At the end of September, specifically from Friday 21st to Sunday 30th, the 12th edition of the Tenerife International Film Music Festival – FIMUCITÉ was held, which Gorka Oteiza attended from Thursday to Sunday, leaving us here this article exclusively for SoundTrackFest, with a summary of what could be seen there.
Before starting with the festival’s article, here you have the following video-summary to warm-up:
Once again, it was time for a new edition of FIMUCITÉ, making a total of 12 consecutive years of the festival, and thus the longest film music festival that has been celebrated uninterruptedly in Spain. The program, as in previous occasions, was complete and varied, offering from piano concerts by Jean-Michel Bernard -pianist and French composer-, going through popular concerts with film music such as ‘Addicted to Love’ on Saturday 22, to the monographic concert of Spanish music ‘Neighbourhood cinema’ on Sunday 23, or orchestral concerts such as ‘Colossus of the big screen’ or the closing gala itself, adding this year to the list as a novelty the screening of the film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ with live music.
Being almost impossible to attend all the concerts for someone who does not live on the island, since that would require to stay 10 days in Tenerife, I decided to select the most significant part, which was the one that ran from Thursday 27 to Sunday 30.
But due to a last-minute change, originated in programming problems with the venue where the concert ‘Colossus of the big screen’ was going to take place on Thursday 27, the organization was forced to change the date of the concert to Sunday 30 (read news). This change caused me to finally miss that concert, which I really wanted to see, but at least I could have an idea of what it would be like, since if I could attend to the school public performance that was offered on Thursday 27th in the morning.
But let’s go step by step, and let’s see how the festival was day by day.
As we have already mentioned, and due to the date change of the concert that was going to be held tonight, the concert at 10:30 am dedicated to young students, was the highlight of the day at the musical level, where the Young FIMUCITÉ Orchestra conducted by José Antonio Cubas, offered a reduced version of the concert ‘Colossus of the Big Screen’ in the Antonio Lecuona Auditorium of the Professional Music Conservatory of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Note that the Young FIMUCITÉ Orchestra, composed by students from the CPM and CSMC Conservatories (Professional Conservatory of Tenerife and the Conservatory of Music of the Canary Islands), was reinforced for the occasion with 6 musicians coming from the Krakow Film Music Festival, the FMF Youth Ensemble, composed by Karolina Rumian (violin), Natalia Herman (viola), Gabriela Ślusarczyk (Violoncello), Joanna Wicik (Piano), Matetuz Wilk (Percussion) and Martyna Bachowska (Double Bass).
The auditorium was full of young students from different schools in the area; all of them perfectly uniformed wearing blue shorts and white shirts with blue stripes, which had the logo of their school. After a brief introduction by James Fitzpatrick, sponsor of the concert, José Antonio Cubas started the show conducting several of the themes that comprised the original program. The faces and reactions of the students were worth seeing: smiles, surprise, excitement, or curiosity, were some of the many expressions that could be found on their faces.
During the concert, maestro Cubas did a pause to explain each and every one of the instruments of the orchestra, and after that description, each instrument played a fragment of music so the audience could learn to identify them and recognize them in the next pieces. A great and very interesting concert, which lasted more or less an hour, and that made a generous altruistic didactic work among the young kids.
At 12 o’clock started the first master class of the day entitled ‘Musical challenges of the documentary genre’ with Laura Karpman presented by Doreen Ringer-Ross, where the composer offered several examples of how the application of music can change a scene. In addition, she also showed some of her works and explained the creative process behind and the paths that had been followed, till she found the final solution that would fit into the story, both at a musical and storyline level. Thanks to the piano that was on stage (wonderful idea to put it there), Laura even demonstrated at a practical level several of the aspects she had commented.
After a brief lunch break, at 3 pm a very awaited a master class started, entitled “Reach your summits of inspiration” with Christopher Young and once again with Doreen Ringer-Ross to make the introduction.
Christopher Young is a chameleonic composer, who has demonstrated his talent in different genres and media throughout his long career, and who also has an extensive experience as a professor, both at the University of Southern California – USC and in the different seminars and courses that he has taught throughout the world. And so he demonstrated it when he started his conference asking the public the kind of profiles were in the room: musicians? directors? scriptwriters? … and with that information, Chris Young adapted his speech and talked about how you can approach the music for a project from different points of view, and how you can manage the problem of the creative block when writing music; when the inspiration does not arrive at the moments you need it. It should be noted that, as it is usual with Chris Young, he was close to the public, getting off the stage and walking through the central row of the room, to directly receive the questions from the people and answer them as if the place were a Greek agora, fostering debate among the people.
At the end of the conference, several people approached Christopher Young with CDs and covers for him to sign, or requesting pictures, and he treated all his fans with great pleasure, as he always does. And when it was past 5:30 pm and the conservatory had to close its doors, we left the place to end this first day in Tenerife.
Another day arrived and we started the morning with a concert for young kids at 11 o’clock in the Auditorium Antonio Lecuona of the Professional Music Conservatory of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a concert starred on this occasion by the Theremin virtuoso Lydia Kavina, accompanied by the six Polish musicians of the FMF Youth Ensemble.
The concert, entitled ‘Secrets of the Theremin with Lydia Kavina’ offered an hour of varied music, in which the sound of the Theremin was combined with the traditional orchestral sound, in a perfect symbiosis that surprised many schoolchildren, since seeing on stage an instrument that “is played without touching”, that is, moving your hands in the air, was a very unique experience for many of them.
As a curiosity, Lydia Kavina also invited a volunteer from the group of kids to get on stage to play the Theremin and to experience that sensation firsthand.
Shortly after finishing, at 12:30 pm, we had the first master class of the day entitled ‘When two composers are better than one – The creative tandem in film music’ with brothers Ben Foster and Nick Foster. There, the Fosters not only talked about how it is to work as a team and how they organize and distribute tasks when they are collaborating in a production, but they also showed multiple real examples they had on their laptop, such as the recordings of the series Thunderbirds Are Go!. In addition, they also showed us the sessions they had in their computer, and they removed or added tracks, to demonstrate how the various layers that had been generated with the orchestra, mostly recorded in Prague with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra under the supervision of James Fitzpatrick, offered different nuances to what we were seeing on the screen.
On more than one occasion Ben Foster approached the piano and performed the basic melodies of some of the themes that he was going to explain later, uncovering their origin and their motifs, to later talk about their functionality and their expansion to the orchestra, showing then the full version on their computer. A very interesting and very practical master class, which offered a lot of valuable information for composers.
After a lunch break, at 3:30 pm started the next class “Protect your creation” with Darío Palomo, president of Musimagen, who focused his speech on the aspects that surround the world of copyright and that often tend to go unnoticed by composers, who only focus on creating music, without really knowing the rights and the obligations they might have.
And with this class, we ended the first part of the day, the didactic part, to get at 8 pm at the Auditorium of Tenerife to one of the two major concerts of the festival, the premiere in Spain of the film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ with live orchestra.
As a curiosity I have to note that the Italian student Andrea Bruno, appeared at the entrance of the Auditorium of Tenerife shortly before the concert began, with the thesis he had written for his university about Christopher Young, being this the first time he had contact with the maestro. A copy of the thesis for Christopher Young and a big hug for Andrea Bruno along with the eternal gratitude of the maestro, were the perfect exchange, where Chris Young was greatly impressed by such an honor.
But let’s go back to the show, and let’s talk about the movie ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ which is considered one of the greatest sci-fi films of the 70s, and of all times, and which has an excellent soundtrack by maestro John Williams, that received an Oscar nomination. This soundtrack was going to be performed live by the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra conducted by Diego Navarro, along with the Tenerife Film Choir and the Polyphonic Choir of the University of La Laguna, conducted by Juan Ramón Vinagre.
In the beginning, a brief presentation of the film and of the concert was given by Ana Molowny (Fimucité) and the writer and journalist Javier Serra, helping to create ambiance before the movie was shown.
The film was projected on a giant screen located in the center of the stage, at the bottom, over the choir, while two large screens on the sides of the stage offered visual support in a synchronized way, due to the size of the auditorium. The film was offered in its English version subtitled in Spanish, and perhaps the subtitles could be somewhat difficult to see from the last rows, but this aspect is complex to solve and it happens in most films in concert with subtitles.
While the first part of the film does not have much music, the sophistication of the orchestra in the softer passages, where there were times when the sound was so slight that it almost became imperceptible, made clear the level of rehearsal and adjustment that had been carried out, in order to make the fusion of music and image perfect. However, the fact that the music of John Williams did not shine more in this first half, made the first part slightly tedious, leaving us wanting to get the final outcome.
At 9:30 pm arrived the moment of the intermission, and then we could enjoy an intense suite played by the orchestra without images, demonstrating the power of the soundtrack and allowing the musicians to shine, something that the first part of the concert did not facilitate.
Approximately after half an hour of intermission, at 10 pm, the projection continued, to get to the final part of the film, where everything we had seen before was going to fit, and the pieces of the puzzle were going to reach that conclusion and that final climax, both at plot and at musical levels. A final apotheosis, with an excellent soundtrack, superbly played by the orchestra under the diligent and precise baton of Diego Navarro, excelling despite the technical difficulty of the soundtrack.
When nearly 3 hours had passed since the beginning, the concert ended with a great applause from the audience. The conducting of Diego Navarro, adjusted, detailed, and in total synchrony, was key to maintain the cohesion of the movie, giving almost the feeling that what we were hearing came from the film itself in many moments.
While technically there is nothing to object to both the projection and the musical performance, perhaps the little presence that music has throughout the film (especially in the first part where only small glimpses of the themes related to the mountain and it’s attraction on the protagonists, or of the military men who threateningly want to take control of the situation), made people doubt at times if this was the best choice for a film in concert for the festival. The soundtrack, which ends up hatching and becoming a protagonist, taking absolute control of the movie in its last part, mitigated in part this sensation, but did not manage to make it disappear completely.
The third day started with a morning dedicated to interviews with several of the protagonists of the festival. In the first place, it was the turn of Christopher Young, an old friend of SoundTrackFest, with whom the interview did not go in usual direction in which he talks about the different movies of his career, but it was more of an informal chat that went into the personal field, as Christopher Young himself was telling stories and feelings, probably unknown to the general public.
Shortly after that, the interview with the brothers Ben Foster and Nick Foster took place outside of the Iberostar Mencey hotel. An entertaining and funny interview, as the characters of these two charming people, where in a complementary and sometimes aligned way, they were responding to the questions offering very interesting points of view. Note that both received a special t-shirt from SoundTrackFest as a gift, which they did not hesitate to wear throughout the interview.
And if this were not enough, the day also had place for a special interview with Doreen Ringer-Ross, Creative Vice President – Film, TV & Visual Media of BMI, providing a different point of view to what we usually have when we talk with composers or orchestra conductors.
These interviews, which remain for the moment “in process”, will take a while to get out, but will be published, so stay tuned to the website for more news.
At 7 pm it was the moment to start with the Festival’s Closing Gala, which also included an awards ceremony; a gala entitled ‘The truth is out there’, in honor of the famous motto of the X-Files TV series, and that was totally in line with the alien encounters theme that was the backbone of this 12th edition of FIMUCITÉ.
The concert had, like the one of the previous day, two lateral side screens, which reinforced the images and videos that were shown on the central screen, to accompany each of the pieces played during the concert. These videos were not synchronized with the music, which in some cases was perfect, but in other cases was partly in conflict, since either we had very strong images with a very soft music that didn’t match, or on the contrary, we had a music that was in a crescendo towards a climax and an apotheosis, but that was not reflected in what we were seeing on screen. Although for most of the concert this was not important, there were a couple of moments when this aspect was somewhat shocking.
As a point of improvement, we have to say that no hand program was delivered at the entrance of the concert, and although you could see the titles of the pieces on screen, it became a little confusing to know the point of the concert in which we were, due to the quantity and variety of films and composers that were going to be included during the night.
The concert started with a slight delay, after 7:10 pm, with the presentation of the first edition of the Spanish Audiovisual Music Awards given by the festival and Musimagen. Three suites conducted by Diego Navarro with a total duration of 10 minutes were performed, corresponding to each one of the three nominees that were ‘Red de libertad’ by Oscar Martín Leanizbarrutia, ‘Otros mundos’ (TV) by Carlos M. Jara & ‘Tadeo Jones 2: El secreto del rey Midas’ by Zacarías M. de la Riva,, winning the music of Carlos M. Jara, who appeared on stage to collect the award and said some words to thank the festival and the audience.
Then, and with Ben Foster raising the baton, the first piece of the concert was played, Prometheus – Life (Harry Gregson Williams), with the participation of the choir, which was a bit weak and ended up being overtaken by the intensity of the strings section in several of its interventions. A good theme with a regular execution.
The following piece was District 9 – Main Theme (Clinton Shorter), which featured the solo voice of Adé da Costa, with a strong root of African rhythms, generating a beautiful tribal song that extended for almost 7 minutes.
Next was the moment of Contact – End Credits (Alan Silvestri), a very melodic suite of almost 8 minutes, which was delicious, powerful, and very enjoyable, generating an interesting counterpoint to the previous theme, and which was complemented by adequate lights effects on the walls of the auditorium. These light effects would continue throughout the whole concert, adapting to each of the themes that were played.
It was the moment of a piece composed by maestro Ennio Morricone for the science fiction film The Thing – Suite (Ennio Morricone), which was later reused in the film The Hateful Eight by Tarantino. A piece that starts softly with the strings and the harp, to increase the tension in a crescendo, which drifts to the end of the suite, at the same time that hard and powerful images accompany its development on the screen.
The next piece was going to pay tribute to the late Jóhann Johánnsson, through his music for Arrival – Kangaru (Jóhann Johánnsson), which started again with the choir in a very smooth and very correct way, later contributing with the nuances of singular voices in a kind of cacophony or syllabic echo. Good interpretation of both orchestra and choir, for a theme that although in the film is interesting, loses a lot of its interest in concert, even being irritating at times.
And when it was 8 o’clock, arrived one of the best moments of the first part, the music of Species – Suite (Christopher Young), with a dynamic and strong orchestra, which imposed all the intensity of the action and the terror that is in the piece. A great applause from the audience, that Christopher Young responded by standing up and waving in all directions from his seat.
It was time for Ben Foster to conduct a piece that he knows perfectly well, the one he composed with his brother Nick Foster for the reboot of the series Thunderbirds, the suite Thunderbirds are Go! – Suite (Ben Foster / Nick Foster), which featured a variety of themes and musical moments of the series, perfectly arranged, and that if you had been lucky enough to have been in their master class the previous day, you could even differentiate them in base to the explanations offered. A seven-minute piece that turned out to be a real delight, and brought Nick Foster to the stage at the end to receive the audience’s applause together with his brother.
It was quarter past eight and the orchestra and the choir addressed the last piece of the first half, Starman – End Titles (Jack Nitzche); soft, emotive, melodic, and a nice surprise, since it is music and a composer that rarely can be found in a concert.
At 8:45 pm and after 25 minutes of intermission, the second part of the concert continued with Taken – Suite (Laura Karpman) of about 10 minutes, which had a lyrical, delicate, and very joyful development. At the end of the piece, Laura Karpman took the stage to receive the Fimucité Antón García Abril Award in recognition of her career trajectory, accompanied by a great applause from the audience.
It was the moment of the Theremin and its maximum exponent Lydia Kavina, who was going to be the protagonist of the next two blocks. The first, the fabulous The Day The Earth Stood Still – Prelude / Outer Space / Radar (Bernard Herrmann), lasting 5 minutes. A classic science fiction movie, with music that has endured over time, and which continues to remind us of those moments of alien fantasy so well represented by the Theremin’s sound.
Following we continued with the Theremin to jump into the theme Mars Attacks! – Main Title / The Landing (Danny Elfman), with a military and martial tone that also incorporated the choir, in a great and brief development for a 2-minute piece.
We then went into the mysteries and conspiracies of the famous TV series X-Files with its theme X-Files – Materia Primoris (Mark Snow), which brought us good memories as soon as the orchestra started to play its first notes, and that had an approximate duration of 3 minutes.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within – Suite (Elliot Goldenthal) was the next piece, in a concert that carried a continuous and unstoppable rhythm, in order not to get too long in duration. The suite, strong at the beginning and varied later, had the essential support of the choir and a correct execution.
Then came one of the great surprises of the second part of the concert, the piece Abyss – Bud on the Ledge (Alan Silvestri), which lasted just under 4 minutes, and that began with a very bright choir, accompanying a brilliant music, joyful and glorious, that overflowed in a final apotheosis. Great performance of the choir and orchestra, and fabulous music.
Then the host of the gala Ana Molowny appeared on stage, dressed as Diana, “the malevolent alien” of the TV series V, and after a few words, she ended with a touch of humor eating a chocolate rat in honor of the famous scene of the series. Next, V – Suite (Joe Harnell) was performed, which turned out to be somewhat weak on a musical level despite its Hermmann-ian references, and which did not include the famous main theme of the series that many of us were waiting for (composed by Dennis McCarthy). In addition, and as we have said at the beginning, in this case it was observed that the message transmitted by the images and by the music collided, since in the strongest visual moment, the music followed a completely different way.
It was almost 9:40 pm and conductor Ben Foster ended wanted to end the concert with this piece, greeting the audience and saying goodbye with a great applause from the public. But that great applause lasted for several minutes, as the audience refused to end the concert, and made Ben Foster go on stage again and give a single encore; a great suite of action from Predator 2 – Suite (Alan Silvestri), prepared and arranged by Thomas Bryla, who was present at the festival.
And when we were slightly exceeding 2 and a half hours of concert, the end arrived. The Tenerife Symphony Orchestra was fabulous throughout the whole concert, as well as both choirs. The conducting of Ben Foster was spectacular, offering an agile, dynamic, precise and very sober rhythm, which helped to the integration of so many different themes. Ben Foster, who had already been warned of the length of these gala concerts, due to the awards ceremonies and the length of the pieces performed, managed the times with a very firm pulse, without losing a moment, in a very agile and effective way.
This was the final day of the festival, Sunday 30th, where the concert ‘Colossus of the Big Screen’ was going to be held, which unfortunately I could not attend because I had the return flight already booked, although due to the information I received and taking into account what I saw on the Thursday morning show, it seems that it was a very good concert, where also the awards of the 6th edition of FIMUCINEMA were presented (read news).
One more year FIMUCITÉ has passed the exam, and with a high grade! The closing gala, the one that is its hallmark, has shown that year after year the festival can offer a unique, varied, and quality product. This time it was the turn of the alien encounters with creatures from outer space, having films and TV series of varied plots, composing a very good and very interesting program.
And as usual, we will finish this article making a brief balance of the strong points and points to improve:
POINTS TO IMPROVE
CONCERT. The date change of the concert ‘Colossus of the Big Screen’ was really unfortunate, and caused that many people who had planned their trip with the intention of attending it would end up missing the concert. However, it is clear that the organization was forced to make this change for higher reasons and that this change was not to their liking, affecting to the public from abroad to a greater extent than to the local public.
GUESTS. While this year’s guests to the festival were very important and recognized worldwide, it was missed some additional “AAA” guest, as on previous occasions with Howard Shore or Trevor Jones, for example, being Christopher Young the closest guest in that category. And let’s make it clear that we are not talking about the quality of the music, but about having well-known names that can attract both the general public and fans in particular, and thus encourage them to make the trip to Tenerife.
FILM IN CONCERT. Nobody denies or doubts the quality of the film ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ both movie and music, nor the quality of the performance we had, but it is true that a film in which music has so little presence in most of its footage, made some people question the suitability of including it in the program.
DIDACTIC ACTIVITIES. The didactic activities parallel to the festival, offered within the 3rd edition of the FIMUCITÉ Film Scoring Academy, completely free, were exceptional and one of the highlights of FIMUCITÉ. There, music and audiovisual students as well as fans, were able to enjoy the knowledge and wisdom of the guests. If we add to this the morning concert for schoolchildren on Thursday, or the educational concert on Friday with Lydia Kavina and the FMF Youth Ensemble, I think we could give the highest grade to the activities carried out this year in the “academy”.
FIMUCINEMA. Special mention deserves the monumental effort that is made with the FIMUCINEMA section, under the coordination of Manuel Díaz Noda, that projected during the days of the festival a selection of a total of 21 short films, 6 documentaries and 6 fiction feature films, giving also Alex North Award for Best Soundtrack in fiction feature, and the Fimucinema Awards for the best original score for documentary, short film, and best original song. Unfortunately, the accumulation of acts and events, makes it difficult to attend those projections.
TELEVISION. Seeing the cameras of RTVE (Spanish Public Television) recording the gala is a great thing, since it not only helps the public to follow the show better, showing on the screen close-ups of the instruments performing, but it allows to have later a special complete TV program of the concerts, available for future watching.
OFFER and VARIETY. Once again, the amount and variety of masterclasses, events, and concerts offered by the festival was overwhelming, and to the tastes of all audiences, presenting different proposals, so that each person could choose what they liked best, and thus bring the film music closer to the general public, in all its different aspects.
Article by Gorka Oteiza