Robert Townson & The Magic of Movie Music

PHOTO ARTUR BARBAROWSKIRobert Townson, the film music producer who brought Hollywood legends to Glasgow in the 1990s and worked with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra on a series of recordings now regarded as mythic, is returning to Scotland next week. In two special concerts, the RSNO and Townson are reuniting to celebrate the 40thanniversary of Varese Sarabande, the record label which showcased their unique relationship; a relationship which produced an astounding 40 soundtrack albums over seven years.

Just like the new audiences who have been coming to RSNO concerts after having their interest piqued by the organisation’s various film music events, so Townson, now Vice President of Soundtracks and Executive Producer at Varese Sarabande, found that film music was a gateway to classical music in general.

Back in the late 1970s, Townson was “just an 11-year-old kid” going to the cinema with his pals. Over the course of just two years, four movies came out which, he says, changed his life: Star Wars (1977) and Superman (1978), both with a score by John Williams, and Star Trek – The Motion Picture and Alien (both 1979), both scored by Jerry Goldsmith.

“These four films opened my eyes and ears to this music,” says the charismatic Canadian, who still sounds wonder-struck as he describes the effect that John Williams’s rousing fanfares had on him. “I was not a musically sophisticated kid; I didn’t even play the piano. I went to see the films with no expectation but I was struck by the scores, there was an immediate connection. John and Jerry sparked my passion in all music – through them I discovered classical music, in particular Dvorak, Mahler and Beethoven.

“The late 1970s was a fertile period of great film music – a near golden age. The composers who were writing still included the masters of earlier decades – Miklos Rozsa, Elmer Bernstein, Georges Delerue.”

Not only were some of the important figures from the 1940s and 1950s still active but film music as a distinct genre worthy of respect was given a shot in the arm around this time with the release of the Classic Film Scores by RCA. These records introduced the adolescent Townson to the first wave of Hollywood movie composers, who had come from Europe.

He recalls:  “I developed a voracious appetite for the music, especially Jerry Goldsmith’s. Every score I heard by him was mindblowing to me. The variety and range in his work was amazing. I look back now and admire my teenage taste!”

You also have to admire Townson’s teenage chutzpah. After all, he founded a record label Masters Film Music, before he hit 20. But why?

“Well, it was born out of frustration. I was frustrated that there were new films whose soundtracks weren’t being released. Three of these films really triggered me into action: The Final Conflict (The Omen 3) and Raggedy Man which had Goldsmith scores, and Heartbeeps, which John Williams did between Raiders of the Lost Ark and E.T, a magnificent period in his career. I realised that something needed to be done – and the conclusion I came to was to release all three myself!”

Operating out of his bedroom in his parents’ home, Townson made contact with Goldsmith, and, for distribution, approached Varese Sarabande as they were already specialists in film music, having recorded concert works by movie composers. The film studio allowed him to use the original soundtrack of The Final Conflict by the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Goldsmith himself.

Goldsmith was delighted with the album. For Townson, it proved the launchpad for the career he has today. “It established me working with Jerry. From that first album until he died in 2004, there wasn’t a time when we weren’t working on something. We made 80 albums together; he was like a second father to me. He was a wonderful man, an absolute genius and a very cool guy – very demanding of himself and very driven. He would finish recording a score in the morning and start writing the next one that afternoon.”

A successful recording of Alex North’s score for 2001: A Space Odyssey inspired Townson to begin a new project: of recording existing scores alongside the new soundtrack albums he was producing for Varese Sarabande. Three albums into the series, he began to have logistical problems with the orchestra, and just at that point he heard that the RSNO was interested in recording film music.

Townson’s first visit to Glasgow, in 1995, produced a new recording of the peerless Bernard Herrmann score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, conducted by the up-and-coming film composer Joel McNeely. It was a tremendous success, winning the Gramophone Award and paving the way for regular trips to Scotland over the next seven years. “I’d do maybe three or four recordings each time, and I was recording pretty much exclusively with the orchestra. The RSNO was far and away my preferred orchestra and I always looked forward to my next trip.”

He wasn’t the only one. Jerry Goldsmith became such a regular here that musicians back home in Los Angeles joked that they were lucky to have him at his own 70thbirthday party; they had thought he might be celebrating in Glasgow with their Scots counterparts. Mind you, Goldsmith did have a 70thbirthday concert here where audiences were thrilled to hear such powerful themes as those for Patton and Air Force One (the appropriation of which by Trump would not have gone down well with its composer, says Townson).

But it was Elmer Bernstein, the one-time blacklisted composer responsible for bringing uniquely American sensibility to the Hollywood movie score, who perhaps provided the most stardust, as well as forging a very special, mutually affectionate, relationship with the orchestra.

His music, along with Goldsmith’s, is represented in the programme for next weekend’s concerts and there will also be compositions by one of Glasgow’s own film music greats, Patrick Doyle, and the evening’s conductor, composer Diego Navarro. As Townson, who will be presenting, says: “It’s going to be a film music concert like no other!”

Robert Townson and Jerry Goldsmith_City Halls booth_by Matthew Joseph Peak

Robert Townson & Jerry Goldsmith, City Halls, Glasgow by Matthew Joseph Peak

*****

If you’re a film aficionado or a classical concert-goer, chances are that at some point in recent years you have attended a film screening with live orchestral accompaniment or a concert featuring a programme of iconic movie scores.

Film music has become big box office business, and, over the last few years we in Scotland have been spoiled for choice – the BBC SSO devoted a weekend to the music of Bernard Herrmann, the John Wilson Orchestra visits every winter with songs from the great musicals, and all the film festivals (even – or especially – the silent one at the Hippodrome Cinema in Bo’ness) tend to include some sort of celebration of movie music.

But it wasn’t always thus. Back in the 1990s, following a series of annual screenings of silent movies with music performed by the RSNO, conducted by composer Carl Davis, something magical happened: Hollywood itself began to come to Glasgow thanks to record producer Robert Townson who came to work with the RSNO to produce definitive new recordings of important scores from Hollywood history.

Nobody who experienced the diminutive white-haired movie giant Elmer Bernstein conducting his own, majestic and catchy music for The Magnificent Seven or his exquisitely delicate and beguiling themes for To Kill a Mockingbird at one of his birthday concerts with the RSNO in 1997 and 2002 could forget how their spine tingled at being in the presence of Hollywood history.

Robert Townson recalls that on the day they were about to record To Kill a Mockingbird, Bernstein was “trotting to the podium when the horn section started playing The Magnificent Seven theme”, much to his delight.

I, personally, remember the impact that news of Bernstein’s first visit to Glasgow had on colleagues at The Herald. When Michael Tumelty, the classical music critic who went on to become a favourite writer and friend of Bernstein, bumped into some musician pals outside the City Halls and asked what they were doing, he was gobsmacked to learn that they were recording The Great Escape, and zoomed back to the Herald office on Albion Street to share the news.

Fifteen minutes later, anyone who happened to pass the “smoking room” would have seen a conga line of middle-aged reporters and sub-editors slowly shuffling round a cupboard-sized space, jangling the coins in their pockets and collectively humming the rousing theme to that classic war movie. Such was the Bernstein effect.

And such is the effect of the iconic movie scores that the RSNO recorded back to worldwide acclaim back then, and continues to champion in film music concerts and events, such as their sell-out Back to the Future screening-with-live-accompaniment in Edinburgh last year. The orchestra even has a film music specialist from Hollywood, Richard Kaufman, on its roster of regular conductors and a dedicated, and concert-filled, film section – RSNO At the Movies – on its website. The giants of movie music may no longer walk among us but their legacy lives on …

* Varese Sarabande 40thAnniversary Concert, November 16 & 17 at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh and the Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow respectively. Visit www.rsno.org.uk to book tickets.

* An edited version of this feature was published in The Herald on Saturday November 10th, and online at http://www.heraldscotland.com

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New Site News!

ReBeauted image for Style MattersDear readers,

I’ve started a new website, ReBeauted, which is where all my beauty write-ups have been published for the last month.

I’ll continue to add style pieces here but would love you to come visit me at ReBeauted and tell me what you think.

In the last week, I’ve published posts about best budget beauty buys, the new Tom Ford Beauty Spring/Summer 16 collection and the best taupe nail polishes.

Look forward to hearing from you!

Yours,

Alison

 

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The Mean Reds to See Off the January Blues

Max Factor Marilyn MonroeTM Lipsticks BundleWhen it comes to red lipstick, there is no more iconic exponent than the greatest beauty icon of them all: Marilyn Monroe. So it makes perfect sense that Max Factor’s new capsule collection of red lipsticks is not only named after MM, but includes the Ruby Red shade (pictured below) that she loved.

The launch of the Max Factor Marilyn Monroe Colour Elixir Lipstick Collection in January is in response to research conducted by the beauty company. Its “Glam Jan” Poll revealed that more than half of women (55%) give up on glamour in the gloomiest month of the year because it’s too much hassle. So, this year, Max Factor is calling for women “to reclaim January’s forgotten glamour and embrace the classic red lip; the look that 70% of women say is the easiest way Ruby Redto make a glamorous beauty statement”.

Nevertheless, according to the poll, 53% of women avoid red lipstick because they can’t find the right shade for their skin tone. So .. the new capsule collection promises a shade to match every skin tone, and at a reasonable price of £10.99.

I’ve heard this “there’s a red for every skin tone” so many times and have seldom succeeded in finding one for mine. However, to my amazement, I followed the Max Factor guide and tried Berry Red, which is the recommendation for pale skins. And, you know what? It looks great. So much so that I may join the #GlamJan and #WearYourRed party on Twitter (also on Instagram) – which enters you into a competition to win a year’s supply of Max Factor Marilyn Monroe Colour Elixir Lipsticks!

Look out for the Max Factor Marilyn Monroe Colour Elixir Lipstick Collection in Boots and Superdrug branches.

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Clinique’s Hero of the Night

Clinique RepairwerIt’s not brand, spanking, new but Clinique Repairwear Sculpting Night Cream (£58), which launched last year, is one of those products that’s so good, it has to be shouted about. If you’re concerned about slackening of the skin around the jawline and cheeks, this is one of the most affordable and enjoyable options on the market. I’ve been using mine for a couple of months and am not only impressed by the tightening results but also love its luxurious gel-cream texture, and – especially – the way it leaves my skin feeling smooth, rested and moisturised when I wake up in the morning. If it could just make me feel as if I’ve notched up eight hours’ sleep too, then it would be perfect!

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Doin’ the Lauder Two-Step

Estee Lauder New Dimension Firm + Fill Eye SystemFollowing the success of the first wave of its New Dimension sculpting and contouring skincare, Estée Lauder now brings us New Dimension Firm + Fill Eye System (£62), one of three new products in the range.

Part one of this two-step eye treatment is a light gel formula which helps tighten and tone the eye area skin while helping to re-plump and refresh it thanks to its hydrating properties. Formulated with Lauder’s pro-collagen complex, the gel aims to visibly lift, firm and smooth the skin around the eyes so that contours appear more defined.

The second stage of the treatment is a crème which has light-diffusing optics to instantly the smooth the appearance of the eye area. The idea is that after using both products together over a period of time, the look of crepiness is reduced and the skin looks firmer and is strengthened.

So what did I make of the Firm + Fill two-step? Well, I loved the lovely, cooling and tightening feel of step one, and was delighted to be using it night and day, as recommended. However, I wasn’t very keen on the second step as the thickness of the crème, which has to be patted on otherwise it drags the skin, drew attention to the lines under my eyes – and looked even worse when I put my normal make-up on. Using it at night, as prescribed, seemed a little bit unnecessary as I’m not really bothered about the look of the skin around my eyes when all I’m doing is heading for bed.

Over to you! What do you think? Let me know if you’ll be trying New Dimension Firm + Fill Eye System – or which eye creams you favour.

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Hands Up for Clarins!

Clarins Super Restorative Hand Cream-2Can you improve on perfection? Well, the answer would appear to be yes – if Clarins‘s hand creams are anything to go by. Most of us beauty buffs are well acquainted with the classic Clarins Hand and Nail Treatment Cream (£21), which is a terrific all-round hand cream, particularly good for strengthening the nails and providing serious hydration. But now, those of us in our forties and/or concerned (okay, obsessing) about the giveaway signs of age on our hands have an alternative – Clarins Super Restorative Hand Cream (£37.50).

I must say I’m a convert, not least because the cream’s scent is beautiful, much more to my taste than the scent of the original Hand and Nail Treatment Cream. With its significantly higher price tag, the new cream is – perhaps unsurprisingly – more luxurious-feeling as well. Tackling signs of ageing is its main focus, and it does this by using extract of organic harungana, the “healing tree” from Madagascar, to reactivate the hormone-deprived fibroblasts which stimulate the production of collagen which, in turn, reinforces the skin’s structure. The appearance of age spots is also reduced thanks to extract of organic Montpellier rock rose, known as the “phoenix plant”.

A hands-down winner!

 

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A Few of My Favourite 2015 Finds

Rimmel Salon Pro in Desire

Rimmel Salon Pro in Desire (£4.49) is the nail varnish I’ve loved most this year – the colour is chic and sexy and it lasts terrifically well.

Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Protective Primer

Bumble & Bumble Hairdresser’s Invisible Oil Protective Primer (£7.50) is brilliant for detangling and conditioning even the finest hair.

Illamasqua Brow Gel

Illamasqua Brow Gel (£18.50) proved the perfect product for filling in sparse eyebrows in a subtle way.

No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Eye Cream

I fell in love with the creamy texture and flesh colour of No7 Protect & Perfect Intense Advanced Eye Cream (£17)

Max Factor Ageless Elixir

Max Factor Ageless Elixir (£12.99) is THE most flattering foundation for older skin.

Chanel Rouge Coco in Marie

Chanel Rouge Coco (£26) was reformulated this year and is now perfect for my slightly dry lips – especially the deep pink Marie shade.

Essie Gel Setter

I tracked down a bottle of Essie Gel Setter Top Coat (£9.99) after it was used in the best manicure I’ve had in years!

Freedom Pro Eye Primer

Freedom Pro Eye Primer (£2.50) – cheap as chips but as effective as eye bases ten times its price!

Bourjois Rouge Edition Aqua Laque

Bourjois Rouge Edition Aqua Laque (£8.99) is simply the best lip lacquer I’ve come across in years – and the price is as beautiful as the colours..

Clarins Super Serum

Clarins Super Restorative Remodelling Serum (£80) is my anti-ageing weapon of 2015.

Estee Lauder Little Black Eyeliner

Estee Lauder Little Black Liner (£22) proved 2015’s easiest way to pull off a sexy flick of the eyeline.

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Carole’s Christmas Crackers

Xmas - Carole LombardI love this picture of Carole Lombard, one of my favourite Hollywood beauties from the golden age, gleefully opening her Christmas presents – even though I know it was probably taken in July and all the boxes are empty! I’m sure she would have loved to find any of my pick of this year’s beauty gifts under her tree – apart, obviously, from the token one for the men!

Bobbi Brown Caviar Mini Lip & Eye Palette

Bobbi Brown Caviar Mini Lip & Eye Palette, £26.50 (www.bobbibrown.co.uk)

Aveda Stress Fix Hand Creme Gift set

Aveda Stress Fix Hand Creme Gift Set, £32 (www.aveda.co.uk)

Elemis Clean Man gift set

Elemis Clean Man Gift Set, £25 (www.elemis.com)

 

Dior Makeup Multi Palette

Dior Multi-Use Make-up Palette, £68 (www.houseoffraser.co.uk)

Diptyque Oliban candle

Diptyque Oliban Candle, £48 (www.spacenk.co.uk)

Tom Ford Lips & Nails Gift Set

Tom Ford Lips & Nails Gift Set, £130 (Tom Ford counters in House of Frasers and Space NK)

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Attaboy, Clarins!

Clarins Super Restorative Remodelling SerumChristmas wouldn’t be half as beautiful without Clarins – it’s definitely the go-to beauty brand for skincare treats, and its red packaging just adds to the festive appeal.  For me, the stand-out anti-ageing product this year has been Clarins’ Super Restorative Remodelling Serum (£80), which promises to help lift features, replenish the skin, reshape and redefine the facial contours and reduce the appearance of age spots.

I used it religiously from August until very recently (it lasted extremely well, especially since, once I began to panic about running out, I only targeted my forehead and my jawline!), following the “Clarins Method” – a particular way of applying it using gentle pressure. I noticed an improvement in the tautness of the skin on my jawline pretty quickly, which is why I was encouraged to keep using it twice a day and not to skip the serum step even when I was knackered.

Early on, somebody commented on how lovely my skin was looking. I remember feeling perplexed because at the time I felt quite run-down. Then I realised that the credit for any improvement in my complexion was probably due to this serum, since it also restores radiance, and gives older women’s skin the support it needs to bounce back and recover from the hormonal changes which inevitably weaken it.Clarins New Visage_2013

Towards the end of my Super Restorative Remodelling cycle, I was lucky enough to be treated to one of the fabulous Clarins Tri-Active facials (£67 for 85 minutes), which now incorporate the serum. As ever, it was not only extremely relaxing, but also produced instant results in terms of tightening and brightening the skin. If you’re planning to splurge on a woman who is fortysomething or older this Christmas, this is the skincare to buy – and the Tri-Active facial is the spa treatment to book….

For details of your nearest spa, visit www.clarins.co.uk

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One for Her – and One for Me … A Bourjois Christmas

Bourjois Superdrug giftParisian beauty brand Bourjois is making Christmas shopping a much more enjoyable experience with a couple of fab offers running concurrently at Superdrug and Boots. I don’t normally get excited about these things but these offers are downright irresistible! I haven’t received any press info about them; I just stumbled across them instore – and figured that it’s worth knowing about both deals before you choose which one to go for .. Or which to go for first!

At Superdrug until the end of January, not only can you buy three Bourjois items for the price of two, but you will also receive the lovely eyeshadow trio pictured – a beautiful, light-coloured and very wearable trio of shimmering nude shades, and instructions on how to use them. A brilliant stocking-filler – or maybe a palette to save for the spring?

Meanwhile, over at Boots, a spend of £15 from the Bourjois stand before December 29 will earn you the Rouge Glamour gift box (worth £29; scroll down to view), which contains full-size versions of the Smoky Stories Quad Eyeshadow in Upside Brown, a Volume Glamour Max Mascara in Ultra Black, a Rouge Edition Velvet Liquid Lipstick in Hot Pepper and a So Laque Ultra Shine Nail Polish in Rouge Escarpin.

Both free gifts are available while stocks last. I reckon that won’t be long!Bourjois Rouge Glam

 

 

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