Composers of today’s hottest TV shows lead a full L.A. orchestra and choir in an unprecedented Television Academy celebration
by Linda A. Rapka
Today’s hottest TV music came to life at Royce Hall May 21 with the Score! concert, presented by the Television Academy in its first live showcase of television music as performed by a full orchestra and choir led by the composers themselves.
The unprecedented musical event boasted an orchestra of more than 70 of Los Angeles’s top musicians, contracted by David Low and featuring many of the same musicians who originally recorded the scores. Sharing the stage was the 40-voice LA Chorus directed by Steve Lively, and conducting the performances of today’s iconic television themes were the very composers who wrote them.
The concert began with Mark Watters, music director and TV Academy Governor who co-produced the concert, conducting a 12-minute opening medley of samplings from 24 hit modern series including “Breaking Bad,” “Law and Order,” “Modern Family,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Dr. Who.”
Noted author and film-music journalist Jon Burlingame hosted the event, and remarked on the relevance of the music being presented that evening. “Music for television is not just background or underscore,” he said, “but rather an integral part of the storytelling experience — a critical factor in creating mood, setting the pace, reminding us of the place and the people and, most of all, conveying the emotion that is ultimately the reason we keep tuning in.”
Having traveled all the way from England for the concert, British composer John Lunn performed his theme to “Downton Abbey.” The bulk of the rest of the evening highlighted Los Angeles composers and their locally scored music.
“The Simpsons” composer Alf Clausen introduced Dell Hake, who conducted selections from the hit animated series including a hilarious rendition of “We Do (The Stonecutter’s Theme)” with a sly reference to Kim Kardashian thrown in for good measure. Jeff Beal conducted his enigmatic score from “House of Cards” before swapping baton for trumpet to perform a solo rendition of his beloved quirky “Monk” theme. Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman’s themes from “Touch,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Carnivàle” and “Heroes” were conducted by Suzi Katayama. Bear McCreary then led selections from “Da Vinci’s Demons,” “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “The Walking Dead,” during which an arsenal of zombies staggered to the stage, tearing the composer from the podium and carrying him off to places unknown backstage.
“It’s said we are in the second Golden Age of television, but I think this is the Platinum Age and music is its emotional beating heart,” said ASCAP composer Michael A. Levine, an Academy Governor and one of the concert’s executive producers. “There has never been such a confluence of so many great programs — and great scores — in the history of our medium. This concert showcases a small sampling of this outstanding work.”
The second half opened with “24” composer Sean Callery — introduced by a surprise video message from none other than series stars Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) and Chloe O’Brian (Mary Lynn Rajskub) — who also presented music from “The Kennedys” and “Elementary.”
Next, 19-time Emmy®-nominated ASCAP composer Mark Snow took center stage for a special tribute where he was presented a Career Achievement Award from the Television Academy’s Music Peer Group by his brother-in-law, actor Tim Daly of “The Mindy Project.” Snow then regaled the audience by leading a live performance of his beloved themes from “The X-Files” and “Millennium.”
James S. Levine followed by performing his themes from “American Horror Story” and “Glee,” accompanied by some of the vocalists who regularly contribute to the shows. “Family Guy” composer Walter Murphy then led musical highlights from the racy Seth MacFarlane series, including a not-so-PC version of “All I Really Want for Christmas.” Trevor Morris followed with his music from “The Borgias” and “The Tudors.”
As could only be expected as a precursor to the final performance of Ramin Djawadi’s powerful “Game of Thrones,” an epic battle sequence with swords and axes erupted from the audience onto the stage, ending — naturally — with the killing of a king.
“We were thrilled not only by the response and enthusiasm from the audience but thrilled from the rest of the orchestra and composers, and everybody involved,” the Academy’s Watters said. “The musicians came through as heroes, as they always do. We are certainly hoping to make this an annual event.”