Tag Archives: music

The King and I “The March of the Siamese Children” (1956)

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The King and I “The March of the Siamese Children” (1956)

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical The King and I is one of my favorite Broadway musicals. The story is based in part on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, a widow who served as a governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam (now Thailand) in the early 1860s. The 1951 musical was adapted into a film in 1956, both starring Yul Brynner as the titular King (he’s one of my favorite characters).

The King and I has many wonderful musical moments; one of my favorites is “The March of the Siamese Children” which takes place relatively early in the story. Anna (Deborah Kerr) is upset that she must stay in the royal palace next to the harem (instead of in a little house as she’d been promised) and is on the verge of returning to England straight away. However, before she goes, the King insists that Anna meet his children first. If she still wants to leave after meeting them, he won’t stop her.

The march then begins with children being led in one by one by their nurses. Each child comes forward, bows to their father, greets Anna by touching their forehead to her hands and then backs away to sit with the royal wives (their respective mothers).

The music is a beautiful theme and variations that repeats over and over, altering slightly for certain children. The most notable change is when Crown Prince Chulalongkorn, the King’s heir marches in; the music here changes to a stirring brass fanfare as befits the heir to the throne. Unlike the other children, Chulalongkorn and the King bow to each other and Anna is told to curtsy to the Crown Prince.

There are some other humorous moments, some of my favorites being:

  • The twins: The two boys (not surprisingly) are dressed identically and the King seems quite pleased with them.
  • The forgetful princess: one of the younger daughters accidentally turns her back on her father and when he reminds her with a mock gasp of shock/horror, she quickly turns around with a look of surprise (the King isn’t all that angry with her, as she is still young)
  • The curious prince: one prince comes out looking very curiously at Anna the entire time and it quickly becomes clear why: he’s never seen someone with Anna’s huge skirts before. He’s curious to see exactly what’s under there…but the King quickly stops that idea.
  • “I want a hug!”: One daughter forgets where she is and runs to the King for a hug, only to be stopped with a stern look. When the dejected princess begins to back away, she is reassured by the King with a warm smile (which she returns).
  • The littlest princess: Possibly the most adorable moment comes at the very end when the youngest daughter comes out. She is so small that the King doesn’t see her until she tugs on his pant leg for attention. He then guides her through what she needs to do (it’s adorable!)

Once all the children are assembled, Anna realizes she can’t possibly leave them to return to England (which is what the King thought would happen) and she agrees to stay after all, to the delight of the royal children.

“The March of the Siamese Children” is a delightful moment from a wonderful film and I hope you enjoy it.

For more live action film soundtracks, see here: Live Action Soundtracks F-Z

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The Music of the Olympics: Lighting the Athens Cauldron (2004)

The opening and closing ceremonies of each Olympic games are always full of music, but the most important musical moment of all comes at the very end, when the Olympic cauldron is lit. Every Olympics it feels like a contest to see who can use the most elaborate way to light the cauldron , and the 2004 Summer Games in Athens were no exception.

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For whatever reason, back in 2004 when this played on TV, I didn’t stay through to the end of the ceremony. When I went back several years later and finally watched it, I regretted not tuning in, because it was beautiful!

The final torch relay is full of suspense and excitement, because all this time the Olympic Cauldron has not been visible, so no one has any idea how the ceremony is going to end. And the music in this segment, oh wow, would you believe it was written by Dmitri Shostakovich? You usually hear his name in reference to operas or symphonies, you wouldn’t think of it for the Olympics, but it’s true! The music here is the final movement of the Pirogov Suite that Shostakovich created for a 1947 Soviet film named (no surprise) Pirogov.

Shostakovich- Pirogov finale (1947)

As the torch circles the stadium and changes hands, the tension audibly builds with each exchange, until finally the final torchbearer is reached. And as the camera circles around, everyone gets excited because the cauldron is finally visible! And when the torchbearer turns and runs through the athletes to reach the cauldron, I get goosebumps every time because the music almost explodes at this point. It’s a beautiful fanfare that makes the moment feel extremely special. And then there’s the fact that the cauldron is literally bending down to the ground so it can be lit!!! 

Athens Cauldron Lighting (2004)

You can’t really grasp how HUGE this thing is until the runner is coming up the last set of steps and the camera pans up to the cauldron and you’re like WHOA!! It’s so thrilling to watch, especially when the cauldron is lit and begins its slow rise back upward (the roar of the crowd as the flames rise up is just spine-tingling).

I love the spectacle that comes with the Olympics, and I can’t wait to share more examples as the Rio Games get closer 🙂 -Bex

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For more Olympic Music, see:

The Music of the Olympics: Lighting the Cauldron at Sydney (2000)

The Music of the Olympics: “Summon the Heroes” Atlanta 1996

The Music of the Olympics: “Summon the Heroes” Atlanta 1996

With 2016 being an Olympic year (the Summer Games are due to begin in Rio in August), I thought I would start a series looking at various musical pieces that were created (or simply performed) for the Olympic Games over the years. Some great pieces have been brought to light because of the Games, and it will be fun to look at them.

The first piece I will look at is “Summon the Heroes”, composed by John Williams for the Opening Ceremony of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. The 1996 games were especially important because it was the centennial of the modern Olympic Games (which began in 1896 in Athens). John Williams has actually composed four pieces for the Olympics. Besides “Summon the Heroes”, there is also: “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” for the 1984 games; “Olympic Spirit” in 1988 and finally “Call of the Champions” in 2002.

“Summon the Heroes” 1996 Olympic Games

“Summon the Heroes” is a one-movement piece written for full orchestra, with a heavy emphasis on the brass. It has been reused many times since its Olympic debut (mostly as transition music going to and from commercial breaks during broadcasts of the Games) and is incredibly popular even today. During the piece, performers in the stadium recreate the Olympic Rings and the dove (a symbol of peace). I hope you enjoy this great piece of music and a look back at Olympic history. There will definitely be more to come! -Bex

Star Wars: Rebels “It’s Over Now”

Right, so I know this blog is about films and film music, but I simply had to make an exception when I heard THIS:

Star Wars: Rebels “It’s Over Now” (2016)

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If you’re not familiar with Star Wars: Rebels, let me explain (and I’ll try to be brief). In a nutshell, Rebels takes place in the years between Episodes III and IV when the Rebel Alliance is just beginning to form and Darth Vader is still on the prowl for remaining Jedi. At the conclusion of season 1 (or maybe the beginning of season 2, I forget), it is revealed that the contact for our particular group of heroes is none other than Ashoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s one-time Padawan, last seen in the final episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars (which ends not long before the events of Episode III). Having for years believed her master died in the Jedi purge, Ashoka has come to learn the terrible truth: That Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are one and the same. And once Vader becomes aware that his former apprentice is still alive, a conflict between them is inevitable.

Fast forward now to the end of season 2: Ashoka, Ezra (a young Padawan in training)and  Kanan (a surviving Jedi training Ezra) travel to a dark planet to retrieve a Sith Holocron before Imperial agents can seize it for the Emperor. While on the planet, our heroes come across a number of surprises (including a still-alive Darth Maul, there’s a long story in and of itself), but ultimately they reach the holding place for the holocron. But now they’ve got company: Darth Vader himself has arrived (James Earl Jones himself returned to reprise his role as the Dark Lord of the Sith).

Star Wars Rebels: Ashoka vs Darth Vader

Vader is confronted by a furious Ashoka, who vows to avenge Anakin’s “death” at Vader’s hands. The two engage in a lightsaber battle for the ages, and the fight (along with the music) really has the feel of a Star Wars film, not an episode from a television series. As the two fight on a ledge, Vader succeeds in Force-pushing Ashoka off and she disappears, but she isn’t dead! As Vader attempts to pull the holocron out of Ezra’s hands, Ashoka comes running out of nowhere and lands a direct blow on Vader’s helmet. With the holocron removed, the Sith temple everyone is standing in is getting ready to explode (the holocron was keeping it stable), and Ezra is screaming for Ashoka to hurry and join them, but then…

“Ashoka…Ashoka…” Gasps all around because that isn’t Darth Vader’s voice…that’s Anakin’s voice (both in-universe and in real life, the voice actor who portrayed Anakin in The Clone Wars returned specifically for this episode). Ashoka has always felt guilty about leaving Anakin (and the Jedi Order) and vows that this time, she will not leave him. Vader considers this for a moment, but the one visible eye hardens and Vader growls “Then you will die!” The last we see of them before the temple explodes, Ashoka and Vader are furiously dueling.

(apologies for the long description, but it’s the only way to set up this musical moment properly).

“It’s Over Now” begins as Kanan and Ezra are returning to the planet Lothal and Kanan comforts Ezra by telling him “It’s over now.”

Star Wars Rebels: End of the Episode

As the ship descends to land, the music becomes so very powerful. There’s a full chorus and a strong brass melody that screams the style of John Williams (even though it isn’t). Even if you never saw an episode of either The Clone Wars or Rebels, you know that this is a profound moment of sadness for all of the characters. The main brass theme sounds like a cross between the main “Force theme” and “Yoda’s theme” both from the original Star Wars films. This music though was not composed by John Williams but by composer Kevin Kiner (who has scored both The Clone Wars and Rebels)

The most powerful moment of all comes immediately after this reunion, when we return to the surface of the planet to see Vader staggering away from the temple, badly injured. Given the ferocity of the fight, since Vader is the one walking away, one could presume that Ashoka is dead…but is she? There is a brief glimpse of Ashoka disappearing back into the temple, but is she alive or is that her Force ghost? Either is possible, but we won’t find out until season 3.

After I listened to this piece, and then watched the scene in context, I could not stop listening to this music over and over again. The one word that keeps coming into my mind is powerful, you can feel the emotion surging through the soundwaves.

I had not watched any of Star Wars: Rebels until I heard about the Ashoka-Vader fight, but if this gorgeous music is typical of the series, then I will be making plans to go back and watch the entire series. I hope you enjoy “It’s Over Now”; like I said, I don’t normally do television music, but I think you’ll agree after listening that this piece of music is special.

Enjoy the rest of Monday!! -Bex

*poster image is the property of Walt Disney Studios

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