Stuff that occurs to me

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Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

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Thursday, 29 October 2015

My first film music concert, in 1993 - Space Spectacular at Wembley Stadium


For ages I have been trying to find information about my first film music concert (in London, some time in the 1990s) by searching (in vain) for Wembley and orrery (the event took place at Wembley Stadium and the promo material in the papers of the time made a bit of fanfare about a specially built 'thing' (not technically an orrery but a nice display piece). The orrery was a suspended curved bar with lights in it which rotated up and down over the stage adding lighting effects.

I've also been wondering, particularly after recently returning from an excellent film music concert from David Arnold, if I might have heard his music performed at the concert. He wrote the score for the films Stargate (1994) and Independence Day (1996) but I couldn't remember them being on the programme (music from Superman and Star Trek was played). 

Yesterday I suddenly remembered that I can search old newspapers at work and plugged my terms in, and eventually discovered that the concert had been in 1993 (so too early for David Arnold's music).

The concert was called Space Spectacular and I went with my friends Simon and Valerie and some other friends of theirs. We were all really into Star Trek: The Next Generation (enthusiasm remains undiminished) and I remember us spending an evening trying to play one of those murder mystery games which was based around the series. Of course, no-one actually got murdered by anyone from the noble and non-murdering crew (I think I might have been Guinan and I remember helping a friend make a fairly amazing Worf costume). The game involved some sort of mysterious object that made people behave oddly. There was a lot of wine, which is another object that can make people behave oddly, and I don't remember the outcome as I think we all fell asleep before it had concluded.

Simon discovered the existence of Space Spectacular and we all thought how amazing it would be to hear the music of Star Trek performed live (yup) and went along. From reading the 1993 Sunday Times review ('Lost in space') by Cosmo Landesman it turns out that the event included music from space-themed films but the larger section was actually Gustav Holst's The Planets. A quote in the article from one of the producers, Harvey Goldsmith, highlighted the idea behind it of getting new audiences in to hear classical music and perhaps, at 23, I was one of those new audiences though I grew up with and enjoyed classical music at home, school or at concerts - but I don't remember film music featuring in them.

Amazing, to me, to think how ridiculously popular film music concerts are now on their own terms. I have also been enjoying Jon Burlingame's 2013 article on their popularity -

Score One for Movie Maestros: Audiences Grow for Film-Music Concerts
Screenings of classic films accompanied by a live orchestra also selling more


- which highlights audience enthusiasm for film music concerts, and particularly orchestra enthusiasm for them
"[Conductor John] Mauceri finds the reason some musicians love playing movie music is that it’s what they grew up with. “They’re actually playing the real notes of the first orchestral music they ever heard as kids,” he says. Older musicians have come around more slowly, he adds, because many “were trained in conservatories to hate this music.”"
How could anyone hate this music! I'm glad that people are recognising and cherishing it as a distinct art form which has inherent musical 'value' even when separated from the screened images for which it was originally created.

Details of the 1993 Space Spectacular
Or at least the details that I can uncover from that one review (Sun 10 October 1993 in the Sunday Times 'Lost in space' by Cosmo Landesman). It took place in Wembley Stadium, was produced by Harvey Goldsmith and Raymond Gubbay (orchestra: The Philharmonia, conductor: Adrian Leaper, lighting designer: Patrick Woodroffe) and billed as 'where Hollywood meets Holst' with The Planets forming the major part of the event, covering the second half. The first half included music from 2001 (Blue Danube Waltz), Star Trek, Superman (Symphonic Suite) and Thunderbirds Are Go!

Film music concerts
If you want to keep an eye on future film music concerts I recommend two websites in particular -
• Movies in Concert: http://moviesinconcert.nl/ - if you know of a concert you can add it here yourself (I've nothing to do with the website but I did set up the RSS > Twitter @moviesinconcert)
• FilmConcertsLive: http://filmconcertslive.com/ - a commercial organisation which puts on these concerts

There are several kinds of film music concert, and related entertainments, and this isn't an exhaustive list
  • an orchestra plays music from several different composers - an example is Mark Kermode's 50th birthday celebration concerts which included some of his favourite scores from a variety of films
  • an orchestra plays music from one composer and the composer is usually present - last year I went to hear concerts with music from Clint Mansell, David Arnold and Alexandre Desplat (who also conducted if memory serves) playing their own music and talking a little bit about the pieces and the films for which they were written
  • playing live-to-projection (aka live-to-picture) in which an orchestra performs the original score live while the film plays on a massive screen - you can hear the dialogue fine though they do usually include subtitles, just in case, and the special effects soundtrack is usually preserved too (ie it's not a 'silent film' plus orchestral music, the orchestra performs live all the bits that would normally be on the 'score' soundtrack. Utterly incredible, totally immersive though sometimes it's difficult to decide which bit to look at - the orchestra or the screen! Examples include Titanic Live and Star Trek Into Darkness at the Royal Albert Hall.
  • orchestra playing clips from a variety of movies live to picture - I've not come across one of these in the wild, but I would definitely enjoy this
  • interviews with film music / screen composers who show clips of their films with the music (sometimes at various stages) and talk about the processes involved - the 'Art of the Score' panels at the Sundance Film Festival in London were particularly good for showcasing the development of a film score at different stages and I enjoyed hearing Harry Gregson Williams show successive stages of picture, special effects and soundtrack building up to the final result for the film Unstoppable and the following year David Arnold taking us through a similar process for his 'African Rundown' section of Casino Royale.

    For interviews with composers where clips are shown from the film (ie the final result) and discussed, before or after showing the clip, I recommend the Royal Albert Hall's 'Conversations with Screen Composers' series with Tommy Pearson (who also produced Mark Kermode's concerts mentioned above).




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