‘A Night at the Oscars’ latest Pittsburgh Symphony Pops offering
For many decades film music wasn’t heard in concert halls. That’s changed so much that not only are there entire symphonic programs devoted to film music, now technology has enabled films to be shown with live orchestras playing the soundtrack.
Jack Everly will conduct the Pittsburgh Symphony Pops in “A Night at the Oscars: Hollywood Epics” on Feb. 22-24 at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall.
Film music began to gain respect in the 1950s, Everly says, coinciding with public enthusiasm for it shown by the purchase of soundtrack albums.
“Film music was often re-recorded because technology at the time didn’t allow for taking music from the optical soundtrack and turning it out in vinyl format. When Hollywood saw film music as a new revenue source it even changed how films were planned — to have a hit song” which would serve as both advertising for the film and a source of cash.
Everly, whose beautifully planned and researched programs have been a delight at Heinz Hall for decades, didn’t limit himself to Oscar winners in selecting this Pops program.
“It’s always nice when things win awards and people are very impressed with that,” he says. “Oftentimes it coincides with something that is really wonderful, but not always. A lot of things win and won’t be heard again.”
He mentioned “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” which won the 2006 Oscar for best original song, as one he won’t be programming.
Everly says the first of the criteria for putting together a program is quality and memorability. He tries to make each successive piece on the program be heard with fresh ears. And he pays close attention to creating an arc of experience for the entire evening, not to mention each half of the concert.
Everly’s blend of music will include beloved music from epics such as “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Gone with the Wind,” westerns such as “The Magnificent Seven” and “How the West Was Won,” and John Williams’ music for “Superman” and “Star Wars.”
Everly’s program usually features discovery and or rediscovery, in this case a supplement to the music for biblical epics, such as Miklos Rosza’s music for “Ben Hur.”
“Rosza invented a musical language of biblical times because we really don’t know what music was like at that time,” Everly says. “But he was a genius at telling the story with great drama.”
This concert will feature Rosza’s lost setting of “The Lord’s Prayer,” which was written for “King of Kings.”
“In the film they threw out the text and it became background music,” he says. “About nine years ago I helped reconstruct this with the principal librarian at the time of the Indianapolis Symphony.”
Former Pops principal conductor Marvin Hamlisch will be represented by his Oscar-winning scores for “The Way We Were” and “Sophie’s Choice.” The concerts’ vocalists will be area college students in the Hamlisch Page Student Chorale, now named for Hamlisch and master choral conductor Robert Page who created it.
Mark Kanny is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.