Friday, December 14, 2012

Patrick Doyle: The Lyrical

Patrick Doyle was born in Scotland in 1953.  He studied piano, singing and acting at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, and graduated in 1974.  Doyle taught music after leaving the Academy and wrote scores for plays and television.  He began his career as an actor, appearing in premiere of John Byrne's play The Slab Boys in 1978.  He also appeared and composed scores for shows at the Edinburgh Festival like Glasvegas in 1978.  His film acting debut was with Oscar-winner Chariots of Fire (1981) playing Jimmie.

In 1987, Doyle joined the Renaissance Theatre Company, founded by Kenneth Branagh.  He joined as an actor, composer and music director for the group.  He wrote the incidental music for many of the group's Shakespeare plays including "Hamlet", "Much Ado About Nothing" and "As You Like It".  He also was the composer for the TV adaptation of "Twelfth Night" in 1987.  Doyle also composed incidental music for the stage version and television adaptation of Look Back in Anger (1989), both directed by Judi Dench.


His film score debut, naturally was the Kenneth Branagh directed adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry V (1989).  For the project, Doyle had top notch British orchestrator Lawrence Ashmore, conductor Simon Rattle, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.  The highlight of the score, the choral "Non nobis Domine" won "Best Film Theme of 1989" at Britain's Ivor Novello Awards.  It was no surprise that Doyle himself had a part in the film.  Both Branagh and Doyle's film career took off from there.  In 1990, Doyle was commissioned by Prince Charles to compose a piece for the Queen Mother's 90th birthday - The Thistle and the Rose, with solo soprano and orchestra.


Naturally, he composed the score to Branagh's next film, Dead Again (1991).  This time, Doyle also plays a policeman.  The thriller score was nominated for a Golden Globe.  In 1992, Doyle scored his first movie with director Mike Newell, the Celtic adventure Into the West (1992).  That same year was the French film Indochine (1992) with its melodically beautiful score.  The film itself won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.  Adding more thrillers to his list, he scored Needful Things (1993) based on the Stephen King novel and the Brian De Palma crime film Carlito's Way (1993).  The pinnacle of that year was again with Branagh, the Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing (1993).  The charmingly light score fits with the comedy, while following the formula that made Henry V a success.  Doyle appears this time as Balthazar, with a singing role.  Highlights are the lyrical songs "Pardon Goddess of the Night" and "Sigh No More Ladies".


With Branagh at the helm, Doyle composed the score to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994).  The score featured a melodramatic, romantic and Gothic sound.  The orchestra has more power in this score, compared to the Shakespearean films before.  Doyle returned with director Régis Wargnier for another French drama, Une Femme Française (1995).  Doyle's light and tender score to A Little Princess (1995) won the award for best music from the LA Film Critics.  


The critics even more enjoyed his score to Ang Lee's period adaptation of Sense and Sensibility (1995).  The romantic score received nominations for a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and Academy Award.  Branagh's next monumental project was Hamlet (1996).  While this version focused on Shakespeare's full play, the dramatic themes for Hamlet, Ophelia and Claudius were prominent.  The score received a nomination for the Satellite Awards and Academy Awards.  Doyle returned to the crime drama for Mike Newell's Donnie Brasco (1997).


If Doyle seems as if his writing speed slowed down, it was because of his diagnosis of leukemia in 1997.  During his months of treatments and chemotherapy, he was amazing able to work on the score to Quest for Camelot (1998).  The creative team to the animated film gave him extra time to work on the score.  After his recovery, Doyle was happy to return to films, like the Russian inspired East-West (1999) with director Wargnier and Love's Labour's Lost (2000) for Branagh.  The latter featured a 1930's sound with the fluffy Golden Age style of Kern, Gershwin and Korngold.


In 2001, he scored the romantic comedy smash Bridget Jones' Diary.  He followed that success with minimalist score to Robert Altman's Gosford Park (2001).  Other films around that time include the erotic thriller Killing Me Softly (2002), and the fun adventurous score to Secondhand Lions (2003).


2005 was a hit year for Doyle - first with the Régis Wargnier Man to Man (2005), and the fantasy film Nanny McPhee with good friend Emma Thompson.  His first official 'blockbuster' was for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).  Reunited with director Mike Newell, Doyle took over the reigns from John Williams with the franchise, added his lyrical sound and created memorable themes for the film.  With 'Potter', he began a relationship with the London Symphony Orchestra, which has since recorded many of his large-scale works.


With As You Like It (2006), Doyle returned to his classical style for the Kenneth Branagh interpretation of the Shakespeare play.  Doyle naturally appears in the film, as Amiens.  He also was tapped to the young adult fantasy film Eragon (2006) with its heroic fanfare somewhere stemming from his work on Harry Potter.  That bold, heroic nature and action music returned in The Last Legion (2007).  Doyle brought his style to more children's fantasy entertainment, with scores to Nim's Island (2008) and the entertaining animated film Igor (2008).


After a short break from film scores, Doyle returned with large amounts of material in 2011.  There was the spectacular minimalist score to Wargnier's French film La Ligne Droite (2011).  There was also the dancing documentary Jig (2011), a first for Doyle.  Most popular were his turns for the Marvel superhero film Thor (2011), with a mixture of modern action scoring and his lyric capability.  That same mixture was apparent in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) with a strong percussion sound.  Perhaps no recent score of his shows off his lyricism more than in the Pixar movie, Brave (2012).  His Scottish roots also shone through on the beautiful score.


Besides his piece for the Queen Mother's birthday, Doyle has written other concert pieces, including Tam O' Shanter (for National Schools Orchestra Trust) and a violin piece Corarsik (composed for friend Emma Thompson).

Patrick Doyle's sound has retained his lyrical quality throughout the years.  His early classicism in Shakespearean adaptations helped refine the sound used in modern period dramas.  Like so many other film composers, he has had a group of people involved in his scores including orchestrator Lawrence Ashmore, conductor/orchestrator James Shearman and music supervisor/coordinator/producer Maggie Rodford.  He has since adapted his sound with the modern scoring techniques like the thumping bass and string ostinatos used in his recent scores to 'Apes' and 'Thor'.  His experience as an actor is generally rare for film composers, and certainly influenced his approach of letting the dialogue shine through and having music support the actors.  The musical emotions rarely get in the way or tug you in one direction, but just gently remind the listener.


From his classical Shakespeare scores to his modern blockbusters, Doyle adapts his sound for each project with a flair for the characters and setting.  He returned from his life-changing illness with even more vigor and enthusiasm.  Since his turn for the Harry Potter franchise, he has gotten attention from film score fans and the mainstream public.  His ability to switch from large-scale to independent films makes him one a highly sought-after film composer.

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