NEWTOWN — Spread across the sanctuary like a wide screen
Cinerama movie, the Connecticut Master Chorale had a lot of good
old-fashioned fun with film score music at St. Rose of Lima Church
on Saturday night. With a program taken entirely from movie
soundtracks, Music Director and Conductor Tina Johns Hiedrich had
hundreds of people harmonizing by the end of the show.
The program included music ranging from old to new, and from sacred to silly. Some of the tunes were composed for specific films, and some tunes have been borrowed by one or more movies over the years.
The CMC has about 55 high caliber vocalists accompanied by their 30-piece orchestra, and they consistently excel in their performances. Heidrich and the CMC showed just how well movie music could stand on its own, without any video accompaniment. Film scores have always been far more than just audio backdrops. Even the old silent movies would use a piano as an essential element of the film. Have you ever seen a movie without any music, or with the sound turned off? It would really seem incomplete.
The different arrangements of vocalists and orchestrations by the CMC resulted in some of the finest renderings of cinematic music I've ever heard. It's too bad all the films are already in the can and have been released. I think the CMC actually improved on some of the original soundtracks. Who knows where some movie talent scouts may be hanging out? Maybe Newtown?
Heidrich didn't waste any time demonstrating the ensemble handling majestic music, opening with "O Fortuna" from "Carmina Burana," by Carl Orff, as seen in "Excalibur." Building up from a hushed chant, and driving into an explosive finale, Orff never sounded better.
Altos and sopranos evoked the cherubic sound of a boy's choir in Jerusalem from the Oscar winning soundtrack for "Chariots of Fire." But the British boarding school setting was thrown for a loop with African rhythms in "Sanctus" from "Missa Luba" as used in the movie "If." With tight entrances and exits, the choir was dancing along with the drums.
The main theme from "1492: Conquest of Paradise." featured a mandolin playing with the orchestra and chorale, creating the rhythmic sense of rolling over waves during an ocean voyage. Heidrich pointed out that the concert was coincidentally being performed on the 500th anniversary of Columbus' death.
For me, the beautiful Lacrymosa from Mozart's "Requiem" in "Amadeus" is music to die for. The movie "Paradise Road" was based on the true story of how women prisoners tried to survive in a Japanese POW camp during W.W.II. The performance of their wordless arrangement of the spiritual Largo (Goin' Home) from Dvorak's "New World Symphony" was moving. Set in a mental hospital, "Goin' Home" was also sung by Olivia de Havilland in "The Snake Pit."
Deep soulful bass parts highlighted the a cappella arrangement of the Appalachian folk gospel tune "Down in the River to Pray" from "Oh Brother where Art Thou?" And tenor Tom Zarecki dramatically led the ensemble in the development of the solemn "Non Nobis Domine" from "Henry V."
The Litchfield County Children's Choir, under the leadership of co-directors Anna Jedd and Lynn Kearney, joined the CMC, singing French tunes from "Les Choristes." The girls' harmonies were sweet and sassy, and made me want to see the movie.
Piano riffs with light brush work on the snare drum gave a nostalgic jazz bar feeling for "As Time Goes By" from "Casablanca."
And there was amazing clarity in the vocal section work for "The Green Leaves of Summer" from "The Alamo." Here the CMC took some great old tunes and gave them fresh new sounds.
Percussive special effects and bold brazen brass had me wondering what could possibly be going on onscreen in "Duel of the Fates" from "Star Wars."
Heidrich invited the enthusiastic full capacity audience to sing along with the CMC in their corny encore, "Finiculi Finicula," used in "Everybody Sing." Pleasing to the eye, ear, and soul, Connecticut Master Chorale concerts can be better than going to the movies.