In the months that have passed since James Horner’s tragic death last June, already several tribute concerts have been performed around the world. These events serve both to preserve the composer’s legacy and also remind us that Horner’s body of work now fully belongs to the history books of music. One of the first concerts that was announced and performed took place in Dublin in September. Performed by the RTE Concert Orchestra, conducted by the well known conductor David Brophy, the concert offered several highlights from Horner’s career. We were fortunate enough to be invited to one of the rehearsals, in addition to the concert. Here is our report of this event.

The legacy of James Horner is without a doubt the astonishing amount of music he left behind. Themes and pieces that takes the listener on so many different journeys, each with its own set of characteristic traits and unique colours. First in what surely will be countless tribute concerts in honor of the late composer around the world was the Irish RTE Concert Orchestra, who on the 17th of September 2015 gave the audience in the National Concert Hall a tour of the endless journeys that is James Horner’s musical world.
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!

[divider]The Rehearsal[/divider]
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.

The rehearsal lasted for another three hours, after which we got to say hello to David Brophy and then started looking forward to the concert itself the next day.
[divider]The concert[/divider]
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.

6 thoughts on “DUBLIN 2015: A TRIBUTE TO JAMES HORNER”

  1. I read with great interest the notes Ken Wiggins wrote about the Dublin Tribute….so it was even better to get the notes on the rehearsal and concert. It sounded wonderful, wish I had known about it. I wonder if there will be any UK concerts, possibly around June’s first anniversary.

  2. I read this article with a heavy heart and watching the Hollywood In Vienna concert from 2013 gives me a whole new perspective on his music. I wonder if there are going to be any more tribute concerts for him. Probably on the first anniversary of his passing, which will be an emotional one not just for his family and friends but fro his fans every where.

  3. Great review of the Dublin tribute concert Kim, it’s a pleasant surprise to discover that someone from James Horner Film Music was there to cover the event. It was a fantastic experience to attend on the night and to hear the music performed so well, although the enjoyment was tempered by the knowledge that the concert was only being staged because the composer had recently died.
    It was a pity the concert was not completely sold out. I fully commend the Board of the National Concert Hall for its decision to stage the event, but I don’t think it was publicised as well as it could have been. By chance I heard an announcement for it on the RTE Radio 1Morning Ireland show just a few days beforehand–if I had been listening to the Newstalk station instead I would not have known about the concert until after it was over. RTE Lyric FM broadcast a recording of the concert at Christmas.
    I agree that the decision to perform the Titanic Suite without a uilleann piper was a curious one, particularly as Mark Redmond joined the orchestra on the pipes for the rousing performance of the Braveheart end credits. We mustn’t omit to mention Niamh O Sullivan, who took on the Sissel solo vocal duties and executed the part brilliantly. I suspect that David Brophy’s intention was to showcase O Sullivan on the Titanic Suite, and then do the same for Redmond on the Braveheart theme, and that may be why the pipes were replaced by the oboe in his version of the Titanic Suite.
    There is no doubt that overall the playing by the orchestra throughout was magnificent, and the choir were equally superb, particularly on the Avatar Suite, which was absolutely electrifying. Let’s not forget those two heroes in the percussion section, Noel Eccles and James Dunne, whose unique contribution on pink and blue plastic tubes (of all things!) during the thrilling Star Trek II theme delighted and amazed the audience, adding something extra to the evening’s terrific finale.
    The star of the show of course was James Horner, who although now departed, will always be present in spirit wherever people are gathered together to appreciate his music. There is no particular reason why Dublin should be the first place in the world to host a tribute concert in honour of the composer’s memory, but I’m really glad it was.
    Much of the credit must go to the human dynamo that is conductor David Brophy. His boundless energy and enthusiasm made the concert possible, and his passion for Horner’s work was clear for all to see. Never a man lost for words, Brophy was so emotional at the end of the exquisite Wedding theme from Deep Impact that the only word he could utter was ‘gorgeous’, which, to be honest, really says it all. Well done David, and congratulations to everyone at The National Concert Hall for paying their respects the late, great James Horner.

  4. From reading the news in the recent tribute to James in Dublin, I would like to add that tonight at the Royal College of Music, where James attended, the Students’ Film Orchestra played some wonderful pieces ending with a perfect version of The Rocketeer, conducted by Richard Miller. It was magnificent, thank yiu very much RCM. Pamela

    1. I’m so glad that the school I’m looking to attend in the future to study music composition in films did something to honor James. Just a brilliant school and a lovely way to honor the greatest composer that ever lived.

  5. They did a complete tribute last year which was a fabulous evening. In last night’s programme, special thanks was given to Simon Franglen, so well done to Simon for keeping James’s music with us all. Thank you very much JHFM. Pamela.

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