Spaghetti Western Orchestra

The music of Ennio Morricone from the films of Sergio Leone and others, using up to one hundred instruments and contraptions. Music from A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, A Fistful of Dynamite, Once Upon in a the Time in the West, Gunfight at Red Sands, Maddalena, My Name is Nobody, Two Mules for Sister Sara, Death Rides a Horse, Machine Gun McCain, and The Mercenary

Jess Ciampa, Shannon Birchall, Graeme Leak, Boris Conley & Patrick Cronin

The following instruments are used: asthma inhaler, bass recorder, bassoon, bells, bird-wings sound effect, body-drop sound effect, bouncy ball pump, castanets, chickens sound effect, child-sized boot, claves, coat hangers, concert bass drum, concert tom-toms, cornflakes (small and large packet), creaky-door sound effect, deck of cards, double bass, drum kit, Dutch clog and tambourine jingles, egg shakers, electronic sampler, fake glasses, film canister, bird whistle, finger cymbals, footsteps sound effect, frog clicker, harmonica (working), harmonica (broken), horseshoe, Jew’s harps, Kat midi controller (two octaves), kitchen knife with sharpening steel, latch-bolt sound effect, mandolin, maracas, melodeon, nail clippers, nail file, ocarina, one-note saxophone, orchestral whip, packaging tape, Pan pipes, pianoforte, plastic bags, policeman’s whistle, ratchet, reel-to-reel tape machine, sticks and twigs, string can, suspended cymbals, synthesizer, tam tam, Tasmanian lottery balls, theremin, timpani, tin whistle, trumpet, tuned beer bottles, two-tone whistle, ukulele, Vibraphone wind machine and wooden cowbells

Denis Blais – Director & Designer
Keith Tucker – Lighting Designer
Steph O’Hara – Sound Designer
Glynis Henderson – Producer

Reviewed by: Michael Darvell

Reviewed: 8 October, 2009
Venue: Southbank Centre, London – Queen Elizabeth Hall

Ennio Morricone. Photograph: enniomorricone.comEnnio Morricone must be the most prolific and popular film composer since the days of Max Steiner at Warner Bros. Following his music education, studying the trumpet, choral music and composition, he began to write classical music but eventually moved to radio and in 1955 started writing for the cinema. He has now written or arranged the music for over 500 films. His main influence has been John Cage and his use of silence. Although probably best known for his scores to the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone, Morricone has written music for all kinds of films including John Carpenter’s “The Thing”, John Boorman’s “Exorcist II”, Roland Joffe’s “The Mission” and “City of Joy”, Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables” and “Mission to Mars”, Barry Levinson’s “Bugsy” and “Disclosure” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill”.

However, he is not confined to action pictures for Morricone also wrote the very moving theme for “Nuovo Cinema Paradiso”, the success of which has as much to do with the sentimental nature of the music as the movie does itself. Morricone’s influence has been spread wide to other composers and many popular-music performers. He has won countless awards culminating in an honorary Oscar in 2007.

In its performances the Spaghetti Western Orchestra pays homage to the films of Sergio Leone but mostly to the music of Ennio Morricone. Alongside the music played on various instruments and other sound-effects gadgets by just five musicians, there are snatches of dialogue, pieces of action, comedy routines and all kinds of silliness that combine to recreate the sound and atmosphere of such Clint Eastwood classics as “A Fistful of Dollars” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”, which starred the ‘Man with No Name’. It is amazing that these five Australian performers manage to get the enormous sound that would not shame any soundtrack of a Leone epic. They are obviously besotted by the genre and by Morricone’s heightened use of sound effects – and silence – in his music. Hence the use of all of the “instruments” mentioned above.

Apart from the basic piano, there are other keyboards and synthesiser, grand piano and gong, double bass and drums, timpani and theremin, trumpet and tambourine, bells and bassoon, mandolin and maracas, harmonica and Jew’s harp and ocarina and orchestral whip plus … see to the left), because, you name it and it’s probably there. But there are all manner of household implements to draw on too, and, boy, do they have a collection of effects. Perhaps the best of these, or the funniest, is the boot-crunching on a plate of cornflakes to evoke the arrival of the ‘Man with No Name’, or stabbing a cabbage to represent the knifing of a villain, or the asthma inhaler for, well, very little really. Multi-skilled in every musical department, Jess Ciampa, Shannon Birchall, Graeme Leak, Boris Conley and Patrick Cronin are also great comedians, singers and actors who summon up the world of Morricone and Leone with consummate ease and in the process are totally disarming.

The audience is also called upon to play the relevant background noise (murmuring, screaming, kicking), and in a grand finale is asked to be the sound of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” – you know, the bit that goes ‘oooey, oooey, ooh, wah wah wah’. Even if you’re not fan of this particular film genre, you will be after the Spaghetti Western Orchestra gets to you.

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