The Hippo


May 25, 2020








The New Hampshire Philharmonic performs a Hollywood-themed concert Jan. 10. Courtesy photo.

See the New Hampshire Philharmonic’s “A Night at the Oscars”

Where: Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
When: Saturday, Jan. 10, at 7:30 p.m.
Contact: 668-5588, 437-5210,,
Tickets: $12-$50, students $5

Featuring films
NH Philharmonic showcases Oscar-winning soundtracks

By Kelly Sennott

If Mark Latham were to pinpoint the greatest composers of the 20th century, he’d very likely look to film.

During a phone interview last week, the New Hampshire Philharmonic music director pointed to Bernard Herrmann (Psycho, Citizen Kane, The Twilight Zone), Henry Mancini (The Pink Panther), John Williams (Star Wars, Jaws, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter) and Maurice Jarre (Doctor Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia) as examples.
“I think that mid 20th-century classical music got very modernist and avant-garde, and there was sort of an expectation that one must compose that way,” Latham said. “And I think there were many composers who didn’t want to compose that way. They escaped into composing for film. And so a lot of the great music of the 20th century, in my opinion, can be found in the realm of film.”
Latham says he knows composers who enjoy the challenge of fitting music with a script — for example, squeezing four minutes of something that, at that moment, needs to fit a specific emotion, period or place.
“And filmmakers know very well that to emphasize a point, location or certain mood, or to enhance the nature of the conversation — music can really aid all that very powerfully,” Latham said. “Very early on, from the earliest days of film in the early 1900s, it was recognized in silent films that musical soundtracks give an emotional, direct line to the viewer. … Yes, of course, imagery is important, the speech is important, but music is an underlying — and some might even say a more direct — way at getting at the viewer’s heartstrings.”
Hence the inspiration for the Philharmonic’s next concert, “A Night at the Oscars,” which takes center stage at the Palace Theatre Saturday, Jan. 10, at 7:30 p.m. The evening event will showcase soundtracks from movies either nominated for or awarded Oscars, and a mix of both classic and modern composers will be represented. 
The Mozart Symphony 29 from Amadeus, for example, will be making an appearance — obviously well-known before the movie — but there will also be music most famously associated with those films, including Titanic, Witness, Clockwork Orange, The Pink Panther and The Lord of the Rings, and others.
“We run the gamut of music that’s been used to represent comedy, drama, romance, defiance, heroism, mystery, the absurd,” Latham said.
One idea in concocting this film-themed concert is to bring in audience members who might not always think to attend a New Hampshire Philharmonic concert. The Phil often performs with themes or accessories that add a twist to what’s heard; during its October “Shakespeare Lives” concert, members of theatre KAPOW performed pieces by the Bard between musical selections from Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Every spring, the Phil collaborates with New Hampshire schoolchildren who create drawings inspired by classical music. Those images are projected on screens during the concert (this year, it’s Jennifer Higdon’s “Blue Cathedral”).
Another is to present a different perspective of that music composed separately from a film, said Val Zanchuk in an email, who plays the trumpet in this concert.
“Classical music adapted to the screen offers a different mood than the classical composer originally intended,” Zanchuk said. “It forces you to think of the music differently.”
The result, Latham hopes, illuminates how truly fantastic these scores are. Screen stills and short film snippets will decorate the wall behind the orchestra during certain segments to provide references, but Latham thinks hearing the sounds from a live orchestra will emphasize the majesty of the work.
“As a listener or audience member, you get a more powerful, and you might even say more coherent, understanding of the power of the music in the movie, and how the music has really made this film come alive in ways you might not have realized,” he said. 
As seen in the January 1, 2015 issue of the Hippo.

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