I’ve always been appreciative of Patrick Doyle’s talent as a composer; he has a gift for melody and orchestral nuance, and a sparkling romantic touch with music. Last night those gathered at the Royal Albert Hall in London bore witness not only to that musical gift, showcased through two-hours of his film music performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, but also Patrick’s mighty heart.
It’s ten years since the composer was diagnosed with Leukaemia, a disease that, we were informed, only 30% of adults survive. Patrick’s brave battle is inspiring for many and with the help of his family and good friends, it is a battle he thankfully won. So, ten years on, and many scores later, Patrick teamed up with Britain’s leading blood-cancer research charity, Leukaemia Research, and with a little help from his friends put on one hell of a show.
They say you can get the measure of a man by his friends, and with the likes of Kenneth Branagh, Dame Judi Dench, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane and Sir Derek Jacobi on his speed-dial, Patrick Doyle is perhaps off the chart. Branagh directed tonight’s show and was a great force in getting it off the ground. His collaboration with Patrick, which began at London’s Renaissance Theatre Company, has since born the likes of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Frankenstein, Loves Labours Lost, As You Like It and Sleuth and the pair remain close friends. Of course those big-screen Shakespearean adaptations played a big part in the night’s programme, beginning with three selections from 1993’s Much Ado About Nothing. Emma Thompson reprised her role as Beatrice, prancing onstage, feeding grapes to orchestra and audience members, before performing the verse ‘Sigh No More Ladies’, which was elegantly put to music by Doyle for the film, while Tenor Scott Davies sang ‘Pardon Goddess of the Night’ from the film. Sir Derek Jacobi stole the show though with a thunderous recital from Hamlet, backed by Patrick’s thrilling underscore.
French director Regis Wargnier was on hand to introduce two dramatic cues, from his films Indochine and East-West. The director offered his memories of working with Patrick for the first time and also, for the latter film, taking the screenplay into hospital for him to read. He recalled how they both tried to hide their shock, Regis’ at how sick Patrick was, and Patrick at how shocked Regis looked. Another director friend to take to the stage was Mike Newell, with whom the composer has worked on the likes of Into The West, Donnie Brasco and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. The ‘Harry Potter Waltz’ opened the second half, with Newell introducing the beautiful theme ‘Harry In Winter’. The LSO worked their own magic with Doyle’s music, under the strong direction of conductor Dirk Brossé.
Great humour was abound during the concert and the likes of Imelda Staunton, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane and Greg Wise recounted hilarious anecdotes about their time with Patrick, as a friend and as a fellow actor. Staunton remarked how Patrick’s laugh is so raucous it can be heard across several counties and, being seated just in front of him, I can vouch for that. The big names continued to step up to the microphone and the highlights continued well into the night. A poignant moment came when actress Celia Imrie took to the stage with Angela Baker. Angela is one of the original Calendar Girls, portrayed as Annie Clarke by Julie Walters in the film, and who lost her husband to Leukaemia. In fact all of the original ‘girls’, members of the Rylestone Women’s Institute, were present and seated in the Royal Box. Leukaemia Research has had a fruitful association with them and, with Patrick coincidentally scoring the film in 2003, it has become a wonderful union. Imrie and Baker went onto introduce US singer/songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman, who put lyrics to Patrick’s theme from the film to create the heartrending song ‘I Find Your Love’. It was a moving moment in the show, made all the more poignant knowing Chapman’s own husband was also taken by the disease.
Further highlights came thick and fast, not least of all the world premiere of Patrick’s new Violin Concerto. Dedicated to his wife Lesley and introduced by his daughter Nuala, the work is based upon themes from his recent score for Branagh’s As You Like It and is in fact titled the ‘Rosalind Violin Concerto’. Soloist and Co-Leader of the LSO Carmine Lauri performed the piece beautifully on his 1780 Lupot instrument. Another Doyle took to the stage in the first half, this time Patrick’s other daughter Abigail. An accomplished vocalist, the young artist performed ‘The Way It’s Meant To Be’, the lyrics for which she co-wrote with director Robert Altman for his 2001 film Gosford Park. Richard E. Grant introduced this segment, which included the buoyant piece ‘String Folly’.
Bringing the evening to an end was Dame Judi Dench who introduced a selection from Patrick’s first film score, Henry V. Kenneth Branagh and Jimmy Yull performed as Henry and Westmoreland, with Branagh giving an exuberant recital of the ‘St. Crispin’s Day’ speech, backed by Patrick’s score. The big surprise of the evening came when Patrick himself took to the stage to perform the opening vocal solo of his piece ‘Non nobis, Domine’. It was a very strong clear vocal performance, and a lovely touch to the programme. The London Symphony Chorus were magnificent of course in what was a resounding finale. Of course that wasn’t really the end and the ‘cast’ assembled onstage to sing, with a little help from us, a reprise of ‘Sigh No More Ladies’, before Patrick took some time to say a few words, surrounded by his friends. He remarked how having his music performed at the Albert Hall by the LSO was something he would never have imagined in his wildest dreams and to be able to gather together such immense world-wide talent was a ‘miracle’.
It’s certainly true to say that to be able to see not only the world’s greatest orchestra, but also a who’s who of acting talent all under one roof (and what a roof), was just the biggest of treats. Patrick Doyle’s Music from the Movies – An All-Star Celebration was without doubt an enourmous success and a remarkable achievement. This was a special night; not just a concert, but a celebration of life, courage, good humour and music, all things which form part of Patrick Doyle’s character and things that ultimately helped him win his battle with Leukaemia.
If you want to find out more about the wonderful work Leukaemia Research do, or if you want to lend your support, then visit www.lrf.org.uk.
With thanks to Serena Snoad at Leukaemia Research.
Originally published at Music from the Movies.com, October 2007.