and the Christmas Classic
by Christopher Coleman
Hot off the heals of his Academy Award winning score for Shakespeare
in Love- one, I admit, took me some time to fully appreciate –
composer Stephen Warbeck delivers a similarly inspiring score for the
television film, A Christmas Carol, starring Patrick Stewart.
First Shakespeare and now Charles Dickens? Warbeck doesn't seem to
mess around with the stories he composes for. The
classic British Christmas tale deserved nothing less than an accomplished
British Scrooge as well as composer.
They both deliver their special gifts…as has Varese Sarabande in
their release of the score.
There have been about one dozen full length film adaptations
of this classic tale, produced for the theatre and television.
Because of this, my initial reaction was with a measure of
resistance. Just how many
times can a story be retold. However,
finding out that Patrick Stewart was playing the lead role, changed my
reaction completely. Finding
out that Stephen Warbeck was the composer delighted me even further.
Warbeck is able to capture the darkness and light of this
story, the greed and the giving, the Christmas Spirit and its antithesis.
As we travel with Picard…err Scrooge and the three mystical
guides, discovering the history of this bitter man, Warbeck’s score adds
even more depth to each successive scene. While all of it is not
that engaging a part for the film context, the moments of music
reflecting Scrooge's introspection and transformation are easily
appreciated in and of themselves.
Scrooge’s recollection of his life as a young clerk
brings a terrific celtic touch to
several tracks towards the
middle of the CD. Track 8, Fran’s
Tune, track 10, Fezzi Wig’s Party.
In addition Warbeck includes a celtic element in a few other tracks
such as the solo flute beginning of The First Noel/ The Workhouse (track
One can easily hear textures and layers of music similar to Shakespeare
in Love in a number of tracks: track 9, Arrival at Fezziwig’s,
track 20, The Ghost of Christmas Future, track 22, Little Child,
track 23, Death, track 24, A Merry Christmas (which tips its
hat to Deck the Halls).
There are several traditional Christmas carols that are
incorporated into the film and have made their way onto the soundtrack.
God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, The First Noel, O Little
Town of Bethlehem. The First Noel is the most appealing
of the bunch. The others deliver vocal performances that were really
made to be heard in the movie's context. Out side of this, they are
less than stunning.
The George C. Scott performance of Scrooge has been a favorite of mine for
some time, but now this latest version comes close to supplanting it as
number one. Stephen Warbeck's score certainly adds to its
appeal. While not as entertaining track for track as Shakespeare
in Love, there are several moments worth listening to year-round.
Track 22 - Little Child