Award-winning remake of 'Edmund Hillary: Ocean to Sky' features music from the heart of Valla

Composer/musician Paul Jarman, left, with producer/musician Stewart Peters
Composer/musician Paul Jarman, left, with producer/musician Stewart Peters

In 1977 Sir Edmund Hillary embarked on his final adventure, an expedition in jet boats up the entire length of India's sacred Ganges River to its Himalayan heart, making the first ascent of the peak Akash Parbat.

World renowned film maker Mike Dillon was there, filming all the way. The result was the multi award-winning film, Edmund Hillary: Ocean to Sky.

Fast forward to 2019: it is the 100th anniversary of Hillary's birth and Mike is doing a remake of the film, a love letter to his friend the great adventurer, who inspired so many to explore beyond their normal limits.

What he needs is a sound track for the film - so he contacts his colleague Valla-based composer Paul Jarman, with whom he had worked on a number of films.

The two met back in 2006 when Mike was filming 15-year-old Australian Christopher Harris' attempt on Mt Everest.

Paul had met Christopher and his family in 2003, when he read about the 12 year-old summitting Mt Cook in New Zealand.

"At the time I was myself a mad keen rock climber living in the Blue Mountains and I contacted the family to talk about writing a piece of music for Christopher.

"Not more than a minute after I'd left the message, the phone rang and it was Christopher's father - the family lived five minutes down the road from me!" Paul said.

Paul wrote the song, The Will to Climb, as a commission for the 10th anniversary of Gondwana Voices and it has since become one of his best-loved pieces, going on to become part of the opening ceremony of the 2003 Rugby World Cup, featuring the World in Union Choir and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.

"Chris' song was being played at the Rugby World Cup in Australia just as he was summitting Mt Kilimanjaro in Kenya - that was awesome."

When the request to write something for the Hillary remake came in 2019, Paul was thrilled.

"I felt this was something I really wanted to do, but I was completely booked out and at a loss as to how I would do it!

"I managed to make a two week window in my schedule.

"I knew it was going to be a big ask as normally you need a couple of months to write the music for a full length documentary.

"But then I discovered producer Stewart Peters had moved to Valla with his partner Snez ... I kid you not, 800 metres up the road is this fabulous studio including a grand piano. And better still, Stewart plays instruments I don't."

Mike had sent Paul a version of the film with a couple of temporary tracks as a guide, so he set to, watching the film over and over to create a cue sheet.

"Stewart and I jammed on a few instruments and then we just went for it - I wrote, we played and he produced, filling the gaps. We also had jazz guitarist Guy Strazz playing for us and we included the Valla Voices humming a Maori lullaby. It was very organic.

"A good film score has to be cohesive. This movie is a spiritual letter to India but also a very personal journey for Sir Edmund and his son Peter. Sir Edmund's wife Louise and his daughter Belinda had been killed in a plane crash two years earlier and this was a trip father and son really needed to do.

"When the noise of the jet boats stops, I went for the spirituality of the river, the quiet India. I'd toured in India a number of times with Sirocco so I knew what I was looking for."

Having had its world premiere in October 2019 in Sir Edmund Hillary's home town of Auckland, this funny, moving, beautiful movie is coming to Sawtell, screening at the Majestic Cinema. Tickets for March 3 have already sold out but it is not to late to book for March 9, 7pm.