The National Concert Hall on Earlsfort Terrace is a an impressive building both outside and in. Formerly the home of University College Dublin, it is fitting that an edifice of this beauty should be one of the cultural meccas in Dublin City.
You don’t have to be a culture vulture or a classical music aficionado to visit here. The National Concert Hall plays host to a wide range of events to cater for almost every age, musical taste and genre. From opera to classical, jazz to chamber orchestra, musicals to orchestral renditions of music scores. Schools are catered for with educational performances and you can enjoy seasonal Christmas carol recitals and music in December if that’s your thing.
The NCH has even played host to alternative music performers such as Marc Almond, who visited here recently. The 18th November features a performance of “In Dreams – David Lynch Revisited” which may appeal to those with darker souls. With musicians from such bands as Tindersticks, The Bad Seeds, Stealing Sheep and Savages, it’s a night worth checking out.
My favourite performances are by the RTE Concert Orchestra who periodically perform the scores of popular movies. Below is a blog I wrote about the John Williams recital I attended with my father back in August. If you’re a sci-fi geek like me, or a movie buff like my Dad, then you’ll love these performances.
The John Williams Collection performed by the RTE Concert Orchestra –Saturday 22nd August 2015
Most people love a good movie theme and over the last four decades, John Williams has written some of the most memorable and best-loved movie themes. So it was with great anticipation that I attended the National Concert Hall with my Dad to enjoy this evening.
Just a short walk from St Stephen’s Green and Harcourt Street, The National Concert Hall, formerly University College, Dublin, is a suitably majestic building in which to house the RTE Concert Orchestra. Led by conductor, John Wilson, this accomplished orchestra started the night with a bang, beginning with the opening theme from Star Wars. As the music swelled and swooped around us, you could almost picture the Millennium Falcon and X-Wing fighters doing battle with Darth Vader and the Imperial Tie-fighters. It was a stunningly performed piece that grabbed the audience straight away and dragged them along for the ride at breakneck speed.
Next up, was the theme from Jaws. As conductor John Wilson quipped, “Never before was so much fear instilled with so few notes.” I have to admit to getting a dose of nervous giggles as this was played! Leaving man-eating sharks behind, the next piece was from a more recent movie; The Terminal, starring Tom Hanks. This quirky tale of a citizen of a (fictitious) East European country stuck between the bureaucratic cracks due to an uprising in his country and forced to live in JFK airport terminal, was scored by Williams using a pseudo-Slavic clarinet motif which fitted the story beautifully and is a lovely piece of music in itself.
Back to the realms of sci-fi and fantasy and the next piece performed was from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Immediately, the audience were transported to Hogwarts on a magical journey through the world of witches and wizards. The three-part suite segued through the opening theme, The Enchanted Forest and Harry’s Theme, taking us through the movie from beginning to end.
Next was the Raiders Of The Lost Ark March, the rousing signature theme from the movie that was the next step for Harrison Ford’s career after the success of Star Wars in which he played space pirate, Han Solo. One can’t help but picture Indiana Jones fighting the German army, cracking his whip and running from one perilous situation into the arms of another. A fun romp which the orchestra seemed to get a real kick out of playing.
Continuing with the theme of family-friendly movies, the last piece before the Interval was ET’s Adventures On Earth from the movie, E.T., The Extra Terrestrial. This was one of my favourite movie themes from my younger years and the piece took me right back to that magical moment in the cinema when I gasped in wonder at the kid’s bikes lifting into the air to fly through the sky. Purely magical!
During the interval, it was lovely to see such a wide cross-section of demographics in the audience. Music fans, families with children, movie nerds, retired couples and those who just fancied a bit of light culture on a Saturday night. While classical buffs may look down their noses at these kind of performances, I like to think of them as a gateway to orchestral music. For many, movie themes are the classical symphonies of today and are to be enjoyed by all.
Taking our seats again, the second half kicked off with the theme from Superman (Superman March). This took me right back to my childhood and fond memories of the late Christopher Reeve as Superman (and one of my first crushes!). You could see conductor John Wilson was clearly enjoying himself conducting this piece. At times, I almost expected him to take off from the podium!
Next was a complete change of pace and a foray into jazz with ‘Escapades’ from the movie Catch Me If You Can. This movie, set in the sixties, deals with the exploits of master-forger and confidence trickster Frank Abignale Jr and the G-Man (played by Tom Hanks) assigned to pursue and apprehend him. The chase was illustrated beautifully through Williams’ sixties-inspired theme, which featured xylophone, double bass and a masterful sax solo by Kevin Hanafin. While I’m not a big jazz fan, one can’t help but appreciate this beautifully-composed and constructed piece.
Keeping with more sober themes, the next three pieces came from Schindler’s List and were performed by violin soloist, Mia Cooper. I have seen Mia perform before and she always puts everything she has into her performance. Tonight was no exception. From the moment her bow touched the strings, she grabbed the hearts of everyone in the audience and squeezed them tight, wringing every drop of emotion as she segued through the main theme, Warsaw Ghetto and Oscar Schindler’s Theme (the final piece at the end of the movie). By the time she had finished, I was emotionally undone. Beautiful!
Returning to the sci-fi theme, we were treated to the mesmerising music of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, a vastly underrated movie. This was made before Star Wars and so didn’t have the same hype or special effects. That said, it’s an amazing film that resonates more because it’s set on earth rather than a ‘galaxy far, far away’ and is led by some very human protagonists. Well worth seeing if it’s slipped under your radar.
Then it was back to Star Wars for the grand finale with the romantic Princess Leia’s Theme followed by the pomp and ceremony of The Throne Room scene, in which our intrepid heroes receive their honours for destroying the Death Star and saving the day. A fantastic piece which brought the audience to their feet at the end of the evening for a well-deserved standing ovation.
The orchestra returned for a rousing encore, the theme from The Mummy, sending everyone home with a smile on their faces, well-satisfied by this musical tribute to a legendary composer.
These nights out are a favourite Dad/Daughter time for us and I’m eagerly awaiting the next one. Will you be there? Check out www.nch.ie for tickets and information on further events.