September 18, 2015
John Debney, Conrad Pope Honored by ASMAC
Arrangers' Society presents Golden Score Awards to respected composers by Jon Burlingame
LOS ANGELES—A who's-who of Hollywood music royalty turned out Thursday night as the American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers honored composers John Debney and Conrad Pope with their annual Golden Score Awards at the Skirball Center.
Nearly 250 attended, including past Golden Score recipients Randy Newman, Patrick Williams and Bill Holman, along with recent Emmy nominees Bruce Broughton and William Ross. ASMAC president Chris Walden welcomed the crowd, noting that the organization dates back to 1938 and continues to support today's young musicians via workshops and scholarships.
The evening opened with Kim Richmond conducting three pieces from Pope's Tim's Vermeer score for chamber ensemble including piano, harp, flute and string quintet. Pope's wife, composer and Grammy winner Nan Schwartz, spoke of his "high musical standards" and "the respect, passion and pride" he exhibits as a working professional in Hollywood.
Paul Broucek, president of Warner Bros. music, has recently been working with Pope as orchestrator and conductor on the Hobbit movies. He called Pope "a rock-solid partner... brilliant on the stand with the orchestra. He had the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in the palm of his hand. Conrad is the full package. He's what we all aspire to do."
Video clips illustrated Pope's work as composer (My Week With Marilyn, Tim's Vermeer, Pavilion of Women) as well as orchestrator (for scores by John Williams including Jurassic Park and three Star Wars films; Alexandre Desplat, including the two-part Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button; James Horner, including The Rocketeer and Troy; Howard Shore's Hobbit trilogy, and others). Illusionists Penn & Teller (writers and producers of Tim's Vermeer) also sent a congratulatory video.
Pope said he especially appreciated the award (for "continued excellence... and achievement in composing, arranging and orchestrating") as coming from his peers in the music community. He cited veteran orchestrator Arthur Morton as a mentor and pointed out that "all arrangers can compose, but not all composers can arrange. It can be a thankless task."
The Debney segment began with pianist Mike Lang performing the composer's theme from Dreamer, and the string quintet playing a medley of Debney's film themes (including his Oscar-nominated score for The Passion of the Christ) arranged by Kevin Kaska.
Legendary Disney composer Richard Sherman reminisced about first meeting Debney 50 years ago when the composer's father, Disney producer Louis Debney, first brought "Johnny" to the studio to watch Sherman and his brother Robert write songs at the studio. "His beautiful, poetic themes come out of a warm, loving heart," Sherman said.
Talking about Debney's work as part of a video tribute were directors Ivan Reitman (Hotel for Dogs), Jon Favreau (Elf), Rob Cohen (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), Garry Marshall (The Princess Diaries) and Robert Rodriguez (Sin City).
Accepting the award, Debney called it "a weird, surreal, wonderful thing," acknowledged the late James Horner who "started me on this path," and praised the Los Angeles musicians for "making us look good." He also cited fellow composer Bruce Broughton, his recent collaborator on the miniseries Texas Rising, as an inspiration, saying he wore out multiple copies of Broughton's Silverado LP in the 1980s.
Debney, claiming "it's a little stuffy in here," suddenly brought out his guitar, summoned other musicians (including Paramount music president Randy Spendlove) to the stage and concluded the show with an impromptu rock concert, performing "Superstition," "Soul Man" and others.
©2015 Jon Burlingame