The earliest I recall hearing the music of Ennio Morricone, who died this past week, was in the 1960s Fistful of Dollars series of director Sergio Leone’s western movies that starred Clint Eastwood.
I was four years old when A Fistful of Dollars came out. For a Few Dollars More was released the following year, and featured Lee Van Cleef as the brilliantly cast villain. Then in 1966, it was The Good, The Bad and the Ugly starred Eastwood (“The Good”), Van Cleef (“The Bad”), and Eli Wallach (“The Ugly”). Morricone scored all three films. The soundtracks are still popular and quite catchy; one of our lads has often played excerpts in the car when we’ve been riding somewhere with him.
Today’s selection comes from the soundtrack for The Mission, a sprawling epic about 18th century Jesuit ministers working on converting a Guarani community — an Indigenous South American people — to Christianity. While a predecessor is tied to a cross and thrown off a waterfall by the community, the Jesuit priest Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) climbs to the top of the waterfall and plays his oboe, which endears him to the people.
There’s much more to the film, including the enslavement and colonization of the Guarani by the Portuguese. However, there are also moments of redemption, as in the case of a mercenary who once kidnapped and sold Indigenous people to work on plantations. It’s a complicated story, indeed, and the music reflects this beautifully.
The film also stars Ray McAnally, Robert De Niro, Cherie Lunghi, Aidan Quinn and Liam Neeson.
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s an unofficial video for the piece, with composer Morricone conducting:
And, students of the Stanisław Moniuszko School of Music Orchestra in Bielsko Biała, Poland playing the same piece: