Paul Kelly

2006, my 52nd year on earth, was a tough one – many people I knew died. It seemed suddenly that things had sped up in that way. Now it’s just normal.

That year I also had a disastrous experience trying to write a score for the film Romulus My Father. Richard Roxburgh, who directed it, approached me for the job. I was excited. I had read the book years before and loved it. I read it again and loved it even more the second time round.

I am a great admirer of Richard’s. We got together a few times, listened to music from Moldavia, Armenia, Romania, music that related to the lead characters’ background. We discussed favourite film composers (Rota, Iglesias, Santaolalla), cooked meals together, went to the country to some of the film’s locations. A friendship was budding.


The rough cut of the film came in and was looking good. I went to work and wrote a few pieces. Richard didn’t like them. I re-jigged them a little but was still way off the mark. It was very awkward because Richard and I liked each other and both badly wanted it to work.

I went back to the well and came up with what I thought was a terrific opening sequence for the film, featuring a mey, a Turkish wind instrument, and harmonium. Richard thought it was all wrong. Uh, oh. Time was getting tight for the deadline. I asked him if it would be better if I resigned and he got someone else, someone who could orchestrate properly. He said Yes and sounded relieved. So was I.

I took Richard’s reject – waste not, want not – and stuck it on the front of a new song, the first song of a new record. The bands’ five foreheads furrowed at first when they heard it but they came to love it. For me it was like having a nice beautiful bow to tie 2006 up in and send it far behind me.

© Paul Kelly

Further reading: Romulus My Father

 Feelings Of Grief, a fan’s Stereo Story


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