I hate Christmas. The forced cheer, the religious overtones, the “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men” that seems to evaporate the day after. And living in New York where the streets are flooded with shoppers just makes the whole season that much more irritating. With all these Scrooge-like tendencies, you’d think I’d be a fan of Charles Dickens‘s A Christmas Carol , right?
I’ve never been fond of the story of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who mends his money-grubbing ways overnight just because he was visited by three ghosts and got a glimpse of his bleak future. Meh. Everyone from Alistair Sim to Albert Finney, Bill Murray and Mr. Magoo has played the part. So do we really need Jim Carrey donning a fake British accent and mugging his way through the role? (Feel free to report back to me that I’m wrong.)
I’d rather eat fruit cake than sit through Disney’s 3-D animated version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. But Alan Silvestri‘s joyous holiday score almost makes me think twice.
Previews for the film show a very traditional take on Dickens’s classic tale, so it stands to reason that Silvestri employed a traditional setting for the music. The score features classic animated scoring techniques, and cleverly works in quotes from numerous familiar Christmas carols and Schubert’s Ave Maria. The full-bodied chorus is used sparingly and well.
The tale obviously deals with some dark subject matter and the score reflects that in somber tracks like “Marley’s Ghost Visits Scrooge,” “The Clock Tower,” and “This Dark Chamber.” Staccato winds and pizzicato strings are the focus of sneaky, lighthearted cues like “Scrooge Counts Money” and “Old Joe and Mrs. Dilber.” Silvestri cranks up the drama in action cues like “Carriage Chase” and “Who Was That Lying Dead?” But he mainly allows the orchestra and chorus to soar in full-throttle holiday mode, sleigh bells and all.
Silvestri reteamed with Glenn Ballard (his co-writer from THE POLAR EXPRESS) to pen the song “God Bless Us Everyone,” which caps the film. The melody, which sounds like an amalgam of every famous Christmas carol you’ve ever heard, especially “Hark the Herald Angel Sing,” also forms the main theme for the score. While I would have preferred a melody that doesn’t remind me of Mendelssohn’s 1840 tune, the song is thrillingly performed by tenor Andrea Bocelli and the chorus.
On the first listen, I thought the use of traditional Christmas Carols was a bit much. But on repeated listens, I enjoyed Silvestri’s clever inclusion of them without overwhelming his own efforts at original scoring.
The score is available through Amazon and iTunes in a download-only version. A special shout out goes to the orchestrator(s) and those killer French horn licks underneath the vocals of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” in “Touch My Robe.” I’d love to credit he/she/it/them, but without the physical presence of a CD booklet, I can’t. Humbug.
Is there anything new? Not particularly. But Silvestri provides a holiday score that is such a joy to listen to that it just might melt the most hard-hearted Scrooge…even me. This CD would make a great stocking stuffer, but oh wait…