At least for me, Alan Silvestri’s score for the 2009 film adaption of Charles Dickens’s beloved “A Christmas Carol” is one of the best Christmas-related scores ever written in the history of film scoring: Based on Charles Dickens’s beloved story, the composer provides an unbelievably joyous, masterfully crafted music that makes up for a truly thrilling listening experience.
Countless productions have been made based on Charles Dickens’ timeless tale about the Victorian miser Ebenizer Scrooge whose life changes forever after being visited by three ghosts on a rather unusual Christmas Eve. The latest addition to this canon is the 2009 movie directed by Robert Zemeckis who continues his collaboration with veteran composer Alan Silvestri, a collaboration that surely is one of the most fruitful and successful of this kind in modern cinema. After having worked together on “The Polar Express”, their thirteenth project marks another opportunity for Silvestri to provide some joyous Christmas music – and luckily, he does not only succeed, but he makes it one of his most entertaining score albums in a very long time.
The 45-minute-album, at first only released as a digital download only, and later on released as a physical copy by Intrada Records in 2014, starts off with “A Christmas Carol Main Title”. Within four and a half minutes, Silvestri introduces his main theme, filled with pure joy and an undeniable Christmas spirit, that is sparkled all over the entire score and always comes up in brilliantly orchestrated, happiness-bursting variations (thank you, Conrad Pope and William Ross…I mean, if you have these guys working on the music’s orchestrations, could anything go wrong with your score?). The theme itself is a mash-up of small parts of the melodies of both “Deck the Halls” and “Good King Wenceslas”, combimed with some Silvestri-awesomeness. Forming the basis of the score, the main theme is reprised several times within the score, often receiving bombastic orchestral statements that stand out from the rest of the composition. Especially noteworthy are its recapitulations in “Let Us See Another Christmas” where it is taken over by almost all orchestra sections at various points, as well as the incredibly joyous “Flight to Fezziwigs”, clearly one of the score’s stand-out moments.
Other highlights include the angelic choir writing in the 5-minute “The Ghost of Christmas Past” – a reminder that Silvestri is still able to write long-lined cues with a clear thematic structure – and the short but nevertheless beautiful “First Waltz”, accompanying the first time Scrooge gets to see his fiancee, the engaged couple drifting apart later on.
With the third ghost’s arrival, namely the Ghost of Christmas Future, the music gets way darker than before, the spooky choir echoing Danny Elfman’s usual choral writing. After the incredibly powerful “Carriage Chase” which sees Silvestri returning to his robust action writing from the 1990s (seriously, who had had that brilliant idea to use “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” as a kick-ass action motif? BAM!), the score reaches its dramatic zenith as Scrooge begins to realize that he must change his way of behaviour in order to prevent a dark fate befalling him. The finale, made up of “I’m Still Here” and “Ride On My Good Man”, again reprises the score’s previously heard festive and joyous nature, showcasing Scrooge personality’s transformation and his newly found aim to help people, which ends the score on a high point.
Last but not least, there is “God Bless Us Everyone”, an original song inspired by the film’s famous line delivered by Tiny Tim at the very end of the movie, written by Silvstri himself and Glen Ballard based on the score’s main theme, this time explored in an even more celebratory manner. Having heard that famous Italian singer Andrea Bocelli was currently recording a Christmas album, Zemeckis called him and offered him to perform the movie’s end credits song: “It’s truly a gift that one of the greatest tenors of our time brought his talents to such a powerful and emotional song. We feel extremely fortunate.” Says Bocelli: “God Bless Us Everyone aptly captures the spirit of the film. It’s a sweet and majestic song with a pleasantly evocative power which suffuses our senses and tells us about the triumph of forgiveness and redemption.” With this song, Silvestri ends the album.
Despite the huge amount of popular Christmas carols thrown in the mix, Silvestri still manages to give the film a very personal musical note that wonderfully mirrors the timeless story of the miser Scrooge and the one evening that changes his life forever. Not only makes the album up for a highly enjoyable listening experience, it is also one of the most entertaining scores the composer has written in years, the only effort coming close to the here-presented quality being his action-packed “Captain America” score. Since then, Silvestri’s music has become more and more anonymous, with him never again reaching the musical high points of his earlier works or his all-time classics “Back To The Future” (Daa-da-da-da-da-da-DAA!) and the sweeping “Forrest Gump”, both times under the direction of Robert Zemeckis. One can only hope that Silvestri finally breaks out of this trough; the “Avengers” finale is on the horizon and could mark a perfect opportunity to return to his dynamic action and beautiful emotional writing that made him popular and led to an enormously successful Hollywood career.
Meanwhile, Zemeckis’s “A Christmas Carol”, at least for me, remains a high point in Silvestri’s recent output and a satisfying entry in his overall filmography. The suitable re-use of existing Christmas carols – although a little bit too heavy at some points – in combination with Silvestri’s own writing, highlighted by outstanding orchestrations, creates a wondrous atmosphere of bliss and joy that never fails to impress me; each year, it helps me to get in the Christmas mood and be a little kid again. So, if you are asking yourself if you should put Williams’s “Home Alone” out of your CD player for a while and listen to some Silvestri greatness – what are you even waiting for? Scrooge is already waiting for you…
01. A Christmas Carol (Main Title) (04:21)
Running Time: 45 minutes 33 seconds
Available on Walt Disney Records (digital download) and Intrada Records (physical copy).
Buy the CD on Intrada Records: http://store.intrada.com/s.nl/it.A/id.8318/.f?sc=16&category=23410