James Newton Howard Tour – 2017-11-11, Antwerp

3 Decades of Music for Hollywood

It has become a trend for famous Hollywood composers to go on a tour. Ramin Djawadi toured North America with the Game of Thrones Live Experience and will soon start another tour which will also include Europe. Hans Zimmer has also been performing his live show and has just released his show on DVD and Blu-ray. Both shows were produced very professionally, with special stages, visuals on screens, lighting effects, and in Djawadi’s case: fire. With this development in mind, it comes as no surprise, that James Newton Howard is also looking for his chance to shine on the big stage with a tour of his own. When his European tour was announced more than a year ago, I was thrilled and bought tickets for the concert in Antwerp, Belgium almost immediately.

As soon as  I entered the venue, I saw that this concert would be different from the ones by the other two Hollywood composers: the stage was very simple with only chairs and a screen behind them while a soothing sound was coming from the speakers. This faded into applause when James Newton Howard entered the stage and made the soothing sound transition into “Main Titles” from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. That piece went straight into the fantastic horn solo that starts off Snow White and the Huntsman, which gave me goosebumps straight away. The piece turned out to be a suite of a couple of cues from that movie. Halfway through, the music was played in sync with a piece of dialogue on the screen and ended gloriously. The suite was a solid start of the evening, and when it was over, Howard took the microphone to welcome the audience.

James Newton Howard Tour photo 1

The music of the evening was divided into suites. Some were exclusively dedicated to one movie, while others, like the one we just heard, combined tunes from several soundtracks. The next suite was from The Hunger Games movies. I recognized  the familiar opening music, but what came right after it sounded new to me, with action music and a delicate soprano solo, ending with another goosebumps moment during the suite’s finale with “Horn of Plenty.” It was accompanied by corresponding images from different movies on the screen. The suite of Pan started with a subtle women’s choir supported by the orchestra building up towards a grander end together. While talking about his relationship with director M. Night Shyamalan, Howard walked to his piano where he explained the main theme of Signs before starting the M. Night Shyamalan suite. Starting with a chaotic tune from Signs, that transitioned into beautiful melody lines before the tense music from The Sixth Sense started, accompanied by scary scenes on the screen. The suite ended with my favorite piece written by Howard: “Flow Like Water” from The Last Airbender. The water did flow, it came from my eyes, especially when the horns started their part. I am still amazed that I witnessed this piece live with Howard himself conducting. The last piece before the break was music from Wyatt Earp, that ended with Belgian singer Blanche singing “The Hanging Tree” from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. Her deep voice took some getting used to, but it sounded very delightful with the orchestra and choir taking over from her while she walked off the stage again.

When we had all returned from a short break, we could listen to a fantastic suite of Dinosaur. “The Egg Travels” is such a great piece, especially with the images accompanying the music. During the applause, Howard thanked the audience with another “Dank je wel”, which means “Thank you” in Dutch and Flemish. As an introduction to the King Kong piece, Howard enlightened us with insights into what music does with a scene. He first showed a scene from the movie without any music. When the scene was over, it was played again, this time with his beautiful score being played during the scene. When the piece was over, the horn players were asked to stand to receive some extra appreciation from the audience.

James Newton Howard Tour photo 2

The next suite was filled with music from romantic movies with actress Julia Roberts. Howard started the suite with playing the theme from Dave on his piano and finished with music from Pretty Woman and My Best Friend’s Wedding, while the screen showed a lot of scenes with Julia Roberts. “Tawara” from Snow Falling on Cedars was next on the program, and it was a piece I had been looking forward to a lot. Howard told the audience that he loved the music he had written for that movie and I totally understood what he was talking about, because I love this soundtrack too. The piece started with a cello solo that I did not recognize until the choir began the part that I know so well. Listening to this magnificent piece live was such a privilege. For The Village the concertmaster Helena was given the spotlight for performing the violin solo. It is a daring piece but she handled it very well. The next segment was a peek into the life of James Newton Howard where he himself voiced over a movie that showed his career path, which he called “The Limitless Possibilities of Life.” He was sitting at his piano while telling the story and when he was finished he started playing a piece that he had written at the beginning of his career. It was quite a personal experience with only him on the piano and it was a shame we could not applaud him for that because the orchestra immediately started the suite from Blood Diamond. It was a very entertaining experience, because African singer Velile Mchunu walked on stage to sing her part with her strong and beautiful voice, with the help of the women from the choir.

Before Howard started to conduct “The Dark Knight Suite,” he told us about his relationship with Hans Zimmer. While listening to the suite, I learned that a lot of the beautiful music in this movie was written by Howard and not by Zimmer. After his final speech, in which Howard thanked everyone who worked on this concert, he conducted the final suite of the program from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. During the finale of the suite logos of all the movies that were played that night appeared on the screen, ending on the final note. Howard looked emotionally touched by the standing ovation that he received from the audience. Because of that, we were treated with an encore, which was a suite from Maleficent. It had a wonderful tuba solo in it. The horns and the women from the choir sounded beautiful as well. After receiving another ovation and still looking moved, he did something he had not done at the concert in Amsterdam: he did another encore and this time from Prince of Tides. When it was over, Howard left the stage for good.

It was a great privilege to have an entire evening filled with James Newton Howard’s best music with himself conducting. It was so different from the tours the other two Hollywood composers did. The simplistic setting of a stage with musicians and a screen fit so well with him and his music. What I did notice, though, were some minor mistakes here and there in the orchestra that I did not expect from a high profile tour like this. Also, some of the music did not affect me emotionally like I was hoping it would. Maybe it was because of the quality of the orchestra, maybe they were tired from all the traveling or maybe it was because Howard’s main profession is being a composer and not a conductor, we will never know. However, I am writing this report almost a week after the concert and I still have very good memories of it, and I will probably keep those memories for a very long time. Even with these small mishaps, it left a very good impression on me. If you read this while the tour is still ongoing or when a future tour will be announced, I can recommend it fully when you have the chance.

Concert information

Where and when: Antwerp, Belgium – November 11th, 2017
Orchestra: Czech National Symphony Orchestra conducted by James Newton Howard
Choir: Cinematic Art Choir conducted by David De Geest
Singers: Blanche and Velile Mchunu

Program

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
    • Main title
  • Snow White and the Huntsman
    • Snow White
    • Escape From The Tower
    • Beach Warriors
    • Coronation
  • The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
    • Katniss
    • Peacekeepers
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2
    • Rebels Attack
  • The Hunger Games
    • Horn of Plenty
  • Peter Pan
    • Fairy Dance
    • Flying
    • Peter Returns
  • Signs
    • Main titles
  • The Sixth Sense
    • Suicide Ghost
    • Cole’s Secret
  • The Last Airbender
    • Flow like Water
  • Wyatt Earp
    • Main Title
    • The Wedding

Intermission

  • Dinosaur
    • Inner Sanctum
    • The Egg Travels
  • King Kong
    • Central Park
    • Captured
  • Dave
    • Dave’s Theme
  • Pretty Woman
    • He sleeps
  • My Best Friend’s Wedding
    • The Chase
  • Snow Falling on Cedars
    • Tarawa
  • The Village
    • The Gravel road
  • Solo Piano and The Limitless Possibilities of Life
  • Blood Diamond
    • London
    • Solomon Vandy
  • The Dark Knight
    • The Harvey Dent Suite
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
    • Inside The Case
    • You’re One of Us Now
    • The Occamy
    • Newt Releases the Thunderbird
  • Maleficent (encore)
  • The Prince of Tides (encore)

Author

  • Anton is the editor-in-chief and founder of Soundtrack World. After writing about film music occasionally, he thought it was time to create his own site to celebrate music from film but also other media. Next to working on this website as a hobby Anton has a full-time job in IT and plays the tuba in a local orchestra.

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