Making music isn’t child’s play
I’s fitting an interview with Evan Lurie is filled with laughter.
After all, this is the man who, along with Douglas Wieselman, composed songs for the children’s show The Backyardigans.
The humour, however, isn’t based on strange child-creatures in bright colours who sing and dance.
It’s based more on Lurie describing the process he and Wieselman had to work with as they created almost 400 songs.
It was a job Lurie said he didn’t realize would be as intense as it became — after all, it’s just music for a kids’ show, right? — and, conversely, he’s pretty sure the producers didn’t expect what they got in the deal, either.
“Thank you for not asking me how hard it is to write kids’ music,” Lurie said, “because it’s not kids’ music. It’s music.”
That’s what fuelled the drive to create songs and background music that did more than just move the animation along.
Each episode featured a different genre of music, so Lurie would research everything from the many forms of African music through to opera and balalaikas.
The goal was not only to meet the needs of the show, but to do it in a way that would expose younger minds to music — and then hope it would stick with them “so that in 20 years, maybe they’ll have forgotten all the stuff on the radio and realize there is real music to listen to,” Lurie said.
“Well, not all the stuff on the radio, but a lot of it.”
With a background in scoring films and television shows, Lurie said he wasn’t prepared for the tight deadlines of Backyardigans.
The music would be composed, demonstrated, approved, transcribed to paper, recorded, sent to children to sing for the soundtrack, shipped off to animation and choreography departments. The next week, it would begin again.
“It was an enormous number of songs,” Lurie said, “and I didn’t realize this going in.
“We got realer and realer as time went on but, after the first 20 shows of the season, we had to start on another season and we didn’t want to have songs that sounded like the first season.”
“But, it was eight years of deadlines, of composing on cue — and then we were finished.”
His songs are included in the stage show, The Backyardigans Quest for the Extra Ordinary Aliens, which comes to Sagebrush Theatre on Sept. 15 for shows at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
There are a limited number of tickets still available for the evening show and more for the afternoon performance.
Tickets are $33.50 plus service charges and taxes at the Kamloops Live Box Office, 1025 Lorne St., 250-374-5483, kamloopslive.ca.
Now that the series has ended, Lurie said he’s not sure where his love of music will take him next.
It’s taken him a long way from the time, as a teenager, he decided he could teach himself to play the trumpet.
“That didn’t work out well.”
He switched to piano, took lessons and eventually worked on films directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Roberto Benigni, Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci.
While scoring for a film might seem less challenging than producing five new songs a week for a children’s show, Lurie said it was just different, no less difficult.
“The great terror in movies, though,” he said
with a laugh, “is the director telling you he plays guitar.”