Sunday, April 10, 2016

'Symphony at the Movies' not a box office smash

There's nothing like hearing memorable film scores being performed live by a full orchestra.

The sweeping sounds of the strings cradle you up in a blanket of happiness as they usher you away from your seat to memories of your favorite stories and characters. Pounding of drums remind us of epics, like Judah Ben-Hur rowing in the gallies in "Ben-Hur" as the drumming ceases to slow. The low, deep moans of the double basses send chills like we're in an old haunted house.

Great music and great moments.

"Gone With the Wind," "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Psycho" are in the top five in a list of the greatest film scores published by the American Film Institute, yet none of these scores, nor anything from their respective composers, filled the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center at a recent performance.

The Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra gave a special Symphony at the Movies performance at the PAC on Saturday evening, breaking away from the standards of classical music to perform movie scores. However, the selections and symphony playing did not equal box office success.

The two-hour showcase featured 11 pieces ranging  from Hollywood's Golden Era (1940's "The Sea Hawk") to the present with the earworm-inducing songs from "Frozen". In between was an overabundance of John Williams ("Star Wars", "E.T." and "Jurassic Park"), some Ennio Morricone, a Henry Mancini medley and even a piece from Delco composer Vince Leonard. There was a little bit for everyone in attendance which ranged from children to seniors.

For the most part, it was an enjoyable evening. I could have done without all of the Williams pieces because he's incredibly overrated. I would have liked to hear something from Alex North, Max Steiner, Bernard Hermann, Maurice Jarre, or some other great composer. I even expected to hear other generic pieces like "Chariots of Fire."

Alas, they were not to be had. Instead I was treated to probably 20 minutes of Williams, which was accompanied by a brass section that was incredibly out of it all night. I couldn't tell you if the material was too difficult, or if the section lacked practice, but too often I head notes that were warbled or flat. It was quite a bummer to hear, most notably during "The Blue Danube" and "Star Wars."

With all of the trouble with the brass section, the strings-only score to "Psycho" would have been a great substitute. The strings sounded great, and consistently so playing the varied types of pieces of the night. And who wouldn't love to had heard those sharp, quick notes played during the infamous shower scene? Getting shivers thinking about that.

Symphony at the Movies had good moments. A fine-tuning of instruments and the selections could have really blown the roof off. It was nice to revisit some of the classics.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. (Couldn't find a way to edit typo! Had to delete and start again! ;-) )

    2. No problem. Thanks for reading. =]

  2. The Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra is a Delaware County gem and a gift to the community at large. The 70+ unpaid musicians rehearse at least once a week - every week - for the pure joy of playing, the thrill of collaboration, and because they love to give back to the audience by sharing their talent. The group has worked very hard, with a limited budget, to build their audience over the last couple years, successfully welcoming new audience members specifically at this performance. Close to 600 people - young and old - enjoyed this concert, and it was a pleasure to see all the smiles and to hear the positive feedback in the lobby after the performance. I, along with many others, are proud of this committed group of musicians. How wonderful to see the majority of the audience members rise to their feet at the end of the concert! The musicians certainly deserved the stirring standing ovation they received from the extremely satisfied attendees.