Thursday, December 8, 2016

Vancouver Symphony goes to the movies with gusto

Young audience member with the Star Wars tribe in the lobby before the VSO concert
On Sunday (December 4) Skyview Concert Hall was packed with kids, young adults, and folks who were geared up for an evening of movie music delivered by the Vancouver Symphony. Many of them had already posed in the lobby with characters from the Star Wars movies, including Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and several Imperial Stormtroopers. It was the perfect prelude for Salvador Brotons and his forces who presented a program of movie music classics, marking the first time that the VSO has given a pops concert during its regular season.

The orchestra opened the concert with the extremely brief fanfare that always precedes a 20th Century Fox movie and followed it with “Star Trek through the Years” by Alexander Courage and Jerry Goldsmith in an arrangement by Calvin Custer. Besides the impeccable contributions of pianist Michael Liu, the brass and percussion distinguished themselves with their responsive and enthusiastic playing.

The “Tribute to Henry Mancini” (also in an arrangement by Custer) that juxtaposed the loosey goosey “Baby Elephant Walk” from “Hatari,” the snappy theme from the “The Pink Panther,” and wah-wahing brashness from “Peter Gun” with expansive and lush theme music of “Charade” and “The Days of Wine and Roses.” Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” in an arrangement by John Barry included familiar strains from “Dr. No” and “Live and Let Die.” Next came James Horner’s “Titanic Suite” in an arrangement by John Moss that featured a lovely solo for principal flutist Rachel Rencher that invoked the Scottish Highlands.

Music that John Williams wrote for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in an arrangement by Jerry Brubaker was highlighted by woven textures from the violins and foreboding French horns. Hans Zimmer’s music from “The Gladiator” in an arrangement by John Wasson contrasted a relentlessly driving theme with a lovely melody for cellos and violas as well highlighted passages for Rencher and Dunn.

After intermission, the trumpets led the way in John Williams’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” which was followed by the soaring “Star Wars Suite,” which had separate movements for Leia’s Theme, T e Imperial March, Yoda’s Theme, and the Throne Room. The audience got swept away by the shear wash of sound and erupted in a standing ovation after the very grand finale. This was followed by a delightful encore, Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride” with Dunn creating the neighing horse sound at the end.

Many European conductors are rather stilted when it comes to conducting pops or music that is jazzy, such as Gershwin, but Broton handled all of the piece with panache and let the orchestra play out. The orchestra members seemed to have as much fun as the audience and got into the photo action with the Star Wars characters during intermission. It was a smooth ride for all and, because of the large crowd, it looks like another pops concert might be on the horizon for next season.

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