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Belfast festival director remembers 'genius' Ennio Morricone

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Ennio Morricone (AP)

Ennio Morricone (AP)

Ennio Morricone (AP)

Legendary film composer Ennio Morricone was a genius who took great care with his music, a Belfast festival director who worked with him has said.

Mr Morricone died in Rome on Monday at the age of 91 following complications from a fall in which he broke his femur last week.

Born in Rome in 1928, he was famed for writing the scores to Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns in the 1960s, as well as the music for The Mission and Cinema Paradiso in a collection of more than 500 film scores.

Graeme Farrow was the director of Belfast Festival at Queen's when Mr Morricone gave his first concert in Ireland in 2008 in what Mr Farrow described as a "special and memorable performance" at the Waterfront.

The composer wanted to include a rarely-performed piece from 1989 film Casualties of War for his Belfast audience and paid great attention to his incredible set list, said Mr Farrow, who had a five-year tenure as director of the festival.

"The concerts were difficult to put together and expensive and took a lot of hard work and rehearsal with a very large choir we had assembled," Mr Farrow said.

"I remember that the end of the first concert ended abruptly and he walked off stage and was concerned that the audience hadn’t enjoyed the concert enough. It was because nobody knew it had finished so eventually he came out for amazing encores.

"The following night he asked me to introduce him on stage and explain when each half of the concert would ending."

Adrian Margey, now an artist living on the north coast, recalled forming part of Morricone's choir for his performance at the Waterfront as a member of the Belfast Philharmonic.

"On the lead up to the orchestral rehearsal the choir was buzzing," he said.

There was much excitement among the Phil when Mr Morricone came to the rehearsal with a large entourage. "As a conductor, Morricone was calm and very much in control. He was warm and engaging.

"The combination of Morricone’s iconic status and his anthemic greatest hits guaranteed that the audience were going to enjoy themselves. Sure enough, audiences at the Waterfront over those two nights were, I would say, elated by maestro’s presence and enthralled by the familiar scores.

"His trip to Belfast showcased him as a much loved, gentle giant of 20th century film."

Known as the Maestro in Italy, the composer won his Oscar for his work on Quentin Tarantino's The Hateful Eight (2015) in 2016. He was also presented with an honorary Oscar in 2007 by star of the so-called Dollars Trilogy Clint Eastwood for his contributions to the art of film music.

Mr Morricone was someone who was concerned he hadn't been taken seriously enough as an artist, Mr Farrow said. He started out as a member of the Italian avant-garde, something he showed with radical instrumentation even in his most popular scores.

When Mr Morricone met Mr Farrow he was approaching his 80th birthday. "He was fit as a fiddle, he could still do 100 press-ups," he said.

The concerts were broadcast by BBC Radio Ulster, which was challenging because of the composer's "hardcore" legal team, Mr Farrow said.

"I would love to hear them again. I’ll never forget how magical those concerts were and I don’t think anyone who was there will either," he said.

Mr Morricone is survived by his wife Maria Travia, with whom he had four children.

Belfast Telegraph