Oscar-nominated songwriters were honored Saturday. Back row, from left, Alain Boublil, Claude-Michel Schonberg, Walter Murphy and Paul Epworth; front row, Herbert Kretzmer, J. Ralph, Mychael Danna and Bombay Jayashri.
LOS ANGELES — Barbra Streisand, rumor has it, has offered to purchase the set she will be performing against on the Academy Awards telecast Sunday night. Her intention is to use the set piece for an upcoming tour of Europe.
That’s the sort of scuttlebutt one hear at the annual Society of Composers and Lyricists Champagne Reception for Oscar nominees in the music categories held at a Beverly Hills residence. All five composers made it this year and all five songs were represented though songwriters Paul Epworth and Walter Murphy were without their nominated partners — Adele and Oscar host Seth MacFarlane — who were busy preparing for the awards show.
The four days leading up to Oscar Sunday are crammed with exclusive receptions, meals and parties — the major talent agencies dominate the Friday soirees — but the SCL event is the only room filled by the film music community. Attendees range from the executive levels — Universal Pictures’ Mike Knobloch, Sony Pictures’ Lia Vollack and Disney’s Scott Holtzman — to composers’ agents — Richard Kraft, Laura Engel, Robert Messenger and Randy Gerston — to ASCAPs’ Mike Todd and Jeff Jernigan, BMI’s Doreen Ringer-Ross, Ray Yee and Anne Cecere and SESAC’s Erin Collins.
Academy music branch governors Charles Fox, Arthur Hamilton and David Newman were on hand as well as numerous members of the Society of Composers and Lyricists.
With more than 100 people packed into a living room and a small patio, it’s not the easiest place to wander and mingle. Still, the harpist, Stephanie Bennett, performing the nominated scores can be heard over the din, an element that warms the hearts of composers, whether they be first-timers of 48-times-nominated John Williams.
Remarkably, when Charles Bernstein of the Academy’s music branch and Society of Composers and Lyricists president Dan Foliart address the crowd, there’s a reverent silence. The five nominees in their categories, Bernstein says, are already winners.
“They’ve been chosen by their peers who really understand and appreciate what they do,” he said.
Rapturous applause greeted all of the nominees as they were announced — Dario Marianelli, Alexandre Desplat, Mychael Danna, John Williams and Thomas Newman. Beyond the usual thank you’s, a few threw a few pithy comments: Williams offered “I have to say thank you to the music branch for having not lost patience with me not quite yet”; the Oscar-less Newman, whose “Skyfall” earned him his 11th nomination, said, “Someday I’ll win.”
J. Ralph, the “Life of Pi” team of Bombay Jayashri and Danna, and the “Les Miserables” trio of Alan Boublil, Herbert Kretzmer and Claude-Michel Schonberg joined Murphy and Epworth on the small backyard stage. Epworth looked at Williams and noted the event brought his career “full circle”‘ — “the first record I ever bought was the ‘Star Wars’ score,” he said.
First-timers were definitely a bit overwhelmed by the event. Schonberg had never been in Hollywood at Oscar time and noted “I’m not sure if I’m ever coming back, but I will try my best.”
Danna, another first-time nominee, said “This is where it feels real, like the nominees’ lunch,” referencing the Academy’s early February event where every nominee is invited and most attend. “I’ve heard about this party, the house, everything. It’s just beyond expectations.”