I fly to various places around the world to listen to the film music so this time it was quite a pleasant change for me to attend a concert just a 10-minute bicycle ride from my house – an open-air event in my home town. The orchestra of the evening was The North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra (NNO) with Christian Schumann at the helm. Schumann is definitely not new to conducting film music: he is regularly conducting concerts at the film music festivals in Krakow and Tenerife. NNO did the same concert the day before in Amsterdam in one of the best concert venues we have in the Netherlands and they repeated a shortened program for free on one of the main markets in Groningen.
Since the purpose of this concert was to celebrate a local holiday in our town, the concert started with “Grunnings Laid”: our local anthem. To me personally it was funny to see Schumann a German, conducting this song with such flair and dignity. The host of the evening was Dutch actor Harry Piekema who told the audience that a lot of classical music is used as film music. “Danse Macabre”, being used in Shrek the Third, served as an example here. I am not that overly fond of classical music, but this piece is one of my exceptions. It was performed pretty well, especially the important violin part was marvelous.
Next up were two pieces from famous TV shows. The first was the theme of House of Cards. It was a bit short, and the trumpet solo could have been more prominent.The second one was music of Game of Thrones. I have heard quite some versions of the theme, and I see one problem returning every time: the cello solo at the start cannot be heard that well. Afterwards, it was time for something different- the musicians performed two tracks from Pulp Fiction by Rick Dale. Not much conducting was needed for “Surf Rider” since the drums had the orchestra in check. I could not see the guitar player, but the saxophone player was certainly very present with the raw sounds on the instrument. It was also amusing to see how each of the violin players toggled his/her instrument like a guitar during that song. The famous “Misirlou” from the same movie was a must after that.The guitar was fast and loud, the saxophone was screaming as before and the strings were playing their heart out but sadly for them, they could not be heard over the other instruments. The yelling and clapping on the other hand, could be heard fine. The cello player in the front row even tried to get the audience involved (in which he succeeded partially).
“Also sprach Zarathustra” was next on the program. I really liked the timpani in this version, its player was extremely passionate in doing his part. It was followed by two pieces by John Williams. The first was music from Hook, which made Schumann dance on podium. I enjoyed it very much and so did my audience neighbour as he was still whistling the theme when the piece was over, to the enjoyment of Schumann. The other Williams piece was “Flying Theme” from E.T. which brought up some emotions within me. I am quite surprised by that, since it was an open air concert and usually the sound under open skies is not as good as indoors. Unfortunately, the truth of this general observation was subsequently shown in practise as a dog barked right in the silent moment before the flute began to play. The next piece on the program was one of my favourites: music from How to Train Your Dragon. It was an adorable suite, but I did miss the choir a bit. Music from Amelie was played afterwards and it was a great contrast because the suite was just as playful but also more timid in sound. The last two pieces on the program were from Danny Elfman. Men in Black had a bit of a slow start but it caught up pretty quickly afterwards. And the last official piece was a suite from Batman. I have never heard it performed live and it was quite a treat to hear it in my home town. Of course there was also an encore. The host gave Schumann a lightsaber which he used to conduct the “Imperial March”, sometimes even with both hands.
NNO is one of the orchestras in the Netherlands that is really promoting film music. I have attended many of their film music concerts and they always mix classic music used in films with original scores. Every time they play a classic piece, they appear a tiny bit sharper and more spot-on. However, being conducted by a film music veteran like Christian Schumann really improves their performance. Especially the John WIlliams pieces turned out great. I was also surprised about the quality of the sound of this open air production and how quiet the audience of this free concert was, since most of the time this sort of event will attract people who are less interested in the music. When the concert was done, a Dutch guy told his wife: “That was definitely worth it,” and I totally agree with that statement.
Where and when: Groningen, the Netherlands – August 27th 2017
Orchestra: The North Netherlands Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christian Schumann
Saxophone: Femke IJlstra
Host: Harry Piekema
- Jerry Goldsmith – Universal Studios Theme
- Camille Saint-Saëns – Danse macabre
- Jeff Beal – House of Cards
- Ramin Djawadi – Game of Thrones
- Rick Dale – Surf Rider (from Pulp Fiction)
- Rick Dale – Misirlou (from Pulp Fiction)
- Richard Strauss – Also sprach Zarathustra
- John Williams – Hook
- John Williams – Flying theme (from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial)
- John Powell – How to Train Your Dragon
- Yann Tiersen – Amélie
- Danny Elfman – Main Theme (from Men in Black)
- Danny Elfman – Batman Suite
- John Williams – Imperial March (encore)