"Lion" Roars in New York
Barry & Prokofiev in Carnegie Hall
John Barry's celebrates his 70th birthday in style
By Michael Storck
John Barry made his first appearance on the stage of Carnegie Hall last night (5/25) as a 70-piece orchestra and world-reknown chorale gave his Oscar-winning 1968 score to THE LION IN WINTER it's New York premiere performance.
The first half of a concert by The Collegiate Chorale (founded by Robert Shaw in 1941) and the Orchestra of St. Luke's was devoted to a faithful re-creation of Barry's much-lauded score, a mixture of classical and modern influences from plainchant to Prokofiev. Actor Timothy Dalton, who made his film debut in THE LION IN WINTER, was on hand to introduce the evening, conducted by Robert Bass. In celebration of John Barry's seventieth birthday, the composer himself strode out to the podium for a rapturous standing ovation after the piece, which was presented accompanied by a specially created assembly of clips from the film while the orchestra and chorus performed most of the score's key sections admirably in synch, with a full and accurate re-creation of Barry's singular and unmistakable sound.
Program selections were: Main Title, Chinon/Eleanor's Arrival, Allons Gai Gai Gai, To the Chapel, How Beautiful You Make Me, Eya Eya Nova Gaudia, God Damn You, The Christmas Wine, To Rome, Media Vita in Morte Sumus, and We're Jungle Creatures.
That's the straight news; now for the gossip...
An hour before the concert, some Carnegie Hall dude whose name I didn't catch brought out John Barry (standing ovation) and Timothy Dalton for a casual Q&A. JB looked cheerful and healthy, if seventy (I hadn't seen him since six years ago at an NYC screening of MIDNIGHT COWBOY)...resplendent in a knockout suit & tie, hair trimmed very short, and seemingly as relaxed as I've ever seen him in front of a crowd. Unfortunately, the interviewer didn't know that Barry--a charming and amusing raconteur when dealing in personalities and anecdotes--hates talking about his "work process." So the first few questions about movie scoring elicited little more than rote replies, delivered in an unenthusiastic drone through that sometimes unintelligible basso Yorkshire gurgle. The New York crowd was entirely with him, however, and laughed appreciatively at JB's occasional mugging and one-liners. Once we got into the "movie stars are creeps," "Saltzman hated GOLDFINGER"-type anecdotes, the audience couldn't get enough and Barry seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself. When one admiring fan asked, in reference to the heart-rending sense of loss that informs SOMEWHERE IN TIME, "what was going on in your life at that time?" Barry shot back, "None of your business," which got a huge laugh and sustained applause.
In the break before the concert proper, I asked a very close contact if any of John's stuff was going to end up in THE INCREDIBLES and the answer, sadly, is no. I offered the speculation that JB is simply at a place where his tolerance for the kind of industry bullshit that's become SOP (endless revisions, micromanagement, no one person in charge) is at zero, and the contact agreed, "It' sub-zero tolerance. He's my favorite movie composer in the world, and it'll be a miracle if he ever scores another film."
After the intermission (or, for my Brit buds, the "interval"---that's "half-time," Terry), I discovered 9-year-old Jonpatrick sitting right behind me, along with a couple of cousins, and (I believe) Laurie's sister and her husband. The Barrys (up in a box) remained for the second half of the concert (Prokofiev's IVAN THE TERRIBLE score, accompanied by clips from the Eisenstein film).
As far as audience attendance was concerned, it seemed like a pretty full house to me, although one cannot see how many of the boxes/balconies are filled from down in the "prime parquet," where we were sitting. My most conservative estimate would be that Carnegie Hall was at least 3/4 full. And a more attentive and respectful audience I haven't seen in my last few years of theatre-going. You could hear a pin drop.
On the way out of the auditorium, I met LION IN WINTER director Anthony Harvey for the second time in twenty years, and... just on my way out the door, I swear, accidentally ran right into John and Laurie coming down the stairs. I never considered, even for a moment, trying to remind JB of our several previous meetings over the years (and that interview we never got round to doing, grrr), but since he was right there in my face, what the hell, I stuck out my hand and said, "Always great to see you, sir. I've been waiting thirty years to give you a standing ovation for that score, and all the others. Come back to this podium soon, and stay longer, will you?" He took my hand in both of his, smiled into my eyes, and said, "Maybe I will."
And that was the best news of the evening.
Oh, by the way, the performance of orchestra and chorus was quite wonderful... capturing the original sound so perfectly I found myself looking around trying to spot the synthesizer. The lead trumpet hit one or two minor melvins during the main title and the volume wasn't turned up to "eleven" as I'd have it on my stereo, but overall it was a superb performance.