Dramatic Vocalise Database

Burgon, Geoffrey (b. 1941)

Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979)

The use of dramatic vocalization in religious-themed movies and Biblical epics lends itself well to parody, as seen in the movies M.A.S.H. (1970), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), and Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979).

Two scenes from Monty Python’s Life of Brian overtly parody Biblical epics. The movie opens with a portrayal of the Nativity scene, including an image of the Star of Bethlehem accompanied by dramatic vocalization. The music, by Geoffrey Burgon (b. 1941), is much like that in the serious Biblical epics. The three wise men (John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin) enter the manger. After several minutes they realize that they are not in Jesus’s manger, but instead that of the child Brian Cohen, upon which they immediately take back their gifts. In the following scene, again accompanied by the same music as before, the wise men are shown entering the “real” manger.

Another scene in Life of Brian to include dramatic vocalization occurs as Brian (Graham Chapman) attempts to escape a crowd who believe him to be their spiritual leader, their Messiah. Throughout this extended clip dramatic vocalization occurs three times: first, when the crowd obtains Brian’s gourd, revering it like a holy relic; second, immediately before Brian loses one of his shoes, found then by the crowd; and finally, as Brian continues to run from his pursuers. The music in the last of these episodes sounds similar to the opening movement of Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers to the Blessed Virgin Mary (1610) due to the four-part choral writing and accompanying brass fanfares.

(Nauman 2009, 250–51)




[0:00:00–0:01:25] The three wise men arrive at the manger.

We Worship You Oh Brian


The Real Manager


His Gourd . . . His Shoe

Throughout this extended clip vocalization, in the form of a four-voice chorus at times sounding like the opening movement of Monteverdi’s Vespers to the Blessed Virgin Mary (1610), accompanies Brian as he attempt to escape a crowd that believes him to be their spiritual leader, their Messiah. [0:55:28–0:55:39] “His gourd.” Vocalization occurs as the crowd realizes that they have Brian’s gourd in their position, a holy relic indeed. [0:55:51–0:56:17] Brass instruments sound before the full chorus of “seraphim” enter, accompanying Brian’s fleeing of the crowd. [0:57:38–0:58:16] Brian continues to flee his crowd of worshipers. The music here especially sounds like the Monteverdi piece previously mentioned.