“No Trouble”: Bob Christianson On Creating An Emmy Nominated Song

BY: Marjorie Galas, Editor

Composer Bob Christianson knew immediately that he and lyricist Alisa Hauser had created something very special upon completing the song “No Trouble”.

“When a song works, it works. It bypasses the brain and goes straight to the heart,” said Christianson. “It’s the type of song every writer hopes to write at least once in their lifetime.”

See Also: From Glee To Cover: Emmy-Nominated Composer James Levine

Christianson and Hauser’s song, featured in “A Christmas Carol – The Concert” has been nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Original Music and Lyrics along with songs featured in “Key & Peele“, “Saturday Night Live”, “Sofia The First” , “Sons of Anarchy” and the “67th Annual Tony Awards”. Now receiving his second nomination (he was previously nominated for music he wrote for ABC Sports), Christianson was completely caught off guard when he received the call from his HMS Audio recorder who worked alongside him on the production’s sound mix. While a small portion of the full score for the PBS telecast “A Christmas Carol – The Concert” Christianson was enthusiastic to receive the recognition.

“We know people in the Academy really listened to the song; that’s how we got the nomination,” said Christianson. “A song recognition is fantastic. If anything, it will make people want to hear the rest of the score.”

Christianson began his career as a musical director/conductor on Broadway for productions including “Godspell” and “Gilda Radner – Live from New York.” Through his career, he has composed scores for numerous films and television projects , twenty-five award winning sports themes for CBS, ESPN and ABC, and has scored over one thousand commercials. He never lost his love for live performance and returned to the format several years ago when he composed “Too Hot to Handle” – a gospel, rock and jazz recreation of “The Messiah.” Performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the production was enthusiastically received. Wanting to create another event piece, Christianson turned to “A Christmas Carol” for its universal and timeless themes.

“The story is bullet-proof – the theme of redemption is something everyone can relate to,” said Christianson. “The power of the orchestra really pulls people in. It’s amazing to watch the audience.”

Christianson had great trust and confidence in his collaborator Hauser, and the unique vision she would bring to writing the book for “A Christmas Carol – The Concert.” The two had met at a BMI workshop years ago, and had successfully collaborated a few times since first being introduced. Christianson was aware the classic tale had been re-told countless times, by everyone from Vincent Price to Patrick Stewart in a one man show. Finding a unique vision would be their key to a successful production.

“Alisa had never seen the black and white versions. Her first encounter was with Bill Murray (in ‘Scrooged’)” said Christianson. “We placed our emphasis on the ghost story, creating pieces that were over the top and filled with loud sounds.”

The orchestration Christianson relied upon to create an edgy mood focused primarily on strings, cellos, low woodwinds, double base, trombones, and lots of percussion. During emotional points of the story, heavier woodwinds were used in addition to a keyboard with synth sounds. Working with Hauser, the two approached the songs as if they were creating a musical, while fully aware it would be performed by an orchestra. Scrooge (Michael Aaron Linder) has musical components that interrupt the child- like, upbeat melody performed by characters such as nephew Fred (Scott Coulter). By the end of the production, Scrooge’s musical numbers become upbeat and melodic. Christianson and Hauser were conscientious of outlining the humanity of the characters with the score, and credit the singers and orchestra in bringing the performance to life.

“Scrooge is mean, but he’s damaged goods. There’s a reason he behaves as he does. We wanted to give him a level of humanity. The cast takes it to the next level. Michael Linder as Scrooge blew it out of the water,” said Christianson.

Christianson credits the success of the score on a strong fifty-fifty collaboration. Surprisingly, the two collaborators rarely worked in the same room together.

“We worked together through email and the phone. She had two children under five at that time,” said Christianson. So it made it a little difficult for her to get together. “

A Christmas Carol – The Concert” will have a repeated air date on PBS in December, 2014. To follow PBS and learn when a date is set, please visit:
http://www.pbs.org/