Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 6, 2019

REVIEW: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Movie Night

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA
May 4, 2019
by Shera Cohen

Question: whose name immediately comes to mind when asked, “Name a movie composer?” Answer: 99% will respond with “John Williams.” We’ll get to Mr. Williams soon.

While in a dark theatre watching a film, it seems reasonable to say that one of the least noticeable factors that makes a good movie, great, is the background music.

A large audience filled Symphony Hall for SSO’s Pops 2018/19 finale titled “Movie Night with Maestro Rhodes.” Resulting in three deserved standing ovations, it seems that everyone loves movie music. There are two key reasons for this common appreciation. 1) The compositions are excellent mini-symphonies. 2) The music stirs memories of movie classics.

Maestro Kevin Rhodes brought the listeners through the evening chronologically from the 1930s to 2010s, offering bits of information on each composer. Rhodes’ commentary prior to the orchestration contributed delightful repartee – both helpful and humorous. Some of the composer names were well known: Alfred Newman, Max Steiner, Elmer Bernstein. Most of the names were unfamiliar. Yet, in the case of every piece played, the common denominator was the familiarity of the music.

The lighter fare included the jazzy “The Sting,” comic delight of “Back to the Future,” and whimsy of “Pirates of the Caribbean”. The more melodic, perhaps dramatic, pieces were the slow strings of “The Godfather” and the haunting theme of “2001, A Space Odyssey”.
For the bulk of the program, SSO brought out “the big guns” – meaning lots of percussion, booming brass, and endings packed with punch from each section of the orchestra. In this category were: “The Magnificent Seven,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Cleopatra,” “Ben Hur,” and “The Ten Commandments.” Rhodes called the final compositions, “bible music.”

Some special moments filled the evening; i.e. SSO female chorus members singing “Titanic,” and Rhodes’ opening part two of the program without audience fanfare, but simply addressing a piano, front and center, fingers looming over the keyboard to produce familiar and catchy moments from “The Sting”. The music continued when Rhodes was joined by a jazz quintet, scooped from his orchestra, on “Ragtime Melody.”

Any patron of an SSO Pops Concert knows that an encore is a “must” to the repertoire. No movie music program would dare omit John Williams; Rhodes and SSO pumped up the verve, volume, and vibrancy to the sections of rousing music from “Star Wars.”

This was a super evening of music in this galaxy or on one far, far away.