The music label, Varese Sarabande continued its year long anniversary celebration of thirty-five years as the most important and vital force for releasing and preserving film and television music on the nineteenth of October. As a music label that survived against insurmountable odds such as would there be a strong fan base to support such a venture, it was a richly deserved celebration that once again demonstrated that film music continues to be noticed and appreciated by more than a handful of film music savants.
This Examiner.com columnist and photographer was afforded unprecedented access by Varese Sarabande and Costa Communications in order to cover the event from the rehearsals to the final after-party at a private building located in San Pedro, California.
I arrived early and was warmly greeted by composer and conductor, Christopher Young who was was in the eye of the rehearsal hurricane that was transpiring in the historic location known as the Warner Grand Theater. Composers such as Brian Tyler, Marco Beltrami and Lee Holdridge ran through their rehearsals feverishly because the approaching time to let the audience fill their seats had been rapidly approaching. The rehearsals had a dream-like quality to it because the music played were of the horror film genre and it appeared that the composers were playing to the spirits that may have once wandered and enjoyed this location in the past. Despite the frenetic pace of the rehearsals, this columnist could not detect any musicians that struck a wrong key or any of the chorus that had ended with an incorrect cadence. There can be no doubt watching musicians during rehearsals is to watch artists honing their craft to eventual absolute perfection in front of discerning music aficionados.
The celebration demanded a red carpet photo opportunity for the gathered photographers who can count themselves lucky enough to have covered such an entertaining and unique procession of arguably the world's finest film composers ever to assemble in one single location. Composers that would be performing and many who had came to enjoy and offer support were seen and photographed. They arrived dressed in their finest and unique tuxedo and dress ensembles. One of the most popular composers that walked the red carpet was Christopher Young whose shimmering blue and red skull encrusted dress jacket proved to be the source of many conversations that would be overheard during the after party. Many of the the composers also have model and star quality appearances especially composers, Brian Tyler and Cliff Eidelman whom could easily send many hearts swooning on any movie premiere red carpet event.
The concert portion of the celebration was the raison d'être for the night and it began on a very high note indeed! After a visibly very enthusiastic introduction by the mastermind and producer of Varese Sarabande, Robert Townson, the concert began with composer, Joseph LoDuca conducting the Golden State Pops Orchestra through a rousing rendition of several classic horror themes such as John Carpenter's Halloween. The symphonic bar was set and equaled throughout the night. The conductor of the orchestra, Steven Allen Fox quickly followed with a haunting rendition of John Williams' theme to the 1979 version of Dracula which has rarely, if ever been played live. A definitive rendition that broke symphonic ground was the premiere of the heart breaking title theme to the classic film, The Ghost and Mrs Muir written by the late composer, Bernard Herrmann. Honors were accorded to John Debney whose sensitive and flawless conducting brought many in the audience to the emotional high point of the night. The audience would not yet be let off of the emotional roller coaster they had willingly signed on for! Composer, Lee Holdridge grabbed the audience by the collective hands and introduced many to the equally touching and rousing theme to Something Wicked This Way Comes which was written by the late Georges Delerue whose widow was in attendance. The celebrated and brilliant flutist, Sara Andon joined composer, Holdridge on the stage for a performance that justifiably brought the audience to enthusiastic cheers of "bravo!" Andon is a true musical national treasure and each and every time this columnist has had the pleasure of hearing her, it was always an unforgettable experience that resonates within me to this day.
After a brief intermission which allowed the audience to catch its collective breath, the celebration began anew with composer, Marco Beltrami stitching together a number of his themes into one breathtaking mini-concert that displayed the composer's brilliant ability to musically unnerve with his dissonant and alternately moving symphonic statements. Another surprising and moving rendition occurred when composer, Randy Edelman took the podium and recalled his time with the late Elmer Bernstein. One of Bernstein's most recognized contributions to the world of film scoring can be found in the film, Ghostbusters. Randy Edelman honestly spoke to the audience on what the composer had meant to him and what an honor it was to score the second film in the franchise. It was appropriate that Edelman had decided to create an extended suite of Ghostbusters utilizing many of the themes that could be found throughout the film. Adding to the sense of wonder was the reappearance of the luminous flutist, Sara Andon who once again captivated the audience with her enthralling musical abilities.
One crescendo after another-what would the conclusion of the night's celebration be? Enter the conductor of the Golden State Pops Orchestra-Steven Allen Fox. The much hyped closing theme would belong to Christopher Young with his heroic and ground shaking theme to Ghost Rider. Fox led the orchestra to a phenomenal interpretation of Young's score which was made even more incredible with the addition of the rock and roll trio named Philm whom blended seamlessly with the classical orchestra. An air of delicious musical danger led the audience to its feet as the pounding theme seemingly threatened to swallow the theater and San Pedro into a dark lair where the composer might have well have been the devil himself. That moment is what true film music will accomplish and there can be no doubting that the audience was witness to a transcending moment of musical genius that will be discussed for years to come! Fox received a sweet and emotional embrace from Young who leaped to the stage much to the delight and roaring approval from the audience!
It is concerts like this that truly demonstrate the genius and time proven talent the film industry has been fortunate enough to lay claim to and it is my personal hope that many more discover the true joy in listening and being enveloped by the music from the movies! Happy 35th to Varese Sarabande!