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October 6, 2009
October Scores with Film Music in Concert
Symphonies coast-to-coast celebrate classic soundtracks

Star Wars in concert

October offers a whirlwind of film-music concerts around the country, and the producers and conductors of these events are as excited as the fans. Among the events:

  • "Star Wars in Concert," which launched a three-month, 58-city tour on Oct. 1 in Anaheim, Calif. Conductors Dirk Brosse (doing about 2/3 of the concerts) and Mark Watters (doing the rest) will lead a 90-piece orchestra and choir in a two-hour collection of highlights from all six of John Williams' scores for the George Lucas films.

    "John Williams is at the very top," says Watters. "There's Max Steiner and John Williams, not just because of their impact on film music, but the popularity they enjoyed during their lifetimes, the sheer magnitude of the work, the dedication and the diversity of their films. Star Wars brought back the notion of big symphonic scoring, that still remains the ultimate way to score a picture today. We owe a big debt of gratitude to him."

  • Howard Shore's music for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is being done live to picture on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9 and 10, at New York's Radio City Music Hall, with an estimated 300 musicians and singers participating. This marks only the second time in the U.S. that the music of Fellowship has been played live with the film. Switzerland's 21st Century Symphony Orchestra, New York's Collegiate Chorale, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and soprano Kaitlyn Lusk are performing.

    Swiss conductor Ludwig Wicki, Shore's hand-picked choice to conduct the Rings scores live, conducted Fellowship live last year at Wolf Trap. He has also conducted The Two Towers on several occasions in Europe and is planning to finish the trilogy with The Return of the King next year in Lucerne, Switzerland. "It's like a symphony with the movie," says Wicki. "Twenty-seven movements, two hours and 35 minutes of music. It's the most stressful thing you can do," he adds with a laugh.

  • The Walt Disney Concert Hall will be the site of two landmark film-music events this month. John Williams will conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic in "Music From the City of Angels" on Oct. 16-18, while longtime Hollywood Bowl conductor John Mauceri will return to L.A. to conduct the Bowl Orchestra in "The Disney Symphonic Legacy" Oct. 20.

    The Williams program will feature the West Coast premiere of Williams' "Suite from Memoirs of a Geisha" with cello soloist Johannes Moser, as well as what is being called an "L.A. Triptych" – excerpts from Franz Waxman's Sunset Boulevard, Jerry Goldsmith's Chinatown and Miklos Rozsa's Double Indemnity. Music of Korngold, North and Herrmann round out the program.

    Snow White

    The Disney evening will be highlighted by a "symphonic retelling" of the 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – the original songs and score performed by orchestra and choir, but with 10 singer-actors reading the original dialogue from the script of the animated classic, condensed down to about 45 minutes. Music from other Disney films (Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleeping Beauty and a new 15-minute suite from the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy) will also be featured.

  • The Golden State Pops Orchestra in San Pedro, Calif., has scheduled its seventh annual Halloween Fright Night Oct. 24 with a lineup that is something for fans of science-fiction television to celebrate: Music from Battlestar Galactica (both the 1970s version and the recent Sci-Fi Channel hit) as well as music from Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. The old BG and Buck Rogers were the work of composer Stu Phillips, who will conduct both, and GSPO conductor Steven Allen Fox will conduct the premiere of Phillips' 22-minute "Variations for Piano and Orchestra." New BG composer Bear McCreary will also be on hand to conduct his own tribute to Phillips.

    Fox points out that music from films, TV and videogames "set an emotional tone, a dramatic feeling. In a sense they are the pinnacle of `dramatic narrative' – similar to opera, but without words, only to set the emotion the viewer is to feel. The emotion is still present when you take it out of context and present it on its own, on the concert stage."

  • Ennio Morricone will make his West Coast debut conducting the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the Angeles Chorale on Oct. 25 at the Bowl in Los Angeles. "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," as the evening is being billed, will feature "music drawn from his most famous film scores" including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Untouchables, Cinema Paradiso, The Mission, Once Upon a time in the West, and many more.

    Morricone conducted his music in New York in 2007 but has never before appeared in L.A. Producer Gianni Succi, who grew up in Italy, has a nostalgic connection with the Maestro: "Every score of Morricone's represents a piece of my life – when I was a kid, when I had a girlfriend, when my daughter was born– He has been composing music for 50 years. His music is the soundtrack of my life." He adds: "In November, Ennio will be 81. I'm trying to make everyone aware of this unmissable, and probably unrepeatable, opportunity."

  • The Seattle Symphony will perform Bernard Herrmann's all-strings score for Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 shocker Psycho, live to the picture, Oct. 29-31 in Benaroya Hall. The Baltimore Symphony played this in July and received rave reviews for the presentation of the old Anthony Perkins-Janet Leigh film with Herrmann's classic score.

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