June 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Melbourne 2006: XVIII Commonwealth Games
Official Music from the Opening Ceremony
Music composed by Christopher Gordon
Performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, with Gondwana Voices, the Melbourne Chorale, the Young Voices of Melbourne
Conducted by Lyn Williams
Produced by Christo Curtis
‘The National Anthem’, written by Peter Dodds McCormick, arranged by Christopher Gordon;
‘Under the Milky Way’, music and lyrics by Steven Kilbey and Karin Johnson, orchestra and choir arranged by Christopher Gordon;
‘Together we are one’, performed by Delta Goodrem, written by Delta Goodrem, Guy Chambers, Brian McFadden, orchestra and choir arranged by Christopher Gordon;
‘Boy on the Bay’, written by Paul Stanhope;
‘My Skin, My Life’, written by David Page, performed by Ursula Yovich; ‘Cities’, performed by The Cat Empire, written by F. Riebl and H. Angus;
‘Queen’s Baton Relay’, written by Richard Mills
  Available on Sony-BMG (82876820592)
Running Time: 55:14
(Christopher Gordon compositions running time: 24:44)*
* Not counting tracks arranged by Christopher Gordon
Amazon US

See also:

  • Master and Commander
  • On the Beach
  • Salem's Lot
  • I was quite surprised on hearing that a soundtrack album would be released for the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games, recently staged in the ‘cultural capital’ of Australia, Melbourne. It turns out that it’s not so unusual for the younger cousin of the Olympic Games to get a soundtrack release – there was a cassette album issued for the 1982 Brisbane Games. Whatever the motivation or the commercial prospects of the release, the album available on Sony-BMG provides another exciting score by one of Australia’s finest film composers, Christopher Gordon.

    In a series of high profile TV movie (On the Beach, Moby Dick, Salem’s Lot) and feature film (Master and Commander, conducting and orchestrating on Moulin Rouge) assignments, Gordon has established himself as one of the few distinctive voices in modern film composition. The Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Games offered him the opportunity to underscore the events in a more celebratory mode than his films to date have typically allowed, and there is roughly twenty five minutes of music here composed and orchestrated by the Sydney-based composer, performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and a variety of vocal ensembles under the baton of Lyn Williams.

    ‘Countdown’ gets things off to a slightly awkward start, with the composer’s vibrant orchestration mixed under a choir speaking the names of the last few cities to host the Commonwealth Games. The brass flourish that opens the cue is a taste of what’s to come, and in ‘Journey to the Stadium’, the composer unveils an inspiring theme predominantly carried in the brass (particularly the trumpets), with attractive and busy complementing lines in the strings, woodwinds and percussion. After a cautious opening for flute and harp, ‘Welcome to the MCG’ moves into vibrant woodwind writing and brass flourishes, the foundation for a jubilantly-busy passage for full orchestra. Though the cue is clearly reactive to events – it dies away to silence before the orchestra resumes with some unique percussion effects and an almost Gershwin-style fanfare – there is a freedom to the development of ideas in these cues that is hard to imagine hearing in a film. (I mention Gershwin not because of any debt to the composer, but more for stylistic similarity.

    ‘Raising of the 3 Nation Flags’ opens with a battery of percussion reminiscent of Master and Commander, developing into a dialogue for timpanist and light percussion that offers a refreshing break from the full orchestral sound of the surrounding track. ‘The Arrival of the Head of the Commonwealth’ is heralded with the expected brass fanfare, some Gordon signatures from Moby Dick’s main theme evident in the elegant brass-only composition. I must confess that the power of Australia’s ‘National Anthem’ to move me is not great at all, but it’s interesting to hear the composer arrange the orchestral accompaniment to fit in with his own compositions.

    >More exciting is ‘Welcome to Melbourne’, which after a bold opening moves into the theme from ‘Journey to the Stadium’. There’s a gorgeous development of the melody in the strings with brass counterpoint, the theme giving way to the frenetic orchestral business of ‘Welcome to the MCG’ – dashes of minimalist motion and again a Gershwin-style fanfare. The themes counterpoint in thrilling fashion before the climax, making it one of the composer’s strongest compositions. Though it’s not actually by Gordon, ‘Queen’s Baton Relay’ by Richard Mills fits in remarkably well with the earlier score tracks, carrying a celebratory theme through the orchestra. Gordon returns in ‘Raising of the Flag’, and brings events to their climax with a stately reprise of his ‘Journey to the Stadium’ theme. After one last orchestral blast of the main theme, the choral ensembles from the ‘Countdown’ return for ‘Finale’, the orchestra growing in strength through the cue until its climax.

    I haven’t said that much about the works by other composers and pop artists on this album, as to me they’re definitely riding on the good will generated by the Gordon score. While it nicely mixes orchestral and choral ensembles over its eight-minute length, Paul Stanhope’s ‘Boy on the Bay’ doesn’t have the same flair as the Gordon pieces, feeling a bit too tied to the events it accompanies. ‘My Skin, My Life’ with it’s ethereal female vocals and pop backing is nothing special. Steven Kilbey and Karin Jansson’s guitar-led pop ballad ‘Under the Milky Way’ works a lot better, with orchestral arrangements by Gordon that are more involved than the usual layer of strings applied to there sorts of songs. Also good is ‘Cities’, a large jazz band ensemble sound that caught me by surprise. Though it really isn’t my cup of tea and feels anticlimactic after ‘Raising of the CGF Flag’, the Deltra Goodrem ballad ‘Together we are one’, arranged by Gordon, does raise a goosebump or two. (Though the lyrics, exhorting the athletes to ‘put our differences behind us’, and ‘see what we’ve all become, together we are one!’ feel a bit over the top for the event! Have the nations of the Commonwealth had that many differences of late that must be put behind us?)

    What I like most about the score for this Opening Ceremony is that it has opened up a side of the composer I hadn’t really heard before. Moby Dick, though blessed with a grand theme, is mostly devoted to illustrating Captain Ahab’s quest for revenge. On the Beach is almost entirely elegiac; Master and Commander martial and thrilling; Salem’s Lot, chromatic and haunting; Ward 13, thrilling action hero pastiche. But here we hear celebration – exultation. (Though I haven’t heard them, I imagine there must be a certain parallel to Gordon’s work on the IMAX documentary Sydney – Story of a City and the Opening Ceremony of the Rugby World Cup.) With license to go for this mood, Gordon has crafted some thrilling set pieces, and we’re lucky to have a CD of it. I suggest the composer’s fans get it while they can – as I don’t know how long it will be available for.

    Michael McLennan

    Rating: 3 (album as a whole)
    Rating: 4.5 (Christopher Gordon score)

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