The Stavanger Concert House is an impressive-looking building even from the outside. Opened in 2012, the Fartein Valen concert hall with its 1500 seats has already been renowned internationally for its impressive acoustics. What a great place for a night of James Horner music, including the Nordic premiere of Pas de Deux.
James Horner Film Music has been fortunate to enjoy a very good relationship with Mari and Håkon Samuelsen, even preceding the Pas de Deux premier in Liverpool last fall. Once again, we have been allowed to watch up close as this unique event comes together.
As previously reported, James Horner himself will conduct parts of the programme, while the rest will be led by the steady hand of experienced Norwegian conductor, Torodd Wigum.
Earlier today, I had an opportunity to experience the rehearsals for Wednesday’s concert. Maestro Wigum welcomed me and led me to the concert hall, where James Horner was being interviewed by Norwegian state television. Afterwards, the orchestra took to the stage and prepared for rehearsing the suite from Aliens.
The creepy, opening notes of Aliens can send shivers down almost anyone’s spine. The suite starts with the main titles, before leading into Ripley’s Rescue, with thundering percussion and brass. Torodd Wigum led the orchestra from the podium, while Horner walked around the hall to check the sound balance. It was very interesting to see the attention to detail the two conductors had and how in tune they were when it came to making quick adjustments along the way.
After Aliens, came a run through of the Avatar suite. The suite is the same that was performed during Hollywood in Vienna in 2013. The choir was not present, but the orchestra more than made up for it. The brass really gets a workout during this piece, especially in the last couple of minutes, which is from the War cue of the score.
I also had a chance to exchange a few words with Mari and Håkon Samuelsen who were also present during the rehearsals. The Pas de Deux album was released in Norway this Monday. We hope to come back with remarks from the two siblings later this week.
The orchestra then took a short break. Next on the agenda was Titanic. Vocalist Clara Sanabras, who arrived in Norway the same day, and Eric Rigler took to the stage along with the orchestra. Behind the orchestra, the VIVA youth choir also took their places. Some of the singers had exams and couldn’t attend the rehearsals, so about 26 of the 38 singers that will be performing in the concert were present for the rehearsals.
Horner rehearsed the suite, section by section, re-visiting any part he felt needed fine tuning. He was also keenly aware of how the piece sounded around the hall and frequently asked Mari, Håkon and Torodd if the levels seemed okay. Clara Sanabras, with her incredible voice, is perfect for a piece like this and will surely evoke strong emotions from the audience during the concert. The choir also did a wonderful job, especially in the final few minutes, countering the strings and uilliean pipes. This is the same finale as in the suite from Back to Titanic.
The choir also stayed for the next piece, which was the end credits from Braveheart. After Horner was happy with the piece, the singers from the choir came down for a group photo with Horner. This must have been a memorable event for them, and the composer was happy to pose for the occasion.
Finally, he conducted his way through the final cue from Wolf Totem, which will have its world premiere in a concert setting during this event. Horner delivered the score to the orchestra just this weekend, as a last minute idea to add to the programme. When the rehearsal ended, he took care to thank the musicians for their hard work and wonderful performances throughout the day. Torodd Wigum then introduced me to Horner, who was very nice and welcoming, even after a very long day of rehearsals and press interviews.
Torodd Wigum had the following to say about today’s rehearsals:
“James seems really happy with the orchestra, the concert hall, the choir. Everything, really. People can look forward to the concert tomorrow. Personally, this is a great adventure and an honor. And I think Mari and Håkon are doing a tremendous job!”
“I was thrilled this morning to have the opportunity, not only to perform James's music but to be led by his baton. It is fascinating to watch a composer conduct his own music, all rules cease to exist and the notes flow straight from the soul, or at least that's what it felt like to me this morning, singing with James, next to the amazing Eric Rigler and Stavanger symphony."
I frankly can’t contribute more than agree with everything said above. This is an event not to be missed, and the concertgoers of Stavanger can look forward to an extraordinary event this Wednesday.
James Horner Film Music will of course be present at the concert, and we look forward to sharing our experience with our readers.