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Arts and Entertainment Monday, Jan. 14, 2019 2 years ago

Sarasota Orchestra dazzles with 'La La Land' pops concert

Pop Series kicks off with cinematic storytelling of 'La La Land in concert.'
by: Edward Alley Contributor

The Sarasota Orchestra was wired for sound last weekend in more ways than one. The group performed the musical soundtrack of the many-Oscared film “La La Land” live as the first concert of the orchestra’s 2019 Pops series.

Virtually every player had earbuds for the ever-present click track, giving them the exact beat to assure perfect synchronization with the film and the conductor. The stage was covered with microphones and baffles, much as in a recording studio, amplifying the players to send their music through the speakers in time with the film. This amplification was well balanced all around. Conductor Sarah Hicks had a TV monitor complete with timers, beat blips and cue bands crossing her screen to ensure an exact match. Her coordination was flawless, as there was never a musical misstep.

The orchestra was augmented with extra percussion, saxophones and a few other instruments to cover Justin Hurwitz’s Oscar-winning score, which integrated symphonic, jazz and improvisation into an exciting and tuneful evening.

In film music, little interpretation is left to the conductor, since all must be synced with the film, even in the original studio recording. What musical nuance exists is notated in the music on the page, and everyone must be precise to keep exactly in pace with what is on the screen. The orchestra handled the complex score with ease.

A small jazz ensemble with John Miller, bass; Ken Palacky, guitar; and George Nickson, drum set, gave a good beat and jazz backup, especially to pianist Kyle Mattingly, who with trumpet player Steve Patrick were the musical stars of the evening, swinging in complete harmony and sync with their jazz counterparts on the screen.

Just another night and concert week for the Sarasota Orchestra, which is probably one of the most versatile groups anywhere, playing Shostakovitch on Sunday, “La La Land” on Friday and Saturday, chamber music on Sunday, and Prokofiev and Beethoven this weekend. Talk about variety, this orchestra has it and does it well.

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Edward Alley is a conductor, former manager of the NY Philharmonic, associate director of the Juilliard Opera Center and director of the MBRockefeller Fund for Music. He succeeds his wife, the late June LeBell, as producer/host of SILL’s Music Mondays.

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