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No one wanted City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra's Music from the Movies concert to end'


By John Gilroy


'No one wanted City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra's Music from the Movies concert to end'
'No one wanted City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra's Music from the Movies concert to end'

It was the end of the current season for the City of Cambridge Symphony Orchestra (CCSO) at West Road Concert Hall on Saturday (June 30), and Music from the Movies came in two parts: a scaled-down performance aimed at children aged four and upwards in the late afternoon, and then in the evening an expanded version for the grown-ups.

Some of us were more grown up than others of course, and for those less accustomed to the digital technology which provides film soundtracks these days it was comforting to hear the opening number – the iconic ‘20th Century Fox Fanfare’.

What cinematic anticipations it brings back with its art deco graphics and searchlights. And what memories – the commissionaire with his gold epaulettes [‘two in the one and nines’]; the usherette with her torch; the couple leaving in the middle of the B Feature [‘This is where we came in’].

Robert Hodge, the CCSO’s adored conductor, entered into the spirit of the occasion with his items and props for the children – the philosopher’s stone; Scabbers the rat (not a real one); wand instead of baton and scarf for the Harry Potter fans; lightsaber, again deputising for baton, for the Star Wars fans.

At one point he had us up on our feet and taught us how to conduct Indiana Jones in 4-time. Charlotte (age eight or nine) volunteered to conduct the orchestra from the rostrum. It was all great fun, and was hugely enjoyed by the children (lots of them) who were introduced to sections of the orchestra, and even allowed a go on some of the instruments afterwards.

As well as being fun, though, it was also very instructive. Did you know that music within the action of the movie is called ‘diegetic’ music? Neither did I. Most film music, though, is background or ‘underscoring.’

There’s even something called ‘Mickey-Mousing’ in the trade. This is where, for example, slipping on a banana skin uses a descending scale followed by something like a cymbal crash. In other words the music is synchronised with what’s happening on screen.

The CCSO did it all over again, and then some, for the evening performance. In fact, the visual effects had gone down so well with the kids that they were all kept in, and a few added. Robert Hodge’s pirate’s headgear with pigtails (Pirates of the Caribbean) and Harrison Ford hat were particularly admired, and he had a good line in comedy, too, with his remarks to the audience.

Of course the music was tremendous, and the CCSO was so together and up to the programme’s wide-ranging orchestration and instrumentation that it would be difficult to single out individual performances. It really got powered up just before the interval with Waxman’s Ride of the Cossacks from Taras Bulba, so impressively done that one could see why someone once said it was the greatest film score ever.

There were some lovely solo intervals, too, such as Leader, Julia Frape’s violin in Schindler’s List, the oboe and flute in The Mission, and contributions on the piano and on that comparatively rarely heard instrument the celesta from Alex Reid.

No one wanted it to end. The concert had taken us from wide open spaces conjured up by the strident themes of The Magnificent Seven and Lawrence of Arabia to intimate and heart-warming recesses in the melodies of Up! – A Married Life.

Cinema and music have been a mutual enterprise almost from the outset. Sometimes musical classics have accompanied films. At others films have been made to complement music. Saturday night’s thoroughly enjoyable concert revealed only a fraction of the ever-expanding industry that continues to enrich our musical legacy, and the CCSO’s performance did that legacy proud.



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