This is the first piece of music I was ever aware of as a piece of music. Must’ve been about 2 or 3, certainly not in kindergarten yet. Every weekday morning at 8 I’d be in my jammies in front of the TV and there he’d be, the Captain, and while the theme was merrily playing away he’d be carrying a bunch of keys—and when he hung up the keys the music would stop abruptly. The theme music at the end credits wasn’t always synched so I really never heard the piece all the way to the end except for a couple of times.
If you remember the tune, there are about four phrases and before the sequence starts again there’s a little bit of stop-time—and this is the part that really got my attention. It sounded so neat. I was fascinated. I wanted to know how it was done. Finally in music school I found out.
Now here’s the BBC telling me this is actually an English piece called “Puffin’ Billy” and bringing me, surprise surprise, my bonny John, at 36 looking 12, at the center of a melody that transported me back to my 3-year-old self. (Starts at 47:00.)
William David Brohn, a protegee of Robert Russell Bennett, died last Thursday at the grand old age of 84—another long-lived orchestrator whose contributions to music deserve more recognition and praise.
His ear work on Prokofiev’s Alexander Nevsky score impresses the hell out of me.
[From Wikipedia] At the time the Brohn version was written, Prokofiev’s original manuscripts of the film score were unavailable for study. Brohn transcribed the score, using the orchestration of the cantata as a model. Music not present in the cantata was transcribed by ear from the film. With special attention paid to tempos a 1993 recording of this version was matched to a new edition of the film, which was released in 1995. Although the Brohn version is not technically the film score as composed by Prokofiev, it is a brilliantly successful substitute for the original soundtrack for live performances by a full symphony orchestra accompanying showings of the film. There is little in the arrangement that is not by Prokofiev. However, it is more accurate to say that this arrangement is a “hybrid” of the film score and the cantata, allowing the audience the opportunity to enjoy the film score cues using the expanded sound values of the cantata.