Legendary leader of Irish folk music group The Chieftains talks with The Legacy of John Williams about the collaboration with the Maestro on the score for Far and Away
Hosted by Tim Burden
Soundtrack label La-La Land Records just released a new expanded edition of John Williams’s stirring score for Far and Away, the spectacular 1992 film directed by Ron Howard starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman telling the epic journey of Irish immigrants Joseph Donnelly and Shannon Christie from the shores of County Galway to the land of plenty in the United States, where they will fight adversities to get a piece of land in the legendary “Oklahoma land rush“. Splendidly photographed by Mikael Salomon, Far and Away is a thoroughly enjoyable (and sometimes naive) throwback to classic Hollywood epics, directly referencing films such as Cimarron and The Quiet Man.
The vast canvas of the film offered composer John Williams a splendid opportunity to craft a truly spectacular symphonic score, full of lush orchestral passages in the style of classic Hollywood film music, and vibrant, colorful textures inspired by traditional Irish folk music, performed by Irish music band The Chieftains. As screenwriter Bob Dolman wrote in the original 1992 soundtrack album liner notes “the music carries with Joseph and Shannon”, traveling also musically from traditional Irish vernacular toward a more Copland-esque, Americana-like style.
Despite the film didn’t become a box office hit as expected and hoped, the composer showed a great deal of affection toward this score in the following years. The suite for orchestra he prepared right after the film’s release became a staple of his concert appearances and he revisited again music from the film (the cue “Blowing Off Steam”) as a showcase for violin solo on two different recordings, one with Itzhak Perlman and the second with Anne-Sophie Mutter.
The new expanded release by La-La Land Records is produced, edited and mastered by soundtrack producer Mike Matessino and presents the full score composed by Maestro Williams in chronological order, also offering unreleased material never heard before, including cues written and recorded but ultimately discarded from the final mix, and several alternate passages as well.
To add authenticity to the musical approach, Williams asked traditional Irish folk music group The Chieftains to perform on several cues for the film. They performed already with John Williams on several shows with the Boston Pops during the 1991 season and this likely led to this collaboration. The group led by Paddy Moloney performed on several different cues of Far and Away with their set of traditional Gaelic instruments such as the uilleann pipes, tin whistle, bodhrán, Celtic harp and fiddle. The result is absolutely magnificent and authentic, especially in the cues where they perform together with the full orchestra.
The Chieftains are now touring the world with their “Irish Goodbye” tour and recently visited the United States for a series of concerts, including one at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. In this exclusive interview, band leader and Irish music legend Paddy Moloney talks with Tim Burden about the collaboration with John Williams on this score and their friendship over the years.
Special thanks to Tim Burden for giving the exclusive to present the interview, and to Mike Matessino for his friendship and generosity.
Order Far And Away Expanded Soundtrack Album on lalalandrecords.com