A Christmas Carol (2009)

CD Review: A Christmas Carol (2009)

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.

A Christmas Carol (2009) soundtrack
“Main Title”
“Ride On Good Man”

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…

  1. You’ve convinced me that I need to hear this score.

    I have my doubts about the film. The concept intrigues me more than the previews (Jim Carrey can be wonderful when he wants to be). But my sensibilities are quite adverse to this style of hybrid CG/live action filmmaking. It just looks stupid to me.

    Unlike you, though, I love Christmas. I concede your point about much of the good cheer and lofty ambitions melting like a snowman every December 26th, but I really enjoy the (albeit temporary) shift in focus to more positive, selfless, and yes, spiritual things. Of course the holiday is abused and commercialized by many people, and the throngs of ravenous shoppers is one of the less romantic elements of modern Christmas. But I for one really like Dickens’ simple and timeless morality tale about greed, selfishness, family, etc. I think that when done well, it’s a very powerful story.

    Believe it or not, my favorite version of A Christmas Carol is that of the Muppets. It has all the the heartwarming charm and fun of a Muppet film, but also Michael Caine makes for an incredibly engaging Scrooge, and he plays him so straight and so touchingly—regardless of what silly antics are going on around him.

    So I say, God bless us, every one! :)

    1. I think deep down I WANT to love Christmas, but my jaded-ness gets in the way. Of course, I’m the only who controls that, eh? Anyway, enough of my issues. LOL

      I forgot about the Muppet version! I’ve never seen it but I think I’ll give it a look-see. My favorite version of a Muppet Christmas is the TV special they did with John Denver back in the 70s.

      God, I feel old.

  2. Embrace Christmas, Jim. Get the true feeling of the season… Spend an afternoon in the nearest Wal-Mart. ;)

  3. The album credits

    Music composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri.
    Orchestrations by William Ross, Conrad Pope and John Ashton Thomas. Featured musical soloist Rene Mandel.
    Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands.
    Edited by Kenneth Karman.
    Album produced by Alan Silvestri.

    -Erik-

    1. Thanks for this, Erik. Too bad they don’t include any of this as part of the download, at least with Amazon. Maybe it’s part of the iTunes package.

      So kudos to Ross, Pope and Thomas for some kickass orchestrations and Silvestri’s lively conducting.

  4. This is a quite resilient film score. Beautiful in scope and masterful in detailed creatvity. I am a musician of over 47 yrs, considering all the varied nuances contained here it should be superior/award winning. The fact that Classic Christmas Carols are used and enhanced makes it that much more captivating. Oh, that the World’s collective heart would be forever changed by this musical blessing !!

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