Journalists call it burying the lead when a story catalogs countless details but hides the cool one at the bottom. So it has been with The Charlotte Observer and Christopher Warren-Green.
Weve noted that he has led music for a royal wedding, run the London Chamber Orchestra for a quarter century and conducted in America and Europe. Though hes been the Charlotte Symphony Orchestras music director for three years, we have failed to report an essential part of his biography: He played on James Bond movie soundtracks.
He was just a nimble violinist in the mid-70s, picking up extra dough. Hes not even sure which Bonds they were. But he was already a movie fan and no snob about crossing the bridge between classical music and film scores. Hell explore that link in depth Friday and Saturday in Symphonic Cinema, the seasons final Pops concert.
I was 17 at the time, playing at Abbey Road studios, he recalls. There was a huge projection screen at the back, and streamers would come across it when they needed music, so the conductor could time the sound to match the car crash.
I knew Burt Rhodes, who had orchestrated the James Bond theme (in Dr. No) for Monty Norman, and I was contracted to play those full scores with 40 other first violins.
So its fitting that a Bond suite opens the first half of this concert, and the Goldfinger theme closes that half. Part one is devoted to British music, part two to American tunes. That reflects his own journey from England to the States.
Ask about the first movie whose music inspired him, and he recalls Lawrence of Arabia. (He was 7 when it came out in 1962.) He bought a DVD recently to re-absorb Maurice Jarres score, which also has a place in Symphonic Cinema.
But before he ever picked up a violin, he had tasted the musical whipped cream of schmaltzy old Hollywood musicals. Fox and MGM had their own studio orchestras, and they were terrific; Toscha Seidel was a violin soloist with this special sound I absolutely adored.
Thus its appropriate that the oldest selection on the program, a medley called Hooray for Hollywood, predates Warren-Greens birth. The newest, taken from the Harry Potter movies and Pirates of the Caribbean, appeal to younger fans.
I was determined this would be for the whole family, he says. In this technological age, audiences dont realize theres a full philharmonic orchestra behind the action.
As soon as I told my 14-year-old son Id be playing Harry Potter and Batman music, he wanted to come to the concert. I asked, Does that mean its cool enough for you to bring your mates? And he said Yeah, so that worked.
Warren-Green subscribes to the dictum attributed to Kurt Weill, Duke Ellington and many others that there are only two types of music, good and bad. It was important for him to lead this concert, his lone pops outing for 2012-13, because it sends out a message about what great music is.
Hes well aware that major classical composers on both sides of the Atlantic wrote film scores into the 1950s: Copland, Bernstein, Walton, Vaughan Williams, Britten and others. (This concert includes Malcolm Arnolds Oscar-winning Bridge on the River Kwai music.)
Then academicians created an artificial, nose-in-the-air distinction between serious and light music, and only a few people straddled that gap.
Richard Rodney Bennett wrote an astringent piano concerto while adding lush melodies to Nicholas and Alexandra or Murder on the Orient Express. John Williams, whose E.T. theme caps Warren-Greens concert, kept a foot in both worlds. But most composers had to pick sides, to the detriment of each side.
In this age, not to have the most talented composers writing for film is foolish, he says. Ive always wanted to knock down barriers. Theyre whats strangling our profession.
Christopher Warren-Green conducts a Pops concert of classic British and American film music.
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday.
WHERE: Knight Theater, 430 S. Tryon St.
DETAILS: 704-372-1000, carolinatix.org.
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