Monday 26 November 2018

The Train (Jill's Theme)

The Train (Jill's Theme)

A lyric response to Ennio Morricone's melody...

If we are to embrace cinema as an art, well, that means that we must wrestle with westerns...

My own view is that a critique of western movies starts with the western as a 'version of pastoral...'  But that is by the by...

My generation watched SO many westerns, as we grew up.  I have seen so many westerns and I have seen some westerns so many times that often I can recognise the horses.

Of course we were intrigued as we watched the Italian film maker Sergio Leone wrestle with the western.  We can leave, for elsewhere, comment on the 'spaghetti western', the critics' readiness to sneer and the simple cineaste's willingness to marvel.

We immediately knew, in 1968, that Sergio Leone's Once Upon A time in the West was an outsider's meditation on the western.  We spotted the citations.

And we still remember that moment when that crane shot introduced Jill's Theme.

And we realised that we were also exploring the power of melody...

So, some 50 years of meditation later, I have put my lyric for Ennio Morricone's melody on my Soundcloud, and I have put a version of my vision on Youtube...



Before I start work on a lyric for a pre-existing melody I need to do a lot of thinking - thinking and, let us call it, research.

I need to be convinced that I can bring something to this, that there is something for me to do and say.

Even if the work is a song translation - like my version of Papa Joachim Paris - I still need to be convinced that the new entity in the English language is good, that we have brought something worthwhile into the world.

So...  Let us call it research...

I remember asking Heather Farrell-Roberts, our autoharp star, some time ago, if Morricone, Jill's Theme, might be autoharp friendly.

The chords are simple, but the range is great.

There is some musicology, giving the chords, I-IV-V-I here...

Ennio Morricone’s Score for Once Upon a Time in the West (Part 1 of 3): Jill’s Theme (Main Theme) by Mark Richards
In the movie Jill's Theme is one of the leitmotifs.  Unusually for film music, Morricone's music for THIS movie was written before the film was made...

So, the melody is used in the movie in a rather scrappy way - the leitmotif floats in and out.

When we were working on my lyric for the melody Stephanie Hladowski and I had to find a song structure.

It has become a bravura piece for sopranos in posh frocks...

Patricia Janeckova - Once Upon A Time In The West (Miss Reneta 2012)

Don't you feel sorry for all the other pretty ladies in posh frocks - who have to stand around looking interested?

Steffi Vertriest

This version is really worth looking at - simple piano and voice.  The structure is odd.  But there is a structure.
(The Chords are in Chordify...)

Susanna Rigacci - Once Upon a Time in The West Ennio Morricone 2002 Arena Concert 1

André Vásáry - male


The melody is so attractive - there have been attempts to write words to the melody...
Two examples on same Youtube video
Mireille Mathieu and Dulce Pontes ...

Once Upon A Time In The West
Mireille Mathieu Starts at 1.44
Dulce Pontes starts at 6.05

Text Mireille Mathieu at

In French

Text Dulce Pontes at

Andrea Bocelli Your Love (Once Upon a Time in The West)

Standard love songs that do not engage with the narrative of the movie, and the melody as it appears in the movie.

But they do show how a text might be structured.

My words engage with the film's narrative.  It is a response to what we hear, and what we see on screen. 

It is very existentialist.

Of course.

I did ask Danny Yates for some electric guitar at the beginning of our recording, to reference that distinctive Morricone guitar sound from A Fistful Of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More...

I have emailed Ennio Morricone's office saying:  'It might interest the Maestro that the emotion I hear when I listen to the melody is, above all else, compassion...'

Patrick O'Sullivan
November 2018

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