Joe, Jazz, and Songs on Film
By Open Air Theatre
Joe Stilgoe’s smash-hit show Songs on Film pays tribute to some of the most memorable moments in cinematic history. But as Joe and his remarkable band add their own original and stylish orchestrations to songs written for, and inspired by, films of the last century, what more can audiences expect?
“Film music holds great importance for people as the music can strengthen the film’s power and the emotional attachment”, says Joe. “Often the piece of music and the scene it’s attached to is remembered more than the rest of the film – such as ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’ in Butch Cassidy and ‘Unchained Melody’ in Ghost.”
For Joe, performance of this music is more than just a series of movie music extracts. “A cover should enhance the impact that song has. There’s one key rule – don’t touch a song unless you can bring something new to it. Some artists try to ape the vocal performance and do a facsimile arrangement of the original. They then lose the instinctive magic of the original.”
Joe’s ‘something new’ comes from his love of jazz. “With jazz, we’re constantly looking to the past for inspiration, even though in performance it’s an immediate art form. My heroes are not only the performers – Ella, Louis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, but the writers – The Gershwins, Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Arlen, Frank Loesser, The Sherman Brothers, Cole Porter – and the arrangers, and Lalo Schifrin to Billy May, Nelson Riddle and Robert Farnon.”
“I meet lots of people who say they don’t like jazz. But actually they do like lots of jazz, just not, perhaps, the word and its association. It is down to us as performers to remember that we are giving a performance, and to guide the audience through it.”
La La Land, which is being screened at the Open Air Theatre later this month represented jazz in a very accessible way. “I loved the film. I didn’t mind too much about the slightly awkward ‘let’s show jazz’ moments – instead the characters, the performances and the lovely, nostalgic, warm glow the film gave me, reminded me of the classic MGM musicals and Gene Kelly films I loved so much.” And does Joe relate to Sebastien, the films leading mad? “I do feel a bit like Sebastian – two tones shoes, loves jazz, sings and plays piano, looks JUST LIKE RYAN GOSLING. But you should never open a jazz club though. It’s like that joke – how do I earn £1 million? Start with £2 million and open a jazz club…”
Joe Stilgoe’s Songs on Film comes to Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre on Sunday 20 August (7.45pm).
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