Lee Holdridge

Composer of the theme and other music for Beauty and the Beast


Lee Holdridge's website

IMDB on Lee Holdridge

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your interests.

I grew up in Costa Rica and went to school in Boston and New York. I was always interested in music. My father was a scientist and had hoped I would continue in science. I did pursue astronomy and flying as hobbies, but was always determined that I would compose.


Do you come from a family of musicians, or was music a path you found for yourself?

I found music pretty much on my own. My mother played some guitar, she being Puerto Rican, loved the guitar. I heard a lot of classical music growing up so that spurred the interest.


Tell us about your musical training. When did it start? How did it develop? What is the first instrument you played? Is that still your instrument of choice, and do you play others?

I started studying the violin at age 10. Within a couple of years I started re-composing my violin exercises, which launched my composing dreams. By the time I was fifteen I was writing chamber works for small ensembles made up of my high school musician friends.


When did you start composing and arranging? Did the arranging grow out of necessity, based on what was available in groups you were working with…simply wanting to hear things the way you imagined them…something we didn’t think of?

I had been a composer all through high school and into college. When I came to New York and I needed work, I started accepting jobs arranging for people. This turned out to be the door opener for me into the music business. I started by arranging college shows and then some small off-off Broadway shows. From there I started arranging for pop artists and finally was brought to Neil Diamond, who gave me my first big arranging break with the song “Holly, Holy” a big hit in 1969. Working for Diamond brought me to Universal Pictures and I started composing scores for films and television shows all during the 1970s.


Can you tell us how it happened that you were proposed to write the music for Beauty and the Beast? What was your reaction to the idea of a Beauty and the Beast show? When you first read the script, did you ever imagine it was going to be such a hit?

I had a phone call from my agent early in 1987 regarding a new CBS series that was interested in me composing for them. I had a meeting with Ron Koslow, and he gave me the script of the pilot episode to read. It read beautifully and I thought this was very unusual fare for television. I wasn’t sure if it would succeed, but it would certainly be different. I attended part of the filming of the pilot episode and was very taken by the actors, the make up and the lighting. The schedule was very tight and I was only given 4 days to create the score for the pilot episode, so I didn’t have time to ponder a lot. I just had to dive in and write.


Don Davis is the other musician who worked at the music of Beauty and the Beast. How did the two of you work together/share the responsibilities for the show’s music?

Don had impressed us all with his superb gift, and he had started out by helping a number of composers doing orchestration and even some ghosting. He helped my friend Alf Clausen on the “Moonlighting” TV series, another series I had helped start. His cues and his orchestrations were brilliant. Later, when I was searching for someone to carry on the B & B series, Don came to mind. He had composed some science fiction scores so I thought he would do well with the fantasy element. He turned out to be a great find!



Most of us, of course, believe that Beauty and the Beast’s main theme is the best thing ever composed in the history of television (along with all its music, of course). How did it come to be? Was there any particular source of inspiration?

I love that Main Theme. When something is right, IT’S RIGHT! The theme was hard to come by. It didn’t occur to me right off the bat. As I said before, I only had 4 days to do the whole score, so I was in my frantic mode. About the end of the 2nd day I watched the scene where Catherine walks through a shaft of light from a doorway, leaving the underground world for the world above. The poetic quality of that moment got to me and I started playing the harp-oboe motif that starts the theme.


We’ve noticed that, surrounding the main characters of every episode, there’s a particular theme from which the rest of the music is “built”. Did you compose those themes by focusing on a specific action in the script, or did you rather have to “study” the characters?

The composer of a film is always reacting to what is on the film. He or she builds his score around the existing characters, dialogue and action. The decisions as to themes and styles are always subject to what the film is about, who the people are and where it is all going. Period and filmic style are big factors as well.


Music was a key element in Beauty and the Beast: it was ever present from the first second until the last one. How long did it take to finish the music for a whole episode? What were the “stages” from the moment you got the script until the music was ready to be played? How many people would you say were involved in that area?

Television is a fast medium. Schedules are tight. Each episode of Beauty and the Beast gave the composer 1 week to see the film, “spot it” (that is, choose the musical moments with the producer) and then compose and record it. There was an average of 20 minutes of music every week. I used to say it was like composing a symphony every week.


When a voice is recorded in a studio, one listens and sings with the soundtrack, or at least following a rhythm pattern. Considering that the actors film without any background music, how is the music and speech or action synchronized?

The composer, usually aided by a top notch music editor, will work out the tempos and lengths of cues to fit the dialogue or action. That is the art.


The original draft of a script goes through many changes until it becomes the final version. How did those changes affect your work? Was there ever a last-minute correction which might have put you in a situation that made it hard to have it ready in time?

Usually script changes are made long before filming. These would not affect the composer very much since the composer usually deals with the finished film. However, should the director or producers decide to make a change to the editing of the picture, this would affect the composer and the composer would change his music accordingly.

You must know that there are a lot of people who had never really listened to classical music before B&B. What do you think of the phenomenon of people actually learning to enjoy Beethoven or Schubert thanks to a TV show? What role did you play in the selection of the classical music played?

I think it is always wonderful if a film leads people to listen to more classical music. After all, this is where all music comes from. Ron Koslow made a lot of the classical music choices when he was writing the scripts. Occasionally he would ask for suggestions. Of course, the scores also had a symphonic quality to them as well.



Beauty and the Beast has given us precious jewels in terms of music: there’s the “Of Love and Hope” CD (which was recently re-released), and two beautiful limited editions, “The Beastmaster-Beauty and the Beast” CDs (with all the music from the pilot episode), and Don Davis’ Cd “Hyperspace-Beauty and the Beast”. Where is the rest? Is it safely stored somewhere? Is there any hope for the fans to get more?

Not all the music from the episodes has been released. Everything is safely stored away. I’m not sure that there will be other CD releases. However, the DVD releases will contain everything.


We know there are small treasures the fans never saw in B&B, for example, scenes which were cut. What about the music? Is there anything you composed for the show that we never got to hear?

Everything Don and I wrote was recorded for the particular films. I can’t think of anything that was left out.


Do you have any anecdotes to share from those days working with B&B?

The work was fairly straightforward. The schedule was so tight that there wasn’t much room for anything. I do recall watching one of the episodes I was going to score. The story involved Vincent and Catherine listening to a concert in Central Park from the underground world. Ron had planned to use the Rachmaninoff 2nd Piano Concerto for the piece they are listening to. I pointed out to Ron that this work was still under copyright and that he would have to get the rights to it. CBS didn’t want to spend the money so Ron asked me for a public domain work that was also romantic. I suggested the Grieg A minor Piano concerto, which is what he used. We giggled after that because when Catherine asks Vincent the name of the piece and he says “Grieg Piano Concerto” we would add, “you know the one that is public domain”.


Is there a piece of your work that you hold especially dear, of the music you wrote for B&B, and of your other creations?

To a composer his works are like children. He loves them all, flaws and all. Listeners may like one work more than others and see the differences. We composers tend to focus on whatever we are working on right now. It’s always the current work that grabs our interest. Once we are done with something, we move on.


What about a favorite composer? What would you like to hear right now?

I love classical music most of all. I love everything from Bach all the way through the 20th century to composers like Bartok, Vaughn Williams and Shostakovich. I also love the great film composers, Korngold, Steiner, Waxman and Goldsmith and the like. I love great songwriting as well. I’m very varied in my interests.


Tell us a little about the physical place where you work. Is there any time of the day when you enjoy working the most?

I have a studio in my house. It used to be a piano and a desk, but given what’s happened over the last 15 years, my studio has evolved into a completely digital studio utilizing 7 computers and several LCD screens. I still play a bit, but I do most of my work in my head and enter it into computer sequencing programs. From there I can orchestrate and print and e-mail scores and midi files as needed.



What kinds of performances do you work with other than your work with the TV/movie industry? Do you ever work with master classes, educational clinics, etc.?

I have composed a lot of concert works and I have a few classical recordings of my works, some which I have conducted. I’m also very involved with opera and have participated in the Los Angeles Opera Outreach programs, having composed 3 one act operas, a major concert opera and soon, another 1 hour opera for their programs.


What are you working on at the moment?

I just finished a major documentary feature film for Moriah Films on the life of Simon Wiesenthal entitled I Have Never Forgotten You. The film is narrated by Nicole Kidman and will premiere at the Berlin Film Festival in February.


You’ve been to Beauty and the Beast conventions, and you agreed to this interview for our annual online celebration. What do you think about this fandom after all these years?

I am amazed by the loyalty and the love of the fans. God Bless you all for keeping this wonderful series alive and well.


Is there anything else you would like to say to our guests about yourself and your work, about Beauty and the Beast, or any other subject?

When you stand back from it all, the series is a collection of some very wonderful films, well written, well acted and very well produced. It represents the best of what television can be. I for one am proud of my association with the series. I am very grateful that the devoted fans will make sure that many generations to come will enjoy this excellent interpretation of the Beauty and the Beast legend.


Lee Holdridge, Los Angeles, January 2007







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