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After starting out as member of Kenneth Branagh’s repertory company, Scotsman Patrick Doyle is one of today’s most in-demand film composers.
A graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where he studied piano and singing, Patrick Doyle joined Kenneth Branagh’s Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987 as an actor, composer and musical director. Their work on the movie Henry V was the start of a long time collaboration in films. In October 1997, Doyle was diagnosed with leukemia but made a full recovery to become one of Hollywood's top movie composers. He has worked with a host of acclaimed directors including Ang Lee and Brian de Palma. Doyle has also written a series of symphonic works for the concert hall including Impressions of America, released to mark his 60th birthday in April 2013. But which of Patrick Doyle’s almost 50 scores are the ten best?
When actor Kenneth Branagh set out to direct his first feature film, he asked his friend Patrick Doyle to compose music that was strong enough to make an emotional impact without overpowering Shakespeare’s verse. Doyle's score features the stirring chorus Non Nobis Domini, sung by Doyle himself on screen. It won Best Film Theme of 1989 at the Ivor Novello Awards. Doyle and Branagh have continued to collaborate and are currently working on a version of Cinderella, starring Helena Bonham Carter.
Al Pacino starred as Carlito who vows to go straight after his release from prison but ends up being dragged back into criminal activity. Patrick Doyle was an unusual choice for an American crime drama, but he delivered a highly accomplished and emotional orchestral score. Musical supervisor Jellybean Benitez supplemented the soundtrack with elements of salsa and merengue.
From the moment that Much Ado’s sunny, joyful overture strikes up, Doyle’s life-affirming music establishes itself as one of the great soundtracks of the 1990s. As in Branagh’s Henry V, the composer also makes an appearance in the film - as a solo vocalist, performing the haunting ‘Pardon Goddess of the Night’ and ‘Sigh No More Ladies.’ An essential addition to any soundtrack collection.
Emma Thompson's self-penned adaptation of the Jane Austen classic won her an Oscar. She also put in a great performance alongside Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman and newcomer Kate Winslet. Patrick Doyle received Golden Globe and Oscar nominations for his sweetly melodic, pastiche Mozartian music. The soundtrack album enjoyed a long-run in the Classic FM chart in the mid-1990s.
Patrick Doyle chalked up another Oscar nomination with his soundtrack for Kenneth Branagh's four-hour long version of Shakespeare's tragedy which featured more famous actors than a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show; everyone from Charlton Heston to Ken Dodd put in appearances. The sheer length and epic scale of the film gave Doyle the chance to write one of his biggest orchestral scores, replete with regal fanfares and an end credits aria delivered by Placido Domingo.
Patrick Doyle was the logical choice for Robert Altman's cinematic upstairs-downstairs drama featuring a roll call of British thesps. Scored for a small ensemble, the music is intimate, understated and jazzy with different sets of instrumentation for the chattering classes upstairs (mainly piano) and the staff labouring below (accordion) - all interwoven with tunes by Ivor Novello, who is played as a character in the film by Jeremy Northam.
Following in the footsteps of John Williams – whose scores for the first two Harry Potter installments were both nominated for Oscars– would be a formidable task for any composer. But director Mike Newell had faith in Doyle, having collaborated with him before on Into the West and Donnie Brasco. The composer delivered a magical score with Irish and Bulgarian influences for the Quidditch World Cup scene, and spine tingling cues for 'He Who Must Not Be Named'. The 'Harry in Winter' track has become a Classic FM favourite.
Eragon has a huge, dramatic fantasy score with Patrick Doyle marshalling all the forces of the London Symphony Orchestra with impressive results. It was Doyle's most upbeat score since Much Ado About Nothing and it's grand stuff all the way - with trumpets, cymbals and flutes galore playing at full force. The film was no great shakes - and nothing compared to The Lord of the Rings saga which had captivated audiences at the time. But Doyle's score stands out as one of his finest achievements.
For the recent big-screen reboot of the popular 1970s movie and TV series, Doyle was hired to provide the music, hot on the heels of his Thor soundtrack for Kenneth Branagh. Doyle's score shows his clear evolution from the period dramas of the 1990s to thundering action soundtracks. Exotic percussion and vocals capture the ape Caesar's African roots - as does the extensive use of an ostrich egg ocarina, rarely heard on film scores.
For Pixar's 'brave' venture into Scottish fairy tale territory, who better to provide the music than a native? Doyle's score draws on every authentic Scottish element - bagpipes, uilleann pipes, fiddles, whistles, harp, and the bodhran drum. It does the job brilliantly and has some beautiful moments performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.