by Dan Goldwasser
As the Hollywood Bowl season came to a close, the United States (as well as the world) was rocked by terrible terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. Then there were reports of threats against "a major film studio", putting much of Hollywood on alert. Increased security was everywhere - including at the Hollywood Bowl. This past Friday, September 21, 2001, I arrived at the Bowl for the final concert of the season, "The Big Picture: 2001 and Beyond". I somehow found myself playing a rather frustrating game of round-robin with the security folks just to get to my parking spot. Extremely frustrated by the time the concert started, I was counting on John Mauceri and the Bowl Orchestra to entertain and delight me. Suffice it to say, they did that - and more.
The theme that night was space-themed science fiction films, and after a rousing rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" (which held more meaning this time than the previous times - the audience gave Mauceri a standing ovation), a suite of science fiction music began. The first thing we heard was a recording of Louis and Bebe Barron's electronic "Main Title" from Forbidden Planet. This segued into a powerful performance of Bernard Herrmann's score to The Day The Earth Stood Still (you have to love that theremin part!), and then a quick suite from Jerry Goldsmith's score to Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. The performance was quite good, but there seemed to be a moment where my guest and I looked at each other thinking, "that's odd" - because a synth instrument was used in "March of the Klingons" rather than the orchestral instrument used in the film version.
Mauceri then addressed the audience, with his "Hollywood Bowl Physics 101" monologue. As expected, Mauceri had the audience in the palm of his hand - his easygoing manner and clear way of explaining how sound travels was amusing and informative. The reason for this explanation was because we would be watching footage from selected films, with the orchestra providing live underscore. (And so those audience members "in the other zip code" might experience the music off-sync from the picture.) Mauceri also pointed out that the bulk of the music we would hear that evening was composed by Goldsmith, who happened to be in the audience.
What space science-fiction concert would be complete without visiting Ripley and her cohorts in Alien? Well, this concert wouldn't have been! So they played "The Shaft" from Alien, complete with picture. But as many of us know, Goldsmith's score had been moved around from what he originally intended - in the final film, music from his earlier score to Freud is actually used. But they performed the scene that evening with the music that Goldsmith intended to be used, and while it was still tense and exciting, it wasn't as nerve-wracking as what was ultimately used in the film.
Since Goldsmith isn't the only composer to write for a space-themed movie, a suite of music from John Williams's Close Encounters of the Third Kind was played to a film montage compiled by Laura Gibson. It was interesting to hear the music and see footage that didn't sync, but it all seemed to match and work out in the end.
After the intermission, Mauceri came out wearing a Star Trek uniform - heralding the moment that most of the crowd had been eagerly awaiting. That night was the first time that people would see 20-minutes of footage from the upcoming Star Trek: The Motion Picture - The Director's Edition. On hand to watch (along with Goldsmith) was director Robert Wise, who also directed The Day The Earth Stood Still, which had been performed earlier in the concert. The long suite of music underscored a few specific scenes from the film, many of which included new visual effects and newly completed sequences. (I honestly couldn't tell you what was new; I don't know the film that well.) But you could tell when something new came on screen, because the flashbulbs would start going off like mad! Of note was the use of "the beam", a 15-foot long percussion instrument that is actually struck with an artillery shell (not a live round, though). The performance was great, and I can honestly say I hadn't previously heard the Bowl Orchestral play as well as they did that night.
As the title of the evening's program was "2001 and Beyond", (and it is the year 2001), it made logical sense to play music from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra", Johann Strauss's "Blue Danube Waltz" and Gyorgi Ligeti's "Atmospheres" were performed - and I'm still convinced that the "Atmospheres" sequence is one of the most bizarre sequences I've ever seen on film. Wrapping up the concert was "Final Battle" and "Throne Room Scene" from Star Wars - all set to picture. It was a great way to end the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra's final concert of the season.
As always, there are encores. The first one was a nice jazzy rendition of the "Cantina Band" from Star Wars, and the Bowl drummer was just brilliant in his enthusiastic performance. The second (and final) encore was (from what I understand) a film music first: they played (with a montage of dialogue and scenes from the film) John Morris's "Main Title" from Spaceballs - the first time it had ever been performed (a World Premiere event)! It was a great sequence filled with levity, and a delightful way to conclude the evening. I'm sure many people are eagerly awaiting next season to see what Mauceri has up his sleeve - but we won't know until the spring.
Special thanks to Rachelle Roe at the Hollywood Bowl Press Office.