Music News & Reviews

Philharmonic goes to the movies: 'And the Award Goes To ...'

When Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra music director Scott Terrell was thinking of a concert event to celebrate the orchestra's 50th anniversary, he gravitated to movie music.

When Terrell moved to Lexington, the Kentucky Theatre quickly became one of his favorite destinations, and he has more film composers packed into his noggin than he can remember. So, with the start of awards season (the Golden Globes are Sunday night), the Philharmonic is presenting And the Award Goes To ..., a concert designed to present some of cinema's great music and to honor people who have been instrumental in the Philharmonic's history.

"It started as an idea of a way for the Philharmonic to maybe do a different event to celebrate 50 years rather a traditional Friday concert," Terrell says. "It's a real Oscar setup — pre-party, concert, post-party — where it's a little bit of a different event, a little bit of a glamorous event."

During the evening, key players in the Philharmonic will be recognized in slide shows, videos and onstage. And it will be paired with music that Terrell says gets a visceral response.

"For something like Superman or E.T., there's an immediate reaction and smile from when they saw the movie — what I would call an 'a-ha' moment,'" Terrell says. "There are a lot of a-ha moments in a concert like this.

"It always has a more enthusiastic reaction than one might expect. That's why people always walk away from the concert feeling really great about the experience."

Before getting into rehearsals for the show, Terrell took a few minutes to talk to us about movie music.

Question: When you go to a movie, are you really tuned into the music?

Answer: "Absolutely. I think what can really make or break a good or great film is the score."

Q: What do you look for in a movie score?

A: "With any movie score, it's going to be a question of if the music is an unseen character of the film. Does it add to the drama or is it another aspect similar to, you know, I look at the Alfred Hitchcock movies where it's shadow and light, and music certainly plays a key part of it — whether it moves the story along, it certainly brings attention to the important parts of the story or frankly it's just a really good tune that comes out of the particular movie or score that is emblematic of the movie itself.

"For example, in Gone With the Wind, Tara's Theme is sort of the sweeping, grand tune very symbolic of the movie itself and the plantation Tara and the grand South. They help each other a bit."

Q: That would seem to be a common denominator of your program Saturday night: a lot of great tunes.

A: "The trick is, we wanted them to at least be Oscar-nominated film scores. Whether or not they won — sometimes it was a tough year — that doesn't change the fact that the tune or score had lived well past whether or not it won an Oscar. ... I wanted to cover as far back as we could go to the great cinematic movies of the '30s and '40s to Harry Potter, which is relatively recent, and everything in between.

"It was tricky because there was so much material to pick from. But in the end, when we narrowed it down, it really does cover not just film, but also in terms of pacing and moving from one style to another, we really cover the gamut."

Q: Has film music been of particular importance to classical music and orchestral music in the late 20th century and 21st century?

A: "You look at the real epic films of late — the Lord of the Rings trilogy and certainly Harry Potter — that people are very much tied into, and it's certainly an important aspect. ... If it's a film of some great gravity in terms of subject, public interest, all of that, the attention given to the score hasn't changed much. Even suspense films like the Bourne series, the music still plays a key part in all that."

Q: Who stands out to you as a great film composer?

A: A frequent Hitchcock collaborator, Bernard Hermann is a great film composer. There's that whole generation in there. One of my favorites is Miklos Rozsa for Ben-Hur. I think that captures that gladiator look. At the same time there's Dr. Zhivago (Maurice Jarre, composer) in the ability to create the sound of the environment. Obviously John Williams (Star Wars and many others) is going to be up there. Alfred Newman (nine-time Oscar winner for films including Camelot and The King and I) is going to be right up there. It's hard because there are just so many. ...

"We recently lost John Barry (who scored many James Bond films), and even James Horner (an Oscar winner for Titanic). ... Titanic was maybe the great pop artistry and it was also symphonic in nature film score. ...

"I have great admiration for the European group that came here — (Erich) Korngold, Bernard Hermann, Nino Rota. ... They really changed film music from a semi-player in music to a necessary component in any great film."

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