James on orchestrating Alan Menken’s score for Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’

Some, of the brilliant music department for ‘Beauty and the Beast’, after a celebratory dinner.

Alen Menken & James Shearman at the score recording sessions London 2016.

Back in the beginning of last summer, I had a call from my friend and long-time (Oscar winning) colleague Chris Benstead, asking me if I was free to orchestrate Alan Menken’s underscore for Beauty and the Beast. The arrangements for the songs had already been taken care of by a host of legendary arrangers such as Doug Besterman, Micheal Kosarin, Danny Troob, Jonathan Tunick and Michael Starobin. Premier LA composer and orchestrator Kevin Kliesch had already begun orchestrating the underscore music, but unfortunately was unable to continue due to a bad back. Chris was (in addition to being the supervising music editor) in the process of arranging Alan’s underscore and those arrangements needed orchestrating. And so throughout the summer I was immersed in yet another Disney live action fairytale movie (I’d orchestrated and conducted Patrick Doyle’s beautiful score for Disney’s Cinderella the year before). I love musicals, and so the opportunity to orchestrate for a legend from the world of musicals like Alan Menken, on a timeless classic musical like Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was simply a labour of love!

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