- Composed by Mark McKenzie
- Mark McKenzie Music / 2011 / 40:42
A Mexican-produced 3D animation, The Great Miracle is a Catholic-themed tale of love and redemption. The film won’t even be released until the fourth quarter of 2011, but fortunately fans of the composer Mark McKenzie – who have been waiting since 2007’s Saving Sarah Cain to hear new music from him – don’t have to wait that long, since the music has already been made available for download from iTunes and Amazon. I may as well say it at the beginning of the review (rather than wait till the end, as I usually do) – McKenzie is one of the most underrated film composers, probably the most underrated, generally writing very beautiful, lyrical orchestral music but capable of action, suspense, whatever – each new score from him is something I savour, so this is more than welcome.
Now, having said the above – and having been consistently impressed with his music over a long period – I don’t think any of his scores has ever quite reached the heights of this one, surely the pinnacle of his career to date. This is soaring, quite exquisitely beautiful film music performed by a large orchestra, adult choir and boys’ choir which bears comparison – and would in no way be embarrassed by such comparison – with Georges Delerue at his most sweeping (The Black Stallion Returns, etc) and Ennio Morricone’s more liturgical choral music (The Mission, etc). From this reviewer, I doubt there is a higher compliment which could be offered.
From the stunning opening, “Enter the Cathedral”, it is clear that this is something special. I suspect the composer must have felt a genuine attachment to the film, perhaps in the way that John Debney so obviously did with The Passion of the Christ (I’m not comparing the films or the scores, please understand!) – while his music is almost always heartfelt, in this score there seems to be that extra layer of emotion, a feeling so conspicuously transferred to the listener. The themes linger in the memory long after the album has finished playing; the beauty leaves a lasting impression.
There are so many highlights, picking them out would simply involve me giving a track-by-track description of the whole album, so I will restrict myself to three. The brief “Benedictus Deus” is a glorious choral duet, exquisitely arranged, so beautiful; and McKenzie has reportedly picked out the finale, “Ascension – Gloria Patri”, as his own favourite moment of his music so far (and the piece is a fine summary of the score’s main themes). For me, the outstanding piece is “Angels, Demons and Prayer”, a battle between light and dark which travels from the score’s most choppy, aggressive music to its most soaring and beautiful. It’s so well-constructed, so rich with emotion – stunning, really.
Film scores like this don’t come along too often. Music so passionate, so moving, so warm as The Great Miracle deserves a wide audience, and I hope it gets it – McKenzie is such a fine composer and I have to say he has outdone himself here. If you’re already a fan of the composer, you should buy this one without hesitation; if not, then if you like lyrical orchestral and choral music then there would be no finer introduction to the work of Mark McKenzie. I know it’s only March – but if another film score comes along in 2011 which impresses me more than this one, I’ll be amazed. *****
Note: since writing this review, the promotional release is no longer available, however the score has been issued (with extra tracks) by BSX Records and is available from Amazon: Buy The Greatest Miracle from Amazon.com and help support movie-wave.net by following this link.