review by Janet I. Martineau
|John Williams (center) amid some famous beings|
It was a brasstacular Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra concert on Saturday night at the Temple Theatre. One that found maestro Brett Mitchell in a playful mood -- sporting horn-rimmed glasses after intermission and then popping the buttons on his dress shirt to reveal a Superman T-shirt underneath.
“I can’t believe I just did that,” he said, noting his parents were in the balcony. “I hope I didn’t embarrass you.”
But not to worry. It was a purely pops “A Night at the Movies” concert featuring the music of Juilliard-trained composer John Williams in honor of his 80th birthday. And is was clear quickly on that Mitchell and the audience are major Williams and movie fans.
We use the word brasstacular because much of the composer’s music is brass heavy, and intensive, and wow did that beefed up section of the orchestra shine. For the most part the music was big and bold and cinematic. But there were softer more symphonic moments to savor as well.
Either way, close your eyes and within just a few notes...Darth Vader and Yoda were there. A shark and dinosaurs. Superman and J.F.K. A bicycle-riding Extra-Terrestrial and cowboys like John Wayne. The 1984 Summer Olympics and NBC Nightly News. And heroes named Indiana Jones and Oskar Schindler.
And always, quips from Mitchell. “I wish I could win an Oscar for writing just two notes,” he said after the Theme from “Jaws.” There there was his apology for giving away maybe too many of the plot developments in the “Star Wars” Suite for Orchestra “but it’s been 32 years (since they were released) so if you have not seen them, then that’s your problem.”
Kidding aside, however, there is nothing like hearing this music played LIVE by a top-notch symphonic orchestra. Richness and color and nuances were everywhere from the percussion section to the violins.
The subtle and steady trumpet work of Mark Flegg and drums served Theme from “J.F.K” so very well. Concertmaster Sonia Lee got a standing ovation for her solo work on Theme From Schindler’s List” -- and we wondered if it was for her playing prowess or for the sheer emotional impact still of that movie, or perhaps both. Princess Leia’s Theme from “Star Wars” featured a trio of excellent solo work from a French horn, flute and violin.
It’s been awhile since a pops concert at SBSO. This one was a real keeper -- played in a facility that showed many of those movies back in their day and written by one of the movie world’s most prolific and gifted composers (five Oscars, 42 nominations, more than once competing against himself, from 1967 to 2011).
But gosh, we really wanted to hear those familiar notes from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” Mr. Mitchell. And maybe a hint of “Harry Potter.” Oh well.