taking home Best Actress Award at the Vàsteräs Film Festival 2015 for her performance in Airgirl!
I’ve just finished an incredible few weeks conducting Back To The Future live to picture around Australia and Japan. I’ve always loved this score by Alan Silvestri and to be able to bring it to life night after night has been a real thrill. The film is such a huge part of pop culture and so beloved by audiences around the world, with many punters dressing up for the occasion. We even had a few DeLoreans make a special appearance! Huge thanks to the wonderful musicians from the New Japan Philharmonic, Osaka Symphony, West Australian Symphony and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras. And special thanks to Qantas for looking after my hoverboard!
I’ve been very fortunate to continue a wonderful relationship with the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, with their Virtuosi ensemble touring a new work of mine, A Little Night Music, around Victoria last month. Sitting alongside the likes of Tchaikovsky, Boccherini, Mozart and Holst, the piece is like a love song to all things nocturnal, conjuring up a world where the sinuous meets the sensuous. Here’s a little video interview in which I discuss my inspiration and ideas behind the music:
Earlier this year, I worked on a new album by Swiss folk rock group, 77 Bombay Street. Consisting of 4 brothers, this is their 3rd studio album and I did some string and brass arrangements on a handful of tracks. As is the case for a lot of arranging I do, I have never met these guys and didn't even set foot in the studio! Alas, composing/arranging remains a lonely process, but at least there's the hope of an awesome sounding record at the end of it to look forward to. Check out the trailer for their new album, Seven Mountains here, featuring some Morricone-inspired strings I wrote. The album is due out September 18 in Switzerland, with the rest of the world to follow soon after.
This weekend is the official premiere screening of Trailer Music. What is it, you ask? The concept is simple: what if a film was made to accompany a piece of music, rather than the other way around? With 3 musicians, 6 filmmakers and 30 days to do it all, this was the challenge set by Melbourne-based creative arts group, anon. The idea sprung from a work for piano trio that I wrote back in 2010, entitled Trailer Music. With its cinematically-inclined narrative, Nicole Tj and Thomas Lo (both founding members of anon.) approached me with the concept of reversing the traditional notion of scoring a film. After successfully raising over $10,000 via a Pozible crowdfunding campaign, they commissioned 6 emerging filmmakers to create their own visual responses to the music. The result is a unique collaboration that brings together these two art forms in a 12-minute tour-de-force of visual storytelling like no other. Check out the trailer below:
After several years in the making, 2015 finally saw the release of my first original ballet score, Kazka. Based on a number of Ukrainian folk tales, this was a true labour of love that culminated in an incredible weekend of recording with the Macedonian Radio Symphony Orchestra in March, just weeks ahead of the ballet's premiere in Adelaide. With a cast of nearly 50 dancers, Kazka went on to perform to sellout crowds around Australia, Canada and the US. The score is now available on iTunes and can be purchased here:
Last month I had the privilege of joining US jazz trumpet extraordinaire Chris Botti in concert with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Over two nights, we performed all his chart-topping hits, including some from his Grammy-winning album Impressions. Also joining the line-up was singer Sy Smith and violin virtuoso Caroline Campbell, both extraordinary musicians in their own right.
Last week I attended the "NYU/ASCAP Foundation Film Scoring Workshop in memory of Buddy Baker"...quite the mouthful! Lasting just over a week, this was a great opportunity to score a short scene from a Hollywood feature film, with guidance and critique sessions from some of the industry's top film composers. Among the list were Sean Callery (24, Homeland), Michael Levine (Cold Case), Ira Newborn (Ferris Bueller's Day Off) and Mark Snow (The X-Files), all legends in their own right and possessing wonderful insights into both the business and creative aspects of film composing. I scored a scene from Bruce Almighty, conducting a small orchestra of top New York session players and having a good deal of fun with it all. Check it out:
Earlier this year I was very fortunate to be one of the winners of the NYU Film Scoring Competition. This annual event gives composers a chance to rescore the award-winning films of graduate filmmakers from the Tisch School of the Arts. My score was for Gene Kim's wonderful Fighting Spirits, a short animation that pits two rival ballet dancers against each other in an epic showdown of skill, speed and stamina. It's Tchaikovsky meets Transformers! Check out the film below:
For the last few weeks I’ve been busy studying the score for Michael Giacchino’s Star Trek. It’s a real monster, with over 1 hour and 40 minutes of music, and at the start of February I had the pleasure of conducting both the Melbourne and Queensland Symphony Orchestras over consecutive weekends. With an audience full of “Trekkies”, the concert was a real crowd pleaser, with many commenting that it’s the only way to see the movie. I’m biased of course, but I have to agree! There’s nothing quite like hearing the full symphony orchestra envelop the room in their glorious sound whilst munching on popcorn and going where no man has gone before. Also check out this little interview I did with TV host Paul Verhoeven for his new YouTube series, Talk Nerdy To Me.
For the last 7 years, Hobart has played host to the wonderful "Museum of Old and New Art: Festival Of Music and Art", or MONA FOMA. This year I had the privilege of joining US singer Amanda Palmer (formerly of the Dresden Dolls) and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra for a special concert featuring an eclectic variety of her songs. Arranged for orchestra by the wonderful Jherek Bischoff (who also happens to be her bass guitarist), the concert was a surefire hit with her diehard fans, and I'm pretty sure she gained some new ones along the way! She was also joined onstage by her husband, the ever-talented author Neil Gaiman, in a duet of Lou Reed's Perfect Day, as well as English singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock, who performed his classic hit, Queen Elvis. But in the end, it was Palmer's Map of Tasmania that brought the house, and her outfit, down!
2015 has got off to a roaring start, with 3 sell-out concerts at the Sydney Opera House of a brand new show that I've been working on. Titled "All You Need Is Love", it's a wonderful tribute to the Beatles, complete with a 38-piece orchestra, 7-piece rock band and 4 incredible vocalists: Jack Jones, Ciarin Gribbin, Darren Percival and Jackson Thomas. Despite having an absolute ball with all these guys on stage (including a bit of impromptu kozak dancing), the real treat for me was delving into the depths of all this great music and writing arrangements for over 30 classic Beatles songs, refreshing and updating them whilst paying homage to the great work of George Martin. Sadly, in what I can only describe as a case of rock 'n' roll antics, my shiny new baton suffered its demise by snapping in half at the end of the 2nd show. At least it went out on a high note...
I've just finished a wickedly fun series of concerts with the one and only Ben Folds, playing with the West Australian, Adelaide, Tasmanian and Melbourne Symphony Orchestras. An extraordinary singer-songwriter, Ben also plays a mean piano that continuously brought the house down every single night. A highlight of every show was his impromptu piece, "Rock This Bitch", which was completely made up from scratch each night and included on-the-spot parts for the whole orchestra. He also premiered a new piano concerto of his, showing that his talents aren't just limited to pop songs. We were also very lucky to have Kate Miller-Heidke join us for a surprise duet one night with the MSO. Sublime!