The Hallé Orchestra is known as a northern powerhouse – and you’ll be playing a powerhouse of a soundtrack with Bond. POWERFUL! Can you offer any other adjectives to describe this brilliant partnering?
I always think of this particular score as epic – big, exciting chase sequences, that iconic Bond theme – it’s such an exciting soundtrack.
Live orchestras date back to the silent-era days of cinema, but you’re actually playing alongside the actors’ words. It sounds like a remarkable feat of timing, how tricky is it?
Casino Royale is a particularly difficult film to perform live, as almost all the music needs to be perfectly synchronised with the action on-screen. In the opening credits we accompany the recording of Chris Cornell singing the title song, “You Know My Name”, and throughout the film there’s lots of pre-recorded percussion – especially in the big chase sequences – so there’s no room for error. As well as having a monitor in front of me, I use a click track to keep me in time with the movie. We spend a lot of time balancing the orchestra against the dialogue, to give a kind of turbo-charged cinematic experience for the audience – it’s very exciting.
Most people appreciate seeing a film on the big screen as opposed to the small, in your view, how does hearing live music enhance the movie experience?
Seeing a movie on the big screen is always a fantastic experience. Add to that hearing the film soundtrack played live, and it becomes thrilling and, very often, pretty overwhelming. It’s hard to put your finger on, but there’s something about seeing and hearing the soundtrack being created in the moment, that, when combined with the action on screen, is very moving.
Does the experience have a visceral or emotional impact in audiences?
Almost all the most extreme audiences responses I’ve experienced as a conductor have come during film-with-orchestra concerts. It’s wonderful for us on stage to hear spontaneous laughter and applause, or a collective gasp at a sudden shock. But it’s when we finish playing the music for the end credits that usually gets the biggest reaction, which more often than not is a huge standing ovation. It’s a very immersive and emotional experience, and the audience can’t help but get swept along with it.
Bond has a pretty iconic riff, do you get a thrill from playing it?
I’ve conducted a lot of the great John Williams scores live to picture – Jurassic Park, E.T., Raiders, Star Wars, Harry Potter and so on – but it’s the Bond theme that is just the coolest bit of movie music ever written. You hear the buzz go round the hall the instant THAT guitar solo starts up. The instruction to the guitarist, written in the music, is “Dirty Twang”!
Why is a classical orchestra so suited to film scores? Does it heighten the emotion?
The language of film music developed from the music of opera, where, more often than not, it’s not the singers but the orchestra that tells the audience what to think, what to feel, or gives the subtext. A symphony orchestra is the perfect vehicle for expression emotion, and that is exactly what a film soundtrack does. Hearing a large orchestra in full flow is one of the most exciting things you can experience, and seeing it with the film only heightens that.
What’s your favourite moment (music-wise) performing Casino Royale Live?
The action sequences are incredibly exciting, but I love conducting the slower music associated with Vesper Lynd, which I think goes slightly unnoticed in the cinema. Her theme is often played by a solo piano, supported by strings, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking.
What’s the trickiest/most challenging moment, and why?
Undoubtedly the most challenging sequence comes right near the start, where Bond is chasing the bomb maker Mollaka across cranes and through the building site. Every time they jump and land on something, it needs to be perfectly synched with the music. It’s punishing for us; dangerously fast, very difficult to play, and a real challenge for me to keep everything in time. I always feel a bit calmer once that cue is out of the way.
What would you say to convince audiences, who have probably already seen the film, to come along and experience Casino Royale Live?
Watching a film with orchestra is like a cinema plus plus plus experience. A movie you love on the big screen, but somehow everything about it becomes alive, spontaneous and thrilling, because you can see a huge orchestra in front of you playing their hearts out. And, if you’ve never heard a live orchestra before, it’s the perfect way to experience it for the first time.
Casino Royale in Concert comes to Harrogate Convention Centre on Thursday 30 May. Tickets available here.