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Pops Screens the Movies

Mary Ellyn Hutton
Posted: Sep 20, 2015 - 8:57:08 PM in reviews_2015

John Morris Russell leading the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra at Music Hall in Cincinnati

    Few more enjoyable programs have been presented by John Morris Russell and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra than Sunday afternoon's "Pops at the Movies" at Music Hall.
    In a salute to the American Film Institute's list of 25 Greatest American Film Scores, Russell and the Pops conjured scene after scene of America's favorite movies without a screen in sight.
   All that backed the stage was the Cincinnati Pops logo, which changed colors regularly during the show (pink for "The Pink Panther," for example). Nothing more was needed to effectively "go to the movies."
   It was an occasion to relish the big, lush Cincinnati Pops sound, as Russell captured the magic of the silver screen in music.
   After opening with "Hooray for Hollywood" (by Johnny Mercer and Richard A Whiting) Russell got down to business with the main theme from "The Magnificent Seven."  The Elmer Bernstein score ranks #8 on the AFI list, he noted, as he did with reference to each selection heard.
   There were timeless classics, like the soaring "Tara's Theme" from "Gone with the Wind" (#2) by Max Steiner, the stirring, trumpet-laced "Parade of the Charioteers" from "Ben Hur" by Miklos Rozsa (#21) and Maurice Jarre's super-romantic Overture to "Lawrence of Arabia" (#3).
   Representatives from the next generation of film composers included John Barry, with his touching theme from "Out of Africa" (#15). Also heard was Ennio Morricone's inspiring "Gabriel's Oboe" from "The Mission" (#23), which featured a splendid solo by principal oboist Dwight Parry.
   Some numbers were downright "photogenic," like selections from "On the Waterfront" (#22) by Leonard  Bernstein which was big, raw, mean -- and lovely, with a beautiful solo by principal trumpeter Matthew Ernst. You could almost see the arrows flying in Erich Wolfgang Korngold's "Robin Hood and His Merry Men" from "The Adventures of Robin Hood" (#11 and an Oscar-winner).
   It was English hornist Christopher Philpotts' turn in an addition to the program, an excerpt from the Pops fine new album "American Originals," Peter Boyer's "Rolling River: Sketches on Shenandoah," where he turned in a lovely performance
    There were snatches from "Psycho" (Bernard Herrman, #4 on the AFI list) and Danny Elfman's "Spiderman" (not listed), as well as Henry Mancini's "The Pink Panther" (#20) with tenor saxophonist Rick van Matre, where Russell invited the audience to snap their fingers. "The Godfather" (Nino Rota, #5) featured Timothy Berens on mandolin and Jonathan Gunn on clarinet.
   A tender highlight of the show was violinist/acting associate concertmaster Kathryn Woolley's sensitive performance of the theme from "Schindler's List" (John Williams, not listed).
    Themes from Howard Shore's "Lord of the Rings" (not listed) got kaleidoscopic treatment, including an organ-rich finale.
   But there could be no film score presentation without John Williams, who was represented in addition to "Schindler's List," by "Adventures on Earth" from "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" (#14) and of course, "Star Wars."
   Williams' powerful score for "Star Wars' not only  won the audience vote for Cincinnati's favorite film score (tallied and announced after intermission) but came in #1 on the AFI's Greatest Film Scores list.  Brassy, bold and transporting, it made the perfect ending for the show.
   Note: The Cincinnati Pops has most likely recorded more film music than any other orchestra, and most of the selections heard on the concert can be found among its many CDs.