Tuesday, November 08, 2016

A Higher Ark

Before I got started with my "vacation proper," I spent an evening at the symphony. It made for a special level of exhaustion on that early morning flight the next day, but it was totally worth it for what I got to see.

A few times each year, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra presents special movie screenings -- a film is projected on a screen above the stage, and the orchestra plays the entire score live in sync to the picture. Past screenings have included Back to the Future and Psycho. This time out, the featured composer was John Williams. The movie was Raiders of the Lost Ark.

First, a few quick words about the film itself. Raiders is still one of the great action romps. It is as relentlessly paced as many modern blockbusters, despite being released in the early 1980s. What's more, its plot is far more thought out, and its characters more sharply drawn. It remains one of Steven Spielberg's very best movies, even after the dozens he's made since.

This is also one of John Williams best scores. Amid a career of several indelible themes, the "Raiders March" still stands out. It's triumphant, swashbuckling, and loud -- not content to hide in the background, but instead an integral part of the film experience. The sweeping romantic theme for Marion is just as strong, as is the ominous theme representing the Ark itself.

Seeing all this music performed live was a real treat. This score lives in the brass section, and you could watch how the different instruments -- trumpets, trombones, french horns, and tuba -- all worked to create the whole. You also got a display of the musicians' incredible skill on a number of cues in the score. The piece that really brought the house down was the "Desert Chase," seven-and-a-half minutes of uninterrupted music with virtually no dialogue, that plays as Indy climbs on top of (and is subsequently dragged under) a moving truck. The intensity keeps ratcheting up, the instruments playing louder and louder, the tempo accelerating faster and faster -- and all of it in perfect sync to specific moments on screen. The crowd erupted in thunderous applause at the end of the sequence.

As an extra added bonus, with the show taking place on the Friday before Halloween, several people in the crowd saw fit to dress as Indiana Jones -- men, women, young, old, each adding to the fun atmosphere of the night.

As much as I love Back to the Future, this was probably the best film/score concert from the Colorado Symphony Orchestra I've seen yet. And John Williams fans have two more promising events to look forward to as the season continues into 2017 -- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial.

I say every time that I can't recommend these shows highly enough. That's why I'm talking about one again. I can't recommend them highly enough.

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