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My Brothers & Sisters to present a well-honed ode to filmmaker Tim Burton

Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice,” starring Michael Keaton, started Jamie Searle’s obsession with the filmmaker.
Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice,” starring Michael Keaton, started Jamie Searle’s obsession with the filmmaker. File photo

His infatuation with the films of Tim Burton goes back to when Jamie Searle was 6 years old. And it wasn’t only the movie itself that enraptured him.

“I remember as a kid, standing at the TV and watching the main credits to ‘Beetlejuice’ roll,” he said. “It excited me so much. I was obsessed with it, reacting to the music. The movie was great, but the main titles sucked me in. They made me go to the TV and watch with intent. I fell in love with it.”

That infatuation lay dormant for a while, but it never expired. A few years ago, Searle bought a recording of the film’s soundtrack, which aroused his interest once again.

“It started gnawing at me, wanting to do that music to satisfy the 6-year-old in me,” he said.

So he started transcribing the music, some of it by ear because “I’d listened to it a million times,” he said.

Right before he finished, a grander idea hit him: “I decided to do a bunch of (Burton) stuff and do a Halloween show.”

That was back in August. After a slew of 12- and 14-hour days scoring music, he quenched his ambitions and composed a multimedia tribute. “My Brothers & Sisters Presents: The Films, Music and Costumes of Tim Burton” will be performed Friday night at the Riot Room in Westport.

My Brothers & Sisters is the pop orchestra Searle founded two years ago. In mid-April, it released “Violet Music, Volume 1,” a lavish collection of songs that tap into a variety of genres, from funk, soul and R&B to jazz and gospel — all written, charted, scored and orchestrated by Searle.

For the Burton project, his band will be augmented by more than half a dozen other musicians who will help deliver the ornate sounds that make up the music of Danny Elfman, who has scored many of Burton’s films.

“Clarinet, flute, harpsichord, church organ, tuba, everything you hear that adds to the drama within those scenes will be there,” he said. “(Elfman) has lots of rhythm. So there’s glockenspiel, xylophone and tons of tambourines. It really adds a lot.

“Musicians who normally don’t do orchestral things are coming through and doing amazing work. And orchestral musicians who don’t normally do rock ’n’ roll and R&B are having lots of fun with it.”

And there are plenty of duties for his band’s three vocalists.

“In ‘Ice Dance,’ the main feature is the vocal,” he said. “In the main titles of ‘Beetlejuice,’ toward the last third, there’s a haunting vocal that goes through. ‘This Is Halloween,’ there’s a gigantic chorus that is mostly vocals. And the ladies are doing an amazing job learning those parts.”

The performance will feature plenty of visuals. All performers will dress like characters from Burton movies. Each number will be preceded by a monologue that introduces the piece. And the corresponding scene from the movie will be projected on a screen behind the band as a piece is performed.

The set list will include “This Is Halloween” from “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Clown Dream” from “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” and the main titles from “Edward Scissorhands” and “Beetlejuice.” Then there’s the finale: “Ice Dance” from “Edward Scissorhands.”

“That part in the film where Winona Ryder goes out and starts dancing, I’m going to cue two big fans to start blowing, and then we’ll start tossing fake snow at them and it will be snowing all over the bar,” Searle said. “I’m so excited for it.”

After that 40-minute set is finished, My Brothers & Sisters will perform two sets of originals and covers.

As he studied Elfman and other film composers, Searle said, he learned a lot about the union of film and music.

“Most of it is about capturing the illusion,” he said. “When you’re watching a film, you can’t focus on every note. So you have to get the most clear, vivid illusion as you possibly can. Scoring to be dramatic rather than specific, especially with a reduced orchestra, is paramount. So you have to make sure everything feels as dramatic as possible. If you listen to music videos and early films without the music, they don’t make sense. Getting the two together heightens each other’s drama.”

Searle said for now there are no plans for a repeat performance of his tribute. Instead, he’s using it as an inspiration and a springboard.

“I think this is the tip of the iceberg as far as how far I can push myself creatively,” he said. “There has been something consistent in what I’ve done, and that’s to combine things — amalgamation. Now I’m painting with a broader brush, bringing literal worlds together. That’s where I’m headed.”

Halloween night, he’ll arouse and combine an array of worlds, including the one he was living in when he was a young boy entranced by the sights and sounds of Tim Burton.

To reach Timothy Finn, call 816-234-4781 or send email to Follow the Back to Rockville blog on Twitter @kcstarrockville.


“My Brothers & Sisters Presents: The Films, Music and Costumes of Tim Burton” will be performed Friday night at the Riot Room, 4048 Broadway. Showtime is 7 p.m. Admission is $7. It’s a 21-and-older show.