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Symphony to play fan-chosen movie themes

Kyle Slagle
Iconic themes from the films "Star Wars" and "Titanic" are among those that may be played at this weekend's symphony pops program, "And the Winner Is ... Music of the Movies!," presented by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The program has been determined by audience voting, with the winners announced and performed during the concert.
Courtesy photo
The theme from "Jaws" is one of many by famed composer John Williams that may be performed by the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
WANT TO GO?"And the Winner Is...Music of the Movies!"Presented by the West Virginia Symphony OrchestraWHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and SaturdayWHERE: The Clay CenterCOST: Start at $12 for adults, $6 for childrenINFO: 304-561-3570 or CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- What do Maestro Grant Cooper and a great white shark with a taste for blood have in common?Both know how to use music to get in your head. The good news is you are safe with Cooper and the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra. The Maestro wants to entertain and engage a wide audience on Friday and Saturday when he leads the symphony in an 8 p.m. Pops Series concert, "And the Winner Is...Music of the Movies!"This concert features music from the movies -- with a twist. Cooper said over the years audiences have suggested some version of a film awards show as part of a performance. There was a clear interest in the fun of audience voting and having the music for a concert revealed only on the night it was played.Anticipation and participation are what it's all about.The winners will be announced by special guests including Kanawha County Delegate Doug Skaff Jr., Jessica Ralston and Brooks Jarosz of WSAZ, Jenny Murray of V100, Adam Kranson of ZMM Architects & Engineers and Captain Cab of C&H Taxi. Maestro Cooper will serve as the Master of Ceremonies.The WVSO used two methods to collect votes to determine fans' favorite film scores in 11 categories: action, drama, horror, western, fantasy, romance, science fiction, sports, adventure, comedy and animated film. Three films were nominated in each category.
"In December, we placed a paper ballot in our holiday pops program. That audience has a wide age range. We wanted to be inclusive," said Cooper. The symphony also provided the opportunity for online voting.Cooper said a pattern emerged in the musical tastes by the voting method used. Paper ballot voters were more "traditional" in their choices, while online voters' favorites indicated a younger crowd.
Tallying the votes with integrity "was absolutely sacrosanct," according to Cooper. Concertgoers can be assured that the scores chosen reflect the actual votes cast."There was no skullduggery in this process," he said.Cooper sees an advantage in movie music over symphonic music. Movie music is by definition "supported by a narrative scene or a kind of visual spectacular." He notes the score from "Jaws" is incredibly effective in its job, but it can't stand on its own as a piece of music.That does not mean movie music never rises to the occasion of being its own art. John Williams composed the score for "Jaws," but he also scored the "Harry Potter" films and is the creative genius behind many other well-known movie themes. (In fact, 11 of the 33 nominees are his works.)Cooper describes the "Harry Potter" scores as "really sophisticated" pieces doing intricate things with piccolo and bassoon, and yet he's watched audiences of children sit in rapt attention to the music alone. "We can create our own narrative without film present."When asked about an encore process using audience ballots to drive WVSO content, Cooper is reflective. Will the symphony do this again?
"That's a good question and reasonably deep to answer," he said. "We know what people vote for by the way they buy their tickets."The Symphony pays close attention to audience preferences and uses that data to influence its programming four to five years out, he noted.Cooper is sensitive to the line between responding to audience interests and running "a popularity contest." The process he wants the WVSO to use for most of its concert presentations is more refined than simply running numbers."What we do is really an act of trust and faith between the orchestra and the public."Reach Elizabeth Gaucher @ or 304-348-1249.
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