Music: David Arnold
Conductor: Nicholas Dodd
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
David Arnold is one of Britain’s most prolific and successful film composers, although such is the lot of the film composer that few will know the name or his impressive canon, which includes scoring five James Bond films, Stargate, Independence Day, Godzilla and the TV series Sherlock. This evening, he appears with what appears to be the entire City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, complete with an array of rarely seen instruments.
The evening begins with some stirring clash and clatter with Wing Commander from the film of the same name. Conductor Nicholas Dodd clearly enjoys his rôle, conducting with both flamboyance and authority. At the front of the stage are keyboards and guitars; their function quickly becomes clear as David Arnold makes his entrance. Throughout the evening, as well as acting as a laid back master-of-ceremonies, he also plays with the orchestra and, on two occasions, accompanies himself singing, betraying a fine light singing voice.
The evening is advertised as including anecdotes from Arnold’s career, but these tend to be more introductions of the pieces, detailing the film and title, rather than interesting stories – with the exception of one about the circumstances that led to his writing some of the music for Sherlock. Indeed, he really seems to come alive when playing or singing rather than talking. And from the first half, one might be excused for thinking that Arnold is no more than a jobbing composer as the music here, while competently written and well-played, is not always memorable – although one might argue that a function of film music is to support the visuals in setting moods rather than stand alone. So we hear pieces from various genres of film and stage, including from Godzilla, a piece which is unsettling at first before becoming increasingly stirring, with the brass section appearing to be Godzilla. The high point of the first half, however, is Arnold’s vocal solo of We Nearly Had It All from the stage musical Made in Dagenham, a simple piece that showcases the predicament of Rita, originally played by Gemma Arterton. The first half closes with a lengthy suite of music from Stargate.
While the first half may not have set the world on fire, the second half shows the CBSO rolling up their sleeves and the whole concert moving up several gears, starting with a selection of Arnold’s Bond music, including singing the unusually introspective Only Myself to Blame himself, and introducing his secret weapon, David McAlmont, to sing Surrender, the closing title song from Tomorrow Never Dies. McAlmont only sings twice in this concert; it feels as if he is underused. All of the songs in this segment are, while freestanding pieces of music, instantly recognisable as Bond tunes. Later, we hear a suite from Sherlock, totally different in tone being more quirky and perfectly evoking the quality of that show.
Overall a very pleasant evening in the company of first rate musicians, with some truly memorable pieces that will have you humming all the way home.
Photo: Nikki Lewis | Reviewed on 26th June