To an outsider, the world of classical music might be one of daunting elitism, where society's richest and coldest turn their noses up as they peer down at you through their monacles. Thankfully, many efforts have been made to break this mould and bring classical music to a wider audience, most recently with the outsider-friendly Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra's presentation of Movie Masterpieces: The Classics of John Williams.
Before attending, however, I still felt the need to make myself a little presentable. Even if this wasn't an event for classical's most elite, I couldn't attend with my usual faux-homeless guy look. After struggling to pat my hair down in a presentable manner (I don't use combs... I didn't even brush my hair on my wedding day), I struggled to get a tie around my neck. Eternal gratitude is in order to tie-a-tie.net, which has helped me struggle through countless Half Windsors.
As the title suggests, Movie Masterpieces is a live playlist presenting the best of movie scoring master John Williams. In other words, it attracted all walks of life. I saw children, comic book nerds, classical enthusiasts and one guy who looked a lot like a farmer. Thankfully, my ratty attempt at cleaning up my act was just enough to blend in with the audience.
Williams' award-winning, masterful have added great depth to some of Hollywood's most iconic films. Yet, as conductor Roberto Minczuk pointed out, the work would not be presented with images screened in the background. Not only because we all know these movies inside and out, but also because Williams' compositions are rich with complexities that deserve to be appreciated on their own.
Minczuk was unquestionably right. Opening with “Adventures on Earth” from the E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial score, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra conjured magic onstage as each individual performer delivered immaculate, complicated parts of a greater whole. The Jurassic Park theme, which is surprisingly uplifting without images of dinosaurs de-limbing people, was similarly moving before the iconic Jaws music pummelled cello strings with its raw aggression.
The cinematic roller coaster continued throughout the evening with the mystery and thrill of the Harry Potter suite and the triumphant Raiders of the Lost Ark theme. The evening ended with suites from both Schindler's List — which allowed Jonathan Crow to perform a delicate violin solo — and, as promised by the Storm Troopers in the lobby, Star Wars.
Aside from the CPO's fantastic performance and the pitch-perfect acoustics of the Jack Singer Concert Hall, Movie Masterpieces offered a greater appreciation for John Williams' work. When studied without any distraction, one can truly enjoy the richness and chaos of each phrase while clinging on to the swift changes and A.D.D.-addled details.
While movie themes are certainly a populist introduction to the world of classical music, Movie Masterpieces did exactly what it set out to do. Not only was I moved by the Williams' work, but I found myself browsing the CPO's website to try and decide which classical event I want to attend next. Now, choose the right monacle...
An encore performance of Movie Masterpieces: The Classics of John Williams takes place at the Jack Singer Concert Hall tonight (Saturday, January 14) at 8 p.m. More information is available here.