Composer Alan Silvestri faced a monumental challenge when director Robert Zemeckis asked for “a classic Christmas song” at the end of his 3D re-imagining of “A Christmas Carol.”
“He wanted it to be supremely spiritual but not religious,” Silvestri says — and it needed to be titled “God Bless Us Everyone,” using the famous phrase spoken by Tiny Tim. The director was hoping for “something that would live on, after the film, as part of the lexicon of Christmas music,” adds the composer, who has done every Zemeckis film for 25 years, including “Forrest Gump” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”
Silvestri and co-writer Glen Ballard (who won a Grammy for their last holiday tune, “Believe,” from Zemeckis’ 2004 “Polar Express”) penned one song that seemed appropriate but that ultimately didn’t pass muster with the director, who wanted to hear “the glory” of Christmas in their music and lyrics.
So, as the scoring dates approached, they tried again — this time in the style of traditional carols like “Adeste Fideles” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Coincidentally, Italian opera star Andrea Bocelli was in the midst of making a Christmas album, and happened to be looking for a movie song to sing. Bocelli heard the song demo and agreed to perform it — but had only a day or two open in his schedule to add his voice to the film.
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“We recorded the orchestra on the last day of scoring, a Thursday afternoon in L.A.,” Silvestri recalls. “We added the choir on Friday morning in London and I left for Italy that night.” Bocelli sang it (in English, Italian and Spanish) in his Tuscany studio and added it to his own album (which immediately shot to the top of the charts).
Silvestri still marvels at how it all came together so quickly and well. “It was like a Swiss watch, but not to any design,” he says. “This was magic.”