Kevin Mcmahon | music director and conductor

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January 23, 2017

February 4, 2017 Program Notes

This evening’s concert is a celebration of movie music, focusing on selections from Hollywood blockbusters from 1980 to 2012, along with one older favorite and at least one TV show that became a movie franchise.  Plus, we’ll hear some very famous music from a very obscure Russian film.

♫ One of the most familiar opening themes for any TV show is Alexander Courage’s breezy, upbeat music for the original Star Trek (1966-69). For Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1980) Jerry Goldsmith wrote a more heroic theme that was used again for the credits of Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94). Dennis McCarthy, an associate composer on that series, wrote the theme for the spinoff series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993-99) and also scored the movie Star Trek Generations (1993), while Goldsmith returned for the theme to Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001).

For STAR TREK THROUGH THE YEARS arranger Calvin Custer opens with Courage’s mysterious “space” music followed by the original theme. Next is the Deep Space Nine theme, and then a haunting melody—composed by another associate composer, Jay Chattaway—from the Next Generation episode “The Inner Light,” in which Captain Picard learns a flute melody from a lost civilization. This is followed by music for Generations, and finally Goldsmith’s Voyager and The Motion Picture/Next Generation.

Lt. Kijé (pronounced “Ki-zhe”) was a 1934 satirical film based on a legend from the days of the Russian czars of an imaginary officer getting promoted, married to a princess and killed, all via bureaucratic misinformation. Serge Prokofiev, living in Paris at the time, was invited to compose the score for the Soviet film. Soon after the premiere he devised the LT. KIJÉ SUITE, which he said was more challenging than composing the themes for the movie itself, but it quickly became one of his most popular scores. (He went on to compose music for two cinema masterpieces, Sergei Eisenstein’s Alexander Nevsky and the two-part Ivan the Terrible.)

The Suite is in five sections. (1) “Birth of Kijé” is a mock-serious portrayal of the soldier-to-be’s origins, opening with a solemn and distant cornet solo, followed by a fife-and-drum march that swells into a fantastic series of fanfares, subsiding to a more melancholy passage and a return of the cornet solo. (2) “Romance” features a soulful Russian folk song, “The little grey dove,” first played by a solo string bass, then a celesta, followed by a tenor saxophone (a prominent instrument in the Suite). The saxophone introduces a second theme as well, more pronounced in rhythm. (3) “Kijé’s Wedding” alternates between grand outbursts from the brass and more jaunty themes. (4) “Troika”: Another traditional song opens the movement, first in a stately tempo, then played fast and brilliantly to suggest a wild ride on a Russian three-horse sleigh. (5) Burial of Kijé”: The finale reprises themes from the other movements, some in startling counterpoint with one another, and ends with the original cornet solo.

The SSO played the Lt. Kije Suite previously on 4 April 1992, Guy Victor Bordo conducting.

Dave Grusin (born 1934) has scored a great variety of movies, from Three Days of the Condor to Tootsie and The Fabulous Baker Boys, with an Oscar win for The Milagro Beanfield War. For 1982’s ON GOLDEN POND (Oscar-nominated for score) he created a gentle waltz to portray an elderly couple in their summer cottage on a New England lake.


The CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE (2005) was Disney’s lavish production of the first volume of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia books. British-born, L.A.-based Harry Gregson-Williams wrote the extensive score, with additional music by Steve Barton. The music, as heard in Stephen Bulla’s arrangement, is in turn gentle (the opening “Children’s Theme”), full of wonder (“The Wardrobe”), heroic (“The Sword”), menacing (“Ed and the White Witch,” “Turned in for Sweets”), solemn (“Knighting Peter”) and triumphant (“Crossing the River”).


James Horner’s distinguished career stretched from 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan to 2016’s The Magnificent Seven. Noted for his many collaborations with directors Ron Howard and James Cameron, he received 10 Oscar nominations, including two wins, for best score and song for Cameron’s TITANIC (1997). John Moss’s arrangement features an Irish-sounding flute melody, followed by a portrayal of the great ship taking off from Southampton and surging across the ocean. An agitated section leads to a vocal performance of the end-credits song made famous by Celine Dion, “My Heart Will Go On.”


“OVER THE RAINBOW” (music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by “Yip” Harburg) hardly needs introduction as one of America’s most beloved and honored songs. Notoriously, it was nearly cut from the opening sequence of The Wizard of Oz (1939) because a producer feared it slowed down the action and was too “mature” for the young Judy Garland to sing. Tonight’s arrangement by Mark Hayes is for chorus and orchestra.


PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END (2007), the third of the Pirates franchise, was, like its predecessors, scored by Hans Zimmer (Oscar for The Lion King, nine other nominations, from Rain Man to Interstellar). Our arrangement, titled Symphonic Highlights, opens with the song “Hoist the Colors” (co-written with director Gore Verbinski) and continues with classic “pirate music”: an ingenious combination of sailor’s jigs, the surge of ocean waves and hints of danger, with a melancholy oboe solo before the boisterous climax.


John Barry wrote scores of memorable scores, from a dozen James Bond films to Midnight Cowboy and Body Heat, winning Oscars for Born Free (both score and song), The Lion in Winter, Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves. SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1981) is a time-traveling romantic fantasy, for which Barry created a lush, yearning main theme, with a prominent piano part in tonight’s arrangement.


♫ Our Concert Suite from DANCES WITH WOLVES includes several cues from John Barry’s score. It opens with music that sounds heroic with more than a hint of tragedy, followed by a noble theme for the main character, John Dunbar. We hear the forward drive of “Journey to Fort Sedgewick”; “Pawnee Attack” with its dueling drums; a “Love Theme” with flute solo; the gentle “Two Socks At Play”; and the “Farewell and End Title,” which reprises the Dunbar theme and ends the suite as quietly as it began.


Howard Shore was musical director for the first five years of Saturday Night Live (1975-80) and has written scores for films as varied as The Silence of the Lambs and Mrs Doubtfire, plus nearly all the films of fellow-Canadian David Cronenberg and five by Martin Scorsese. He won multiple Oscars for his work on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.


Our Suite from THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012), arranged by Douglas E. Wagner, is in five short movements. I. “Old Friends and The Adventure Begins” opens with a Celtic-sounding tune, first played gently and then more upbeat as Bilbo and his Dwarf companions set off on their journey. II. “Axe or Sword?” is solemn and brooding, while the haunting III. “Song of the Lonely Mountain” (written by a team of composers) was originally sung by Neil Finn during the end credits. IV. “The Dwarf Lords” is a march, to be played “confidently,” conveying determination and fortitude, while V. “Dreaming of Bag End” concludes the Suite on a gentle note, with its sweetly nostalgic melody first heard on piccolo.


♫ At the age of 87 Ennio Morricone became the oldest winner of a competitive Oscar in history, for 2016’s The Hateful Eight. His international fame began in the mid-1960s with his scores for Sergio Leone’s Westerns (notably The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Once Upon a Time in the West) and continued though such projects as The Untouchables and Cinema Paradiso. One of his most admired scores is for Roland Joffé’s The Mission (1986), the drama of an oboe-playing Spanish priest in 18th-Century South America. An arrangement of the main theme, called “Gabriel’s Oboe,” is a popular orchestral favorite, and in 2006 the composer gave permission to soprano Sarah Brightman to make a vocal arrangement, called “NELLA FANTASIA” with Italian lyrics that begin, “In my fantasy I see a just world where all live in peace and honesty.” Tonight’s arrangement by Audrey Snyder features chorus as well as soprano and oboe solos.


♫ James Barry became famous outside his native England for his jazzy arrangement of Monty Norman’s theme for the first James Bond film, Dr. No (1962) and his full scores for eleven other Bond films, beginning with From Russia with Love (1963). But other major composers have contributed to the franchise. In THEMES FROM 007 (A Medley for Orchestra), an arrangement by Calvin Custer, we start, of course, with the “James Bond Theme,” then hear Bill Conti’s title track for For Your Eyes Only (1981), Paul and Linda McCartney’s rock-inflected Live and Let Die (1973) and finally Barry’s iconic Goldfinger (1964).







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