Hollywood Heroes Review- The Chicago Philharmonic closes it’s 2017-2018 season on a very high note

Young audience members enjoying "Hollywood Heroes"; The Chicago Philharmonic at The Harris Theater, May 27, 2018, Chicago

On May 27, 2018, the Chicago Philharmonic closed their 2017-2018 season, “Glorious Earth”, with a concert entitled Hollywood Heroes, comprised entirely of movie scores, at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago.The PR for the event invited the audience to “Join us on the red carpet, dressed as your favorite Hollywood hero or star as we present a thrilling afternoon of music from the silver screen. Featuring excerpts of the original score from films such as Star Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Wonder Woman, and The Magnificent Seven, this sensational concert will be an afternoon of fun for the whole family.” In fact, some of the Philharmonic staff and Orchestra members were in clever costume, and of course, many of the children in the audience were, too.

Film Director Martin Scorsese said, “For me, movies and music are inseparable. They always have been and they always will be.” However, most people don’t stop to consider that film scores are original music written and orchestrated specifically to accompany and augment a film. The choices for this concert were composers and music acknowledged to be the very best and most distinctive in the genre.

Heroes of all ages gather in the lobby of the Harris Theater before “Hollywood Heroes”

The program included: Music From:

The Incredibles Michael Giacchino
Wonder Woman Rupert Gregson-Williams
Spider-Man Danny Elfman (arr. John Wasson)
Pirates of the Caribbean Klaus Badelt (arr. Ted Ricketts)
Lawrence of Arabia Maurice Jarre
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone John Willams

The Magnificent Seven Elmer Bernstein
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly 
Ennio Morricone
“Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission
 Ennio Morricone (arr. Robert Longfield)
Star Wars
 John Williams
“Adventure on Earth” from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial John Williams

Conductor Scott Speck as “Rocky Balboa” enters from the wings

Prior to the actual start of the concert, the Philharmonic struck up the theme song to Rocky. A large round circle of light appeared at mid-house audience left, and from the wings emerged a figure draped in the Stars and Stripes and wearing red boxing gloves, surrounded by bodyguards. He was escorted up the stairs on the far side of the stage, his gloves and cover-up removed, and Conductor Scott Speck took charge of the afternoon.

Later, Speck donned a gold and maroon scarf- the Hogwarts school colors- before conducting music from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by John Williams and a cowboy hat before conducting Elmer Bernstein’s iconic theme from the original The Magnificent Seven. Bernstein’s music instantly transported this reviewer back to childhood, when my brother and I would lie on either side of our beloved father and watch cowboy shows. I will never see those family members again in this lifetime, but for a portion of the afternoon, we were all together enjoying a vision of The American West.

Scott Speck, in “Hogwarts” school colors, conducting the Chicago Philharmonic in John Williams’ “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”

Three of the selections on the program were music composed by John Williams (one a medley) while two of the selections on the program were music composed by Ennio Morricone. What do these two musical giants have in common? They are both incredibly prolific, much-decorated, conduct as well as compose, have also mastered an instrument, have a special affinity for television and film scores, and have worked repeatedly in close collaboration with certain filmmakers.

Williams has won 10 Grammy awards for Best Instrumental Composition including Star Wars, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrialour program included excerpts from both of these iconic films.  Indeed, Williams, 82, an American conductor, composer and pianist, has won 24 Grammys, 7 British Academy Film Awards, 5 Academy Awards and 4 Golden Globe Awards. He’s written music for the Olympics and television as well as numerous classical and Orchestral Works. He is laureate conductor for the Boston Pops, but perhaps best known for his collaboration with Steven Spielberg; in 2005, the American Film Institute selected Star Wars as the greatest American film score of all time.

Grand Officer Ennio Morricone OMRI is an Italian composer, orchestrator, conductor and trumpet player whose vast range of music styles have earned him the reputation of being “one of the most versatile, experimental and influential composers of all time, working in any medium”.  He has composed over 500 scores for television and film as well as over 100 classical works. He has written the scores for all Sergio Leone films since A Fistful of Dollars and all Giuseppe Tornatore films. Among his best-known compositions are Gabriel’s Oboe; his score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is considered one of the bestselling worldwide; both of these were played by the Philharmonic.

The Chicago Philharmonic performing Elmer Bernstein’s “The Magnificent Seven”

For me, great music presented with a coherent theme and a sense of joie de vivre will always be associated with Conductor Scott Speck and the Chicago Philharmonic. This concert was an absolute joy, as music I have heard, loved, forgotten but then realized was unmistakable was beautifully presented by this wonderful Orchestra, in form so compellingly close to the original soundtracks as to instantly bring the films’ imagery to mind.

Movies and music both create feelings, ideas and mental pictures that, for better or worse, can remain with a person forever. Scott Speck, who loves melody, conducted the Philharmonic with the control, development and execution of virtuosity that he- and the Orchestra- have made vividly their own. As always, he also shared his enthusiasm and deep knowledge about the music with the audience in commentary before each piece.

The upcoming 2018-2019 season will vastly expand upon the brilliant theme of this season’s last concert!  Entitled Heroes and Legends,  it will celebrate icons of film, literature and life.  In addition, the Philharmonic will host a Festival, Celebrate Polonia on November 10, 2018, preceded by 3 Poland 2018 chamber concerts and followed by a free Concert for Peace on November 11, 2018.

For information and tickets to all of the fine programming of The Chicago Philharmonic, go to www.chicagophilharmonic.org

All photos by Elliot Mandel

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