Ennio Morricone Compositions Put to the Comic Test

The wide appeal of the music of the Oscar-winning composer Ennio Morricone, who wrote for spaghetti western films such as “Fistful of Dollars,” Brian de Palma’s “The Untouchables” and hundreds of other films, is evidenced by the wide array of artists who pay homage to him. They range from the producer Danger Mouse, who with Daniele Luppi last year released an album influenced by Morricone, to Metallica, who contributed to a 2007 tribute album.

The five classically trained but comic members of the Spaghetti Western Orchestra take things a step farther. They’re a tribute act that devote their humor-filled shows entirely to classic Sergio Leone films such as “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” “For a Few Dollars More,” and “Once Upon a Time in the West,” and perform them with 100-odd instruments, including trumpet, bassoon and random items such as bottles, toys, bicycle pumps and Tasmanian lottery balls. As part of a larger tour of Britain this winter, this Australian group will perform from Jan. 5 to 11 in Queen Elizabeth Hall at London’s Southbank Centre.

Wearing bowler hats, suspenders, bow ties, vests, spats and white makeup, each member of the orchestra portrays film characters such as “the Lieteller” or “the Youngfeller” and perform scores typically written for much larger groups. They add comical sound effects to Morricone’s compositions by blowing on bottles and crushing cornflakes, and playing coat hangers and nail clippers.

The group is often highly praised as an “ingenious gang of comic maestros,” but have also been criticized as a technically limited act better suited for YouTube than concert halls.

Expect plenty of ricocheting bullet sound effects, whistling and a spoken narrative to keep the stories moving.

The full story is at the NEW YORK TIMES

Photo courtesy of Southbank Centre, Spaghetti Western Orchestra

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