“Here’s what’s on the menu. Follow me.” Hans Zimmer strides across the stage of the 10,000-seat arena in Lodz, Poland. He walks over to two A4 sheets taped to the stage floor, the set list for tonight’s concert.
first on the list dune (Zimmer just won an Oscar for this score). then gladiator, wonder woman, man of Steel, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Lion King. You could line the stage floor with A4 sheets listing the more than 150 film scores composed by the 64-year-old German.
He is dressed in Ukrainian colors, a blue and yellow scarf, yellow chinos, a blue jacket. He turns and points to the orchestra warming up behind us: “I have the United Nations here.”
Last year he partnered with the Odessa Orchestra for this European tour Hans Zimmer Live. Then, in February, war broke out in Ukraine. Ten musicians from the orchestra were able to leave the country in time, others got stuck inside or stayed to fight.
“How much will Ukraine be on the show tonight?” I ask. He points back to the setlist.
“dune. It’s about a refugee family. wonder woman, I do this to honor the women who come here from Ukraine, the sheer courage to leave their husbands behind, to leave their country behind. The heroism. gladiatorSlaves and refugees and war. Pirates of the Caribbean…”
He pauses for a second. “Hmm, a bit dodgy.”
reading glasses off. Turns around again. Approach the orchestra. I catch myself humming Pirates of the Caribbean Theme tune as we go. When it comes to catchy tunes, the compositions are by Zimmer dune-Size.
He begins to introduce me to members of the orchestra and band. Among them Nile Marr, son of The Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr; Guthrie Govan, “Chelmsford’s finest, the guitarist every guitarist wants to be”. In the string section, a group of Ukrainian musicians waves to us.
Ukraine has a rich classical music tradition. Its musicians have provided the soundtrack to the country’s resilience and resistance in the face of war.
video of the day
A video of a violinist, Vera Lytovchenko, playing in an air raid shelter in Kharkiv went viral. A performance by an artist known to play the piano at the Lviv train station, accompanied by air raid sirens, captured the country’s imagination for a time. The pianist played a room composition – timefrom the movie founding. Zimmer incorporated the video into one of the performances on tour.
“The greatest weapon he has against brutality and war is art,” he says.
“Look at Shostakovich’s symphonies, which he wrote against Stalin. You can’t get caught with music.
“A lot of what I do, the subversive stuff, you can’t catch. Ultimately, the subversive stuff is about bringing people together.”
Wait a minute – subversive? This is a Hollywood establishment, a multi-millionaire, a world-renowned music producer who speaks “subversively.” I challenge him. What follows is a 15 minute room exhibition about music and humanity.
“I’m just a goofy Hollywood film composer or, if you want, just another human being. But what I do, I present the whole world to you on this stage, make a beautiful sound, playful,” he says.
“We’re trying to encourage others to do the same because if you’re a little more playful, the chances that you’ll pick up a gun and shoot your neighbor will be a little less.”
War and the need for refugees is not an abstract concept for Zimmer. His Jewish mother fled Nazi Germany to England during World War II. She played the piano and encouraged the young Zimmer not to tell people about his Jewish heritage, a holdover from her own experience of hiding her identity.
“It’s a strange thing to be the child of a refugee. You will be constantly reminded that the world is not a safe place. You should always be ready to go. I always have my passport with me.”
It wasn’t until 2000, during a press conference where the documentary was released The last daysabout Holocaust survivors that Zimmer went public with his Judaism.
He remembers having an anxiety attack during the press conference. He called his mother as soon as it was over.
“I got on the phone and said, ‘Mom, I’ve done something really terrible, I’m so sorry. I outed us. I told them who we are.
There was a long silence on the other end.
“Then my mom said, ‘I’m really proud of you,’ and that was the only time she ever said she was proud of me.”
There’s about an hour left before the curtain goes up for tonight’s show and the arena begins to fill up. Zimmer introduces me to three Ukrainian musicians, Sergeii Kovalov on viola, Maria Mohylevska and Anastasia Pavlova on violin. Anastasia says she fled Ukraine with her young daughter, but her husband, a jeweler, had to stay to fight.
The day before the Lodz concert he had received a letter in which he was assigned his position at the front in eastern Ukraine. Anastasia chokes. “I love him so much.”
“We play in all these countries,” says Zimmer. “We make music and move people. And there are people from Ukraine up here on stage. You cannot ignore the fact that you are in the company of humanity, in the company of people who are going through terrible things, but at the same time are sitting here and doing their best not only to entertain you, but to move you.”
Sergei Kovalov is from Chernihiv. A few weeks ago, a Russian missile hit his parents’ house, but miraculously it didn’t explode. His mother fled to Germany.
“I think the bomb was very old and that’s why it didn’t explode. That’s why my mother lives,” he says.
We stop and look at his sheet music for a few seconds. “I don’t know what else to say.”
Zimmer reaches over the music stand and holds his hand. “Just play. We don’t need words. We just have heart and we play.”
The three musicians pick up their instruments and play a composition called melody by the Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk. Everyone in Ukraine knows this tune, an ode to family and country and homeland.
A handful of people at the front of the stage recognize it and lean forward in their seats.
The concert hasn’t started yet. Their instruments aren’t connected to the amplifiers yet, but for a few minutes the melody reverberates through the arena. For a few minutes melody is all you can hear.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/music/music-news/zimmers-soundtrack-of-resistance-in-the-face-of-war-41581676.html Zimmer’s soundtrack of resistance in the face of war