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Soundtrack review: Saints and Strangers (Lorne Balfe and Hans Zimmer – 2015)

saints

“Saints & strangers” is a National Geographic mini series about the Voyage of the Mayflower and the first year of The Pilgrims in America. This is a story that goes beyond the familiar historical account of Thanksgiving and the founding of Plymouth Plantation, revealing the trials and tribulations of the settlers at Plymouth: 102 men, women and children who sailed on a chartered ship for a place they had never seen. Of this group, half are those we think of as “pilgrims,” religious separatists who abandoned their prior lives for a single cause: religious freedom. The other half, the “merchant adventurers,” had less spiritual and more material, real-world objectives. My favorite scoring couple of Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe wrote the music and I think my this time in 2015 we already know that Lorne has a few clones because he’s just putting out too many high quality scores for one year. It’s his score really, Hans wrote just the theme.

And what a beautiful theme it is. Lately I’ve been missing Hans Zimmer’s softer side and the way this cue peaks into the atmospheric land before blossoming into a cello theme to die for gives me goose bumps. This opening is beautiful, quiet and emotional and removes me in just a couple of minutes from the outside world. I am all in with this score. Lorne picks up right where Hans left off with “Pilgrim legacy”; a heavy cue that makes me think of hardship and a land where rain hasn’t stopped falling for weeks. The strings dominate this piece as well.

The theme for “The Mayflower” is just as emotional. The composers chose to write an intimate and respectful score to depict these events musically and I feel very close to the pilgrims on the ship. I love the build-up that ends this theme. I love the atmosphere of the score, because of how lonely and mysterious it is. The music isn’t at all aggressive and makes me feel the hesitation and doubts of the characters.

“Saints & Strangers” is different from the other scores Lorne Balfe put out this year. This is why he’s one of my favorite composers: he’s never afraid to explore new feelings musically, to try new directions and to write, every now and then, a quiet and poignant score like this. I think there will be a much larger release of this score soon and I can’t wait to hear it. Until then, this is going in my treasure chest of scores to have close on a rainy and reflective day.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 20 / 20

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:

Saints & Strangers

Pilgrim Legacy

The New World

Land Ahoy

Squanto’s Death

The Mayflower

Cape Cod

 

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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