There are a handful of names every cinema buff knows, but who might not be familiar to the general public. They include Elmer Bernstein, John Williams, the Newman family, Danny Elman, and others. These folks are the people who have composed the soundtracks for some of your favorite films. You see their names on the screen for a few seconds before the movie starts, but the actors are the ones who steal the spotlight.
Long before a film hits theaters or your online streaming service, there’s a person who writes the music that complements the beats in the screenplay and helps bring the onscreen story to life. Then, after the film has been shot and edited, that person assembles an orchestra in a large studio where the movie plays on a giant screen as the musicians record the score.
One of the film industry’s most prolific composers and conductors is Howard Shore, the Toronto-born legend whose film scores have ranged from Mrs. Doubtfire and Ed Wood to the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Shore, like many other musical artists, has recorded at the Evergreen Stage in Burbank, a legendary studio facility once owned by DiaDan Holdings, Ltd. that offers a full range of amenities for analog and digital recording, including a 3,000-square-foot live room that accommodates up to 60 musicians. It’s perfect for film score recording.
A multiple Academy Award, Grammy and Golden Globe winner, Shore began studying music during his youth, learning several instruments and playing in bands by the time he was 13. At that age, he met a fellow Canadian teen named Lorne Michaels while at summer camp.
Several years later, Michaels would hire Shore to serve as musical director for his new, groundbreaking late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live, a position Shore would hold for five years. Shore also composed the show’s theme song, and it’s been said that he coined the name The Blues Brothers for the R&B musical act developed by cast members John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd.
But the silver screen was calling, and in 1978, during his time at SNL, Shore composed his first score for a low-budget Canadian thriller called I Miss You, Hugs and Kisses. A year later he would score The Brood, the first major release directed by fellow Toronto native David Cronenberg. This would mark the start of a longtime collaborative relationship with director during which Shore scored all his films with the exception of 1988’s The Dead Zone.
The 1980s and 1990s were busy decades for Shore, who, in addition to working with Cronenberg, composed the scores for Martin Scorsese’s Night Shift, Penny Marshall’s Big, Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, and others.
Shore received his first BAFTA nomination for his Lambs score, and the film itself went on to win Academy Awards in the five top categories (Best Screenplay, Director, Picture, Actor, and Actress). Shore is the only living composer to have scored a film that won Oscars in all five categories.
Since then, Shore has scored numerous films. In 2001, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, with a score by Shore, hit screens around the world and earned the composer his first Oscar, a Grammy and Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations. He later went on to compose the scores for the two subsequent films in the trilogy.
While continuing to score films, in 2004 Shore added a new job to his resume: conducting orchestras in live performances of his scores from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He’s traveled the world and has worked on numerous projects since then.
While Shore is primarily associated with film work, he’s also worked in television, where his credits include co-writing, with John Lurie, the theme song for Late Night with Conan O’Brien.
Shore continues to be active. His most recent work, as of this writing, was composing the score for the film Le prince oublié, directed by Michel Hazanavicius, which is set for release this year.
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