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Oscar concert showcases music nominees Williams, Scott perform

LOS ANGELES, Feb 28, (Agencies): Thursday night’s Oscar Concert, the Academy’s first Oscar-week showcase for nominated music, came at a great time for the AMPAS Music Branch. And it comes at a tough time for the branch. It’s a great time because the Oscar-nominated scores include innovative work by fresh new voices as well as artful scores by some of the most celebrated composers in the field; because three of the four nominated songs are big hits, and all are being performed on the Oscar show; and because the Academy’s Board of Governors has approved this Oscar-week concert to showcase the work deemed best by the branch. And it’s a tough time because most of the recent Oscar-music headlines had to do with the fact that the fifth Best Original Song nominee, “Alone Yet Not Alone,” had its nomination rescinded because former branch governor Bruce Broughton had engaged in what the board determined was inappropriate campaigning. In that charged atmosphere, with the branch celebrating its high-profile nominees while others in and outside the Academy wonder if the song mess will have reverberations for AMPAS and for the branch, the first Oscar Concert took place at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus on Thursday.

The Music Branch may be ready to forget about the controversy and simply celebrate the work or they may feel the shadow hanging over them — we don’t know for sure, because Charles Fox, the Music Branch governor of the Academy who was one of the key proponents of the concert, originally agreed to speak to TheWrap for this article, but then cancelled because, AMPAS said, he was wrapped up in rehearsals. The nominated composers are three first-time nominees, Steven Price (“Gravity”), Arcade Fire’s William Butler and Owen Pallett (“Her”), plus six-time nominee Alexander Desplat (“Philomena”), 12-time nominee Thomas Newman (“Saving Banks”) and 49-time nominee John Williams (“The Book Thief”).
And no, that 49 is not a typo — Williams is the most nominated living person.
Some governors have long muttered about Music Branch cronyism, with the board voting to rescind Bruce Broughton’s nomination even after a branch committee ruled that his campaigning was appropriate.

It’s likely that the board will revisit the matter in the aftermath of the Oscars, when the governors conduct their annual review of the show and the campaigns. That could lead to new regulations governing campaigning in all categories, or to a hard look at the often-controversial song category. That category, after all, prompts regular complaints about oversights and omissions, even as it has resulted in such worthy and sometimes daring Oscar winners as Harold Arlen and EY. Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow,” Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields’ “The Way You Look Tonight,” Isaac Hayes’ “Theme from Shaft,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia,” Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed,” Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” and Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s “Falling Slowly.”
In a related story, John Williams and Jill Scott were among the artists who brought this year’s Oscar-nominated music to life at an inaugural concert organized by the motion picture academy.
Williams conducted an 80-piece orchestra performing his score from “The Book Thief,” while Scott put her own spin on the Pharrell ditty “Happy” from “Despicable Me 2” at Thursday’s first-ever Oscar Concert at UCLA’s Royce Hall.

The show featured each of this year’s nominated composers leading an orchestra of professional studio musicians, as well as performances of each original song vying for the Academy Award.
“What’s fantastic about an evening like this is we can understand completely that these movies we see wouldn’t be what they are and couldn’t be made without the service of a great orchestra,” said Williams, who with 49 nods is the second most nominated person behind Walt Disney in Oscar history.
The concert, hosted by rapper-actor Common and featuring an appearance by Oscar-winning songwriter Richard Sherman, kicked off with six-time nominee Alexandre Desplat leading a suite from “Philomena.” Other composers who took the stage included 12-time Oscar nominee Thomas Newman with “Saving Mr Banks”; as well as first-time nominees William Butler and Owen Pallett of Arcade Fire with “Her”; and “Gravity” composer Steven Price, who delegated conducting duties to collaborator Joseph Trapanese.
Pallett recalled that the nimble score from filmmaker Spike Jonze’s futuristic love story “Her” was originally intended to be more dark and mechanical.

“Originally, the movie was set 30 years in the future, and then he brought it back to 15 years in the future, so we had to take the ‘Blade Runner’ score out and make it a bit more contemporary,” said Pallett.
For her rendition of “Happy,” Scott was joined not only by the orchestra but also the young girl Redbirds dance troupe from the Debbie Allen Dance Academy.
The other song performers included “The Voice” contestant Matt Cermanski singing U2’s “Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” and actress Cristin Milioti from “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “How I Met Your Mother” crooning Karen O’s “The Moon Song” from “Her.” Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, the songwriters behind the sweeping “Frozen” ballad “Let It Go,” performed their own tune from the animated film starring Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel.
“I am not Idina Menzel,” warned Anderson-Lopez before she was accompanied by her husband on piano. “Very few of us are, which means I don’t have to perfect. I can just let go.”
Menzel, as well as each of the other nominated song performers, including Karen O and U2, will be on hand during Sunday’s ceremony to showcase their original song selections on the live broadcast.

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