I have always been obsessed with music, and a very eclectic taste in it. I grew up in a home where I was introduced a wide variety of genres, from classical (which I enjoy) to certain 70’s/80’s bands (that I did not) to other 70’s/80’s bands (that I loved). My formative music years took me through the 90’s, and I discovered that much early 90’s music was close enough to the 80’s music I enjoyed so much, and that a lot was translating into films. Film-watching introduced me to soundtracks, and since then I have never looked back.
Of course, I had my favourite composers, people whose soundtracks I listened to religiously on cassette, then CD, then MP3. Vangelis, Hans Zimmer, John Williams, and Danny Elfman became the soundtracks to my life, and to much of the writing I did (and still do) through the years. These gentlemen created music that I obsessed over, and few more than the music of Danny Elfman. Haunting, creepy, and sometimes just plain fun (listen to the Nightmare Before Christmas soundtrack for a grin).
I was also introduced to the band he performed with prior to becoming a full-time composer, Oingo Boingo, and I was (somehow) even more addicted. The music was quirky, irreverent, and sometimes downright disturbing, and it fit my world very well indeed. As someone living in the UK, old enough to visit concerts years after the band had ceased performing, and not even marginally famous (I’m working on that bit) I had resigned myself to never having the opportunity to see the man I greatly admired in person, let alone be able to see him perform.
In 2013, Mr Elfman stepped out of 19 years of retirement to perform a one night only concert at the Royal Albert Hall, joined by Helena Bonham-Carter and Tim Burton. I discovered this the morning after the performances, and was understandably a rather comical mixture of frustrated, upset, and head-desking. I probably resembled someone attempting to audition for a hair metal band. I decided to try and keep an eye on what he was doing, though a friend met through Tumblr warned me he was unlikely to perform again due to the degree that tinnitus affects him.
Although I had been determined to watch the composer’s moves, life got in the way of it, and I honestly completely forgot to keep checking. Luckily, my friend Romanna had had to put up with my incessant complaining regarding missing the concert, and had more of a presence of mind than me. Summer of 2014 she ordered me to make arrangements with my Mum to take my son HRH for the 11th, 12th, and 13th of December, as she had a Christmas present for me that involved me going away.
It was only on the evening of the 11th December she showed me the tickets to the show, and I made a bit of a squealing scene in the middle of the very pleasant pizzeria we were having dinner in. It didn’t really properly sink in, however, until I was sitting in my seat, listening to the orchestra tune up. I was more than a little excited to see (hear?) some of my favourite soundtracks being performed live, as orchestras in person are, understandably, significantly more moving than hearing them on a CD.
Act one saw the orchestra playing through medleys of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”, “Beetlejuice”, “Sleepy Hollow”, “Mars Attacks”, “Big Fish” and “Batman/Batman Returns”. The chorus was magnificent, the orchestra amazing, and the conductor absolutely fantastic, but what blew me away (and nearly caused me to completely lose my rag in the middle of the arena seating of the Royal Albert Hall) was act two. I had been enjoying the fabulous solo singing of Alessandro MacKinnon of “Libera” fame, and Sandy Cameron on solo violin, and was excited for the next piece (I did not, at the time, have a programme, so had no idea of the running order). As the “Nightmare Before Christmas” medley began to play, who should walk on-stage but Danny Elfman himself. I genuinely forgot to breathe for a moment, and according to Romanna I was shaking like a leaf. Having been banned by Romanna from looking up anything to do with the show, this was akin to being smacked around the face with a trout. Mr Elfman proceeded to sing “Jack’s Lament”, “This is Halloween” (accompanied by some chorus members dressed up in their finest Halloween gear and the conductor himself), “What’s This?” (complete with prancing around the stage much like Jack Skellington), “Jack’s Obsession” and “Poor Jack”. It was, to someone who has respected and looked up to the gentleman, a dream come true.
After he left the stage, the performance closed with an encore of “Alice in Wonderland”, and after bows Mr Elfman returned to the stage to sing “Oogie’s Song”, much to everyone’s delight, especially as it starred the incomparable conductor cameoing as Santa Claus. The show closed to standing ovations all over, and deafening cheers from numerous parts of the audience, and I am not ashamed to say that included me.
After the matinee performance, we had about an hour to wait before entering again, as Romanna had provided us two lots of tickets (this girl deserves sainthood, I swear). The running order of the evening show was the same, however it included a small talk from Mr Elfman, thanking London for bringing him out of retirement, as he had never thought he would perform again. Indeed, he said that when it came time to step on-stage last year, he nearly couldn’t do it, but the reaction he received from the audience kept him going, and inspired him to do this performance as well.
As an avid theatre-goer, I requested that Romanna and I went to wait at the stage door after the performance. I didn’t think I had much of a chance of seeing him, but I am ever-hopeful, so I stood there, in the freezing cold, with Romanna, plus my friend Jac from Tumblr, and her boyfriend. We were standing in excess of two hours, whilst people crowded from every angle. Certainly a different experience from my usual musical theatre stage-door-lurking! The reaction to him exiting the stage door was unusual for me to see, and my shakes surprised me; I have met many people I admire in my life, and each time I act as normal as ever, but this was apparently different. I had resigned myself to never being able to meet this man, and there he was.
My inherent Britishness kept me hanging back as people leapt (sometimes very literally, I am not joking) at him, thrusting things to be signed in his face (often to the detriment of people standing around them), demanding answers to questions, demanding he give business cards to Tim Burton and Helena Bonham-Carter. All through the cacophony, Mr Elfman remained calm and friendly, taking time to thank people, put cards in his pocket, and sign all things proffered. He also took the time to take photographs with fans, and all-in-all was as awesome as I had always hoped. I was lucky enough to get both an autograph and a photograph, which made me a very happy person indeed.
A Google search tells me that Mr Elfman will be attending the Royal Albert Hall in December next year, which will be showing the music of Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland”, and though the tickets start at £107, I am very tempted to save my pennies to go, because I would love the chance to see Mr Elfman’s music performed live once more.
And, of course, I will join the mad crush at the stage door again, just in case.