MEMORIES OF LONDON AND STAVANGER BY KARIM CHAMMAS
When Jean-Baptiste asked me if I wanted to write something regarding Cristiada, I looked up the only two texts I have ever written regarding James. One in 2011 after the visit at Abbey Road for the old Hornershrine, and one after James passed away in 2015. Reading both now feels like there are ages between them, probably the only similarity being that I had trouble putting my feelings into words both times. I can remember the excitement and that overwhelming surreal feeling of having experienced something so out of the ordinary in 2011, but also the insecurity of probably having made a complete fool out of myself being around all those people whose work I have admired for so long. But this was and still is not for me to decide. Having walked the corridors of Abbey Road and having seen James and his trusted Crew work so calmly and professionally and creating something so beautiful is something I will treasure forever.
Photo credit: © Sylvia Wells
In 2015, there was only sadness. And in a way, it hasn´t left me ever since. If I had to name one thing which attracts me to James´ music, and ever will, is that – no matter what the movie or scene is – there is almost always a melancholy to it. He had the ability to put my feelings about the scene into music in such a perfect way that I felt he looked at the scene just like me. When any other composer would just not quite get it, he would. I think that explains the incredible deep and sincere connection we feel with his music. A connection that, at least that is how I feel, James had come at ease with in recent years. And while the sadness while listening to my favorite cues and scores sometimes becomes almost unbearable, I feel that that is what we must celebrate. Celebrate the connection we had. Celebrate the experiences we were allowed to have. Celebrate the friendships we made through him. And celebrate his music and all it has given and still gives to us.
On May 13th, 2015 at about 23:30, I stepped out of Stavanger Concert Hall, elated. Not so much because of the prospect of having to spend the rest of the night in a rental car until my flight home at 6 am and also not merely because I just had attended a great and memorable concert. It was because of what had happened at the after show reception, which I was able to attend through JB´s kindness and the Samuelsen´s generosity. There, I had talked again with James Horner, my musical hero. He had been as kind as ever, generously answering all of my silly questions. There even had been some laughs all around, as I was recognized as “The Abbey Road Guy”, stating: “He´s everywhere!”. All in all, it had been a pleasant encounter and before making my way out of the hall, I thanked him for his music and all it had given to me and to us all.
Standing out there in the night, I thought back to the time almost 25 years ago, when I discovered his music through Star Trek II. I remembered vividly how I would record the music with my tape recorder, putting it in front of the TV while the movie was playing. I had no CD Player or even money to buy a single CD, but it didn´t matter. I listened in awe as the camera would move up to Spock´s coffin, the music soaring with sadness, but also hope. After that came Star Trek III, The Rocketeer and Patriot Games, but it was in 1995, in a movie theatre playing Apollo 13, that I completely and utterly fell for his music. For whatever reason, his music reaches my inner core, my very soul. For most of my life, it has been my companion. There are so many moments, feelings, situations in life associated with my CDs, the music, that it transcends from being a mere collection to being a part of my life, of me. Autumn, being in love with a woman is The Land Before Time. Trying to calm myself before my final high school exam with For The Love Of A Princess. The hopelessness of my love being rejected is Drawing Straws. Soothing my firstborn with Listen To The Wind, quietly humming along.
In recent years, with my visit to Abbey Road, Liverpool, Collage and Titanic Live things had taken an exiting turn. So many fantastic experiences had been added to an already fulfilling part of our lives. And it was incredibly satisfying to see how James was embraced by the audience with the love, admiration and respect he deserved. To me, he seemed genuinely happy.
The possibilities seemed endless. But as it turns out, life has decided otherwise.
From those days in my room with the tape deck to that moment in Stavanger has been an amazing journey. So farewell, James, and thank you. I will keep your music and the memories with me for the rest of my life.
I was early at Abbey Road, but just standing outside and watching is fun. Lots of tourists at any given time, and annoyed motorists as everybody wants to cross the street like the Beatles. The first one I saw outside was Tony Hinnigan, and later James Horner arrived in a limo. Of course, nobody recognized him. Then Dean Wright came and took a lot of pictures and I followed him inside.
A very friendly assistant named Polly came to reception and we went downstairs to Studio 1. In the control room Polly introduced me to everyone and Dean took me to the studio immediatly and told me all kind of stuff about the sessions. He´s pretty enthousiastic (who can blame him) and I told him that he´s a lucky guy to have James compose the music. I sat on one of the sofas and the session started. What was new for me being there (if you have seen a lot of session footage, it´s not much of a difference to being there actually) is the role of Simon Rhodes. It´s not just about mixing, he actually decides if a track is played properly or if someone was out of tune and they´d have to do it again.
Sometime around the morning sessions I was introduced to Mr. Horner who was very kind and nice and knew pretty much all the details about the planning of my trip. But he was off quickly as there were new tracks to record. What is interesting is that he´s pretty much the smallest person around and the one who talks the least and pretty quietly. When I went upstairs to listen to some cues from the balcony I was introduced to Simon Franglen who showed me a mock-up of War from Avatar on his Mac. Pretty interesting stuff.
Although the auction was for only ½ a day, it was pretty clear I could stay the whole day so I went to lunch with the producer Paolo, Dean, Jim Henrikson, Dick Bernstein and Simon Franglen. They talked about movies, and I didn´t say much, just listened. In the afternoon there was an ensemble playing some mexican music. They practiced for about 2 hours until James went in and just listened. They recorded it, and it was done. Pretty cool how the band just improvised a great tune.
Photo credit: © Karim Chammas
When it all was over, Mr. Horner came over to me and we talked for a while about his last projects (especially the flying stuff), his times at Abbey Road and how it has changed over time technically. I asked him to sign my cd (The New World), which he did and he invited me back for Saturday (the choir session) and it was even ok for my wife to come along. Then we watched the end credits and during that he went off to Simon. I must say that probably the most special moment was sitting next to James Horner watching an end credits suite. So cool. The music is great, even my wife liked it (she´s very critical). I had tears in my eyes. We watched it again on Saturday and the chief of the London Voices was sitting in front of me, and when it was over he said quietly “beautiful”. When it was time for lunch, I went over to James Horner, thanked him for having us and for his music and that was it. We had another two great days in London and went home.