Composer Howard Shore is photographed in Toronto on Wednesday November 6, 2019, as he talks about his score for the film “The Song of Names”. As a Jewish child in Toronto, composer Howard Shore relished going to synagogue and hearing the songful prayers of the cantors, some of whom were renowned special guests brought in from abroad for the high holidays. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Composer Howard Shore is photographed in Toronto on Wednesday November 6, 2019, as he talks about his score for the film “The Song of Names”. As a Jewish child in Toronto, composer Howard Shore relished going to synagogue and hearing the songful prayers of the cantors, some of whom were renowned special guests brought in from abroad for the high holidays. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore drew on Toronto roots for ‘Song of Names’

TORONTO — As a Jewish child in Toronto, composer Howard Shore relished going to synagogue and hearing the songful prayers of the cantors, some of whom were renowned special guests brought in from abroad for the high holidays.

After all, he was a budding musician himself, learning the clarinet, counterpoint and harmony starting at age nine from instructor Morris Weinzweig, brother of acclaimed Canadian classical composer John Weinzweig.

While such experiences shaped Shore into the three-time Oscar-winning composer he is today, he hasn’t been able to incorporate those cantorial memories into his music career — until now.

With Quebec director Francois Girard’s new film “The Song of Names,” Shore says he mined that time in his life as he created the score for the story of a Polish-Jewish violin prodigy before and after the Second World War.

“It was very emotional for me, this film, because it brings me back to my childhood and my father in the synagogue,” said Shore, noting his father, Mac Shore, was the first president of their synagogue.

“It kind of completed a circle to me. I haven’t been that involved with Judaism for years, and now to work on this film and this story, it brought me back into the world of it and the deep roots of the faith.”

Opening in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver on Dec. 25, “The Song of Names” stars Tim Roth as a London native who has long wondered what happened to the violin virtuoso his music-publisher father took in and mentored before the Second World War.

Clive Owen plays the older version of the musician, Dovidl Rapaport, who disappeared just before a 1951 London concert that was to launch his career.

The story is based on Norman Lebrecht’s novel of the same name.

In a key scene, an Orthodox Rebbe chants the titular song, which includes a recitation of the names of all who perished at the Treblinka death camp, where Dovidl’s family was. Daniel Mutlu, senior cantor at Manhattan’s Central Synagogue, performed the role of the Rebbe.

Shore studied the cantorial tradition for two years and drew on his childhood memories to create the song.

“I was studying, studying, searching, searching — looking for that sound and trying to recreate it,” said the New York-based Shore, who won Oscars for his work on “The Lord of the Rings” franchise.

“It’s an oral tradition and so, depending on where you studied and who you studied with and who you listened to, that was the sound that you carried with you. I had the sound of Toronto, because that’s the one I remembered. And when I found it, immediately I just had an overwhelming feeling.”

Girard, who has also staged operas and plays, worked closely with Shore on the music in Montreal. They spoke with various cantors, worked with Montreal’s Orchestre Metropolitain, and hired acclaimed violinist Ray Chen to play the titular song.

“He’s fantastic musically,” Shore said of Girard, whose other major films include “The Red Violin,” which received an Oscar for best original score.

“As a composer you want that kind of relationship.”

Shore has also had a great working relationship with renowned filmmaker Martin Scorsese, creating the score for several of his films, including “After Hours,” “The Aviator” and “The Departed.”

Scorsese recently made headlines when he told Empire magazine that he thinks Marvel films aren’t cinema and compared them to theme parks.

Shore said he feels Scorsese is “making interesting points.”

“He’s saying, ‘We need to make room for all types of art. We can’t push out all these films just to have these blockbuster films. We can have those, it’s OK, but we must continue the tradition of filmmaking so it doesn’t die. There’s an art to that that needs nurturing. And it’s not just about money in box office; it’s about expression and creativity,’” Shore said.

”I like to see a balance. And what he’s doing is he’s ringing the siren and saying ‘This is getting out of whack and maybe we need to put it back into balance.’”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 19, 2019.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

The Red Deer Hospice is holdings its second-annual butterfly release fundraiser. (Black Press file photo).
Release a butterfly and help Red Deer Hospice Society

Butterflies can be purchased for $25 to help hospice programs

An incredible closing ceremony capped off the 2019 Canada Winter Games. (File photo by SUSAN JUDGE/2019 Canada Winter Games)
2019 Canada Winter Games Legacy Fund Society hands out $655,000

35 not-for-profit groups across Alberta to get money

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and chief executive officer of Alberta Health Services, says COVID ICU patients have increased by more than 100 per cent in the past month. (Photo by The Government of Alberta)
Record number of people in ICU: says AHS president

The head of Alberta Health Services says hospital staff are treating more… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar, forward Liam Keeler in separate trades

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

Red Deer musician Curtis Phagoo is glad the Alberta government is investing $2 million to help the province’s live music industry, but he would have liked the criteria to be expanded, so the money could be used as relief to cover revenue shortfalls. (Contributed photo by Cory Michaud)
Red Deer musicians welcome $2M in grants to help live music, but would have preferred relief program

The money is for future projects and can’t be used for retroactive expenses

FILE - In this Feb. 3, 2021, file photo, exile Tibetans use the Olympic Rings as a prop as they hold a street protest against the holding of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, in Dharmsala, India. Groups alleging human-rights abuses in China are calling for a full boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which is sure to ratchet up pressure on the International Olympic Committee, athletes, sponsors, and sports federations. A coalition of activists representing Uyghurs, Tibetans, residents of Hong Kong and others, issued a statement Monday, May 17, 2021 calling for the “full boycott,” eschewing lesser measures like “diplomatic boycotts" and negotiations with the IOC or China. (AP Photo/Ashwini Bhatia, File)
AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

AP Exclusive: Full-blown boycott pushed for Beijing Olympics

Canada's Eric Lamaze riding Fine Lady 5 during the CP International competition at the Spruce Meadows Masters in Calgary, Alta., Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. Canada's most decorated show jumper has withdrawn from consideration for the Tokyo Olympics. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Canadian show jumper Eric Lamaze withdraws from Tokyo short list

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse questions a foul call during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Cleveland Cavaliers Monday, April 26, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. Nurse says it was the COVID-19 outbreak in March that spiked his team's chances for a post-season run.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Chris O'Meara
Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Nurse faces a busy off-season, much busier if Canada qualifies for Tokyo Olympics

Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Danielle Goyette speaks to reporters during a press conference in Toronto on Friday, November 10, 2017. Goyette has been named director of player development for the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and their American Hockey League affiliate. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Hayley Wickenheiser, Danielle Goyette together again on Toronto Maple Leafs staff

Carolina Hurricanes center Jordan Staal (11) falls on Nashville Predators center Yakov Trenin (13) during the first period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Raleigh, N.C., Monday, May 17, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Staal, Niederreiter lift Hurricanes past Predators 5-2

Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) watches the puck get past Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask (40) on a shot by Washington Capitals right wing Garnet Hathaway during the first period of Game 2 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup first-round playoff series Monday, May 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Marchand scores in OT, Bruins beat Capitals to even series

Toronto Maple Leafs former players Darryl Sittler, centre, Johnny Bower, centre right, are joined by Ted Kennedy's son Mark for a ceremonial puck drop with Montreal Canadiens' Andrei Markov, left, and Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf, right, before NHL action in Toronto on Wednesday, October 8, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Leafs, Canadiens legends eagerly awaiting playoff series

Conservative MP Ron Liepert rises during Question Period on Parliament Hill, Friday, March 10, 2017 in Ottawa. Ron Liepert says these days, the phone calls and emails from people wanting to talk about his party's climate plan have slowed. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Western MP pitches Conservative carbon price with a 24-pack of Pilsner

Most Read