Dallas — With increasing frequency, orchestras are performing live scores to screenings of popular films. They get audiences in the seats, and very often those audiences are folks who go to few if any other concerts. Whether those audiences will then attend other concerts is an open question, but concertgoers for these film-plus-orchestra shows tend to be younger than average. With orchestras trying to get people—especially YOUNG people—in concert hall seats, it’s easy to see why these films make tempting programming.
That said, some films work better than others for these adaptations. This weekend, the Dallas Symphony performed John Williams’ score to screenings of the 1993 film Jurassic Park. Williams’ music is always a hit, with pops concerts of greatest hits from his film scores filling the Meyerson’s seats.
The problem with this particular film is that it’s so action packed that, at least for this first-time viewer, I hardly knew where to look—orchestra, or screen? (Yes, really, I’d never seen any of the films in the franchise.) The flip side: there was never a dull moment, though the orchestra has breaks of several minutes during more dialogue-heavy bits of the movie. It’s wise programming to schedule these concerts at the beginning of the season—they’re a relatively low-pressure way for the musicians to grow accustomed to playing together again after their summer break. Still, there were some cracked notes in the brass, and percussion sometimes wasn’t exactly synced with the rest of the orchestra.
There was some irony in this weekend’s performances—they use cutting-edge technology, yet the film itself is about the limitations of human technology and the primacy of nature. The conductor, Constantine Kitsopoulos, uses a special podium with a screen showing the film and “streamers and punches,” which are vertical bands and circles that are visual cues for the auditory marks he needs to hit.
While Williams’ score is timelessly melodic, and thus understandably popular with audiences, the film itself is dated (see the importance of technology, above). The biggest inadvertent laugh of the evening came when a character gazes in wonder at a screen: “Oooh, it’s an interactive CD-ROM!”
Still, a fun time was had by all.
Now, let’s figure out how to get those young audiences to a ReMix concert, or maybe back to the Meyerson for a Classical Series performance.