Rachel Portman OBE in Hastings: a look at a film composer’s career

Hastings International Piano Festival presents An Evening with Rachel Portman OBE on Friday, March 6 (7.30pm), at St Mary in the Castle.
Rachel Portman. Photo by Benjamin EalovegaRachel Portman. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega
Rachel Portman. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega

Rachel will hold a unique and intimate evening that explores her career and life of being an Academy Award-winning composer.

As part of the International Piano Festival, she will perform with two young Sussex pianists who have had the exciting opportunity to work alongside her in this rare event.

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Born in West Sussex, Rachel began composing at the age of 14 and read music at the University of Oxford, where she became interested in writing music for student films and theatre productions. She gained experience writing music for drama in BBC and Channel 4 films, including Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Mike Leigh’s, Four Days In July and Jim Henson’s Storyteller series.

Since then, she has written more than 100 scores for film, TV and theatre, including: The Manchurian Candidate (Jonathan Demme), Oliver Twist (Roman Polanski), Beloved (Jonathan Demme), Benny and Joon (Jeremiah Chechik), Life Is Sweet (Mike Leigh), Never Let Me Go (Mark Romanek), Grey Gardens (Michael Sucsy), The Legend of Bagger Vance (Robert Redford), The Duchess (Saul Dibb), One Day (Lone Scherfig), The Lake House (Alejandro Agresti), Mona Lisa Smile(Mike Newell), The Human Stain (Robert Benton), Their Finest (Lone Sherfig), A Dog’s Purpose (Lasse Halstrom) and, most recently, Mimi and the Mountain Dragon for the BBC.

Rachel became the first female composer to win an Academy Award for the score of Emma (Douglas McGrath). She was also the first female composer to win a Primetime Emmy Award for the film Bessie (Dee Rees). She has received two further Academy Nominations for The Cider House Rules and Chocolat (Lasse Hallström).

Rachel has written an opera of Saint Exupery’s The Little Prince for Houston Grand Opera as well as a musical of Little House on the Prairie. For the BBC Proms concerts, Rachel was commissioned to write The Water Diviner, a choral symphony, and Earth Song, a commission for the BBC singers of a 20-minute choral piece.

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The Inaugural Hastings International Piano Festival will take place from February 26 to March 8 and will host an array of concerts, featuring some of the most celebrated artists including headliner Rufus Wainwright.

Tickets cost £12.50 (balcony), £17.50 (stalls), £27.50 (boxes to include VIP interval drink). Visit stmaryinthecastle.co.uk or www.hastingsinternationalpiano.org.

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