Henry Mancini, 20th century film composer extraordinaire, created some of the most iconic movie themes and songs of all time. The power of his music lies in its ability to make us feel – whether it’s the wistful “Moon River,” the melancholy “Days of Wine and Roses,” or the funny theme from The Pink Panther.
Mancini himself said, “Through music, we can capture life, reflecting its joys, its sorrows, and its complexities. Music can help us discover parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed, and to share our innermost feelings with others.”
Here’s an example of Mancini using music to capture life. In this video, Mancini described the process of writing “Moon River” for Audrey Hepburn to sing in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He talks about how he figured out Audrey’s singing range from watching her in Funny Face – her range was limited and she wasn’t considered a good singer, but he found the perfect notes for her and created the loveliest melody. Mancini said, “I think we had it made because of Audrey, because she sang it. It was her voice that sang that song. And with Johnny [Mercer]’s words in her mouth, boy…I can’t really look at that sequence without welling up. It’s just perfect.” Mancini is moved to tears by the song, but doesn’t give himself enough credit for his inspired use of those few notes, creating the mood for the moment in the film and touching the hearts of the audience.
Oscar-winning actor Jack Lemmon starred in another Blake Edwards film, Days of Wine and Roses, featuring another wonderful song by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. In this video, Jack describes the first time he heard the title song – “one of my all-time favorite moments of my entire career.” Lemmon, Edwards, Mercer, actress Lee Remick, and Mancini, whom he calls “Hank,” all went into an empty soundstage, where there was a single light on next to an old piano, with a box for a stool. Mancini sat down and began playing. Mercer pulled out an envelope with some lyrics scratched on it, and started to sing. It’s so touching to see Jack Lemmon becoming emotional at the memory, and describing how emotional they all were at that moment. He says, “I knew then that [Mancini and Mercer] had created something extraordinary.”
To hear these extraordinarily moving songs and more, join the Cape Symphony and Henry Mancini’s daughter, vocalist Monica Mancini, for Mancini at the Movies, October 12 and 13. Call 508.362.1111 or visit capesymphony.org.