CFC Salute: Missing Woodstock, scoring SNL and other Howard Shore stories

Howard Shore keeps an eye on Richard Crouse at Thursdays CFC event

A packed house came out to hear Howard Shore Thursday night at the Bell Lightbox and he didn’t even play a note. The Canadian Film Centre hosted an evening with the three-time Academy Award-winning composer. Shore is a Toronto lad made good, scoring over 90 feature films and working over and over again with acclaimed directors such as Martin Scorsese, Peter Jackson and his old Toronto neighbourhood pal David Cronenberg.
Host Richard Crouse guided Shore through highlights of his career mixed with clips from Crash, Hugo and The Lord of the Rings. It was interesting to hear how Shore recorded the entire score for The Brood in just seven hours, including an hour of overtime. He also revealed how Scorsese builds a film as he goes along, constantly screening his work in progress to stay on top of the work as a whole.
Shore says he “sees” music as much as hears it and can compose whole scores on sheet music without every picking up an instrument. His favourite note? “I’m very happy with D-flat,” he says.
I was most interested in Shore’s early TV work. The 66-year-old was a member of the rock-jazz ensemble Lighthouse from 1969 – 72 and he used that group as the house band on several CBC assignments, including the 1970-71 comedy/variety series The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour. That was Lorne Michaels’ and Hart Pomerantz’ short-lived but formative CBC series before Michaels went on to create Saturday Night Live, bringing Shore along with him to lead the original house band and compose the theme for the series. Shore also snuck into a few early sketches, dressing as a bee keeper for one memorable John Belushi/Dan Aykroyd bit.

Shore confirmed that he still gets a residual cheque for the SNL theme. (He also co-wrote the original theme for Late Night with Conan O’Brien.) The SNL signature music grew out of the woodwind player’s fascination with the Memphis Staxx records sound. He cited Junior Walker and the All-Stars as his inspiration for the soaring tenor sax solo behind a theme that still sounds contemporary 38 years later.
It is also, he confessed almost the exact same theme he wrote for the earlier Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour.
He also confirmed the story that Lighthouse was invited to Woodstock in 1969 but the gig only offered $1200. The band’s manager at the time booked them instead into a high school in New Jersey that paid $1400. “We saw it on TV like everybody else,” he says of the missed Woodstock experience. Nonetheless, things seem to be working out for the Toronto kid.

Leave a Reply