Concert review - The Best of John Barry: From Bond to Born Free
De Montfort Hall, Leicester – Friday 24th March 2017
Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Dodd
Presenter: Henry Kelly
It had been the best part of a year since I had booked my tickets for this event – one of two concerts in the ‘Philharmonia at the Movies’ series with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Nicholas Dodd. The second was to be held two days later at The Anvil in Basingstoke. I had not seen a concert of John Barry music since the Nottingham event in February 2014 so was thoroughly looking forward to it. On that occasion Dodd had conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and, upon examination, the set list here was exactly the same, though two tracks in the first half had been reversed. This said, each performance always has something new to offer with a different orchestra involved and Dodd’s conducting was as immaculate as the orchestra’s playing. Compère for the evening was TV and radio presenter, and good friend of Barry, Henry Kelly – who had interviewed him at length for an issue of Classic FM in October 2001.
‘Goldfinger’ (1964) opened the proceedings and I was thrilled from my front row seat on the balcony to be able to see the whole of the orchestra, concentrating on certain sections where relevant. The rousing main title from ‘Zulu’- also from 1964 - followed and I recall this being played at a slighter faster pace than the soundtrack version. The timpanist Adrian Bending looked so confident and professional. The third title was another Bond theme – a charming instrumental version of ‘We Have all the Time in the World’ from ‘O.H.M.S.S.’ (1969), always a favourite of mine in its instrumental form.
Kelly reminded us that both of Barry’s parents had died a year or two before the 1980 film ‘Somewhere in Time’ and that these events had influenced his writing of the score. Also, that its co-star Jane Seymour – another good friend of Barry’s – had recommended him for the score. It’s certainly a very moving piece of music, especially when heard in its concert form.
Kelly also explained that the following selection was not from a film, though it was originally written for one. Not withstanding that, ‘Moviola’ (1991) was well received by the audience. After all, it is such a majestic theme, from beginning to end, and made a fine title for the album on which it appeared in 1995.
I couldn’t wait for the next selection – one that’s been a favourite of mine since I heard it played live at his comeback concert in 1998. ‘The Persuaders!’ (1971) is still one of my all-time favourite TV themes and programmes. I looked for the musician playing the keyboards but couldn’t see him - but realised later that he was slightly hidden behind his piano. Another great performance by the orchestra and solo pianist Ben Dawson. Many of the audience appreciated and remembered this theme.
‘Mary Queen of Scots’ (1971) was next, followed by the charming ‘Midnight Cowboy’ (1969) theme with a nice harmonica solo by Philip Achille. Side one ended with the usual cues from the Oscar-winning ‘Dances With Wolves’ (1991) – Kelly described this as being in ‘four movements.’ ‘The John Dunbar Theme’ gave us another opportunity to hear the fine playing of the harmonica player.
Some 20-25 minutes later the orchestra leader appeared, followed by the conductor; and programme two began with another Oscar-winning theme – ‘Born Free’ (1966). This has always been a firm favourite at John Barry concerts and one of the most-recorded themes ever. Presenter Kelly failed to refer to the next title by its correct name ‘All Time High’ but Barry’s main theme from ‘Octopussy’ (1983) has also been a regular feature in recent John Barry concerts, despite it not being that well-known. I’ve always liked the arrangement that hasn’t changed since I first heard it played in concert. Though it hadn’t got the energy of the vocal by Rita Coolidge, it still sounds great in concert form.
It was Oscar time again with the main theme from ‘Out of Africa’ (1986); followed by another personal favourite of mine ‘Body Heat’, which I recall seeing three times when it first appeared in 1981. This tune always brings forth a gorgeous alto sax solo and Nick Moss did a fantastic job with a slight variation on previous versions I’d heard.
I don’t dislike ‘Chaplin’ (1992) – it’s a great piece of music - but I’d much prefer to hear another incidental cue from this film, which is laden with some great music. Kelly reminded the audience that this film score had been nominated for an Oscar – looking back it is sad to think that both this and Jerry Goldsmith’s score to the hugely-popular ‘Basic Instinct’ lost out to Alan Menken’s ‘Aladdin’.
Another ‘blast from the past’ – with the emphasis on ‘blast’ - was up next. This was another of my favourite pieces of music that couldn’t have been more fitting to the sequence it accompanied in ‘You Only Live Twice’ (1967). ‘Space March’ was immaculate, but the ending seems to have been toned down somewhat since Barry blasted us in 1998! You can’t have a Barry concert without this title.
Barry had conducted ‘The Knack’ (1965) at his concerts in the early 70s. It’s a great theme but it never really gets going and it’s over all too quickly – a bit like ‘Wednesday’s Child’, which, sadly, wasn’t on the agenda. To me, it lacks the great organ solo played on the soundtrack and film by the late Alan Haven. Nevertheless it’s a nice laid-back theme, giving the audience time to catch their breath after the rousing ‘Space March’.
Sadly, the concert was nearing a conclusion but, as always, the ‘James Bond Medley’ ended the proceedings. As Kelly explained, all the themes were from Connery’s Bond films except one and that explanation suited me fine. Dodd furiously conducted the orchestra, which was going full tilt right to the very end. Tremendous stuff.
It had been another immaculate performance from Nicholas Dodd and the Philharmonia Orchestra - no mention of ‘the other fella’ who played Bond or some guy who composed a certain Bond theme; and rapturous applause from the audience who had thoroughly enjoyed the evening. Only one thing remained – an encore – as always ‘The James Bond Theme’.
Thank you Nicholas Dodd for a great concert and for signing my flyer after the concert. Here’s to the next one – hopefully in Nottingham.
Zulu – Main Title
We Have All the Time in the World
Somewhere in Time
Mary, Queen of Scots
Dances with Wolves – Suite:
John Dunbar Theme / Journey to Fort Sedgewick / Two Socks-The Wolf Theme /
Farewell & Finale
Octopussy (All Time High)
Out of Africa
Space March (From ‘You Only Live Twice’)
James Bond Suite:
James Bond Theme / From Russia With Love / Thunderball / 007 /
You Only Live Twice / O.H.M.S.S. / Diamonds Are Forever
Encore: James Bond Theme
© Gareth Bramley – March 2017
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