Symphony Orchestra to feature film scores in latest performance


Brian Hayes

Members of the Wichita State Symphony Orchestra practice in Duerksen Fine Arts Center.

The Wichita State Symphony Orchestra is diversifying their standard program to include music from film scores to movies such as “Back to the Future” and “Hoosiers” in their latest performance.

Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Miller Concert Hall, the Symphony Orchestra will perform music from four different movies before accompanying a silent film.

First, the orchestra will perform selections from “Kings Row” by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, “Hoosiers” by Jerry Goldsmith, “Back to the Future” by Alan Silvestri, and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” by John Williams.

In contrast, the second half of the concert will feature music accompanying Buster Keaton’s silent comedy, “The General.” The music was written by Carl Davis, a contemporary composer, who has composed music to accompany numerous film scores.

“Even though Kings Row was released in 1942, Korngold’s style influenced the modern composers on the program,” Director Mark Laycock said. “Korngold and his colleagues established the lush, symphonic sound beloved in films such as ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Titanic,’ and ‘Lord of the Rings.’”

Laycock said the program will holistically transport audiences between vivid images of each movie.

The music challenges students to acclimate to playing music from film scores instead of classic composers like Mozart and Beethoven.

“Many professional orchestras are now presenting film music as a regular part of their concert seasons, so this is important training for our students,” Laycock said. “This style of music also attracts a different audience. We hope they’ll return for a more traditional program.”

Film score music gives students the opportunity to practice stylistically-different compositions.

“I hope to become a musician in film sound tracking, and I got a taste of what it was like during the rehearsals” said Emily Mudra, a freshman studying trumpet performance. “The brass most of the time get to start off with the melody, like in ‘Back to the Future’ or ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ Even when the brass doesn’t have the melody, it still creates an epic atmosphere from the symphony.

Mudra said one of the biggest challenges for the symphony is navigating the shifting moods of the different film scores.

“Each work is, of course, a different movie telling a different story,” Mudra said. “Your mind has to be quick to change to know how to feel for each piece and how you should go about it.”

Mudra said accompanying a continuous film requires constant adaptation and synchronization.

“Accompanying the film is an incredible challenge — it is 75 minutes of continuous playing,” Laycock said. “With a live soloist, there is usually give-and-take between the performer and the orchestra. However, once the film begins, we need to hit each and every tempo accurately in order to maintain synchronization.”

Laycock said that, challenges aside, his students have risen to the occasion.

“I’m proud of how our students are responding to the challenges of the repertoire and this unique mode of presentation,” Laycock said. “We have enjoyed preparing the music, and I know this will be a fun evening for the campus community.”