Home > Reviews > SEPTEMBER DAWN – William Ross

SEPTEMBER DAWN – William Ross

Original Review by Clark Douglas

Based on a true story, the controversial “September Dawn” has raised a fair amount of buzz. It tells the tale of over 100 people who were massacred by a group of Mormons on September 11th (gasp!), 1857. Apparently the film makes attempts to tie major Mormon figures like Brigham Young to the massacre, offering a message that organized religion and Mitt Romney are dangerous. Much of the film is spent with a young couple who are falling in love, and the knowledge that they will be killed must make “September Dawn” a very unhappy viewing experience for many who go see it.

The film has a cast sprinkled with a few recognizable names… Jon Voight, Dean Cain, and Terence Stamp. The movie was directed by Dean Cain’s father, Christopher Cain, the director of such conspicuous titles as “The Next Karate Kid” and “Young Guns”. Cain hired composer William Ross to write the score – he last worked with Ross on his 1995 feature, “The Amazing Panda Bear Adventure”. In his super-brief liner notes, Cain states, “The art of film composing is to enhance the emotion of the images on the screen. Nobody does this better than Bill Ross.”

If that is the case, than the emotions of “September Dawn” are ceaselessly dour, sad, bleak, and mournful. There are sixteen score cues on the album, and I’m confident that at least 15 of them would be appropriate to play at a funeral. It is sad, mournful music… any individual cue sounds like a sad highlight of some score, but to make an entire score out of this cues? The music moves slowly and somberly towards it’s conclusion, and his virtually no emotional development whatsoever. By that, I mean that the music does not change from beginning to end, moving from warmth to tragedy. It’s tragic all over, and even the late massacre cues can’t even muster something remotely threatening, dangerous, or horrifying… it’s just a big somber-fest.

There is an exception. Ross provides a beautiful love theme for the doomed couple, one that feels like a wonderful, gentle ray of sunshine that occasionally peeks through the cracks. It’s not really a spectacular theme, but it’s so very welcome in a score like this. It first appears in “Jonathan and the Horse”, later in “Love at First Sight”, and once again in “Emily and Jonathan”. Of all the somber pieces, “Elegy” is probably the best, with the solo female vocal at the end. It should be noted that the performances here are quite good, with lots of solo parts for violin and cello. It’s a very respectable score… but I’m afraid I just can’t recommend it, because I can’t imagine that anyone would want to listen to this very often. It’s too sad, slow, and repetitive, without any payoff as a reward or complexity as motivation.

Rating: **½

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (2:49)
  • Jacob’s Scrutiny (1:33)
  • Jonathan and the Horse (3:59)
  • Jacob’s Flashback (2:01)
  • A Bad Bargain (3:18)
  • Exchanging Tokens (1:36)
  • Meeting of the Saints (2:02)
  • Love at First Sight (2:32)
  • Crazed Micah (2:53)
  • Confrontation (3:58)
  • Emily and Jonathan (4:53)
  • Death March (1:53)
  • Elegy (5:10)
  • The Meadow (2:13)
  • Emily’s Death (3:46)
  • Epilogue (1:03)

Running Time: 45 minutes 12 seconds

BSX Records BSXCD-8830 (2007)

Music composed and conducted by William Ross. Orchestrations by William Ross. Recorded and mixed by Armin Steiner. Edited by Peter Myles. Score produced by William Ross and Ford A. Thaxton.

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