Symphony at the Park: Classic Abbey Road Film Scores

CineVue were honoured to be invited as guests of American Express to the very first Symphony at the Park event this Sunday at London’s Chiswick House and Gardens, celebrating 80 years of Abbey Road Studios. Whilst the Saturday drew an army of over 1000 music lovers, all eagerly awaiting live renditions of classic tracks recorded at Abbey Road (from bands such as The Beatles, Radiohead and Elbow), we were there for Sunday’s evening of classic film scores, performed live by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

The picturesque gardens of Chiswick House proved the perfect setting for an evening of rousing film scores, sumptuous hog roast rolls and enough champagne to satisfy even the thirstiest of Etonians. The show began with a rendition of the main theme from Disney animation Return to Neverland (2002), originally composed by the evening’s conductor Joel McNeely. It wasn’t long before the vocal talents of the Crouch End Festival Chorus made their mark, coming in to superb effect during Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Dies Irae, taken from the soundtrack to the multiple Oscar-winning biopic Amadeus (1984).

The highlight of the first half – for younger members of the audience at least – was the introduction of a Harry Potter medley, moving from John Williams’ iconic main theme through to Alexandre Desplat’s melancholic Obliviate, as featured in the franchise’s final cataclysmic entries, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 & 2.

A strong first half was further augmented by the arrival of extracts from Howard Shore’s Lord of the Rings score, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic soundtrack to The Phantom of the Opera (2004) and Alex North’s unused original composition for Stanley Kubrick’s operatic masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – perhaps the most famous film score that never was.

Not to be  outdone, the second half flew out of the traps with themes from Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), James Cameron’s Aliens (1986) and US composer Danny Elfman’s work on the pre-Nolan Batman feature films. Even a late power outage (quickly and efficiently handled by the event’s organisers) couldn’t dampen spirits following the arrival of John William’s unmistakable theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), with hugely popular pieces taken from both Braveheart (1995) and Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace (1999) rightly chosen to end the evening with a bang.

A fantastic advert not just for the prolific output of Abbey Road Studios but for the timeless public appeal of classic film scores, here’s hoping Symphony at the Park returns next year to toast Abbey’s 81st.

Daniel Green