The city of Baden in Austria has hosted one more year the activities of the Hollywood Music Workshop, which has celebrated its 11th anniversary, making a total of 5 years in the current location.
With a great list of composers and a program that extends over 4 weeks, the event has offered a wide variety of educational modules taught by renowned Hollywood professionals such as Garry Schyman, John Lunn, Joe Kraemer, Conrad Pope, Nan Schwarz or Dimitrie Leivici, adding on this occasion to the program a special concert dedicated to the music of John Lunn, which also had his participation.
Gorka Oteiza was invited to attend the seminar for two days, in which he was able to witness the development of the masterclasses and also enjoyed the special concert on July 25th, writing this article that you can read below.
If you travel half an hour by train from Vienna (Austria) to the south-west, you will find Baden, a city that has been the permanent headquarters of the Hollywood Music Workshop summer seminar for the last 5 years.
In SoundTrackFest we already informed about previous editions of this seminar (follow link and news), but this year we were going to have the opportunity experience it in person, and check the development of the masterclasses, in addition to enjoying a very special concert
Hollywood Music Workshop 2019 was comprised of five courses over 4 weeks of July/August, which could be attended individually or together: composing for video games (by Garry Schyman), composing for TV series (by John Lunn), composing for film (by Joe Kraemer), orchestration and arranging (by Conrad Pope and Nan Schwarz), and finally a professional recording session at the Vienna Synchron Stage (with Joe Kraemer and Conrad Pope).
You can find detailed information and videos of each of the modules in the following link:
Wednesday, July 24th, the day of my arrival, was the second day of the module ‘Arranging and Orchestration’, which on that day was taught entirely by Nan Schwartz, dedicated to arrangements in known songs and themes.
On the ground floor of the Casino Baden, in an event hall with capacity for more than 200 people, 6 rows were prepared, divided by a central corridor, having each row 6 tables, and having each table enough space to accommodate a person and his/her entire equipment (computer, screen, midi keyboard, and other devices). A classroom ready for 36 students, where you could easily accommodate twice as many people, giving us a hint of the magnitude of how things are organized in the Hollywood Music Workshop.
The equipment of the room was completed with a great sound system, a projector with a big screen, large blackboards with information panels and schedules, as well as a grand piano for the practices.
Among the attendees, I could see a heterogeneous audience: 32 men and women of all ages, who, as I could discover later, had different professional backgrounds and experiences in the world of music for the visual media. But everyone was there with a common interest; to learn more about arranging and orchestration, something that is very useful for anyone in the field. With the usual percentages in this type of events, the number of women in the course (6) was almost 20% of the total.
Among the students I found some familiar faces from the film music festival circuit such as Paulina Derska (Polish composer), Michiel de Boer (Dutch orchestrator and orchestra conductor) and Vanessa Garde (multifaceted Spanish composer), and then I had also the opportunity to meet more people who were part of the class in my brief stay, like David Meenan or Ian van Gemeren.
Throughout the morning and the afternoon (the course was taught from 9h to 12h and from 14h to 17h), Nan Schwartz showed different examples of arrangements, that either were great and could be used as a reference of how a theme can substantially change depending on how it is arranged, or either they were disastrous and served as an example of how you can spoil a good idea with a bad execution.
At the end of the morning, several students of the course showed the arrangements they had made on the pieces that had previously been assigned to them, and received comments and indications from the teacher, as well as from the rest of the classmates.
Dimitrie Leivici, concertmaster and director of the Hollywood Music Workshop, appeared during the classes, coinciding with the moment in which Nan played a theme for which Dimitrie had recorded the violin part, and both explained how sometimes the arrangements have to be prepared taking into account the musician who is going to play them and his/her abilities, so that the best the performance can be obtained.
Among the many phrases that were said throughout the day, I would like to keep one that perfectly sums up the spirit of what I could see there: “A good arrangement can make a song you know sound completely different, or even make you like a theme that you hate. The power of a good arrangement knows no boundaries.”
As an additional and exceptional event included in the activities of the Hollywood Music Workshop 2019, there was a concert dedicated to the music of the Scottish composer John Lunn, which took place on Thursday, July 25th, at the Festhall of Casino Baden, on the 3rd floor of the building.
Upon entering the place we could find a room prepared to accommodate 300 people, leading to an intimate celebration of the music of John Lunn, specialized in composing for television, and who is widely known for his work for the TV series ‘Downton Abbey’.
On both sides of the stage, on which the 30-piece Hollywood Music Workshop Orchestra was to be set, we could see two large screens, where photos, videos, and texts of the pieces performed at the concert were projected. Behind those screens, a large black fabric divided the stage on two sides, thus partially hiding the members of the orchestra.
It is impossible to talk about the music of John Lunn without mentioning ‘Downton Abbey’, being this music the main protagonist of the night. With a script worthy of the best theatrical productions, the evening, presented by the director of the HMW, Lilo Bellotto and by Thomas Mikusz of White Bear PR agency, alternated German and English, to take the audience through the intricate and interesting nuances of the music of John Lunn. Among the audience, we had part of the professors of the workshop: Conrad Pope, Nan Schwartz, and Joe Kraemer.
The evening, which began at 19:30h and lasted almost two hours -in addition to the half-hour intermission-, was dotted with anecdotes, jokes, and useful information that facilitated the listening of the pieces that followed. The concert was beautifully performed by the Hollywood Music Workshop Orchestra conducted by Tristan Schultze, having the luxury of the leadership and mastery of concertmaster Dimitrie Leivici, an expert violinist who has participated in hundreds of soundtrack recordings.
Without going into much detail on the different musical moments that we had during the concert, which started with the charming and revealing main theme of ‘Downton Abbey’, and then gave way to more melancholic or funny pieces or even themes full of conflict and tragedy, the evening was musically very well balanced, and it was a great idea to have John Lunn himself at the piano in the center of the stage next to the director, sharing the responsibility of giving the tone and the rhythm to the evening.
As it could be seen in the rehearsals, Tristan Schultze knew perfectly the music of John Lunn, and transmitted the precise nuances to the orchestra through his indications. This was something that could be perfectly verified in the final rehearsals of that same day, since John Lunn, present playing the piano, validated the execution of each of the pieces with satisfaction.
Although the program had the great idea of including a couple of vocal pieces, which featured the performance of the soprano Arabella Fenyves, those themes had a performance that was not entirely adequate, especially on the theme at the end of the concert, where her voice did not accompany as expected the melody’s registry changes.
However, this did not affect the fantastic experience of the whole the evening, which was not only a pleasant surprise in its entirety, but also fulfilled and exceeded the expectations of the audience.
There were some especially interesting moments during the concert, such as when John Lunn talked about how he created the main theme of ‘Downton Abbey’, based on the beginning of the series and the information hidden in those images, which was to be revealed later in that episode. This facilitated a very long and narrative main theme, which then had to be reduced to 30 seconds to create the Opening Titles, which, contrary to what is usual, were created taking the music as the basis for the video and not the other way around. Then, when the orchestra performed the piece, it took a new dimension with the information previously provided.
Lunn also commented later how in one of the most delicate moments of the series, where a tragedy happens with ‘one of the characters’ (*no spoilers*), he decided to create very dramatic music full of feelings and pain, which he had to ‘downsize’ later. The music offered so much intensity to the scene, that the producers considered that it would be too strong and difficult for the public to assimilate, especially since it was going to be broadcast on television during Christmas.
Apart from the musical moments, two jokes included in the great script deserve to be expressly pointed out. The first was when the presenter Lilo Bellotto asked John Lunn if he, as a good Englishman, drinks tea, and after a ‘soft’ affirmative answer, and receiving a complete questionnaire about the type of tea, milk or sugar he likes, Lunn responds that being Scottish, he actually prefers ‘other things’ rather than tea. This response, which received some complicit laughter from the public, was followed by the entrance of Thomas Mikusz on stage dressed as a waiter and with a tray of Gin Tonic glasses (simulated), which was received with more laughter and applause from the audience.
The second moment was one near the end, when Thomas Mikusz surprised the audience and John Lunn when he appeared on the stage dressed in the typical Scottish Kilt, to which Lunn replied smiling ‘that should be illegal… I mean, ¡to wear that Kilt without being Scottish!’. Thomas stated ‘how comfortable he was down there’ wearing a Kilt with the heat that we were having in Baden, and made a joke about the little purse that accompanies the outfit, wondering about its use… maybe to hold my phone?… he said, followed by laughter from the audience.
As you can see, in addition to a great performance by the orchestra, the evening included some interesting and detailed explanations of the music we were listening by John Lunn, alternated with jokes and anecdotes from the hosts, which made the concert fun and enjoyable, as well as offering very good musical quality.
Hollywood Music Workshop has been repeating a successful formula for 11 years, perfecting and polishing details in every edition, and you can feel that when you’re there. The workshop has a solid presence in the international educational circuit, synonym of quality, and if we add the possibility of enjoying a concert with the music of one of the composers/professors, as in this case has happened with John Lunn, we have a very attractive combination that we will hardly find anywhere else.
Hollywood Music Workshop offers a space to learn disciplines from the world of music for the media, as diverse as composition, arranging, orchestration, or the recording of soundtracks, from the hands of some of Hollywood’s best professionals. It is never too late to continue learning, as it could be seen by the different profiles of the students of the workshop: composers, orchestra directors, arrangers, sound and mixing engineers, music producers…
And the best of all is that in Hollywood Music Workshop you learn in a group, in a community, together with another 20-30 people who have different profiles but the same concerns as you, making the collective work, the collaborative work, and the creation of new friendships and professional relationships, an extra that further enhances the value of the event.
Article and pictures by Gorka Oteiza