This past weekend, the Henry Mancini Institute held its annual "Tribute to American Film Music" concert in Royce Hall at UCLA. The orchestra was comprised of 78 musicians, picked from over 600 applicants. (Seven composers are also in the program, but don't perform in the orchestra.) The show was introduced by Sid Ganis, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
Artistic Director Patrick Williams opened the concert by conducting Mancini's "It Had Better Be Tonight", from The Pink Panther. Legendary composer/songwriter Johnny Mandel came out to conduct two of his melodies, from An American Dream and The Americanization of Emily. Both were wonderfully played, with the lush orchestrations washing over the enthusiastic crowd. Williams returned to the stage to conduct "The Race" from his score to Violets are Blue, matched to the picture on screen. Laurence Rosenthal - making his first public concert appearance as a conductor - led the HMI Orchestra in a three-movement suite of music from The Miracle Worker. His tender and emotionally stirring music was definitely a highlight of the evening.
The first half of the concert came to the end with the World Premiere of a new suite of music from all three Austin Powers films, arranged for the evening by composer George S. Clinton. The "Shagadelic Suite" was conducted by Richard Kaufman, principle pops conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. There were a few rhythmic hiccups, but for the most part, the HMI Orchestra did an admirable job with the mixed-tempo suite, which was based around Clinton's Grammy-nominated arrangement of Quincy Jones' "Soul Bossa Nova".
A technical issue which had made the first half of the concert somewhat uncomfortable (a high-pitched beeping coming from the sound console) was resolved at the start of the second half. Williams returned to the stage, and led the musicians (to picture) with John Barry's lush Oscar-winning music from Out of Africa. Kaufman followed him, with a suite of music by Franz Waxman's Oscar-winning A Place in the Sun. The saxophone solo was excellent.
Williams then conducted a cue from James Newton Howard's tender yet little-heard score to Man in the Moon, and then "Sayuri's Theme" from John Williams' Oscar-nominated score to Memoirs of a Geisha. Considering that the score was actually recorded in Royce Hall, it was all the more fitting that the performance and sound quality of this particular piece was nearly dead-on with the original performance.
A swinging brassy big-band sound filled the room with Christopher Young's "Main Title" from The Man Who Knew Too Little". This was followed by Henry Mancini's own arrangement of "A Tribute to Victor Young", which dabbled in many of Young's well known themes, including "Golden Earrings", "Sweet Sue", "Love Letters", "Around the World in 80 Days" and more.
The concert came to a close with a suite of music from Danny Elfman's score to Spider-Man. The most recent re-recording of this piece of music (heard on the album "Comic Strip Heroes") was terrible, so it was with great relief and surprise that the HMI Orchestra not only managed to give a strong performance of this difficult piece of music, but also managed to successfully replicate much of the synth percussion - orchestrally! Missing the choir, the suite went from the "Main Title" to "Mary Jane's Theme" to the "Finale". (Interestingly, the images on screen were from both Spider-Man films, and didn't always match the music in tone.) The concert didn't have an encore, but garnered a rousing standing ovation from the very excited and pleased audience.
For more information on the Henry Mancini Institute, visit www.manciniinstitute.org.