On Sunday, the American Youth Symphony — widely considered the finest young, pre-professional orchestra in the country — played John Williams’ complete score for E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, live to picture at UCLA’s Royce Hall. It was only the third time ever in Los Angeles (Williams himself conducted it at the Shrine Auditorium in 2002, David Newman conducted the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl in 2015). Prior to the concert, I conducted a fun Q&A with two musicians who actually played on the original 1982 recording sessions: David Newman, then a violinist on his way to becoming an Oscar-nominated composer and one of the world’s finest conductors of film music in the concert hall; and Ralph Grierson, a top studio pianist who performed the difficult but beautiful end-title solo. Joining us was Katie Kirkpatrick, whose mentor Dorothy Remsen played the magical harp solos in the original; who played that part for Newman at the Bowl in 2015; and who inherited Remsen’s harp, named it “Dottie” and still plays it today. Here is a rundown of the concert and the honorees dinner that followed.
One of the most fun things I get to do involves presenting film-music events for the American Youth Symphony, one of the country’s finest ensembles of young musicians. Saturday night, at UCLA’s Royce Hall, they performed — under the baton of the brilliant music director David Newman — the entire score for Back to the Future, live to picture. It was a pleasure to conduct the pre-concert Q&A with writer-producer Bob Gale and composer Alan Silvestri, both of whom were informative and funny in discussing their work on the 1985 classic starring Michael J. Fox. The feeling in the sold-out hall was positively electric, and those involved with the event said that they had never seen such an enthusiastic response to Back to the Future – Live in Concert.
I have hosted American Youth Symphony film-music concerts for seven years now, but rarely has one been so much fun as Sunday’s live-to-picture performance of Michael Giacchino’s score for Star Trek: Into Darkness, conducted by (the, let’s face it, phenomenal) David Newman. The Oscar-winning composer came out at the beginning, for an interview about the challenges of scoring the Trek films (and confirming that he’ll score the next one, Beyond); and again at the end, to conduct the premier performance of his suite from this year’s delightful Pixar film Inside Out. The sellout crowd at UCLA’s Royce Hall loved it.
For the third year, I was privileged to host the American Youth Symphony’s salute to the music of Danny Elfman at UCLA’s Royce Hall. During the afternoon segment, I moderated a mini-panel with the composer’s longtime orchestrator Steve Bartek and mixing engineer Dennis Sands, right after the debut of a new concert suite from the documentary The Unknown Known. The evening performance included music from Dick Tracy, Men in Black, Beetlejuice and other Elfman scores — all conducted by the phenomenal David Newman. Elfman attended the evening performance and accepted a standing ovation from the cheering, sold-out crowd.
For the second installment of the American Youth Symphony’s “Danny Elfman Project,” I interviewed Elfman’s longtime agent Richard Kraft and author Jeff Bond (Danse Macabre) after a performance of the composer’s “Overeager Overture.” The evening concert offered a wide-ranging selection of Elfman music including Milk, Alice in Wonderland, Big Fish and Spider-Man, all brilliantly conducted by David Newman (seen here at right).
For the opening installment of the American Youth Symphony’s three-year “Danny Elfman Project,” I interviewed the composer after a performance of his score for the documentary Standard Operating Procedure, conducted by David Newman. Danny’s always a lively interview, and the audience loved it. That evening I hosted the concert — my fourth for the AYS — introducing Elfman’s music for Batman, Edward Scissorhands and Sommersby. Here‘s an overview of the afternoon and evening performances. The symposium was sponsored by The Film Music Society.
The third and final installment of the American Youth Symphony’s three-year “Goldsmith Project,” saluting the music of Jerry Goldsmith, was in many ways the best yet. The afternoon symposium began with a new 10-minute suite from Under Fire (1983), after which I moderated a panel with frequent Goldsmith collaborators Joe Dante and David Anspaugh plus longtime music editor Kenneth Hall, mixer Bruce Botnick and agent Richard Kraft. Conductor David Newman debuted, for the first time ever in concert, music from Jerry’s Legend (1985) as well as a new 10-minute suite from Poltergeist (1982). Here is a thorough rundown of the Sunday program; the symposium was sponsored by The Film Music Society.
This was one of those “how lucky am I?” moments: Suggesting Jerry Goldsmith’s Emmy-winning Americana score for The Red Pony to conductor David Newman for the afternoon performance, and then watching him conduct a new 15-minute suite from it with musicians from the American Youth Symphony. I moderated a discussion afterwards and, that evening, hosted a concert that included some of my all-time favorite Goldsmith: a new suite from Papillon, unused music (to picture!) from Alien, and music from QB VII and The Omen films. We walked out of there saying, “was this all just a dream?!” Here‘s a rundown of an unforgettable evening at Royce Hall.
I was delighted to be asked to moderate a panel, and host a concert, devoted to the music of Jerry Goldsmith. The American Youth Symphony has launched a three-year exploration of Goldsmith’s music, debuting new suites and examining his impact on film music via discussions with friends and colleagues. The afternoon symposium was highlighted by an amazing, live-to-picture re-creation of Goldsmith’s famous Twilight Zone score “The Invaders.” I invited five experts to talk about Jerry and his early years in TV. David Newman conducted new suites from Planet of the Apes, The Sand Pebbles and A Patch of Blue during the evening concert. The Film Music Society sponsored the symposium and published a piece about Jerry and Twilight Zone for attendees. An overview is here.