No matter how good the audio system is at your local multiplex, there’s just nothing quite like the sound of a live orchestra and chorus. Klaus Badelt’s score calls for a Richard Strauss–sized band, complete with a massive percussion battery and an expanded brass section of such size that some of the woodwind players in front of them had to wear earplugs. That means big action scenes pack a visceral punch you can’t get anywhere else.
If Badelt’s name is not familiar to you, by the way, that’s probably because the first “Pirates” movie is pretty much his only high profile solo project so far. He has collaborated with the more famous Hans Zimmer on a number of blockbusters, including “Gladiator,” “The Prince of Egypt,” and “Hannibal,” but most of his own outings have been for less notable films, including a couple of direct-to-video cheapies, “The Scorpion King 2” and “Starship Troopers 3” (yeah, I know; I didn’t even know there’d been a second one).
Still, the “Pirates” score is a certified rouser, with a memorable main theme (reprised in the rest of the films of the series) and lots of striking orchestral effects, most of them involving the brass and percussion players. The male chorus provides mostly wordless vocals, primarily to underline the many elaborate stunt sequences.
While not as musically sophisticated as the “Lord of the Rings” music, this is still stuff that sounds pretty challenging in its own way, so much praise is owed to the orchestra and the men of the chorus (directed in person by Amy Kaiser) for pulling it all off so brilliantly. Congratulations as well to conductor Richard Kaufman for holding it all together. Conducting forces this large in synch with a live film is a specialized skill, and Mr. Kaufman, the Principal Pops Conductor of the Pacific Symphony, is one of its more experienced practitioners.
Everyone also deserves points for endurance. The movie is nearly two and one-half hours long, after all, and nearly all of it is underscored.
There’s one more showings of “Pirates of the Caribbean” on Sunday, December 30, at 2. Unless you just hate the idea of these movies, I think you’ll find it all great fun. Be aware, though, that the balance between the voice tracks on the film and the live orchestra is not always ideal, and it’s easy to lose dialog, especially when the orchestra is playing at full volume. On the other hand, this is not exactly Shakespeare, so even if you’ve never seen the film before you won’t be lost.
As is always the case with the symphony’s movie events, popcorn and other snacks are available, as well as the usual drinks (including a special blue concoction created for the event), and you can bring everything in to the hall with you. So when you go, try to be neat and police your area when you leave.
Next on the calendar: the New Year’s Eve concert beginning at 7:30 PM under the baton of David Robertson. For the first time in symphony history, this will be simulcast on St. Louis Public Radio KWMU at 90.7 FM and HD 1, beginning at 7 PM. For ticket information: stlsymphony.org