World Premiere Monday 7th October


Danny Elfman has composed themes as diverse as Tales From the Crypt, Desperate Housewives and of course The Simpsons, as well as films such as Men in Black, The Frighteners and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. However, it is his compositions for (most*) of the films of Tim Burton that he is most recognised, and this relationship was the reason for last night’s sold-out concert at the Royal Albert Hall.

John Mauceri conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra, who worked their way through his Burton back catalogue. The music was accompanied by a slideshow of film clips and Burton’s drawings, the early conceptions of his characters. This was a good idea, but I became so enthralled with watching the orchestra that I often forgot about this.

Films featured included early work such as Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (first full-length feature for both in 1985) and Edward Scissorhands, to later efforts like Big Fish and Dark Shadows as well as animated films Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie.

It can only be described as sublime. Standouts for me were the unbelievably good Beetlejuice intro, Mars Attacks! (a film which I am not overly fond of), complete with theremin UFO-like sounds and the Batman films. (I actually got chills during the Batman sequence).

A huge crowd pleaser which made good use of audiovisual was Edward Scissorhands. From the ethereal choir accompanying Kim as she danced under ice flakes, to the mechanical rumble of the Inventor (Vincent Price) at work, to the whizzy violin solo accompanying Edward’s manic topiary, it was magnificent.

For the Nightmare Before Christmas segment, Elfman joined the orchestra on stage to sing as Jack Skellington, a role which he undertook in the film. He sang four songs, including ‘What’s This’, which was magical. He also sang ‘Oogie Boogie’s Song’, with conductor John Mauceri filling in for Sandy Claws. This was the first live performance of these songs since the film’s debut in 1993.

Helena Bonham Carter took on Catherine O’Hara’s Nightmare role for ‘Sally’s Song’, which she actually performed quite well, despite her admitting to ‘losing my virginity’ with regards to live singing. Burton himself made an appearance at the end.

It was probably one of the best concerts I have ever been to and Elfman called the it the best moment of his life. It made me want to watch all of Burton’s films again, especially ones I haven’t seen in a while, like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. It also made me wish I could play an instrument.

Look out for posts this week on my favourite Tm Burton films and my favourite TV opening credits.

End note
*The only Tim Burton-directed movies Elfman did not score were Sweeney Todd and Ed Wood. As Sweeney Todd was adapted from a musical this makes sense. Elfman’s missing name under the composer credit in Ed Wood is a little more confusing. This was apparently due to the two falling out (circumstances unknown), although it evidently didn’t last.