On Saturday, June 22nd, a special concert dedicated to the music of the TV series ‘Downton Abbey’ was celebrated at Highclere Castle, the original location where the story happens, performed by The Chamber Orchestra of London conducted by Alastair King, and with John Lunn at the piano.
Stella Lungu attended the event and has written this article for SoundTrackFest.
To call ‘Downton Abbey Live’ a ‘concert’ would be a serious understatement. Enthusiastic fans from the four corners of the world travelled to Highclere Castle on Saturday, 22 June, to enjoy what can only be described as an immersive Downton Abbey experience.
Set in the shadow of the imposing Highclere Castle, the event had all the ingredients of a fine period drama reenactment: the splendid original music composed by John Lunn and performed by The Chamber Orchestra of London with John himself playing the piano, iconic scenes from the series projected upon the big screen behind the orchestra and of course, everyone’s favourite butler, Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), who was our host for the evening.
(And, our minions tell us that the Earl of Grantham himself (Hugh Bonneville) was hiding in the audience as well!)
As the guests made their way onto the castle’s grounds, they were greeted by Manu Brazo’s smooth saxophone pieces piercing the warm air of the gorgeous summer evening.
‘Everybody Sing’ Choir followed shortly with a 35-minute set where they performed their own music. The choir was also chosen to perform the Downton Abbey opening theme together with The Chamber Orchestra of London.
To further set the tone for this thematic event, ‘20s music was played during intervals, foreshadowing the release of the much-anticipated Downton Abbey movie set to release this September.
To the audience’s sheer delight, the ‘Downton Abbey Live’ program commenced energetically with the beloved ‘Downton Abbey Suite’.
Mr. Carson then made his way onto the stage and addressed the guests in his signature style, abound with humor and laced with sarcasm and razor-sharp wit.
He introduced the brilliant Chamber Orchestra of London, the masterful conductor, Alastair King, who orchestrated and conducted the entire Downton Abbey series, as well as the upcoming Downton Abbey movie, and of course, the man himself, multi award-winning television and film composer John Lunn.
Throughout the evening, Mr. Carson reminisced about some of the most extraordinary events that have taken place over the years at Downton Abbey, taking a most nostalgic audience down memory lane.
With a well-structured program, the night took the audience on an emotional rollercoaster, touching on themes of heartbreak, friendship, family bonds, and love.
The ‘Us And Them’ piece was accompanied by scenes from the life of the staff members living ‘below stairs’.
We were then taken through the trials and tribulations of Mr. Bates and Anna, which were shortly followed by a glimpse into life ‘above stairs’ and the Dowager Countess of Grantham’s tumultuous relationship with Isobel Crawley and Martha Levinson. Needless to say, her tongue-in-cheek remarks had the audience in stitches, as always.
Eurielle then performed an emotional ‘Nothing Will Be Easy’ to mark Lady Mary’s recuperation after the loss of her beloved husband Matthew.
After a brief reminder of the tragedies and trials brought about by the Great War, the tone of the concert shifted towards the fun times that the Crawley family enjoyed on occasion, with baritone Sam Young performing ‘Roses of Picardy’.
As the end of the first half of the concert approached, John Lunn addressed the audience and mentioned that he had wanted to do one scene exactly the way it was done in the TV series, with the exact music that was synced to that particular cue. Even though choosing one hadn’t been an easy task, the composer decided to use the train station scene from episode 1, season 2, when Matthew is walking to the train station to take the train back to the front line of WWI and Lady Mary is waiting for him at the station. The composer revealed that his intention with that piece of music (‘Such Good Luck’) was to have the audience believe without a doubt that Matthew would not be coming home from the war and that this was them saying their final goodbyes. Luckily for the couple, Matthew does come back home from the war, albeit seriously injured.
After the interval, there was a short presentation celebrating John Lunn’s professional achievements, during which the composer was awarded the Trinity Laban Honorary Fellowship in recognition of his contribution to music. The Honorary Fellowship is the conservatoire’s highest honor and was presented to the composer by Trinity Laban Principal Anthony Bowne.
The Honorary Fellowship presentation was introduced by British Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning television producer and executive Gareth Neame OBE, who is also CEO of Carnival Films and Executive Producer of Downton Abbey and a patron of Trinity Laban. He was joined on stage by Trinity Laban’s Director of Music Havilland Willshire.
Following an uplifting ‘A Grand Adventure’, and an emotional performance of ‘Did I Make The Most Of Loving You’ by Eurielle, Mr. Carson continued relating anecdotes from the Grantham household, including Rose’s romance with a jazz musician. ‘Modern Love’ was the musical piece that accompanied this story.
‘Love and the Hunter’ was paired with hunting scenes, which were then succeeded by clips showing Lady Mary’s romances throughout the years. They were matched with Sam Young’s performance of a waltz arrangement of ‘If You Were the Only Girl in the World’.
The tale of the three sisters was shortly followed by clips of the Crawleys visiting the MacClare family in the beautiful Scottish countryside. The scenes were accompanied by my absolute favorite composition from the series soundtrack, the piece titled ‘Duneagle’, which was born right out of the composer’s Scottish roots.
As Mr. Carson was saying his farewell, Julian Fellowes, the Downton Abbey writer and executive producer took to the stage to interrupt him and to assure the audience that come Autumn, Charlie Carson will have at least one more chance to show how crucial he is to life at Downton. Referring to the Downton Abbey movie which will be released in a few months’ time, he stressed, to our excitement, that although it has been an incredible journey, it isn’t quite over yet.
The concert ended with an abridged version of ‘Did I Make The Most Of Loving You’, performed by Eurielle.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of Tommy Pearson, the writer and producer of this event and his collaborators, ‘Downton Abbey’, the most successful British drama ever created got its rightfully iconic concert experience. The stunning event was nothing short of a flawless adventure, to be remembered and kept in our hearts for a long time.
Article by Stella Lungu