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.
Movie music in the concert hall seems to be, as they say, “trending” — it’s more popular than ever, and in many different forms. For the lead story in this week’s Variety “Music for Screens” section, I interviewed three composers (David Newman, who recently conducted the New York Philharmonic in sold-out Star Wars shows ; Ramin Djawadi, whose Game of Thrones tour was so successful he’s planning another; and Hans Zimmer, whose European and American tours transformed the traditional “film music” show into more of a rock concert); and three producers, including Steve Linder and Jamie Richardson from Film Concerts Live! and Richard Kraft, who has produced a number of concerts of Danny Elfman and Disney films.
Oscar-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith finally received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today, May 9, 2017. For a section in this week’s Variety, I asked composers who knew him and directors who worked with him for a little perspective on the man and his career. Goldsmith, whose filmography included The Sand Pebbles, Patton, Chinatown, Planet of the Apes, five Star Trek films and more than 100 others, was among the most respected composers in the history of Hollywood. Directors Joe Dante, Paul Verhoeven and Fred Schepisi contributed thoughts, as did composers David Newman, Christophe Beck and Charles Fox. Goldsmith died way too early, in 2004, and the star is not only overdue but well deserved. Here is the main story and here is a sidebar discussing 10 of his greatest scores. Finally, here is a complete rundown of the ceremony, who attended and what was said.
The music of On the Waterfront and Casablanca were the subject of “Upbeat Live” talks I moderated on Friday and Sunday prior to the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s first-ever live-to-picture concerts of both scores at Disney Hall. David Newman, who conducted both, was on hand to offer musical insights into the classic Leonard Bernstein and Max Steiner scores. On Friday we were also joined by composer Laura Karpman, and on Sunday our guest was composer Charles Bernstein. Both Karpman and Bernstein are current governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences; this past weekend’s concerts marked the first of several events in the new three-year partnership of the Phil and the Academy. I also contributed the program notes for both films (Casablanca is here; On the Waterfront is here).
Composer James Newton Howard (The Sixth Sense, The Hunger Games, pictured here) was honored with the BMI Icon award at Wednesday night’s annual film/TV honors of Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI), while David Newman received its Classic Contribution Award for his work conducting classic film music in concert halls around the world. I was on the red carpet again this year, conducting no fewer than 25 on-camera interviews with composers for film and TV. BMI is posting them on YouTube; here is Howard, here is Newman. And here is my story about the evening.
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.
Last weekend marked the first time that the paying public had ever seen Steven Spielberg’s classic E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial with live musical accompaniment. (John Williams conducted a studio orchestra before an invited audience at the Shrine Auditorium in 2002.) More than 35,000 attended over three nights as David Newman conducted the Los Angeles Philharmonic in Williams’ iconic score at the Hollywood Bowl. I wrote the program notes for the evening, but I felt it was also important to report on the event. My overview contains details you won’t find anywhere else.
Talk about a fun assignment: Last night, the Los Angeles Philharmonic played Alan Silvestri’s music for the 1985 film Back to the Future “live to picture,” with the estimable David Newman conducting. It was a near-sellout with more than 16,000 people attending, and the crowd cheered every iconic moment in the time-travel romp starring Michael J. Fox. I interviewed the composer about his memories of scoring Back to the Future — which was only his second opportunity to write for orchestra — and why he wrote another 20 minutes of music specifically for these live presentations.
It’s been a pleasure to write scripts not only for myself — both for radio and live concert appearances — but for others, especially at the Hollywood Bowl in recent years, often for their “Big Picture” nights when the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performs movie music. This year I wrote three: for an evening of music from Alfred Hitchcock films, hosted by Eva Marie Saint (who was delightful to work with); for the Motion Picture Academy’s celebration of the “Black Movie Soundtrack”; and a last-minute polish for Jack Black’s hosting of music from DreamWorks Animation. Here find reviews of the Hitchcock show; of the Black Soundtrack evening, hosted by Craig Robinson; and of the DreamWorks bash. I often write the program notes too.
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).