Their music has delighted and bewitched generations of young cinema lovers. And now the genius of the Sherman Brothers is being celebrated in a special season of films at Storyhouse.
Storyhouse’s Young Programmers are behind the week-long event this month, with cinema’s most delightful composing duo being championed by programmer Charlie Nelson who is passionate about classic movies—and while most people may not be able to pick out the siblings on an identity parade, they can certainly hum many of their tunes.
Over their 50-year career, Richard and Robert Sherman wrote some of the best-known and best-loved songs and film scores, along with music for television, stage and for Walt Disney’s theme parks.
The Sherman Brothers’ season runs from 20-27 August in the Storyhouse cinema, with screenings of four fantastic family favourites for which the talented pair created the soundtracks.
Young Programmers project coordinator Phoebe Orsmond says:
“In the Young Programmers, every so often everyone gets to have a little think about what they would like to see in the building, and Charlie has been championing the Sherman brothers for at least a year. They’re a passion of his.
“We were trying to find a suitable time for the films and then we thought a family-focused event in the summer might be the best.”
The brothers, sons of prolific Tin Pan Alley songsmith Al Sherman, created magic at the piano – their work on Mary Poppins, which garnered them not one but two Oscars, is immortalised in the film Saving Mr Banks.
Walt Disney reportedly would ask them to come into his office every so often simply to play him ‘Feed the Birds’, his favourite song from the film.
Elsewhere they provided the earworms for box office hits like the phantasmagorical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Parent Trap, The Aristocats, The Jungle Book, The Sword in the Stone and The Slipper and the Rose.
Robert Sherman died in 2012, but brother Richard is still with us and four years ago at the age of 90 he composed a wistful song for the Disney film Christopher Robin – and sang it himself during the credits.
Four films featuring the brothers’ music – The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bedknobs and Broomsticks and Mary Poppins – will be screened during the week, accompanied by free activities in The Kitchen.
A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to create the season. Phoebe, who has been involved with Storyhouse since it opened and is a former Young Trustee, explains: “We had quite a few sessions on it. Charlie had strong opinions about what his favourites were, but to make sure everyone was involved we made a big list of the films.
“We took a few out like The Jungle Book and The Aristocats because some of the content hasn’t stood the test of time – it’s not as PC as it should be; some of the cultures represented in them are, I think, a little off base.
“With any season we choose we like to make sure that we’re comfortable with all the films we might show.
“And then we split them all up and everyone watched one or two, so we all watched them freshly, we weren’t just thinking ‘oh we really loved this film when we were younger’.
“Some people may have only seen one and we’re showing four, and we really don’t like to show something we haven’t watched.”
Phoebe herself viewed Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. But despite the Young Programmers being keen on the obscure 1989 animation, they weren’t able to secure the rights to show it.
Elsewhere, they also enjoyed the 1961 version of The Parent Trap starring Hayley Mills, but Phoebe reveals they couldn’t find a crisp enough version for the big screen.
“We’re hoping there might be children and families who haven’t engaged with these yet. It might be the parents who have seen the films but haven’t yet shown them to their young ones,” Phoebe adds of the final choices.
“We watched Winnie the Pooh with the Youth Theatre when they were doing a show, as a break, and they were all thoroughly engaged with it whether they’d seen it or not.”
The Young Programmers have also written bespoke descriptions of the films for the Storyhouse website, along with a fun ‘Sherman Fact’ for each one.
Young Programmers was formed three years ago to give a voice to young people in Chester and to understand and learn about all aspects of programming a cultural centre including marketing, exhibition and distribution, event management, scheduling and working as a team.
Its members, aged 14 to 25, get real life experience creating their own events including film screenings, open mic nights and building takeovers, as well as developing digital events.
During the Covid lockdowns, Young Programmers researched and recorded a series of well-received podcasts, In On the Act, covering different elements of the arts and creative industries.
Other initiatives have included events around Black History Month, Chester Pride, and seasons of films including Our North – celebrating the north of England on screen.
The Sherman Brothers’ season runs from 20-27 August.
Tickets are £4 each or just £3.60 for Storyhouse Members.
Storyhouse Cinema is supported by Film Hub North with National Lottery funding on behalf of the BFI Film Audience Network.