Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Elgin Symphony Stars in "A Night at the Oscars"

The Hemmens auditorium was packed like a movie theater on a blockbuster opening weekend, but this audience had come to hear a program of movie music performed by the Elgin Symphony Orchestra on Sunday afternoon before the Academy Awards telecast.

The modern era of sound and picture recording has had a major impact on the arts, and many people's primary exposure to symphonic music today is through movie and television scores, which could explain the huge turnout for this Oscar weekend concert.

An enormous ensemble of players reprised excerpts of memorable soundtracks by John Williams (Star Wars), James Horner (Titanic), and Bernard Herrmann (Psycho). Seven other film scores spanning five decades showcased the incredible variety and detail in the music of award-winning composers from around the world.

ESO violinist Isabella Lippi was the audience's favorite leading lady, performing solos with a dramatic palette of emotions from films The Red Violin and Schindler's List. Expanded brass and percussion sections and a myriad of string techniques were employed in recreating sounds from Ben Hur and Dances With Wolves.

During a seating change between works, charismatic Music Director Andrew Grams highlighted the ESO's ongoing support of Food for Greater Elgin with onstage theatrics of his own: pushing a shopping cart filled with groceries that represents the value of a twenty dollar donation to the cause.

ESO announces its 2015-2016 with a movie during "A Night at the Oscars"

Following intermission, the silver screen itself made an appearance during "A Night at the Oscars" as the 2015-2016 concert season was introduced in a short movie.

In part, the idiomatic use of previews before movie showings has conditioned today's audiences to expect promotional messages to accompany their arts, entertainment, and even worship experiences. It's even possible that some people feel uncomfortable without them.

The ESO has effectively and tastefully integrated their own messaging (and now charitable appeals) into the concert hall experience, and the attendance increases would suggest it just might be working.