Review: Music from the films

Promenade Concert Orchestra.
Promenade Concert Orchestra.

The Morecambe Promenade Concert Orchestra ended its 2018-19 season at the Platform on a bright Sunday afternoon – once again attracting a large audience.

By David Alder

Conductor Howard Rogerson had mined another rich seam of music to produce an enjoyable and evocative programme of compositions connected in one way or another with films. Music and motion pictures have always been natural bedfellows. In the silent film era a live musical accompaniment – sometimes improvised to tailor to the moment - was provided in cinemas both during the screenings and also as a backdrop during intervals and audience entrances and exits.

With the coming of the talkies, music also became an integral part of the soundtracks, providing a background to film titles and end credits and enhancing atmosphere during the picture. Music was often written specifically for particular movies and several film studios employed their own composers, arrangers and orchestral musicians. Some directors preferred to use existing compositions for certain scenarios.

A full classical orchestra was, and is, often employed but various types of songs, jazz, popular and experimental music, whether specially composed or not, also featured.

In addition film versions of stage musicals became popular. As a good deal of music connected with the cinema is memorable and of good quality, recordings have often sold well whilst today there are regular radio programmes and live concerts devoted to film music.

The orchestra’s generous programme - with 18 numbers and two selections - sought to provide a good cross section of the varied fare available from twentieth century movies and much of the music played would have been very familiar to the appreciative concert-goers.

Music from romances, comedies, war films, cartoons, musicals and thrillers were all featured. The most venerable work was the beautiful slow movement from Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 21 used in the film Elvira Madigan whilst a catchy dance from 1912, Oh Mr Finkelheimer by Howard Talbot, represented the silent era and Sound and Vision, a march for ATV by Eric Coates, represented cinema’s competition in the 1950’s! Other composers featured included John Addison, Frank Churchill, Ron Goodwin, Richard Rodney Bennett, Cole Porter and Charles Williams.

As well as the Mozart concerto movement, several other pieces, including the famous and dramatic Warsaw Concerto (from Dangerous Moonlight) by Richard Addinsell, and the somewhat less well known Swedish Rhapsody by Charles Williams, involved an important solo piano part which in each case was expertly provided by guest soloist, Lydia Melleck, who also provided keyboard accompaniment as required elsewhere in the programme.

Local solo vocalist Val Baulard joined the orchestra to lend her rich warm voice to numbers from The King and I by Rodgers and Hammerstein and The Good Companions (Rossi, Roberts and Parsons).

Her rendering of What Ever Will Be, Will Be by Livingston and Evans, in the chorus of which the audience joined, became an unplanned tribute to the recently deceased Doris Day who had sang the song in the film The Man Who Knew Too Much.

The orchestra was guest led by Jill Jackson who, along with all the orchestra’s principals, provided accomplished playing throughout the concert. Also of special mention is John Woodhouse for his alto saxophone solo in Angela Morley’s Kehaar’s Theme (Watership Down), and Maxine Molin for the harp’s contribution to an arrangement of Nino Rota’s The Legend of the Glass Mountain.

All the sections of the orchestra revelled in the varied styles of playing required, whether stirring marches, dramatic interludes, tender moments, jazzy periods or melodic sequences.

In particular, Slaughter on Fifth Avenue (from On Your Toes) by Rodgers and The Warsaw Concerto brought out some fine interplay between the instruments of the orchestra and the solo piano.

Howard Rogerson thanked the orchestra and other helpers for the work they had contributed to another successful season, the audience for their loyal support, and long-serving trumpeter Chris Andrews who was sadly leaving the group.