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May 16, 2021

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Vancouver Symphony to settle film, video game scores

Concerts to showcase music from popular movies, video games

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Swashbuckling pirates, sunburnt gunslingers from the Wild West and all-powerful wizards will dance into people’s minds at this weekend’s Vancouver Symphony concert. That’s because the orchestra will play music from an array of popular films such as the “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “The Magnificent Seven,” and “The Lord of the Rings.”

Don’t be surprised if a couple of audience members are dressed up as pirates. Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” was a blockbuster that was immensely popular after its initial launch in 2003. Subsequent sequels in 2006, 2007, 2011 and 2017 have given the fun-loving buccaneers an enduring presence in today’s popular culture.

German composers Klaus Badelt and Hans Zimmer teamed up to write the music for “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl,” which the orchestra will perform in an arrangement by Ted Ricketts. Ricketts, by the way, was the music director and producer for Walt Disney World for 24 years.

The music conjures fog-bound encounters, a mysterious medallion, a ghostly pirate ship, a pirates cave and the rousing central events in the movie. It’s all wrapped tightly together to create a seamless experience.

“These days, the composer is involved from the beginning of the movie-making process,” said Greg Scholl, principal trombonist. “They have complete access because of the technology that exists today. They watch every scene of the movie and write the music and get right in there. They compose music in increments of 10 seconds sometimes — to match what exactly is happening in the scene.”

If You Go

• What: VSO plays popular film and video game music.

• When: 3 p.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday.

• Where: Skyview High School Concert Hall, 1300 N.W. 139th St., Vancouver.

• Cost: $50 for reserved seats, $38 for general admission, $34 for seniors and $10 for students.

Almost everyone can recognize the theme music from “The Magnificent Seven,” which is considered one of the best Westerns ever made. Elmer Bernstein, who wrote the music, received an Academy Award nomination for the score but didn’t win an Oscar. He had to wait another 13 years to get one after he won Best Music for “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in 1968. Still, the main theme from “The Magnificent Seven” became familiar to millions because it was used for Marlboro cigarette commercials from 1962 to 1971, when commercials for cigarettes were finally banned from television.

Canadian composer Howard Shore has written the scores for over 80 films and won three Academy Awards. The orchestra will perform his music from “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers,” in a “Symphonic Suite” arranged by Jerry Brubaker.

The piece contains a medley of the most memorable themes, depicting the army of Rohan, the Elvish princess Arwen, the warrior-king Th?oden, a mass of marching tree-creatures, the scheming wizard Saruman and the song of the mysterious Gollum.

“Shore has a terrific way to bring back certain themes throughout the film,” noted Scholl. “You can remember them better for that reason, and for the battle scenes, you have to rev up the trumpets, trombones and tubas. You can’t have a climactic scene without the high-point crew.”

Audience members are sure to recognize the fanfare-like themes from “Back to the Future: Suite for Orchestra” by Alan Silvestri. They expressed an optimism and sense of wild adventure that made the original film a big hit in 1985 and figured into the sequels from 1989 and 1990.

Playing for gamers

Music for video games is a new genre that has drawn the attention of many composers. Some games have a lot of drama that has been enhanced by symphonic music. The orchestra will perform the “Video Games Live Suite,” which contains a medley of tunes from such games as Halo, Civilization IV, Advent Rising and Kingdom Hearts.

“This will be my first time to play video game music with an orchestra,” said Scholl. “There is more music to play for the brass. That presents a challenge in terms of endurance. It is similar to summer pops concerts where we play wall-to-wall on every piece. In these video game arrangements, we play from beginning to end. There’s an awful lot of blowing with no rest. The video game music relentlessly builds excitement into the game. A lot of young people know that music better than any other kind of music. If you start playing that music, people know exactly what it is.”

Whatever the piece the orchestra plays, expect the best, because music director Salvador Brotons is in the driver’s seat.

“Brotons throws himself into these pieces just as if we were playing Tchaikovsky,” remarked Scholl. “He is so fully committed to the mission. You might start out thinking that you are not all that interested in the piece, but at rehearsal, he really draws the energy and the power out of the music. He is all in. It makes the music fun to play.”

Speaking of fun, concert-goers will be interested to know that Scholl has a special connection to Hollywood.

“I may have the only trombone in the world that has been autographed by William Shatner,” said Scholl. “I’m a huge Shatner fan and have met him twice. The second time, I gave him a bright green, permanent oil paint pen and had him sign the bell of my Shires trombone. It looks great. It says, ‘I am a rocket man. William Shatner.'”

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