‘Harry Potter’ comes to O.C. courtesy of home-grown conductor

Justin Freer conducts “Harry Potter” in Royal Albert Hall

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

Only a handful of people will know the answer to the following bit of extreme trivia: Who is the only musician born and raised in Orange County to have conducted the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the London Philharmonic and the Philharmonia Orchestra, just to name a few? The answer is — Justin Freer. Never heard of him? Get in line.

Freer, 37, a native of Huntington Beach, is co-founder of a company called CineConcerts, which, as the name implies, produces live concert performances of film scores synchronized with screenings of the films. He conducts these performances in darkened concert halls around the globe as audiences watch beloved movies, not him. These screenings with live music are something of a rage these days in the world of symphonic orchestras. CineConcerts currently offers such titles as “It’s a Wonderful Life” (music by Dimitri Tiomkin), “The Godfather” (music by Nino Rota and Carmine Coppola) and the “Harry Potter” series (music by John Williams and others).

We wondered about the rage, about why someone would spend $50 and up on such presentations when they could just as well stream the movie at home on a giant flatscreen with good sound.

“I think the first thing is that it’s not the same as viewing it at home, or listening to it at home, or even in a movie theater,” Freer says, seated in his glassed-walled office at company headquarters in Burbank. “It’s so radically different. People are coming to a concert. Ultimately, that’s what separates this from seeing it at home or from another concert.”

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Great moments in film music: ‘Once Upon a Time in the West’ (The Duel)

Music by Ennio Morricone. Notice the play of major and minor harmonies, worthy of Schubert. Also notice that Morricone knows when to be silent. The harmonica music is a leitmotif, brimming with meaning, as the sequence makes clear. The clip ends, appropriately, in pure dissonance.

Chopin meets Liszt

A scene from “A Song to Remember” (1944), with Cornel Wilde as Chopin, Stephen Bekassy as Liszt, and Paul Muni as Chopin’s teacher, Prof. Joseph Elsner. I laughed out loud the first time I saw this, many years ago. When Hollywood gets classical music wrong, it’s usually very wrong.

Halliwell’s capsule review of the film:

“Hilarious classical music biopic which was unexpectedly popular and provoked a flood of similar pieces. As a production, not at all bad, but the script …”

Jose Iturbi dubbed the piano playing.

Monster of a movie: Kaufman and Pacific take on ‘Jurassic Park’

By TIMOTHY MANGAN

Richard Kaufman, Principal Pops Conductor of Pacific Symphony, answered the door of his classic Encino ranch house the other day in his bare feet and khaki shorts. When he’s not conducting symphony orchestras around the world in live performances of film scores with the movie screened synchronously, Kaufman, 69, works in a home office equipped with a large desk, on which sits a giant computer monitor to watch the film he’s working on and the score to same.

The room is filled with papers and scores and mementos, including a framed photograph of Kaufman, a veteran of the Hollywood studios, coaching Jack Nicholson on the violin for his starring role in “The Witches of Eastwick.” (Those are Kaufman’s hands you see playing the piano in the scene in which Susan Sarandon’s cello bursts into flames.)

His current project is “Jurassic Park,” which he’ll conduct for the first time Saturday (Aug. 19) with Pacific Symphony at Pacific Amphitheatre. To demonstrate his duties, he flips on the movie to the scene where a T-Rex is chasing a jeep — pure mayhem — and conducts the score, which he has marked up with brightly colored highlighters. Meters and tempos change suddenly. A click track sets the pace. Both he and the orchestra will listen to it on headphones during the performance.

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Program for a John Williams concert

Pacific Symphony and conductor Richard Kaufman pay tribute to the great film composer in celebration of his 85th birthday tonight and tomorrow at Segerstrom Concert Hall. The program hasn’t been widely disseminated so I post it in its entirely below.

Liberty Fanfare
Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan
Midway March
Jim’s New Life from Empire of the Sun
Harry’s Wondrous World from Harry Potter
Sayuri’s Theme from Memoirs of a Geisha (Wakahisakai, Japanese Classical Dancers)
Selections from Star Wars:
Forest Battle from Return of the Jedi
March of the Resistance and Rey’s Theme from The Force Awakens
Main Theme from Star Wars
Jurassic Park
Sugarland Express
(Bernie Fields, harmonica)
Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra from
Indiana Jones
Marion’s Theme and Raiders March from
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Devil’s Dance from The Witches of Eastwick
Flying Theme from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Tickets here.