Philharmonic to charm audience with soundtrack during movie
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Spend any time at all with Caleb Young and it’s obvious that he loves music and loves sharing it with others.
As the associate conductor of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, he especially wants to attract new audiences and expose more people to the sounds created by a full orchestra.
That’s why he’s especially excited about two upcoming concerts featuring Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. While the movie plays in high definition, the Philharmonic will bring to life the score by John Williams. The performances will take place at the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne on April 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m.
Young had planned to lead the shows, but a conflict now means longtime friend and fellow conductor Norman Huynh will be on the podium. Huynh is the associate conductor of the Philharmonic in Portland, Ore.
The two agree that conducting for a film is both exhilarating and demanding.
“There’s a little bit of a learning curve because the way that you conduct these films is totally different than any other show that you do,” Young said. “You’re adding in the element of having to be aligned with a movie. It adds another element of difficulty. These concerts that I do with films are by far the most challenging shows I do all year long. You learn how to navigate this the more films that you do, and it becomes easier, but it’s still quite challenging.”
“You never really know what you’re going to get because the music is so difficult,” added Huynh, who’s conducted this particular movie seven times. “Doing it so many times, now I know where the trouble spots are that I’ve seen crop up for every orchestra. I’ve learned how to navigate that. There’s a bit of a formula there, but it can still be challenging.”
While the audience watches the movie on a giant screen, the conductor also watches a monitor to make sure the music is played at the right time.
“Up in the right-hand corner, it’ll have the bar number and then it’ll have what beat I’m supposed to be on,” Young said. “That tells me where I am in the film as it’s going along, and all of a sudden, I see these lines go across the screen — white, yellow, green, and red lines — and those are called streamers. The streamers tell me if there’s a big event coming up. Like in the second film, Chamber of Secrets, in the first opening scene there’s a pie that lands on someone.”
“The biggest role I have is syncing the music to the film,” Huynh said. “I’m the only one on stage who has control of doing that because I’m the only one who has the screen that gives me the punches and streamers. It’s up to me to make sure my tempos are right with the film.”
Long Process Getting Ready
The conductors and the talented members of the Philharmonic make it look easy, but getting ready for a full-length film is a long process.
“The way I learn it is the company will send me the music and also a video file that I can manipulate,” Young said. “I can take, for example, the dialogue out of the video. I can take the music out of the video. I can just leave the click track in the video. I have different ways of manipulating the video so I can really learn it and get in my system. It really takes months to learn these films because it’s two and a half hours of music.”
Dan Ross, a trumpet player with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic for 37 years, is one of the 80 musicians who will play those two concerts. Like the conductors, they also work independently to prepare.
“Typically, the musicians come into rehearsal prepared to play their own individual part,” Ross said. “We get our music usually two weeks in advance, so everybody has time to practice their own part. Rehearsals are really about bringing it together.”
“For this film, we’ll have one general rehearsal, so that’s a two-and-a-half-hour rehearsal that’s basically just trying to get through the music,” Young said. “When you have a two-and-a-half-hour rehearsal and two and a half hours of music, you probably won’t get through it all. But then the next day we have a dress rehearsal. We essentially only have two rehearsals to put this show together. That’s another challenge.”
Great Introduction to Classical Music
Performances like these are a great way to introduce classical music to those who may have never considered watching an orchestra.
“People say, ‘We forget there’s even an orchestra there,’” Young said. “They watch the film and are so engulfed in the soundscape and visuals that they forget we’re there. Honestly, I’m fine with that because we’re not the stars. The film is the star and we’re just the vehicle for taking people to another place. I’m all for that.”
“I think hearing the music being played by a live orchestra is such a thrill, especially this music,” Huynh echoed. “People feel so close to John Williams and his music. With these performances, the music is the forefront and the film sort of takes a secondary role and so there a lot of things that happen with the music that you don’t really hear when you’re watching it in the theater or at home on TV. Everything is just brought out when the orchestra is playing it.”