‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’
As a music professor at Cal State Fulllerton, conductor Kimo Furumoto is only 40 or so miles from the heart of Hollywood and well knows the power of music to propel film.
While he has been to the sound studios for the creation of symphonic recordings for film, come Saturday he gets the rare chance to present the magic of film together with a live symphony — ironically far, far away from Hollywood.
As part of a special Marshall Artists Series presentation with Cine-Concerts, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Music from the Motion Picture,” Furumoto will conducting a 60-piece symphony and chorus as they play the magical, Oscar-winning Henry Mancini score while the film starring Audrey Hepburn rolls at the majestic Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center in downtown Huntington.
Show time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16. Tickets are $60, $76 and $87 at the Marshall Artists Series Box Office at 304-696-6656 or order tickets online at Ticketmaster.com. You may also visit the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse box office from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and in gratitude to the public service of many, the Marshall Artists Series is offering complimentary tickets for veterans and federal employees.
Speaking from his home in California, Furumoto said he is excited to present the timeless Henry Mancini soundtrack that won Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer the Oscars for Best Original Song for “Moon River,” and Mancini a second Oscar for “Best Original Score.”
“When you see the visuals that are in it — New York in the 1960s it really gives you a certain feeling and that music sets you right in that moment in that time period,” Furumoto said. “It kind of capsulizes what that era was all about. He was really current in that time.”
Interestingly, Mancini, who scored hundreds of TV shows and films (including “Pink Panther,”) also went out and did about 600 live symphony performances and during one of those actually met a young Furumoto, who was an intern with the Cincinnati Symphony, when Furumoto was at studying at University of Cincinnati’s well-known music conservancy. Mancini passed away in 1994.
Furumoto said part of the joy in performing this particular film live is that some of Mancini’s work, including lots of different shades of the ‘Moon River’ are tucked into the film and will really be born out more fully for a live audience.
“It is a beautiful score and I think what is interesting is when you watch the movie so much of the music is in the background of the dialogue that you almost miss it,” Furumoto said. “When it is live you get more of a presence of what it is and you can enjoy that. Like with ‘Moon River’ there are so many variations of that theme throughout the movie that you will probably hear it a little better in this setting than at home watching it on a video or watching it on a regular screen.”
Although he will conduct a full orchestra, Mancini’s score definitely
leans on the brass and the jazz that were still the popular flavor of the day back in the early 1960s.
“It’s pretty much a symphonic jazz orchestra with this element of a full-on jazz big band and parts where that sounds very improvised and what you would hear in jazz but then there will be strings along with that and so it crosses over into that and then there is actually a chorus too so there is everything,” Furumoto said.
Furumoto is no stranger to conducting under the increased time constraints and pressure of accompanying live film.
In December 2015, he conducted the Huntington Symphony Orchestra as it played to Tim Burton’s quirky modern classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Furumoto said it is a challenging, yet welcomes the task to synchronize the music with the film for a live performance.
“You have music that you would hear at a concert but that is background music and then sometimes film music is present and part of the film itself when they are dancing to music or listening to music on the radio. In the case of ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ it was almost like a musical and was very much in the foreground. The tricky part of it is that it has to be aligned exactly with what is happening on the screen.”
To make that constant synchronicity is a reality, Furumoto is not only reading the score but also attending to a click track to know when to bring the symphony back in to play as the film rolls along.
“There is a click track and so that is the way to mesh it with the visual element and that is pretty relentless,” Furumoto said. “It is a daunting prospect to make sure that things line up exactly. Some are trickier than others. In the case of Burton’s film, there was no part of it, maybe a few minutes where there was no music so it was almost completely scored. With this one there are a few gaps between the music that is played and some are longer than others. But nonetheless they have to be perfectly aligned with the music and with what is being specifically visually cued.”
While not the easiest thing to pull off, Furumoto said the pay off is worth it — creating a magical experience for an audience that really gets to first-hand hear the impact that music has in creating a mood and for further telling a film’s story.
“Just put on any movie that you like or think is a great movie and especially the scenes where there is nothing going on and you have all of this background music going into that, now play the film without the music and it certainly would not be the movie you know it is. Music sets the mood of what emotions are being felt at that moment. Just imagine ‘Star Wars’ without that wonderful music. It would not be the same film... and, of course, sound effects are a whole other realm of sound that is so fascinating when you look as to how they do all of those different sounds.”
Furumoto said while Saturday’s performance is rare, there are an increasing number of these types of events around the country that ironically harken back to the first days of film when silent film was scored with a live organist and orchestra.
“I think it is something that is becoming more and more popular and I think people do enjoy it a lot,” Furumoto said. “It is quite pretty impressive when you are in a theater like the Keith-Albee and this big movie is playing with a live orchestra. Quite frankly that is the way that things began and we have so many examples from the early days of silent film when live orchestra music was the only choice, and you had some great composers of early 20th Century music doing movie scores.”
With the Huntington Symphony Orchestra dialing back its winter symphonic series in recent years due to budget cuts, Furumoto said he is thankful the Marshall Artists Series and director Penny Watkins have been stepping up and presenting symphonic concerts, and unique presentations such as this, in Huntington.
“It is so vitality important and many of the musicians playing Saturday are the ones who play with the Huntington Symphony as well so this is going to be quite an amazing orchestra,” Furumoto said. “We are so happy that the Artists Series have taken the ball and ran with it as far as presenting symphonic live music. It has been a little difficult for the Huntington Symphony to do so... To present it in this way is certainly another way to reach out to some folks who might otherwise not be so inclined to attend. If we played Mancini on stage they might not come for that but with a movie that is really special not just for Huntington but in general as a way to expand the audience of live symphony music for sure. I know Penny is very aware of that aspect so we are very glad we’re doing this and hope that everyone will come out to support this.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: A special Marshall Artists Series presentation with CineConcerts, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Music from the Motion Picture,” with a live 60-piece orchestra and chorus under the direction of Kimo Furumoto.
WHERE: Keith-Albee Performing Arts Center.
WHEN: Show time is 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16.
HOW MUCH: Tickets are $60, $76 and $87.
GET TIX: at the Marshall Artists Series Box Office at 304-696-6656 or order tickets online at Ticketmaster.com. You may also visit the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse box office from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
FREE TIX TO VETS AND FEDERAL WORKERS: In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, and in gratitude to the public service of many, the Marshall Artists Series is offering complimentary tickets for veterans and federal employees to see Breakfast at Tiffany’s in Concert.
SPONSORS: NRP, Huntington Federal Savings Bank, the Cabell-Huntington Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, Marsha Slater State Farm Insurance, KEE 100, B97, The Herald Dispatch, WSAZ, Marshall University and the Marshall Artists Series.