When the folks at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra set out to commission five new works for the 2010 Olympics, they told composer Jeff Toyne they wanted no fanfares. He took them at their word, eventually coming up with No Fanfare, which debuts at the Orpheum on Saturday (December 3), and at the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey on Monday (December 5).
The Vancouver-based musician has only recently turned to writing for the concert stage, as he has mostly focused on scoring for film and television. Still, he's no amateur: his credits include a master's in composition from UBC and a certificate in scoring for film and TV from the University of Southern California; at the Henry Mancini Institute, he added big-band writing to his repertoire.
His time in Los Angeles yielded some interesting projects, as he was invited to score more than two dozen independent short films. (Some, like the excellent "Wentworth", can be seen and heard on his Web site, www.jefftoyne.com/.) It also led to an ongoing connection with top composer Edward Shearmur, who hired Toyne to orchestrate his scores for Skeleton Key, Charlie's Angels 2, and Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
Toyne, 30, knows that his specialized skills might be hard for an everyday music consumer to grasp. Basically, he explains, his bread-and-butter work involves fleshing out the intentions of a composer working under the gun.
"As you can imagine, there's quite a lot of money riding on these big Hollywood productions," he says, on the line from his Vancouver home. "And sometimes the composer is working on several of them at the same time. The really great ones sketch out their ideas and let other people finish them."
Clearly, then, it behooves said great ones to seek out assistants with a talent for turning their intentions into polished work-finishing their sentences, as it were.
"Under my apprenticeship with Ed, he was very linear about the responsibilities he gave me," Toyne recalls. "I mean, the first thing I did for him was make tea! And we moved on from there. There was copying, then transcribing, then orchestrating bits and pieces. Then, the last movie we did together-The Bad News Bears, for Richard Linklater-I was the only orchestrator he used."
Naturally, however, for a guy trained in composition, Toyne has also been itching to try out his own ideas. And now, he's been able to put his time with swelling brass and silky strings to more personal effect in No Fanfare-a short piece dedicated to the athletes who don't come home with the gold.
"I started thinking about all the people who put in this monumental effort and compete well and somehow don't come out on top. For some reason, we forget all about them, and that doesn't seem right."
But you have to wonder if one line of work inhibits the creativity of the other.
"I like to think that all the experience I've gained as an orchestrator can be applied to my own tunes," he says. "I've collected a whole bag of tricks that I can't wait to bring home and use for myself."