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Famed alumnus film composer conducts CCM orchestra

Randy Edelman takes the audience to the movies — his  movies

by Deborah Rieselman, 1-13

The passion with which alumnus Randy Edelman conducted the student musicians in playing his own film-score compositions was electrifying and contagious, bringing the Corbett Auditorium audience to its feet several times for standing ovations. The renowned composer's facial expressions and demonstrative conducting style indicated he was thrilled to be sharing his musical magnetism with both the College-Conservatory of Music students and the audience, as well as touched when he received the Kautz Alumni Master's award on Jan. 27, 2013.

Consequently, his nonchalant remark afterward, "It was just like any other concert," took me by surprise. I had asked how he felt conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble at his alma mater, and when I heard his reply, it was all I could do to keep my mouth from falling open.

While I was still trying to feign composure, his wife, Jackie DeShannon (a famous singer-songwriter in her own right), jumped right in — excitedly countering, "That's not what I just told her. I said you were loving every minute of it. I said you had been telling me about how good the students were since we got here."

He interrupted her. "It was just like any other concert for me. That means it was no different than being at Abbey Road, conducting the London Symphony," he quietly stated, as if that connotation should have been obvious. "They are that good."

Randy Edelman

My face brightened instantly. "Randy, that's the quote I was looking for," I sighed.

To put things in context, Randy Edelman, CCM '69, HonDoc '04, is a man who has more than 100 compositions to his name. He is used to packing houses like the London Palladium for concerts of his tunes from such movies as "The Last of the Mohicans," "Ghostbusters II," "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" and "While You Were Sleeping" — all of which earned him BMI Film Music Awards. In many spots in Great Britain and Europe, he nearly gets mobbed the the streets.

On the other hand, Corbett Auditorium was nicely filled, but not jam packed, though the crowd was certainly enthusiastic.

The big difference is that film music is much more popular in Europe than in the U.S. There, Edelman has been invited to perform at exotic film-music festivals held in "exquisite" locations, he said. Furthermore, European audiences are more inclined to instantly recognize movie melodies.

When audiences on this side of the Atlantic recognize themes from his film scores, it is often for different reasons. Here, his music is frequently identified because it has been used extensively in commercials and major televised events — the Olympics, World Series, Super Bowl and Academy Awards, for instance.

"After I’ve scored films, the music keeps popping up in the strangest places," he told the UC audience, "in NASA space-shuttle commercials, in a Pacific Life Insurance commercial where a whale jumps out of the water and falls back with a giant splash, at the Olympics when Canadian skater Elvis Stojko got a second place skating to 'Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.'

"I hear some of that music so much that I even get tired of it … though I get paid every time it plays," he joked.


 

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Notes on his wife, Jackie DeShannon

Jackie was born in Kentucky and became one of the first female singer-songwriters in the '60s. Two of her most well-known songs include her recording of "What the World Needs Now Is Love" (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David) and the million-copy seller "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" (written and performed by DeShannon in 1969). In 1982, she won a Grammy with Donna Weiss for writing "Bette Davis Eyes." In 2010, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, with approximately 53 singles and 38 albums to her name. When she first started out, she even toured with the Beatles.


That means some American concert goers end up thinking he had attached his name to covers. The confused music aficionados will coyly approach him after a show to confide, "I have to admit I've heard that music before."

Edelman shook his head at the thought, then told the UC audience that he was giving them a warning: "After you have heard these next themes and think, 'I've heard this before,' I want you to know that I didn't steal this shit!"

Later in the evening, he regaled the audience with way in which he tried to tell Ted Turner "no" to composing the score for "Gettysburg," which was originally slated to be a TV miniseries. At the time, he dreaded the thought of composing 18 hours of music for a historical piece. In retrospect, giving in was probably a good thing, considering that around the Fourth of July each year, many symphonies play "Gettysburg" themes rather than the "1812 Overture."

In the 1960s, when Edelman enrolled at UC, a degree in music was not his initial goal. Instead of heading for CCM, he was in the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences preparing to follow his parents' desire for him to be a dentist. Soon he realized, "I wasn't cut out for that."

To reinforce his gut instinct, he entered a CCM concerto contest being judged by Erich Kunzel, the famous conductor/founder of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. When Endelman came in second place, Kunzel took the student aside and wanted to know why he wasn't studying at the conservatory.

He ended the conversation insisting that Randy continue his musical efforts. Much to his parents' disappointment, he took Kunzel's advice.

During much of college, he worked college band gigs, playing piano in a couple different groups and even recording at James Brown's Kings Records with some of the band members. When three of his band mates showed up at CCM for a long-awaited reunion, they all emphasized what a great guy Edelman had been during their band days and how obvious it quickly became that their pianist's talents greatly exceeded their own.

Edelman closed the concert by playing the Steinway grand piano on stage and singing one of his songs made popular by Barry Manilow in 1976, "Weekend in New England." His publisher had repeatedly refused to accept the piece, yet Edelman believed in it enough that he coughed up the money to make his own demo. And not needing to share the subsequent money with anyone, Endelman got it to Manilow, "who loved it just as I had written it," he told the audience with a slightly smug smile.

Apparently, Manilow and Edelman both knew what they were doing. The recording reached No. 1 on the Easy Listening chart and No. 10 on the Billboard's Hot 100.

"As a composer, you always hope that one day you will write that one song that will live on," Edelman explained. "This may be it."

As he sat down at the piano to play the song, he explained that he lacked a singing voice but would give it a try. Personally, I didn't notice his voice much because directly behind me was a melodious woman's voice singing the entire song, word for word.

She wasn't loud enough to be heard all over the auditorium, but the fervor in her voice made it clear that she couldn't help herself. She had to sing. It seems that she was in love with the song, almost as much as she was in love with the composer. It was Jackie DeShannon.

Married to Randy since 1976 (a particularly long time in Hollywood years), Jackie had been with her husband at UC for several days while he taught master classes and rehearsed the orchestra. After the concert, she was not hesitant to exclaim, "The kids were great!"


Randy Edelman's bragging rights

Award: BMI Lifetime Career Achievement Award, 2003. Watch video.

Film-score compositions include:

  • "Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story"
  • "The Last of the Mohicans"
  • "Ghostbusters II"
  • "While You Were Sleeping"
  • "Weekend in New England"
  • "Twins"
  • "Kindergarten Cop"
  • "Mask"

Film trailers in which his music was used:

  • “Patch Adams”
  • “The Truman Show”
  • “A Few Good Men”
  • “Patriot Games”
  • “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone”

His music was also in:

  • Disney movies
  • Academy Awards
  • NBC's Olympic Games ('96, '02, '08)
  • Super Bowl XXXII ('98)
  • World Series ('97)
  • NBC's NFL telecasts ('95–97)
  • "MacGuiver" TV series ('85-92, 139 episodes)

His songs were recorded by:

  • Olivia Newton-John
  • Blood Sweat and Tears
  • The Fifth Dimension
  • Barry Manilow
  • Patti Labelle
  • Bing Crosby

In his early years, he performed with:

  • Frank Zappa
  • The Carpenters

Orchestrated songs for:

  • "Godfather of Soul" James Brown