84, Charing Cross Road

George Fenton

1997/2007: Varèse Sarabande VCL 0307 1062
Limited Collector’s Edition of 1000 copies

  1. Fanfare
    Main Title (The Journey)
  2. Book of Love Poems
  3. Marks and Co.
  4. Dear Speed
  5. Christmas Gift, 1949 (Sussex Carol)
  6. Nora Writes
  7. Corelli: Church Sonata in A
  8. Pilgrimage—Helene and Frank
  9. The Wedding
  10. The Subway
  11. Love between Friends
  12. “Tread Softly…”
  13. Helene’s First Letter
  14. Business as Usual
  15. Festival of Britain Conga
  16. Daydream
    Meeting Ginny and Ed
  17. The Move, 1958
  18. New Year, 1960 (Auld Lang Syne)
  19. Hopes Fade
  20. Love between Friends (Reprise)
    Closing Credits

I didn’t even know this had ever been released, let alone on CD, but because of a truly fortuitous passing thought to look for it I have very gratefully added it to my library in early 2019 thanks to a chap in Taiwan (via eBay). I love the film and have had bits of its music lingering in my mind since basically 1987, so having the stuff in full glory now is just magical and wondrous.

The sequencing of the tracks here (which, by the way, do omit “The Messiah”) isn’t chronologically matched to the film’s scenes, although many of them do run in that general direction. Their titles are shorthand references for film scenes, and in that regard just running my eyes along them brings back touching memories of each.

And that is a key reason I was so keen to acquire this soundtrack, and why I got downright weepy when playing it once it actually arrived: as lovely as the music is on its own, it acts as an exponential gateway, the music bringing back all the emotions and information presented and evoked by the film scenes, the latter in turn being distilled parts of the original book (a collection of letters), and then even that level being exploded back open to be about Helene Hanff’s life experiences, which I first learned of via her delightful memoir Underfoot in Show Business when I was maybe 12 years old, and about American/UK/world history that was happening from the 1940s to 1970s that either set the stage or served as backdrop for all of the above. That Fenton’s music happens to beautifully present a ’40s–’50s sound overall just deepens the sustained personal experience for me.

I can’t speak with any authority as to the quality of the composition, but I do sense that one of the motifs of Fenton’s themes for New York music deliberately mimics George Gershwin (well, and to good effect).