Behind The Scenes

LBB sat down with Jonathan Goldstein to hear his perspective on this year’s magical Sky Christmas spot…

Sky Cinema has unveiled its Christmas campaign by WCRS, a heart-warming piece centred around a true classic, The Sound of Music. Directed by Ben Liam Jones from StrangeLove, the spot tells the story of a mother and daughter through the Christmases they’ve spent together over 25 years. Our arrangement of ‘Favourite Things’ was recorded with a 25-piece orchestra at Angel Studios and its delicate, emotional progression creates the perfect setting for the festive narrative.

Why did you decide to use a real orchestra for this project?

We were lucky enough to be working with an agency, a producer and a director all of whom all value music highly and felt comfortable in making a strong case to the clients for recording it live. Studio recordings are becoming increasingly rare these days as the quality of digital samples gets better and better which, ironically, makes it harder for clients to justify spending a few quid on the real thing in this age of cost controllers. However… this ad is all about ‘cinema’ and it would have stood out (for all the wrong reasons) against other movie soundtracks if it hadn’t been recorded properly, so Sky gave us the green light – big ups! Recording the final track with real musicians brought the drama and subtlety of the action to a whole other level. It always does.

How much did you adapt the original in your arrangement of the song?

It was a tricky balancing act. The original song, being a well-known tune, had its own integral structure which we couldn’t change, so we had to find a way of twisting and turning the orchestration to follow the action. This sometimes meant going against the flow of the song and making it quiet when it’s usually loud, and vice-versa which, as you can imagine, was the cause of many debates…! We felt we had been charged with a responsibility, as ambassadors of the song, which was both an exciting and daunting challenge, but luckily we had a very respectful production team who kept it real.

Why do you think this piece of music has become so synonymous with Christmas?

Isn’t everything associated with Julie Andrews synonymous with Xmas? I guess she’s the perfect embodiment of good cheer, optimism, love and happiness that we all associate with the silly season. When else would it seem perfectly normal for an Edwardian governess to fly in the air with an umbrella, accompanied by a cockney-American chimney sweep…?

To what extent was the recording process a collaboration between composer and director?

Hugely so. Ben Liam Jones, the director, is such a picky b*gger…. sorry, I mean he’s incredibly attuned to the power of music and how, literally, one note here can make a huge difference there. He was very much involved throughout the process and commanded a lot of respect in doing so. It’s great to work with a director who is so closely involved – it can make such a huge difference to the process.

The music in this film seems to lead the narrative, therefore, it must have been one of the primary concerns of the agency/production team. Is this usually the case, or does the importance of music differ from project to project?

Well, the song was the ad in this case which is rare as it’s usually the other way round – music comes last when everyone’s run out time, and money – so it was exciting to be leading the project in many ways from our end. It was also tough, protecting the song’s integrity whilst making the track work for the ad, but we had a fantastic and supportive agency and team behind us. Thanks to all involved – and to Sky for making it happen.

Time for a spoonful of sugar now, I think…?

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