Composer Scores A New Life

CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Martha Teichner reports about a children's concert at Carnegie Hall nearly two years ago: three children's fables with music. Patrick Doyle, who composes film scores, wrote the music for one fable, "The Face in the Lake."

Teichner had no idea how much like this fable real life would turn out to be - that it would resemble a wintry period of Doyle's life, when he wasn't certain he would ever read "The Face in the Lake" to his own children.
According to "The Face in the Lake," each year, Olwen delivered the springtime. It was said her gentle kiss could make even the deadwood of bleakest winter burst with fragrant blossoms. In the tale, Spring does escape the deadly tyranny of Winter and is reborn.


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An illustration for
The Face in the Lake


Doyle knew something was wrong while he was writing the music for the fable. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. By the time the CD was recorded with actress Kate Winslet narrating, he had begun intense chemotherapy and had lost his hair.

"The stress built up and built up," Doyle recalls. "I think for me burnout happened. And I made myself sick."

For a decade, Doyle had been writing film scores, one after another, better than one a year for movies people have actually heard of. Twice he was nominated for Oscars, for Sense and Sensibility and Hamlet. He's written the music for half a dozen of director Kenneth Branagh's films.

Branagh launched Doyle's composing career and likes to say they grew up together in the film business. And during Doyle's illness, the bond between the two was apparent.

"I was in New York when I heard," Branagh says. "And I came back about a week later and went to see him in [the] hospital."

"It's always a bit of a shock when you see people you love...suddenly wired up to a thousand different things," he adds.

Doyle spent more than six months in St. George's hospital in South London. Branagh visited him almost every day.

"The experience, beyond the physical pain and discomfort, was a profound shock for him spiritually," Branagh notes. "He was in such depression - deep, painful depression."

"The shock, the fear is unbelievable," Doyle recalls. "The first night, there [were] two nurses. I was completely beside myself...in tears, smothered in tears."

"Sometimes you'd have a bit of a sniffle when you left the hospital, you know, and look back as he'd sometimes be at the window loking back at the car park," Branagh says. "And it can be a very lonely place these four walls."

"There were days I'd just feel; I'd be awful. I'd just think, 'I'm gonna die today,'" Doyle says.

In cases like this, each one-week cycle of chemotherapy is followed by at least a month of isolation in a sterilized room. Patients can receive occasional visitors but cannot leave. Doyle went through that process four times.

"I thought it was good especially to keep making him laugh, keep, you know, trying to assure him that his career ws overÂ…and that nobody was interested in him, generally anything black and awful," Branagh says. "That wasn't of course the case."

It was spring when Doyle finally left the hospital and went to his vacation home in France to recuperate with his family. He had written the music for "The Face in the Lake" there and it was as if it had all come full circle.

"It is very, very humbling," Doyle says. "Before I didn't really sit at the piano and enjoy playing because I couldn't separate it from work. But now I sit at the piano and enjoy playing again."

Spread out before him - no matter where he looked - was the beauty of new life. He measured his recovery in the expressions of his family.


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Doyle back at work, on the score for Branagh's next Shakespeare movie, Love's Labor Lost

"I've only been out of the hospital five weeks as you can see," Doyle says. "The eyebrows are just coming back and the hair's just coming back....My son obsesses with my hair coming back."

Finally the book of children's fables and the CD of the music have been released.

Doyle has moved on. He is just finishing the score for a new Branagh film, and his leukemia is in remission.

"It's amazing how time does kind of heal things and...the nightmare is really slipping away. Thank goodness," Doyle says. "And you don't forget it totally."

"I come out of my room and you look up and you see a big, blue sky and you think, 'Great! God is great!' And that's what it is. It is a massive joy," he says. "I do not take it for granted."

The music he working on is for a movie version of Shakespeare's Love's Labor's Lost, but perhaps the Shakespeare title that best fits Doyle is All's Well That Ends Well.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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