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‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ ‘Coco’ Composers Honored at ASCAP Screen Music Awards

Composers John Powell and Germaine Franco took top honors at Wednesday night’s Screen Music Awards of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Powell, composer of the Oscar-nominated score for “How to Train Your Dragon” and the new “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” received the Henry Mancini Award for his “outstanding achievements and contributions to the world of film and television music.”

Franco, songwriter and arranger of last year’s “Coco” who was also recently named “one of 15 Latinas who are changing the world” by Univision, received the Shirley Walker Award, given to a composer “whose achievements have contributed to the diversity of film and television music.”

Both composers spent more time talking about the composers in whose honor the awards were named, rather than about themselves or their own music. Before the ceremony, Powell told Variety that he met Mancini (legendary composer of “Peter Gunn,” “Moon River” and “The Pink Panther”) when he was a young tape operator at London’s AIR studios in 1986 but was so tongue-tied he could not speak.

Powell’s on-stage acceptance speech was intentionally peppered with salty language, nearly all bleeped by the sound team to the laughter of the composers, songwriters and music executives in the crowd. He took time to thank his many assistants “who have written all the music I couldn’t be bothered to write,” along with composing mentors Patrick Doyle and Hans Zimmer.

And, rather than perform any of his own music with the 30-piece band onstage, Powell chose instead to play three favorite Mancini pieces: the title theme from “A Shot in the Dark,” “Lujon” from “Mr. Lucky” and “Something for Cat” from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

Powell’s award was presented by ASCAP president Paul Williams, “How to Train Your Dragon” director Dean DeBlois, and fellow composer and ASCAP board member Bruce Broughton. Broughton narrated an eight-minute video tribute that included praise from Zimmer, producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and “Bourne Identity” director Doug Liman.

Attendees received a CD of Powell’s latest concert work, a “Prussian Requiem” that examines the causes of the 20th century’s global conflicts. “It’s a story that I find very human, and explains the dangers of humanity and warfare,” Powell told Variety. “At the bottom of every conflict, there’s still a 3-year-old boy stamping his feet.”

Franco told Variety she felt she was “carrying on this incredible legacy that Shirley left us,” referring to the composer of “Memoirs of an Invisible Man,” “Final Destination” and many animated TV shows who also mentored many younger composers in the 1980s and ’90s. “She was a trailblazer. Now we have these support groups – the Alliance of Women Film Composers, Women in Film, Sundance – but she was doing it by herself. She was making a solo flight in a little tiny plane.”

She paid tribute to Powell as her mentor and former employer: “I could never have worked on ‘Coco’ had I not been by his side during [Powell’s work on] ‘Happy Feet,’ ‘Ice Age,’ or ‘How to Train Your Dragon.’ That was my training ground.” Franco is writing the music for Starz’s “Vida” and has recently finished the feature “Tag” and the Universal theme-park ride “Kung Fu Panda: The Emperor’s Quest.”

Her award was presented by “Coco” co-director Adrian Molina and New Line executive vice-president for music Erin Scully. Franco then led the band in a medley of her music from “Coco,” “Vida” and “Tag.”

Two of the four ASCAP Composers’ Choice Award recipients – voted by ASCAP composers and songwriters – were present to accept their honors. Dave Porter (“Better Call Saul,” “The Blacklist,” “Preacher”) was named TV Composer of the Year, while Gordy Haab (“Star Wars Battlefront II”) was named Video Game Composer of the Year.

“Phantom Thread” composer Jonny Greenwood and “Dunkirk” composer Zimmer tied for Film Composer of the Year, although neither attended.

Numerous other awards were presented for most-performed TV themes and underscore, and scores for top box-office films. Dan Romer, honored for “top network TV series,” performed his music from “The Good Doctor,” while Michael Abels was joined by the Selah Gospel Choir performing his choral music from last year’s Oscar-winning  film “Get Out.”

An “in memoriam” segment honored violinist Katia Popov, who died just last week after a three-year battle with cancer; and such composers as Luis Bacalov (“Il Postino”), John Morris (“Young Frankenstein”) and Johann Johannsson (“Arrival”).

 

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