The Last Goodbye / Hobbit Trilogy

It seems like a very long time ago that this happened… but here’s a link to the closing song from the Hobbit Trilogy – The Last Goodbye.

It was a wonderful thing to collaborate on this song with Fran Walsh, Billy Boyd & Stephen Gallagher… I found myself doing mad and previously unimaginable things, like chatting with Howard Shore on the phone and recording (remotely) in Abbey Road Studio No.2 with Peter Cobbin and Kirsty Whalley at the helm.

It’s extraordinary how much work went into this four minutes of music. Fran wanted the  song to not only complete the Hobbit trilogy but to be a farewell to everyone who had invested their time, energy and care into the creation and enjoyment of all six LOTR / Hobbit films. A huge amount of dedication went into the production of this track.

I began working on the arrangement and, soon after, Billy came up to Auckland where we spent a day with some wonderful musicians at Roundhead studios (Nigel Gavin / mandolin & percussion, Justine Cormack / violin), laying down ideas and putting together demos. A couple of weeks later – after travel back and forth between Auckland and Wellington – I finally found myself in the midst of the most extraordinary recording session of my life. I was at Park Road Post in Wellington in the company of Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Stephen Gallagher, Billy Boyd, Peter Cobbin and Kirsty Whalley, remotely recording the London Symphony Orchestra who were in Abbey Road, while Howard Shore listened in via Skype from New York. And we had a real, actual Dulcimer player. Outrageous!

Eight new bars of music were added during the session, which – in a testament to the technological  world we live in –  involved me frantically ruling manuscript lines onto the back of used bits of A4 paper lying around the studio, scribbling out the additional music, taking a photograph of it on my phone, texting it to the orchestra contractor in London who sent it to the Abbey Rd printer and had it on the stands being recorded by the orchestra 10 minutes after I’d pressed send.

For anyone who’s interested to know more, there’s a making of documentary too…

 

Dizzy Heights / Guardian Review

Forgive the indulgence, but here’s a lovely review of Neil’s new album that actually mentions the string arrangements! Read it HERE

Neil Finn / Dizzy Heights Showcases

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I should perhaps have posted about this before I left – but there’s more to talk about now  I’ve actually done it…

I’ve just returned from a pretty extraordinary trip to the USA and England, showcasing Neil Finn’s new album – Dizzy Heights (which can be pre-ordered here). This photo was taken by Frank Donnelly during the New York show at ‘Le Poisson Rouge’ and other shots from the show can be viewed here at Neil’s official website.

Neil, myself (keyboards and backing vocals) and the superlative Chris O’Connor (drums) had the great pleasure of working with a 9 piece string ensemble in each city we visited.

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In Los Angeles, we performed at Largo at the Coronet, where we were joined onstage by Sebastian Steinberg, Mark Hart, Grant Lee Phillips and Mitchell Froom. Eric Gorfain from The Section Quartet contracted the string players (who included the other members of Section) and also did a super arrangement for ‘Sinner’, which we then performed in the other showcases too.

In New York, we played at ‘Le Poisson Rouge’ and were joined onstage by Neil’s sons Liam and Elroy along with EJ Barnes. My dear friend Mat Fieldes (who performs in the incredible Absolute Ensemble) contracted the string players in New York, which included some of his fellow musicians from the Broadway show he’s currently playing – Matilda (which I had the great pleasure of experiencing from the orchestral pit).

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It was a very happy coincidence that my dear old mate Matt Penman happened to be in London while I was there and also happened to be playing a show at Ronnie Scott’s (with Zhenya Strigalev) the night before ours. We went to a vegetarian pub (yes, that exists). I listened to Matt play truly superlative bass (and you really should check him out on some of these recordings – with James Farm, with the SF Jazz Collective, on one of his solo albums or with Root 70). It was food for the soul.

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In London we performed at the St James’ Church in Piccadilly which was an utterly gorgeous venue (thrown together by some guy called Christopher Wren) and were joined onstage by Connan Mockasin (whose latest video – I Am The Man, That Will Find You – is ever so slightly disturbing and utterly brilliant). The strings were contracted by Isobel Griffiths and were a sterling bunch of people and players. I received one of the greatest compliments of my life when one of them asked me (before we had been introduced) if I was Neil’s stylist. I thank that person from the bottom of my heart!

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And then there was Paris… where we didn’t play.

But since I, as a creature from the Antipodes, was visiting New York and London for the first time and had always dreamed of one day indulging my francophilia and seeing Paris, city of my dreams, I got myself onto the merry Eurostar and went there for two days to meet dear friends and experience something of the ancient sophistication and elegance that I have so often imagined.

I did, indeed, sit in a cafe eating cheese and drinking carafe after carafe of Bordeaux, speaking appalling French to Parisians who politely allowed me to destroy their fine language – and indeed, encouraged me to do so – with the fond, gentle smiles that people normally reserve for small children.

I ate SO much cheese. I drank SO much wine. And my friends and I, reunited for such a short and happy time, talked about love and art and death… and it was all just about too much for my little heart.

So. I went to New York – and I didn’t see the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State. I went to London – and I didn’t see the Tower of London or the changing of the guard. I went to Paris – and I didn’t see La Tour Eiffel or the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. But I did eat and drink. And I wandered the streets and played music and met people and talked to cab drivers and strangers – and tried as hard as I could, in the fragments of time available to me, to sense and experience the nature of the places. And it was bloody wonderful. Every city had its own magic, every population had its own electricity. I feel totally changed by the whole thing.

So here, for all romantics, is Notre Dame de Paris as I first saw her… at 2.00am, in faint and freezing rain…

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Sola Rosa / Promise (feat. Olivier Daysoul)

 

A few months ago, I teamed up again with Andrew Spraggon / Sola Rosa, to arrange strings for his new album “Low and Behold, High and Beyond”

Just released… here’s a video of one of my absolute favourite songs from the album – “Promise” – featuring the gorgeous vocals of Olivier Daysoul.

Neil Finn – Solo Album

Niel Finn

For the past few weeks I’ve had the great pleasure of working with Neil Finn on his upcoming solo album, which is being produced by Dave Fridmann – producer of that extraordinary band, The Flaming Lips. It’s going to be a gorgeous album. The songs, the sounds and the textures are amazing (as you might expect) and I’m very proud to be involved. I’ll post more details as they come to hand.