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Section Header
The Chorus
2004 Warner

2005 Nonesuch

2012 Varèse

Composed and Orchestrated by:
Bruno Coulais

Conducted by:
Deyan Pavlov

Produced by:
Paul Lavergne

Additional Music by:
Christophe Barratier

Labels and Dates:
Warner Brothers (Europe)
(May 3rd, 2004)

Nonesuch Records
(January 4th, 2005)

Varèse Sarabande
(August 7th, 2012)

Also See:
Winged Migration

Audio Clips:
2. In Memoriam (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (244K)
Real Audio (152K)

5. Vois sur ton Chemin (0:34):
WMA (218K)  MP3 (271K)
Real Audio (169K)

7. Caresse sur l'Ocean (0:28):
WMA (184K)  MP3 (228K)
Real Audio (141K)

14. L'Incendie (0:33):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (267K)
Real Audio (166K)

All albums are regular commercial releases in their respective countries, though the 2004 and 2005 products sometimes commanded higher prices on the used market prior to the 2012 Varèse reissue. A handful of supplemental albums featuring this music have been released in France since 2004, including a live concert performance.

  The song "Look to Your Path (Vois sur ton Chemin)" was nominated for an Academy Award. The score was nominated for a BAFTA Award.

The Chorus
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Buy it... if you are partial towards the heartwarming, sentimental performances of boys' choirs, especially when they are layered over resounding orchestral depth.

Avoid it... if a constant stream of simplistic and repetitive choral songs and their instrumental equivalents deters you from your willingness to experiment with a uniquely European endeavor.

The Chorus (Les Choristes): (Bruno Coulais/Christophe Barratier) A smash hit in its native country of France, The Chorus was the nation's submission for "Best Foreign Film" at the 2004 Academy Awards. Despite its familiar storyline, The Chorus launched past its competition in French cinema and became the most popular film during that year in the country. A feel-good story in the subgenre of "noble teacher versus troublesome students," the drama follows the efforts of kind-hearted but washed up composer Clement Mathieu (Gerard Jugnot), who becomes a teacher at a reformatory school in 1949 France. Appropriately named "Le Fond De L'Etang" ("Rock Bottom"), the school has your usual collection of young boys identified as brats and thieves, and the institution is run by a militaristic headmaster in a castle-like structure. The new teacher slowly assembles the delinquent boys into a choir, a move that sets him at odds with headmaster, but the protagonist eventually proves that a little tender loving care and the inspiration of music can turn the boys around. Adapting his material from a little-known French film called The Cage of Nightingales, co-writer and director Christophe Barratier made his surprising feature debut with The Chorus, and Miramax bought the right to release the picture in a limited number of American theatres in January of 2005. French composer Bruno Coulais, slowly gaining recognition in the United States at the time for his extensive work in Europe, was tasked with writing an underscore integrated with the choral performances in the film itself. Utilizing the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra and the voices of Les Petits Chanteurs de Saint-Marc Choir, Coulais combines his own material (a cross between the romantic sensibilities of John Barry and Craig Armstrong) with several pivotal thematic ideas by Barratier (who also has a musical background) to create a score that spent several weeks atop the French music charts. Selling a million copies in France alone, the album for The Chorus also made a star out of 13-year-old lead actor and vocalist Jean-Baptiste Maunier and renewed interest in boys choirs across the nation. The score was nominated for a BAFTA award and the song "Vois sur ton Chemin" ("Look to Your Path") received an Oscar nomination. Multiple releases of the score in the United States, each with slightly different contents, followed over the subsequent ten years. Much of the soundtrack could technically be classified as "source music," though some of the vocal performances, a few wordless, are utilized in the film as a substitute for a traditional orchestral underscore.

Studying Coulais' work for The Chorus from a technical standpoint reveals a very simplistic score with easy melodies, a minimum of counterpoint, and significant repetition. But the key element in the equation is the charming heart of the music, and not only has Coulais' simplistic approach won the ears of fans, but it also serves the plotline of the film quite well. The score is comprised of two intermingling parts: the actual choral themes performed by the boys and the adaptation of those songs into the dramatic underscore. The performances by the boys on screen mirror those you hear on the album, and they vary in sonic depth depending upon the level of orchestral backing that Coulais provides them. For instance, a simple voice-only performance of a melody is often accompanied at first by only the piano (a common instrument in any school), but Coulais masterfully adds the strings, woodwinds, and percussion of the orchestra as these pieces progress. The building momentum that these songs ultimately achieve by their finales is resounding, and especially appealing are cues during which Coulais allows the boys to perform above the orchestra for several minutes. The "In Memoriam" track near the outset of the album highlights the primary theme with this beautiful and expressive combination. Cues near the latter half of that album, in which the choir performs solo without any instrumental accompaniment, do begin to test your patience with their repetitive nature. But the second part of the music, the score itself, often interjects with outstanding results. Almost always pleasant and optimistic in tone, Coulais' underscore often consists of deep bass strings with the choir performing wordless vocal renditions of primary themes on top of them. The militaristic rhythm of "L'Incendie" presents a forceful introduction of brass and snare to the boys as they chant the main theme with tremendous resolve. Tender melodies for piano and woodwinds occasionally exist without the boys' presence, perhaps for the teacher's love interest in the film's story. The highlights of the album are the several Coulais score cues that utilize the boy's talents, as well as, of course, the songs that also incorporate the full orchestra. The 2005 American album from Nonesuch Records includes two snippets of dialogue (in French, of course) that begin and end abruptly in the final tracks, and most of the appealing songs and score cues are thankfully concentrated near the start of the product. A 2012 reissue of those contents by Varèse Sarabande adds five bonus tracks, most of which simply the orchestral backing of the songs without the vocals. Overall, for enthusiasts of boys' choirs and heartwarming, sentimental choral performances in general, The Chorus translates into a strong, albeit repetitive album. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.92 Stars
Smart Average: 3.71 Stars*
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 Track Listings (2004 and 2005 Albums): Total Time: 38:38

• 1. Les Choristes (1:32)
• 2. In Memoriam (3:25)
• 3. L'Arrivee a l'Ecole (1:32)
• 4. Pepinot (1:50)
• 5. Vois sur ton Chemin (2:19)
• 6. Les Partitions (1:03)
• 7. Caresse sur l'Ocean (2:10)
• 8. Lueurd d'Ete (2:02)
• 9. Cerf-Volant (0:58)
• 10. Sous la Pluie (1:05)
• 11. Compere Guilleri (0:35)
• 12. La Desillusion (1:22)
• 13. La Nuit (2:20)
• 14. L'Incendie (1:23)
• 15. L'Evocation (1:45)
• 16. Les Avions en Papier (1:28)
• 17. Action Reaction (1:45)
• 18. Seuls (1:53)
• 19. Morhange (1:57)
• 20. In Memoriam a Cappella (3:19)
• 21. Nous Sommes de Fond de l'Etang (2:46)

 Track Listings (2012 Varèse Album): Total Time: 50:00

• 1. Les Choristes (The Chorus) (1:32)
• 2. In Memoriam (3:25)
• 3. L'Arrivee a l'Ecole (Arrival at School) (1:32)
• 4. Pepinot (1:50)
• 5. Vois sur ton Chemin (Look to Your Path) (2:19)
• 6. Les Partitions (The Scores) (1:03)
• 7. Caresse sur l'Ocean (Caress on the Ocean) (2:10)
• 8. Lueurd d'Ete (Glimmer of Summer) (2:02)
• 9. Cerf-Volant (Kite) (0:58)
• 10. Sous la Pluie (In the Rain) (1:05)
• 11. Compere Guilleri (Good Ol' Guilleri) (0:35)
• 12. La Desillusion (Disillusion) (1:22)
• 13. La Nuit (Night) (2:20)
• 14. L'Incendie (Fire) (1:23)
• 15. L'Evocation (Evocation) (1:45)
• 16. Les Avions en Papier (Paper Airplanes) (1:28)
• 17. Action Reaction (1:45)
• 18. Seuls (Alone) (1:53)
• 19. Morhange (1:57)
• 20. In Memoriam a Cappella (3:19)
• 21. Nous Sommes de Fond de l'Etang (We Are From Fond de l'Etang) (2:46)

Bonus Tracks:
• 22. Vois sur ton Chemin (Look to Your Path) (2:19)
• 23. In Memoriam (3:26)
• 24. Caresse sur l'Ocean (Caress on the Ocean) (2:11)
• 25. Lueurd d'Ete (Glimmer of Summer) (2:03)
• 26. Cerf-Volant (Kite) (1:33)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert of the Nonesuch Records album includes lyrics from all of the major song performances in both French and English, as well as extensive credits. The other two products' inserts contain no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Chorus are Copyright © 2004, 2005, 2012, Warner Brothers (Europe), Nonesuch Records, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 1/15/05 and last updated 8/10/12. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2005-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.