REVIEW: Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Presents: Pixar in Concert

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MSO Presents, Pixar in Concert. Image: Lionel Baker

THE MELBOURNE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA performed at the Hamer Hall on Saturday April 8, presenting the best musical moments from the Pixar films.

The concert was opened by conductor Benjamin Northey, who leapt up to the podium and into the spotlight, radiating with energy and excitement as he greeted the audience – commanding their presence.

Conductor, Benjamin Northey, opening the show. Image: Lionel Baker

Northey started with a prologue that introduced the orchestra and highlighted the importance of music in film.

“There is no spoken dialogue tonight as it is a great chance to focus on the story-telling power of music,” he said.

As the lights dimmed and before the lights even came on or an image appeared on the screen, the orchestra played the first notes of a song so well known it set off a wave of nostalgia – it encased you, goose bumps all over. Everyone knew what film the music was from.

Wood and Buzz from, “Toy Story.” Image: Oh My Disney

Toy Story brought to life by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, with Northey a separate act in his own right, as if he was performing interpretive dance while conducting the musicians, clearly feeling the music. Palpable sound, the audience collectively enthralled as the image of Buzz and Woody lit up on the screen. The musicians became visible, alight with passion and movement as violin bows danced in sync to paint an auditory feast.

Conductor, Benjamin Northey. Image: Matt Irwin

Captured by the sound and watching the images on screen was a somewhat surreal experience; films you know all too well, accompanied by music brought them to life despite the absence of dialogue and sound effects. It was a weird, yet refreshing feeling that made you feel as though you were in a recording session for a movie.

Music from Toy Story, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, Up, The Incredibles, and Monsters Inc. among other favourites was featured. And there was a holiday special finale of You’ve Got a Friend in Me, which was received with excitement and applause.

The crowd could see the look of focus and concentration on each performer’s face as they expertly played their instruments, intent on delivering each piece to perfection. There was laughter from the audience as the visuals on screen were amplified, unconsciously by the music played right in front of them. Music that transcended time and space, age or gender – a language understood by the heart and soul. In that moment, we were with Marlon and Dory under the sea trying to find Nemo, or feeling heart ache during that one scene in Up.

The live music was a great accompaniment to the Pixar films; emphasising the important storytelling nature of music in collaboration with stunning animation. Northey insisted the audience give the musicians another round of applause as they worked hard, delivering music that was “incredibly demanding to play”, as he put it.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at the Hamer Hall. Image: Lionel Baker

John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios told Variety: “I’m in absolute awe of the talent of these musicians … the fact that they have never seen this music before and yet play it perfectly, with feeling and interpretation.”

The show presented with a sense of grandeur and it really does make you appreciate the skill involved in being able to deliver such evocative pieces, that tell a story and touch its audience. By the end of the concert you were left feeling warm and fuzzy ready to go home and re-watch the films just to relive the memories all over again.

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