A story of kids scoring Peter Pan 1924

Everything related to researching, scoring and performing music with silent film.
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A story of kids scoring Peter Pan 1924

Unread post by rmartin » Wed Jul 10, 2013 2:40 am

I know that film scoring is loads of work and loads of fun, but I never thought I we’d be involved in something like this!

I’m a music teacher in Vacaville Ca. Each year our school orchestra (grades 4 to 12) performs a silent feature film at our local 16-plex movie theater. Last summer we had our sights set on PETER PAN (1924) but couldn't get hold of an orchestra score. The students suggested composing a completely new score for the film themselves. Now, some of them had scored short films before – most notably two short films by the late Art Clokey (Gumby creator), but an hour and 40 minute film is a bit ambitious - especially when we only had 9 weeks until the first performance. It turned out to be one of the hardest – wonderful experiences we’d ever attempted.

PETER PAN is the perfect film for kids to score – after all – it’s about kids -- so how could we go wrong? We took the film and timed each scene; created leitmotifs and major themes and began the orchestration. They quoted a few old folk songs most notably, Home Sweet Home since it was on the piano in one of the scenes and My Country ‘tis of Thee because the kids “sing” it on the screen in a scene. But most themes were written by the younger students. Some of the kids were too young to write them out, so I had them sing their opuses into a voice recorder and the older kids transcribed them and included all of them into the orchestrations. They especially loved the battle scenes onboard the Jolly Roger and, of course, the Pirate and Crocodile scenes, but the whole thing was a lot of fun.

With the wonders of Finale we were able to digitize the orchestra scores and create digital files for each cue that we could plug into the test film to make sure it timed well to the action before we printed the parts to let the real student orchestra “have at it” in rehearsal.

When it was finished we had all 82 cues completed. The two sold-out performances ended with standing ovations and a big sigh of relief from the kids – not to mention myself :-)

So here’s the trailer they created for promotion before the first live orchestra performance. It contains short digital excerpt from two of their cues (unfortunately out of context -- as trailers usually are) but a fun little 1-minute promo thing none the less :-)

They're currently working of Carl Davis' wonderful score to THIEF OF BAGDAD for performance this August 14 and 15 at 7pm at Brenden Theatres - Vacaville Ca.




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