Music review: Symphony rocks the silver screen

The movie hits just kept on coming.

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The DSSO performs in 2018. File / News Tribune

Old flickering black-and-white silent movies often weren’t really entirely silent. An organist, or in the case of big movie “palaces,” a small orchestra, would play music to set the mood, provide sound effects and create the auditory excitement of going to the movies.

Even when the talkies came onto the scene, film makers still recognized the power of music underscore to make the movie experience even more impactful. On Saturday night at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, the Duluth Superior Symphony provided its own brand of movie magic, playing an eclectic mix of medleys from beloved films in its “A Night at the Movies” pops concert.

Opening with the “Sunrise” section of the iconic “Also Sprach Zarathustra,” by Richard Stauss, with the DSSO’s timpani player masterfully meeting the challenge, images of the first scenes from “2001: A Space Odyssey” were evoked without ever showing a single frame of film.

Then the movie hits just kept on coming with the audience members able to play their own version of “Name That Tune,” guessing song titles and humming along.

Big, epic film scores and the legendary musical brilliance of a few of the most famous movie composers were represented, with John Williams’ “Star Wars: Suite for Orchestra” magnificently reminding the audience how important Williams’ music is to the success of the movies.


Williams’ “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and Howard Shore’s ”The Fellowship of the Ring” scores were played with majesty and reverence by the orchestra, vividly recreating the worlds of wizards, hobbits and other mythical creatures.

On the lighter side, the orchestra was clearly having fun with music from Mel Brooks’ audacious comedy, “The Producers,” including the oompah of “Der Guten Tag Hop-Clop” and the irreverent anthem “Springtime for Hitler.”

Disney music was well represented with a medley from “Mary Poppins,” with a mix of up-tempo pieces such as the bouncy “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” to the haunting ballad “Feed the Birds.”

Newer Disney music was also an audience favorite with songs from “Frozen,” including the blockbuster hit single, “Let It Go.”

Film and theater composers Benji Pasek and Justin Paul are the new kids on the block with their Tony and Grammy award-winning “Dear Evan Hansen” on Broadway and their Golden Globe and Oscar-winning score for “La La Land.” Pasek and Paul’s recent “The Greatest Showman” score helped to chronicle the life of legendary showman P.T. Barnum, with the film’s stand-out song “This Is Me” a highlight of the medley.

When it came time to show their rock side, the DSSO’s musicians let their hair down and jammed with abandon to Bee Gees’ hits from “Saturday Night Fever” and songs from the raunchy “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” including the most recognizable “Time Warp.”

Closing the performance with John Barry’s (and other songwriters’ pieces) from the James Bond movies, the different styles of such great songs as “Nobody Does it Better,” “Live and Let Die” and “For Your Eyes Only” were linked with musical bridges from Barry’s distinctive main Bond theme.

The DECC was the hot and hopping place to be on Saturday night with a UMD hockey game, a high school dance and a wedding all happening at the same time. It was in the Auditorium, however, with our treasure of a symphony orchestra at their best, that the walls were really rocking.

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