Sunday 5th May

Review: A Night at the Movies

Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd. First published on on 5th May.

CSO Presents: A Night at the Movies, in association with Meadow Mushrooms.

David Kay Conductor.

Douglas Lilburn Auditorium, Town Hall, May 4.


This was one where you could just sit back and relax, reliving some of the best musical moments of modern cinema.

Heavily loading it with scores by John Williams, followed by John Barry, was fine by me, given they are two of the best, but familiar music by Hans Zimmer, Klaus Badelt, Lalo Schifrin and Danny Elfman were worthy inclusions.

I daresay some of the choices were made with an eye to including younger listeners, but the likes of Schindler's List, Dances with Wolves and Out of Africa certainly resonated with the older ones. The whole movie night idea was accentuated by the Hollywood-style announcements and roving searchlights, perhaps a tad over-used.

While David Kay and the orchestra made it sound easy, a concert of movie music is not the easy option it may first appear. The music may be very familiar but reproducing it exactly is the challenge and some difficult writing lurks within. In most of Williams' scores the brass play a key part and they were on top form, with the Superman and Star Wars fanfares clean and precise.

The percussion drove the insistent ostinato in Gladiator, very reminiscent of Holst's Mars, and were key in the likes of Pirates of the Caribbean and Mission: Impossible. Sarah McCracken played the violin solo from Schindler's List beautifully, the melancholic melody achieving a good balance with the accompaniment. The cor anglais also off-set the solo line nicely. The theme from Jaws still has the power to scare an audience but what came out here was how much it pays homage to Stravinsky in its angular off-beats and accented string writing.

For a tougher listen, Close Encounters of the Third Kind made good use of eerily shifting cluster chords and guttural brass. The green lighting was a nice touch. Raiders of the Lost Ark was a rousing way to finish the first half with the brass again in the limelight, the James Bond Suite opening the second half with quite a different flavour, aside from Kay's groan-worthy puns.

I daresay the younger listeners were ticking off the various scenes during the Harry Potter Suite. Great to hear the celeste but overall the music was utterly unmemorable. The offstage trumpet was well done in Dances with Wolves and the orchestra truly captured the expansiveness of John Barry's expansive score for Out of Africa.

The obvious crowd-pleasers Mission: Impossible and Batman took us into the final reel with real gusto and how else could you round off a concert like this on May the fourth? With the end titles from Star Wars, of course.

A really enjoyable night and an idea that I hope will be repeated exploring further afield in the genre.