Babe In Concert

Mike Lawson • News • October 6, 2016

The New York Philharmonic will present the U.S. Premiere of Babe in Concert, featuring a screening of the complete film with Nigel Westlake’s score performed live to the film, conducted by Mr. Westlake in his Philharmonic debut.

Mr. Westlake revised and re-orchestrated the score for the live-to-picture presentation, which was premiered by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2015 to celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary. Nominated for seven Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, and winner for Best Visual Effects, Babe tells the story of the eponymous plucky piglet who overcomes the odds with the help of his adopted farm family.

Nigel Westlake quoted classical works throughout his score — most prominently the Maestoso of Saint-Saëns’s Symphony No. 3, Organ, which serves as the main theme. The film twice features “If I Had Words,” the 1978 Scott Fitzgerald/Yvonne Keeley chart-topping pop song that adapted the Saint-Saëns theme. Mr. Westlake’s other classical quotations include “March of the Toreadors” from Bizet’sCarmen, Pizzicato Polka from Delibes’s Sylvia, Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine, and Spring Dance from Grieg’s Lyric Pieces.

The concept of incorporating Saint-Saëns’s Organ Symphony in the score came from director / co-screenwriter Chris Noonan and producer / co-screenwriter George Miller, though the score’s instrumentation does not incorporate organ. “It was too heavy, too gothic, for the tone of the movie,” Mr. Westlake says, “but the theme is optimistic and wholesome, and very versatile. It can be subtle and sweet, or heraldic and jubilant, depending on the demands of the scene.”

Mr. Westlake says that the score follows the concept of a symphony. The overture, he says, “reveals all the musical elements before you actually see them, functioning in the same way as a classical form overture.” He adds: “At the time I had trouble accepting George and Chris’s instructions to use the Saint-Saëns, Grieg, and Delibes, but now I recognize it as something of a stroke of genius that has helped to make the film timeless.”

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