Nanny McPhee

Patrick Doyle

" While Doyle does offer us the well rounded Nanny McPhee score, full of playful mischief and tomfoolery, it's far easier to enjoy while watching the movie, instead of merely enjoying the pure music of the cd. "

Written by Marie-Lise Van Wassenhove - Review of the regular release

Patrick Doyle seems to have found his way towards fantasy films, or, perhaps more accurately, directors of (children's) fantasy movies finally seem to have taken notice of the Scottish composer. It's a bit strange it has taken this long, since more than ten years have passed since Doyle surprised us with his touchingly beautiful score for Alfonso Cuarón's A Little Princess.

There seems to have been some kind of turning point with his scoring the fourth instalment of the Harry Potter-franchise (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, for those who are not that into the adventures of the bespectacled young wizard), following the illustrious footprints of John Williams. In 2006 we heard more of his music in the fantasy coming-of-age flick Eragon, and earlier that year, we were treated with his soundtrack for Nanny McPhee. Emma Thompson not only wrote the screenplay, she also stars in this magical tale of an ugly nanny who takes care of widower Colin Firth's "naughty" children, while he searches for a new wife.

I'll get straight to the point: Nanny McPhee is a score I really had to grow in to. When I listened to it for the first time, the music struck me as neither bad, nor exceptionally good. The tracks resemble one another closely, but not totally, and after some more attentive listening, I was able to discern three major themes.

The first one, the Family-theme, is vaguely stated on harpsichord in the opening track They've Eaten the Baby! It is more noticeable in the beautiful Secret Toast (there played by woodwinds) and the tender The Pink Chair. The melody sounds very nostalgic and seems to bring back your cheesiest childhood memories...

The Nanny McPhee character also gets her own theme, introduced in "No More Nannies" and wonderfully developed in "I Did Knock". It makes appearances throughout the score: playful in "Goodnight Children" and sparkling nostalgic in "The Room at the Top of the Stairs". The little bells, choir and whirling strings create a magical atmosphere.

The third and last theme is mostly present in the second half of the album, although it can briefly be heard at the end of "Secret Toast and Jam". It's especially noticeable in "Girl in the Carriage" and "Snow in August", where the orchestra gives it a sweeping, romantic and magical tone. The theme is mostly played by woodwinds, accompanied by strings and tinkling bells, and the melody sounds actually quite a lot like the Family Theme.

The thing I really like about Doyle's score is the wonderfully energetic orchestration. Sparkling, magical, ... words that reappear again and again in this review and that just sum up the essence of Doyle's music. There is no room for tenuous underscore. The music is constantly in motion and keeps begging your attention like an obnoxious child. A lot of tracks last just a bit longer then a minute, which also adds to the dynamisms of the score. No time for staying or wandering too long in one scene, the story and music must go on! This doesn't mean there isn't time for some really beautiful music. Some tracks are wonderfully refreshing, like "Lord of the Donkeys", "Soup du Jour" (with xylophone, an instrument that's always lovely to hear in orchestral music), and "I Smell Damp", with dramatic brass sections.

Everything is written with so much (after)thought and eye for detail. Think for example of "Toad in the Teapot", in which the saxophone provides the necessary croaking.

Okay, after all this boasting, perhaps one point of criticism. The shortness of most tracks which creates the dynamic moods also makes the score very fragmented. Furthermore, Doyle is a composer who writes closely to the action on screen (compare for example his score for Harry Potter to Williams' previous works). This means of course, that the music works wonderfully with the movie, but is less effective when listened to on disc.

In conclusion, while Doyle does offer us the well rounded Nanny McPhee score, full of playful mischief and tomfoolery, it's far easier to enjoy while watching the movie, instead of merely enjoying the pure music of the cd.


1. They've Eaten the Baby (2.40)
2. No More Nannies (1.22)
3. Secret Toast and Jam (2.28)
4. A Clockwork Mouse (1.01)
5. The Pink Chair (0.59)
6. I Did Knock (5.59)
7. Goodnight, Children (4.22)
8. Measle Medicine (1.28)
9. Soup du Jour (1.10)
10. I Smell Damp (1.39)
11. Barnyard Fashion (1.33)
12. Lord of the Donkeys (0.37)
13. The Girl in the Carriage (3.17)
14. Kites in the Sky (2.25)
15. The Room at the Top of the Stairs (1.43)
16. Toad in the Teapot (3.38)
17. Our Last Chance (2.14)
18. Mrs. Brown's Lullaby (1.19)
19. The Lady in Blue (2.02)
20. Bees and Cakes (3.42)
21. Snow in August (7.03)

Total Length: 53.33
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 25 votes - average 3.56/5)

Released by

Varèse Sarabande 302 066 690 2 (regular release 2006)

Conducted by

James Shearman

Orchestrations by

Patrick Doyle, James Shearman & Larry Ashmore

Performed by

The London Symphony Orchestra