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Ghost Canyon

John Debney  (Composer - 'Passion of The Christ') John Debney (Composer - 'Passion of The Christ')

'Resurrection: Reliving The Passion'

This past December, 2014, La-La Land Records, Icon Productions and Sony Music released THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: EXPANDED TENTH ANNIVERSARY SOUNDTRACK, a limited edition 2-CD set, showcasing the fully remastered and expanded presentation of acclaimed composer John Debney’s Oscar-Nominated score and Gold-selling album to the 2004 landmark motion picture event THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST, starring Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci and Maia Morgenstern, and directed by Mel Gibson.

The Passion of the Christ remains a worldwide phenomenon as both a film and an album. Limited to 10,000 units, THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: EXPANDED TENTH ANNIVERSARY SOUNDTRACK was released through and other select soundtrack retailers.

Remastered from studio elements for superior sound quality, this deluxe release features more than 75 minutes of never-before-released music, including alternate cues, the inspiring trailer music and more! The special 10th Anniversary packaging honors one of modern cinema’s most notable scores with a 24-Page CD booklet containing exclusive, in-depth liner notes by film music writer Jeff Bond [featuring all-new quotes from director Mel Gibson, composer John Debney and vocalist Lisbeth Scott] that take the listener behind the film and its glorious music.

UPDATE: On Saturday, March 21st, 2015 composer John Debney's The Passion of the Christ Oratorio Concert was attended by nearly 6,000 people at the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba in Spain and closed their night with five curtain calls. Helmed by conductor and arranger Kevin Kaska, the performance featured the Córdoba Orchestra and Choir Ziryab along with special guests, woodwind player Pedro Eustache, and vocalist and soloist Lisbeth Scott.

This was the first orchestral concert at the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba in over 40 years and the first public performance in 15 years.

Chatting one-on-one recently with the man himself, John Debney, and with 'The Passion Of The Christ' being not only a monumental soundtrack score, but a movie that generated some hardened, and extremely vocal audience reactions - some highly negative re: the subject matter - as the soundtrack score was produced by both himself and director Mel Gibson, was there a time of mutual thought during this process that the abovementioned audience reactions might well overshadow the musical accompaniment? "No, I never felt that comments good or bad wouldn’t affect the way the music was perceived. For any film you work on, there’s going to be good and bad comments because that comes with the territory. My hope was that the music would always play an integral part of the film but that also people might enjoy it away from the film. It’s sort of turned out that way as it seems lot of people love the soundtrack away from the film, and I’m very humbled and pleased by that."

As you have composed en masse of soundtracks scores, has there ever been one quite as touch-paper hot [subject matter] as 'The Passion'? "I’ve worked on so many different types of films over the years that really none of them particularly standout to me in a “controversial” sense, so to speak. They’re all equally exciting as a musical journey so I don’t really categorize the films I’ve worked on like that. I can categorize them as different genres, such as a comedy, a drama or something like “The Passion” which really crosses over a lot of different genres but is truly a drama at heart. I like to take each one as its own entity, and by doing that I can give my best. If the film’s a fresh experience and I’m if passionate about it, then I know I’m always giving my best. And when I’m done with it I like to leave it behind and lets others judge it for what it is."

In reflection to the score you originally composed, being that it was co-produced by Gibson also, how hands on actually was he in that process? "Mel was very hands-on and I mean that in the best sense of the word. It was a partnership and there would be days where his energy level or my energy level would be lower, so we’d kind of boost each other up, so to speak. Through the process of experimentation with Mel in the studio with a lot of musicians, we sort of came to what the score ultimately turned into, which is hard to categorize in my opinion. It is music for that film, as it starts one way and ends a different way; it kind of morphs throughout the whole film, which actually was the intention from the very beginning. When Mel first told me about the film he really wanted music that spoke to the human heart. It didn’t matter terribly to Mel what exactly it that was that came out, but what came out was something that was very special in my mind, and unique for that film."

The 24-page CD booklet is amazing in its own right also. Featuring in-depth liner notes by film music writer Jeff Bond, within them all new quotes from director Mel Gibson, vocalist Lisbeth Scott, and yourself, for those that might keep this CD sealed to preserve it, what do you yourself talk about? "In the notes I give the chronology of events that happened, from first getting a phone call, to being hired and then starting to work with Mel on this “odyssey,” so to speak. We went from difficult beginnings in a way, since Mel and I were first starting to get to know each other really and were trying to figure out the musical vocabulary at the same time. It was very difficult to pin a style of music for this film. At the beginning, frankly, we didn’t know what the heck to do! So, it was a lot of back and forth, a lot of experimenting with different sounds and instruments. I also touch on the collaboration with my singers and musicians because I really can’t stress enough that, in my opinion, great art is really created by great artists in tandem with each other."

"Unless, of course you’re a Mozart or a Beethoven, which I’ll be the first to admit I am not, there’s something special that happens in the collaborative process that, for me, makes the work that much more fulfilling and can make the work much better, in my opinion. And that’s really what happened with this score. I didn’t expect the score to end up the way it did. But it’s pretty interesting because I’ll admit I’m never truly 100% happy with the music I write most of the time, but I’m always proud of it, and I’m especially proud of the music I wrote for “The Passion".”

With this being the 10th Anniversary of 'The Passion,' has time flown for you project-wise since you sat down to begin to write 'The Passion'? Or does it feel about right? "No, it seems like yesterday. I simply can’t believe that it’s been 10 years; it’s hard to wrap my mind around that. To give you an idea, two of my collaborators on the original score - vocalist Lisbeth Scott and soloist Pedro Eustache - are, right now as we speak, in Spain rehearsing “The Passion Oratorio,” which I composed as a major concert work out of the “seeds” of the score. [As noted in the intro, this event has just happened, and a photo of the event is above] The fact that it’s been 10 years is unbelievable to me, and I’m just so very thankful that people still like the work."

You have spoken before that one of the most powerful experiences of your life was when you conducted music from and inspired by 'The Passion' in Rome, Italy - and were subsequently blessed by Archbishop Foley of the Vatican himself! I mean, honestly, does it get any better than that?! "It doesn’t get much better than that, really! But, I have to admit, we still have yet to play the music in front of Pope Francis, so I think that would be astounding if we could in some way work that out. In addition, I also feel that it can also get even better if my work somehow reaches a worldwide audience and affects people for the greater good. That’s always been my ultimate goal, really."

This 10th Anniversary 2CD Deluxe Edition of 'The Passion' has been released with a second CD of 75 more minutes of never-before-released music! So, where have these tracks been hiding for the past 10 years? Were they secretly, but purposely hidden away, always planned for the 10th Anniversary 2CD release, perhaps? "Oh, gosh no. I wish that I could say that we were clever enough to do that from the beginning. But the truth is, for any film that I compose, there’s a wealth of near misses and versions of cues that never make it into the film. But they’re experimentations in what I’m looking for tone-wise. In every film I’ve composed for, any cue that makes it into the film I’ll most certainly have 6 or 7 versions of the same piece that never made it. And that’s exactly what happened with “The Passion.” I wrote hours and hours of music, and, you know, things always change."

"Movies are always changing in the post-production process. I remember Mel was cutting “The Passion” up until the very end and there were many scenes that I composed for that actually didn’t end up in the film. It’s that process, you go through it and you’re left over with all of this music that’s just literally sitting on a hard drive. Thankfully, after the 10 years went by and somebody was interested enough to want to re-release the score on a double CD, and we’re so overjoyed by that."

In reflection, and being that we're not called Exclusive Magazine for nothing, what can you reveal about those early days of putting 'The Passion' together that, hopefully, you have never mentioned/revealed before? "I must say, there are no secrets that I haven’t spoken about before. Even 10 years later, it’s still hard for me to put into words. It’s the most deeply personal score I’ve ever written which is why even now it’s hard for me to put it into words. I feel words are sometimes inadequate to describe “great” art. Now I’m not saying that this is necessarily “great” art at all, but in my professional life with the work that I’ve done over the years, it’s the deepest, most personal music I’ve written."

"Even to this day if I meet someone who somehow finds out what my job is and that I worked on “The Passion,” somehow invariably they always point to one or two scenes. It’s almost gotten to the point where I pretty much know exactly what they’re going to say before they say it! There’s universality to what Mel did in my opinion. He really was talking about this story through the eyes of a mother and her son. And in that regard I think he succeeded very successfully. And hopefully, through the music, I succeeded just as successfully as he did in creating this powerful film."

For you, personally, at what stage of a film's creation do you start to get sent reels to add your compositions to? And how long does that/your process usually take, before you can send it in and sign off on it? "Well, every film is different. Some are in great rushes and others you are allotted more time. There have been instances where you get the reels one day then you have to write cues the same day or the day after. Then 2 or 3 days later you’re playing the music you’ve written for the director. Other times, like “The Passion,” where you may think you don’t have a lot of time, but in reality we had much more time than I expected. It just depends, really. I have to get into that mode, where I sort of “freak out,” so to speak, for the first few days after I’m hired, thinking, “how am I going to do this?” To get myself out of that mode I just sit down and start playing at my keyboard and stuff starts to come out. It’s as simple as that."

Here in 2015, it seems you have come full circle, as you are now composing soundtrack scores for both 'Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt' and 'Mary, Mother of Christ.' Coincidence or purposeful, perhaps? "Oh, well, I mean it’s hard to say. I don’t plan anything in life really, but when it came to ‘Christ the Lord’ in particular, I had actually worked with the director Cyrus Nowrasteh previously on a film called, “The Stoning of Soraya M.” He’s a great friend of mine, and a great director and I suppose it was a natural choice for him since we’d previously worked together. And I’m assuming he liked what I did on “The Stoning.” He’d also liked the score for “The Passion” as well, so he asked me to do “Christ the Lord.” It’s a lovely film, really, and it’s much different from “The Passion.” Similar story in dealing with similar characters but different, so I think the music for that film will be like a distant cousin to the score for “The Passion.” And then once “Mary, Mother of Christ” happens then who knows, one day they might be, like, a trinity of work that I’ve done in this biblical genre. But who knows, as I before said you really can’t fully plan this stuff."

Finally, we here at Exclusive Magazine LOVE penguins (the birds). So, we wondered if you did also, and if you had any personal stories about them, perhaps? "Oh I love penguins! What’s not to love about a penguin? I mean they’re cute, they make funny noises and they waddle. Now that I think about it, I’ve actually never done a penguin movie. I must confess that I have indeed scored a lot of films that involve animals, but I’ve never done a penguin one. Who knows though, maybe one day I will!"

Interviewed by: Russell A. Trunk

La-La Land records has released a 2 Disc Set in honor of the historic concert which also marks the 10th Anniversary of the first Passion of the Christ Live concert which occurred in Rome, Italy and is available here:

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