Entertainment & Arts

Oscars 2020: From World of Warcraft to conducting the ceremony orchestra

Eimear Noone
Image caption Noone will lead the 42-piece Academy Award orchestra in Los Angeles on Sunday

Eimear Noone, the first woman to conduct the orchestra on Oscars night, is delighted she doesn't have the "nasty job" of starting up the music if a winner's speech goes on too long.

It's a way of getting them off stage if they start to slow the ceremony down.

That particular task goes to Rickey Minor, the awards' musical arranger.

"Rickey has to do the the scary, hard stuff and play people off the stage," Noone tells BBC News. "He's given me the nice, bright, shiny moment. So he's very generous."

She jokes: "Rickey might elbow me off the podium if I go too long."

Noone, whose CV includes conducting the scores for video games including World of Warcraft, Zelda and Diablo, has also conducted at George Lucas's film-making base Skywalker Ranch.

Image copyright Allen J. Schaben/Getty Images

She will take the baton at Sunday's Academy Awards when excerpts from the five nominated musical scores are performed.

The Irish musician has been rehearsing with the 42-piece Oscars orchestra at the famous Capitol Records Building in Los Angeles, where the likes of Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys and Sir Paul McCartney have previously laid down tracks.

"It's been heaven, absolute magic," she said at the Oscar Wilde Awards in LA. "I've got to say every hard day's work I've ever done was worth it to just be there rehearsing with those musicians at Capitol Records."

She has to remain tight-lipped about the ceremony itself, but says "it's a great vibe".

'You're going to make me cry'

Being chosen as the ceremony's first female conductor clearly means a great deal to her, and she gets emotional when she talks about it.

"You're going to make me cry - my inner little eight-year-old's going, 'I kind of dreamed it but I never thought it would really happen, but I did it.'

"I should be jaded after thousands and thousands of concerts and I'm there in the studio like an eight-year-old."

Noone conducts as many as 50 concerts a year, and has worked with orchestras including London's Royal Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony and the Sydney Symphony.

Having worked on video games and co-created the Dublin International Game Music Festival with her husband, Emmy-nominated composer Craig Stuart Garfinkle, she is well-versed in the world of gaming.

Conducting for musical scores and video games is "really similar in many regards", she says.

"We use the type of harmonic language in gaming that's very cinematic, so the type of chord change that evokes an emotion or paints a picture is similar in that way, although in gaming we're not so worried about treading on dialogue."

With a six-year-old son, she has less time to enjoy gaming at home these days, so she sometimes takes games console on tour.

"When I get time, you know, it's good to just get into a different headspace. But these days, I'm not getting as much time."

Her message to any aspiring young female conductors is: "Keep on keeping on. Know thyself. And failure is part of it. It's not the fun part, but it's definitely part of it."

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Image caption JJ Abrams found Oscar-nominated film Parasite "jaw-dropping"

One of the scores Noone will conduct on Sunday is John Williams' music from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which is up for he award for best original score. It is Williams' 52nd Oscar nomination.

The film's director JJ Abrams told BBC News he was "thrilled and grateful" for the movie's three nominations.

He also talked about pop star Ed Sheeran's cameo role in the film. Sheeran also famously had a brief part in a Game of Thrones episode.

"I remember Ed being in that in that alien costume and worrying that there wasn't enough oxygen," Abrams recalled. "But he was terrific and we had a great time."

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Image caption Chris O'Dowd: "What a year it's been for female films and female-driven movies"

Bridesmaids star Chris O'Dowd, who was also at the awards on Thursday, described being at the Oscars as "such a weird, surreal kind of occasion - like a human Ascot, with the pageantry of it all".

He's voicing a forthcoming animated short for Apple TV+ called Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth with Meryl Streep, Ruth Negga and Jacob Tremblay.

He added that he would watch this year's Oscars ceremony at a party, and that it was "insane there wasn't a female nominee in the directors' category".

"But what a year it's been for female films and female-driven movies," he added.

"Wouldn't it be great if we celebrated that Lulu Wang's job on The Farewell is extraordinary, along with Greta Gerwig for Little Women - these are top, top films, and it's great to see that happening here."

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