Pirates Down the Street – Matthijs Kieboom

In this time of crisis with the coronavirus Hollywood is still holding off on major movie releases, but in the Netherlands the movie theaters are open again. One of the first new movies that have been released here is  Pirates Down the Street with music composed by Matthijs Kieboom. The 6th collaboration between Kieboom and director Pim van Hoeve is a children’s movie about a present-day pirate family, who decides to put down their swords and dock their pirate ship in the middle of the street in a quiet village to start a new life. The film is about the parents trying to blend in and about their son becoming friends with two children in the village. 

As a film music enthusiast, I am very fond of massive orchestral scores, but unfortunately that is something I rarely hear when I listen to Dutch film music. Most of the time, the music has been written for a smaller group of musicians, or the music consists of synths and other artificial samples. What I also see from time to time in Dutch television series and movies is the use of existing music or songs. 

I have been following Kieboom for quite some time now, so I already knew that his regular orchestrator Thomas Bryła was working with him on the music for Pirates down the Street and that the music was recorded with a full orchestra in Prague, conducted by Kieboom’s friend Diego Navarro from Spain. In the first track of the score, called “Opening,” you can definitely hear the fruits of their labor. It starts with the main theme for the pirates on an exotic string instrument, the nyckelharpa, before we can listen to the full orchestra playing the pirates theme as well. It is a melody that can be heard throughout the whole score when pirates are involved. Other examples of the theme can be heard in “Children’s Party”, where the theme is played by a smaller ensemble, with the melody performed on an accordion, and in the second part of “Betrayal,” which features a  slower and more sinister rendition. In “Pirates Never Fight Fair” the full, heroic-sounding version can be heard again and it returns for the last time in “Credits”, to ensure that the music will get stuck in the heads of the audience while they are leaving the movie theater.

Recording session in Prague: James Fitzpatrick, Jan Holzner, Matthijs Kieboom, Diego Navarro, Thomas Bryła and Pim van Hoeve © Magdalena Miska-Jackowska

The pirates theme is not the only theme that can be heard in “Opening,” because at the 1:21 mark you can hear the friendship theme for the first time on a glockenspiel. The melody for this theme is based on a song the pirates sing in “A Pirate is a Threat.” You can hear a wonderful version of this melody on the nyckelharpa at the start of “Norms and Values,” while in “Rebuilding the Ship” you hear a delightful mix between the theme’s melody and the song itself.

There are two more themes I need to mention that both appear at the right moments in the movie. One is for the antagonist Cornelius, who is portrayed by a sequence of sinister-sounding and descending notes, as can be heard in the track with his own name “Cornelius.” The other theme is for the boring and conservative neighbor Daandels, who gets a melody like a wave, which is repeated by different instruments. His theme can be heard in “They’re Here” with the melody starting out in the viola, and the cellos taking it from there.

While the music has been written for a children’s movie, it does not sound like that at all. On its own, it sounds like a mature score for some kind of adventure movie, with big orchestral sounds and the use of themes in various ways. If I would not have known any better, you could have easily convinced me that the music was written for an American blockbuster. The music hits all the right spots for me, with thematic storytelling and the use of a full orchestra and additional instruments. It is an excellent score that deserves more attention. It is also a wonderful showcase that it is possible for Dutch film music to compete with music from movies produced in Hollywood. I really hope that more Dutch composers will follow suit.

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The highlights are in bold.

  1. Opening / Opening (5:06)
  2. Piraten / Pirates (2:25)
  3. Familie Donderbus / The Blunderbuss Family (3:25)
  4. Krelis / Cornelius (0:47)
  5. Normen en waarden / Norms and Values (2:03)
  6. De admiraal / The Admiral (0:45)
  7. Zwaardvechten / Sword Fighting (1:17)
  8. Jij kan niet lezen / You Cannot Read (1:44)
  9. Een piraat, dat is gevaar / A Pirate Is a Threat (1:57)
  10. De beste piraten jager / The Best Pirate Hunter (2:19)
  11. Iedereen arriveert / Everyone Arrives (1:52)
  12. De politie / The Police (1:11)
  13. Kinderfeest / Children’s Party (0:50)
  14. Krelis komt voor Billy / Cornelius Comes for Billy (2:25)
  15. De verrekijker / The Spyglass (0:54)
  16. Krelis is terug / Cornelius Returns (1:47)
  17. Hier zijn ze / They’re Here (1:01)
  18. Op zoek naar werk / Looking for a Job (1:34)
  19. Piraten zeggen geen sorry / Pirates Never Apologize (1:19)
  20. Het zit in je bloed / It’s in Your Blood (2:41)
  21. Het scheepswrak / Shipwreck (1:13)
  22. De zoektocht / The Quest (3:06)
  23. Verraad / Betrayal (3:18)
  24. Achterlijke piraat / Ignorant Pirate (0:41)
  25. Kruitbussen / Gunpowder (2:04)
  26. Piraten vechten niet eerlijk / Pirates Never Fight Fair (2:46)
  27. De ontploffing / The Explosion (1:10)
  28. De wederopbouw / Rebuilding the Ship (1:15)
  29. Credits / Credits (2:03)

Total length: 55 minutes
Moviescore Media (2020)

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