The concert took place on Friday, August 19, 2016 on the Grand Performances Stage at California Plaza in downtown Los Angeles. The concert was produced by Marilee Bradford, who is well known for her work with The Film Music Society, in association with Thomas Mikusz and Chandler Poling of White Bear PR. The concert’s artistic director was Laura Karpman of The Alliance for Women Film Composers.
According to recent statistics, female film composers only scored 2% of the 250 top-grossing films at the US box office in 2015, and the highest-grossing film of all time scored by a woman is 2012’s The Vow, by Rachel Portman, which is 443rd on the list. The Alliance for Women Film Composers is seeking to address that imbalance by working toward greater participation by women in music.
The concert showcased the music of 21 female composers and musicians, and featured an eclectic blend of styles and approaches ranging from contemporary orchestral music to choral pieces, jazz, funk, and world music blends. Juilliard-trained composer and conductor Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum conducted a 55-piece orchestra and a 30-voice choir, as well as various guest soloists and vocalists in front of a 2,000-person strong audience.
The concert was structured as six distinct movements – “The Protectors,” “The Seekers,” “The Heroes,” “The Icons,” “The Rebels,” and “The Dreamers” – each of which was introduced by a leading female entertainment industry executive or artist, including CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Dawn Hudson, Executive Vice-President of Marvel Studios Victoria Alonso, Los Angeles-based artist Margaret Garcia, and performing artist Butterscotch. The entire evening was dedicated to the memory of composer Shirley Walker (1945-2006), a pioneer of female film composing, who scored major titles such as Memoirs of an Invisible Man, Final Destination, and Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, whose powerhouse choral overture opened the concert.
Highlights of the first half of evening included the beautiful chamber piece “Plymouth Chorale” from the upcoming film Manchester-by-the-Sea by Lesley Barber, the soulful song “Safely Home” written and performed by composer and pianist Kathryn Bostic, the jazz-infused music from the TV series In the Heat of the Night by Nan Schwartz, and the dream-like ambient string textures from the documentary feature Stockholm Pennsylvania by conductor Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum.
The orchestral suite of music from the TV series Bones by Julia Newmann brought the house down with its stylish blend of verdant emotional strings, upbeat jazz, and 1970s-inspired funk rock. Legendary pianist Mike Lang brought his effortlessly sensitive touch to a number of pieces, including IFMCA-nominated composer Rachel Portman’s The Cider House Rules, while erhu virtuoso Karen Han gave a taste of the orient to composer Germaine Franco’s raucous, action-packed music for the “immersive reality ride” based on the hit animated film Kung Fu Panda 3. The performance of composer Jessica Curry’s IFMCA-nominated game score Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture featured stunningly realized soprano solo vocals, and composer Lolita Ritmanis conducted a suite of her own powerful scores for several of the Warner Brothers animated super hero movies.
The second half of the concert opened with Miriam Cutler’s wonderful Gershwin-inspired music for the 2012 documentary feature Ethel, and continued with performances such as Starr Parodi’s warm and tender The Festival of the Masters, Heather McIntosh’s intense classical cello score for Compliance, and Wendy Blackstone’s wonderful Herrmannesque finale from the film Love Walked In, a festival of creepy-beautiful string writing, elegant piano textures, and fine chorus.
Israeli-born composer Sharon Farber wowed the crowd with a suite of music from three of her scores – Children of the Fall, When Nietzsche Wept, and The Dove – the latter of which featured spectacular performances by soloists Navid Kandelousi and Sirvan Manhoubi. Composer and performer Lili Haydn undertook the unique double act of singing and playing the violin simultaneously on a performance of a track from her studio album Places Between Places, and then continued to provide the violin solos on a track from Bulgarian composer Penka Kouneva’s soaring, majestic, celebratory concept album The Woman Astronaut.
Legendary composer and songwriter Diane Warren took to the piano herself to perform the searing, emotional song “Til It Happens To You” from the documentary The Hunting Ground, which she co-wrote with Lady Gaga and which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2015. The concert concluded with a performance of the rousing, powerful, Deep South-inspired music from the acclaimed TV show Underground, with composer Laura Karpman and guest vocalists Raphael Saadiq, Butterscotch, Carmen Twillie and Taura Stinson.
The IFMCA is honored to be able to support these outstanding female composers, and celebrate their work. The IFMCA has a history of recognizing the work of female film composers; Turkish-born composer Pinar Toprak received back-to-back IFMCA awards in 2010 for The Lightkeepers and in 2011 for The Wind Gods, and the association has nominated scores by female composers such as Sarah Class, Jane Antonia Cornish, Lisa Gerrard, Victoria Kelly, Mica Levi, Zeltia Montes, Eímear Noone, Winifred Phillips, Sarah Schachner, Maribeth Solomon, Debbie Wiseman, and Rachel Zeffira, as well as the aforementioned Jessica Curry and Rachel Portman.
With thanks to Ray Costa and Chandler Poling. Photographs courtesy of Omri Lahav, Craig Lysy, Gino Mifsud, Kaya Savas. Click on the thumbnails below for larger images: