2004 Golden Score Awards – Lalo Shifrin, Ray Charles

14 January 2004

Lalo Schifrin is a true Renaissance man. As a pianist, composer and conductor, he is equally at home conducting a symphony orchestra, performing at an international jazz festival, scoring a film or television show, or creating works for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra or the London Philharmonic. In his native Argentina, Lalo received classical training in music, and also studied law. He came from a musical family, and his father, Luis Schifrin, was the concertmaster of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires at the Teatro Colon. Lalo continued his formal music education at the Paris Conservatory during the early 1950’s. Simultaneously, he became a professional jazz pianist, composer and arranger, playing and recording in Europe. When Schifrin returned to Buenos Aires in the mid 1950’s, he formed his own big concert jazz band. Dizzy Gillespie heard him play and asked him to become his pianist and arranger.

In 1958, Schifrin moved to the United States and thus began a remarkable career. He has written more than 100 scores for films and television. Among them Mission Impossible, Mannix, The Fox, Cool Hand Luke, Bullitt, Dirty Harry, Tango, Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2. Lalo Schifrin has won four Grammy Awards (with twenty-one nominations), one Cable ACE Award, and received six Oscar nominations. In 1987, a select group of some of the best musicians in France decided to form the Paris Philharmonic Orchestra for the purpose of recording music for films, performing concerts and participating in television shows. They appointed Lalo Schifrin as Musical Director and he held this post for five years before resigning to spend more time composing. Among Schifrin’s other conducting credits are the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, the Mexico Philharmonic, the Houston Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Mexico City Philharmonic, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestra of Saint Luke (New York City), and the National Symphony Orchestra of Argentina.

In 1986, the Glendale Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Lalo Schifrin, performed at the Hollywood Bowl. His Salute to the Statue of Liberty was received with a tumultuous ovation by a crowd of 17,000 people. In April, 1989, Lalo Schifrin was appointed Music Director of the Glendale Symphony Orchestra, and he served in that capacity for six years. It is Schifrin’s ability to switch musical gears which makes him so unique in the music world. As a jazz musician he has performed and recorded with great personalities such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Stan Getz, and Count Basie. He was commissioned to write the Grand Finale for the 1990 World Cup Soccer Championship where the Three Tenors, Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras sang together for the first time. The orchestras of the Rome and Florence opera companies were conducted by Zubin Mehta. The record and videotape of this event have gone on to become the biggest sellers in the history of classical music. Schifrin also arranged the sequels for July 1994, also for Carreras, Domingo, Pavarotti and Zubin Mehta, which was performed at Dodger Stadium, again on the eve of the World Cup Soccer Championships; the Three Tenors event that was held in July of 1998 in Paris, France, and the latest one for the World Cup Finals in Japan.

His longtime involvement in both the jazz and symphonic worlds came together beginning in 1993 when he was featured as pianist and conductor for his on-going series of Jazz Meets the Symphony recordings, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and such notable jazz stars as Ray Brown, Grady Tate, Jon Faddis, Paquito D’Rivera and James Morrison. “Thinking back, I believe the start of this project was really two of my early film scores, namely, ‘The Cincinnati Kid,’ in which Ray Charles sang backed by a symphony orchestra, and the famous chase scene through the streets of San Francisco in Bullitt wherein I wrote a symphonic score combined with saxophone solos playing at very fast tempos. Years later, when I arranged music for Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Brown, Grady Tate and myself to play for a tour with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, I began to fully realize that the two distinct musical forms could be combined. The fifth of the series, Intersections, Jazz Meets the Symphony, No. 5 was released in 2001. It is unique in that it has a full symphony orchestra, full jazz band, plus jazz stars Jeff Hamilton, Christian McBride, James Morrison and David Sanchez. Schifrin wrote and adapted the music for Christmas in Vienna in 1992 featuring Diana Ross, Jose Carreras, and Placido Domingo and returned to Vienna in December 1995 to arrange the entire program of Christmas music — Christmas in Vienna 1995, sung by Jose Carreras, Natalie Cole and Placido Domingo, was shown on PBS in America on December 23rd and 24th of that year and is shown regularly during the holiday season.

Recent film scores include Money Talks, released by New Line Pictures; Something to Believe In, produced by Lord Lew Grade; and Carlos Saura’s Tango. He received a 1999 Grammy nomination for his score of the mega-hit Rush Hour and recently scored Rush Hour 2: Remember the Dragon and Bringing Down the House released in 2003. In addition to current commissions and film scoring activities, Schifrin tours extensively conducting symphony orchestras particularly featuring his repertoire of Jazz Meets the Symphony. Schifrin has been married to his wife, Donna, for the past 30 years. His three children include William, who is a writer for films and television; Frances, who is an art director/designer; and Ryan, who is a film writer/director. Lalo Schifrin is a recipient of the 1988 BMI Life Achievement Award. He has been honored by the Israeli government for his “Contributions to World Understanding through Music.” In 1988, he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Lalo was appointed “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres,” one of the highest distinctions granted by Frances’ Minister of Culture, and, in 1998, the Argentine government appointed him Advisor to the President in Cultural Affairs with a rank of Secretary of the Cabinet.


For 35 years Ray Charles was choral director, vocal arranger and general man-of-all-music to Perry Como in television, records and personal appearances. It was Perry Como who christened the choral group on his television program The Ray Charles Singers, and they went on to record 30 LP’s, among them 6 Grammy nominees and the single Love Me With All Your Heart, that went to #3 on the charts. Ray Charles was born and schooled in Chicago. He started working as a singer while still in high school; first as a soloist and later as a member of various radio choirs where he got the experience as a choral arranger that would help him rise to the top of his chosen music category. It was also in Chicago that he met his wife, Bernice, who was a pianist/secretary for a music publisher; and it was there that they had their first child, Michael. On moving to New York, he became very active in radio, and when television arrived (after his stint in the Navy) there was an urgent need for his services in the new medium.

Besides his work with Perry Como, Ray was choral director/arranger of Your Hit Parade, one of the most important pioneer television programs, for 7 years. During this time, he started writing special material which would eventually win for him, twice, the coveted “Emmy”, the award bestowed by the Television Academy for outstanding achievement. Letters, We Get Letters, which was originally written for the Perry Como show, is now a part of David Letterman’s show.

In addition to his work on Perry Como’s highly acclaimed TV specials, he was musical consultant to The Muppet Show, and worked on specials with, among others, Julie Andrews, Gene Kelly, Bing Crosby, Jackie Gleason, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Mac Davis, The Carpenters, as well as The Academy Awards, The Grammy Show, The People’s Choice Awards, the AFI Salute to Billy Wilder, Frank Sinatra’s 75th birthday celebration, Bob Hope’s 90th, and for the past 21 years, the Kennedy Center Honors. Since 1991 he has been musical consultant and vocal arranger for PBS’s highest rated musical shows, both from Washington, D.C.: The Memorial Day Concert and “A Capitol Fourth.” The BBC did a special with Ray about him and the Ray Charles Singers. Ray and his son, Jon, were co-musical directors of the “Sha-Na-Na” series, on which his daughter, Wendy, was assistant director.

On Broadway, Ray was musical director of the original production of Finian’s Rainbow whose original cast album he conducted. In movies he did the choral work for Barbra Streisand’s Funny Lady and Racing With the Moon. And, Every night, somewhere, he can be heard singing the theme on TV’s Three’s Company. Ray Charles has worked in all mediums and continues with select performances of the Ray Charles Singers. He is also very active in the Society of Singers, a non-profit that helps singers who fall on hard times, and serves on the Board of ASMAC as Vice President.

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