A Great Escape at the Royal Albert Hall
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra’s Film Gala at The Royal Albert Hall has become an annual sell-out – in many cases a coach party pilgrimage – loved by audiences wanting to experience the thrill of seeing some of the most well known modern day scores unforgettably brought to life in a magnificent venue by the nation’s most treasured musicians.
The evening began with the rather comical and energetic Mission Impossible theme in which it was ‘impossible’ not to imagine a montage of Tom Cruise abseiling down the world’s tallest building (2723 ft) or trail blazing, leather clad, on a Harley Davidson – it only happens in Hollywood.
It all took a turn for the worse when the voluptuous cabaret singer Alison Jiear belted out ‘My Heart Will Go On’ from Titanic, giving me the feeling of being subjected to some ghastly cruise-ship entertainment. She later appeared in a shimmering blue mermaid-like gown to perform ‘I Will Always Love You’ from The Bodyguard and although she technically hit all the right notes, it was a vulgar aim at pleasing Whitney Houston fans mourning her recent passing (they don’t call the RPO the ‘Nation’s favourite orchestra’ for nothing).
No doubt this event would be considered too ‘low brow’ by classical music connoisseurs but there is no question of it being ‘great escapism’ and showcasing the hugely versatile work of the RPO. After all, film scores are not only vital to the success of a movie and its ultimate immortalization, but to the continued popularity of classical music. The Royal Albert Hall was always intended as a venue for the people and this is one concert that will always prove a crowd pleaser.
Other highlights included Han Zimmer’s Gladiator film score and the moving themes from Out of Africa and Dances with Wolves by John Barry, all finished off with the truly uplifting and 70’s-tastic Rocky theme ‘Gonna Fly Now’ by Bill Conti (still stuck in my head). The mixed programme cleverly covers every genre – from modern blockbusters to timeless classics. This year’s event also focussed on a selection of scores dedicated to film music from WWII movies including the memorable The Great Escape, The Guns of Navarone and The Dam Busters all performed with a gusto and enthusiasm unsurpassed.
Since its formation by the great Sir Thomas Beecham in 1946, the RPO have been selected as the orchestra of choice for many original film recordings such as the instantly recognisable and magical Harry Potter theme. The RPO became the first orchestra to launch their own record label ‘RPO Records’ in 1986 and the evening’s equally cruise-ship style compare Tommy Pearson certainly lost no opportunity in pointing out the CDs available to purchase in the interval. It clearly worked a treat – they later tweeted to apologise for selling out!
When we think of film music it’s hard not to think of Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and Star Wars by maestro John Williams, perhaps the most important and influential film composer of all time, and if you come from the same generation as me, every time you hear them you revert to being a kid in the 1980s/90s in awe of the majesty of the Big Screen experience.
The RPO return to the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 19th October to celebrate Williams’ 80th birthday and a career spanning almost 60 years, with a dedicated concert celebrating his finest and most memorable work, including the heart-wrenching score for Schindler’s List. Winner of 5 Academy Awards, his work will stand as lasting testament to the deep relationship between music and film.