Chichester Film Festival celebrates composer William Alwyn

Rosanna Ter-Berg
Rosanna Ter-Berg

This year’s Chichester International Film Festival celebrates the work of British film composer William Alwyn by combining screening and live performance.

Four films for which Alwyn provided the music will screened, preceded by one of his chamber pieces performed live by young musicians from the Park Lane Group.

A further five films will be screened but without live performance.

John Woolf, director of Park Lane Group, which exists to offer opportunities to young musicans, is delighted to be involved.

“Alywn died some years ago, but he was the leading British film composer. He composed the background music for more than 70 films. I am quite certain no other film composer – certainly not British, though maybe Hollywood – has done more than that.”

Alwyn (1905-1985) was a contemporary of Britten, Tippett and Walton. He composed symphonies, concertos, songs, chamber music and operas, but during his lifetime he was just as well known for his film music.

He viewed each commission from a film studio as an opportunity to experiment with techniques he could develop for expressive purposes in his concert music, in particular the cycle of four symphonies he composed between 1949 and 1959. He also developed firmly-held beliefs about the purpose and value of film music, insisting it is most effective when used sparingly and when conceived at the beginning of the film’s production rather than being added later.

“I am not a composer, thank goodness! But when Mr Verdi does something that has a magic effect on you, you just have to think it is a wonder the way an individual puts those notes together,” John said.

“Painting must be much easier. You can look at it and you can see what you are painting. But for the composer, the brush is what is in their mind, and certainly Alwyn had his own personality and his own character in the music he was writing.”

The William Alwyn season at the Chichester International Film Festival features:

Odd Man Out (PG), Saturday, August 15, 3.30pm. Odd Man Out stars James Mason as a terrorist on the run in post-war Belfast. Preceded by a live performance of William Alwyn’s String Quartet No. 3 (1984) played by the Alke String Quartet.

The Fallen Idol (PG), Sunday, August 16, 3.30pm Carol Reed’s award-winning adaptation of Graham Greene’s short story. Preceded by a live performance of William Alwyn’s String Quartet No 2 Spring Leaves (1976) played by the Gildas Quartet.

The Magic Box (U), Saturday, August 22, 3.30pm. Made for the Festival of Britain and with a who’s who of more than 50 British stars. Preceded by live performances of William Alwyn’s Divertimento for solo flute, Crépuscule for solo harp and Fantasy Sonata, Naiades for flute and harp. Played by Rosanna Ter-Berg (flute) and Anne Denholm (harp).

The Card (U). Sunday, August 23, 3.30pm.A young man (Alec Guinness) who hasn’t a bean in the world, turns fate around to find fame, fortune, love and success in a dramatisation of the Arnold Bennett novel. Preceded by live performances of William Alwyn’s Sonata Impromptu for violin and viola and String Trio played by the Eblana String Trio.

The festival will also offer five classic films with scores by William Alwyn in The Studio, but without any live music presentations: Green For Danger (PG); The Winslow Boy (U); History of Mr Polly (PG); The Smallest Show on Earth (U); and The Naked Edge (15).

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