Focus Features’ Downton Abbey movie, the big-screen sequel to the Emmy-winning, hugely popular PBS series, surprised everyone by making nearly $100 million and virtually ensuring a sequel. Composer John Lunn, who scored all 52 episodes from 2010 to 2015, returned with a score he called “bigger, better and grander,” and the music lived up to the hype. I wrote about this for Variety on Sept. 20 and then did a Society of Composers & Lyricists Q&A with the composer on Nov. 14 at Universal Studios. Lunn, as always, was a delight.
For this season’s Emmy contenders issue, the editors at Variety posed an interesting question: When TV series run two, three, four or more seasons, how do the composers treat their characters and story arcs? Is it best to ground them in familiar musical territory, or should the scores reflect the changing, often expanding, storylines? I interviewed a wide range of composers to find out how they handled the challenge: Bear McCreary (Outlander), Blake Neely (The Flash), Joey Newman (The Middle), Jeff Beal (House of Cards), Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones), John Lunn (Downton Abbey) and Sean Callery (Homeland).
I’ve participated in many concerts over the years, but few can compare with the extraordinary evening of television music we did at UCLA’s Royce Hall Wednesday night. I was honored to host, and to conduct on-stage interviews with the likes of John Lunn (Downton Abbey), Alf Clausen (The Simpsons), Sean Callery (Elementary), James S. Levine (American Horror Story) and Walter Murphy (Family Guy).
A sold-out audience got to hear music by all these composers, plus Jeff Beal (House of Cards), Bear McCreary (DaVinci’s Demons), Trevor Morris (The Borgias) and Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones). One of my favorite moments was introducing Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman (Nurse Jackie) and declaring that they are “leading the way for the next generation of women composers in Hollywood.“ Here is a rundown of the evening; here’s Variety’s story; and here’s another one from the TV Academy itself with more fun photos.
It’s been in the works for a year, but the pieces are now coming together and the Television Academy is going to stage its own concert of great music from current TV shows. (A few weeks after I broke this story, the Academy asked me to host the concert. I did.)
My friends at Emmy magazine asked me to profile three composers, all potential Emmy nominees for their scores for TV series in the 2012-13 season. Here’s the piece about John Lunn, who scores PBS’s Downton Abbey. I also wrote about Christopher Lennertz of NBC’s Revolution and Ramin Djawadi for HBO’s Game of Thrones. Will try to post those shortly.