Movie Music – Live!

Well, it can be almost as physically jarring as some rock concerts. I sat in the balcony and the percussion hurt during Howard Shore’s “Fellowship of the Ring.” One of the percussionists covered his ear, the one closest to the bass drum, and I don’t blame him. Even with shields up, a la the brass, the drums still rocked the house. But then so did the music.

The Amarillo Symphony has been doing some rather challenging (to new to-classical-music) listeners this season, so they decided to do a movie music Pops concert. They started with the 20th Century Fox theme, which had listeners of a certain age smiling.

The suite from West Side Story went well. I was a little disappointed that they stopped with ‘Rumble” and didn’t go into “Everything’s Better in San Juan,” but that’s what the arranger selected, and it was fun to listen to. Next came music from Forrest Gump. Of all the excerpts, I liked this the least, but then in some ways it was also the film where the soundtrack was the least important, in my opinion. The characters drove the film far, far more than did the music.

And then came the aching solo violin of the main theme from Schindler’s List. Espen Lilleslåten’s violin sobbed. The orchestra came in very muted as compared to the recordings I’ve heard, so the violin started almost alone, strengthening the power of the melody. The music is beautiful, heartbreaking even if you have no idea where it is from. As much as people love John WIlliams’s other scores, I think Schindler’s List and that theme and opening music are probably what will last the longest, long after Jaws and Star Wars and even Empire of the Sun are set aside. It’s cliché to say that there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, but I have never seen so much dabbing of eyes and wiping away tears as I did when the music finished. A very, very long silence followed, then intense applause.

A medley from The Sound of Music followed, then one from The Wizard of Oz. They shifted the program order a little, which was fine, because the second half turned into mostly recent stuff (after 1990 or so). As I said in the post about 3/4 time, the only missing was Henry Mancini, so here’s your intermission 🙂

You were expecting Pink Panther?

So, on to the second half. It led off with “Flight to Neverland” from Hook. I’ve never seen the movie, but the music was fun and airy, very much John Williams. You can spot by ear, John Williams, Howard Shore, and Hans Zimmer, and a few others once you hear enough. Klaus Badelt may reach that point, but not quite yet. I had to repress giggles at the “Black Pearl Theme,” not because it was badly done, but because I keep thinking about the marching band at Flat State and their first attempt at doing a formation march to “Black Pearl.” Then came Hans Zimmer’s Gladiator suite. This is another film I have not seen, although I’ve heard enough Latin students and Roman history buffs grousing about it that I know all the inaccuracies. Hey, it’s not a documentary, like, oh, Jaws or Battle of Britain. 😉

And now we leapt from historical fantasy to high fantasy with “Fellowship of the Rings.” To hear that live is a very different experience from the CDs or watching the movie at home. They pulled out all the percussion available, and it made a big difference, along with a full brass section. I think this is the most brass on stage at once since, hmm, several years ago at least. The depth of sound puts the piece up with classical symphonic music, and I’d love to have heard the “Minas Tirith” theme as well. Next up was “E.T.”, which brought smiles. Interestingly, the MC said that the film was his first introduction to sci-fi, (and gave him a kid-crush on Drew Barrymore) and to Reeses Pieces (TM). I rolled my eyes a little, because my gateway drug was Star Wars. Yeah, I’m a movie snob when it comes to intro films.

Which leads into the closing: Star Wars. All the greats from the HolyTrilogy, plus two pieces with choir from the “prequel” soundtracks. Again, the “Imperial March” live with a full symphony orchestra is quite something. I wasn’t as certain about the two choral pieces, but they fit well, and the Tascosa High School Les Chanteurs choir did a very good job. They ended up doing an encore, because audience demand was so loud and strong. I’d kinda hoped for the music from the jazz combo in the cantina on Mos Eisley, but apparently I’m odd.

The only thing I didn’t really care for, and it was more of “oh, OK, cute, can we get on with the music please” was a pair of local celebrities who were the MCs and who I thought of as Heckle and Jeckle.