Oscar-nominated composer John Powell, whom ASCAP honored with its prestigious Henry Mancini Award Wednesday night (May 23) at the performing rights society’s 33rd annual ASCAP Screen Music Awards, turned the evening into a celebration of his award’s namesake.
Powell, who composed the music for the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story and is best known for his scores for the Matt Damon Bourne trilogy, Ice Age and his Oscar-nominated work on How to Train Your Dragon, joked that he had misunderstood the award’s meaning before paying tribute to the late Mancini with a medley of the composer’s music. Playing accordion and bass, Powell led an orchestra in “Lujon”from the 1961 album Mr. Lucky Goes Latin, “A Shot in the Dark,” from 1964’s Pink Panther and “Something for Cat,” from 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Prior to the performance, Powell was feted in taped pieces by fellow composers, including Hans Zimmer and Bruce Broughton, and Ron Howard, who directed Solo: A Star Wars Story.
“I wanted to thank you for the level of care and creatively that you brought to Solo: A Star Wars Story,” Howard said. “You brought your own panache, of course, while staying true to the iconic music of the Stars Wars franchise that we’ve come to expect. You also gave [Chewbacca] his very first theme music, a major contribution to the Stars Wars musical legacy. The life that brought this film simply elevated all of the performances and proved once again that you are one of the very best in the business.”
Dean DeBlois, director of How to Train Your Dragon, and Bruce Broughton, Emmy-winning TV and film composer, bestowed the award upon Powell, with DeBlois noting that “a gifted composer like John Powell is as much a story teller in a companion sense to anything I can put on screen with performance and dialogue. That the music does the heavy lifting. It’s an emotional arrow to the heart.”
Additionally, ASCAP recognized Germaine Franco with the Shirley Walker Award, which honors those whose achievements have contributed to the diversity of film and television music. In a taped piece, Franco, who was songwriter, co-orchestrator, arranger and producer for the Disney/Pixar film Coco, commented on the lamentable lack of female composers, asking “what if only 2% of the world’s books were written by women,” a thought that ASCAP president Paul Williams said “I’m going to walk out of this room with as a challenge. It’s something we can all effectively try to do something about.”
Adrian Molina, co-director, screenwriter and lyricist of Coco, and Erin Scully, executive VP at New Line Pictures, presented the award to Franco.
Franco called for unity during her acceptance speech. “To all the female composers out there, to all of the people of color, to all of room, we’re all one community,” she said. “Let’s not be divided by the titles. Let’s just create music together, create love and hope and joy because we know the line between our life and the next chapter is very fine. So instead of building the barriers, let’s just break them down. And I like to do that through music and I hope you’ll join me.”
Franco then conducted the orchestra, accompanied by Anthony Gonzalez, who voiced the role of Miguel in the film, in renditions of Coco songs “Un Poco Loco” and “Proud Corazón,” as well as several of her other works.
The three ASCAP Composers’ Choice winners were also unveiled. The Composers’ Choice Awards were inaugurated by ASCAP in 2014 and are voted on by the ASCAP composer and songwriter community. Dave Porter won TV composer of the year for his work on Better Call Saul, The Blacklist, Preacher and more. Film score of the year was a tie between Jonny Greenwood for Phantom Thread and Hans Zimmer for Dunkirk. Video game score of the year went to Gordy Haab for Star Wars Battlefront II.
Awards for most performed themes and underscores went to TV composers Joel Beckerman, Cat Gray, Jared Gutstadt, Jeffrey Lippencott, Didier Lean Rachou, Ed Robertson, Mark Snow, David Vanacore, Mark T. Williams and Hans Zimmer.
The award for top network TV series went to Dan Romer for ABC’s The Good Doctor; Top Box Office Film went to Heitor Pereira for Despicable Me 3 and top cable television series went to Trent Reznor for his work on the PBS series, The Vietnam War.
In addition to music from Powell and Franco, Romer conducted a medley of his themes from The Good Doctor and composer Michael Abels was joined by the Selah Gospel Choir for “Sikiliza Kwa Wahenga” from the Oscar-winning film Get Out.