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The Best of John Barry: Bond and Beyond concert in London

By: Ajay Chowdhury
Published:
2017-11-17
The Best of John Barry concert Bond and Beyond
On Thursday, 16th November 2017, The Royal Festival Hall on London's Southbank played host to the Philharmonia Orchestra, who, conducted by Nicholas Dodd, played a repertoire of The Best of John Barry: Bond and Beyond. As part of the Philharmonia at the Movies, the evening was presented by UK star of television and stage, Robert Lindsay, a stalwart of musical theatre.

Nicholas Dodd conducts watched by Robert Lindsay
Nicholas Dodd conducts watched by Robert Lindsay. Photo © Andrew Rausch. All rights reserved.

The Themes We'll Be Singing Tomorrow


The evening began with 1964's Goldfinger upon which Robert Lindsay commented, "That's what I call an overture!" Then followed Zulu which Lindsay amusingly introduced explaining Michael Caine's major screen debut immitating the actor both as a Cockney and in his officer's voice. We Have All The Time In The World, the love theme from On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) followed which Lindsay recognised was a towering Bond score. Lindsay explained the next piece, Somewhere In Time (1980), was written in part memorium for the composer's recently deceased parents and John Barry's participation in the romantic film was suggested by the lead actress Jane Seymour. Then came Moviola, the standalone piece originally conceived for the title  of Barbra Streisand's 1991 multi-Oscar® nominated film, The Prince Of Tides. The composer and Streisand, the director, had had creative differences resulting in the piece being reserved for the  title track of Barry's 1992 instrumental album which revisited a number of pieces from his career but reorchestrated from the point of view of an older person. The concert largely drew from these more stately arrangements found on this album and those found on the later Barry 1995 re-orchestration album, Moviola II: Action And Adventure.

Best Of Barry London Philharmonia Orchestra by Felix Broede
Philharmonia Orchestra during Best Of Barry concert in London, 16 November, 2017. Photo by Felix Broede.

The great 1972 TV theme from The Persuaders started with a tricky cimbalom solo eventually finessed by Elsa Bradley. The evocative, melancholia of this track is a throughline in all of Barry's best work, underpinned, as it is, by loss and longing. His exquisite theme for 1971's Mary Queen Of Scots, was followed by the plaintive, stately version of Midnight Cowboy with a harmonica solo by Philip Achille stepping into the huge, footsteps of the late Jean "Toots" Thielemans who memorably played on the more jaunty 1969 original.

The first half of the concert culminated in a Dances With Wolves (1990) suite. The suite featured the John Dunbar Theme, Two Socks/The Wolf Theme and Farewell/End Title from John Barry's magnificent score which garnered him a fifth Oscar® and a new lease of composing life after a near-fatal illness. Conductor Nicholas Dodd, who orchestrated and conducted David Arnold's Bond scores, waved his baton with passion and the Philharmonia moved musical air in a majestic first act finale.

Best Of Barry London Philharmonia Orchestra by Benjamin Ealovega
Philharmonia Orchestra during Best Of Barry concert in London, 16 November, 2017. Photo by Benjamin Ealovega.

Evocative of the best of symphonic Barry, and hugely engerised by concert audiences now used to film music, the Philharmonia returned with Born Free (1966) for which Barry won his first two Oscars® (one for score, one for the title song with Don Black as lyricist). The theme from Octopussy (1983), All Time High, led seamlessly into Barry's 1985 Oscar®-winning score for Out Of Africa. Lindsay had introduced Body Heat, the 1981 Lawrence Kasdan's neo-noir as a personal favourite and it was fun to watch the actor truly enjoy the version from his stool on stage right, spiced with piano sprinklings by Ben Dawson and a sexy alto-sax solo from Nick Moss. Lindsay them ruefully mused on losing out on the title part of the next film score, Richard Attenborough's biopic, Chaplin (1992). Barry's title track incorporated Smile composed by the silent movie star himself. Like Mary Queen Of Scots beforehand, the score was nominated for an Oscar® but never won.

You Only Live Twice (1967) was listed as the next piece but the Philharmonia played the Capsule In Space cue from that film instead. Barry's 1965 theme to the Swinging Sixties, The Knack followed and then, inevitably, the show closed with Bond, James Bond. Lindsay explained the controversy over the composition of Ian Fleming's spy's eponymous theme in a manner that would not trouble the clerks of any barristers' chambers. Lindsay then referred to the assistance of the John Barry Appreciation Society who had helped shaped the repertoire, mentioning members' attendance from as far afield as Paris. Indeed the audience should have thanked Alan More (merci), Andrew Rausch, Ian MacDonald, Keith Calnan and the redoubtable Peter Greenhill for their input subtlely elevated the concert to something more authentic than other orchestral variants. This was perhaps exemplified in the finale James Bond Suite. This included Monty Norman's 1962 James Bond Theme from Dr No (enlivened by bongos and xylophone), Lional Bart's 1963 theme for From Russia With Love (with glistening contribution from harpist Heidi Krusten), a roaring 1965's Thunderball, John Barry's alternate theme, 007 (here, unusually and wonderfully, in its Bond Arrives In Rio South American arrangement from 1979's Moonraker), You Only Live Twice (1967), a vibrantly percussive On Her Majesty's Secret Service main title and Diamonds Are Forever (1971).

Best Of Barry London Philharmonia Orchestra by Felix Broede
Philharmonia Orchestra during Best Of Barry concert in London, 16 November, 2017. Photo by Felix Broede.

An ecstatic audience gave the Nicholas Dodd, Robert Lindsay and the Philharmonia a rapturous standing ovation which prompted an encore of the famed James Bond Theme. John Barry died in 2011 but he bequeathed the world a trove of tunes. On the evidence of this concert and hopefully future concerts, will ensure that his music - which has really scored all our yesterdays -  will also be the soundtrack to the songs we'll be singing tomorrow.

standing-ovation-the-best-of-john-barry-concert
Standing ovation for the orchestra. Copyright © Andrew Rausch. All rights reserved.

With thanks to Andrew Rausch, Tim Woodall and Nikolaj Schubert.

Except where noted all text. Copyright © 2017 Ajay Chowdhury. All rights reserved.

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#soundtracks

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