This month, the Symphony takes the stage for the next installment of the Bank of America POPS Series, complete with a dazzling violin sensation and all the glamor of Hollywood. The marriage between music and film is everlasting, going back to its genesis during the early days of silent pictures. Before synchronized recorded sound was introduced in film during the late 1920’s, live musicians were essential to convey ambiance and supply audiences with emotional cues to enhance the storytelling experience. In fact, even as the pictures were being filmed, it was common for musicians to be on set to develops actors’ moods as they recorded their scenes.
Guitarists provided the music for the first public viewings of the new motion picture technology during 1895, but pianists, and sometimes organists, quickly became the norm for small movie houses that were beginning to crop up in small towns across the world. In addition to providing the background score, live musicians often provided sound effects like a car horn or telephone ringing, becoming a part of the picture themselves.
Principal POPS Conductor Steven Reineke speaks to his process for programming this Hollywood Serenade concert, his relationship with social media star and alluring violinist Caroline Campbell, and the vital role music has played throughout the decades of film’s success.
Houston Symphony: It goes without saying, a film’s score can make or break its narrative structure and the public’s perception of the movie. How much of these film’s enduring legacies do you attribute to their scores?
Steven Reineke: I personally believe the musical soundtrack for certain movies is absolutely integral to their legacies. The score for a film can most definitely make or break that particular movie. In the best-case scenarios, the music is that last finishing touch that really pulls the whole picture together. The themes and repetition of those themes can fill in emotional gaps as to where the filmmaker wants to take us. You know when a soundtrack has succeeded in being perfectly wed to a movie when you hear the music by itself years later and are taken back to the images and characters of that story.
HS: The relationship between Hollywood and music goes back decades, with many famous composers—Korngold, Morricone, and Rota to name a few—making award-winning careers from their work on movies. How influential has Hollywood been on standard orchestral repertoire?
SR: The work done by classical composers in Hollywood, especially in the early days of film, certainly brought symphonic orchestral music to a much wider audience. There were so many famous composers that wrote music for film. People are often very surprised to find out that the very first score written specifically for film was by the great French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, but let’s not forget about contributions by Erik Satie, Sergei Prokofiev, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Aaron Copland to name a few more. We can now find contemporary film composers’ music being played by symphony orchestras in concert settings thanks to the early contributions of these great composers.
HS: How did you go about selecting the pieces on this program? Did you focus on choosing well-known Hollywood classics, or was the impetus more so on the music itself?
SR: Quite honestly, Caroline Campbell and I chose the pieces on the program together based on arrangements and repertoire that she already has in her own personal library. We didn’t set out to have a focus on film music per se. Once we gathered all of her materials and made our selections, we realized that a lot of it, but not all, is from film soundtracks. That’s what gave us the hook to title the program Hollywood Serenade. There are indeed some other great pieces of music on this particular program that are really going to wow the audience.
HS: You have a longstanding relationship with Caroline Campbell, but this is the first time the two of you have collaborated directly. How has it been working together?
SR: Caroline and I first met several years ago when I was presenting the wonderful jazz trumpeter, Chris Botti, and his band with one of my orchestras. She was the featured violinist touring with Chris at the time. She absolutely blew me away and then I worked with her and Chris Botti on several other concerts. We struck up a fast friendship. As a matter of fact, Caroline flew into New York City to participate in my wedding to my husband Eric. She played us down the aisle to begin the ceremony. I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live! I cannot wait to be reunited since we haven’t seen each other in about a year and a half now. I’ve talked about building a show that would feature her and the orchestra and now we’ve done it. I imagine she will start booking this concert with other orchestras around the world.
HS: What is your all-time favorite film? Which piece are you most excited about on this program?
SR: This is such a hard question to answer but my gut reaction is probably the beautiful Italian film Cinema Paradiso written and directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. It is a coming-of-age movie that was released in 1988. I was 18 years old and could relate to the story in many ways. Another reason I love this movie so much is because of the absolutely incredible soundtrack by one of my all-time favorite film composers, Ennio Morricone. On our concert, we will be performing a selection from another one of Morricone’s brilliant film scores, “Gabriel’s Oboe” from The Mission. It’s too hard to pick one specific selection that I’m most excited about because I love all of this music. What I am most excited about is introducing the brilliant, virtuosic, and heartfelt artistry of Caroline Campbell to our wonderful audiences in Houston. I really think that people are going to be absolutely blown away by her in this concert!
Join us for the concert on April 16–18. In-person tickets are available online, or you can watch the performance from home via livestream on Saturday, April 17, at 8 p.m. Learn more & get tickets.