Written during Chaplin’s late musical period in 1968, Chaplin shows us his unique gift for capturing a particular elemental sound. In these pages one can almost smell the sawdust and grease-paint. The rousing set of circus-band numbers, intertwined with poignant reflections of the hardships that circus life bears, is commandeered in unabashed and fun way.

Written during Chaplin’s late musical period in 1968, Chaplin shows us his unique gift for capturing a particular elemental sound. In these pages one can almost smell the sawdust and grease-paint. The rousing set of circus-band numbers, intertwined with poignant reflections of the hardships that circus life bears, is commandeered in unabashed and fun way.

 

There are subtle but distinct differences in the way he approached each circus act. For the girl acrobat the music is always lively march while the clowns perform their gags to squatty soft-shoe numbers. In the climatic scene, the tramp performs his high-wire act to a light waltz, incognizant of the fact that he is in perilous danger. Each of these “public” scenes carry a certain amount of counterbalance with the backstage drama that is unfolding between the characters, and therefore Chaplin composed music that incorporated all of these elements in its structure.

 

The score is generally light, compared to his earlier scores, however one of Chaplin’s most moving musical passages comes at the very end, as the solo ‘cello enters to bring on a very lonely orchestral exhale, when the tramp is alone yet again, while the circus pulls up its stakes, and moves on.

 

I carried out the restoration of the score over 6 months in 2002-03, working with the original manuscripts from the Chaplin archives in Montreux. The score calls for Piccolo, Flute, Oboe, 2 Clarinets, Bass-clarinet, 2 Alto Saxophones, Tenor Saxophone, Bassoon, Horn, 2 Trumpets, 2 Trombones, 2 Percussionists, Guitar, Mandolin, Piano and Strings.

Timothy Brock

 


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