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Movies and Music Collide at the CSO

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 6, 2004 3:35PM

Next week kicks off The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Friday Night at the Movies series. Sadly, this does not mean the CSO will be projecting movies onto its back wall and serving brie and wine like some upper-crust Brew and View. Instead, they’ll perform musical scores from some well-known films. A logical starting point for this series would be the silent film era so Charlie Chaplin’s “City Lights” will kick things off on October 15th. The series will continue through the winter with The Golden Age of Film Music on November 19th featuring music from Gone With The Wind and Lawrence of Arabia and A Night On The Red Carpet, an Oscar-themed show on February 25th with selections from The Godfather and Doctor Zhivago. Tickets for these events are pricey but if you’re a student you can get in for only ten bucks.

As with any attempt to mix populism and art, there are mixed feelings about this whole venture. In an article in this weekend’s Tribune, Martha Gilmer, CSO vice president of artistic planning, noted that there’s an audience for this type of performance and it would be just the kind of thing to put more butts in the seats. She cites silent films as one genre “that we may, over several years, continue to explore.” Tom Hall, a CSO violinist for over 30 years, disagrees and doesn’t think that this series will keep people coming back for other CSO events. He also gets in a dig at Chaplin’s score calling it “not very substantial or interesting in its own right.” Oh, snap!

Hall says he’d prefer to perform works that have “intrinsic value” like those of Bernard Herrmann. Chicagoist thinks this is an excellent idea. Imagine! “The Golden Age of Serial Killer Music” featuring Herrmann’s Cape Fear, Psycho, and Taxi Driver scores. Brilliant! Mr. Hall is probably just cranky after intense rehearsals with members of the Chicago Children’s Choir for the performance of The Lord of the Rings Symphony this weekend at the Auditorium Theater. One can only hear lyrics in Elvish for so long without starting to go a little batshit.