Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cinematic Symphony

Last night Sylvia and I went downtown to enjoy the tremendous musical talent of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra as they rolled out a selection of Oscar-winning or -nominated film scores. Our seats were right in the front row, so we had an excellent view of the strings section as they strummed and plucked their way through themes from Casablanca, Doctor Zhivago, The Godfather, The Natural, Out of Africa and others. The ESO even brought in a real-live Hollywood musician to conduct: Emmy-nominated Richard Kaufman, a good-humoured showman who was clearly enjoying himself, at one point mouthing a few of the "ba-ba-bums" just as I do when listening to film scores. In between sets, Kaufman shared Hollywood stories with the audience, and I was a little awestruck to learn that the man knew Elmer Bernstein and played violin during the scoring sessions for Jaws.

The music, of course, was sublime, and as always I was mesmerized by the talent of each performer. As I watched their hands flutter across their instruments, as I watched their eyes scan the scores, I was deeply, deeply impressed by the years of practice they must have endured to fully hone their talent. My respect for musicians borders on a kind of fetish, a deep-seated admiration that leaves me feeling, frankly, unworthy. What I would give for the combination of talent and drive that culminates in such astounding capability!

The artists themselves fascinated me. One thickly-mustachioed cello player looked as though he would be more at home on a construction site. Another looked like a younger, thinner Stephen King. One violinist looked like a kindergarten teacher; another like a physics professor. And yet they were all, in reality, musicians, defying all stereotypes.It was both thrilling and humbling to sit only a couple of metres away from such a collection of raw talent.

I have only one small quibble: during the performance of Jerry Goldsmith's theme for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the video display showed an image of the Next Generation Enterprise, Captain Picard's ship, rather than the original (though refitted) Enterprise of the film. A minor quibble to be sure, but hey, Winspear folks, next time you want to play Star Trek, give me a call when it comes to the trivia!

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