Star Trek Takes Off In Irvine With Help From An Orchestra
Star Trek screening at Irvine Meadows. Photo by Scott Feinblatt
No matter how brilliant and familiar live classical music may be, unless the audience member is thoroughly versed in the genre or that particular piece of work, his 21st century attention span is probably going to wander off a bit during a concert. However, given the hyper-Romantic stylings of a film score (film scores usually focus on one to three themes, which are repeated over and over with variations), along with a screening of the film for which it was written, it is easy to keep an amphitheatre full of people rapt for two hours -- especially when that film is J.J. Abrams's Star Trek and the audience is full of Trekkies.
For someone who has not experienced an orchestral music performance (high school recitals don't count), the acoustics of a live orchestra put your embarrassingly overpriced Beats headphones to shame. Add an emotionally engaging score, and the effect is as enveloping as a siren song. In this case, the song was performed by the Pacific Symphony under the direction of Richard Kaufman. The symphony's resident musical director, Carl St. Clair, took the night off as the Grammy award winning Kaufman is the man for the job when film scores are to be conducted; Kaufman is frequently a guest conductor for orchestras around the world, where he leads orchestras in both traditional orchestral presentations as well as in synchronized film performances. This concert was part of the principal pops programming series, for which Kaufman has been the conductor for 25 seasons.
When the lights dimmed at the Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, Kaufman made a brief introductory speech, in which he provided some Star Trek trivia. He said that Lloyd Bridges (Sea Hunt) and Jack Lord (Hawaii Five-O) turned down the opportunity to star in the series before William Shatner came aboard as James T. Kirk, captain of the Starship Enterprise. Kaufman also recalled the fact that the original series only lasted three seasons and scored very low Nielsen ratings (there is a complex reason for this -- some of which is revealed here). After his speech, a short film introduction featuring actor Simon Pegg (Scotty) screened, and then the film began.
All the members of the orchestra bore the Star Trek insignia, and though the audience was encouraged to attend in costume, their lack of Star Trek allegiance was betrayed by their civilian wardrobes. Still, they applauded when the title of the film appeared, after the introductory sequence. Their applause also greeted the introduction of each of the principal characters, with the biggest applause occurring upon the revelation of recently deceased Star Trek icon Leonard Nimoy.
As for the film, though it was not on an IMAX screen, the fact that one could routinely shift his attention to the live orchestra below gave the screening a dually entertaining effect reminiscent of the silent film experience; silent films were screened with live accompaniment (naturally, the dynamics of the score and a full orchestra exponentially enhanced the experience). There was a brief intermission halfway through the film; following this, a brief Entr'acte preceded the second half of the screening.
Given an excellent audio mix, which enabled listeners to hear the film's dialogue (which also appeared as subtitles) and sound effects just as clearly as the live performance of Academy Award winner Michael Giacchino's score, this was an outstanding presentation -- one that is surely to be remembered by any of the audience members who revisit a DVD or Blu-ray of the film with the score merely mixed into the soundtrack.
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