The Big Friendly Giant is a short story by Roald Dahl written in 1982 and has sold over 37 million copies in the UK. It’s amazing that the only treatment this well loved story has received is an animated tv adaption in 1989 and as a theatre production. It’s taken far too long to get to the big screen and who better to film it than Steven Spielberg. And of course Spielberg’s right hand man as far as scoring the movie is maestro John Williams.
Apart from the cover of the soundtrack which I personally think doesn’t work at all, this score is pure Williams. A composers musical identity can be heard in a change of a chord, a time signature or just the same instruments they use.
So in the first track of BFG, Overture, you hear all these familiarities and perhaps the odd bar which sounds like it’s from another Williams score. This does not matter because with a full orchestra Williams is the supreme maestro and you immediately feel at home.
I have read the word ‘delightful’ in reviews of this soundtrack and of course it is. Whilst there is not essentially anything new to grasp onto except for the ‘delightful’ theme which runs through it, you really don’t care because it’s JW and he never dissapoints.
I love the flighty flutes in Overture, the love waltz in To Giant Country, the humour in Fleshlumpeater and again the fantastic flutes of Dream Jars. Also the grandness of Frolic and the military atmosphere of Meeting With Queen.
What a splendid night, not only was I in my favourite Concert Hall listening to the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra playing film music but I also got to meet fellow IFMCA member Tim Burden who was the Concert Presenter & Announcer. The music was to be tracks form all 6 Star War film composed by maestro John Williams
The hall was pretty much full when the white dinner jacketed Birmingham Symphony Orchestra took their places followed by the 90 strong chorus seated on a raised balcony above them. The lights dimmed, someone from the audience shouted an enthusiastic ‘yes’, then we heard the voice of Tim saying the immortal line:- ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far, far way …. and we were off with the 20th Century Fox Fanfare followed by one of the greatest film themes ever ‘Star Wars’. Surely everyone knows this tune note for note?
Voice Actor Marc Silk was the evenings presenter. 16 years ago Silk worked with George Lucas in The Phantom Menace. He took us through the Star Wars journey. I’m not going to attempt to review each track as all Star Wars fans know them better than I – this I witnessed by the guy who was sitting next to me tapping out every melody/note on his knee! But there were glorious highlights which have to be mentioned:-
Flag Parade from The Phantom Menace – has such a historical aura to it which goes in line with George Lucas wanting the score to have a classic ‘Hollywood’ feel to it. The luscious strings from Anakin’s Theme and the comedic tones and timing of Adventures of Jar-Jar Binks.
Duel of the Fates opened with terrific vocal force from the choir and made much use of the percussion section. It was absolutely thrilling! Onto one of the most hummed pieces in film music history, The Imperial March – after playing this Marc made sure that the percussion section got a round of well deserved applause. And then the oddly out-of-place fun track The Cantina Band which harked back to Williams jazz days.
Another stand out track was Princess Leia’s Theme. A superb character cue which is beautifully symphonic. This was followed by another well-known cue, Throne Room played with such vigour by the BSO. As Silk said afterwards ‘it’s goose bumps all the way”. He also introduced the next track saying ‘from the best Star Wars film EVER. The Empire Strikes Back’ which the audience seemed to agree with as we launched into The Asteroid Field.
Parade of the Ewoks was fun watching it performed live and I think the strange percussion I saw played was Glockenspiel bells [I may be wrong here!). The end came way too soon and Silk said he hoped we had enjoyed ‘an extremely joyous evening of music’ … yes to that! He also gave well deserved praise to Tim who pulled the concert together.
The last track was a treat as it is rarely performed live and we were treated to The Forest Battle from Return of the Jedi. Thankfully we did get an encore, a second sounding of the Star Wars Theme, of course!
One other mention I need to make is the extensive programme notes, these no doubt made the fans happy. It also included a letter [below] sent from John Williams sent to the BSO and it’s conductor Michael Seal. I just wished it hadn’t of all happened in the blink of an eye!
20th Century Fanfare
Star Wars Theme Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – Flag Parade
Adventures of Jar-Jar Binks
Duel of the Fates Episode 2: Attack of the Clones – Across The Stars
The Imperial March Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith – Battle of the Heroes Episode 4: A New Hope Here They Come!
The Cantina Band
Princess Leia’s Theme
Throne Room Episode 5: The Empire Trikes Back The Asteroid Field Episode 6: Return of the Jedi Luke and Leia’s Theme
Parade of the Ewoks
The Forest Battle