Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale goes to the movies at annual pops concert

By Karen Greer
For the Journal Inquirer
June 4, 2009

MANCHESTER —The Manchester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale brings the magic of the silver screen to Manchester High School for A Night at the Movies, its annual pops concert, Saturday, June 6, at 7:30 p.m.

Under the direction of conductors Lewis J. Buckley and Kevin L. Mack, MSOC will recreate musical moments ranging from the days of silent movies all the way to the latest blockbusters.

Even in the era of silent pictures, movies were entertainment for the ears as well as the eyes. At big-city movie palaces, elaborate pipe organs were outfitted with whistles, drums, and other imaginative hardware to create the special effects of the day.

Buckley explains how theater musicians provided accompaniment for an ever-increasing number of movies by compiling a repertoire of music for various situations.

“The organist or conductor just chose appropriate music from the book that they had, playing “chase music” for the chase scenes, “dramatic music” for the tense scenes, “love music” for the romance, etc,” he says.

Buckley is preparing to recreate the experience for the pops concert audience. The Manchester Symphony Orchestra will provide the music while the audience enjoys a classic short film, “Double Whoopie,” starring the comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.

The addition of sound opened exciting new possibilities for moviegoers. Not only were there “talking pictures,” but lavish musical productions could now be seen by audiences anywhere. Many Broadway musicals were adapted for film, including one of the most successful motion pictures of all time, “The Sound of Music.”

Entirely new productions were created as vehicles for the most popular entertainers. “I Got Rhythm” was featured in “An American in Paris,” with Gene Kelly dancing to the music of George Gershwin. The song had already been used in two stage musicals, ‘Treasure Girl” and “Girl Crazy.”

The chorale, conducted by Mack, will perform these and other musical favorites, and joins the Symphony in a medley of songs by Richard Rodgers.

The addition of a soundtrack made it practical for every movie to have music tied to the dramatic action at each particular moment. Buckley will demonstrate the impact of an effective musical score on a film’s dramatic power with the
parade of the charioteers leading up to the famous chariot race from “Ben Hur.” The audience will see the scene twice — first without, then with, the orchestra playing “Parade of the Charioteers.”

Miklos Rozsa, who composed the score for “Ben Hur,” had a 50-year career writing for film and television, including the well-known theme music from the television show “Dragnet “Rozsa was just one of the talented musicians who dedicated most or all of their careers to the new art form. The concert program includes songs by the equally prolific film composers Henry Mancini and New Haven native Alfred Newman.

Today, the major studios hope that their biggest hit movies can each generate a string of sequels. John Williams is the current master of film scores that create a dramatic whole out of not one, but a whole series of pictures. Evoking the operas of Richard Wagner, he ties together epic multi-film sagas using musical themes for specific characters or places. The symphony will perform excerpts from his music for the Indiana Jones and Harry Potter films.

Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and students over 18, and free for those under 18. For more information, call 860-228-2921, e-mail, or visit: