John Altman's jazz score for a classic movie

A new jazz score by British composer John Altman for the silent screen classic Shooting Stars will be performed live at the Odeon Leicester Square during the BFI Film Festival

BAFTA and Emmy Award-winning composer John Altman (pictured right with Quincy Jones) has composed a new score to accompany Shooting Stars, a classic British silent film produced in 1928. Altman, whose work includes music for Titanic and the James Bond movie GoldenEye, has written music which the BFI says will appeal to "fans of classic dance bands and Duke Ellington jazz". The score will be performed live at the premiere of a new restoration of Shooting Stars, as part of the 59th BFI London Film Festival. The premiere will take place at the Odeon Leicester Square on Friday 16 October 2015.

Altman (who featured in the June issue of Jazz Journal) has written the score for a 12-piece ensemble playing multiple instruments. It's inspired by some of the sheet music for the classic song Ain’t She Sweet which is seen on screen in the film. Shooting Stars was written and co-directed by Anthony Asquith, son of the former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith. Co-incidentally, Altman won the Anthony Asquith Award for Achievement in Film Music for Hear My Song.

John Altman said “For the new score I have been inspired by dance band sounds and Duke Ellington in 1927. It’s not a slavish period recreation but I have tried to find an appropriate way of reflecting some of the plot twists and ironic deceptions through a series of interlinked musical themes. The score will be played by a very versatile group of musicians and we will end up using almost as many instruments as a complete orchestra through the whole film. I hope that the music will carry audiences effortlessly through the emotional highs and lows of this brilliant film.”

Shooting Stars is a movie about the movie business. Annette Benson and Brian Aherne play two mis-matched, married stars and Donald Calthrop a Chaplinesque star at the same studio. Chili Bouchier, Britain’s first sex symbol of the silent era, plays a key role as an actress/bathing beauty, an attractive foil to the antics of the comedian. The film manages to operate as a sophisticated, modern morality tale, while it’s also both an affectionate critique of the film industry and a celebration of its possibilities.

For further information about the BFI London Film Festival and ticket sales go to the BFI website.

Bruce Lindsay

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