The weather last Saturday proved to be a classic Canberra afternoon – perfect for a matinee at Llewellyn hall. While not everybody’s cup of tea, the music of movies proved interesting enough to pull a big crowd. The demographic was expected, with a combination of (mostly) older people and very young people. The older generation obviously was taking this opportunity to expose their progeny to what must have been, for some of the kids there, their first concert. It seemed that the music from Harry Potter and Pirates of The Caribbean was enough to get their attention, at least for a few hours.
Starting with Max Steiner’s Lara’s Theme from Gone With The Wind it was obvious that Canberra Symphony and their Royal Military College Duntroon counterparts were on the game. Conductor Benjamin Northey clearly knew his movie scores and was clearly enjoying himself. Sampling from over 50 years worth of options we enjoyed a good selection of both classic and modern cues. The brass and percussion, provided by the RMC, were as tight as you’d want any military band to be. And due to a significant part of the program being comprised of John Williams, this was a good thing.
The Magnificent Seven by Elmer Bernstein appeared to be the underpinning theme of the show, the orchestra returning with a reprise for the encore. We were entertained by a story from Northey recalling his childhood listening to this exact piece of music, jumping around the loungeroom, pretending to be conducting the orchestra. It seems that some dreams do come true.
The obligatory Morricone included themes from The Mission and Cinema Paradiso, both of which were played excellently. The Mission took first place in this year’s ABC Classic FM’s Top 100 Music in The Movies and this was the first time I’d heard it played live. The lead clarinet executing her part flawlessly and was probably the highlight of the show. As the conductor suggested, it doesn’t get much better than that. The love theme from Cinema Paradiso was a surprise pick but welcome. These are two good examples of why Ennio Morriconi is as respected as he is. Including less would have been an injustice.
The contemporary choices included Zimmer’s Pirates of The Caribbean, Benjamin Northey introducing the piece by explaining the “pirate’s waltz” was composed as a standard ¾ timing but due to many pirates having peglegs a beat was missed every bar. He then obviously had a lot of fun conducting the piece, bouncing around on his platform, his baton running the risk of becoming a sword. Harry Potter’s Hediwg’s Theme – which is the sonic branding for the entire franchise – was played perfectly on an electronic celesta. Despite having heard it so many times, and my general lack of interest in the series (try Robin Hobb’s The Assassin’s Trilogy, if you want decent young adult fantasy), it was good to hear played in a hall. We then enjoyed half of Alan Silvestri’s Forrest Gump suite, where the piano is star. I’d thought it was halved due to not having a choir. The Mission theme, which features both male and female parts in the original recording was done so well by this group that they should have kept going with what is arguably Silvestri’s best composition.
Wrapping up with a John Williams mashup we heard Superman, Flying from ET, and three StarWars tracks. I’m always curious to hear how orchestras approach Parade of The Ewoks as the LSO’s original is so iconic. The CSO and RMC made it their own. I was surprised and pleased to hear it included.
Overall, it was a very entertaining afternoon of quality music. While it’s unlikely for this kind of show will come up often, if you like music in the movies and have never heard it played live make sure you take the next opportunity you get.