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Film music – stories behind the score: The Sea Hawk

galleons at sea

In the first of a series of blog posts, we invite you to learn a little more about some of the music we are playing at our summer concert at 7.30pm on Saturday 1 July 2023 at St John the Baptist Church, Burscough, L40 4AE. The concert is entitled the Music of Stage and Screen and promises a whirlwind tour through Hollywood, Broadway and the West End.


£12 adults/ £5 U18 and students

£25 family (2 adults + up to 4 children)

book online

Alternatively call 07906 129393 to reserve or buy on the door

The Sea Hawk (1940), music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold

If you’re a fan of 1940s swashbuckling adventure films, The Sea Hawk is definitely for you. Written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957) for the film of the same name, it won him his third Oscar for Best Musical Score.

Set in the 15th century the film follows the fortunes of dashing pirate, Geoffrey Thorpe, played by Errol Flynn. Thorpe undertakes a mission to loot Spanish ships on the eve of the Spanish Armada. Dedicated to protecting British interests, Thorpe is sent on a dangerous mission during which he is captured by the Spaniards. Exciting duals follow as Thorpe attempts to expose deadly secrets and win the heart of Dona Maria, a Spanish Royal.

As well as being an adventure film, it was also a British propoganda film aimed at boosting morale during World War 2 and at promoting a more positive attitude towards Britain in America.

The composer, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, was an Austrian-born child prodigy. His ballet, The Snowman, was performed in Vienna when he was just 11. Aged 13, he wrote his Second Piano Concerto. His success continued into adulthood, and he became Professor of Music at the Vienna State Academy in 1931

An Austrian Jew, he moved to Hollywood in 1934 to escape the rise of the Nazi Regime. He was the first classical composer of international stature to write Hollywood scores and became one of the most influential composers in Hollywood history. Although they were written for films, Korngold intended that his scores could also stand alone in the concert hall.

In the Sea Hawk score, he uses fanfares throughout – in the first scene when Thorpe’s ship appears but also at moments of swashbuckling heroism and during battle scenes. Throughout the score, individual characters have their own musical themes.

In later life, Korngold remained in America but retired from writing film scores, having written ten original scores for ten films, including the scores for The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex and The Adventures Of Robin Hood. He returned to writing classical music though with less success and his work fell out of fashion. He died in 1957 following a stroke.

In the 1970s there was renewed interest in his work when a recording by the National Philharmonic Orchestra brought his work back into the public forum. Composer John Williams cited Korngold as his inspiration when writing the Star Wars scores.

His work is now played in concert halls worldwide.

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear his inventive and vibrant melodies and orchestrations at St John the Baptist Church, School Lane, Burscough on Saturday 1st July.

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