Life of Pi score goes live at TSO season opener

Mychael Danna reworks film music for new symphonic composition in world premiere at Toronto Symphony Orchestra on Sept. 19.

“We are family practitioners of this art,” says Jayashri, whose voice was heard on the Oscar-winning Life of Pi score by Canadian composer Mychael Danna. The spiritual otherworldliness of her voice was one of Danna’s first inspirations when he was commissioned by director Ang Lee to write the movie’s music.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra opens its 2017/18 season — conductor Peter Oundjian’s 14th and last as artistic director — with a Sept. 19 concert that unveils Danna’s reworking of the score into a roughly 20-minute symphonic composition. Jayashri, fresh off a singing tour in Australia, will be the soloist in this world premiere, being attended by both Danna and Lee, who will participate in a Q&A at Roy Thomson Hall.

Winnipeg-born Danna, whose music for the films The Breadwinner and Alias Grace is being heard during TIFF, now makes his home in Los Angeles. The concert is a chance for his whole family, including his two school-aged sons, to visit the city where he used to live as well as to reconnect with Lee, who is a friend.

The two had already collaborated on The Ice StormRide with the Devil and parts of Hulkbefore Life of Pi. Danna remembers reading The Life of Pi and thinking, “No one can make a movie out of this.”

But Ang contacted him, declaring he was perfect for the job. “He said, ‘You were born to do it.’ You are a Canadian man married to an Indian woman (Aparna). You have a foot in all the themes. Let’s do it.”

The story of the book, by Canadian author Yann Martel, and the resulting movie is now familiar: Pi, a young hero from India, finds himself adrift in a boat on the Pacific Ocean with exotic animals for companions. Danna had heard Jayashri’s album of children’s lullabies and felt “that was the right approach” to Pi’s story.

He travelled the world and the music was recorded in numerous countries.