DUBLIN 2015: A TRIBUTE TO JAMES HORNER
The programme for the concert was a good mixture of older and newer scores by Horner, and even though the number of musicians in the orchestra was slightly lower than we often hear in the recordings of Horner’s scores, the result was definitely worth the visit!
We were very fortunate to attend both the concert and rehearsal. Just after arriving in Dublin, we went directly to RTE Radio where the orchestra was already well underway with rehearsing for the concert the next day. Conducted by David Brophy and joined by the RTE Choir, the orchestra efficiently worked through the programme. First out of the pieces we heard was The Ludlows from Legends of the Fall. It came as no surprise that this piece was included and David Brophy obviously had both a clear vision and good understanding of what the resulting performance should be, with emotional swells and restrained intimacy in all the right passages.
It is always exciting to hear a new orchestra you’re not familiar with, especially when you know the piece they are playing very well. At the same time comes a slight apprehension until you’ve heard them play. But from the first note it was obvious the orchestra and the conductor were going to deliver the goods. The hall was roughly three quarters full, and the audience was, as I’ve often noticed in these types of concerts, rather young compared to your “typical” classical music concert.
First out of the gate was Aliens, the same suite played in Stavanger which includes the main titles as well as Ripley’s Rescue. The eerie tones of the main titles gently led the audience into James Horner’s world of music, before ramping up the pace and adrenaline for Ripley’s Rescue, with cow bells, anvils and all.
Next was a suite from Apollo 13, arranged by John Moss. The playing was wonderful, but the arranger has taken some liberties which I personally don’t agree with, changing the rhythm of the opening snare drum during the main titles, and a finale which is slightly out-of-place in terms of Horner’s typical finales. But again, the execution by the orchestra was flawless.
As already mentioned, the programme spanned the entirety of Horner’s impressive career. Continuing in the track of Ron Howard-directed movies, we got to hear Cocoon, before The Ludlows. Taking a look around, seeing the audience so immersed in the music was both a testament to the playing of the orchestra, but also of how well suited movie scores can be for a concert presentation!
Between the pieces, conductor David Brophy would take a few minutes to explain interesting details about the different movies or the actual pieces, including pointing out different choices in the orchestration.
Willow is another often mentioned fan favourite and got a very good presentation. This piece also introduced us to the choir which would later appear in both Titanic and Avatar. The latter followed Willow and was the last piece before the interval. This was again a piece heard both in Vienna and Stavanger, and personally I prefer those performances, as the tempo in this case was slightly reduced during the part from the War-cue, which closes out the suite. However the first part of the suite, taken from Jake’s First Flight, was stunning.
After the interval, the obviously included Titanic was up next. Being in Dublin and Ireland, I had high hopes for the performance here, due to the country being the home of the Uillean Pipes. It was therefore with slight disappointment that the arrangement which was performed omitted the pipes, instead relegating the part to the oboe, largely. Nevertheless, the playing was beautiful, the soloist from the choir did a splendid job, and the piece got one of the strongest applauses throughout the concert.
The pipes finally appeared for Braveheart, where the orchestra performed the main titles, before seamlessly continuing with the end credits. A rather interesting coincidence is how the choir did a small mistake in the exact same place as the choir in Stavanger. They quickly came back in synch, though, and did not detract much from the performance.
Following these came The Wedding from Deep Impact, which sounded as if it came straight out of the soundtrack, and was a nice addition compared to the programming in the previous two concerts I’ve attended. Next came another suite from Aliens, which even utilised a styrofoam cup played by a double bass bow for an incredibly eerie and unsettling sound. David Brophy took some time to explain how Horner often used strange objects to get a particular sound he was looking for, and had the percussionist demonstrate how he could produce different pitches on the cup, before they played the suite.
The last suite played was from the period where it all began: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The end credits demonstrated the challenging brass writing Horner was known for in full force. It was therefore very good to hear how the orchestra hit every note with crystal clear precision, marking a wonderful and worthy finale in the RTE Concert Orchestra & Choir’s tribute to James Horner.
Very special thanks to the RTE Concert Orchestra & Choir, David Brophy and Angela Rohan for their hospitality and for allowing us to cover this event.