The Nativity Story [Original Motion Picture Score]

by: Mychael Danna

When veteran film composer Mychael Danna entered 2006, he probably thought his tradition-drenched, Renaissance-inspired score to this film about the opening chapter of "the greatest story ever told" would be heard by more people than the quirkier one he wrote for Little Miss Sunshine. But Sunshine was a Best Picture Oscar nominee and this one proved to be just a reasonably popular Jesus story. Recorded in Los Angeles, The Nativity Story score artfully blends native Middle Eastern instruments like Persian and Turkish ney flutes with more traditional pre-Baroque European ones like the viola de gamba, vielle, harp, and recorders. Danna's dual intent seemed to be to ground the story in its geographical roots while also underscoring the power the story had over the Western world in subsequent centuries. In this cross-cultural world, Gregorian chants and gorgeous, celebratory yet solemn carols like "Veni, Veni Emmanuel" were perfectly at home with the Los Angeles Zimriyah Chorale re-creating a Second Temple-era chanting in Hebrew of the prophecy of Isaiah and the powerful, portentous Roman horns and drums. The second half of the score features recurring melodic themes whose haunting beauty underscores Mary's isolation and her controversial relationship with Joseph. ~ Jonathan Widran

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