We continue publishing articles that we had pending, and this time it is the turn of the concert held on September 22, 2018, within the San Sebastian Festival. Gorka Oteiza has prepared this article for SoundTrackFest, telling us how the concert was lived.
Once again, the Anoeta Velodrome in Donostia-San Sebastián (Spain) hosted a free morning film music concert for all audiences, organized by the SGAE Foundation and the Basque National Orchestra, within the framework of the 66th edition of the San Sebastian Festival / Donostia Zinemaldia (read main news and read additional news with photos).
The date, Saturday, September 22, 2018, at 12:00h, and once more, as expected, the velodrome was full with its 2,700 seats occupied.
Before the concert began, a group of film music fans and the composer Joseba Beristain, met up with some of the composers whose music was going to be performed at the concert: Zacarías de la Riva and Arnau Bataller to chat and exchange points of views.
Later, we headed to the Anoeta Velodrome, and once inside the venue, we could verify that like in previous editions, the place was perfectly conditioned for a concert of this type. Black fabrics had been placed on both sides of the stage, over which there was a large screen where videos related to the music were going to be projected.
These fabrics generated an enclosure of a sector of the velodrome, creating a “small theater” in an improvised way, where the acoustics, so complex and peculiar in this kind of open spaces, can be controlled better, especially for the echoes and reverbs. As we could verify throughout the concert, this resulted in a very good sound balance, as well as a correct equalization between choir and orchestra.
The official program was the following:
The concert started at 12 o’clock, after a brief presentation of the Basque National Orchestra and the Kup Taldea choir by Fernando Velázquez, who would conduct the concert. The first piece played was Zip and Zap and the Captain’s Island (2016) – Fernando Velázquez, a suite of just over 4 minutes, which had the accompaniment of the choir, and which included the main themes of the soundtrack. On it, you could listen to the melodies dedicated to the children, the adventure, Miss Pam, or to the family, doing a very good summary of the film, both musically and visually, since the accompanying images that were projected, were also very adequate.
Then it was the turn of the movie Locura de Amor (1948), with music by Juan Quintero Muñoz (1903-1980). An old Spanish black and white film, which had a very symphonic music accompanied by a powerful choir, with a style similar to the films of the 60’s in Hollywood, such as Robin Hood or Ivanhoe. A very pleasant symphonic and melodic surprise of almost 9 minutes, where both the orchestra and choir were very good.
The next suite would correspond to the children’s animation film Tad Jones: The Hero Returns (2017) – Zacarías M. de la Riva, an adventure movie with music matching the plot. A suite of almost 13 minutes that started with the scenes of the beginning of the film and a mysterious music, to then give rise to sections of action and adventure when the story changed from continent and place, passing through cities like Las Vegas, Granada or Istanbul, whose geographical characteristics were perfectly reflected in the melodies. A correct performance, but somewhat weak at times.
After a brief pause, in which Zacarías M. De La Riva received a great applause and greeted the audience, the music of Marrowbone (2017) – Fernando Velázquez was played, in a suite of almost 12 minutes, which started with the power of the choir. A very emotional and heartfelt suite, that changed at times to action and tension, but offering pauses and brief moments to relax the musical anguish. The videos used to reinforce the music, as in the rest of the previous suites, were very good, but too explicit for those who had not seen the film, since they uncovered a big part of the secrets of the plot. Anyway, this is something difficult to manage, and it’s understandable the video selection that was made.
Next came the music of Gernika (2016) – Fernando Velázquez, that from the beginning set the context of the film with some folkloric touches, but at the same time offering a sensation of mystery and conflict, which would explode when the bombing happened. We saw some hard and shocking images on the screen, that accompanied the strength of the music and of the orchestra. A suite of almost 7 minutes, a very good one, which was heavily applauded by the public.
Then it was the moment for El Elegido / The Chosen (2016) – Arnau Bataller, an espionage thriller, wrapped up with a suite of just over 8 minutes. With a very military beginning, the suite incorporated symphonic elements later and passages of action and tension, to intersperse quieter sections with piano and woodwind instruments as the story unfolded, to arrive to a big cliffhanger, both musical and visual, right at the end. Very good development and very good resolution, that received a big round of applause that the composer corresponded greeting the public.
And the concert continued with another piece by Fernando Velázquez, the Goya Award-winning music for Un Monstruo Viene a Verme / A Monster Calls (2016), which had been recorded by the same Basque National Orchestra that was in front of us. The brief suite, which lasted nearly 4 minutes, presented a lyrical, emotional, and sentimental music, that undoubtedly demonstrated the qualities that led it to win the Goya Award. As a curiosity, we could see the director of the movie Juan Antonio Bayona in the audience, moments before starting the concert, but he did not make an appearance at the end of the suite or at any other time.
A great applause gave way to the music of The Invisible Guest (2016) – Fernando Velázquez, adding the strength of the choir Kup Taldea and the power of Zahara‘s voice, offering a good counterpoint to the orchestra. Zahara’s voice was dissonant at times, but very well balanced, achieving a great equilibrium both at the sound level and at the musical level.
Following, a brief 3-minute piece came, composed by the Bernardo Bonezzi (1964-2012) for the comedy Todos los hombres sois iguales (1994), where a tune with a lot of rhythm and with great joy, supported and reinforced the comic situations, to the delight and smiles of the public.
The last piece in the program was going to be a bit different from the rest of the concert, offering something different: the music of Álvaro Carmona for Go!azen (lyrics A. Xabaleta), a musical TV series by Euskal Telebista, which has been very successful among the young audience. A musical series in Euskara, which tells the adventures of a group of students in a Boarding School / Udaleku, and which featured three of the actors standing by the conductor, to perform the songs that appeared on the screen. A fresh, fun, and original performance, which received a great applause from the audience; mostly young people who knew the series perfectly.
When almost 90 minutes had passed since the beginning of the concert, and when it seemed that it was time to finish, Fernando Velázquez made a brief speech, indicating that he was going to offer a special ENCORE, something that everyone would know, and that we would surely have sung on more than one occasion, encouraging the audience to accompany them when the music started.
When the first chords started playing, we immediately recognized the famous song by Itoiz – Lau Teilatu, typical of parties, folk festivals and pilgrimages… and an accomplice audience, who had greatly enjoyed the performance so far, and who was quite encouraged by the music of Go!azen, did not hesitate to sing and corresponded to the orchestra, choir and singers, adding their voice to the group.
At 13:30h, the show ended with a long and intense applause from the audience. A grateful audience for a very pleasant, original, fun, and enjoyable concert, which had been gifted to them within the framework of the San Sebastian Festival.
As a conclusion, we can say that we enjoyed a high quality concert, which also offered a great opportunity to bring film music closer to all the young kids and children who packed the velodrome.
The performances of the Basque National Orchestra and the KUP Taldea choir were very good, and the same applies to the young singers of Go!azen. The direction of Fernando Velázquez, who knows very well the orchestra, was good, although it was noted that he lacked a bit of power in some of the themes, such as in the Tad Jones suite, and it is true that his pieces had a better presentation comparing with the rest.
As a critique to the program, I could say that the music of one specific soundtrack was missing: Handia, the Basque film winner of the last Goya Award for the best soundtrack, and that this year had more than enough reasons to be part of the concert. Likewise, its composer, Pascal Gaigne, a regular participant in these concerts at the velodrome, was also missed.
One more year, I have to say that the experience was very positive, and there are not many points of improvement that I can think of, except for the fact that at the end of the concert, the funnel that is formed by having to leave using just one Exit, creating huge queues, shows the problems that could happen if a real emergency occurred.
Musically, an outstanding, enriching and original experience, ready for all audiences, which we hope will continue to be repeated for many more years.
Article by Gorka Oteiza