The following is a guest post by Senior Music Cataloger Sharon McKinley.
The Library of Congress Chorale’s Spring concert is this Thursday, June 7. Cinema in Concert will be presented at noon in the JeffersonBuilding, Coolidge Auditorium. It is free to staff and the public, so if you’re in the neighborhood, stop on by!
It’s a wonderfully eclectic program. Conductor Chad Becker has selected film music as the theme. As you might guess, the Library owns most if not all the films these pieces come from. The pieces are incredibly varied, showing how film music, whether borrowed from elsewhere or written expressly for a movie, is used, reused, and reinterpreted. Library staffer and long-time Chorale member Leslie Long has written some fabulous notes for the program. Here are teasers from the program (not to say it’s a trailer…), with tidbits from her notes:
Selections from George Frideric Handel’s “Zadok the Priest,” Coronation Anthem No 1, HW V258, were used in at least six films: Prick Up Your Ears (1987); Crackerjack (1994); The Madness of King George (1994); Johnny English (2003); Breakfast On Pluto (2005); and The Young Victoria (2009).
“Ave verum corpus,” K618, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, wasn’t used in Amadeus, but it WAS featured in these films: Luis Bunuel’s surrealist classic L’Age d’Or (1930); The Miracle (1959); Lorenzo’s Oil (1992); The Peacemaker (1997); A Rumor of Angels (2000); Eve and the Fire Horse (2005); and The Island (2005).
This just goes to show you that great music never dies! I’d bet that both these composers would have written film music if they’d had the opportunity.
Other program highlights include a pair of works from composer John Williams, “Hymn to the Fallen,” from Saving Private Ryan (1998), and “Dry Your Tears, Afrika, ” from Amistad (1997). Williams is one of the most celebrated of modern film composers, with over 50 film scores or adaptations to his credit. The soundtrack album of Saving Private Ryan won a Grammy Award for best instrumental composition, and both that score and the score of Amistad were nominated for Academy Awards for best original dramatic score. He has won five Oscars for original or adapted scores.
Shall we dance was a vehicle for Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and featured a custom-composed score by George and Ira Gershwin. Sadly, George died shortly after it was released. The Music Division is home to the premier collection of works by these iconic American songwriters. Read more about the Gershwin family’s relationship with the Library of Congress here. The chorale will perform the Academy Award-nominated song, “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” which can be heard in Shall We Dance (1937) and Barkleys of Broadway (1949), among other films.
I always forget just how commercial Sergei Prokofiev was. Alexander Nevsky (1938) was Sergei Eisenstein’s first sound film, and Prokofiev was so skilled that he could watch each day’s film footage and compose music overnight to fit the mood and the action. We will perform Prokofiev’s “Song of Alexander Nevsky” and “Alexander’s Entry into Pskov.”
Finally, how could we leave out one of the most beloved scores of all filmdom? There may not be a dry eye in the house when we perform “Over the rainbow” by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg, and arranged by Mark Hayes, from The Wizard of Oz (1939). The Wizard of Oz has a particularly rich and entertaining bibliographic history. For more about this timeless classic, check out the online exhibit, The Wizard of Oz: An American Fairytale, which was mounted in 2000 for the 100th anniversary of L. Frank Baum’s book.